Latest Review Summary
|H.E.A.T Tearing Down The Walls||Gain/Sony|
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.
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!
|Winger Better Days Comin'||Frontiers Records|
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.
|Three Lions Three Lions||Frontiers Records|
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.
|Sebastian Bach Give Em Hell||Frontiers Records|
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.
Those that loved Kicking And Screaming will have no problem jumping right into this and lapping up "modern" Seb in all his screaming glory.
|L.R.S. Down To The Core||Frontiers Records|
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.
|Asia Gravitas||Frontiers Records|
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.
|Gotthard Bang!||G Records|
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!
A classic is now expected next time lads!
|Pretty Maids Louder Than Ever||Frontiers Records|
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.
|Vanden Plas Chronicles Of The Immortals Part 1||Frontiers|
This is one heavy album. Heavy concept, heavy lyrical content and heavy instrumentation. 10 tracks, 55 minutes and it's only Part 1 of 2. This progressive metal concept album is an adaption of a theatrical show the band put on, which itself was an adaption of a series of books by author Wolfgang Hohlbein. This is heavy going folks – not for the feint hearted by any means!|
Of course it is extremely well done – but it requires a concerted effort on the art of the listener to get to know it. For that reason alone, it's more likely this is going to appeal to the band's already substantial fan base.
Dream Theater fans are going to appreciate the effort involved in writing and executing such a complex piece of music and there's enough here for all fans of progressive metal to appreciate.
Songs range from 1:40 to as long as 8 minutes plus. It's hard to pinpoint individual highlights of an album which is essentially one passage of music spanning nearly an hour.
Vocalist Andy Kuntz is a very likable singer and guitarist Stephan Lill is simply amazing. The production is, as expected, a million dollar sound.
A massive rhythm section, swirling keyboards and an incredibly powerful set of songs define this progressive work of art.
|Skin Trade Refueled||AOR Heaven|
Sweden's classic hard rockers Skin Trade are back for the first time since a Best Of release in 2012 and their first new studio album since 1995. Fronted by one of my favourite Swedish vocalists Matti Alfonzetti, Skin Trade present an album that is both contemporary and classic in it's make up. The album mixes classic rock thinking with an updated and more contemporary sound, which could make fans of more traditional sounding hard rock question whether this release is for them.|
The opening two tracks would suggest not – Monster and Liar emply that modern sound but are still energetic, enjoyable slices of Scandi melodic hard rock with standout choruses. Elsewhere might take a few more listens. This is not a simple, chorus driven record, nor is it one that carries obvious melodies.
Matti has a habit of singing in a more contemporary, darker style than he did on his original melodic rock solo album Ready. I prefer his melodic style by a wide margin. The use of vocal effects throughout this album is another issue.
Pay In Blood for example, is mixed with all the production effects of a modern metal song and the verse doesn't offer much in the way of melody, but the chorus is quite appealing once you get to know it. Close My Eyes a mellower song with the same inner workings.
Hardcore MF Heartattack is a brash, in your face modern metal song with a very direct point; Worse Than Wasted is a fast moving, effects filled rocker with a chorus that blasts through the speakers.
Dying In Your Arms is another album highlight and matches the power and style of the opening two tracks, which I favor.
Look Me In The Eye is a powerful, grooving, riff filled rocker to finish.
|Magnum Escape From The Shadow Garden||SPV|
For the second time in a row I find myself rearranging a Magnum album to enhance my enjoyment of it, but that aspect cannot alter the fact that there are some delicious classic Magnum songs on offer here. |
Sound and style borrow from the last couple of outings and also from the likes of Rock Art and even some Storyteller's Night. It's a long and complex album with a lot of different approaches within the songs. Moody, hard rocking, epic…melodic too of course.
Bob Catley sounds a little rougher around the edges these days, but there is still something very special about the way he sings and the delivery of the always impressive lyrics of Tony Carkin.
The rhythm section of Al Barrow and Harry James provide an important foundation throughout the album, giving it the necessary power boost.
Track by Track:
Live 'Til You Die is a storming riff heavy opening track with a swathe of keyboards underneath and Bob Catley's usual powerful voice taking command. In many ways the song is a statement of the sound the band has carried since reforming – the hard edge guitar of Clarkin taking prominence and the chorus hook being the secondary thought. But it works – due to the song's own strength, a theme which carries through the whole album.
Unwritten Sacrifice is a nod to the older Magnum sounds, where keyboards took center stage. Unfortunately I wouldn't have placed it here after the faster moving opening track. The chorus is there, but it isn't an obvious one, which is typical of the reborn Magnum. It's still wonderfully moody and powerful track, I think it would have been better later in the album.
Falling For The Big Plan rolls along with equal power and the same subdued chorus structure of the opening tracks. The changing pace within the song makes for interesting listening. At 6 minutes in length there are a few different aspects to the track and it takes several listens to learn them all.
Crying In The Rain is another slow starter, making the front portion of the album a little sluggish. The song itself is a slow hard rocker with a good, yet simple chorus, led by a Clarkin's guitar riffing and a stop-start thumping drum beat which is attention grabbing from the get go. Great song.
Too Many Clowns is a fast riffing, fast moving groover, which to me sounds like it could have come right off the Rock Art album. The bridge-chorus arrangement works well, with the chorus itself the most immediate from the first half of the album.
Midnight Angel is simply brilliant. This to me is old school melodic Magnum with a heartfelt vocal and a thumping beat that drives the song through to the very commercial chorus. I would have placed this higher up the chain. And it runs 7 minutes no less!
The Art Of Compromise is another commercial rocker with an uptempo beat, some harmony vocals and a feel good chorus. Mark Stanway's piano also shines through on this track, giving it a familiar classic Magnum feel. Another highlight for me. The endless cymbal crashing is a bit distracting though.
The ballad Don't Fall Asleep runs about 6 minutes and features a really special Bob Catley vocal and a more pompish chorus.
Wisdom's Had Its Day is a similarly paced track, but features a more intense orchestral sound and a dark brooding chorus. Another one that isn't very obvious, but grows upon getting to know it more.
Burning River is a pretty straight forward Magnum rocker really. Again, the chorus isn't huge like the old days, but it's there.
The Valley Of Tears is one of the best songs from this band in recent memory. What a beautiful orchestral ballad with an amazing Catley vocal. The verse is as melodic as the chorus and the sentiment impossible not to get caught up in. This is classic Magnum through and through. The perfect closing track.
Now, for my alternate track sequence – this one was really hard – 01) Live 'Til You Die 02) Too Many Clowns 03) Midnight Angel 04) Crying In The Rain 05) Don't Fall Asleep 06) Unwritten Sacrifice 07) Falling For The Big Plan 08) The Art Of Compromise 09) Wisdom's Had Its Day 10) Burning River 11) The Valley Of Tears
|W.E.T. One Live - In Stockholm||Frontiers Records|
How can you tell that a band has unbelievable talent, charisma and ability? When a band such as W.E.T. perform their only their second ever live show together and yet, sound as good as this. How on hell is it possible to sound THIS good, this tight, this polished after just one other show? When you are Jeff Scott Soto, Erik Martensson, Robert Sall, Magnus Henriksson and Robban Back. That's how.|
What's even more impressive is that the band were at the time playing on the back of their debut album and previewing songs to the audience from their yet to be released second album. Yet, the crowd laps it up as it's delivered with a powerhouse performance.
For the rest of the folks hearing this album, you've had the luxury of living with the band's second album for several months now, so there isn't a song here that can't be sung along to and cranked loud.
Add in a few gems such as the classic Talisman tracks Mysterious and I'll Be Waiting; Work Of Art's wonderful The Great Fall; and Eclipse's hard rocking masterpiece Bleed And Scream and the heartfelt ballads Comes Down Like Rain and Love Heals alongside the band's own perfect anthems Walk Away, Rise Up, Brothers In Arms, Still Unbroken and Invincible and you might just have one of the best live albums in recent memory.
Did I mention the soaring feel good AOR of If I Fall and I'll Be There?
How about the additional two extra studio tracks that didn't make the last album? Both those tracks were deemed to be tipping the balance of the last album too heavy, so here they are now. And yes, both are heavy rockers.
Poison is a fast moving hard rocker with a kicking drum beat and a slew of guitars.
Bigger Than Both Of Us has an epic feel to it – it's slow, but it's heavy and the chorus is another winner for the band.
|House Of Lords Precious Metal||Frontiers Records|
The latest album from House Of Lords is their 5th since the World Upside Down release, which saw singer James Christian enlist a new lineup to take the band name forward after the ill-fated Power & The Myth release. The 8 year run with this lineup has been quite prolific, especially considering some bands have barely managed 1 or 2 albums in that time frame. Each of the 5 albums have had their fans and their detractors as the band treads a fairly consistent path musically, with songwriting the only real changeable factor each album.|
For Precious Metal, things have changed more than the past 4 albums. In comes a heavier and more direct approach, with the pomp/anthemic qualities the band is best known for somewhat left behind. I'm completely stumped by promotional claims the band returns to its roots here, as really, they never left behind their sound (apart from The Myth release) and this album is probably the furthest away from their core sound. Confusing indeed.
I've seen some outstanding reviews for this album around and it seems to be getting a mostly positive response from fans.
I've had the album 3 or more months now and initially struggled to get into it - more than any other album before it. I guess the emphasis on just rocking out in a heavier fashion instead of delivering the usual style of song structure I expect from the guys is the reason behind that.
But that's not to say I'm not enjoying the album – I am. And it does indeed rock and I know fans will love it. But it is a different beast to the band that delivered World Upside Down or Come To My Kingdom.
If there is a weakness within for me it is the choruses – a couple don't work and a couple of others are a bit annoying. I don't like Raw at all and Turn Back The Tide and I'm Breaking Free haven't warmed on me either.
Other than those points, the album fits into a pretty hard rocking path, led by the always shred-tastic Jimi Bell and backed by the powerhouse rhythm section of McCarvill and Zampa.
The album rocks with a pace not previously seen from House Of Lords, so if its tempo you crave then Jimi Bell is all over this album and drummer BJ Zampa is given a platform to deliver his most energetic performance yet. It's a shame the drum sound is so thin compared to that of the bass guitar.
Where the album works best for me is on such tracks as the opening pomp/metal blast of Battle, Action, the frantic Epic and the beautiful ballad Precious Metal.
The darker Permission To Die and the rollicking Swimming With The Sharks are also solid.
Turn Back The Night has a good hook and You Might Just Save My Life ends the album in the same way it started – with a bang.
|Within Temptation Hydra||BMG|
I adore this band's sound and style. And the vocals of Sharon den Adel are to die for. Following up on their breakthrough critically acclaimed and fan appreciated epic The Unforgiving was going to be no mean feat, especially for a band that has evolved from release to release.|
I don't think this is quite as strong as that last album – it really was wonderful – but the band has managed to capture the energy of that release and some of the commercial feel employed there, and still managed to move it forward a little here.
Much has been said of the many collaborations used on Hydra. But for the most part they are relegated to the background and don't impact he individual songs too much.
Let Us Burn carries all the power and musical intensity of Within Temptation's sound that fans could hope for. An infinitely powerful and soaring opening track that gets the album off to a perfect start.
Dangerous ups the ante even more with a furious pace. Growler Howard Jones (from Killswitch Engage) guests on vocals without too much distraction.
And We Run is perhaps the most controversial collaboration, with rapper Xzibit doing his bit mid-song, but I can get past that due to the high quality of the song itself and the powerful musical backing. I love the chorus and lead vocals here.
Paradise (What About Us?)(featuring Tarja) is quite possibly the symphonic metal song of the year. Just perfect in every way. I can listen to this over and over again. The production power is immense and lead riff is simply brain altering.
Edge Of The World is another wonderful track. Taking a step back to give the listener a break, the symphonic, orchestral ballad is a beautiful track with an epic chorus.
Silver Moonlight features some growling backing vocals, but actually fit the intense nature of the song – it's another barnstorming metal track with soaring vocals. Love it.
Covered By Roses features another stunning vocal performance and another memorable set of hooks.
The heavy and intense darker Dog Days is another pace changer. Another strong track if not a highlight.
Tell Me Why is fast, furious and everything that makes this band great.
Whole World Is Watching (featuring Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum) is a reflective, yet power metal ballad to close the album in style.
|Heart Fanatic Live||Frontiers Records|
I'm no fan of the Fanatic album or any of Heart's recent output despite being a pretty passionate fan of the band since 1985. So the idea of “Fanatic Live” really didn't interest me in the least, save to hear the might Ann Wilson belt out a few of my favourite Heart classic mid-set.|
So the 14 track set features half a dozen tracks form the last album and a few deep cut classics that are featured on all Heart concerts (and accompanying CD/DVDs) – Barracuda, Crazy On You, Dog & Butterfly.
The gals manage to squeeze in a few 80s mega-hits, almost begrudgingly, but it's a joy to these ears to hear the still wonderful Ann & Nancy sing and perform What About Love, These Dreams and Alone.
I will give them this – the Fanatic tracks do rock and in a live setting they do carry a little more life than on the studio recordings.
However, overall, it's just not a set list that interests me personally although the band kicks ass and the recording is very clear and well captured.
|Axel Rudi Pell Into The Storm||SPV|
I can sum up the very latest Axel Rudi Pell album in three words: Axel. Rudi. Pell.|
Ok, so I had better expand on that a little. You all know the format by now. You also know the style by now. The sound and the performance quality also! It's Axel Rudi Pell!
The only variable that needs reviewing in an ARP release is song quality. And I'm pleased to say that this album is packed with high quality melodic hard rock tunes that Johnny Gioeli sings with his usual gusto.
Once we get the obligatory mood-inducing intro out of the way, Tower Of Lies is a storming opener as per usual and Long Way To Go and Burning Chains sees Gioeli at full stretch and Axel's Deep Purple nuances in full blown riffing glory.
The epic 6 minute ballad When Truth Hurts is brilliant and the 7 minute slow burning Touching Heaven features also impresses.
The Neil Young cover of Hey Hey My My is really well done in Axel/Johnny's unique moody delivery and the closing 10 minute epic Into The Storm is just perfect.
|Fate If Not For The Devil||Avenue Of Allies|
This review is long overdue, but if you have not yet heard the new Fate album, give it a chance. It's their most melodic friendly release in some time. It gets off to a pretty hard rocking start with the double time Reaping and the also powerful title track If Not For The Devil.|
The first sign of a more melodic Fate comes with the fast moving Bridges Are Burning that surprises with a very commercial chorus. Feel Like Making Love sees the very easy to listen to vocals of Dagfinn Joensen adding melody over the guitar driven track.
Gambler is an old fashioned, keyboard filled 80s rock anthem which leads into another 80s friendly tune in the ballad Hard To Say Goodbye.
Made Of Stone and the faster paced Man Against The Wall are both cool European styled melodic hard rock tracks with strong choruses.
The balance of keyboard and guitar, coupled with a catchy chorus make My World another highlight while Gimmie All Your Love is arguably the most commercial track of the whole album, closing with another touch of 80s rock (and synth) for good measure.
|Linda & The Punch Obsession||Escape Music|
Modern meets melodic with this newcomer debut from Linda & The Punch. The young female lead uses her charm and energy to deliver some catchy moments on this album, produced by veteran Michael Voss, who has been mentoring the singer for several years.|
This is a pretty consistent debut, with the catchiest tracks stacked towards the front and the deeper cuts closing the album. All in all, it's bit of good fun.
The modern punk infused hard rock stomper What A Shame opens the album with a touch of latter day Rick Springfield about it.
Cold Cold World not only features an outstanding vocal, but also a great chorus hook and some tasty riffing.
Welcome To London features a slightly left of center verse, but another knockout chorus.
Elsewhere on the album, Nothing Of anything is a fine modern rocker; Bite fails to sink its teeth into a decent melody; Kill The Lights gets hard and heavy and Love Kills Me features the best chorus on the latter half of the album; Looking Out For Number One is a catchy pop/rocker.
Closing up is a sonically intense and heavy cover of the Springsteen written/Patti Smith sung Because The Night. Interesting take on the track.
|Berggren Kerslake Band (BKB) The Sun Has Gone Hazy||AOR Heaven|
The welcome return of Swedish vocalist Stefan Berggren on the wonderful Revolution Road album is bookended with his appearance here with classic rock drummer Lee Kerslake.|
Kerslake's years in Uriah Heep are carried through to this old school 70s rock release, which to be honest, it's made infinitely better with Berggren there on vocals.
Without him, this release would have been far less appealing.
As it is – it struggles in places anyway, not least with an extremely muddy, bass heavy production sound that fails the songs featured.
Track highlights include the groove filled opening rocker Walk Tall; the more melodic My My; the very classy and most melodic-chorus friendly song of the album Free; the soulful and blues drenched As Time Goes By; and the acoustic based closer Born Again, featuring another very good vocal.
|Johnny Lima My Revolution||Indie|
The always reliable and dependable Johnny Lima returns with a fan funded release that is currently available in limited numbers from Johnny's website and some retailers. The 15 track album is chock full of classic Lima driven melodic rock – hands in the air anthemic hard rock, mixed with a few high quality sentimental ballads for good measure.|
As usual Johnny mixes the best of classic 80s melodic rock with a slightly more contemporary sound, but perhaps not quite as modern as some tracks Johnny has delivered in the past.
This, I think, is going to be the definitive Lima release folks.
Its sometimes good fun, feel good hard rock (You're The Drug I Wanna Get High On); at other times, the biting lyrical content (Happily Ever After You, Tell Me Lies) and then the ballads take you to another place altogether. I Can't Love You Any More and Maybe You're Right, Maybe It's Wrong are wonderful.
When you are talking moody melodic rock anthems, Blame It On Love, Deeper Into You, Naturally Beautiful and Into The Light take the prize.
Johnny even delivers one of the sleaziest tunes of all time in Fill You Up. Eat your heart out Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley!
Production is first rate – balanced and easy to crank loud.
|Daryl Braithwaite Forever The Tourist||Sony Australia|
Another long short player here or short long player… Aussie pop/rocker Daryl Braithwaite had recorded this long play EP (that's how it is being marketed here in Oz) that seems him step back into the melodic rock game for the first time in a while.|
This is Daryl doing his classic melodic rock style, modernized in the same way the likes of Brian Howe and Rick Springfield have done in recent years.
Quite simply – this 8 track release is the best thing I have heard from Braithwaite since the early 90s. The utterly fabulous commercial radio anthems Not Too Late, Is This Love and Forever The Tourist are some of his best songs ever. The modern feel doesn't betray his pop/rock roots.
The only stinker is the horrible reggae track Perfect Day. Otherwise it's perfect for Braithwaite fans!
|EZ Livin Firestorm||LZ Records|
David Reece is one hell of a singer, and as expected he's in pretty fine voice again here. Always good to hear him sing straight ahead hard rock with a melodic edge. But on this occasion, the material in question isn't going to further his career all that far. EZ Livin' “return” after more than two decades away.|
Founding member Hans Ziller (guitarist of Bonfire) has gathered a new crop of musicians to carry the name, but rather than a fresh all-new album the group instead manage to cover three tracks from the 1991 debut album and include 2 covers – Uriah Heep's Easy Livin and a truly horrible version of the great Bangalore Choir track Loaded Gun. This version sounds almost cabaret compared to the hard rocking original, which holds a special place in my heart.
That leaves just 3 new tracks out of the albums 9 songs (Let's Fly Away appears twice!)
The production is average too – and it just doesn't seem like a genuine attempt at a new start. More like a promo piece to get the ball rolling.
I hope they record a genuine full length album next time and make up for this extended-EP of sorts.
|Royal Hunt A Life To Die For||Frontiers Records|
This is a wonderful hard rock record and among my favourite of all Royal Hunt releases. I just wish there were more than 7 songs. Yes, the length of the songs makes the album's playtime as long as a normal 10-11 track release, but with 7 songs there are only 7 original ideas to get your head around. And when the quality is as it is here, the listener is left wishing for more.|
Upon my first listen to this album I found 1 song that jumped out immediately. On my second run through it was two, and third….well, you get the idea.
The musical depth of the album is such that it takes some listening, but each of the 7 tunes here has their own life and personality and each has its own beauty.
The production on this album is fantastic, and the performances every bit as good as the caliber expected of these seasoned musicians.
A special mention has to go to vocalist DC Cooper, whose efforts on this album are nothing short of brilliant. Powerful, emotive, melodic and in command at all times, Cooper drives the songs on this album to the next level.
The near 10 minute Hell Comes Down From Heaven is a divine epic opener, with the all the power and swirling keyboards expected.
One Minute Left To Live has to be one of the best melodic metal songs you'll hear this year…what a chorus!
On Sign Of Yesterday Cooper takes on a Phantom of The Opera persona to deliver one of the vocals of 2013.
And the closing A Life To Die For simply flies by, even though it clocks in over 8 minutes in length. My favourite of the album.
|Overland Epic||Escape Music|
Steve Overland and Mike Slamer. There's not much more I can add really! Either name conjures up unnatural levels of excitement from AOR anoraks, but join them together and it's a virtual pleasure overload. Epic is just that - essential AOR for most readers of this site.|
Add in the additional personnel of Christian Wolff – guitars; the Unruly Child rhythm section (Larry Antonino – bass and Jay Schellen – drums) and how could they go wrong?
Well, they couldn't and they don't.
With the two Billy's on backing vocals (Greer and Trudel), you can bank on this album featuring all the same wall of sound elements that make all Mike Slamer productions essential.
Mike joins in himself with additional guitars, bass, keyboards.
Radio Radio might be a pretty simplistic (but very catchy) way to start the album, but I challenge anyone to find a better pure AOR song than the double dose of classics in If Looks Could Kill and the glorious Stranded. Wonderful! And layers upon layers of vocals.
Rags To Riches is almost Seventh Key toughness and is one song I could perhaps live without – the chorus isn't doing it for me; while Liberate My Heart is pure FM bliss.
The uptempo anthemic Down Comes The Night is both moody and uplifting at the same time.
If Your Heart's Not In It has some cool drum work and a varying beat; Rock Me is a groover and So This Is Love is straight out of the 80s with harmonies everywhere.
Wild is high-tech 80s AOR and The End Of The Road is another class song, a mid-tempo song that builds via a moody and twisting arrangement and great chorus.
Time For Letting Go is for whatever reason – not included on the promo version of the album.
Seventh Key meets FM.
|Revolution Road Revolution Road||Avenue Of Allies|
He hasn't been seen for years, and suddenly Snakes In Paradise lead vocalist Stefan Berggren appears twice in two months. The best of his two new releases is easily Revolution Road.|
The project is the brain child of Avenue Of Allies owner Gregor Klee and man of the moment Alessandro Del Vecchio, who co-writers, produces and performs on this album.
Revolution Road is everything I loved about Sweden's Snakes In Paradise – the strong melodic vocals and moody edge, and twists it into a more bluesy hard rock direction, with an emphasis on sounding fresh while still paying homage to the 70s and 80s.
It took a few listens for several of the songs to grow on me, while others were more instant. But the outcome was the same in the end – quality melodic rock with a fresh twist.
And for Snakes In Paradise fans, there are two new songs from the band's founders Berggren and guitarist Thomas Jakobsson included!
Wings Of Love is the perfect opening track – uptempo, uplifting and glorious vocals and chorus. The uptempo, but warm and moody Shooting Star might be even better and is the most Snakes In Paradise sounding track of the album (the first of the two Berggren/Jakobsson co-writes). Stefan's vocals here really warm the heart. I just love his tone.
The title track is the listener's first taste of the bluesier side of the album, with a slower, darker and heavier style that just oozes class.
Whether it be on the more traditional style melodic rock tracks like Hold On; the gloriously sweet AOR of Pretending Hearts (the other Berggren/Jakobsson co-write) or mid-album run of heavier, blues soaked 70s rockers like Ain't Gonna Give My Heart Away, Love's Got A Hold On Me, Losing You and Take Your Love To Town and the organ drenched Balloon; one thing is for certain – this is a classy release with a knockout vocal performance.
An musically speaking, full credit to main writer Alessandro Del Vecchio for stepping outside the usual circle of musical influence to deliver a really special album.
|Lover Under Cover Into TheNight||Escape Music|
The second LUC album follows the successful debut of yet another Swedish melodic rock project. You can never have too many right? Well, not when they are as good as this at least.|
The band features Last Autumn's Dream vocalist Mikael Erlandsson, Martin Kronlund on guitars and (very a very solid, hard hitting) production, ColdSpell drummer Perra Johnsson – who delivers a smashing sound here; and Mikael Carlsson on bass, adding to the solid rhythm section.
Stepping things up another notch from the debut, this second album sees the guys deliver a familiar slice of Scandi melodic/hard rock, with all the trademark hooks and elements from that part of the world we love.
Erlandsson's raspy vocals are a thing of beauty and the performance here coupled with the songs makes this album now stand above that of recent Last Autumn's Dream output.
There are no fillers in sight, but to highlight a few tracks, I particularly like the tough talking opener A Fight and the rolling melody of Into The Shadows; Toy Solider is an interesting choice of song to cover, but the Martika 80s hit is reworked nicely here with a raspy moodiness perfect for it.
The uptempo ballad Life Is Easy is a breezy interlude before fast moving rockers Playboy No 7 and The Game Is On, with a hammering beat driving both songs.
Closer To The Truth is a classic Scandi 80s style melodic rocker with a fine verse and chorus, making it an album favorite.
The breezy quality ballad No Place Like Home closes the album.
|AOR The Secrets Of LA||AOR Heaven|
Secrets Of LA is amazingly AOR's 12th album and basically sees main man Frederic Slama repeat the formula of the previous albums. Secrets features the highest profile guest stars to date with the likes of Fergie Frederiksen, Jeff Scott Soto, Jim Jidhed and Bill & Tamara Champlin all involved.|
It's a fairly consistent album and the songs themselves are good quality throughout.
But the programmed aspect of the base sound is simply out of date in 2014 and that and overall production style takes away from the (mostly) excellent vocal performances and the songs themselves.
Slama teams again with guitarist/producer Tommy Denander and a whole slew of guest vocalists, mirroring Denander's own Radioactive series. As with Radioactive, the guitar and production sound here is very much the Denander stock and trade guitar driven/programmed feel which is the album's weakness. The tinny and repetitive cymbal and drum programming and all too familiar guitar tone is something I personally don't need to ever hear again.
But Slama seems to have got the best out most of the vocalists appearing, which is a plus.
Lead track Deep Whirlpool is sung with gusto from the now late, great Fergie Frederiksen. Good song and great, but a little too much programming going on.
The tougher, heavier approach of the JSS sung Stage Struck is good - always good to hear a new JSS vocal, but again, programmed drums takes away a little.
My favourite track of the album is the absolutely blinding AOR of the Journeyesque Secrets In The Shadows, with Alien frontman Jim Jidhed on vocals. Again, it's programmed to the hilt, but the song's vocal is just too amazing.
Back To San Francisco features Bill Champlin in a raspy uptempo vibe.
Unfortunately the normally ultra-reliable Bob Harris (Axe, Ede Of Forever) turns in a couple of really off vocals for Out Of The Past and The Main Attraction. I'm not sure what went wrong here, but the vocals really are a struggle to get through.
The Name Of The Game is a pretty easy listen with the wonderful Robin Beck in full control.
Web Of Lies is a Göran Edman sung recut of another Chasing Violets song. Prefer this version as Goran is unbeatable.
Hollow Triumph is a pleasant AOR number sung by Last Autumn Dream / Lover Under Cover singer Mikael Erlandsson.
Voices In The Wind is a laid back Westcoast number that features Tamara Champlin and some nice guitar work.
|Dogface Back On The Streets||AOR Heaven|
Way too long between drinks for Dogface, who deliver their third album after an 11 year wait! I've been bugging band founder Martin Kronlund for at least half that time to do another album, so here it finally is – with huge expectations from myself. The debut is a classic!|
While it's great to have the guys back and hear that Mats Levin snarl at full volume, the album doesn't quite match the brilliance of the first two, or make up for an 11 year wait. That's mainly due to a couple of obvious fillers and a strange choice of track sequencing.
In my mind the band opens with a true plodder of a song in Footsteps On The Moon – a decent song, but by no means should it ever have opened the album.
Much better and in classic form is the rollicking Can't Face Tomorrow. This is classic Dogface!
Higher is just as good too – Levin just owns the song with his dominating vocal.
The Fall is another quality song with a pretty good chorus and some nice Hammond, but the slow pace of the track along with the slow opener and mid-tempo previous track give the album a sluggish feel.
The double time rocker Back On The Streets fixes that momentarily, before a return to the mid-tempo moody fare of Fired. Good chorus and lead vocal again here though.
Get Up is another mid-tempo track, but features a catchy chorus and some strong harmonies.
Start A Fire continues a good run of tracks with a song that fires up and delivers more classic hard rock for Dogface fans.
The 2 minute blitz of Crazy Horses isn't as memorable however and the closing song Freaking Out is perhaps the worst Dogface tune ever. The psychedelic rocker just doesn't work for me.
|Primal Fear Delivering The Black||Frontiers Records|
THIS is how it's done folks. This is quite simply – a stunning piece of European melodic metal, with power, finesse, melody, structure and ear splitting production quality that rivals anything on the metal market right now.|
The bass thumps, the drums pound, the guitars riff and shred and the vocals – while ear piercingly loud – hold both strength and melody. Ralf Scheepers is the man as far as I'm concerned.
Magnus Karlsson again proves he knows the genre better than anyone with some pounding and brutal riffing.
