XXX

Reviews

Thu
26
Jun

URIAH HEEP - Outsider (Review)

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Another very consistent traditional Uriah Heep release. Nothing unexpected – which is as it should be for a band so late into their career.
Heep fans will soak it up and await their next live release!
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SCORE
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84%
Produced By: 
Mike Paxman
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Classic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Categories: 
You don’t get any better example of classic rock than Uriah Heep. The 70s stalwarts prove that rock n roll is the only genre that lasts a lifetime by continuing on their merry way, touring and recording unabated.
Outsider is the band’s latest opus, following up from 2011’s Into The Wild. And as expected we get another slice of pretty consistent blues based rock n roll, where that lush Hammond organ has the same profile as the guitars and rhythm section.
 
For the most part I’m really enjoying what’s on offer here. There are no surprises and no left turns, just straight ahead classic 70s style rock n roll a la traditional Heep.
Highlights within the album include the free flowing Speed Of Sound and the more dramatic One Minute that both get the album off to a strong start.
The double time boogie of The Outsider is fun too; and Rock The Foundation is straight out of the Heep playbook.
Is Anybody Going To Help Me doesn’t quite reach the same heights as earlier tracks, but the up tempo Looking At You is better.
There one track that stands out as a real clunker though and that is The Law. At track 3 I skip it every time and feel that it kills the momentum of the album. Once passed that though, it’s all good.
 
Score: 
84
 
Mon
16
Jun

ASIA - Gravitas (Review)

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This is a really painfully slow album to get through. I spoke of the occasional joys of a nice mellow album, but in this case, the songs are simply frightfully dull and lacking any enthusiasm by those performing them. The production and style of the album is as close to classic 80s Asia as you could imagine, but it's wasted on some tepid pacing and dull songs. 

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SCORE
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70%

 

Produced By: 
Asia
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR, Classic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Monday, June 16, 2014
Categories: 
Asia delivers another new album in pretty quick time following their acclaimed XXX album in 2012. Gone is guitarist Steve Howe and in his place is young gun Sam Coulson.
The band has stuck to its mantra of slick, polished AOR, staying true to their original early 80s style.
Unfortunately the band seems to have slipped back into the slow to mid-tempo slumber that has been an issue in recent albums. The brief sojourn into a more uptempo realm on XXX is once again abandoned in favor of a moped in first gear here.
The production of course is super smooth and multi-layered, but the songs….dull I'm afraid.
Kicking off with what is possible the most annoying chorus in at least a decade, Valkyrie has a nice laid back verse reminiscent of the band's debut album, but that chorus makes you want to stick cacti in your ear.
Then comes 8 minute title track, where there's no sign of life until near the 3 minute mark. Followed of course by an ultra-slow ballad, a painfully slow song followed by the mid-tempo quirk of Nyctophobia which is kind of annoying also.
Russian Dolls is then another slow song before Heaven Help Me Now finally hits second gear.
That's followed by the album's best track – the slightly anthemic (in a mellow way) I Would Die For You.
That's followed by the horribly slow and dull Joe Di Maggio's Glove and the slightly more dramatic Till We Meet Again to close the album.
Score: 
70
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Mon
16
Jun

L.R.S. - Down To The Core (Review)

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I would class Down To The Core as a very safe album and one that very much stays true to the traditional definition of the genre it represents. But it is also one of the better examples of such, so I have no trouble embracing this. Yes, it could have been a little more adventurous, but what it delivers is super slick, super classy AOR and those vocals are just perfect! 

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94%
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Monday, June 16, 2014
Categories: 

This is one of the smoothest records I have heard in a long time. It's a very fine slice of mature, well-written and executed traditional AOR, featuring some of the finest people the genre has to offer. First it's a huge pleasure to hear the ear candy vocals of Tommy La Verdi back in the melodic game finally – it's been way too long for a guy with a voice born for this.

And Josh Ramos – one guitarist with an absolute natural affinity for this style of music – has also been underutilized in recent years. Drummer Mike Shotton is an inspired choice to drive the band's sound and his playing style gives the album a thumping beat and slightly progressive twist in several tunes.
The architect of the album is Alessandro Del Vecchio – layering the songs with keyboards as well as writing the bulk of the album's material (Shotton delivers two tracks on his own and Tommy co-writes on a few) – and delivering a stellar production of world class standard.
I was initially surprised at the pace of the album overall – it's a very ballad heavy selection of songs and quite mellow over what I expected. But the more I listened, the more the class of the songs took over and pace/style wasn't an issue.
In fact, looking back, quite a few of my favourite albums over the years have been very mellow and I'm now adding this one to the list. When the mood calls for it, some glossy, traditional AOR with perfect vocals and a laid back vibe is just what is called for.
Think Dare Out Of The Silence, Von Groove Test Of Faith, Magnum Sleepwalking – all very fine, albeit laid back, classy records.

