Tuesday, February 18, 2020

HEAVY PETTIN: the reissues "Lettin' Loose", "Rock Ain't Dead", "The Big Bang"

Rating: -
Label: Cherry Red Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Heavy Pettin released these three albums originally back in the eighties, 1983, 1985 and 1989 respectively. The band took their first steps when the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement was shaking the foundations of rock music. From the other side of the Atlantic, bands like Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot were rising up the charts. Being soundwise somewhere in between, they soon found themselves signed to a major label (Polydor) and in the studio with Brian May and Mack, recording their first album.

"Lettin' Loose" is an energetic hard rock album that reminds me of strongly of early Def Leppard with touches of Saxon, mixed with some glam metal influences. My favourite track is "In And Out Of Love", which was the biggest hit of the album I believe. "Devil In Her Eyes" is another highlight, as is "Shadows Of The Night", one of the two bonus tracks. The production by May and long-time Queen producer Mack isn't quite as polished as one could assume considering their resume.

"Rock Ain't Dead" was a more polished effort indeed. The million-selling acts like Crüe, Dokken and Ratt had an influence to the bands' sound, as did producers John Jansen and Mark Dearnley. And Def Leppard's mega-successful Pyromania.

The title track is an anthem, a hit single that never was, and one of my favourites from the band. A glossy MTV video was made for it and "Sole Survivor", but neither of them became the hits Polydor hoped for.

Most of the other songs are rather good too, except for the ballad "Dreamtime" which might put you to sleep (pun intended).

In 1987 the band were working on their third album, but took a break from the recordings to provide UK a "Song For Europe". "Romeo" was their attempt at winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, they ended up sixth in the UK competition and managed to alienate a lot of their fans with the keyboard-driven semi-ballad "Romeo". Eventually they broke up in 1988, and their last album "The Big Bang" was released posthumously the next year.

The band's final eighties' album sees the band abandoning their Heavy Metal roots and embracing the sound of REO Speedwagon, Journey and their UK competitors FM and Shy. Only they didn't have the songs to match. Don't get me wrong, there are a few perfectly enjoyable AOR tracks on "The Big Bang" like "Born To Burn" and "Looking For Love", but then again, most of the album is very bland. "Don't Call It Love" is probably the most "Heavy Pettin"-like song, but it sounds like a leftover from the previous albums. "The Big Bang"? Hardly.

The band has reformed lately, and they've released some new material recently. I haven't heard it but I guess it's safe to assume the it sounds more like the first two albums.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DECARLO: "Lightning Strikes Twice"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tommy DeCarlo has been the singer of Boston since 2007, and featuring son Tommy DeCarlo, Jr. on guitars, their debut album effort is deeply rooted in family friendly music and keeping it safe for all the little kiddies. Do not expect any swearing and there's certainly no need for any parental advisory sticker with explicit content. OK. That's enough of banter. It's however the truth though as this is a very old fashioned AOR platter where the message is and I quote, "Do we have to hurt each other? To all my sister and brothers - We need to Give Love A Try". Good on ya'. There's enough of hate, haters, and Trumps in this world.

It actually soft-rock music steeped in the laidback, feel-good, tradition of REO Speedwagon, Dakota, Petra (Greg X Volz era), 38 Special, and a little bit of Boston (of course?). Opening the album with the Country influnced "A Better Day" is something to get used to before the band strip the sound down to the bare bones of AOR on "You Are The Fire" which devolps into the honest approach and statement from the DeCarlo family. The band originated in Charlotte, North Carolina and sees the two Tommy DeCarlo's collaborate with drummer Dan Hitz and bassist Brett Nelson. The band has toured in many US states and has recently played at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, Italy at the kick off acoustic night.

There's a distinct old fashioned edge to the melodies and the album may lack some of the bite and hooks of the mid/late 80's/early 90's era. This is rather the late 70's/very early 80's sound and it may not always please the critics of this particular site. It's however still pretty catchy and something like, "Give Love A Try" that features a wicked drum pattern by Hitz, should please any fan of early 80's melodic rock with a touch of Asia (the band). The instrumental "Into The Storm" works as a nice intro to the uplifting title track which basically reeks of Dakota and 38 Special. The piano ballad of "Still In Love" goes through several sections of soft-rock and it's very much the 10cc concept of keeping it real and in harmony with nature and voices.

A title such as "Rock N Soul" should put ya' in the mood, get ya' feelin' right. There's even a saxophone on this track and again, think late 70's rock. "There She Goes" isn't a cover of The LA's excellent anthem from the late 80's. But a rather catchy original that goes straight to the heart. "Stand Up", a typical early Petrafied track that goes sadly nowhere. "The One", the piano ballad in the style and tradition of REO Speedwagon. Final verdict: It's a a rather innocent, feel-good platter in the style and era of approx 1979 to 1982. Great vocals and musicianship and it's one of those albums that got better with each spin (up to a certain point of course). facebook.com/DECARLOROCKS

DIRTY SHIRLEY: "Dirty Shirley"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Dodgy moniker, check. Dodgy album artwork inspired by American Gothic, check. Dodgy music... no, check this out!!! I don't know who this Dirty Shirley is but she's obviously a rocker. It's actually yet another project put together by six-string bender George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, etc) and described as blues infused hard rock featuring the cold wicked touch of Mr Scary. The warm touch and excellent pipes by Croatian singer Dino Jelusick (Animal Drive) is however the real starting point of the album. He's clearly the best Dio vs. Coverdale vs. Gillan voice since... well... Jorn of course (see review elsewhere).