The Mat Sinner production and Jacob Hanson mix gives the album a perfect balance that makes it easy on the ears, despite the all-in approach of the songs.
From the frantic opening thrashing of King For A Day, to the groove heavy When Death Comes Knocking, to the old school metal of Alive & On Fire; to the double kick drum rollicking Delivering The Black; this album has it all for metal fans.
Also of particular brilliance is the moodier One Night In December, which is one of my favourite cuts.
Born With A Broken Heart is about as close to a ballad as this band might get, the chorus another stand out.
|Ring Of Fire Battle Of Leningrad||Frontiers Records|
Something has gone wrong here. The band is musically on song, delivering their third album of neo-classical shred metal, with the typically powerful soaring vocals of Mark Boals wailing throughout.|
But the production is as thin as a steamrolled bandicoot. There's simply no guts to this recording. The guitars are way back in the mix and the drums – performed thisa time by session man Jami Huovinen, who mimics Virgil Donati's styl so well, I actually thought it was him – are so hollow it just doesn't make sense how it wasn't corrected.
Take a listen to the guitar riff at 3.50 mark in the opening track. It sounds like it was recorded with string to a tin can.
I like the first two records and there's nothing musically wrong with this new album either. Mark sings great, Virgil plays his ass off and Tony MacAlpine shreds without remorse.
|Angelica Thrive||Frontiers Records|
Another week, another Swede! Yes, Angelica is the front woman of those moody modern melodic rockers The Murder Of my Sweet and this is her solo “melodic rock” record.|
Backed by most of her regular band including drummer/producer/keyboardist Daniel Flores; with the exception of guitarist Per Bergquist, the album swing along nicely, delivering an hour's worth of mainly uptempo European melodic rock tunes.
Angelica has a fine voice for both the melodic direction of this album and the modern edge of Murder Of My Sweet.
The songs are from various writers, including Angelica being responsible for writing or co-writing at least half the album. Other writers include Harry Hess, Robert Sall, Alessandro Del Vecchio and Mattius Reimer.
Style wise – very much as expected – traditional commercial melodic rock/AOR with that Swedish slant. All very nice and very easy to listen to.
Perhaps not the musical depth that it could have, or quite enough to make it stand out of the pack as a must have release.
But songs like the instantly catchy Breaking My Heart; the ballad Can't Stop Love; the moodier Nothing Else You Can Break and memorable Rain On My Parade all make this album one that should be sought out by fans of female fronted melodic rock and of course anyone that already has either of the Murder Of my Sweet releases.
|REO Speedwagon Live At Moondance||Frontiers Records|
To be honest, I didn't realize just how whiney REO frontman Kevin Cronin is in concert. I like Reo – it's hard not to, but this particular live recording is something I find more than a little annoying – vocally speaking.|
The remaining elements are all fine of course. The band is on top of their game after being on the road continuously now for 134 years and the recording quality of the performance is good.
Sometimes there just isn't a lot that can be said about a particular release!
The band churn out most of the Hi-Infidelity record here, along with a few other album cuts and hits, for a 13 song release and accompanying DVD. This set is really is aimed at the core fanbase only.
|Benedictum Obey||Frontiers Records|
As much as I have tried, I just cannot stomach Benedictum's vocalist Veronica Freeman. Musically the band is pure American metal and is ok. |
If the band has appealed previously, then check this out. The production is loud, in your face and evenly balanced.
But I hate the vocals. And if I can't get into vocals, I struggle with the album no matter what the quality of the production. I hated the last album too. I love me some power female vocals – but this is just screaming and it's doing my ears serious damage by the time I reach track 5. I'll stick with Within Temptation, Nightwish or Halestorm.
|Red Dragon Cartel Red Dragon Cartel||Frontiers Records|
A lot has been said about this release already, so I'll try and sum that up briefly with my own opinion. Looking at the main players here, the album should have been a home run. What's not to love about the legendary Jake E Lee returning after years in the wilderness, teaming up with the great Ron Mancuso (Beggars & Thieves) who is a superb writer and producer in his own right and brought B&T back recently with an album that mixed old and new extremely well. The perfect fit surely?|
Maybe so, but I was disappointed from listen 1. My first issue is with the direction of this album. It is a lot more contemporary than anticipated and borders on alternative metal in places.
Multiple production effects (on both guitars and vocals), grungy tuned down guitars, strained vocals...it's a long long way from the sweet tone of the awesome Badlands records and Jake's classic work with Ozzy Osbourne.
Then there is the vocalist issue. The main man here is the also normally awesome Darren Smith of Harem Scarem, leaving the drum kit behind here to take on frontman duties for the live band and half the album's tracks.
Sticking with the sound direction of the material, Darren proceeds to scream his way through his selection of songs and no matter how hard I try, I just can't warm to the style – both vocally and musically.
The opening track Deceived is about as palatable as it gets. I can't even get past the chorus in Shout It Out.
Elsewhere on the album, the use of guest vocalists creates an unbalanced approach that doesn't allow the listener to settle in. Only Robin Zander impresses on the modern raunch of Feeder – it's the heaviest track I've ever heard Zander sing; but Paul Di'Anno sounds horrible on Wasted and Maria Brink not much better on Big Mouth.
Sass Jordon guests on Redeem Me, but even here, her vocals don't carry the usual warmth expected.
War Machine is Jake's tribute to his time with Ozzy, the very noticeable riff and style straight out of The Ultimate Sin.
|Boston Life, Love & Hope||Frontiers Records|
You know there's a problem when it takes 11 years to prove that the last album wasn't as bad as you remember, at least not compared to the latest offering.|
The time has come to stop calling Tom Scholz a genius. The debut Boston album was genius. But that was when Boston was a band. It has been a case of diminishing returns ever since and 6 albums in 37 years is really quite a pathetic work rate.
Scholz is his own worst enemy. It seems he takes advice from no one, works almost entirely on his own and doesn't listen to any other artists, has a habit of rehashing songs despite decades between projects and even though he performs live with a kick ass band, doesn't utilize any of their abilities when it comes to recording.
The whole Boston conundrum just gives me a headache thinking about it. What a good A&R guy could do if Scholz was ever ready to listen.
Boston the band morphed into the Tom Scholz machine shortly after the second album and by the time Corporate America finally arrived in 2002, Boston was all but a one man band. Sadly that problem has only intensified on Life, Love & Hope.
To step back a bit – the machines were beginning to take over the band during the Walk On recording years and what little momentum the name Boston had was again lost in taking another 8 years to deliver Corporate America.
Corporate America featured a few killer songs (I Had A Good Time, Stare Out Your Window, You Gave Up On Love, Didn't Mean To Fall In Love), but some appalling ones too (With You, Cryin', Turn It Off – yes please!).
What frustrates the hell out of me as a fan (I am) is the repeated mistakes. The at times annoying drum sound on CA is only magnified on L, L & H – this time becoming the only drums used. That's right – nothing but Scholz delivered drum programming and tinny sounding cymbals here.
And without doubt, the absolutely biggest WTF moment Boston's long history was Kimberly Dahme's country song With You being included on Corporate America – and in such a prominent position.
So does Tom Scholz learn from that? No…instead Kimberly is back for an increased presence on the new album, but at least no country tune. But Boston for me is never going to include a female lead vocal.
Fans were also not happy that CA took 8 years and produced only 9 new tracks, as Living' For You was brought back for a second run. Why? There's simply no need. If you can't get a song right in 6 years, then move on!
When Scholz was complaining again over the lack of impact CA had back when released in 2002 (label's fault of course!), he was talking about reworking a few of that album's tracks and adding a few new songs for a second take on that album. That was about 8 years back.
I heard nothing of that since, so when the years rolled by without any new product, it seemed safe to assume Tom had come to his senses, realized fans just didn't like the album overall and dropped the stupid idea to concentrate on just writing the best all-new Boston album possible.
When the announcement came that the new album was actually finished and was to be released in 2013, I was quietly hopeful that the material would warrant the longest gap between Boston albums yet – 11 years.
So I was absolutely shocked and totally disappointed to hear that not 1 or 2, but 3 of CA's tracks were still going to be reprised on Life, Love & Hope.
And one of those isn't even rerecorded! Didn't Mean To Fall In Love is a simple cut and paste from Corporate America. I just don't get that! At. All.
Same fans, same audience, same people buying the albums. No need to repeat yourself. Am I being too cynical to think that this track is included just to be able to have the late, great Brad Delp included more in the credits?
The other two rehashed tracks are Someone and You Gave Up On Love, which in all honesty, have not been improved upon in the 11 years since their original release.
Someone of course features the great Delp on lead vocals and hasn't been tampered with apart from the awful drum programming. Again, I think this is a wonderful song, but its presence here seems merely filling the Delp quota.
You Gave Up On Love (2.0) now features Kimberley Dahme in a prominent lead vocal role (why????) and lead vocals also from Tommy Decarlo and Tom Scholz.
That leaves us with the result of 11 years of work - 8 new songs.
So let's talk Life, Love & Hope.
The Scholz one man band approach has resulted in a couple of things.
First – the lack of a real drummer is beyond comprehension. The programmed beats are beyond annoying and repetitive without any of the soul of feel that a human being brings to the process.
Secondly – the mix is awful. That's the most unforgivable aspect of the album – 11 years in the making and it features the worst production of any Boston album.
Third – the overall tempo of the album is very laid back. Every Boston album has been that little bit mellower than the last and this is no exception.
Lastly – the song sequencing is ridiculous.
The album starts in almost identical fashion to Corporate America – a nice uptempo AOR anthem. David Victor does a nice lead vocal and is then criminally discarded for the remainder of the album. Vocalist Louis St. August (Mass) appears for a brief vocal line – he could have been used more also.
But to cut and paste Didn't Mean To Fall In Love as the second track is just silly. But then it gets truly ludicrous as Sholz figures after one new track and one old track, fans would love nothing more than to hear him deliver an attention seeking instrumental. No sir, that is not the case.
The one new track to feature a new Brad Delp lead vocal is Sail On, a dramatic mid-tempo track with an ok chorus, but an odd sounding Delp vocal to be honest. Kimberley Dahme again appears on lead vocals in and around the track, which is a little off-putting and the track just kind of comes to a stop without warning. Odd.
Life, Love, & Hope is a pretty decent tune featuring Tommy Decarlo on lead vocals. He is obviously in the band to cover Brad Delp's songs and on record, he also sounds close to the master vocalist. This is a free moving, uptempo melodic rocker with a decent chorus, but the drums are hideous.
If You Were in Love has potential. Unfortunately I just don't like Kimberley Dahme as a lead vocalist on this material and the verse is forgettable. The chorus is much stronger and had it been sung by David Victor, I think it could have been a pretty good AOR track.
Someday is another Tommy Decarlo sung tune, but with some additional vocals from Scholz and Dahme again on lead vocals in the bridge. I wish that wasn't the case. Otherwise it's an ok uptempo melodic rocker. Not a bad track, but really nothing we haven't heard many times before with Boston.
Love Got Away is Schulz on every instrumental and programming as usual and now lead vocals too. Yep, Tom Scholz has decided he can also sing now. Next Boston album will have him on all vocals no doubt – more elimination of needless band personnel.
At least he's a touch better than Eddie Van Halen singing. I don't like the track at all.
The final new track closes the album. The Way You Look Tonight is a slow to mid-tempo AOR number with the attempted lush Boston layering, but the mix is just awkward.
Tommy Decarlo sings again with the wasted David Victor on harmonies. This song and the opening number are probably the best two tracks on the album.
Oh, and the CD artwork is dreadful too. I doubt there will be another Boston album. Not if it's going to take until 2024 to release.
Some will be thankful for that. I, on the other hand, see the history of Boston as the greatest example of wasted time and lost opportunities in rock n roll history…so much potential and so many great songs over the years. But there could have been so any more.
|Place Vendome Thunder In The Distance||Frontiers Records|
The debut Place Vendome album was quite superb. It also featured two of the best power-AOR anthems of recent years (I Will Be Waiting, Too Late) and a couple of killer hard rock tracks.|
The band's second album Streets Of Fire didn't have the anthemic highs of the debut, but it was probably a more consistent album start to finish.
Thunder In The Distance, the project's third album, sees the formula of the first two adhered to, but is missing the spark of the debut and the overall consistency of the sequel.
This appears to be a more laid back album overall. It's not as heavy and I'm not hearing the passion in vocalist Michael Kiske's voice either.
That's not to say it isn't a good album. It is, and all seems to flow along very nicely, but at the same time, the material doesn't grab the listener by the throat.
I've been playing the album continually over the last two weeks in hope something jumps out at me. What we do have here is a very pleasant and well produced album (thanks to Dennis Ward) and a group of solid songs (largely from the pen of Alessandro Del Vecchio) that do the job and will appeal to those that perhaps sampled Place Vendome earlier and found the material too 'in your face'.
There are still some highlights here worthy of the Place Vendome name – the opener Talk To Me is one of the few outwardly uptempo tracks; Power Of Music has a good chorus hook; the Timo Tolkki written rock ballad Lost In Paradise has a certain intensity and the feel good It Can't Rain Forever is another strong, mellower tune.
Heaven's Lost is a dramatic song and the Magnus Karlsson ballad Break Out is solid.
The title track closing the album is good too – probably wasted at the end of the album.
|Stryper No More Hell To Pay||Frontiers Records|
Some bands spend their entire careers trying to emulate past glories. Others just get better with age and look towards the next phase of ass kicking.|
Thankfully Stryper is in the latter category and their new album No More Hell To Pay sees them as fresh and invigorated as ever.
The self-produced set is chock full of high energy tracks that are completely dominated by big riffs and big vocals.
I really like Michael Sweet's voice. He's got a great tone for this style of music and can he still hit those high notes or what?
I don't think there is going to be a Styper fan alive that doesn't get into this album.
As for those not into the band or think they are just a religious outfit – there is so much more here on offer than just some preachy lyrics. For the record – the band keeps a lid of that aspect anyway.
Two minor points – I'm not sure the sequencing of the album is perfect and I think the drum sound is a little off at times. Cymbals are too noisy and the drums a little thin.
I was surprised to see another cover tune on here after the band just released an all-covers affair, but their rocked up version of Jesus Is Just Alright is absolutely blinding with some serious guitar soloing towards the end.
The big ballad The One is something pretty special also – the chorus vocals are inspiring.
Other highlights are the opening slow hard rocker Revelation – even if it perhaps shouldn't have opened the album; the speeding Saved By Love and Legacy; Sticks & Stones and Water Into Wine just flat out rock and the title track is just cool.
|Def Leppard Viva! Hysteria||Frontiers Records|
After my unfortunate (and still unresolved) public spat with frontman Joe Elliott, I've only listened to Def Leppard for review purposes. And that's pretty sad considering they were my favourite band for the best part of 15 years and Hysteria my favourite album of all time.|
Viva! Hysteria however, has given me reason to smile. It's been so long since I played the original Hysteria album; it was nice to come back to the songs that were part of my life for so long.
And I really love what the band has done here with them. While sticking to the original blueprint almost entirely, the guys still managed to capture that energy a live show brings.
And what's probably best of all is the band listening to fans about their set list, after several years of the same old sets, rolling out some real gems on the band's Dead Flatbird first act set, such as Stagefright, Rock Brigade, the awesome Slang, Promises, Mirror Mirror….great stuff.
Then there's the main act for the performance of Hysteria in full. It just reminds me how good these songs are – and just how good it is to hear the deep cuts like Gods Of War, Don't Shoot Shotgun, Excitable and Run Riot live. They go over a treat and I hope the guys continue to play more of these on the next tour.
Overall the live recording is terrific and the mix nice and clear. Joe Elliott sounds about as good as he has in any recent years and the band is as tight as could be imagined.
|Adriangale Sucker Punch!||Kivel Records|
Way too long between new music for the much loved Adrianagle – returning to their original name and label home (Kivel Records) after a brief excursion outside for an EP under the name Crunch. |
Guitarist/writer/producer Vic Rivera has teamed again with vocalist Jamie Rowe for the band's fourth studio album and first since 2004's Crunch.
Thankfully the guys pick up exactly where they left off, with this album continuing the big fat production sound of Crunch, while updating just enough to keep things fresh and modern, but still classic Adriangale all the way.
The album features 11 new songs (1 is instrumental, the classy Temporis Intermisso), mixing glorious anthemic melodic rock with AOR choruses with some grittier harder edge numbers that rank amongst the bands heaviest tunes to date.
I think a lot of effort has gone into the composition of these tracks, both in terms of songs writing and as far as production, with extra effects and layers going on throughout the album.
On the heavier side – Sucker Punch is a perfect opener, which sets up the quality of the album; while All About The Money is perhaps the most aggressive track the band have put down; Give Me A Sign features a hard edge vocal and a thumping rhythm section.
On the more melodic and anthemic side of the coin, you just won't do better than The Black And The Blue. Massive chorus, awesome harmonies, killer song.
When I Said You'd Be The One is a lot of fun with another great chorus, but Believe is even better, with harmonies used beautifully.
What Will You Do and The World We Knew are two more great melodic rock tracks that just strengthen this album's grip on my ears.
If you aren't convinced by now, then maybe Could Have Been Me will do it. Great stuff.
You is the album's sole slower track and is a nice change of pace from the otherwise rousing tempo. The heartfelt piano lead ballad features a great vocal from Jamie.
|Maxx Explosion Forever||Kivel Records|
Maxx Explosion is Chris, Jimi and BJ from House Of Lords, with bassist Chris Carvill on lead vocals. So yes, there is a definite House Of Lords vibe here, but also a lot more.|
This is an album of uptempo, highly energetic rockers. Great songs, great vocals, great performances…but production? That's another story unfortunately.
I can accept that the band has a certain 'live in the studio' vision here and the energy is undeniable. And the songs give a lot to be enthusiastic about.
But it is such a shame that the sound is so muddy and the bass and drums are hardly discernable from one another. Even the vocals aren't as clear as they should be.
At 13 tracks, the album is probably about 2 tracks to long too.
That said, there is a certain genuine likability about these songs and with Chris Carvill's voice - perfect for the style and genre.
The opening fast paced in your face melodic hard rock duo of Devil's Locomotive and Falling Away are hard to ignore.
And the more AOR of Don't Wanna Break is another highlight. Love Is A Nightmare finds common ground between the frantic openers and the mellower Cross Your Heart and Don't Wanna Break.
Rise and End Of The Line thump along with gusto, mixing House Of Lords' heavier side with an almost Dokken goes AOR sound.
Speaking of whom, Don Dokken adds “additional production” here, but that means is anyone's guess. Whatever it is, it isn't worth anything.
Demon Wheel is a short 2 minute instrumental, but is quickly followed by a classy mid-tempo ballad in Can't Stop Falling In Love. Very House Of Lords here.
Beat Around The Bush and Famous turn up the energy as does the double timed rocker Suicide Door.
The semi-epic Forever closes the album.
|Jesse Damon Temptation In The Garden Of Eve||AOR Heaven|
The instant I hear this album, I knew it would be my favourite Jesse Damon release to date and it has stayed that way ever since. Damon is helped throughout this album by songwriter/piano maestro Eric Ragno and producer/songwriter/singer Paul Sabu. Jesse's new solo album is so good.|
It is beautifully written and produced melodic hard rock in the finest tradition of old-school Sabu and early Silent Rage. At times you'd swear that it was Paul Sabu himself singing. Add in Pete Newdeck on drums and you have a real powerhouse lineup here and the guys deliver.
Swirling keyboards under a base of hard edged shredding guitar and thumping drums with some glorious melodic vocals is just what the doctor ordered.
What's best – the songs here are simply impossibly catchy and stay with you long after the album has finished.
The guys swap in and out from hard rocking to more melodic AOR with ease and back again.
The opening track Garden Of Eve rocks hard; while the catchy as hell Black Widow is bathed in keyboards; the huge ballad with beautiful vocals Save The World makes the album 3 for 3 in the killer song stakes.
I can't pinpoint why, but I'm not really into the jerky beat of I Need You Forever, but the fast rocking, hard driving Save Me makes up for that.
Another classy ballad follows in the form of A Chance For Us, while the huge Let It Rock is what should have formed the foundation of the last Silent Rage album.
A third classy power ballad Angel In The Starlight slows things down before the old-school 80s rock of Hold On impresses further.
The hard rocker Little Angel continues the catchy memorable line of songs on the album while things come to a close with the mellower acoustic driven ballad Wishing Well.
|Ted Nugent Ultralive Ballisticrock||Frontiers Records|
This review really could be summed up in two words: Ted Nugent.|
That's it. Ted Nugent is a force of nature, a law unto himself and the head of the family when it comes to the portraying of mad guitar riffing.
He does it his way and he has his own style which has been branded upon the American culture for the rest of time.
So this 2CD/1DVD package is just the ticket for all long time Nugent fans. The 26 track set takes in most of what you'd expect to see and Ted's performance is “electric”.
What I don't like is the live recording of the drums – they sound as if they were piped in from a room underneath the stage.
But how many people buy a Ted Nugent album to listen to the drums? The guitar solos are beyond amazing.
|Degreed We Don't Belong||AOR Records|
I love these guys! I think that's pretty well established by now. Their killer debut album was released on MelodicRock Records and I think the Swedish rock band is one of the brightest newcomers in this business.|
Their ability to bring classic melodic rock into the new era with a mix of modern production techniques, but still holding onto brilliant musicianship, great songwriting and killer hooks is vital to the survival of this scene.
The debut is one of the best albums in years. And now the sequel We Don't Belong sees the band grow further and turn the intensity up that little bit more.
The album is driven by an even more modern approach and some stunningly good production values, but on top of that, each and every song represents a new high point for the band. Bigger guitars, better vocals, even more hooks and a truly original sound.
They really have matured into a fine outfit and better defined their unique sound and style.
Black Cat is a thumping, intense opening track, but What If is one of the songs of the year, with its killer chorus and driving beat.
In For The Ride is one of two tracks featuring the writing duo of Bill and Will Champlin and the commercial aspect of their writing is evident. Another amazing chorus here.
The rest of the album is written by the band themselves and if Follow Her doesn't convince you these guys are geniuses, then nothing will. Pure anthemic melodic bliss.
Inside Of Me is an intense and very likable rock album track.
Blind Hearted will vie for song of the year with me – just another example of a powerful band with a killer modern sound, yet so accessible. This is brilliant from start to finish and should be all over radio. Harem Scarem fans take note! You'll love this.
Here I Am dials back the intensity briefly. Another wonderful melodic hook and chorus.
Access Denied is a very modern track that shows what a fast driving hard rock song can be in 2013 with classic melody and modern sounds. Awesome again!
Coming Home is a moody and intense song with another good chorus.
The mid-tempo, but heavy We Don't Belong is simply put – another winner!
In an age of pieced together projects and unnatural partnerships, this hard working band deserve to be superstars.
|Brett Walker Straight Jacket Vacation||AOR Heaven|
I guess I have to admit to putting off reviewing this release. Since the tragic untimely passing of Brett earlier this year, I haven't played this much. But I owe it to Brett now to finally spin it again to showcase just what a great album it is.|
To detail the history behind this album, Brett and I had been working together for the best part of a year working towards doing this release together.
When it was finished, the fact was it cost a lot more to record than Brett anticipated so a larger deal was sought.
Into the picture comes Georg at AOR Heaven, who had the good sense to jump on this album.
I am very close to these songs, having lived with them from the rough demo stage, all the way to competed masters.
It was my pleasure to arrange the songs for the sequence they appear as on this release. I think it flows beautifully (if I dare say myself!)
So it's easy for me to say this is Brett's best album since the classic Nevertheless album and I think others will agree. I urge any fan of Brett's previous work to get this ASAP.
Brett's voice is just one of those that was made for melodic rock – he glides over the music with incredible ease and with beautiful harmony in each line.
Alongside the brand new tunes are a couple of old favourites. The perfect Midwest AOR anthem Better Than Goodbye was covered previously by Matti Alfonzetti and Waiting For Love is of course the Alias #1 hit that Brett wrote with Jeff Paris.
On Straight Jacket Vacation we have the classic Brett Walker style that Nevertheless encapsulated with the breezy opener Reaching For The Stars; I'll Be It Hurts; More Than I and Unlucky In Love. So good to hear that fresh sound again.
Then we have the other side of Brett – the earthy Midwestern tones best showcased by the hit single in waiting What About You; the relaxed Streetlight Burning; and Good Enough.
And just to throw us off guard, Brett includes a couple of left turns in the fuzz-pop-punk of I'm Gonna Fly and the lyrical bite of Someday I'm Gonna Be Famous.
|Sparklands Tomocyclus||Avenue Of Allies|
Another new European AOR project – Sparklands is brothers Thomas and Robert Riekerk, together with session players Rolf Perdok (guitars), Rob Vermeulen (bass) and Colin Lee Vermeulen (drums) making up this debut album.|
Hailing from the Netherlands, Sparklands don't deliver anything ground breaking new, but they do seem to know their craft and the style they are aiming at – that is, European uptempo AOR, with plenty of keyboards and a splattering of guitar driving these songs.
I can hear hints of Stage Dolls, Houston, Wigelius, maybe current favourites Work Of Art and of course the old favourite – Toto.
You know the style – you'd almost expect them to be Swedish!
Highlights might include the opening two sweet harmony filled AOR tracks The Game and Skyline; the very sugary, but ultimately very likable Afterlife; the moody and relaxed State Of Mind.
|The Theander Expression Stange Nostalgia||Avenue Of Allies|
Who is The Theander Expression? Swedish guitarist Andree Theander – that's who. And with him on this classy AOR/Westcoast themed album are his friends Göran Edman (Street Talk, Glory, Yngwie Malmsteen) and very promising newcomer Christian Hedgren sharing the lead vocals; Herman Furin (Work Of Art, Fergie Frederiksen) on drums; Linus Abrahamson on bass and Michael Ottosson on keyboards.|
The tempo moves around from fairly laid back to uptempo AOR, but always it's all class. So much so I would have signed these guys to MRR. It's just one of those albums that I think sits a little above the shoulders of some others for being that little bit different.
The sound is very familiar – but the skill of the musicians and the way the songs are structured really caught my attention.
The fast moving feel good Conception of Life is Goran Edman at his Street Talk AOR best while the more mature Strange Nostalgia (featuring vocalist Hedgren) is equally appealing.
Insanity Call is the type of Toto-esque Swedish brilliance that Work Of Art delivers; Edman again shines on Like A Chameleon and the uptempo Toto styled Sanguine.
Feelings Of Luxury is a jazzy pop/Westcoast style I sometimes avoid, but Goran delivers a brilliant vocal over a catchy chorus.
Mr. Know-It-All is another feel good anthemic AOR gem; while Masterpiece in the Dark is pure Seventh One era Toto.
Meet Me There Tonight is another great track – a heartfelt ballad this time and the Goran Edman sung Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams is another Toto styled pop rocker to close the album out.
|Kick Memoirs||Escape Music|
To start with, if we are totally honest here, it's not really Kick is it? This is a new Mickey Jones solo project, dressed up under a more commercially viable name.|
I don't mean that to sound as harsh as it might – but it is the reality of the deal, with past Kick members absent.
The album features songs that were written and produced by Kick's principle songwriter, Mikey Jones and follows up from his last solo release of several years back.
There is a lot of the Kick sound here and for that I'm grateful. I loved the band and wished they got a bigger break. Their straddling of modern and classic styles has a lot of commercial potential.
And the vibe continues here – but with mixed results. First of all, I definitely miss the fine vocal delivery of Nick Workman (now in Vega). Mickey Jones has the rougher feel of say Robbie from Goo Goo Dolls vs Nick being the Johnny Resneck of the band.
And some of these songs are truly off the wall. Stylistically they almost fall into alternative/experimental, and they certainly don't follow your AOR-101 path.
The production is better than expected and the depth in songwriting is certainly something to admire. But are these songs overly likable at the end of the day? That'll have to be up to the individual listener.
|LaValle Dear Sanity||Kivel Records|
You may not have heard of him before, but you won't forget newcomer guitarist Eddie LaValle now - especially seeing that his album kicks ass and includes the powerhouse lineup of Paul Logue (Eden's Curse) on bass, Carsten Schulz (Evidence One, Domain, Midnite Club) on vocals and Ramy Ali (Evidence One).|
Most of the songs are written by Eddie with lyrics by Paul and the style of the album is not far removed from Carsten's other projects Evidence One and Midnite Club, with some Eden's Curse writing and harmony vocal style thrown in.
Now Eddie is an American guitarist partnering with these European guys, so you have to factor some good old fashioned American rock n roll attitude blended into the above.
This is just a very good, very consistent melodic hard rock album with plenty of harmony vocals and plenty of hard edged guitar driven songs.
I must admit to not being huge on the opening track, but the catchy Scared To Love and the brilliant and intense Don't Cry well and truly make up for that.
Other highlights include the upbeat rocker The Lucky Ones; the big ballad Break Your Heart and the Evidence One styled Cry Of The Wolf.
|Reece Compromise||AOR Heaven|
Star vocalist David Reece returns with his second solo album. It's been a busy few years for the singer, with Bangalore Choir, Reece/Kronlund and Gypsy Rose all part of recent history after a period of relative quiet.|
It's great for fans of the singer to be surrounded with such strong releases and Compromise is anything but! This is a no holes bared, good old fashioned, honest hard rocking album with a lineup that includes Ronnie Parkes (7 Witches), guitarist Jack Frost (7 Witches, Savatage, Metalium), keyboardist Paul Morris (Rainbow, Doro, Jurgen Blackmore), and special guests Christian Tolle and Andy Susemihl.