What LRS deliver is a group of songs that everyone reading this is going to feel familiar with. There's the anthemic Journey styled feel good tracks such as the opening Our Love To Stay (which is equal to the tracks that opened the last two Journey albums), Never Surrender and Waiting For Love; then there are the slow wistful polished AOR of I Can Take You There, Almost Over You and the super smooth and ultra-classy Universal Cry; there is a couple of more upbeat and progressive AOR numbers in the brilliant Livin' 4 A Dream and the heavier Down To The Core.
Rounding out the record is the massive power ballads To Be Your Man and Not One Way To Give.
All throughout we get dramatic backing vocals, plenty of guitar fills and some tasteful solo and always those brilliant La Verdi vocals.

Score: 
94
 
Mon
16
Jun

PRETTY MAIDS - Louder Than Ever (Review)

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Pretty Maids fans will need no convincing – but those still unfamiliar with the band would do well to check this out – it's an excellent quality album, with terrific songs and a high energy burst of European melodic hard rock. 

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SCORE
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92%
Produced By: 
Pretty Maids
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Monday, June 16, 2014
Categories: 

Danish melodic metallers Pretty Maids seem to be on a pretty good run in recent years. I have enjoyed their last few albums that have come via Frontiers and this is no exception. This is not a completely new album but consists of seven re-recorded classic songs from the 1995 - 2006 era plus four brand new songs specially written for this record. There are some minor tweaks to those old songs, not to mention all of them taking advantage of a better production quality and technology.

This is yet another barnstorming, high energy, melodic metal release that blows the speakers apart. The four new songs are indication that all continues to go well within the band as they continue to age with maturity without ever looking like getting soft.
Deranged is a hard edge moody rocker with a great guitar sound and raspy powerful vocal and chorus that steps up the pace another notch or two.
My Soul To Take is one of the band's most melodic tracks ever – a brilliant little feel-good melodic rock anthem.
Nuclear Boomerang on the other hand, is one of the band's heaviest – a double kick drum driven hard rocker with a menacing edge.
A Heart Without A Home is another cracking melodic rock tune – a beautiful ballad with one of Ronnie Atkins' best vocals to date.

Score: 
92
 
Mon
16
Jun

GOTTHARD - Bang! (Review)

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Bang! is another album that suffers from being too long for its own good – especially with added bonus tracks in some editions, but it's a big step back in the right direction for the band and an album that carries the classic Gotthard sound more closely than Firebirth. This puts my interest in the band fully back into focus after losing it following the last album.
A classic is now expected next time lads! 

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90%
Produced By: 
Gotthard
Running Time: 
63
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
G Records
Artist: 
Monday, June 16, 2014
Categories: 

 

Gotthard overcame the tragic death of charismatic frontman Steve Lee by taking a couple of years off and recruiting Aussie import Nic Maeder as their new singer. Nic's job was an unenvious one, but he's handled it will class and style.
The band was at the top of their game when Steve died and their comeback album Firebirth carried massive expectations. It was however was pretty average to these ears and only featured a few really strong tunes. Some disagreed of course and loved the rawer, under produced style, but the overall fan reaction was tepid. The songs just weren't there.

Bang! is a much better Gotthard album in all respects. The production is much better – crisper and smoother and more commercial than Firebirth. This is a more traditional sounding Gotthard album and picks up where Steve Lee left off. The band could still use a little help on the choruses – but the songs here are far stronger than the last album – even if there are still maybe 2 or 3 fillers.