The overall sound is based around the 70's blues hard rock records. However. There's also r&b, ballads, a couple of heavy tunes, and some grungy vibes. Something like, "Last Man Standing", could just as easily have been leftover from the Coverdale/Page project. According to Lynch, "80% of the guitar work on this record is rhythms, so I wanted to create a three-dimensional sonic tapestry that complimented the more basic riffs and chords. I tried to add a little twist to everything". His style and wicked tone is something out of the ordinary as always and you really can't complain on the guitar work. "Siren Song" is probably the best song on the record and it simply reeks of Coverdale/Purple. "The Voice Of A Soul" goes through all the different stages of Coverdale and Hughes.

I'm sure Dirty Shirely will cause quite a stir in the groovy hard rock circles over the next months or years, depending on if this is the one-off project?Unfortunately, not all the glitter is gold. A couple of fake nuggets inbetween the goodies and this is where the typical Lynch sound kicks in with the mid/late 90s styled rock. Remove them and you'll end up with a winning combination and concept though. facebook.com/DirtyShirleyRock

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: "Cult Classic"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"All our times have come. Here, but not there, gone. Seasons Don't Fear The Reaper. Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain". Indeed. There's one helluva lotta' la,la,la,la,la's next and it's all very cozy and the timeless classic rock moment. They obviously wrote the tune while smoking a fatty and listening to America (the band, not the continent) and their massive hits of 'A Horse With No Name' and 'Ventura Highway'. Yes? No? Whatever. Simpy add more electric guitars and it's Blue Öyster Cult. Keep it under your hats though. It's explosive stuff. The great album Agents Of Fortune from 1976 doesn't exactly pre-date the America debut. On the downside, the cowbell is buried low in the mix on this re-recorded, remastered version and we always need more cowbells on this track... :-)

"All praise to Balthazar. He's found the awful truth. He's found the saucer news". You have songs about extraterrestrial intelligence. Bombers in the sky, the summer of love (not!), burning, O.D.'d on life, the secret of telepaths, megasize monsters from Japan, skywatching, cities on fire, the eyeman of TV, and even the odd boogie. What's not to like? It's all very much the seventies sound though and Cult Classic may not surprise any fan of the genre.

To be perfectly honest. The album was originally released in 1994 and containing remakes of many of the band's songs. The same recording was re-issued by other labels under the titles Champions of Rock and E.T.I. Revisited in 1998 and 2004, every time with different artwork. Now it's Frontiers turn and some of these tracks are just too bland for my personal taste. It may have been the s**t for U.S. people in the 70's, but remember, they also thought of Ted Nugent as the Rock n Roll God? Christ on a bike. They both have one thing in common though. One superb classic rock tune. Nah. I definitely prefer BOC and they have Burning For You!!! The nice beginners' compilation album.

MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND: "High Times Live In Italy"

Rating: Live
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hands up if you ever gave up hope of the Michael Thompson Band double live CD and DVD release ever seeing the light of day, or dark of night for that matter. Ehem. Okay. Keep waving those hands in the air if you've never heard about Michael Thompson? Yeah. That's what I thought. Under the radar but never forgotten at RockUnited.com since we're extremely nerdy at digging up all the rockers of the past. Simply check our massive archive for all the Michael Thompson information. U.S. LA session guitarist gone haywire and here's the rather ambitious live project recorded in Italy with the following musicians: Larry King (vocals), M.T. (guitars), Larry Antonino (bass) and the keyboard Guy named Allison are both Unruly Child(ren), etc.

This is a showcase of experienced musicians with plenty of know-how and not quite as much pace or energy on stage. They hardly move or do basically anything beside standing still on the spot and singing/playing their hearts out. It's like watching your gramps' on dope and that's at least some kind of entertainment, I guess? Kidding aside. Do not expect any dance moves or movement whatsoever. The concert given to an less than enthusiastic audience in Italy and Frontiers inhouse place (the Live Music Club in Milan) was indeed recorded both on CD and DVD. They have the same running order and there's no real bonus material or hidden stuff. I couldn't find any? Perhaps it's still bloody hidden?