This is not a commercial rock album though. Songs need a little time to absorb and the material is all very much in your face.
The noted exception to that is the wonderfully heartfelt ballad Someone Beautiful, which shows Reece's voice in a brand new light.
A cover of the Creedence classic Fortune Son is also good fun although I wouldn't have placed it in the front part of the album.
Fans of Reece's gruff vocals and attitude laced delivery will love the hard hitting tracks Disaster, End It All, Evil Never Dies and the furious All Roads Lead To War.
|Lost Weekend Evermore||AOR Heaven|
With all due respect to Lost Weekend, they are an unremarkable band. What mean is that they just do their thing without much pomp and ceremony, without the glamor of some other bands and certainly without the hype.|
But the truth is they are every bit as good as some higher profile acts and this album proves it. This is a very well-produced album which features some fine traditional British AOR/melodic rock songs.
Waves of keyboards and solid guitar riffs dominate this record, with the dulcet tones of singer Paul Uttley sitting on top. Paul has the laid back kind of voice like Ten's Gary Hughes – not overly expressive and not for everyone, but thoroughly melodic and well suited to the music.
The album has a pretty consistent feel and tempo throughout – a mid-tempo style that doesn't make the music instantly memorable, but the hooks are there and repeated listening is the key here. That's when the songs deliver.
What sounds like a pretty sameish kind of record unfolds to a landscape of great British AOR. It's all very likable should the mood fit.
What I will say is that there could have been a little more control in the editing suite. 12 tracks clocking in at 60 minutes with most around or over the 5 minute mark is simply too much. These aren't epic styled tracks, just your good old melodic rockers and a few tracks definitely could have been clipped at the 4 minute mark.
|Sideburn Electrify||AOR Heaven|
I'm a little over AC/DC inspired riffage – if I want to listen to that style of hard rock, I'll listen to AC/DC themselves.|
Switzerland has more AC/DC clones than Australia – no idea why, but Sideburn are another – even if they are one of the best. I'm not sold on the singer's raspy and somewhat strained vocals, but there is no denying this is a solid slice of hard rock and this wouldn't be a bad album to crank in a bar whist drinking and enjoying oneself.
Sometimes I really struggle to come up with a more descriptive or detailed analysis of an album. That's because sometimes it just isn't needed. If AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Shakra with raspier vocals impress, then…Sideburn is your thing.
I wouldn't call it the most memorable album of 2013, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it either and the guys can play.
And importantly, it's pretty well produced in that raw, bar room boogie kinda way.
|Farraday Shade Of Love||AOR Heaven|
Farraday is a new melodic rock duo, born in Athens, Greece in 2012. The group comprises of Roy Da Vis, who is the composer, singer, guitarist & keyboard player and Stathis Spiliotopoulos, who is the producer of the project and also plays drums, bass and also supports with backing vocals.|
So you have a two man band deal going here, the guys delivering a selection of feel good, fluffy AOR tunes in an old-school 80s feel good style with vocals along the lines of Johnny Lima/Jon Bon Jovi.
Keyboards and guitars get equal billing on these high energy songs, with a few sentimental ballads thrown into the mix.
Production quality is not the greatest – the mix is very up and down across the album and that aspect makes it hard for an album like this to compete in 2013.
I'm sure the style will appeal if you can get past a sometimes hollow sound; this album is straight out of 1984.
|Niva Magnitude||AOR Heaven|
Tony Niva returns with another Niva album – this one probably his best to date. The production is better than the two previous and I think the songwriting has also lifted a notch.|
Nothing here we haven't already got in our musical collections, but it's still a fun album and is going to appeal to fans of fluffy Swedish AOR with plenty of guitars and keyboards flying around with likeable higher pitch vocals.
Musically it's not too far removed from the likes of Grand Illusion and Amaze Me (but with better production) and the energy within is undeniable.
Just Another Heartache is high energy screamer that could become an instant hit as could the ballad In A Misty Light (if back in 1988).
Elsewhere Never Too Late is a great opener, Always Somewhere keeps the pace flowing and Let It Shine has that anthemic quality AOR fans love.
|Harem Scarem Mood Swings II||Frontiers Records|
The masters are back! Yes, you knew it would happen eventually didn't you? And thank God it has. And yes, we'd all rather an all-new studio album, but the three brand new tracks here are so impossibly good that they are worth the price alone.|
But on top of that, the band have reclaimed the music that put them on the map in the first place – the iconic and utterly classic, brilliant and phenomenally perfect Mood Swings.
The band re-recorded these iconic songs to celebrate the album's 20th Anniversary and also reclaim them from Warner Bros who still owns the original album.
Normally any band that does such a thing is on a hiding to nothing, as how can anyone re-create brilliance of two decades past? But the guys come close.
Mood Swings 2 is not an exact clone of the original, but its closest than some others have come such as Def Leppard, Kiss or Dokken trying to re-record their hits.
There are subtle changes throughout, but the spirit, energy and class of the original is perfectly intact.
To go through individual songs pointing out the changes would be pointless, but most noticeable is the slightly darker feel of Saviours Never Cry; the (how shall we say it?) “raspier” vocals of Darren on Sentimental Blvd; Pete's own tweaks within his instrumental Mandy (adding piano is a genius move) and turning the accapela Just Like I Planned into a fuller sounding track with instrumental backing – it sounds awesome and updates the track nicely.
Then you have the three new tracks – holy smokes they are awesome.
I wouldn't say that they have the exact same style as Mood Swings as announced, but they do have the same energy and same hard rocking edge that fans have loved Harem doing in the past. It's the heaviest I have heard the band since Voice Of Reason.
The songs mix the attitude of Mood Swings with the production style of their last few studio records before having a break.
World Gone To Pieces is simply majestic melodic bliss, with everything I love about melodic rock wrapped up into 4 minutes of power.
Anarchy is equally as brilliant - urgent, heavy riff driven melodic rock with soaring vocals and a killer chorus. You just can't play this stuff loud enough.
A Brighter Day is the other side of the band – moodier, more reflective, but still filled with glorious harmonies and great hooks.
|Seventh Key I Will Survive||Frontiers Records|
Perfection! This is how you do it folks. This is how a melodic rock album should be produced and mixed. Utterly amazing sound, with not a note out of place, with the songs still managing to sound fresh, energetic and engaging.|
Mike Slamer is the man!
And as usual, Billy Greer sounds amazing and the harmonies throughout this record are to die for.
The whole range of performances on this album is about as good as you are going to get, which is why Mike Slamer is in high demand for his services, but nothing he does comes quickly. You can just hear the time and effort put into his records.
And thank God Mike knows that programming will only get you so far and a real drummer is always needed. He gets it.
I Will Survive is quite a diverse record compared to the first two Seventh Key records, but it isn't outside the sound expected.
Just a little more progressive in nature and add in a couple of quirky tunes and you get a very interesting and challenging record – that's instantly likable at the same time. Combining those 2 elements is no easy task.
The opening title track I Will Survive is everything I like about Slamer – progressive leaning, ultra-high tech production and layers upon layers of instruments, hooks and harmonies. It's just a wall of sound.
Lay In On The Line is just as complicated and even heavier, with a choppy guitar and keyboard riffs driving the song. The layers upon layers of instrumentation take several listens to get to know, but the vocals and melody are instant.
I See You There features a beautiful mellower and somewhat sparse verse while the chorus rises to the heavens with more anthemic juice.
It's Just A State Of Mind is just a simple, fast paced melodic rocker with harmonies everywhere.
Sea Of Dreams is the album's most 'quirky' number – a soft acoustic track with David Ragsdale's unmistakable violin the only other instrument aside from some glorious harmony vocals.
Time And Time Again builds slowly after the softer previous track. From a mellow verse it grows to another glorious harmony driven chorus with a lot of musical interplay underneath.
When Love Sets You Free is another high energy, rocking track with (yes, again), layers and layers of vocals.
Down is a harder rocking, darker tune with shades of Steelhouse Lane to it.
The Only One is perfect melodic rock. Bubbly, fast paced and happy go lucky with a perfect anthemic chorus.
What Love's Supposed To Be is the album's big heavy sentimental ballad with a ton of stuff going on underneath the lead vocal. Classy ballad.
I Want It All is heavy and progressive and layered with harmony vocals. The album closes as it began. And the listener is left exhausted, but extremely happy.
|Coney Hatch Four||Frontiers Records|
After 20 years out of the studio, what does classic Coney Hatch sound like today? I'm not sure, but I like what I hear here – that is a mix of old Hatch, some Andy Curran and Carl Dixon solo influences and even some new stylings for good measure.|
It's a more diverse album than I anticipated, but the bottom line is that it rocks, it's produced really well and I like the songs.
The album seems to sway back and forth between classic AC/DC style riff driven songs and more modern styled moodier tracks.
You've got some AC/DC style hard riffing with the excellent opener Blown Away – it's great to hear the vocals of Dixon in such fine form; the darker and moodier modern sounding Boys Club; the spritely, free flowing rocker Down And Dirty; the modern Do It Again and back to the hard rocking old school of the catchy Connected.
The most left of center track is the very melodic and enjoyable Revive.
The band really rocks out on We Want More and cools their heals on The Devil You Know before moving to a pretty honest cover of The Angels classic Marseille.
The moody and reflective Holding On is a classy way to close the album.
|Sammy Hagar & Friends Sammy Hagar & Friends||Frontiers Records|
The legends are letting us down. Too often lately the superstar artists have been outshined by the younger, lesser known bands. I hope folks investigate these new artists with the same curiosity that a big name release brings.|
I guess the older artists, such as Sammy Hagar get to a point where they have nothing left to prove and they just record for their own enjoyment. That's cool…who could begrudge any artist that kind of mindset. It's clear to me that Sammy Hagar is doing just that right there. The only problem is that the artist can forget to check if any of their fans actually want to hear the end result.
Then again, maybe the artists don't care.
So there's nothing wrong with this album in its delivery – it's well produced (far better than the abomination that was Sammy's last album Cosmic Universal Fashion) and it's mixed with a clear and even balance.
But the fast is…it's boring. And it's totally self-indulgent. There's almost no classic Sammy-rock-n-roll on here. We have blues, Cajun, R&B, country and rockabilly, but only a couple of songs that really rock – Knockdown Dragout and the clichéd Bad On Fords and Chevrolets, and even those are infused with a twist of country.
Sammy and his mates may have had a blast recording this, but I can't see who in his fan base is going to sit down and pronounce this as an album they always wanted to hear.
Sorry, but the likes of Neal Schon, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith, Ann Wilson, Micky Hart, Vic Johnson, and Denny Carmassi can't cover up the fact these are just plain and dull songs in a style traditional Hagar fans are not going to have on heavy rotation at all.
|Impera Pieces Of Eden||Escape Music|
Swede's Impera are back for album number two, picking up where they left off with their good value debut. I said in my review of that album that is was great to hear guitarist Tommy Denander crank it up and stretch out as far as his riffing and solo delivery. |
He's still got that same guitar tone as always, but the production behind the debut and this album also is pretty impressive and helps beef up his sound overall. I'm particularly impressed with the rhythm section on this new album and the production gives it a real thumping beat.
As always vocalist Matti Alfonzetti sounds impressive and perfectly suited to the music. His voice one I could listen to for hours on end. Impera's style is a little different than some of the more instantly recognizable melodic rock being delivered out of Sweden.
This is a bluesier slice of hard rock. Crunchy hard rock guitars with a blues edge and Matti's voice in a more sultry delivery.
The only issue I have here is the work required to get into the songs. Even as I write this review there are still a few I'm not getting into, but the majority have finally clicked – but they required a lot of listening – more time than some others are likely to give.
Tommy Denander sounds great and rocks like never before and the rest of the band all deliver great performances. But the songs do require some effort to like and a few tracks with a more commercial feel could have balanced out the album in a more satisfying manner.
They really need to work on the hooklines within the songs. Everything else is in place.
Highlights include the punchy opener Beast Within; the slower bluesy ballad of sorts Since You've Been Gone; Easy Come isn't far short of being a great track and You And I is one that really grows into a favoruite.
The groovy and sultry Fire And The Flame is a good grinding track that's beauty is revealed with repeat listens.
|Eden's Curse Symphony Of Sin||AFM Records|
Far too long between drinks for Eden's Curse, but they make up for it in fine style with an album that captures your attention from the get go and delivers everything you loved about the band, just intensified.|
The guys are now looking to recapture lost momentum with over a dozen songs that deliver the Curse sound and style as expect, but with a surprising twist – the band is more melodic than ever.
The guys continue to deliver powerhouse hard rock, but instead of cruising (cursing?) towards melodic metal, Symphony Of Sin pulls towards melodic rock. However, they don't give an inch on quality or production values, nor in the intensity that the past albums delivered.
Produced by Paul Logue and mixed and mastered by constant collaborator Dennis Ward, Symphony Of Sin might just open the band up for a wider audience, especially as Serbian vocalist Nikola Mijic sounds remarkably like Kevin Chalfant in places, giving the material a further melodic edge.
I have to make a small (positive) point – I'm grateful to the band for not cutting the epic opening track into an “intro” and the song itself. I love those big building opening tracks that run at 6+ minutes and this 7:40 epic rocker is trademark Curse and just sounds that more epic for having that intro built in as part of the full song.
Break The Silence is a double kick drum pounder that sounds like Kevin Chalfant joining Hammerfall. Fantastic. The lower toned harmony vocals add that heavy edge, while Nikola's vocals glide over the top.
Evil & Divine is again a classic Curse track that could have come from any of the previous records and is a natural single. The high notes reached in delivering the hooks are something to behold.
Unbreakable is already being heralded as a new high point for the band and I think is an idea opening for new fans to check out the guys. Heavy, passionate and perfectly anthemic come chorus time while the drums hammer home the power. The soaring chorus and instantly likable hook makes this track a gem.
The near 6 minute epic power ballad fallen From Grace is power and finesse at the same time, with some astonishingly good vocals in play.
Losing My Faith turns things darker and heavier again and takes me back to the sound of the band's debut. Another solid track in an album with no filler.
Rock Bottom is another stand out for me as the power that drives the verse gives way to an almost AOR chorus – one that sticks in your head from the first spin. Again the Chalfant comparisons come to mind, but KC never sang with a band like this behind him.
Great Unknown, Turn The Page and Wings To Fly are just a flat out, fast moving feel good rockers with catchy choruses.
Sign Of The Cross features another stand out vocal from Nikola and stands alongside the band's best material with plenty going on in the guitars department – both electric and acoustic.
Devil In Disguise rocks hard and Where Is The Love is the perfect way to close the album – in traditional Curse fashion, rocking with a twist and a big chorus filled with harmony vocals. Awesome.
|The Winery Dogs The Winery Dogs||Loud & Proud|
I've read some amazing accolades for this album and for the most part I'm going to mirror those. This is a fabulous record without doubt.|
This is an impressive debut for the guys. Can three legends of the biz actually claim an album like this to be a debut? I say that in jest, as the guys have all recorded together and played together in the past, so the pairing seems so natural and they have so much experience between them, it hardly seems fair to pit other debut albums up against this immense record.
The production quality here is phenomenal too. The record sounds so crisp and clear and had this same sound been used on the last (brilliant) Mr. Big album, I probably would have rated it 110%.
Whatever discussion the fans had on that album's Kevin Shirley delivered sound has been corrected here.
And Billy Sheehan - the guy is simply a freeking genius. I could listen to his bass playing all day, all night, all year. Mike Portnoy delivers his expected powerhouse performance behind the kit, adding more groove than I've heard from him in recent years.
And Richie Kotzen simple sounds amazing as usual. His bluesy and quirky tone is not for all, but when in accompaniment from such legends as Billy and Mike, it's hard to imagine anyone else on vocals. Except for maybe Eric Martin – for as much as the guys stand on their own, I can't help but hear a lot of Mr. Big going on here (and that's a good thing).
Highlights include the naturally Mr. Big sounding anthem Elevate; the bluesy melodic angst of I'm No Angel; the immense musical intensity of The Other Side; the warmth and passion of You Saved Me and Damaged; the hard rocking wall of sound on Not Hopeless and Six Feet Deeper.
But most songs are great stuff. Funnily though, the only one I'm mot warming to is Desire, which I think it completely out of place at track two., In fact, the ones thing I'd say about the album is that perhaps the sequencing of tracks is a little “off”. Not sure what order I'd run them in, but I think that's the album's only flaw for my personal experience. Maybe 1 or 2 tracks too many also. It's a long record.
|Find Me Wings Of Love||Frontiers Records|
This album is best described as a 54 minute, seat of your pants, AOR powerhouse ride. Producer/musician Daniel Flores brings his a-game to this free flowing, uptempo melodic rock gem, fronted by one of the biggest voices in the business today – Robbie La Blanc (Blanc Faces).|
The sound won't be unfamiliar to fans of European AOR – the formulated mix of driving rock guitar and prominent keyboards, plus a thumping rhythm section has been done over many times, but seldomly as well as this.
Why so good? As stated the production quality and general pace of the album is very engaging, but the songs themselves are first rate.
And Robbie La Blanc has thrown himself head first into these tunes. He really does sing his ass off.
Primarily we have 4 Martin Brothers tunes here and several from Alessandro Del Vecchio (him again?!!). All quality songs!
The driving force of Road To Nowhere and Another World are undeniable, then there is the super melodic anthem Dancing To A Broken Heart (wonderful!) and a big AOR power ballad in Eternally.
Firefight gets heavier and edgier; On The Outside features another big vocal; On Soul is a fast moving tour de force with a killer chorus; Powerless is a little more restrained but features another strong chorus.
Bottom Of My Heart moves fast and has a feel good element to it.
The building anthemic Unbreakable is an Erik Martensson song, so you know it's all class.
Wings Of Love is yet another strong chorus and the album closes with the heavy/edgy Your Lips, which is a powerful way to close any album.
|Little River Band Cuts Like A Diamond||Frontiers Records|
Is this really LRB? Well, no, not really, but the name has floated around since the 90s with very different lineups than what is remembered for delivering all the hits of the 70s and 80s and ownership of the name has swapped around per court hearings, so it is a little messy.|
So I'll take this album on face value. The band is long time member Wayne Nelson and some new faces, but what is most important is the musical content.
And I have to say – the guys have really delivered here.
They can't take much credit for the songwriting though. Only a few self-penned tunes here. What they can take credit for is choosing the right songs to record and in turn, making them their own, with a classic breezy Westcoast/pop/AOR Little River Band sound in play throughout.
The production is also nice and crisp and clean.
This is a pretty laid back affair, but the songs really do make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The harmonies and hooks of The Lost And The Lonely and Forever You Forever Me are simply superb, and the title track Cuts Like A Diamond is another gem – no pun intended.
I'm An Island is a semi-country influenced tune, reinforcing the style of this album, but it remains a classy song.
And so it continues… The band doesn't really lift out of second gear, in the same way the Rembrandts tended to do on their debut.
The pace drops away a little further towards the end….only Who Speaks For Me really stands out in my mind of the last few tracks, but otherwise this is a very consistent record.
|Arc Angel Harlequins Of Light||Frontiers Records|
Chances are that the main group of people looking at buying this album are well aware of prog-pop-miester Jeff Cannata and his unique musical visions.|
Jeff delivers thinking man's AOR – adult melodic rock with a slightly progressive twist, a raspy, moody vocal and layers upon layers of keyboards and guitarist.
Anyone familiar with Jeff's earlier Arc Angels release or his own solo releases will know that this is classic Cannata.
Everything expected is in play here and the production, while fairly raw in one sense, is authentic and works well with the material on offer. Very 70s in places…very real.
Songs wise Jeff delivers some great stuff here.
The twisting hooks and key changes, the leading bridges and moody verses are all part and parcel of the Arc Angel experience.
Favourites are plentiful. Of course the opening track is a winner as is As Far As The Eye Can See.
War is a particular favorite, with the mix of piano and acoustic guitars with heartfelt lyrics offering something unique.
The ultra-moody Voice Of Illuminati is cool; the soaring Kansas styled pomp-epic Through The Night is tremendous and the vocal a highlight and California Daze is an unusually upbeat and positive AOR anthem.
Same with the acoustic driven Get To You – a nice up-tempo double header for Cannata fans.
|ColdSpell Frozen Paradise||Escape Music|
Sweden's melodic hard rockers ColdSpell have delivered two quality albums to date – the second building on the promise of the debut. And now number three kicks the band into the big league.|
Frozen Paradise puts the icing on the cake for these guys (pun intended this time…).
An even better production, crisp mix, huge wall of guitars throughout and those booming Swedish vocals from Niklas Swedentorp. Plus some killer songs.
The one-two melodic hard rock punch of Paradise and Angel Of The World is no finer way to kick off any album.
My only issue with the entire record is the placement of Life Has Just Begun at track 3. I just don't think the slower, longer track works after the high energy openers.
And Goin' All The Way is probably also out of place due to the previous track placement. It's momentum killing.
But the more melodic and intense Alive re-engages the listener before the quality heavy ballad Life 2 Live arrives.
From there it's all killer, no filler, with On The Run moving fast with a cool chorus and Soldiers pounding through the speakers.
Falling and Dark Reflections both take a few listens, but deliver strong results.
Legacy closes the album in a slower tempo, but an epic feel.
|Fergie Frederiksen Any Given Moment||Frontiers Records|
Fergie Frederiksen returns relatively quickly considering the past gap between his solo releases and vocal projects. All I can say is – thank you!|
Two years since Happiness Is The Road, the rock n roll survivor continues to battle cancer, but delivers vocals from another world.
Swapping from the Dennis Ward production team to Alessandro Del Vecchio, Fergie finds an extra boost, co-writing a few tunes with Ale, who also delivers a few of his own songs specifically written for this album. Fergie also uses a few other quality co-writes, one with long time friend Jim Peterik and another with Work Of Art's Robert Sall.
These songs add a more personal touch than the last album, plus Ale has pulled a great vocal performance from Fergie across the entire album.
The sound of the album is a mix of European AOR, Fergie's own distinct style, a little Toto Isolation and a little from the last solo release, making this a nice companion to that album.
Highlights are numerous – the fast moving Last Battle Of My War is hopefully not a more profound lyric than it was intended to be from Ale's pen. Fergie sings it with gusto and passion. The 6 and a half minute Price For Loving You is another fantastic lead vocal and a memorable hook, all drenched in keyboards.
I'll Be The One is one of Fergie's best ballads in memory. A terrific heartfelt mid-tempo song written by Robert Sall with Fergie.
Times Will Change is another instantly likable uptempo classic AOR anthem.
How Many Roads is a slow classic AOR ballad with a soaring vocal and an orchestral feel. Another absolute gem of a ballad.
The light and breezy Any Given Moment is classic Jim Peterik and yet another stand out lyric and melody with Fergie singing it beautifully. And the backing vocals on this track add tremendously to the atmosphere.
Not Alone is an ok track, but I really don't get the need for a duet with Swedish AOR vocalist Issa. It reeks of needless cross-promotion.
When The Battle Is Over is another absolute gem of a song and one that might just stand head and shoulders above the other gems on the album. Power – finesse – melody and a wonderful vocal.
We love you Fergie. A terrific release right here for all fans of AOR and the legendary vocalist.
|King Kobra II||Frontiers Records|
King Kobra return in quick time from their comeback release King Kobra, with vocalist Paul Shortino in tow. I've already gone over how this is an entirely different beast to the original Mark Free fronted band, so let's go straight to the new material.|
King Kobra II is a rocking and very likable affair.
However, the bio adds that the album “a crystal clear sound that combines the best of both analogue and digital recording techniques.”
I personally think the album has a bit of a muddy sound overall. There bottom end is king on this set of songs. Obviously that's part of the 70s vibe the band acknowledges replicating, stating “the band digs even deeper into its hard rock roots to create an album that has all the swagger and swing of the classic 70's albums.”
But I would still have preferred the sound to be a little clearer. I'll presume that the idea is to present the songs in their most energetic raw, live format. That they have certainly done.
This album has a more consistent and cohesive band sound to the last album and the songs have a lot of energy to them.
There's a certain David Lee Roth era Van Halen vibe to this album – especially on songs like the double time boogie of The Ballad Of Jonny Rod.
You've also got the raspy Rod Stewart/The Faces side of the band – that authentic 70s rock style that the ballad Take Me Back highlights.
There's a few fillers among the 12 tracks on offer, but the boogie hard rock of Running Wild; the frantic Knock 'Em Dead and 'the crunch' of The Crunch gives classic hard rock fans plenty to rock along to.
The album closes out with one of the better tracks in the anthemic We Go Round. At an hour in length, it might be a couple of tracks too long.
|Whitesnake Made In Britain||Frontiers Records|
Ok, just to summarize – in the last decade Whitesnake have delivered no less than 5 live albums; 3 box set compilations and just two studio albums. That output is a little uneven and one hopes this is the last live album for a lengthy period.|
That being said – it's probably the best of the bunch as far as a kick ass Doug Aldrich led band and a set list heavy on promoting those 2 studio albums.
The track list of the Made in Britain disc mirrors the Made In Japan disc closely – as stated, concentrating on the band's last 2 studio albums.
It is the more expansive “World Record” second disc that I appreciate even more so. Songs taken from various shows around the place – the lesser played songs of the tour, but some more great 'Snake tunes at any rate.
And again – they all sound marvelous in the manner in which this lineup executes the songs.
Again I could really do without these silly solo spots, but they aren't likely to disappear from Whitesnake's repertoire are they?
But enough live releases already!
|Deep Purple Now What?!|
It's taken me way too long to get to this review, but it wasn't all because of other things in the way. It's taken me an age to really get to know this album and decide if I just liked it, or really loved it. And I'm still not totally sure I love all aspects of it, but for the most part I have given up resistance to a couple of tracks I wasn't warning to and am just enjoying the rest.|
Deep Purple's 19th studio album was a long time coming, but in the end was worth the wait.
Interestingly enough, for me I think the star of the show is successor to the late Jon Lord, Mr. Don Airey. He is all over this record with a ton of keyboard/organ tricks and fills and at all times is the backbone to the songs.
Ian Gillan sounds in fine form as does the always dependable Steve Morse. I think this is the band's best record since the classic first post-Blackmore release Perpendicular. But it has taken me some time to reach that conclusion.
I love the way the album opens. The building tension of A Simple Song is almost a song in itself and I could have used more of that great vocal melody from Ian Gillan. The other part of the song is a terrific straight up rock song.
Weirdstan is an apt title for a song that is diverse and offers some side passages of musical intrigue.
The 6 minute Out Of Hand is a classic Purple 70s rocker; while Hell To Pay is a faster mix of the band's 70s sound and their 80s output. I like it a lot.
Bodyline is a true groover and one that took some time to grow on me.
The darker and heavier Above And Beyond sees Ian Gillan deliver one of my favourite vocals for the album – good chorus too.
The band loses me a bit on Blood From A Stone which is followed by the intense 7 minute theatrical rocker Uncommon Man. I love the organ parts of this song and the whole overall vibe of it.
Après Vous is another groove rocker that sits in that mid-tempo plod that I'm not often a fan of.
All The Time In The World has a nice melody and a memorable chorus, but I think the sequencing of the album is a little off as I don't think this track suits being placed at this point in proceedings. Sonically it reminds me of Perpendicular.
The single Vincent Price sits second to last in the album, which again calls into question the sequencing of the album. Truly bizarre choice of single – it's one of the least memorable songs on the album.
Closing with the boogie rock n roll of It'll Be Me leaves me scratching my head. In fact, the sequencing of the last half of the album doesn't work for me at all, even if the songs themselves are ok.
But overall, the end result is an album I know I'll continue to play after this review process has been completed. Legendary producer Bob Ezrin hs managed to pull some interesting stuff out of the guys.
|Newman Siren||AOR Heaven|
Steve Newman is as about as regular and dependable an artist as you can get in this business. Another year (well, it's been 2 actually) delivers another fine Newman release to devour.|
I've seen Steve develop his sound over the years and while I have really enjoyed every release, I did see him toughen up over the last few years and move away a little from the more AOR sounds of his earlier work that I personally prefer.
I am absolutely thrilled with this new Newman album for two reasons. One – the songs are just super compelling and super catchy.
Secondly – the sound mixes the recent harder edge sound with everything I loved about Steve's earlier work. There's a more pronounced AOR feel to several tracks and a ton of keyboards on here.
On top of all that – the album is one of his best sounding releases ever – production is terrific and there are a couple of absolute monster songs that will be right up there for end of year awards.
Highlights from the crunchy and melodic Siren include the pounding anthemic opener Scar Of Love, blasting a beefed up drum sound from Eden's Curse drummer Pete Newdeck; the wonderfully and blissfully melodic rocker Arcadia, featuring some memorable lead vocals and harmonies; and the contender for song of the year Feel Her Again – one of Steve's best melodic rock anthems with a chorus to die for; the drums are again in power overdrive for the hard rocking brilliance of Some Kind of Wonderful.
The title track Siren is also another great track; Crossfire mixes things up with hooks swapping in and out; and the big impassioned ballad The Foolish One is perfect and features a nice guitar solo.
|Robin Beck Underneath||Cargo Records|
I have read some interesting comments about this release already, so I guess it's time to weigh in with my verdict. Some don't seem to like Robin's updated sound on several songs within this record, but it's something that I think suits her beautifully.|
She has already proven she can sing rings around most and can deliver classic AOR in her sleep. So why not branch out a little?
The modernized sound of this record and the catchy nature of the material prove that Robin is still a force to be reckoned with and if any number of these songs was covered by the likes of Pink or Katy Perry, they would be all over radio.