Bang! is a strong rocker to open the album. Initially I thought the chorus was simply daft, but as simple (and silly) as it is, it's catchy and has grown on me quite nicely over the weeks.
Get Up 'n' Move picks up the tempo even further. It's a frantic, organ drenched rocker with a hard edge riff and a thumping beat. I like it.
Feel What I Feel is another cracking Gotthard tune – an instant classic I think – with a memorable, commercial friendly, feel good chorus that you just can't help but sing along to.
I guess it is time for a ballad and C'est La Vie is just that. An acoustic driven piece, with a nice pleasant feel about it and a soft, raspy vocal from Nic. It has a very “French provincial” feel. It is a bit of a pace killer though, I might have waited another track or two to drop this in.
Jump the Gun is a groove heavy hard rocker with a darker tone. The chorus isn't a stand out, but the groove is what drives the track – that and the heavy guitar and strong vocals. Some nice organ in there too.
Spread Your Wings has a classic Deep Purple 70s rock vibe to it. Drenched in organ, the song has a definite style of its own, but it's a filler to these ears.
I Won't Look Down is another 70s influenced track, this time it has a Led Zeppelin feel to it. Sadly another filler as far as I'm concerned. It simply doesn't go anywhere.
My Belief is a much better track. A moody track again, but a more free flowing song and one that carries with it the feel of classic Gotthard. And while the chorus isn't massive, it does stand on its own, mainly due to the comforting familiarity in the style.
Time to break the tempo a little and the next ballad Maybe is a duet with unknown American Melody Tibbits, who has a very pleasant voice. Good song, if not a little strange to hear a female lead on a Gotthard record!
Red On a Sleeve is a fierce, hard rocking song with maximum impact. The tough exterior and a good fit for this part of the album, but not the best chorus ever.
What You is less intense as its predecessor, but rocks just as hard. I like this track a lot. Good chorus too.
Mr. Ticket Man is another uptempo rocker with an ok chorus and some prominent organ. A decent album track, but not a highlight.
Thank You is perhaps the most 'out of skin' Gotthard tune ever. This epic track runs 11 minutes in length and combines a full orchestral intro before launching into a heartfelt piano ballad that builds in intensity with the orchestral backing come back into it. The song continue on to a powerful guitar drive climax with orchestra in full flight. Marvelous stuff!

Score: 
90
 
Wed
07
May

DREAM THEATER - Dream Theater (Review)

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SCORE
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94%
Produced By: 
Dream Theater
Release Date: 
2013
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Progressive Metal
Label: 
Roadrunner
Artist: 
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Categories: 

 

Dream Theater's cracking new (from 2013 at least) self-titled album really is a return to songs playing the most prominent role in the album.

I really can't stand the needless prog-wank that takes up most 10 minute plus songs, yet even the 22 minute epic Illumination Theory on here is constructed from melodies that last the distance. It's quite an exquisite piece of music.

And when the guys hammer out some metal, there's a definite structure in place, more so than in recent albums I feel. Above all – this album features great songs and some beautiful melodies, especially with Enemy Inside, The Looking Glass and Bigger Picture.

I love Rush and I feel as if this is as close to Rush as the band has come before. Right up there with Images And Words and Falling Into Infinity for me.

Score: 
94
 
Wed
07
May

SEBASTIAN BACH - Give Em Hell (Review)

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This remains a very good album for what it is, but I've really struggled to maintain interest while playing back for review and I probably won't go back to it after this. But - the score reflects the quality of the album s always, my tastes aside. So those that know my taste, for better or worse, could use these comments as a gauge of how it will appeal to you.

Those that loved Kicking And Screaming will have no problem jumping right into this and lapping up "modern" Seb in all his screaming glory.

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SCORE
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86%
Produced By: 
Bob Marlette
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Categories: 

 

It seems the older Sebastian gets, the higher his vocals go. On Give Em Hell he hits a few new record highs that dogs will appreciate, not only with the screams. It's an interesting album this – producer Bob Marlette collaborates even more so, credited within for writing music and “melody” on many tracks, while also playing bass.
Guests seem to make up the majority of the album – Duff McKagan plays bass on several tracks and even guitars on another; Steve Stevens plays on a few others and gets writing credits on those songs – not that I could really pick his usual tone out here – most of the album is down tuned, modernized metal.

Sebastian writes all lyrics and “melody” and attributes “music” to others. Make of that what you will, to me it says this is a collaborative effort, spread across several different people. This is a typically dark, heavy and modern record that is seriously heavy for the most part and continues where Sebastian left off with his last album.
If that appealed to you – then this is probably more consistent again and certainly benefits from a big Marlette production.

But overall, I'm just not a big fan of this style of modern metal albums. I much prefer Sebastian in Skid Row, although we all know that ship sailed long ago. Since then he really hasn't used the same vocal approach and I miss it. He's a monster vocalist.