It isn't modern rock by any stretch; it's just updated and contemporary AOR/melodic rock. I hope people have an open mind here, and there is still plenty of “old” Robin to enjoy also.
With songs like the bombastic and pomptastic Wrecking Ball, how could you go wrong? Simply one of Robin's best songs ever as far as I'm concerned and the updated production gives it a real hit single kinda feel.
Ain't That Just Like Love is the best song Fiona recorded in my mind, and Robin delivers a great version of it here.
The quite modern sounding Sprain could be on radio anywhere in the world, no doubt. I like the extra aggressive edge in Robin's voice.
Underneath is something very special indeed. What a powerful, emotional and enduring ballad. And what a vocal! Outstanding. Love it.
Ok, so every great album is allowed a WTF moment and Catfight seems to be the one most people have decided is this album's moment. Right at home on any Pink album, the song is another instantly memorable pop-rocker with angst. I'm not a big fan of this track though.
Check Your Attitude is perfectly placed next to Catfight as it's the album's other “ultra-modern” track. Again, not a favourite chorus, but I do love the absolute barnstorming pace and attitude of the song.
Burnin Me Down is a gorgeous ballad and another duet track with hubby James Christian. Another solid hook and chorus.
Perfect Storm is an uptempo, slightly darker melodic rocker that has certain House Of Lords vibe.
Ya Can't Fight Love is a more easy going, breezy, feel good pop rocker.
I Swear The Nights will get my vote as one of the year's best ballads – there are some good ones around this year. A huge vocal, huge chorus and huge 'hell yeah' from me!
Follow You is a brilliant version of the Glen Burtnik AOR classic. No one could screw up such a good song, but Robin makes it her own with a spirited vocal and a guest solo by Glen himself. Wonderful! And a cool way to close the album.
|Lawless Rock Savage||Escape Music|
Lawless are a pretty basic British melodic metal outfit featuring current Demon members Neil Ogden and Paul Hume along with Persian Risk guitar maestro Howie G and HeadrusH bassist Josh "Tabbie" Williams.|
Their style is 80's anthemic classic rock with a solid beat and an impressive production quality.
The guys have nailed their brief as far as the sound is concerned; this is traditional old-school metal and hard rock. And at 11 tracks for 55 minutes, it is quite a lengthy release with most tracks coming in around the 5 minute mark.
There are some contemporary touches with the occasional down-tuned guitar, but for the most part their influences are classic Saxon, Dio and the band adds in Queensryche and Gotthard in their bio. Not sure about those last two.
The only issues I have with this release is that the vocals are a little flat or understated for my liking and I don't think the songs are as strong as they could be in the hooks department.
|Until Rain Anthem To Creation||Escape Music|
Progressive metal and Greek folklore isn't necessarily what I would order for breakfast, but Greek hard rockers Until Rain seem to know what they are doing.|
Musically the band suggests they sit “comfortably between the melodic progressive metal of Shadow Gallery or Circus Maximus and the more epic orchestral power of Symphony X or Time Requiem.”
Not sure I can add to that. Sounds about right. What I can do is say that the album packs a powerful punch. There is no denying the band's technical abilities, or their instrumental prowess.
This is a very intense and complex record that won't be digested in any one sitting.
I think it's done pretty well. I like some progressive when it's done well and these guys are seriously intent on blowing my speakers apart with some super heavy riffing and double pass thrashing.
I'm not totally sold on the vocals, although there aren't any accent issues going on. I think the main aim of the record is to pack in as may riffs as humanly possible. Chorus structure and hooks are a distant second in this regard.
My Own Blood is a more restrained and melodic track that I like and the strangely titled 10 minute epic Empty Helmet gives prog fans something to really sink their teeth into.
11 tracks and 79 minutes – including one 18 minute epic with theatrical and orchestral passages – and another 9 minute album closer – means that this album is not for the feint hearted.
|James Christian Lay It All On Me||Frontiers Records|
James Christian returns with solo album number 3 – his first in nearly a decade thanks to a busy schedule with House of Lords. Lay It All On Me is quite a superb set of songs, penned mostly with his HOL band mates following a tough, but successful battle with cancer.|
The songs are some of the catchiest and most melodic from James in one place at one time. There are lots of keyboards on here – more than any recent HOL release and it's great to hear James singing along with them. The album does at times remind me of the keyboard dominated House Of Lords debut – an all-time classic for me.
And I'd have no hesitation in rating this album well into the 90s. Except for the production. And no, I'm not reviewing from MP3s, I have the finished completed CD here.
The quality really is extremely questionable and of major disappointment to me after James has previously proved his worth, producing his wife Robin Beck's own album and the more recent House Of Lords releases. So something has clearly gone wrong here.
The sound quality really does take away from my personal enjoyment of the songs. I have however, seen a lot of very favorable fan responses for the album, so it seems production quality is not as important to some as I thought it might be. To me though, it is.
For example – the sound on the opening lyrically reflective anthem Lay It All On Me is really quite hollow and the mix is totally dominated by a thumping overbearing bass line. Then on the next track Sacred Heart (great melody), the bass is still there, but there is almost no drum sound at all and the audio sounds as if it is coming from an AM radio.
Day In The Sun sees the full rhythm sound return – but the sound is still thin, giving the album a real up and down approach. But what a song. A clearly positive anthemic melodic rocker, Day In The Sun sees James in great voice and features a fine melody.
The mid-tempo pure keyboard filled AOR of Believe In Me has a terrible drum sound again, but is another wonderfully moody melody and another favourite of mine.
You're So Bad is a nice hands in the air type feel good AOR song as is the keyboard heavy Don't Come Near Me – but again, the sound is so muddy, some enjoyment is taken away.
Let It Shine is another feel good, moody song filled with keyboards.
She's All the Rage is more or less a House Of Lords song, but with worse production.
Sincerely Yours is infectiously catchy, but sounds utterly buried in a tunnel such is the hollow sound. Almost unlistenable, which is a shame. James' vocals sounds like they were added via that AM radio again.
Shot In The Dark sounds a little better and is another memorable chorus.
Welcome to Your Future sounds like it has programmed drums all the way through and even then, they are mixed way down. But again…another quality song.
Same goes here – 11 compelling and wonderfully melodic songs that James sounds great on, but almost unlistenable in places. A travesty as the performances and songs deserve better.
I'd love to hear this whole album re-recorded. Then I could give it a 95. Terrific melodies, songs and style, but that production, not good enough in 2013.
|John Waite Live - All Access||No Brakes Records|
The legend returns with a new live album – a follow up to 2010's live release In Real Time. But this time around we have a different band in tow. Bassist Tim Hogan remains, joining in now is guitarist Keri Kelli and drummer Rhondo. A tight little outfit is on show here.|
There's only 8 tracks on offer – roughly half the length of a full JW live show, but they are 8 great songs.
And what's better – this is about as raw and live as it comes. A straight feed from the show itself, with no overdubs. Big credit to the recording engineers – this set sounds amazing – really loud and in your face, but without some of the naturally occurring sonic flaws live albums can have. And John's lead vocals are really superb here – powerful and crystal clear.
I like the fact we have basically 8 album cuts here, the nitty gritty of what makes John Waite such an engaging artist.
Kicking off is Change, the marvelous lead track from one of melodic rock's most consistent and brilliant debut solo albums (Ignition).
Then we get a taste of the current album in Better Off Gone – quite simply one of the best John Waite songs ever written. And is sounds great in this raw, electric, engaging format.
The also brilliant If You Ever Get Lonely (now a verging hit song from country band Love and Theft), shows John's powerful and unique vocals off nicely.
Head First delves back into the 70s with Keri Kelli's guitar adding a nice raw, hard edged approach that I loved with John's first few solo records.
In Dreams sees things stripped back to an intimate level, with some emotional vocals piercing the atmosphere of the recording.
Mr. Wonderful is another classic cut from the Ignition album and sounds great again here with Keri killing it on guitar – complete with a nice long solo intro.
Evil is another masterpiece track from the Rough & Tumble album. Honest to God, it is a serious injustice that this song wasn't a hit single. With Matchbox Twenty all over the radio and their guitarist Kyle Cook partnering with John on the album version, the pure commercial aspect of this song and its killer hook is undeniable. This rawer, heavier live version is a treat.
And closing the album is one of John's best hard rockers – the double timed rocker Saturday Night – the lead track from the classic No Brakes album. This is a great version too, extended and energetic – wonderful to hear it included in the live set.
But for now – all John Waite fans need this now. A wonderfully powerful and engaging live recording, featuring some great songs from the Waite catalogue.
|Pat Travers Band Can Do||Frontiers Records|
I'm neither here nor there with Canadian guitar great Pat Travers. His musical legacy is already enshrined for life in the hearts of classic rock connoisseurs. His bluesy tinged classic guitar driven rock n roll has won the hearts of many fans from as far back as the mid-late 70s when the Pat Travers Band was first formed. The first incarnation of that band in fact featured Pat Thrall and Tommy Aldridge in the lineup.|
He's released music very consistently throughout his career and this is his first release for Frontiers Records.
There are no big names accompanying Pat here – he is well and truly the star of the show. Now when I say star, it is with regret that I use the term lightly as Pat has well and truly seen better days as a vocalist. His rough and raspy vocals here aren't going to appeal to a lot of folks.
Thankfully his guitar playing hasn't suffered any as he blasts his way through 10 new bar room rockers and a couple of covers – the most noticeable being Here Comes The Rain again by the Eurythmics. Not a bad cover in the sense that it turns the song on its head a little.
There are some decent rocking tunes on here and even a couple of more melodic numbers. But the biggest issue I have here is the production quality. Simply not good enough.
The album sounds rough and almost unfinished in places, especially the lead off track.
The affair has a live in the studio feel, but so does the sound quality. The drums sound pretty thin, the guitar at times distorted and overall the mix just sounds muddy.
|Indicco Karmalion||New Venture Music|
Indicco is a Spanish melodic rock project that features the duo of Indigo Balboa (vocals) and Paco Cerezo (Guitars, ex 91 Suite). The band is completed by Antonio Muñoz (ex-91 Suite) on bass, Lean Martinez (ex-91 Suite) on drums and Angel Valdegrama on keys.|
So with the pedigree of the great 91 Suite fresh in your mind and Mark Spiro and Jimi Jamison appearing in duet form on several tracks, high hopes were established for this release.
Those high expectations are not quite met however. There are some definite positives within the album and it is a nice example of pleasant 80s influenced melodic rock. But it doesn't match the output of 91 Suite.
The production here is one main issue. In the eyes of some, no matter the quality of the songs, it would never be a world class release or compare to the mighty 91 Suite because of this.
The sound is quite muddy in places and the guitars in particular are buried on the bass heavy mix.
Song wise the lead track Crying does impress. Second track Days Of Wine And Roses shows some flaws in the vocals of Indigo. The heavy accent and pronunciation of some lyrics really stands out unfortunately. When lined up against the great Jimi Jamison on three tracks, that is only further highlighted.
I hate saying this, as there is passion and conviction in the performances and the guys deserve credit for that. And for the most part, the songs themselves are all consistently strong mid-tempo and ballady AOR/melodic rock songs.
But simply put, the production quality just isn't going to give the bigger players a run for their money. Leaving Me, All About You and the Jimi Jamison featured Ride The Wave are the best of the consistent songs.
|Bret Michaels Cashing In With Friends||Indie|
Utter crap. Purely and simply….shit. Even worse, as at least shit can be used for fertilizer. Composting this release would be akin to dumping a 50 Gallon drum of highest quality Chernobyl soil into your veggie patch.
This type of collaboration release really is the lowest form of musical intelligence. Frankly, I'm amazed that Michaels found yet another excuse to roll out the same tired old songs for yet another run. Note to Bret – no one wants to hear these songs again, ok?
Take for example Nothing But a Good Time. Not only is this version devoid of any energy or signs of life, but he has rapper Lil Jon cannibalize any hint of a chorus melody. My ears are still pissed off with me. Just because you hung out with the dude on Celebrity Apprentice doesn't mean you need to make music with him. Didn't Meatloaf's last CD teach you any lessons?
And Sweet Home Alabama? Oh yeah…there's a song that is never covered elsewhere – let's do that!
I could go on, but frankly – if you need to read any further evidence to decide if this release is for you, then you deserve it.
The production is beyond shiteous. The singing is horrendous. The songs are the same tired old craptastic tunes as featured on Bret's last 4 releases and the energy level rates about as high as his latest foray into getting laid on reality TV.
This is an insult to fans, an insult to all the guests rounded up to appear – seriously – how did he do that? Is Michaels really owed that many favors?
|Bombay Black Bullets & Booze||Triage Music|
It wasn't until I was recently lining up music from those appearing at MRF3 that I realized I hadn't reviewed this gem of an album. Shame on me! So, rectifying this situation now, I can wholeheartedly recommend Bombay Black's latest opus as another essential piece of the BB puzzle.|
The band's fourth album sees them continuing to deliver some quality American melodic hard rock, backed with fabulous production and an ear splitting rhythm section.
The band's bombastic anthems backed with layers of harmony vocals have won them a lot of fans over the years and this will only enhance their reputation as a very consistent and reliable band.
The 15 tracks of Bullets & Booze are every bit as engaging as past efforts and every bit as lyrically biting. That's my favorite aspect of the BB style. Their self-depreciating attitude, their funny lyrics and the unique way they deliver salvo's preaching bad nights out, lost love and jilted heroes of the dating scene.
All done with high energy guitar riffing and sing along anthems that stick in your head forever.
On this album we have the groove driven Helluva Time, the opening heavy rocking Queen Of Denial, the hilarious lyrical groove of All The Same In The Dark, the 80s riff-friendly Bad Boy and the killer slamming groove of Love Like This and Dragon Tattoo.
The band's sense of humor even flows through to the CD packaging. I'm sure those with the CD already have found what I'm talking about.
Another great album from a very consistent band that deserve a lot more attention…and more timely reviews by yours truly. But it's never too late – check this one out asap!
|Magnus Karlsson's Freefall||Frontiers Records|
Manus Karlsson has one of the best guitar sounds in the business. He's also a fine all-round musician and songwriter and we can't forget producer too.|
So any new project from the Swedish Guitar God is welcomed in my world. His debut solo album comes some time after a flurry of projects were delivered for his label Frontiers. The trilogy of Allen/Lande records were superb, Starbreaker was also amazing, then there was The Codex and his original (underrated) band Last Tribe.
Now he stands alone, taking a break from guitar work in Primal Fear.
This solo record could almost be classed a 'greatest hits' affair, as he gathers nearly all of his former collaborators to join him on 12 cracking melodic metal songs.
You get the very best of all past Karlsson works in one perfectly recorded album with a monster sound and some even bigger songs. Interestingly, the mixing of the project was left to drummer Daniel Flores, who has done a superb job also.
This is a monster sounding album. The opening metal shred duo of Free Fall (lead vocals: Russell Allen) and Higher (lead vocals: Ralf Scheepers) are just classic, but it's the melodic sounding Heading Out that gets my attention even more so. The man himself takes up lead vocals and I have to say, he sounds great! What took you so long Magnus?
Folks should then prepare to have their senses blown away with what must be in the running for ballad of 2013 with the Tony Harnell sung track Stronger. What an amazing track…and what an incredible vocal. Magnus chimes in with some truly inspired guitar soloing.
Rick Altzi takes us back to the metal with the pounding Not My Saviour (I prefer Rick here than on Masterplan); which is followed by possibly the most commercial anthem of the album - Us Against The World (lead vocals: David Readman, sounding awsome).
Our Time Has Come is a replay of The Codex sound with Mark Boals on vocals. He sounds terrific.
Ready or Not has Magnus back on vocals and sounding great. Another very commercial sounding metal track, followed by a reunion with his former Last Tribe band mate Rickard Bengtsson on vocals…on a track called Last Tribe!
Fellow Swede Herman Saming from prog-metal outfit A.C.T. joins Magnus on the prog-friendly pompous metal track Fighting, which features a driving hook filled chorus.
Another pretty commercial and fast flowing metal song Dreamers & Hunters features Mike Andersson and Magnus himself finishes up the album on vocals for On Fire – another really enjoyable vocal and another great chorus driven song.
So if you know Magnus' style and have anything that he has delivered in the past – jump on this one for a fix of melodic metal perfection.
|Jorn Traveller||Frontiers Records|
It is officially time to notify Jorn that he has a problem. I shouldn't have to restate my love for Jorn's voice – but I will. It's awesome. Or at least, it was awesome.|
As of this release, I'm handing back by Jorn Fan Club card. He has a very distinct possibility of becoming a parody of himself.
I'd just about given up on Jorn even before this release. Each album has simply become a repeat of the last as he stubbornly holds onto the idea he is Ronnie James Dio's brother from another mother.
There is too just may issues to address. But I'll try.
- His albums plod incessantly. There is little variation in pace.
- The dark heavy tone of the music mirrors Dio too closely.
- Lonely Are the Brave; Spirit Black, Bring Heavy Rock to the Land and now Traveller are essentially all the same album. Dark, heavy, plodding.
- There is far too much other crap released in-between albums. Since The Duke in 2006 we've had three 'best of' releases (Symphonic being one of those and the best easily); three live albums and two covers albums! That's 8 additional albums on top of 4 studio albums. Spend some time away writing the best album you can Jorn. Stop bothering with all the padding.
- His vocals have been steadily deteriorating over this same period. There is far too much yelling and growling on his albums. Where is the God-like voice that soared over the two Masterplan albums…Ark…Milennium…and his early solo albums. The melodic edge has all but evaporated.
I had hopes for Traveller. A new band stepped in. Now I'm pissed off at those guys too. Guitarist Trond Holter and bassist Bernt Jansen (both of Wig Wam) should have brought back the best in Jorn, but they too have succumbed to Jorn's way of delivering the same old formula of previous albums.
Yes, there are a few great tracks on here that show promise – the opening track Overload chugs along pretty well and the more uptempo Traveller impresses, as does the faster still Widow Maker and Legend Man.
But Make Your Engine Scream, Cancer Demon, Carry The Black (black...again?), Monsoon and The Man Who Would Be King just plod in that chugga chugga chugga style that just bores the shit out of me.
Demons…the colour black…crows…kings…it's all done done done Jorn. It's time for a radical overhaul of your approach to songwriting and it's not just me stating this – the chatter has become a chorus of pleases from your fanbase.
The time has come to think carefully about the next album and where to from here.
|Black Star Riders All Hell Breaks Loose||Nuclear Blast|
There is probably as much debate surrounding the name of this band than there is the actual music on it. Better known as the touring lineup of modern day Thin Lizzy, it was decided not to use the name to record new material (or was it a legal matter that they couldn't in the end?). Either way – I and just about everyone else it seems are happy with the fact.|
So it is impossible not to bring Thin Lizzy into this despite the fresh name and the sound within this album is more or less lifted from Lizzy's glory days.
Of course it is guitarist Scott Gorham who stands alone as the only actual member of the acclaimed Thin Lizzy with Phil Lynott. Still, the sound of this album is so authentically Lizzy, I makes me ever the more curious as to why Gorham only has a hand in writing 4 of the album's tracks.
The majority are written by frontman Ricky Warwick and second guitarist Damon Johnson (Brother Cane, Alice Cooper).
Major props to Ricky Warwick here – I've always been a fan of his with The Almighty and his recent solo work, but he has totally captured the spirit and energy of Phil Lynott with his vocals and the band in the songwriting.
Enjoyment of this album is will depend on your outlook. Me….I'm taking it on face value for what it is – a tribute to Thin Lizzy – just with fresh songs and attitude.
And I think fresh is the best description of this. The Kevin Shirley production has once again captured the band in a raw, live, no frills style, but without some of the all-too-prominent bottom end sound that the producer gets criticized for at times.
The songs – very enjoyable to my ears. Totally immersed in the 70s and true to the classic rock sound of the original Thin Lizzy.
The upbeat and catchy Bound For Glory for example could easily have been a part of Thin Lizzy's “Greatest Hits', as could the Celtic strains of Kingdom Of The Lost – giving me a reminder of the great Gary Moore in the process.
Kissing The Ground is straight out of 1975 (as is most of the album) and the storming Valley Of The Stones has a little Almighty attitude buried deep in there.
It took a few spins, but I'm really digging this album and it's not necessarily because I am a card carrying Thin Lizzy fan club member.
It's partly because I'm reminded of Gary Moore's solo rock albums which I love and I think Ricky Warwick is outstanding here.
And the flow of the album is just so smooth. The 45 minutes goes by in a flash, closing with the brilliant 6 minute more reflective blues number Blues Ain't So Bad.
And I must give credit to Jimmy DeGrasso's drum work on the album - a real pleasure to listen to.
|Tom Keifer The Way Life Goes||Merovee Records|
The first thing I noticed about this album was just how good it sounds. The guitar sound is so clean and up in the mix and the overall production is fabulous. It's just a really great sounding record.|
It's amazing that it has taken the Cinderella frontman so many years to get this album done considering the relative lack of activity from his band.
But vocal problems aside – it's finally here and I think the majority would have to say that it was worth the wait.
So what to expect from a solo Tom Kiefer album? He was the main man behind the majority of the Cinderella material, so would this simply be an extension of that band?
In short – no. It's a more musically adventurous record that explores a retro theme revolving around Tom's bluesy rock n roll roots in the 70s – The Stones, Rod Stewart and Small Faces to name a few.
But there are some contemporary elements in there too – a little of the bluesier side of Cinderella and even a couple of tunes that could almost be country hits given an extra twang/tweak.
It's basically a very organic and earthy feeling album. Very genuine and despite several different sounds and styles within, the album flows cleanly and is very consistent. In short – it suits Tom's vocals and style.
On the rocker side of the ledger you have the feel good uptempo opener Solid Ground, the bluesy swagger of Cold Day In Hell; the guitar driven It's Not Enough and the darker, more contemporary Welcome To My Mind.
On the softer side comes the great country tinged A Different Light and the excellent heartfelt power ballad Thick And Thin. The track that follows Ask Me Yesterday is another quality mellow earthy tune.
Rod Stewart comes to mind with the “flowery” The Flower Song, which closes a mid-album 4 track mellow streak that in other circumstances could be deemed too much. But it works here.
Mood Elevator kicks things back into high gear with a flourish of guitars.
The Rolling Stones in their heyday come to mind with the classic 70s sounding Ain't That A Bitch.
Babylon is a bluesy rocker that closes the album much like it started.
Sounds amazing, songs are of the highest quality and the style really matches the attitude.
|Masterplan Novum Initium||SPV Records|
Mixed reviews floating around for this one and I can understand why. I'll have to side on the negative I'm afraid. This band really has tried the patience of fans. After two killer albums back to back, the band lost vocalist Jorn Lande, delivered a much weaker album with Riot's Mike DiMeo singing; then went back to Jorn only to deliver another weak album and now – they are onto vocalist number 3 in only 5 albums.|
This time around we have Rick Altzi fronting the band. Not only do we get a vocalist with a much different approach and sound to that of Jorn, but the band has changed up their style somewhat.
This isn't nearly as pompous and bombastic as the first three records. This time around it is derived from a more straight forward driving metal sound with Altzi screaming at full capacity for much of the record.
I don't mind him as a singer, but here I don't think he fits Masterplan at all and the songs quite frankly, just aren't as good as they should be from such veteran musicians.
But that all said – there are many that will dispute my view as the style change has found itself some new fans.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Keep Your Dream Alive and Black Night Of Music are classy metal tunes; No Escape is cool and the closing title track is an epic 11 minutes. The album in general is a more concise statement than the longer albums of the past.
|Timo Tolkki's Avalon The Land Of New Hope||Frontiers Records|
It's probably taken me too long to get into this album for me to do an about face and proclaim my love for it. It's a very select release I feel – you either have to be a die-hard Timo Tolkki fan, or a general fan of bombastic rock opera's, where shredding takes as much importance as the vocals and 'plot' of the album. |
Avalon is tremendously well produced and executed. The performances are great and the sound top notch. And the vocals of Russell Allen on his two main tracks are brilliant.
But this isn't much of a 'chorus' album and therefore it take a dedicated mind to sit through and listen from start to finish each time - especially with so much going on musically.
The star of the album in my mind is Elize Ryd, who has a beautiful voice – I must check out her work in Amaranthe.
Rob Rock also delivers power and finesse with his three lead vocals.
|FM Rockville||Membran/Riff City Records|
They are just great aren't they? Leaders in the British AOR sound, FM return with their second post-reformation album – and another cracking slice of fun, feel good melodic rock. And what's more it is part of a two album set. Rockville II will be reviewed shortly.
Here, the band manage to be themselves, sound just like you'd expect an FM album to sound like, but still manage not to repeat themselves or sound stale.
This is just FM being FM – that means a selection of harmonious, feel good melodic rock with equal doses of guitar and keyboard/organ, all driven by the powerful and unique voice of Steve Overland.
Only Foolin', Tough Love, Crave, Better Late Than Never – all classic 'up' FM songs.
Show Me The Way reveals more of the band's soulful side; My Love Bleeds is classic 80s without ever sounding dated; and Story Of My Life is a passionate belter of a ballad.
Crosstown Train rocks and High Cost Of Lovin' is another fine melodic rock song to close the album.
I love the fact that the album was written collectively by 'FM'. The guys have a unity that keeps them fresh and energized and it shows throughout this record.
|Fair Warning Sundancer||SPV Records|
I really like these guys and I'm pleased to say that I think this is one of the band's better albums. But for the life of me, I still don't understand why they have such a muddy sound. Especially with the guitars. The rhythm section is kind of a rumble too. It's the band's trademark sound yes – but with each album I continually think things could be so much better with a better production style. Nice crisp guitars and an audible bass line…|
But – to the music at hand. Good songs here. Solid album from start to finish, perhaps a bit long at 61 minutes and 14 tracks. 50 would have been more impactful I think.
Vocalist Tommy Heart is in fine voice though and the perforamnces within can't be questioned.
Troubled Love is a solid opening track, bathed in guitars and swirling keyboards and the big riffing Keep It In The Dark is classic Fair Warning.
But the 5 minute ballad Real Love is a bit of a momentum killer at track 3. Not a bad song as such, just out of place in my view.
Hit And Run well and truly gets things going again quickly and the flow of Man In The Mirror, Natural High and Jealous Heart is great.
Stand out tracks in the second half include the ballad Send Me A Dream, the anthemic duo of Pride and Get Real and the storming Cool to close the album at high speed.
|Last Autumn's Dream Ten Tangerine Tales||Bad Reputation|
I really dig these guys – they are so consistent in delivering a fresh album each year for their Japanese label. Trouble is – there is no PR outside Japan and their European deals (different for almost every album) seem to be devoid of any kind of push and these albums just disappear without a trace after a few weeks.
This is album number 10 for the band! It's a little bit rawer this time around and isn't one of their better produced affairs. Nor does it feature their best material.
But the glorious voice of Mikael Erlandsson is still a joy to listen to and the band sure knows how to deliver some pristine Scandi-AOR when they are on song. Pickin' Up The Pieces, The Man I Used To Be and New York Rain are killer. Lie To My Heart is pretty good also. The retro styled For You is raw, but likeable.
The closing ballad My Final Love Song is as passionate as always.
But the slight style change here means there's a few fillers. Missing the boat here is the funky 2nd Look; the programing filled I Will See Through You; plus the confused It's Magic and their cover of the Sweet track Rebel Rouser is well out of place.
|Hardcore Superstar C'Mon Take Me On||Spinefarm|
If you disregard the stupid intro track, this album blows out of the speakers at 500 miles per hour and doesn't let up for the next 45 minutes. It's thoroughly in your face, over the top and glorious! |
C'mon And Take Me is fast, Above The Law is furious and one of the anthems of the year; Won't Take The Blame and Dead Man's Shoes are as commercial as the band gets. In fact, for all its intensity, this is a pretty commercial record all around.
It used to be the hallmark of Los Angeles, but now it's the Swedes that dominate the glam/sleaze realm and this album is on top of the heap.
For all fans of Ratt, LA Guns, Motley Crue and Hanoi Rocks.
|Bill Leverty Drive||Leverty Music|
Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty delivers another solo outing while the rest of the world wait (im)patiently for Firehouse to record something new. This wasn't my ideal idea of new music from the talented Leverty – an all-covers affair featuring classic rock tunes from the way back days of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Little Feat, The Ohio Players, Three Dog Night, Eric Clapton, Edgar Winter, The Guess Who, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and Rare Earth.|
Bill's gruff voice suits the material here and I must say I'm impressed in the methods he uses to rock up the material. There is definitely some fine shredding guitar moments here. And some fine tunes – but not all work for me and it will all depend on the taste of the listener to whether you like the whole album or only parts of.
Personally I really like Fortunate Son, One, No Time and I Just Want To Celebrate (funky goodness).
I hate I Shot The Sherriff (but then again I always have), the funky Fire and Ricky Don't Lose That Number (I know…it's a classic, but I've never liked the song). Those are personal taste issues though.
Somewhat of a mixed bag song wise, but really well produced, expertly played of course and fans of Bill should have no trouble appreciating the authenticity of the project.
|Axe Live 2012||NEH Records|
Maybe not the original lineup, or even close, but with Bob Harris and Bobby Barth fronting the band and a quality team including keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio behind them, Axe live at Sweden Rock Festival in 2012 was a treat for all – despite the heavy rain during the band's set.|
This is a DVD/CD combo pack which is great value for money. Even better than the DVD looks great and the audio recording is nice and clear.