Score: 
86
 
Wed
07
May

THREE LIONS - Three Lions (Review)

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The style mixes that of early Ten and perhaps a more 70s sounding British rock approach. The album sounds great and has a nice sound of its own. I do think that the tempo – especially mid to late album – drags a little and it could have used a couple of more tracks like the best track of the album, the opening Trouble In A Red Dress in place of a few fillers.

A very good start to a new chapter for the lads and I expect bigger and even better things from album number 2 in due course.

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SCORE
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89%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Categories: 

 

It's a career full-circle for guitarist Vinny Burns who returns to the melodic rock of his early days in Ten, as Three Lions makes their debut album available. Formed by Burns with fellow Ten alumni Greg Morgan and newcomer bassist/vocalist Nigel Bailey, the trio is set to make a mark.

Produced and assisted musically by Alessandro Del Vecchio, the album has a tight, crisp feel that is simply British melodic rock through and through. Vocalist Bailey is similar to Ten's Gary Hughes in that he doesn't have a big vocal range, but has a warm, likable tone that suits the style and the delivery here.

It's great to hear Vinny wailing again and the trio plays as if they have been a band unit for several years already. At 13 tracks and nearly an hour in length, it's a very long album that could have used a little editing, with a 2 or 3 fillers in play, but there's some superb melodic rock on offer too.

Highlights for the album are the obvious opener Trouble In A Red Dress; the organ driven anthem Just A Man; and the uptempo AOR of Holy Water.
There is also a few classy ballads - Winter Sun is a great starter and Two Hearts Beat As One is classic British AOR; Don't Let Me Fall and Made For One Another are also very good – the only downfall is the tracks come in a mid-album pace vacuum.
Magdalene finally picks up the tempo again and delivers another strong melodic rock tune. And Hellfire Highway is a fast rocker that could have been used a few tracks earlier.
Sicilian Kiss is a guitar instrumental to close the album with Vinny in full flight.
I'm not that sold on the fast moving Twisted Soul and Kathmandu is one too many mid-tempo tracks and I think the second half of the album suffers from too many slower paced songs.

Score: 
89
 
Tue
06
May

WINGER - Better Days Comin' (Review)

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Another cracking Winger album. I'm probably favoring Karma narrowly ahead of this, but either way it's all class. It's a musically diverse album that if done by any other band probably wouldn't work. You need something special for the style changes between songs to work and that special something is Winger. 

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SCORE
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94%
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TRACK LISTING
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1. Midnight Driver of a Love Machine
2. Queen Babylon
3. Rat Race
4. Better Days Comin
5. Tin Soldier
6. Ever Wonder
7. So Long China
8. Storm In Me
9. Be Who You Are, Now
10. Another Beautiful Day (Deluxe Edition Bonus Track)
11. Out Of This World
 
Produced By: 
Winger
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
April 18
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Categories: 

 

It still baffles me why the credibility challenged MTV decided to use Winger as the genre's whipping boy back in the 90s. The collective musical talent of these 4 guys was and remains beyond the grasp of 99% of the bands elevated to hero status during the 90s on that network. And as if to prove the point, Winger remain actively kicking ass in their 26th year.

Better Days Comin' is the new album, the band's 6th studio album and one that fits snuggly between the darker vibe of IV and the looser, old-school sounding Karma record.
In fact, Better Days Comin' almost sounds like a greatest hits album for the band.
Of the 11 tracks on the special edition, there's something touching each facet of the band's styles over the years. It is a compelling record that boasts musical intelligence, awareness of what the fans want and a touch of adventure.
Within the record you get the best of early Winger - the hard rocking party boys that seemed a step ahead of the pack musically - with the anthemic driving trio of ass-whipping tunes Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine, Queen Babylon and Rat Race (possibly the most furious Winger tune yet). Better Days Comin' is something new and fresh with its quirky chorus and breezy pace.

Winger IV gets a nod with the dark, progressive and technical rocker Tin Soldier and Ever Wonder reminds me of the mature and atmospheric ballads from Karma.

So Long China has a hard edged verse, yet a breezy melodic chorus – the contradiction of the two aspects and the layered instrumentation making the song a highlight.

Latter day Winger gets another nod with the distorted, effects heavy modern rocker Storm In Me which contrasts starkly with the orchestral influenced moody ballad Be Who You Are, Now.