I generally hate digipacks and this packaging is very simplistic (actually it's barren, not even adding a track list), so that is disappointing, but the music within is thankfully much better quality.
Definitely one for Axe fans to check out – both Bobby and Bob sound great – Bob Harris in particular is a fantastic vocalist.
|Voodoo Circle More Than One Way Home||AFM Records|
German rockers |
Most of the classic Whitesnake album 1987 could be transposed into the songs on this album. From the screams, the riffs, the arrangements and even the lyrics….it's all here. But sadly – just not done nearly as well.
The album may be produced extremely well – this has a monster sound, but the songs lack the warmth of the album they are imitating and to be honest, simply aren't as good.
Considering how much the band take from those original Snake songs, it's a wonder they didn't take the choruses as well – as that's what is missing here.
|S.U.N. Something Unto Nothing||Indie|
Without the confines of her role judging Canadian Idol, the original Queen of Rock Sass Jordan gets to show how it's done for the many that followed her. What a powerhouse vocal performance on this, the debut SUN album.|
Classic rock at its best here – mixing 70s Led Zep styled attitude with contemporary hard rocking riffs delivered by drummer extraordinaire Brian Tichy. Yes, the drummer is a killer guitarist also, delivering some earth shattering riffs while Sass wails over the top.
The album is all riffs, groove and screams….and is funking great!
It's an acquired taste in parts – the heavy retro vibe and the bluesy hard rock won't be for all, but anyone that appreciates no frills honest, hard driving retro rock will appreciate this.
|Taste Taste||AOR Heaven|
Taste was formed by the two brothers Christoffer and Felix Borg the day before new year's eve in 2009. First, Taste was only supposed to be a side-project, because both also had played in other groups. But it didn't take long before the Swedes decided to turn Taste into a full band.|
Taste apply their own take on the Scandi keyboard/synth sound of the 80s. Not quite AOR, not quite pop, not quite melodic rock. And not quite good enough to make any inroads in this congested melodic scene.
The production is a little thin and the keyboards really date the album – but not in a timeless way. And I'm not sold on the vocals either – despite a few catchy pop/rock tunes included here. It all just sounds a little lightweight and under produced.
|Shylock Walking Tall||AOR Heaven|
The two masterminds behind Shylock, Matthias Schenk (vocals) and Johannes Amrhein (guitar), have been working together for more than two decades. With their band mates Achim Thiergärtner (drums) and Bernhard Schwingenstein (bass) they continue to follow their roots and show us again their strengths on album number six which is entitled "Walking Tall". |
The German hard rockers come back with a very good sounding album that delivers just what is expected of them – upbeat, commercial European hard rock, with nothing but riffs and rhythm taking no prisoners over the course of 50 minutes.
If you like German hard rock – yes, they have their own sound (think Bonfire, Scorpions, Fair Warning), then you will like this. There's nothing here that hasn't been heard before, but it's done well and it's an enjoyable ride. And best of all – it's produced very well and sounds great cranked up loud.
|Burning Rain Epic Obsession||Frontiers Records|
Groove baby, groove! Guitarist Doug Aldrich revs up his Burning Rain project for the first time in 13 years to prove once again that he is the king of the hard rock groove and is well and truly on top of his game in recent years. Since joining Whitesnake in 2001 Doug has given the David Coverdale vehicle a real shot in the arm. Now it's time to once again show why he is one of the premier guitar players in the world.|
Together with writing partner and singer Keith St. John, Doug delivers 12 smoking hard rock tunes that are going to appeal to all fans of the recent Whitesnake albums as well as the two earlier Burning Rain albums. With Epic Obsession, the band's sound has been tweaked slightly into a more solidified hard rock groove from the bluesier sound of the first two albums.
That's not to say that the blues don't play an important role here again – it's just wrapped up in some truly momentous guitar riffs.
Keith St. John has a unique voice that takes the listener back to the 70s, as does the vibe of the album overall. He may be an acquired taste for some – but I've never heard him sing better than right here. Epic Obsession is part Whitesnake, part 70s rock groove and part Led Zeppelin - but all class.
From the bombastic groove of Sweet Little Baby Thing, to the double timed hard rocking Till You Die, to the Led Zep inspired slower Heaven Gets Me By, the album goes from strength to strength.
Highlights are plentiful - the layered riffing on Pray Out Loud, with its fast rhythm; the dual personality of the acoustic driven, sentimental Our Time Is Gonna Come, which turns Zeppelinesque retro rock; to the sensual groove of My Lust Your Fate to the commercial ballad Made For Your Heart.
The album closes with the big ballad When I Believe In Love, which is as sentimental as it comes. I could imagine David Coverdale singing this.
The two bonus tracks are a cover of Led Zep's classic Kashmir – you know this suits the guys down to the ground. Then there is the acoustic Heaven Gets Me By which is a nice change of pace from the earlier full band version.
St. John reminds me of a raspier James Christian in places on this album. There's a certain feel of the Sahara album from House Of Lords at times.
|The Poodles Tour De Force||Frontiers Records|
The Poodles come storming back after their Performocracy album disappointed some with one of their best efforts yet. The last album was still rated highly by myself, such is my respect for what these guys do. But not everyone was sold on it. Tour De Force is that much better though. It delivers a 13 track er, tour de force, filled with inspired anthemic rock n roll. |
The band captures the best elements of their 4 previous albums, with powerful vocals, some memorable guitar riffs and solos, but most importantly – the album is comprised of just great songs. Period.
The head pounding Misery Loves Company couldn't be a better introduction to the album with its great chorus, but what makes this album different from its predecessor is that it doesn't stop there. Shut Up! is even better and bigger with an anthemic hook and chorus, followed by Happily Ever After, which is all groove and a super intense, multi-layered chorus.
Viva Democracy is down and dirty, but still features a strong melody. Same goes for Going Down, which rocks nice and fast.
Leaving The Past To Pass is one of the band's best ballads to date; while 40 Days And 40 Nights is another big anthemic rocker with a melodic heart.
The intensity continues for the remaining tracks, which is something the last album didn't do.
The bonus En För Alla För En may be in Swedish, but it seriously rocks and is a fitting close to a great energetic album.
|Laneslide Flying High||Avenue Of Allies Music|
I've been pretty hard on guitarist/writer Bruno Kraler for some of his past efforts in Brunorock, but that project's last outing finally showed real promise. That promise has now been fully delivered with Laneslide, Bruno's brand new vehicle featuring cult AOR vocalist Frank Vestry, with session star John Billings on bass and the always impressive Alessandro Del Vecchio on Keyboards & Grand Piano.|
And you can't go wrong adding guests like Bobby Altvater - Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals; plus Michael Bormann and Erik Mårtensson on Backing Vocals.
The awesome Frank Vestry turns in a great performance here – his melodic tone and strong vocals make the album. Don't expect a repeat of Marchello/Vestry though – this is a different beast. More melodic/AOR than the Danger Danger style of M/V.
One thing I take from this album is just how well it flows along. From the opening anthem Flying High to the more restrained AOR bliss of You Can Make It; the groovy River Of Love and the 1983 style of the keyboard heavy rocker Dancing Girls, it's one track into another of fine old-school melodic rock and AOR.
And I love the vocals on Understand – a powerful, yet melodic tone I can't get enough of.
Unusual to cover a Laura Brannigan tune (written for her at least), but she was an underrated pop/rocker in the mid-80s and I love those albums. So hearing Self Control re-done is great.
Only one ballad of the 10 tracks on offer and that is washed Away which closes the album. And it was worth the wait – it is beautiful piano lead ballad.
|Paris Only One Life||Avenue Of Allies|
Curious album this! Very very good…but curious! Why? Well, Paris is (not surprisingly) a French AOR project from the pairing of Frédéric Dechavanne (Vocals, Keyboards) and Sébastien Montet (Guitars) plus guests. But it may as well be tagged a Newman release, such is the influence of sound from British AOR star Steve Newman. Indeed, Steve appears on backing vocals here, but his influence is so pronounced on the record that I had to ask him if he co-wrote the songs also.|
Not so it appears, but he did state that Frederic is a self-proclaimed big fan of the Newman releases. That shines through here – in the style of the songs as well as their structure and the production sound. Now all that said – the influences are what they are and don't detract from the album in any way. In fact, if you are a fan of the Newman sound, this needs to be examined ASAP!
The album is a very consistent and enjoyable affair – the song quality strong and the choruses are plainly defined and upon repeat listens, annoyingly embed themselves in your mind to the point of distraction. There aren't any fillers in sight (again, especially if you are a Newman fan) and the sound is very authentically keyboard and guitar driven mid-80s fare.
Highlights are the great anthem South Of Love and the opening feel good Dancing On The Edge; the big ballad Everytime You Walk Away; the very catchy fast moving America; Longer Than I Care to Remember and the moody, feel good When The Lights Fade Away.
For the Time Still to Come is another quality ballad to close out the album.
|Charming Grace Charming Grace||Avenue Of Allies|
Interesting album this. It is one of those true “project” albums, featuring 400 special guests aiding one key person – in this case that being Italian singer Davide Barbieri (Wheels Of Fire). Appearing as guest musicians are the likes of: Sven Larsson (Street Talk, Lionville, Sapphire Eyes, Coastland Ride); Peter Friestedt (Williams/Friestedt); Roberto Priori (Danger Zone); Stefano Lionetti (Lionville); Tom & James Martin (Vega); Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever) and more...|
Vocal wise is where it gets really interesting. Each track is in fact a duet between Davide and some very cool guests.
Now the songs themselves are very good and very consistent. This is all very approachable, very commercial melodic rock/old-school 80s AOR, the type of songs that are the backbone of this site.
However, the weak point of the album is in fact Davide's lead vocals. When by himself on Wheel Of Fire it's not so much an issue. But he has done himself a disservice here. When you line up against some of the best vocalists in the scene, there is every chance you are going to come off sounding second best. And that's what has happened.
Compared to the likes of Nick Workman, David Forbes and Moon Calhoun, the heavily accented vocals of Davide stand out for the wrong reason. And the quality of the songs definitely drops off in the second half of the album.
Everytime You Touch My Heart - Duet with Nick Workman (Vega) and The Way You Feel Inside Duet with Moon Calhoun (Michael Thompson Band) are both solid and enjoyable tracks. But it is Shining Light - Duet with David Forbes (Boulevard) that is really quite superb, the melody is gold and the chorus is classic soaring, anthemic wonderfulness! And how good to hear David Forbes back in full voice? Wow.
Just Take My Hand - Duet with Gui Oliver (Auras) is very pleasant also. Sweet natured AOR.
A double dose of Italian AOR with Close Your Eyes - Duet with Michele Luppi (Los Angeles, Secret Sphere). Sorry, but the accent overload is a bit much on this one.
Still Dreamin' - Duet with Thomas Lassar (Crystal Blue) features a nice memorable chorus, but isn't as strong as some other tunes.
More superstars of the Italian AOR scene on the feel good, easy going The Sound Of Your Heart Duet with Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever). Not bad, but those accents again!
Everybody's Broken - Duet with Josh Zighetti (Hungryheart) features another strong, feel good chorus.
The fine ballad Bring My Life Back sees the great Kimmo Blom (Urban Tale) in control. It's been too long since we heard his divine voice on a big AOR ballad.
The added bonus track is a fun upbeat cover of the Belinda Carlisle song Leave A Light On. The accent of Davide doesn't quite work, but the female lead is compelling.
|Vega What The Hell||Spinefarm|
What The Hell? What the hell took the label so long to release this when it leaked online at the close of 2012. Shameful to have such a leak in the first place, but to then wait 4 more months to release this wonderful album officially should be a criminal offense. How many downloads in that time I wonder?|
Anyhow….it's here and it's great, so buy it.
Britain's new Kings of AOR Vega have delivered what should be regarded as one of the year's best AOR releases. Rather than rest on the comforting sounds of their classy old-school debut, the lads decided to mix it up a little – contemporize their sound, add some production bells and whistles, beats and tweaks.
And it works so well…nothing like hearing your favourite style of music modernized in the right way.
Production is first class, mix is pristine and the energy palpable. And the songs – better than ever folks, with anthems left right and center here.
White Knuckle Ride precedes another silly half minute intro piece (arrgh!), but makes up for it by being what you might describe as a perfect AOR anthem. And I just love the tone of Nick Workman's voice. Perfect for the material.
What The Hell is as bombastic as the title suggests; Not There For You is urgent and compelling; Cry is simply melodically joyous and features a stand out chorus; Raise Ya Game is where the guys turn about as modern as they get on this album, with beats and a groove based riff; Fade Into Flames is a modern feeling sultry ballad; You Can't Run is filled with beats and urgency and another strong vocal; Bless My Soul is modern AOR at its best; She Walks alone is another great little anthem; Turn It On is perhaps one of the albums weaker tracks; Saviour features a great vocal and a driving beat for what is a very moody track; It's Gonna Be Alright is yet another strong song, but has other similar tracks like it on the album; Hands In The Air is an absolutely melodic rock gem and deserved to be closer to the front of the album I think.
|VindictiV Cage Of Infinity||Escape Music|
The third in a trilogy of metal albums to be reviewed in this set – Vindictiv probably sits between the other two (Tainted Nation and Giuntini Project). Had the band retained the same style and feel of their first two albums, it probably would have won out easily. But Cage Of Infinity is a different beast entirely for Swedish guitarist and band founder Stefan Lindholm.|
Gone is vocalist Goran Edman, gone is the hard rock/symphonic melodic metal sound.
In place is new vocalist Marco Sandron (finding a home after an all too brief stint with Eden's Curse) and a new metallized sound more reminiscent of Judas Priest.
The emphasis on chorus and melody has gone too – not that the album is devoid of these elements, but they now play second fiddle to frantic riffing and over the top screaming vocals.
I'm not sold on this change of direction to be honest. But to make the most of the album, some patience is required and the mood must suit. Not much point putting this on in the early mornings unless you feel the need to pummel your brain into working condition for the day.
Surprisingly, the songs within the album aren't overly long. They are all pretty concise and get to the point immediately. The point being big vocals and big riffs.
Upon further listening some of the chorus passages become more prominent and the album makes a little more sense. Still, it's a long way from the catchy elements of the original two albums.
There are some fretalicious moments here that would impress Yngwie Malmsteen and Marco delivers a truly menacing vocal performance.
But this is well and truly for fans of European metal. Song highlights include the title track Cage Of Infinity and Astronaut, plus the frantic Resistance and closing crunch of Screaming For Answers.
|Giuntini Project IV||Escape Music|
It's been a while between drinks for Italian guitarist/composer Aldo Giuntini and for that matter, same can be said for vocalist Tony Martin, after appearing on what seemed to be a dozen albums in as many weeks a few years back. Good to see this pair reunited again for another round of classic style 80s metal. Roll out all the Black Sabbath and Rainbow references you can, add in Tony Martin's unmistakable vocals and you can sum up what the album offers.|
Not much has changed from any of the other 3 Giuntini Project albums, dating back to 1993. This is a good sounding album. Tony sounds in strong voice, which I was beginning to worry about last we heard from him. The production is solid – typical in your face guitars and louder than loud approach.
I think the drum sound could have had a more impressive crunch. They appear a little tinny at times and the constant cymbal crashing can be distracting. The pace varies around the album – perhaps a little too much in the mid-tempo plod style that some metal albums take on. But there are some rousing screamers on here.
The only thing that I would state about IV is that the album – if anything – is unsurprising. It's very solid yes, but also very safe and somewhat predictable in its direction and execution.
|Tainted Nation F.EA.R.||Massacre Records|
In a word – superb. This is a cracking, in your face, modern melodic metal album. I say modern, as it is naturally tuned into a contemporary sound, whilst still offering an equal dose of traditional British metal.
With Eden's Curse drummer Pete Newdeck out front on lead vocals, his Ozzy-esque tone makes this is the best Ozzy Osbourne album since the stunning duo of Ozzmosis and No More Tears.|
For those wishing Ozzy had made those two albums into a trilogy of classic metal, Tainted Nation has done it for him.
The all-star band comprising of Newdeck (Eden's Curse, Grim Reaper); bassist Pontus Egberg (The Poodles, Lions Share, Zan Clan); guitarist Ian Nash (Steve Grimmett, Lionsheart) and drummer Mark Cross (Outloud, Helloween, Kingdom Come) – deliver a debut album that uses every ounce of their prior experience to make a truly thunderous and energetic statement here.
The pace barely drops below whirlwind for the entire album and by the end you should be exhausted from the playback. The classic/modern hybrid sound is as sonically destructive as you can imagine, but that doesn't mean there aren't any melodies. In fact, there are tons, making this album even more likeable for metal and hard rock fans that love to be blasted into space.
The opening crunch of Dare You, the swagger of Loser, the fury of You Still Hang Around and the almost anthemic melody of Your Only Friend are just the beginning.
Hell Is A Lie is just as impressive when it comes to memorable hooks, and the fast and furious Never Promised You Anything (featuring guest Ted Poley on some prominent backing vocals) is as commercial as anything Ozzy has released.
|Mike Tramp Cobblestone Street||Target Records|
Stark. That's the word that comes to mind. Gifted songwriter Mike Tramp lays bare his soul with a very personal album of stripped back acoustic guitar driven songs on his new album Cobblestone Street. Mike Tramp solo is probably an acquired taste at the best of times, so for him to record this, the “album he always wanted to do” is throwing down the challenge to his fans to appreciate or move on.|
Mike may be speaking from his soul here, but how many will be listening is something I'm not sure of.
I for one like this album. I like just about everything Mike has done. But I don't love it in the same way I do his Recovering The Wasted Years, More To Life Than This and the also awesome Stand Your Ground.
I don't love it, as it's not an album that can be played anywhere anytime, as I can do with his other solo material – and the White Lion albums for that matter.
The sheer nature of this acoustic record lends itself to being a mood music piece. If the mood suits – perfect. If not, then some are going to look upon this as a cure for insomnia.
When Mike Tramp is on point – he delivers like nobody else can. He has this ability to bare his soul in a heart crunching way. Songs that I think he nails here are the opening title track, Ain't The Life I Asked For, the psychedelic Revolution and Beatlesesque Find It In Your Heart. The ballad What Are You Gonna Do also resonates.
Where I don't quite match the journey Mike is on is with the “too happy” New Day, the slow duo of We'll Be Alright and Angel Of Devil.
And the musical accompaniment around Once, not to mention the lyrics, don't work for me either.
|Code Of Silence Dark Skies Over Babylon||Mausoleum|
Another newcomer to the scene here, but with some familiar names behind the scenes. British band Code Of Silence may call themselves melodic metal, but have melody in spades coming with each track and some very commercial songs featured on this, their very classy debut album.|
Fronted by Brazilian vocalist Gus Monsanto (Timo Tolkki's Revolution Renaissance / Adagio / Symbolica / Lord Of Mushrooms), and young virtuoso guitar player Ben Randall (Power Quest), the band wrote their album with producer Paul Logue (Eden's Curse), whose writing and production style is all over this album.
Any and all fans of Eden's Curse are going to hear parts of their trademark sound throughout this album. Any number of songs like the pounding Sky Is Falling Down could come from Eden's Curse.
After a short intro, the head kicking opener Bitter Sweet Paradise is simply layered in vocal melodies and features a killer chorus.
This is quite an epic album – there are 11 tracks totaling over 60 minutes running time, with 5 tracks over the 6 minute mark. The first major epic is the slow building 7 minute heavy ballad Dark Skies Over Babylon. Really quite superb.
idnight Cathedral (Veritas) features a nice dose of organ and some chopping riffs.
The closing hard rocker Here To Heaven is another epic that builds to a shredding climax. Harmony vocals (again typical of Eden's Curse) are plentiful which add extra melody to the heavy nature of the songs.
|Redrum Victims Of Our Circumstances||RMB Records|
Now this is a great album! The debut album from Greek rockers Redrum (with German vocalist Michael Bormann) was very good – but this is great! This is one of the best Bormann fronted albums I have heard since the Jaded Heart 1999-2004 classics.|
The band's second album does everything it should – it improves upon all elements of the debut – better production, better sound and mix and most importantly, even better songs. This is a great selection of European melodic hard rock, with Bormann in full control and the rest of the band delivering the power behind the voice.
The album kickoff though gives me pause. Why bands use an intro of just 50 seconds in length is beyond me – I hate these – just add it on to the start of the first track!
But besides that gripe, the opening track Scream sets things up, but it's the melodic joy of You Can't Buy No Hero that really gets things moving.
The near 6 minute acoustic backed Dust In Your Eyes might be a little misplaced in the sequence of the album, as the mid-tempo song is followed by the ballad Empty Promises, which kills the momentum of the opening two tracks. Thankfully it's a great ballad though with a strong vocal melody driving the song.
Pokerface is a stronger rocker (no, it ain't a cover of that tune) and Dirty White Boy (no, not that song either) continues that trend.
Mother I'm Coming Home is rock ballad with an epic feel, while Tear Down The Walls cranks the album up again.
Have A Nice Day (no, once again, not that song) does have a Bon Jovi feel to it, especially with the vocals and the acoustic intro.
The tile track has a certain groove to it and a good chorus.
Closing with You're The Voice (yes, it IS that song), the guys go out on a high, as you just can't screw up this great song. A great Bormann vocal closes the deal.
|Kingdom Come Outlier||SPV Records|
Captain Plod returns with yet another album of dreary sounding mid-tempo European hard rock. At least this time German mastermind Lenny Wolf mixes things up with a reworked music production style – modernizing his sound with effects, overdubs and heavy synth over the top of the usual slow, heavy guitar riffs and his painfully slow wailing vocals.
Sound like a hater right? Actually, no. I really dig Lenny's vocal tone. I just wish he'd really take a look at the tempo of his songwriting and either ramp it up or bring in someone to help co-write.
I adore the debut Kingdom Come (Kingdom Clone) album and its sequel wasn't too bad either. But after that Lenny took full control of the band and lineup, taking the band back to Europe and dropping his star lineup. These days he takes care of most elements himself, which is why the last few albums have all sounded exactly the same and all with the same depressingly slow pace.
God Does Not Sing Our Song is a dramatic song that I do like, but the pace…arghh, the pace! The second track almost breaks into a decent trot before Lenny pulls it back.
Rough Ride Ralleye is more programmed synth than anything else, a curious left turn.
Holy Curtain is slow (of course), but I quite like the dramatic feel and the guitars are certainly in your face.
The Trap Is Alive actually breaks into a cantor, and isn't as imposing a track as the intensity of first half of the album. And it even features a chorus. Good stuff.
Skip The Cover And Feel (what does that mean?!) however, heads straight back into plod mode as is Don't You Want To Wait.
Such A Shame is one beat faster, but doesn't really deliver a chorus and the album closes with another song that doesn't really go anywhere as far as I'm concerned.
|Wild Rose Dangerous||AOR Heaven|
The Andy Rock fronted Wild Rose – Greece's answer to Bon Jovi circa 1984 are back for album number two. And they pick up exactly where they left off with their debut – back in 1984 with some old fashioned commercial hard rock.
There is an equal dose of guitar and keyboard in play with these guys, with guitar riffs taking the more prominent position in the mix.
I saw this album rated 10/10 on another portal and without wishing to cast dispersion upon that review, I simply don't hear anything remotely close to making this a review of similar standing.
The band is competent and their songwriting does manage to deliver some songs that catch in your mind. There are some nice riffs, memorable keyboard fills and some choruses that stand out.
The biggest compliment you could give this album is that it captures the era it pays homage to well.
However, it doesn't deliver anything that stands out from the crowd, nor does it deliver what hasn't already been done many times previous.
|Heartbreak Radio On Air||AOR Heaven|
Swedish AOR-lite/Westcoast Heartbreak Radio started off as a spinoff project from the band Last Autumn's Dream. LAD's Michael Erlandsson appears on vocals for 4 tracks, other vocalists include Jim Jidhed (1); Pierre Weinsberg (2) and a couple of others.
Now for the project's second album, the musician lineup consists of Mats Johannson (Asia, Guitars), Berra Holmgren (Ace Of Base, Bass), Peter Strandberg (Jeff Scott Soto, Drums), Johan Axelsson (Keys).
This is more Westcoast/pop than it is AOR. It's very lite on guitar, heavy on keyboards and synth and very very sweet.
Angelina is a great little Westcoast song with a catchy chorus; I Will Love You is a smooth ballad featuring a powerful Jidhed; Live Out Of Love is more powerful and uptempo and you have to love Erlandsson's voice. Same with the poppy melodic rock of My Heart's Just Missing You.
But elsewhere it's a little too polite for me. It's a little jazzy, very pop/soul and generally just too much happy juice being drunk by these guys. For someone who likes their music moodier and darker on most occasions, there's too much sugar here.
|Heaven And Earth Dig||Quarto Valley Records|
Heaven And Earth is the brain child of British guitarist Stuart Smith, a lifelong fan of Richie Blackmore, Deep Purple, Rainbow and all things classic rock. The first album under the H&E moniker featured the cream of the crop as far as vocalists go – Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner, Richie Sambora, Bobby Kimball (on the second pressing) and Kelly Hansen. The second album featured just Kelly Keeling on vocals and the following EP featured Paul Shortino.|
So it is no surprise to see that on the band's official third release, another vocalist is in the picture. This time it is Joe Retta - and what a find he is. With a raspy and soulful tone not unlike Joe Lynn Turner, Joe takes the material on offer here and makes it his own, with a powerhouse performance.
The lineup has solidified also, with the great Chuck Wright on bass, Arland Schierbaum on Hammond B3, Richie Onori on drums and of course Stuart Smith at the helm on guitars.
If the pedigree of these guys couldn't deliver a knock-out classic rock album, then no one could. Thankfully that isn't a problem.
Dig makes a powerful statement that the band is back and better than ever.
What I really love about this album is the authentic, analogue feel it has. That big 70s hard rock sound, filled with organ and authoritive guitar work that such bands has Rainbow and Purple featured. Not to mention a rhythm section to die for.
The album takes a few listens to click – some of it on the first listen yes, but all great albums are ones that grow over time.
After the expected pomp-friendly intro, the bravado of the opening track Victorious takes control. The six minute track is everything you'd expect from H&E – big, authentic and filled with guitars and a pounding rhythm, plus that unmistakable organ sound that bands like Rainbow and Deep Purple brought to the mainstream.
Victorious starts with a flourish before pulling back a bit, only to build as the songs goes on, with vocal discovery Joe Retta in full control. At some point he hands over to guitarist Stuart Smith who takes the song to another level with some inspired soloing.
No Money, No Love quickly follows on, with a more commercial feel and a more rapid pace. This is the most obvious track for a single and so it is. The song is great – a big authentic 70s rock song with a memorable chorus and layers of guitars and organ over a tight rhythm section.
I Don't Know What Love Is is simply a monster ballad. Straight out of the Joe Lynn Turner song book, Joe Retta delivers a stunning vocal that takes the song where it needs to go. The emotion of the song is great and once again harkens back to a real old-school way of music.
Man & Machine is a more simplistic statement, which does just one thing – it rocks. The hard driving beat of the song matches the subject matter – the car, and driving it fast. A big bluesy hard rock song.
House of Blues is a long, slow rocking track that bases its sound heavily on 70s blues and once again that authentic Rainbow-esque style. It's not a ballad, nor a rock song; it's one of those organ drenched blues tracks that H&E are known for.
Back in Anger is a good pace lifter after the long previous track. The guitar and organ swirl around each other and the rhythm section grooves. This is another great track for vocalist Retta and Stuart Smith delivers another great solo.
Waiting for the End of The World is the perfect sequel to the last track – moving down in tempo, but equally impressive in its 70s rock roots, complete with some Richie Blackmore style acoustic work and a driving chorus. The song has a certain darkness to it that appeals.
Sexual Insanity is a moody song that builds, with some dramatic passages of music surrounding a charged chorus.
Rock & Roll Does is one of the album's biggest rockers. It is certainly the fastest and features some great harmonica intermixed around the rest of the song's groove based tempo. A simplistic rocker at heart, a good fun addition to the album and well placed within the sequence of tracks.
A Day Like Today is one of those oddball tracks that Heaven & Earth have managed to produce over time – again based on Stuart Smith's various influences of the 70s. This baroque style piano/vocal ballad, complete with acoustic guitars and mandolins, violins etc… I love it. Richie Blackmore would no doubt rate this is favourite song of the album.
Good Times continues a run of what I think are the album's best songs. This frantic paced rocker isn't as heavy as earlier tracks, but works so well. I love the percussion within this song, with emphasis on other things than the straight drum sound.
And closing this epic album is the perfect epic ballad Live as One. It runs Four and a half minutes, but feels like 8, as it builds from a slow start to a huge finish with Joe Retta delivering one of the best vocals of the album. This is a power ballad in the vein of Foreigner or Styx in the 70s, with a vocal orchestra blowing the song apart towards the end.
It should have been longer!
|Steve Lukather Transition||Mascot Records|
As a solo artist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, Steve Lukather has always walked diverse path, never turning in the same record twice.|
However, the man affectionately known as Luke has found a nice groove over the course of his last 3 solo records, with producer CJ Vanstone a key factor in creating a monster sound and some of the best produced and mixed records my ears have had the pleasure of knowing.
The trilogy of records started with Ever Changing Times, continued with All's Well That Ends Well and now reaches to Transition.
And while it features the same musical base as the last album and that unmistakable high-tech, high class performance, this album has its own soul.
Transition is to me, a far mellower vibe than we are used to with Luke. It's an introspective record that sees its author coming out the healthier side of a period of mourning. So the songs have their usual outstanding lyrical depth that few artists achieve and some soul searching moments are laid bare for all to witness, but some of the songs have a very positive energy to them, despite the mellower and laid back appearance.
Even the album's opening epic, the title track Judgement Day, has a slightly reserved feel to it. But the guitar work is nothing short of amazing and the biting lyrical content will have someone's ears burning.
The funky Creep Motel is similarly themed, with some terrific instrumentation giving it depth beyond the norm. Again the lyrics make you thankful you are not in the firing line, but that's what we love about Luke. Always honest.
In Once Again and Right The Wrong, we find two of the best and most heartfelt ballads Luke has ever written. They run back to back and display some gut wrenching angst and the intense arrangements make them two outstanding tracks.
The mostly instrumental Transition features some stunning guitar work and leads into the more positively themed Last Man Standing, itself a sonically joyous tune, the pace more restrained.
Do I Stand Alone is the albums only regulation uptempo rocker, with a great little pop chorus, making it one of the most instantly likable songs of the album.
Rest of The World is a slow bluesy number that features another side of Luke and some stunning guitar work.
Unfortunately I'm not that interested in the closing instrumental cover of Smile, despite some fine string plucking from Luke.
That closes the album for me with the weaker track, but the class within those songs has meant that this album has been on steady rotation now for 6 months, and few other albums can boast that claim.
|Covered Call Impact||AOR Heaven|
Let us never underestimate the joy that is listening to Goran Edman in full melodic rock vocal glory! Swedish rockers Covered Call come back with their second album, this time featuring Goran Edman at the helm, replacing fellow Swedish metal crooner Thomas Vikström.|
Without any exaggeration, the opening two tracks on this album represent the genre at its finest, with two of the most joyously melodic and compelling tracks of 2013 blowing the speakers apart. And those vocals! Melody in every word…
Lorraine is simply a powerhouse anthem and When The Lights Are Out is a mellower, yet equally engaging track, especially with the brilliant chorus.
It just keeps on delivering with the great mid-tempo AOR anthems Think About All Times and Look Into Your Mind, plus the darker, more urgent and heavier Hold On all just oozing melodies. And those vocals!
And so it continues… I think every track is a winner, right up until there's a bit of a left turn on the last two tracks for some reason, which suddenly sees an earthier, rawer guitar driven sound immerge. Stop right there guys! You had it right on the rest of the album; don't feel the need for a change.
The last 2 tracks are ok, but they don't match the melodic bliss of the rest of the album. I'll forgive them the experimentation as the rest is just so good.
|Bai Bang All Around The World||AOR Heaven|
What a difference 18 months can make. I panned the band's last album – the songs were ok, but the production was just horrible and ruined any chance of the record having any lasting power. In fact, I haven't played it once in the last 18 months.|
But, things are entirely different for this little beauty. The band has obviously spent a lot of extra time on songwriting and the production problems of the last album have been forgotten.
This is a monster album for fans of anthemic, in your face melodic rock, with that Def Leppard style of layered harmonies and the Mutt Lange style production. What I didn't notice last time around, was that the vocals of singer Diddi Kastenholt have a distinct resemblance to those of the Stage Dolls' Torstein Flakne.
So what I'm hearing here is Adrenalize era Def Leppard with Stage Dolls lead vocals! It's quite a tasty mix to be honest. The album is completely over the top of as far as anthems and choruses and indeed energy also.
The frantic pace of the first two tracks Everybody Everywhere and Gonna Make It will leave most folks out of breath.
Crazy is slower, but no less catchy and a song names after their own moniker sees some Joe Elliott moodiness in the vocals. Bai Bang is every bit the Def Leppard rocker.
How About Now is a huge ballad with hands in the air harmonies and hooks.
Raise Your Hands and Summertime are two more killer anthems with a moody edge, but layered chorus harmonies to the hilt.
Now You're Gone is darker still and quite intense and perhaps the heaviest track of the album.
All Around The World pounds through the speakers with more hooks and a chorus that never stops, while Get It On closes the album with a fierce guitar riff and another thumping beat.
|Stala & So Play Another Round||Escape Music|
Sampsa “Stala” Astela (former lead vocalist of Finland's kings of quirk Lordi) and fellow bandmate, bassist Nick Gore are the main pair behind Stayla & So, a quirky and different band that almost defy being defined. There's some Lordi style exaggeration, a lot of old school 70s groove and some strong doses of power pop and glam also.|
Dare I say that not only is vocalist Stala an acquired taste, but so is the entire album. And overall I remain unconvinced, despite a few really catchy songs on offer. No, that doesn't entirely make sense, but there are simply some songs that despite being very catchy that I don't like! I'm not sold on the vocals either to be honest.
The opening Rock Until I'm Done and Tokyo Delights are two songs that just can't not be liked. Especially the opening anthem. Great stuff. But The Boys And Having Fun and Never Again I don't go for at all, despite some good melodies on offer.
Back Together is a nice ballad, while Alrite Tonite is total 80s power fuzz-pop, but the vocals take some getting used to.
I much prefer the feel good melodic rock of Life Goes On and the harder guitar driven All Alone. The second ballad All She Wrote is pretty good too.
The bonus tracks include the non-starter Pamela and an acoustic ballad cover version of the Ozzy tune Shot In The Dark. Now that's an interesting twist…
|Snowfall Cold Silence||Escape Music|
Snowfall is the new melodic hard rock project for singer Lee Small (Phenomena, Shy) and bassist/keyboardist/songwriter “PB” Riise. Mixing anthemic hard rock and bluesy with keyboard filled Scandi AOR, the project sees Small in his full-blown Glenn Hughes rock vocalist mode, which is never a bad thing.|
The sound quality and clear mix is guaranteed when produced, mixed and mastered by Mr. Dependable: Martin Kronlund, so Snowfall gains another credit there. Lastly the songs – good, punchy, strong performances here and chorus hooks that develop over time.
What Snowfall offers is some really punchy melodic hard rock that requires several listens to best appreciate. The choruses are there, but not immediately obvious apart from a few “instant” tunes like the huge opener Don't Drive Me Home Tonight; the big ballad Heaven's Not Up There, the layered vocals of Jack Of Diamonds and the punchy rock beat on I Won't Be Lonely Anymore.
And the second to last song Alexandria is possibly the catchiest song of the entire album. Should have been closer to the top I think.
Elsewhere it takes a little time, but the king of this album is Lee Small and his monster vocals. Just check out the tone on the big groove-rocker Oscillate.
The orchestral and slightly progressive The Vesper Bell closes the album on an impressive note.
The album could perhaps have used another uptempo tune or two, as mid-tempo groove is the most prevalent throughout.
|Whitesnake Made In Japan||Frontiers Records|
Made In Japan is a good value set. There's two audio discs and the live DVD on offer, but disc 2 is not a continuation of the live show, but rather outtakes from the band's soundchecks (Love Will Set You Free, Steel Your Heart Away, Lay Down Your Love, Evil Ways – rougher, but still enjoyable versions) and no less than 4 acoustic versions of tracks from the last couple of albums (Fare Thee Well, One Of These Days, Good To Be Bad, Tell Me How).
The main disc is a 12 track live compilation of the band's appearances in Japan October 2011. Upon checking the exact set lists for those shows, it appears only the Deep Purple cover of Solider Of Fortune has been dropped from this 73 minute disc (time constraints obviously).
That makes the set list all that more puzzling, as it draws heavily from the latest album and the Good To Be Bad release (no problems there, both great albums), but instead of drawing songs from the past, we get 13 minutes of silly guitar and drum soloing. I guess David Coverdale gets to rest his well-worn vocals for a bit there.
Yes, David sounds worn, but wouldn't we all after so many years of delivering the goods. In reality, he still delivers more than most his age and that tone of his is something that won't ever be replaced.
|Amaze Me Guilty As Sin||AOR Heaven|
Sweden's Amaze Me – for the record – is one man band and producer Peter Broman and vocalist Conny Lind. I had really high hopes for a new Amaze Me record. Their past life was summarized in a nice collection from AOR Heaven earlier in the year, but if anything, that collection only highlighted how far audio recording quality has come since Amaze Me was last making music a decade ago. The fact was that they didn't really cut it back then, despite some amazing songs and sadly, they still don't cut it in 2013 with a production style that hasn't improved any.|
While some of the performances here have been captured quite nicely and some of the songs hold true promise, the fact is that the overall mix is horrible and general arrangements within the songs just confuses matters more.
Vocals are up front too far in one song, then buried deep in others. The drum sound is clearly programmed, which doesn't fly anymore in this day and age.
The guitars are also part buried in the mix and part front and center elsewhere.
In a nut shell, the album sounds too busy. Take the song With Or Without You. Love the premise of it – love the hook and the potential of the dramatic chorus. But the execution is just a mess. Too much going on and none of it sounding like it's in the right place.
The almost catchy Guilty As Sin is the same. It's just a mess.
Production issues aside, the songs themselves are quite diverse. There's some pop rock, a little traditional AOR and some harder moments. Plus a couple of songs that are fairly contemporary. But there is no common sound between them all and the quality, to be blunt, isn't what past Amaze Me records had.
The songs were always the element that made an Amaze Me record bearable in the face of bad production.
With that missing here, there isn't much to get excited about. Sadly.
|Stryper Second Coming||Frontiers Records|
Normally I'd call these kind of releases – re-recordings of “greatest hits” – die-hard fan only affairs. But there is something about the freshness of this collection of tunes that might just go beyond the fan-only base and serve as an introduction to the band for newcomers.|
Stryper have been gaining renewed popularity in the past few years since reforming, on the back of the very good trilogy of releases Reborn (2005), Murder by Pride (2009) and their covers album The Covering (2011).
You've got the original lineup still in place here covering songs from their original EP and the first two full length albums.
Being that those songs are now considerably aged, one would have to say that the production here is far superior and the punch in the bottom end matches that extra power the band has delivered on their most recent albums.
I'm not going to go into individual songs here, as they are all part of Stryper history. Fans will know them by heart, but for newcomers, this is a very good look into the early days of the band, with today's production quality.
What I will discuss further is the two brand new songs included here.
Bleeding From Inside Out is an emotional, yet powerful rock semi-ballad with a groove driven chorus featuring tons of guitars and that modern day Stryper sound.
Blackened is a solid melodic rocker with a pretty commercial feel to it. Sounds like prime 80s commercial hard rock, with a contemporary feel.
Both are very good tracks.
|Pretty Maids Motherland||Frontiers Records|
The Danish hard rock band follows up their acclaimed Pandemonium release in very fine style here, taking all the energy and style from their last album, applying it to 13 brand new songs, which really are more melodic than ever.|
The power and production crispness from Jacob Hansen remains as does the always probing rhythm section, the raspy vocals and some metal driven guitar riffs. But at the heart of the album are some very fine melodies, keyboards mixing with the vocal and guitar hooks to craft truly memorable songs.
The Danish rockers have been around since the early 80s, but really are in a golden period of their history. The band knows what fans want and are delivering it: power, melody and passion.
Highlights from the album are numerous and pretty much run the gamut of the whole album. This is an extremely consistent record with no real fillers in sight.
But my personal favorites include the opening bombastic Mother Of All Lies; the double kick drum fuelled anthem The Iceman; the more melodic and soulful Sad To See You Suffer; the reflective and symphonic-infused Infinity; the high energy title track Motherland and the brilliant heavy ballad Bullet For You.
The heavy groove of Who What When Where Why is also a good track to play ultra-loud and the closing 5 minute Wasted is one of the album's most layered tracks.
|De La Cruz Street Level||Frontiers Records|
Australia's De La Cruz just announced the departure of their guitarist/producer Casey Jones. Not the way one would prefer to celebrate the launch of your debut album, but that as they say – is life.|
The guitarist may be gone (along with his production credit), but his and the entire band's contributions to their album Street Level are captured forever.
This debut is an impressive one, but there is room to move as far as honing their skills and making the jump from a good cult hard rock band to a worldwide draw. They can make it happen. First of all the guys have to work out who they are. There's a little personality conflict here as far as mixing up styles; from the glam-sleaze infused opening few tracks to commercial pop/rock and back again.
At times they are channeling Def Leppard – right down to vocalist Roxxi's Joe Elliott mannerisms and the layered backing vocals (Legions Of Love, Gimmie Love, Dreaming). At other times the guys think they are Cinderella (on the screechy World's Collide) or perhaps Motley Crue (S.E.X.).
And there are times where the band has their own style of commercial 80s rock and sound most comfortable. Cherry Bomb sounds pretty disposable lyrically, but you can't fault the catchiness of the material. The commercial and catchy Set The Night; the reflective ballad Shine and the anthemic Turn It Up are best examples.
Most of the time you feel as if you are listening to a compilation sampler of 80s hard rock artists, which really isn't a bad thing at all, it's just a little harder to keep up with the styles and song influences as they vary.
For a group of young guys, their musical prowess is unquestionable. Some solid performances here and some terrific guitar work.
The one soft spot in the band's armory (besides the departure of Jones) is vocalist Roxxi. His voice doesn't always carry the same authority as the music and it will be interesting to see what comes of the shakeup.
|Great White 30 Years - Live From The Sunset Strip||Frontiers Records|
The jury is still out for me as far as Terry Ilous fronting Great White – despite my long held high regard for the singer and indeed the band overall. The latest studio album pushed me further towards the negative, but this 30 Year Anniversary Concert has gone song way to repairing that damage. There's only 11 tracks on here, which is probably my only main gripe – this 74 minute show can hardly cover the band's amazing legacy in just that number of tracks.
Thankfully they do stick to the biggest hits though, with only Back To The Rhythm included from recent years.
The rest is prime Great White classics such as Lady Red Light, Big Goodbye, House Of Broken Love (on which Terry really excels). As with the last album, the overall vibe is still fairly laid back in comparison with how the band rocked in the 80s, but the performances are still perfect.
|Bon Jovi What About Now||Universal|
If you ever want to review an album that will divide the reader base and leave you damned either way you favor, go pick any of the last few Bon Jovi records.|
The band still has a devoted fan base, but equally has just as many detractors calling for the band to be publically stoned for selling out their rock roots.
So where does one start with What About Now?
It's too easy to just shit on the band for selling out and redefining the term “rock” to mean anything plugged in – without the actual need to “rock” in the proper sense of the term. First – much respect to the band for still being viable in this day and age. They can still shift 100k records in the USA and they sell out stadiums around the world.
You just can't take that away from them. They may be the Jon Bon Jovi band since reforming a decade or so back, but it works for them and the other guys don't seem to have much to say about it. I was set to rant on about the under-utilization of Richie Sambora's immense talents, but after his last solo album, the blame for Jovi's mellowing can't be squarely laid upon the frontman.
I loved Have A Nice Day; thought Lost Highway, Bounce and Crush were okay and hated the most recent album The Circle.
So there seemed little chance I was going to appreciate anything within this one. So I'm surprised to find that there are parts I'm enjoying and a couple of songs I rate highly. But there is far too much filler yet again and the ballads kill the momentum of the album – especially with the overburdened Deluxe Edition. Should a Bon Jovi album really be relegated to a few great songs per release?
The ongoing mellower tone of the band these days really does give them the appearance of being on auto-pilot.
The album mixes the country/acoustic vibe of Lost Highway with the more recent modern rock tone of The Circle and H.A.N.D., but adds little more urgency in some of the songs, not to mention a few very likable choruses.
But there is filler here too. I could safely live without ever hearing another Bon Jovi ballad as long as I live, and nothing here changes my mind there. So I'm skipping Amen, Thick As Thieves, and The Fighter and also give Room At The End Of The World a pass. Seriously – what rock band ends their albums with 2 ballads in a row?
Then there's the “deluxe edition” which two more shiteously slow, horrible and countrified ballads. And that opening track – guys – that's simply I'll Sleep When I'm Dead slowed down to old man pacing. This is easily the worst Bon Jovi lead single/opening track in history. The cliché ridden track is so utterly predictable and slow paced, plus it wastes a decent Sambora lead break on a weak chorus.
On the good side of the ledger for this album is the ultra-moody I'm With You, with its dark and menacing edge, plus the excellent modern U2/Coldplay pop/rock of What About Now and Pictures Of You which both deliver strong choruses and some decent guitar parts.
I also rate That's What The Water Made Me (what the hell does that mean?) and the Lost Highway “leftover” What's Left Of Me.
And Army Of One is another fine brooding number with a rock edge that could have been better executed, but good try anyway and a favourite of mine.
Beautiful World is a total rip-off from Matchbox Twenty, but catchy enough and the Deluxe Edition adds one decent extra – the uptempo modern pop/rocker With These Two Hands.
The JBJ Band seem so comfortable in their slacks and skivvies with one eye on retirement, they are never likely to look back at the skin tight leathers at the back of their closet. Take each release as it comes for what it is and try and pick out a few new great tunes to stick on that ever changing "Bon Jovi Best Of" playlist.
If I was Bon Jovi or a similar band I;d be asking myself this: "how many fans do I have now that are with us because of what we did in the past? And how many of those are happy with what we are doing today? If the answer is not all of them, then get back to doing what you did when you were at your best."
|Crashdiet The Savage Playground||Frontiers Records|
After the quite superb Generation Wild album, expectations for the Swedish hard rocking glamsters to deliver again was at fever pitch. So what did the band do? A complete 180 of course! Anyone dead set on a continuation of the last album found themselves accosted by this fierce, raw, stripped right down, in your face opus of fury.|
I've heard some negative reviews about this album, but I'm totally sold on it. The attitude within can barely be contained by the speakers and the delivery is nothing short of menacing.
It may be totally raw and barely produced, but the songs just rip your heart out and the style chosen can't hide their brilliance.
Tracks like Change The World and Cocaine Cowboys and the hate filled Anarchy just rip and tear. Then there is the monster anthem California which is simply one of the best sleaze anthems of the last few years.
The lyrical attack in Lickin' Dog is as compelling as the catchy chorus and the onslaught reaches a crescendo with the double time pounding rhythm of Circus.
This is truly an exhausting record to rock to. Sin City and Got A Reason don't give up the relentless energy, nor does the more melodic Drinkin' Without You.
The groove driven Snakes In Paradise grows on you and is followed by the similar Damaged Kid.
Excited offers up another catchy hard rocking chorus before the ultra-raw Garden Of Babylon delivers another essential hook and chorus.
Closing the album without skipping a beat for the entire 62 minutes is the punkish thrash of Liquid Jesus.
|N.O.W. Bohemian Kingdom||Escape Music|
Nothing better than reviewing an album by an artist who knows what he has to do in order beat the album before (in this case, the N.O.W. debut Force Of Nature), and doesn't stop until that has been achieved. So what I'm saying here is that the new album Bohemian Kingdom is in every way a step up from the already impressive debut.|
It has taken album writer, bassist and mainstay Alec Mendonca three years to achieve that, but the album sounds all the better for the time taken to get it right.
First up – the production is a big improvement – more evenly mixed and featuring a snappy rhythm section and vocalist Philip Bardowell's voice sounds even brighter in the mix, the man is in terrific form. The songs are also exactly what you'd hope for in a sophomore album – equally as catchy but ever more powerful and complex, showing growth as a writer and an artist for Mendonca.
Opening with the fastest and most rocking track I have heard so far from the outfit, I'm Alive signals there is to be no holding back here.
The moody I Feel Divine follows – perfect for Bardowell's voice and is wonderfully produced.
Of course there are comparisons to 70s Foreigner here and Don't Go Now and the anthemic killer ballad Strong Enough are great examples of that and also of N.O.W. at their impactful best.
The anthemic Mary-Ann is a great feel good track that is perfectly balanced by the quality Foreigner-esque ballad Tonight Is The Night.
The title track Bohemian Kingdom is one of the more complex of the album and takes a few listens to absorb, but what a chorus and great tempo.
Leon's Going Soft continues the dramatic passage of the album that concludes with the sweeping Cassie's Dream.
The album closes with the near-8 minute epic No One Can Feel It's Over – a ballad, but with slow and building parts and orchestral backing for good measure. A big ambitious track and I think it fits the mood of the album perfectly.
I think 50 minutes is the perfect length for an album as long as there are no fillers and Bohemian Kingdom certainly doesn't. A Triumphant return for Alec Mendonca and his vocalist partner Philip Bardowell.
|Diamond Dawn Overdrive||Frontiers|
There's a lot of PR around for these guys and they are doing their best to raise their profile with some gigs in their native Sweden. This is yet another example of classic old-school keyboard driven melodic rock/AOR from Scandinavia.|
More catchy songs, more catchy melodies and feel good choruses surrounded by sweet harmonies and the unmistakable feeling that 1988 is just around the corner.
The single Take Me Higher is terrific and the even more uptempo Cryin' carries on the building tempo of the album that slows briefly before going into overdrive for the mid-album sequence of Indestructible, Turn It Up, The Hunter and Give It All. These four tracks are probably the most consistent of the album as far as energy and chorus highs.
The dramatic ballad Don't Walk Away is the sole tearjerker of the album before the album closes with the keyboard-heavy punch of Powergames.
There is some great songs here and Scandi fans will have to pencil this one in for purchase. The only thing I will say is that the band is not yet at the level of fellow Swede's H.E.A.T., Work Of Art, The Magnificent etc.
I think vocalist Alexander Standell needs to work on his tone and accented delivery more while the band cook up some knockout choruses.
|Player Too Many Reasons||Frontiers Records|
Did the world really need a new Player album? Peter Beckett continues to be one of those much respected underground AOR figures, but Ron Moss??|
Well, it's been a long while in-between drinks for the AOR/Westcoast outfit and Too Many Reasons is their first album since the early 80s.
Not a lot has changed, but fans would be expecting that. Beckett is in fine form running the band through 13 new tracks – all co-written, produced and played on by the talented musician. He handles lead vocals on all but 2 of the tracks, leaving partner Moss to provide vocals on 2 tracks and play some bass.
Of interest to AOR pundits is the appearance of Steve Plunkett, co-writing much of the album with Beckett and mixing several tracks.
There are a few fine AOR tunes here – the opening trio of songs all rate highly for different reasons.
The uptempo Man On Fire and the moody Precious rating the highest. Others, like the Moss sung You're My Addiction could have fit onto any Rembrandts record.
Some of the other tracks wander too far into Westcoast pop for my liking.
There are other highlights like the uptempo yet moody To The Extreme and the rousing Life In Colour; yet for each highlight there is a sleepy all-too-slow filler to match (A Part Of Me, The Sins Of Yesterday, Kites) and the completely unnecessary revisiting of that woeful 1978 pop ditty Baby Come Back.
|Sebastian Bach ABachalypse Now||Frontiers Records|
A good value package this, with 2CDs featuring a different Bach concert each disc and a DVD featuring the visuals for those 2 shows and a bonus third show.|
Bach's a great frontman, filled with attitude and a takes the audience by a scruff of the neck approach and fans of his most recent solo album and the Skid Row classics get a mix of both delivered here.
His band kicks ass, especially young guitarist Nick Sterling.
As far as the overall product though – I'm not sure how much of this performance is actually an untouched “live”, performance.
Bach's vocals seem overdubbed at times – especially noticeable on the DVD and the repetition of 3 shows from the same tour throws up 3 very similar set lists and the performances don't vary.
So not really a knock out essential release – more so one for the die-hard Bach fans.
|W.E.T. Rise Up||Frontiers Records|
Jeff Scott Soto, Erik Martensson and Robert Sall, with the help of Eclipse's Robban Bäck and Magnus Henriksson, produce what must be the most anticipated melodic rock album of 2013.|
And naturally enough, they do not disappoint, with some of the finest examples of powerful melodic music this genre can deliver.
I think this release is a little different than your normal debut album sequel scenario.
First, the band has to work up something that will challenge the brilliance of that first album. Secondly the first album was written entirely by Erik Martennson with his writing partner in Sweden and this time vocalist Jeff Scott Soto was always going to be more involved in the writing.
Lastly, the fans got to know what exactly W.E.T. musically stood for on their debut, so and the guys have lost that surprise wow factor.
Therefore they must deliver some cracking songs as well as take the listener forward.
I think the guys have for the most part delivered on those points. There are some songs on Rise Up that are so breathtakingly phenomenal, had the whole album been filled with such, I'd have to rate it 105. But there are a couple of moments where I think they played it safe and not quite every track blows my mind. But, we are talking about W.E.T. here – the very best is expected from them and from the musicianship, production quality and overall melodic joy encountered within this album, they are still head and shoulders above the competition.
Production is immense and the layers of harmonies are even bigger than the debut.
I'd like to single out Jeff Scott Soto for his vocal performance here. The vocals are right on the edge of his (huge) range and they sound so 'in the moment', with emotion as well as power. I'm sure I am hearing some one-take performances here.
Opening the album is scintillating fashion is the Journey-esque brilliance of Walk Away, a song so rich in melodic goodness that it pours from the speakers. This song was to be buried back further in the album, but I campaigned for it to be the opener (over the band's preferred option Bad Boys). I'm so glad it made it here as it is just glorious. It just makes me happy by listening to this.
Then without any break, the album segues straight into another amazing song Learn to Live Again, which is another multi-layered hard rocking anthem of epic proportions, with Erik and Jeff trading vocals at the verse intros. Another song that defines what melodicrock.com is all about. 105/100!
Rise Up is one of three tracks written after the initial album's 12 tracks were completed (yes, there are 3 more songs out there folks!). A grandiose intro and really moody verse promises another classic, and while I love the song again, the chorus perhaps doesn't reach the peaks of the first two tracks. That said – all albums need light and shade and this is a small change of pace.
Love Heals is the first of two big ballads on the album – both thunderously huge in their delivery and emotion. But for me – this is the weaker of the two ballads and is a little more straight forward as far as its structure. Again, I like the verse a little more than the chorus – the JSS vocal is awesome and the mood haunting.
The left-off metal ballad Bigger Than Both Of Us would have been perfect here instead.
What You Want is another WTH moment. No, more like “how the hell” – as in how the hell did anyone write a song so fricken fantastically awesome. Hardly my best example of journalistic writing there, but the song is so intensely brilliant, it's all I could come up with to convey my love of this multi-layered, mid-tempo AOR anthem.
The Moment features another high-octane, uptemo anthem with a killer verse with a very likable chorus. Once again, I probably like the verse and the song structure as a whole better than the short chorus hook – but killer stuff and big riffs and vocals from Erik and company.
Bad Boy – the proposed opening track of the album – is one that I already see has drawn mixed comments from fans. I love the song itself and the heaviness of it. But I'm not a fan of the lyric and that's after I have lived with it for more than 6 months, It was one of the 3 first demos I heard from the initial writing sessions and I wasn't blown away by it then either.
On The Run is a super heavy, hard rocking track with guitars everywhere and a simple ear shattering drum beat. A hard impact verse and equally impressive chorus. Just a monster rocker featuring a huge vocal. Wonderful.
Broken Wings is the track I thought might be cool to close the album with. But here it is and I'm just glad it's on the album anywhere. I love the anthemic guitar riff that kicks it off and the moody verse that follows. And the closing minute or so is trademark Erik Martensson guitar soloing. It's perhaps my favorite 1 minute passage of the whole album. It should have gone longer! The only thing – the riff is so instantly anthemic, I expected the chorus to be even bigger. It wasn't.
Shot is another really hard hitting punchy rock anthem with a dramatic and demanding verse before a more anthemic chorus. Love it.
Still Believe In Us is the pick of the ballads on Rise Up. This is a monster ballad with heart, passion and emotion and probably should have been up first of the two ballads. Extraordinary vocal and big chorus. Melodic perfection.
Instead of a big drawn out conclusion, the album ends with the relatively short, but awesome hard rocker Still Unbroken. Urgent, big chorus, lots of vocals and a big tempo lifter for the close. Another great track (and huge solo) without doubt.
Essential for fans of the debut and all things JSS/Erik related and lovers of fine fine melodic rock with kick.
|Snakecharmer Snakecharmer||Frontiers Records|
Any album featuring one of my favourite vocalists in Chris Ousey (Virginia Wolf, Heartland, The Distance and solo) should not take this much work to appreciate.|
It's taken me way too long to get into this album and I fear many won't have the same patience I have. And I don't think it's going to have lasting staying power like the amazing Ousey solo album from 2011.
At the end of the day, I don't rate it among Chris' best work, even though the pedigree of those involved should almost guarantee is classic status without even hearing it.
Whitesnake's Micky Moody and Neil Murray; Thunder/Magnum drum Harry James; plus British classic rockers Laurie Wisefield and Adam Wakeman are all pedigree players.
But I'm not feeling the warmth of this album I should.
Chris sounds amazing, the production is great, the playing impeccably good…but the songs don't drive this from good to great.
Several songs fall into that dreaded plod-rock syndrome that I hate with a passion – the go nowhere pace that classic rock and metal is too often handicapped with.
Say no more than the opening track My Angel. Terribly slow for an opener. The following track Accident Prone is far far better and a highlight for the album.
To The Rescue features a nice Ousey vocal, but again plods with a pretty crappy chorus. And so it goes. The choruses are weak, but the music and performances are top notch.
Blues driven rock is the order of the day and this release will suit fans of that genre more than lovers of traditional melodic rock.
Turn Of The Screw is a great little boogie rock n roll number and Stand Up also picks up the tempo.
Guilty As Charges is also another one of the better album tracks.
Nothing To Lose is the album's only ballad – an acoustic driven melodic track that I think might just be the best of all the tracks here, with a classic Ousey vocal up front.