The bonus track Another Beautiful Day is another dirty modern rocker which leads into the also dark, but optimistic Out Of This World – a soaring ballad that oozes class and instant appeal.

Score: 
94
 
Sun
13
Apr

H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls (Review)

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The production on this album is simply breathtaking as is the mix – it's just so easy on the ears, no matter what volume it's played at – the majority of occasions obviously being ear splittingly loud.

H.E.A.T deserve to be where they are – which is on an upward trajectory – but they deserve to be worldwide sensations, not just European or Swedish stars. This album, coupled with their growing legacy as a killer live act, will hopefully prove to be another step towards world domination.

Based on how long I listened to Address The Nation after its release and how fresh this sounds each time I put it on, I have no hesitation in delivering the first 100 score at MelodicRock.com in 2 years! 

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SCORE
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100%
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
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1. Point Of No Return
2. A Shot Of Redemption
3. Inferno
4. The Wreckoning (Instrumental)
5. Tearing Down The Walls
6. Mannequin Show
7. We Will Never Die
8. Emergency
9. All The Nights
10. Eye For An Eye
11. Enemy In Me
12. Laughing At Tomorrow
Produced By: 
Tobias Lindell
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
EU
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Gain
Artist: 
Categories: 

 

Swedish melodic rock heroes H.E.A.T return with an album that evens the ledger as far as the fan base goes. It's now 2 albums with the original vocalist Kenny Leckremo and this makes two with new recruit Erik Gronwall.
The band's debut was utterly sensational and put the band on the map instantly. Freedom Rock let the foot off the pedal a little I felt, but with Erik's addition to the band, Address The Nation in 2012 well and truly put the band back into high gear, even if the direction changed ever so slightly.
So on the back of 2 years of touring, the guys return tighter than ever (minus second guitarist Dave Dalone). Dave's departure hasn't affected the band at all – strangely, the use of the one guitarist and song choices here have toughened up the band's sound.

Tearing Down The Walls sees the band continue the winning formula of Address The Nation, albeit with a slightly heavier approach on the songs and a more straight ahead, take no prisoners attitude.
Let's no beat around the bush here - this is a monster album. It is the sort of album that comes around only once every year or two that firmly stamps it's authority on the rock scene and through its brilliance, defines just why we are all fans of this music and of tis band in particular.
If they could bottle up the energy on this record, it could power a small nation of metal heads for a decade.

Point Of No Return is everything you could wish an opening track to be. It builds, it explodes, it delivers a knockout chorus, and it delivers all the guitars and big harmonies you would die for.

I didn't expect the style of A Shot At Redemption at all. It snuck up on me and is something fresh and original for the band. But as with everything H.E.A.T – it latches on and doesn't let go. Ever!

Inferno is simply a monster, barnstorming rocker with a screw you attitude, a few edgy lyrics and a head pounding beat.

The Wreckoning is a short intro into the big anthem ballad for the album. Not too often does a title track lend itself to being a big chart topping, hands in the air ballad, but Tearing Down The Walls is just that. And what a soaring chorus it is!

Too much has already been made of the similarities between the track Mannequin Show and that of a chart topping bimbo and to those comparisons I say, screw it! This is a deliciously quirky melodic rocker with another great chorus that really digs in. It grooves, it rocks and it's as catchy as hell.

We Will Never Die is one of the album's more straight forward tracks – but that said – the mid-tempo rocker still contains all the energy of the other songs and delivers another great chorus.

Another classic comes immediately with the driving, fast beat of the 'urgent' track Emergency. It rocks and it rolls and the chorus goes right over the top, with harmonies and guitars to the rafters.

All The Nights is the album's quietest moment. The classy and emotional, sentimental piano ballad is a great change in pace and beautifully produced.

Eye For An Eye has to be one of the standout hard rockers of recent years. This hard hitting, powerful rock track is another classic on an album of classics and one I still look forward to hearing even after 100 spins of this album. Another killer chorus.

Enemy In Me lifts the intensity just slightly, but not the pace. Fast and furious and full on. Another great hard rock track with immaculate production.

Laughing At Tomorrow is yet another highlight and yet another H.E.A.T classic for me. As if all the other tracks aren't anyway…but there's something special about this one especially. The mellower verse that leads to the big harmony filled chorus is a lesson in great songwriting for most. After the rollicking ride that this album delivers, it's simply a perfect way to close out proceedings.

Score: 
100
 

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