Additionally - the songs are just too long for what they deliver. 5 and half or 6 minute plodding blues rockers just don't work when several are featured on the same record.
|Pink Cream 69 Ceremonial||Frontiers Records|
I had absolutely no idea that it had been 6 years since the last Pink Cream 69 album. I guess Dennis Ward and David Readman have still kept their prfiles high with their many other projects and duties that it hadn't seemed like the band had been away at all.|
But they are back – and with them is the trademark sound and style that sounds so immediately at home. Dennis' ultra-smooth production and David's dark and moody vocal tone plus the unquestionable talents of the well-seasoned band lineup are a joy to listen to.
With that all said, it took me quite a few listens to get into the album. I don't think it holds up the quality of the awesome Sonic Dynamite or Electrified releases, rather sitting comfortably alongside their last release In10sity.
For the most part, the album is very consistent and still delivers what you'd expect from the guys. I still find a couple of songs mildly annoying though (another PC69 quirk?) – I'm not too fond of the single Special or the following track Find Your Soul.
But the opening duo of Land Of Confusion and Wasted Years are nothing short of glorious Euro-melodic hard rock.
And the slightly more melodic The Tide is awesome also. The groovy Big Machine is classic PC69 through and through.
Elsewhere Let The Thunder Roll has a strong melodic hook; Right Or Wrong is classy; I Came To Rock is a little cheesy, but, er…”rocks”; and King For One Day is perhaps the most AOR track on the album – very enjoyable.
Superman is an ok mid-tempo rocker to close the album – with a little Van Halen influence in there perhaps.
|Rage Of Angels Dreamworld||Escape Music|
Rage of Angels is the brainchild of original Ten keyboard player Ged Rylands, who played on the band's first three studio albums and the double live CD 'Never Say Goodbye', not to mention the now classic Hugo debut.|
This is an ambitious project recorded over a decade in-between other duties, touring with Tyketto and session work including the debut album from Lover Under Cover.
10 melodic rock songs are featured here – a lot of music and a lot of guests. The album runs 70 minutes which means these songs are all quite lengthy.
Some are too long to be honest. A little editing could have tightened up this album a bit.
But others are over before you are ready – such are the quality of the melodies and I do like some epic tracks in a melodic rock style.
Dreamworld is a keyboard heavy, guitar friendly mid-tempo 7 minute epic featuring the fine voice of Matti Alfonzetti. Definitely the kind of song that you'd hear in the opening stages of an early Ten record.
See You Walking By is simple melodic bliss in a dreamy AOR style sung by Harry Hess that could have easily been lifted from the debut Harem Scarem record. It will be a fan favorite I imagine.
Through It All is a punchy rocker with a blues edge and a wailing guitar effort. Vocalist on hand is Robert Hart, who in this instance sounds a lot like Bob Catley. In fact, the whole song sounds like one from the early Catley solo records.
The single Over And Over features Danny Vaughn on lead vocals and is a happy go lucky simple AOR anthem, which I find very enjoyable.
Falling is another lush keyboard/guitar mix mid-tempo melodic rock song that again could fit onto an early Ten album. This time Ralf Scheepers is on vocals and sounds remarkably like Gary Hughes in the lower register.
The Beating of Your Heart is a long slow ballad with David Reed Watson on vocals and Tommy Denander on guitars. A soaring conclusion makes it a worthwhile inclusion.
Spinning Wheel is an 8 minute rocker that doesn't have the production quality of some other songs and is filled with swirling progressive keyboards and a ton of other effects. Simply put – way too long.
Requiem for the Forgotten Soldier is a 7 minute instrumental featuring some classy guitar work from Ralph Santolla, Martin Kronlud, Vinny Burns and Xander Demos. It's ok. But coupled with the last track which was only 'ok' also, makes for a 15 minute passage within the album that I could give or take (aside from Vinny's brilliant slow solo).
Closing the long album is We Live, We Breathe, We Die again features the great Robert hart on vocals and more classy guitar from Vinny Burns. An intense slow to mid-tempo track, the 9 minute running length takes some getting into.
One for fans of the early Ten and Bob Catley solo records and traditional British AOR/melodic rock.
|Jorn Symphonic||Frontiers Records|
I've been quite critical of Jorn's increasingly predictable output in recent times. So upon hearing he was releasing another “compilation” of solo tracks, I sighed and resigned myself to dish out another “please explain” review.|
Symphonic contains no new music from Jorn – it does include an unreleased Dio cover that didn't make the album of the same name a while back, but the tunes have been remixed to accompany a full orchestral accompaniment.
So, consider me quite surprised when I was nearly blown out of my chair with the power that these arrangements and what the simply stunning symphony orchestra brings to these songs.
From the opening strains of the strings firing up to Jorn's majestic voice blasting through the speakers I was hooked.
The unreleased Dio tune Rock N Roll Children is immense as is the brooding The World I See.
Burn Your Flame is simply manic, Man Of The Road epic and again we hear Jorn roll out Time To be King. This might be its best format yet. Third time lucky?
And how big is Mob Rules? Epic.
However, now that this is done, no more retrospective releases please!
|Edge Heaven Knows||Escape Music|
Edge is yet another Swedish melodic rock outfit, the kind that (sadly) can easily be overlooked as featuring no one of note and delivering music that we really have all heard before. Another faceless melodic rock outfit in a very crowded market. |
That sounds overly harsh, but it's not anything against the band themselves. It is simply the state of the market right now and the sheer volume of music that fans have to digest. And sadly unless you have some kind of selling point, albums like this can very easily be overlooked.
I guess that is where I come in. My position gives me the opportunity to champion younger bands like this and point out to potential fans just what they might be missing.
So while this album appears plain wrapped as far as marketing opportunities go, the fact is they are very good and what they do. And the songs are as strong as just about anything else out there right now. Yes, there is nothing new here, but that's what we want sometimes and there is a quality to this I like.
This is an album equally divided between guitar driven and keyboard lead tunes with a strong vocalist who has a mid-range voice.
Production and mix quality is very good – I think any label could release this and be proud.
They take a few songs to warm up, but once you hit Nowhere To Hide, your ears are starting to take notice. Then the ballad Get Over It hits and you'll be paying attention - a great, melodic and impactful mid-tempo rock ballad.
I Believe In Love is the light and breezy contrast with a strong chorus.
There Is No Other Way puts the band into high gear and gives some fellow Swede's real competition in the melodic rock stakes. And so it continues. Very good stuff all-round.
|Lionville II||Avenue Of Allies Music|
European AOR project Lionville has now morphed into a proper ongoing band and that's exciting to see, as the debut was a great slice of pure Euro-AOR with all the needed elements of a classic old-school release – sweet vocals, harmonies, lots of keyboards and some subtle guitar riffing and soloing to toughen up the sound.|
I'm pleased to report that the second Lionville album sees everything about the debut stepped up another notch or two - better songs, great performances, better production and more consistent overall.
The step up from the debut is much like the same difference between the two Work Of Art albums.
And it's no coincidence that Work Of Art is the main comparison here, as both bands feature the outstanding lead vocals of Lars Safsund. His voice is just made for AOR and I can't get enough of it. And Alessandro Del Vecchio has done a wonderful job of producing and mixing this album, plus contributing with Stefano Lionetti on what can only be described as a saturation of beautifully executed keyboard parts.
Opening the album is the punchy keyboard drenched All We Need with its sugary sweet harmonies.
The Only Way Is Up features perhaps the hardest riff of the album and another smooth chorus.
Another Day is a beauty of a track, with a strong Toto/Seventh One feel to it and a rising chorus.
Higher is almost as sweet – with more blissful AOR that reminds me heavily of Street Talk at their best. Lots of harmonies here and Chicago's Bill Champlin joining in on lead and backing vocals.
No Turning Back is a soft and emotional pure AOR ballad with a Westcoast heart.
All This Time is more uptempo and reminds me of Work Of Art. Another terrific song and picks the tempo up after the ballad.
Next To Me is one of the album's best tracks with a great hook and chorus melody, not to mention the memorable verse.
Waiting For A Star To Fall is perhaps one of the cheesiest songs to ever come out of the late 80s, but Lionville turn it around into pure AOR class with extra guitars and a punch missing from the original.
Don't Walk Away features one of the best vocals of the album, moody through the verse and soaring for the chorus.
One In A Million is pure joyous AOR once again as is Shining Over Me.
Open Your Heart is a more restrained closing track that again reminds me of Goran Edman and Street Talk when tackling breezy Westcoast material.
I would think this would be called a great album by just about anyone's standards.
|Gene The Warewolf Rock N Roll Animal||Frontiers Records|
I'm still not sure what to make of this album. That's as far as personal taste goes and what I think fans of melodic rock in general will think. The reason being is that it's a pretty varied record – with some parts really appealing to me and others a little annoying.|
The band as I see it tries to be everything. Serious rock band, party rockers, modern rock and pop and sometimes all at the same time. Their image clearly signals that they are not taking things seriously and there is no doubt that this is a solid quality rock n roll album – but will it appeal?
The music is all over the show!
Wicked Love is a party anthem; I Only Wanna Rock N Roll is Kiss meets AC/DC; Superhero is modern pop/rock in a Waltham meets The Darkness kinda way, complete with falsetto vocals and an annoying chorus; yet Heart Of Steel takes a similar path, but to me is one of the album's highlights. Strange stuff.
Rock N Roll Animal is back to AC/DC hard riffing; I've Got The Love is more power pop/Kiss 70s rock; Ruffneck Woman is just a fun rock n roller without lasting power; Light Me Up is a more serious rock ballad and is another strong number.
The trio of songs at the end of the album are the good hard rocker Firecracker; the left of center but catchy as hell Give It Up and The Ballad Of Gene – a 70s pomp epic unlike anything else on the album.
|Liberty & Justice The Cigar Chronicles||Indie|
Liberty & Justice continue their upwards trajectory with their most ambitious release to date. The Cigar Chronicles is a 2 disc set of 13 originals and 13 cover tunes. The main focus for me here is the set of original tunes, as I'm so impressed with the result here.|
This is without doubt, the project's best album to date. Founded by songwriter Justin Murr and backed by guitarist/producer JK Northrup and special guests, the new album features the best production yet (by a mile) and some really engaging songs – punchy, hard hitting, contemporary melodic metal/hard rock, all with memorable choruses and some terrific individual performances by the guests assembled.
And JK's guitar work is all over this record – both with attention grabbing solos and hard hitting riffs that drive the songs.
Highlights out of the originals are the heavy anthem Devil His Dues (Derrick LeFevre Vic Rivera, Michael Feighan & Barry Graul; the straight ahead melodic hard rock of The Greatest (David Cagle, Mark Allen Lanoue & Brad Stetler); the powerful rock ballad Under Construction (Eric Dover, Mark Kendall, Ian Keith Hafner & Eric Ragno); the uptempo melodic rocker Been There Done That (Ted Poley & Richard Kendrick) and the melodic rock of Grace (Michael Bormann, Phillip Bardowell & Mark Slaughter).
Then of course there is the last ever Jani Lane fronted track Sin, which is still heartfelt.
Daddy Long Legs (Louis St August & Tim Gaines) is also super catchy and the rock ballad Tomorrow (Terry Ilous, Ron Wikso, Alessandro Del Vecchio & PK Mitchell) is cool too.
Now – the covers. This 'disc' has been mixed by CJ Snare. I'm not so much a fan of these. Sure, JK rocks these songs to a previously unimaginable point, but for the most part, the songs selected should never had had a life to begin with. Included here are some of the worst musical abominations forced upon the ears of the world. Ever.
Ok, so I like I Can't Dance (Stevie Rachelle) and Pride (CJ Snare) and Kip Wiger's Staying Alive is just sublimely brilliant. In fact, it's legendary! And Dancing On The Ceiling (James Christian) is a pretty interesting rocker that doesn't much resemble the original Lionel Richie track at all.
But songs like Ice Ice Baby (Shit Shit Baby!); YMCA; Blame It On The Rain, You're So Vain (Faster Pussycat will never be topped) and Bye Bye Bye should have been crossed off back at the pencil on paper ideas stage.
And the Goo Goo Dolls' classic Iris should never be turned into what Tony Harnell has done with it. Sorry Tony!
Strangely though, I quite like Mmmm Bop redone with Jamie Rowe. It suits him!
|A Perfect Day A Perfect Day||Frontiers Records|
This Italian hard rock/progressive rock outfit is another band that is hardy to definite and review. A Perfect Day is a modern/contemporary sounding band with strong melodic passages of music intertwining itself around the rest of the music, which is largely melodic metal, delivered in an intricately progressive way.|
The songs aren't overly long as one might expect in a project like this, allowing for additional melodies and chorus hooks to present themselves without the lengthy instrumental passages progressive albums sometimes have.
It takes a lot of listening to get into this album. A few quick listens are simply not enough.
The intelligent arrangements and somewhat mellow and moody approach to songwriting are the reasons to be drawn back in. And the album is very well produced and mixed.
Initially my biggest concern was for the lead vocals, which I didn't take to at all. They definitely take some time to get used to as they simply aren't as dominant as they could be. The singer's tone isn't overly melodic, yet the chorus and overall songs can be.
Another album that requires listening prior to purchasing, due to the fact the style won't suit everyone and the lead vocals are a somewhat of an acquired taste. Good for what it is, but maybe not quite so great to make everyone pay attention.
|Y&T Live At The Mystic||Frontiers Records|
21 tracks over 2 CDs celebrating the 30th Anniversary of one of the West Coast's most legendary rock bands. You can't really go wrong can you?|
Recorded at the iconic Mystic Theater in San Francisco in November 2011, and covering material from most of their career, this Y&T set is a pretty much essential purchase for fans of the band.
The recording is a tad rough – but that's how I like my live recordings. No BS or overdubs here – just the raw live performance warts and all.
Y&T are such a seasoned band, so there isn't much in the way of warts. But there's plenty of loud rock n roll and it's all been captured in a pretty good way, allowing for the volume to be cranked high like it should be.
|Asia Resonance||Frontiers Records|
Another Asia album means another Asia live album. So this is it. And this time it comes as a 2CD/1DVD set, so nice little bit of value there for Asia fans – who are going to be the only ones interested in this affair.|
But be aware this release is from the 2010 Omega tour, not the current XXX tour, so I guess we have yet another live album still to come! To be honest…it sounds great and the audio is well recorded and I have no doubt that this will sell a bunch.
But to these ears the band are going through the motions and one look at the DVD reveals a band glued to their spots and a highly unmoving crowd that looked as if they were there to watch a concerto, not a rock concert.
And the Omega album was pretty disappointing for me, the energy just wasn't there. But without the visual distractions, the music sounds smooth and these 4 guys are truly great musicians.
All the hits are here as usual, interspersed with three tracks from the Omega album. Good value but hardly essential.
|Black Country Communion Afterglow||Eagle|
This album really should get a more detailed review, as it is arguably the band's best of their 3 records to date. But time marches on…|
The best aspect of this record is the cohesiveness of the material. So full credit must go to Glenn Hughes for that, as he was the sole writer this time around. He brings his A-Game here, with a record that sounds like a mix of Led Zeppelin, 70s Deep Purple and his own solo sound – most closely resembling the awesome Addiction record – all with a monster groove.
That groove comes from Glenn and also drummer Jason Bonham, who is all over this record again with his relentless time keeping. I really do think he's one of the best drummers in rock n roll.
The album is more uptempo across the whole record this time too, plus Glenn really sings his absolute heart out.
And the guitar work of Joe Bonamassa is a revelation as always. Derek Sherinian gets plenty of time to prove that he is the next generation Jon Lord.
Honestly – these are just four of the best rock musicians on the planet and together they just create beautiful music. They may not be a chorus band, but they make up for the lack of traditional anthems with true rock n roll groove.
And my feet simply don't stop moving from the start to the finish of this album.
Song highlight are obviously plentiful, but my favourites are the absolute groove of Midnight Sun, the frantic Confessor, the blues Bonamassa co-sung Cry Freedom, and the arty Zeppelinish Afterglow and the closing 70s Zep Fest of Crawl.
Just tremendous record all-round and utterly essential for fans of the 4 guys involved and the past two records together. Hughes fans will delight in his larger role on this record and are rewarded in spades. There has to be more BCC music. There will be. They are the most authentic rock band on the planet right now.
|Yngwie Malmsteen Spellbound|
Yngwie, Yngwie, Yngwie, Yngwie. When will you learn old boy! Spend a penny (unfortunately that's what this album sounds like, and yes, I do mean the old colloquial phrase) and hire a bloody producer! And a mixer! And a singer! And a freeking drummer!|
Holy crap, if there ever was an example of an album featuring an oversupply of over-indulgence and over-confidence, this is it.
The reality is though that coming off the back of a series of albums that haven't set the world on fire (another thing you could do with this record), something this bad surely has to be a career killer.
This is the end of the line for Yngwie Malmsteen as we know it. And that's the only good thing about this record.
I don't want to be unnecessarily mean to Yngwie. I've always appreciated the guy's talents and I actually like his shredfest playing a lot of the time. I also like his guitar tone. And I think Odyssey with JLT and the albums with JSS are brilliant. But that was a long time ago.
In recent times we had the awful War To End All Wars and Relentless and now this. How many stinkers is one artist allowed to deliver?
Yngwie – you cannot produce or mix music. Stop the madness!
This largely instrumental shredgasm affair cannot be judged on its merits as the sound is simply so bad, you can't bare to listen to the whole album in one sitting. It simply hurts my ears. It sounds more hollow that Paris Hilton's head.
The guitar playing is there, but it sounds like the guitar is plugged directly into ProTools without any kind of quality testing.
Then there is the fake drums that are almost impossible to hear (thank God I guess). Rick Springfield demoed his Working Class Dog album by playing drums on a pillow in his lounge room and still that sounds better than this.
Then there is the horrendous mix. You can hear guitar obviously, but the rest is just a mush of noise. Drums and bass just sound like droning WWII plane engines.
Then there is the singing. My God! Pavarotti he is not. Thankfully the mix is so bad, the out of tune mumbling can hardly be heard, but it is something I won't forget in a hurry. And it's only on 3 tracks (too many).
I have no idea who Yngwie listens to – but if he ever reads this review – call me! He seriously needs someone to stand up to him and say “Sir, this is just shit.”
He needs A&R control, a proper band and a real actual producer. Nothing short of joining a proper band, or hiring Joe Lynn Turner and taking time to make sure he records the best album possible is going to save his career from oblivion.
Yngwie – you're fired!
|Bon Jovi Inside Out||iTunes|
Bon Jovi come out of nowhere and release their first exclusive to digital release – a live compilation album recorded over the past few tours and featuring an even mix of new tracks and old classics. Awesome to hear Blood On Blood for example and Keep The Faith is also fabulous, even if Jon Bon Jovi is phoning it in from his backstage lounge.|
The band is as tight as a piranha's jaw and can be seen to be on auto-pilot, but you can't fault the songs they have delivered over the years or their ability to still crank it out to an ever enthusiastic crowd.
It's My Life and Have A Nice Day kick ass and I'll Be There For You and Wanted Dead Or Alive still send a shiver up my spine. Like them once, still like them, never liked them….respect must be paid to Bon Jovi for lasting the distance, even when serving up the odd turkey instead of a golden egg.
This is a nice compilation of tunes featuring enthusiastic audiences. Shame they cut the crowd noise in and out between tracks though. Hate that.
|FM Only Foolin' EP||Riff City|
You won't find too many EPs that run this length. This is another essential purchase for fans of FM and British AOR in general. The two new songs are cracking good stuff, especially the very appealing Rainbow's End.|
Then there is a marvelous FM-ized cover of Ozzy's Shot In The Dark, which really actually harks back to Wildlife, the band vocalist Steve Overland was in with bassist Phil Soussan. The song was demoed at the time and played live, but when Soussan took it to Ozzy, he left off the Overland co-writing credit. So they are really covering themselves right?
Anyway…the EP also adds no less than 5 lengthy, perfectly recorded live tracks from the last tour. And man, does the band sound fantastic on these. I really needed reminding what a killer live act these guys are.
And rounding off the long EP is an 8 minute Extended Version of the single Only Foolin' – I miss these kind of things.
Go get it! Simple…
|Sapphire Eyes Sapphire Eyes||Avenue Of Allies|
Sapphrie Eyes is the new project (from Sweden of course) featuring Alyson Avenue's Niclas Olsson, pairing this time with vocalist Thomas Bursell (who sings on all but 3 tracks), who Niclas worked with on Second Heat some time back.|
As with everything that Niclas has been involved with, this is another classy set of melodic rock/straight ahead Scandi-AOR tunes.
This is the sweet and sugary stuff AOR purists eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I must say that it might just be the best work that Niclas has been involved with yet.
You just won't find better than the brilliant You're My Wings (Mikael Erlandsson on vocals) and I Want You To See Me and the raspy, tougher Only Feel Love.
The monster ballad Can't Find The Word sees Erlandsson going to the edge of his range to great passionate effect; while Cloudscape's Mike Andersson takes over lead for the mid-tempo melodic rocker A Man The World Can Do Without.
The synth heavy Lay Down My Arms closes the album with a moody edge.
It's perfect Last Autumn's Dream/Alyson Avenue hybrid and one that fans of Scandi AOR should immediately investigate. Another very worthy traditional style melodic rock release from the groovy Avenue Of Allies label.
|Wheels Of Fire Up For Anything||Avenue Of Allies|
Two and a half years after their debut album Hollywood Rocks, Italian rockers Wheels Of Fire return with their second record Up For Anything. The band has learned and grown from their debut, playing a lot of live shows and clearly getting a better handle on what it takes to create better records in the studio.|
Because on Up For Anything, the band improve upon just about every aspect of the debut. The Bon Jovi friendly rockers use the same approach as the debut – uptempo, feel good melodic hard rock with an anthemic feel – but they add better sound and performances and better songs. This is just good commercial 80s influenced hard rock with a European touch.
There isn't anything here that stands out as unique, but it is nevertheless a fun listen and will definitely find some fans – Johnny Lima, Bon Jovi, Firehouse and the like.
|Danger Zone Undying||Avenue Of Allies|
Italy is fast becoming the new hot bed for emerging melodic rock bands. The latest is Danger Zone, who with their second album in hand, are ready to rock your world with an old-school 80s hard rock sound. The guys mix up a little bluesy rock with some straight forward American style hard rock, with a raspy singer that sounds a little like Paul Shortino.|
The album sounds quite impressive sonically and there's a good dose of harmony vocals throughout. The raspy, gravelly vocals with the slight Italian accent might be a bit to get used to, but the quality of the songs makes up for any issue there.
The best thing on offer here is some big crunchy guitar parts and some energetic songs. Fans of European hard rock with an American edge and gravelly, yet appealing lead vocals, should check this out.
It's very good for what it is.
|F.E.A.S.T. Strong, Wild and Free||Avenue Of Allies|
Avenue Of Allies have been feasting (sorry!) on a slew of great releases in this, the back end of 2012. A number of them are sophomore releases from their artists – F.E.A.S.T. being yet another. Like their label counterparts, this Italian melodic hard rock outfit have also stepped up their game and delivered an album that tops their debut.|
This is an energetic old-school hard rock release in the vein of Whitesnake, Dokken and maybe Ratt, with a raspy higher pitch vocal that also brings in some AC/DC comparisons. This is a guitar record. Lots of guitar! And lots of riffing on that guitar. But it also features a solid rhythm section, very solid production and most importantly some catchy material.
For fans of honest, no bullshit hard rock with a slight European flavor – check these guys out.
|Sven Larsson Bad Mad Man||Aveue Of Allies|
Street Talk guitarist Sven Larsson is back with solo album number two. He's been busy contributing to other AoA releases such as Lionville, Sapphire Eyes and Coastland Ride. Here he gets to shine on his own, with some polished melodic rock/AOR tunes.|
The opening track features Sven on vocals himself – the very impressive Dance The Night Away is pure Westcoast AOR. Sin City features Street Talk vocalist Goran Edman in his usual fine form – same too with the 7 minute prog-friendly mid-album track Missing Link.
Thomas Eriksson features on the impressive prog-AOR track Missing Link, which is another album highlight.
The second half of the album sees the heavier tone abandoned for a softer, more laid back Westcoast set of songs which for me aren't as captivating as the first 6 songs. The album is more or less split into two personalities.
But there is no denying the talent of Larsson, nor the quality of the production here.
Two instrumentals will appeal to fans of Steve Lukather and his style of letting the guitar do the talking.
|Jimi Jamison Live At Firefest||Firefest|
Jimi's already scored a perfect 100 for his new studio album, so as if to back up the fact that he remains one of the scene's best ever vocalists, comes this live album from Firefest 2010.|
Backed by members of H.E.A.T. and guitarist Tommy Denander, Jimi ripped through one of the best sounding sets of Firefest history, filled with classic songs from Survivor and his own solo career.
I give Tommy Denander a hard time sometimes for his repetitive guitar sound, but here he sounds absolutely fabulous. The guitar work is terrific and the soloing more impressive and looser than you hear on his records and the energy in which the band delivers these songs largely comes from the way Tommy attacks these songs.
Caught In The Game and It's The Singer Not The Song take the crowd from zero to a hundred before the melodic anthems High On You and Is This Love give the crowd time to sing along.
The guitar intro to Didn't Know It Was Love was the only moment I wondered what Tommy was playing, but once the song cranked in, it was glorious.
I love the fact Jimi throws in the song A Dream Too Far from the Empires record and backs that up with the then new solo classic Crossroads Moment. Brilliant stuff.
If that all isn't enough, the last quarter of the set features the all-out melodic rock bliss of Rebel Son, Burning Heart, Eye Of The Tiger and Jimi's solo hit I'm Always There.
The mix is brilliant, the rhythm section is pounding, the keyboards are right up there clear and fresh and Tommy just plays all over these songs.
Not only is this set one of the best ever Firefest has seen, it's made one of the best live albums in a long long time. I just can't recommend this enough.
PS. There is an accompanying DVD. Get them both!
|Kane Roberts Unsung Radio||Unsung Records|
This neat little Kane Roberts Firefest release comprises of 2CDs featuring music from the various sessions that would become the Phoenix Down record. The first disc is the actual Phoenix Down project recorded for Now & Then Music in 1999.|
The album was well received at the time and it features a few absolute cracking melodic rock anthems. I think the production at the time was good, but it now sounds a little below par due to the improvements in many productions since and the fact we are now used to and expect grade A sound every time.
Some great songs though, none better than the manic Reckless and Love Gone Wrong (written with Jim Peterik).
The interesting part of this set for collectors is Disc 2 – unreleased demos from the time – including three more co-writes with Jim Peterik. Blue Highway in particular standing out as a winner. Some good unheard tunes here and a must have for fans of Kane Roberts.
The quality is great too. Very good sound for demos. Kane adds vocal commentary in-between many of the tracks, which is always good to hear, the only thing I would say here is that there is nowhere within the nice booklet or cover that shows what track numbers songs are on Disc 2, so it's a bit hit and miss to find certain songs among the commentary.
Who would turn down 11 unreleased Kane Roberts tracks? Go get it!
|Pete Lesperance Fade Into Stars||Indie|
This should also be given a bigger review, but it one sense, not that much room is needed to describe this new solo album from the great Harem Scarem guitarist. This album is not Pete's usual fare, nor anything close to the melodic rock of Harem Scarem. So some may be disappointed. But Pete has made no secret of his direction here, so fans that follow Pete were well aware this was to be a change of pace.|
What it is, is a laid back, stripped back pop orientated singer/songwriter album, with acoustic guitar and piano taking a more prominent role. The style established, it won't be for everyone at all. But to those that like a dose of contemporary, mellower singer/songwriter material, Pete hits the spot.
His voice has a great tone as always and the songs – while taking a little more time to grow perhaps – do have strong appeal. For fans of Rubber-lite.
|Eric Martin Mr. Rock Vocalist||Sony Japan|
Mr. Rock Vocalist is the latest installment of the Eric Martin invasion of Japan series. The singer is bigger than Elvis there and his Mr. Vocalist series (1, 2 & 3 + Christmas and Live releases) can now be added to with Mr. Rock Vocalist (Volume 1, no doubt).|
This is a little different to the Mr. Vocalist series as it features a full rock band belting out some great tunes with that unmistakable voice up front. I don't have any credits, so I have no idea who the band is, but they sound great and the production is modern, crunchy and in your face.
The material is the same as the other Vocalist releases – contemporary Japanese pop/rock songs, converted (sometimes from Japanese lyrics) for Eric to sing – more in his solo vein.
The style is a little pop/punkish, hard rocking mostly, but also straight forward melodic rock in places. I wasn't familiar with any of these tunes previously, so it sounds like a fresh hard rock album in the vein of Eric's Destroy All Monsters solo release.
Not all of it flows from track to track as a 'normal' solo album might – this feels more like the compilation of songs it is. But it rocks and Eric sounds great, so I guess that makes it another must have for fans.
No sign of a release outside of Japan at this stage though.
|Mr. Big Raw Like Sushi 100||Victor Entertainment|
Raw Like Sushi 100 – the special box set double disc live release from Mr. Big costs a packet, but is worth every cent. The live performance on this album is just awesome. The production is raw and in your face as the band charts through their whole career (except the Kotzen albums), celebrating their 100th show in Japan.|
The set list is stunning, with all albums featured and a stack of tracks from the What If… album included. They all sound brilliant and the band is simply on fire. The interplay between Sheehan and Torpey and Gilbert is something to behold and there is just something about listening to these guys play live together that totally does it for me.
It's now out of print – but there is now a 2CD only set in HQCD that is cheaper to buy and still in print. This needs to be purchased Mr. Big fans. You need this! The Box Set contains the DVD from the event too. The guys are simply the tightest band on the planet.
|Various Artists Addicted To Mr. Big (Tribute)||Nat Team Media|
Those folks in Spain like Mr. Big too! So much so that they went and made a tribute album to them. Addicted To Mr. Big features a bunch of bands no one has ever heard of (outside of Spain at least) and one we have heard of – Guru. |
Love those guys, and they tackle two songs on this 11 track tribute.
And the 2 best songs at that – they rip through Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy and Addicted To That Rush. And they sound killer doing it!
But that's about the only reason for general rock fans to buy this. Elsewhere is very much a hit and miss affair though. Mainly miss. You've got varying production quality, varying performance quality and a few very heavy accents going on too, but at the end of the day, none of the actual songs suck as they are all classics, right?
Er…well, Malos Tragos do try and kill To Be With You with their frenetic punked up “interpretation” of the ballad and they unfortunately appear again killing Green Tinted Sixties Mind also. I could do without ever hearing those covers again.
Junts (?) do a pretty decent version of Shine (even in production is horrible); Just Take My Heart gets a female symphonic take; Colorado Bulldog gets whipped within an inch of its life by growling metal band; Wild World sounds as genuinely Spanish as the Inquisition itself; Lucky This Time is pretty straight forward and the singer sounds as if his life depends on getting it right; the band Litus have an attempt to get To Be With You right; and Little Too Loose by Victor Estevez is stripped back to a swampy acoustic blues number.
Very varied and very iffy overall. It will take a true die-hard Mr. Big fan to appreciate this set. The Guru tracks save the day (and my ears).
|Trail Of Murder Shades Of Art||Metal Heaven|
Trail Of Murder is a new Swedish melodic metal outfit that features the welcome return of vocalist Urban Breed, together with guitarist Daniel Olsson, drummer Pelle Åkerlind (Bloodbound). This debut album is an impressive affair for fans of melodic metal or tougher hard rock, especially those that have followed Urban Breed through Tad Morose and Bloodbound.|
There's a lot of attention paid to the songs here, which are tough, moody rockers, but all with hooks to remember. There are some really good songs here – very melodic despite the heaviness of the music. Stand outs include Shades Of Art, Lady Don't Answer, Carnivore, I Know Shadows and the brilliant heavy anthem Not For The Faint Of Heart.
One of the best heavy (yet melodic) albums I've heard this year. Fans of Urban Breed and Bloodbound and European melodic metal need to check this out.
|Delta Goodrem Child Of The Universe||Sony Australia|
The Aussie songstress that folks were beginning to doubt roars back with one of the very best female fronted pop albums I've heard in years. There isn't much rocking going on here, but it is perfectly produced modern pop/power pop with some simply stunning songs.|
With a recent break up behind her, these songs are incredibly personal and at times, bitingly emotional. And the thing that makes this album so appealing is the almost impossibly good vocals. They are stunning to the point of being breathtaking. Her range is insane.
Highlights are plentiful. There is the opening rock anthem Child Of The Universe; the channeling of Stevie Nicks on the moody Touch; the haunting piano ballad perfection of Wish You Were Here; the Kelly Clarkson inspired Knocked Out and the absolutely brilliant feel good Standing On Top Of The World.
Then there is the gut wrenching piano/vocal only of I'm Not Ready, which will rip your heart out with unworldly vocals that haunt you long after the song has finished. One of the best pure ballads I have ever heard. That's followed by the Kate Bush like angst filled uptempo pop/rock song Hunters And The Wolves. And that's just the first 7 tracks. Phew.
Fans of female fronted melodic music and contemporary pop needs to find this album whatever you do. The special edition comes with a bonus disc of acoustic versions. Just awesome.
|Docker's Guild The Mystic Technocracy - Season 1||Lion Music|
Its taken me forever to review this album – mainly because I simply didn't know what to do with it. It's one of the more eclectic prog rock releases I've covered here, so now I must attempt to review it. Basically it is 80 minutes of unconventional epic classic rock, progged up to within an inch of its life. And this is only part one of five!!|
Over to the bio: “Docker's Guild is the solo effort of Douglas R. Docker, who put his talent and writing skill into The Mystic Technocracy, an opera which unfolds over 5 seasons. The first season, called “Season I: The Age of Ignorance”, sees the participation of worldwide acclaimed musicians like Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth / Joe Satriani), Magnus Jacobson (Miss Behavior), Tony Franklin (Blue Murder), Guthrie Govan (Asia), Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), John Payne (Asia), Göran Edman (ex Yngwie Malmsteen, Karmakanic), Amanda Somerville (Avantasia / Epica), Tony Mills (TNT/ Shy) and many others…”
This album is really quite amazing. But it takes a lot of time to get into it and to understand it. Both John Payne and Tony Mills deliver some great vocals and the music, while challenging, can be quite catchy too. Eventually!
Fans of Yes, ELP, Dream Theater and Genesis will find interest here. There are some truly confusing moments within the album, but then there are passages of just pure melodic brilliance (such as track 6 Judeo-Christian Cosmogony. Catchy title eh?)
The album is exactly what it says on the tin – “lives on its own sounds which is a very personal mixture of progressive roots played and crafted by mainly AOR musicians.”
The songwriting and vocal arrangements have also been inspired by melodic rock and AOR acts, mostly Asia and Journey. There is a distinct 80s feel to many tracks too.
Tracks range from 2 to 11 minutes in length.
There is so much to listen to here that I was initially gun shy about sitting through multiple listens, but once I did, I was suitable rewarded. For those that like it quirky, but melodic.
|Adrenaline Mob Omerta||Elm City Music|
Shame on me for not reviewing one of the year's best metal albums before now. It is one title that simply fell through the cracks. This is another one of those tough, uncompromising types of records that just blasts energy from the start to the finish.|
Vocalist Russell Allen sounds menacing and fierce throughout and drummer Mike Portnoy makes up for his disappointing departure from Dream Theater with a powerhouse performance of non-stop rhythm.
This is a super heavy album and it barely stops to take a breath. Allen uses his “gruff” voice here – he's in full metal mode as opposed to the smoother vocal used on the Allen/Lande records.
The band's cover of Duran Duran's Come Undone is quite inspired too. It's one of those moments where you sit up and go, sure….this works! Who would have thought?
Overall, a truly solid, uncompromising melodic metal record.
|Rival Sons Head Down||Earache Records Ltd |
This one of those releases that folks will either love or hate due to the direction of the material. As a reviewer, I have to keep an open mind for all styles, even when they aren't necessarily my day to day listening choice. Rival Sons is one such release. I'm not usually a retro rockhead. I'm a 80s kid primarily. But this is so good – it might just convert me – temporarily at least!|
Rival Sons send me so deep into the 70s that a psychedelic, doobie smoking, rainbow colored donkey with flared pants and an afro could walk by and it wouldn't seem out of place. This is boogie rock n roll country with heavy Bad Company, Free, Led Zep influences throughout.
The vocals are clear and appealing in that Paul Rodgers, Wolfmother style and the production and associated retro effects and occasional distortion is so authentic, it sounds like it was recorded on Haight & Asbury in 1973.
The songs are really appealing for the style and if the above descriptions bring curiosity, then check this out. It's one of the better retro albums I've heard.
|Gypsy Rose Poisoned By Love||FNA Records|
Yes, this is the same Gypsy Rose, whose debut album Prey found itself a fan base at the turn of a decade 20 years back. This is an archive release – as FNA Records do so well – with a couple of new versions of classic songs (Poisoned By Love and Don't Turn Your Back On Me Now) plus two brand new original mixes of those 2 tracks and a host of other unreleased tracks that fans of the band will appreciate.|
Sonically speaking, the quality is very up and down – some great and a couple that are barely listenable (but clearly great songs). Fallin' is a classic in the making – shame it sounds so horrible here.
And there is 2 new solo tracks from vocalist Michael Ross included which show another side to the singer. An interesting addition to the band's known recordings and one for fans of that debut to check out for sure.
|Creature To Boldly Sleaze||FNA Records|
Creature were being driven by famed Kiss manager Bill Aucoin during the 80s, so it's no surprise to see a heavy influence from the kings of glam in these songs. Add in some Slaughter and Faster Pussycat and early 80s Crue and you might get an idea what the screechy lead vocal style Creature are all about.|
This is high energy, in your face glam hard rock with a typically early-mid 80s sound and production values to match. And the high pitch vocals are a matter of taste.
Another archive release – but one that fans of this era might find some enjoyment from. There's definitely a few fillers here and the sound is pretty thin, but if the idea of a band having an oversized Sleaze-O-Matic machine on stage in which “a pure, virginal school girl stepped into the machine where the dial was cranked to ten, and a rock-n-roll slutty metal chick stepped out”…then check this out!
|Kidd Blue Big Trouble (Expanded)||FNA Records|
This is an expanded edition of an archive release for US rockers Kidd Blue. This release adds six more never-before-released tracks to the Big Trouble album.|
First to the original album – a collection of unreleased, but professionally recorded demos that were tracked in the mid-late 80s. The band really had it going on back in the day and were unlucky not to have been picked up alongside the likes of Warrant, Ratt and Bon Jovi. These are demos, so the sound is a little hollow and thin, but it is still good enough to crank and enjoy and FNA did a cool job of remastering the material.
Some good songs here for collectors of the American “hair” scene from the 80s.
The additional 6 tracks are a further step back in production quality – but not in song strength. Would like to have heard all these in official label release quality.
Another one for fans of 80s archives to check out.
|Tragic Romance Hollywood Daze||FNA Records|
Formed in late 1987 in Los Angeles, Tragic Romance was a bruising yet soaring powerhouse that rocked both the Sunset Strip and the coolest and darkest underground clubs LA had to offer. The band swapped their glam-ish look and style for a darker sound in the early 90s but never got off the ground despite fan and critical acclaim in their native city.|
You've got two brand new tracks here – which is always a nice addition. Little Miss Innocent and Shameless are both pretty good uptempo 80s sounding glam rock tunes. The rest of the tunes are quite varied from glam/hard rock to semi-experimental early 90s alt-rock – showcasing the band in transition. Those songs are however not another attempt at a grunge-cash in. They are just quirky.
It kinda reminds me of Bang Tango in places. The recordings aren't quite as solid as other FNA releases, but it certainly has its place in the annals of rock history.
|The Godz Mongolians||FNA Records|
Crunching guitars, raspy vocals and in your face American rock n roll. That sums up The Godz, a band that has been going since the 70s and has influences from other such icons of that era – ZZ Top, Kiss and the like.|
This 10 track “archive” release is composed of 7 tracks from the import-only album I'll Get You Rockin' (released only in Europe) and includes three new tracks (Criminal Minds, Mongolians, Burning Bridges). The original Mongolians release came out in 1987.
So you know what you are getting folks – a high energy mix of 70s and 80s American rock that takes no prisoners.
The material has aged yes, but it's not nearly as dated as some other material of that era and the 3 brand new tracks are as authentic as the rest of the bands material.
|David A Saylor City Of Angels||AOR Boulevard Records|
David A Saylor - one man AOR machine. Yes, everything on this release is played, written and produced by the man himself. That means a fair slice of programming and no real emphasis on any one instrument – besides his voice of course.|
Thankfully his voice does make up for the lack of real drums, it's a pretty likable pure AOR voice – deeper perhaps than what is the norm. I'm thinking John Parr-lite.
David once fronted Push UK and works as an acclaimed vocalist in Spanish speaking territories. This album is a very soft and sweet pure British AOR release.
There is a few covers amongst the originals. Hands To Heaven is very familiar yet I can't recall where from (great ballad); Inside Love is a crunchier melodic rocker and I Don't Want To Wait Anymore is a cover of the Tubes' ballad.
In-between these are some very good songs, albeit very very laid back.
At 40 minutes in length, it's about just right. Any longer and it might have dragged due to the slower tempo.
|Cannon Burning Love|
This is a traditional old school metal album with double kick drum rhythm throughout and a raspy screechy vocalist doing his best to sound like singing.|
It's ok, but doesn't do a lot for me, despite the inclusion of some big guitar moments and some crunching 'eavy metal moments.
Production is passable – nothing outstanding – but decent enough.
Songs – much the same. It's very much a take it or leave it release for me and I would think many others also.
|Fraze Gang 2||Indie|
Brighton Rock's Greg Fraser is the man behind the band – fronting the band and playing guitars, not to mention producing the album. And for the betterment of the tunes, Beau Hill handled the mixing and mastering.|
So it's a solid, tight melodic hard rock record on offer here. Brighton Rock fans will definitely find a lot to like, even with the deeper, less seasoned vocals of Fraser up front.
This reminds me of other guitarists turned frontmen albums like the cool Paul Dean release and the Steve Jones solo album Mercy.
Guitars definitely rule the day and the album has a contemporary vibe, with some crunching guitars proving to be the album's driving force. It's a no nonsense release – think AC/DC kind of attitude.
|Fatal Smile 21st Century Freaks||FS Records/GMR|
Gruff, brash, take no prisoners, in your face….you name it – Sweden's glam/sleaze/metal kings take control from the first note and don't let go for nearly 50 minutes.|
Welcome To The Freakshow is a pretty apt title. The band play an uncompromising style of Euro-metal crossed with Shotgun Messiah, Motley Crue on speed, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath…you get the idea.
It's not for everybody as this album (the band) is pretty different, but that said, you won't find a better sounding record in this genre – the sound is huge and it really bursts through the speakers, grabs you by the neck and beats you senseless.
For those that like it louder than loud and bigger than big.
|Jackyl Best In Show|
Best In Show says the title on the cover. Not likely. This isn't even the worst in show. This wouldn't even get on the “show” short list. Jackyl were a pretty decent band back in their day, with the raspy screams of singer Jesse Dupree. I heard someone describe this as the best album since their debut. Sorry, I can't understand that at all. It sounds out of date and out of step with what other bands of that era are delivering today. |
This sounds rough and under produced and I can't say any other songs really stayed with me past the listening time of the album. The brazen sleazy lyrics have dated badly and the voice of Dupree has seen better says if this is anything to go by.
Jackyl die-hards only.
|The Order 1986||Massacre Records|
1986 is the name of the fourth album from Swiss rockers The Order. The fact that I've been here 15 years and have missed their prior 3 albums probably doesn't bode well. |
They are signed to Massacre Records, but I haven't seen any promo or push for this album at all. And while they guys are clearly basing their music and attitude back in 1986, sales of this album won't match what could have been 20 years ago.
Sales probably won't match expectations now even, as there isn't much here to gain traction in an overcrowded market place.
The band's hard edge guitar riffing style is straight out of the Dokken, Motley Crue and Van Hagar playbook, except this is more a little league album, not good enough for the major leagues.
The production is ok, but the singer isn't the most appealing and we've heard everything here before.
Long Live Rock N Roll they sing. Indeed, but it isn't likely to live on through these guys.
|Andy Rock Into The Night||AOR Heaven|
Greek guitarist Andy Rock (of Wild Rose) sets out on his solo debut to deliver an album of softer pure AOR instead of the Bon Jovi style rock of Wild Rose. This is all very nice and such and Andy has an ok voice. But the main problem here is that it has all been done 10,000 times before and done better at that.|
Really, there is nothing wrong with the album at all, but it's very familiar and I simply don't think the market place has enough room for albums that don't stand out or offer something a little special, otherwise they just get lost in the crowd.
Plenty of fluffy keyboards here and some soft tone guitars. The vocals are ok – not great – and the material doesn't surprise at all.
Nothing wrong with it at all, just nothing new on offer.
|Flying Colors Flying Colors|
Quite a few musicians asked me what I thoughts of this album – as they all love it. And that's the best description I can give here. This is a true musicians album. With the brilliance of the guys involved (Neal Morse, Steve Morse, Portnoy, Dave Larue and Casey McPherson), there is no question about how great the performances are here, nor how fabulous the sound/production is.|
It's truly a work of art.
But appeal will certainly be something else. The musical style is all over the shop – from progressive hard rock, to classic rock to introspective ballads to acoustic to extended jams…to just plain, er, well “different”.
This no not an easy album to get to know, but there is no way to measure how cool it is to sit back and just absorb talented musicians doing what they do best and playing off each other.
So without any further deep analysis, I'll just say that if you like to hear the best of the best doing what they do best – all wrapped up into a very diverse range of rock influenced styles…..check this out if you haven't already.
|Fatal Force Unholy Rites||Metal Heaven|
Metal Heaven wisely picked this up for retail distribution after it was initially offered for digital sale. |
This melodic metal album is the brainchild of Torben Enevoldsen, who has enlisted the vocal talents of Michael Vescera to handle the intensity of this album's material.
Well produced and well mixed, plus with the established voice of Vescera in control, the second Fatal Force album is definitely one for metal fans to check out. It's not too heavy and harmony vocals add some additional melodies to the chorus and verse hooks.
|John Parr The Mission||Indie|
The Mission is JP's new studio album and I think probably an essential purchase for fans of the British singer. Mixing it up between melodic rock anthems and soft acoustic numbers, John sounds in great voice and rips through some great tracks.|
The only problem is the stop/start nature of the material – swapping in and out of acoustic mode, the album doesn't always flow as well as it could.
The album varies quite a bit in production quality too – this sounds like it was recorded over several studios/variants in conditions.
But there is definitely something about Parr's voice that I have always loved and it's nice to hear a number of full band/uptempo numbers on here, even if the acoustic driven tracks could have been cut back by one or two.
No complaints about lyrical depth though – many songs here take on the subject of troops at war and paying tribute to them. A very worthy subject.
Recommended for Parr fans. His best in a while.
|Richie Sambora Aftermath Of The Lowdown||Dangerbird|
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora finally releases a third solo album after two acclaimed previous releases, his last one being as far back as 1998. Obviously the guitarist has been kept busy in Bon Jovi, but as some fans question that band's ability to rock, many have been anticipating this solo album as an answer to that problem. This is a complex record.|
It is complex because it doesn't reach the highs expected of it…and it also features some strange production choices and due to the diversity within, the sequencing of tracks makes for a very chop and change flow.
But at the same time, there are a few absolute classics that only Richie could deliver with his passionate vocals and very personal songs.
I really love some parts of this record and merely accept some other parts. This is after rating Richie's 1991 debut Stranger In This Town as one of the great mood albums of the 90s.
It is an album best tackled track by track.
Opening with the expected swagger of guitars, Burn the Candle Down has all the hall marks of a great Sambora rock track, but is nearly destroyed by the completely unnecessary use of distorted and effects driven vocals. A very strange decision in my mind.
The feel good redemption themed anthem Every Road Leads Home to You is an instant classic for me and what I expected more of in this album. Sadly it's the only track like it.
Taking A Chance On The Wind has energy, but the rootsy blues rocker doesn't fit into this position in the album. I would have relegated it further back.
Nowadays sees Richie try out his forth style in four tracks. No wonder this album was hard to get my head around initially. The modern pop-punky style of this fat rocker also features some distorted vocals and isn't a natural fit for Sambora's style.
Weathering the Storm is a slow blues ballad with a good chorus and is a likable song; I just feel it loses some impact due to Taking A Chance On The Wind being a similar vibe.
Sugar Daddy is yet another sharp left turn and this one is down the wrong road. Who wants to hear Richie doing peach-fuzz psychedelic 60s music with distorted vocals? The actual base song itself is ok – but the choice of direction and production is puzzling. It could have been a great straight ahead rocker. And what's with all this vocal distortion and effects? Richie has one of the most soulful voices in rock n roll and it kills me to hear it buried beneath all this crap.
The soft acoustic ballad I'll Always Walk Beside You finally features a stark and honest, raw lead vocal and the listener is rewarded.
The modern rock ballad Seven Years Gone is another classic Sambora ballad with another killer vocal. But again – choice of sequencing could have been better.
The thumping rocker Learnin' How To Fly With A Broken Wing is an effects free modern rocker that could easily fit onto a recent Bon Jovi album and be the stand out track.
The 6 minute plus long slow ballad You Can Only Get So High is another misplaced track in this badly ordered album, but what a wonderful song. Soulful, emotional and inspiring…a stand out vocal from Richie.
Closing the official album is yet another ballad (really that's one too many now) and it's also the least effective. The short, slow acoustic driven 70s inspired track just doesn't gain my attention at all.
There is the bonus track Backseat Driver, which is a needed rocker, but again it's spoilt by effects on the vocals, despite a pretty decent chorus.
While there are some stand out classic tracks, those songs are surrounded by a number of fillers and as stated, the distorted/modernized vocal effects really do take the shine off several tracks. The album gets better after repeated listens, but it doesn't come anywhere close to the brilliance of Stranger In This Town and even ranks behind the mellower Undiscovered Soul.
|Aerosmith Music From Another Dimension||Columbia|
This is the same kind of deal as the recent Kiss album. Iconic band; two very distinct histories (70s era, 80s and beyond); a fan base where it is going to be impossible to please everyone; and an impossibly high expectation from everyone.|
First the good points – thank God Aerosmith are not wasting time with blues tunes, covers albums, solo projects or anything other than what they should be doing together. It seems forever since a proper new studio album from the clan was on offer.
Getting together with their old 70s partner – veteran producer Jack Douglas – someone who knows the band and how they work was a great idea, although those that immediately presumed this would be a 'back to the 70s' sounding release will be disappointed.
Now the bad – too many tracks. There is no evidence of self-control here, both with the diverse nature of the material and the sheer length of the album. And Joe Perry on vocals? Sorry mate – you had your shot as a frontman on your solo album. That's not what anyone buys an Aerosmith record for.
Another popular topic among fans is the number of ballads on the album. I fully understand people want the band to rock (as do I), but when the ballads are actually better quality than some of the rockers, you can hardly question why they are included.
It all comes down to too many tracks and no quality control. Less can be more folks.
The album gets off to a powerful start with the swaggering Luv XXX, which draws on the band's most commercial sound of Pump and Get A Grip.
The bluesy Oh Yeah gives us some 70s flared pants to wear, while Beautiful is a classic and quirky 'Smith rocker.
I wouldn't have introduced a ballad so quickly, but the largely acoustic driven Tell Me is an ok moody track.
Out Go The Lights is full tilt Aerosmith swagger, but not one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Legendary Child is a cool song and I like it – but it's kinda ironic to see bands sounding great again using old tracks (this one is an outtake from the Get A Grip sessions). It's funny how old tracks can remind you how off target the recent material has been.
If the material that preceded this wasn't so average, this would still sound like a leftover. Today it sounds like a hit!
What Could Have Been Love is a hit single in anyone's language. A great ballad and great Tyler vocal.
Street Jesus is everything I want to hear out of Aerosmith in 2012. Cool, driving, swagger, guitars, fast, quirky. Love it! Why not more of this guys?
Sadly momentum is hauled immediately with an unnecessary ballad featuring Carrie Underwood. Not what I want from the band.
Lover A Lot heads straight back to the groove and the swagger that sounds natural for the band.
Another ballad with We All Fall Down – classy, but the track sequencing here does the band no favours.
The last 4 tracks I won't even review. Well, Another Last Goodbye closes the album with one of the best Tyler vocals in years and some beautiful orchestration. But the three tracks preceding it feature two horrible Perry vocals and another waste of time ballad.
There are an additional 3 bonus tracks floating around, but one is a waste of time, the other is a horrid bluesy Joe Perry vocal and the third is another (average) ballad. Don't waste time paying extra to get those.
So…this is how I'd pull together this album into a pretty good listen (but still missing a couple of extra great rockers so one more ballad could be dropped): LUV XXX, Beautiful, Street Jesus, What Could Have Been Love, Legendary Child, Lover A Lot, Tell Me, Oh Yeah, We All Fall Down, Out Go The Lights, Another Last Goodbye.
|Issa Can't Stop||Frontiers|
Issa delivers her third album in pretty quick time, this time taking a slightly different route – gaining herself a new backing band and producer (Alessandro Del Vecchio and his Italian friends) and also banging out a 12 track collection of obscure AOR classics.|
The upside of covering such songs as this – none of them can be ruined. Their classic status has long since been established and they are all great songs. No question.
The downside – for the same reason, it's very unlikely that any of them can actually be improved upon.
And while Issa certainly has a very good crack at these songs – one is constantly reminded of the originals and for the most part the originals can't and won't be beaten.
But, these are quite obscure tracks generally, so perhaps there is a percentage of the audience that hasn't heard some of them. Those folks will definitely be at an advantage for enjoying this album, as comparisons won't get in the way of just appreciating what's on offer.
And what is on offer is an album that (much like Issa's first two albums) is a professionally produced selection of very smooth tunes, all delivered in a pretty uptempo AOR-by-numbers fashion.
Issa has a great voice though and it's nice to hear a female vocalist tackle 12 previously male sung tracks.
But that in itself raises another question. Some songs just can't be covered by a female lead vocal when or ears have been previously trained to hear a male voice signing these songs.
So why not dig up some obscure female fronted AOR songs to throw into the mix?
At any rate – there are still some impressive efforts on here; the highlights of which are the opening track Can't Stop (Aviator); Power Over Me (Atlantic); Wherever I Run (Regatta); If You Ever Fall (Tone Norum, Mystic Healer) – nice guitar soloing; Dream On (BLVD); State Of Love (Mark Free) and These Eyes (21 Guns) – mostly because it's just such a freeking amazingly phenomenal song.
Not quite working quite as well - Just A Wish (21 Guns); Do You Ever Think Of Me (Message, Unruly Child); Stranded (Tangier); Heat Of The Night (Worrall); I Won't Surrender (Tower City, Steelhouse Lane).
The selection of songs is pretty varied, but surprisingly cohesive too. Definitely one for fans of female fronted melodic rock – even better if the tunes are less known to you.
|Soleil Moon On The Way To Everything||Frontiers Records|
Not an album to crank if you are on a 10 hour interstate drive, but perhaps one for relaxing to after a long day at work. The Larry King fronted American pop/rock act delivers a fine album of adult contemporary Christian themed music that is mostly ballad and pop/rock styled, with a laid back sense throughout, but fronted by some strong lead vocals.|
For those that thought vocalist King sounded overly gruff on the recent Michael Thomason Band release (that's me for one), it's quite surprising to hear him sing so smoothly here and with such a delicate tone at times. Pity he didn't bring this style to the MTB album.
As I said, this is very laid back and largely acoustic driven, but very finely produced. So it's a matter of taste and mood as to whether this will appeal.
It's probably a little too adult contemporary for some, only the opening track and Burn & Down really get into third gear.
The last three tracks are from the band's debut which was never released outside of the USA. Those are three really good tracks too.
|Lover Under Cover Set The Nigth On Fire||Escape Music|
Just how I like my Scandi melodic rock – a little darker and moodier than the usual fare and delivered with a crunching guitar sound and a thumping rhythm section. Then there is the always fabulous raspy presence of Mikael Erlandsson (Last Autumn's Dream/Salute).|
This new band is formed by Mikael Carlsson – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards and Vocals with Martin Kronlund (Gypsy Rose, Phenomena, Salute) – Guitars; Perra Johnsson (Coldspell) – Drums and special guest on keyboards: Ged Ryland (ex-Ten). A powerful line-up for a powerful album.
Fans of LAD will find a lot to like about this – especially if you'd prefer that band to be a little heavier and fans of the Salute album will be even more impressed here I think.
There's only 1 ballad (the closing track A Nice Day) and 1 mid-tempo AOR track (Too Good To Be True) and the rest is guitar fuelled Scandi melodic rock.
The best of those tracks are the opening My Best Friend and the brilliant Angels Will Cry; the fast paced Flash In The Night; the double time Who Needs Love and its immediate neighbor Crazy For You (one of the chorus highlights of the album) plus Crime In The Line.
For me the last few Anberlin albums have all been excellent, but also fall just a little short of expectations generally. Probably because the near perfect Never Take a Friendship Personal and Cities albums are almost unbeatable, my expectations have been set impossibly high.|
I really dig this band. Vocalist Stephen Christian has one of those wonderfully melodic, yet powerful tones that I tend to gravitate towards and the messages the band delivers via their songs are both thought provoking as well as likeable.
The fact is they haven't ever delivered a bad album and Vital is another wonderful slice of high energy modern rock angst.
This time out the band has stripped back a little and turned the guitars way up – much as the opening salvo from Cities. So the opening really had me excited.
Self-Starter and Little Tyrants kick ass before things turn my introspective with the quirky Other Side.
Someone Anyone sees the band dive back into the full frontal assault and delivers one of the band's best tracks in a long time.
Here's where I lose things a little. Intentions is high energy still, but more driven by effects and programming. It's followed by another programmed track, this time a dreamy kind of ballad – it just sounds like two different bands at work here.
Desires is an ultra-heavy modern bombastic tune contrasted by another dreamy programmed mid-tempo track.
I'm losing the thread of this album with the back and forth nature of styles being employed.
The next two tracks are more familiar Anberlin and match the first few tracks before the closing ballad God, Drugs & Sex turns things on their head again.
There is clearly two different aspects of the band at play on Vital and mixing the two hasn't necessarily worked.
|Neal Schon The Calling||Frontiers|
Journey guitarist Neal Schon recorded two separate solo albums in the last year or two and kept them on ice until his band Journey's current studio album Eclipse had run its course.|
Now the first of the two is formally released. The Calling is an all-instrumental affair and features the rather tantalizing line-up of Schon (all guitars, al bass) teamed with old band mate and drumming legend Steve Smith once again and Igor Len on the occasional keyboard parts.
Much like Eclipse