'Good evening' (no real response) 'You guys suck' - maybe not the best way to start up the audience but Larry's trying and he's obviously kidding. The response gets better and there's even praise from the crowd. The sound is of decent high quality and there's a nice mix of distance shots and close-ups of all the geezers plus some extra shots at the awakening audience. They're warming up to the music and what's not to enjoy about the likes of "Can't Miss", "Secret Information" and "Save Yourself". Everybody's talking about "Give Love a Change", but I'm not a big fan of that particular tune. The guitar work and solo is however top class. Merely 9 tracks and the last one is a friggin' cover? Why? We want Michael Thompson material, not another snooze version of More Than A Zzzzz... Feeling (Boston). Final verdict: Great musicians. But still perhaps not the best of live outings by the Frontiers. facebook.com/MichaelThompsonBand

JORN: "Heavy Rock Radio II Executing the Classics"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Jorn Again? Hallelujah. Sisters and brothers. It's the return of the Heavy Rock Radio and covers' on repeat. Oh the horror, the horror. Hang on... there's a mansize crow or magpie on the cover and Jorn's stuck in the electric chair? Things are getting better by the minute. Every song Jørn covers is treated with the utmost respect thoughand "Jørn-ized" accordingly, just like the first album where fans showed a lot of enthusiasm and interest for those versions, so a follow-up covers album seemed like a no-brainer. They did? Show enthusiasm? Executing The Classics? Does the world really need another dodgy version of 'Quinn The Eskimo' (The Mighty Quinn) as in originally performed by Bobby 'Ewing' Dylan. Needles And Pins? Definitely. It's all needles and pins.

'New York Minute' as in Don Henley (Eagles) is however a g-r-e-a-t choice and a very underrated song in my opinion. One of those late 80's tunes that deserve a lot more attention and praise in this time and era. Jorn's version is slightly heavier and darn excellent I may add. It's just such a great song from the start. 'Winning' (Russ Ballard) is another interesting choice and you simply can't go wrong with the starightforward rock of Bryan Adams and 'Lonely Nights'. They've actually added bagpipes to the 1976 tune of Winning, but it's not as weird as it may sound? It's very John Farnham somehow even if there's no real bagpipes on his super hit, You're The Voice.

Final verdict: One of his better covers records and I'm still digging the version of Naked City (KISS) from Heavy Rock Radio I, one of the bonus tracks on this release.


Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Rise", the third studio album by the Revolution Saints. Production overseen by in-house Frontiers man, Alessandro Del Vecchio, the recording process took place in Milan and in Doug and Jack's own studios in California and Seattle. Songwriting was also mostly handled by Del Vecchio, with contributions from Aldrich and Blades. The classy ballad "Eyes Of A Child" was penned by Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw and it's clearly done by the Damn Yankees. It could just as easily have been Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin though. Think Cats In The Cradle rather than Cat Scratch Fever.

Revolution Saints? Featuring the convicted felony and overall wife/woman beater Deen Castronovo (The Dead Daisies, ex-Journey, Bad English) on lead vocals and drums, they should rename themselves as Sinners. Not the best of start? Well. Stop being a Goddamn hypocrite or worse and kindly recall how you reacted when you first heard about the BLACK rapper, the beating of Rhianna or any other woman for that matter. Castronovo is the White, Pink N Fluffy, AOR rocker. Surely he can't be as bad as the Gangsta? Look. He's been convicted on several cases of domestic violence. Case closed. Or maybe they had it coming? I believe they throw him out of Journey because of this? Jack Blades (Night Ranger) and Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Burning Rain) have no problem working with the proper skin-basher though.

The overall songwriting end up in the 'not too shabby' category where it's difficult to be neither upset or pleased. The idea behind "Rise" was clearly that the band would record something the goes down easily in a fight pretty much like the female victims of Deen. It's funny how these sort of people never end up in fights with any males?? Yeah, right. It's sort of like watered down Journey, kind of like RTZ and dut-dut AOR and it's up to you to decide if you fancy another platter with the same basic pattern and AOR ideas. "Million Miles" and "Win Or Lose", the real highlights of the album and the songs that any Journey-esque songwriter should be darn proud of.

VICTORIUS: "Space Ninjas From Hell"

Rating: Rr
Label: Napalm Records 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oh my... oh my, oh my. Space Ninjas From Hell??? Ouch. Serious headache and the flashback attack from the Amiga days and playing various crap games on a crap computer. Evil ninjas from outer space are on their way to take the world by storm and Victorius made the soundtrack for this glorious happening? Be prepared for 13 silly anthems about ninjas and samurai warriors, mixed with knowledge from silly kung fu movies? It would be fun if not for the German/Teutonic over the top Power Metal musicians and their really dodgy attempt at composing from mainly the weird and strange influences of Japanese culture and language.

I'm actually both stunned and confused by the lederhosen boys and song titles such as Super Sonic Samurai, Evil Wizard Wushu Master, Nippon Knights, Shuriken Showdown, Wasabi Warmachine, Shinobi Strike 3000. etc. Are you supposed to laugh or cry? Then again, it's hardly surprising considering the history of Germany. Don't mention the war!! See my point??? It's no fun to be merely reduced to stereotypes. Victorius have got some nice ideas musically and the actual musicians are all fine, but there's definitely work ahead in the lyrical concept departement. But hey... If you fancy The German mock version of traditional Japan, don't let me stop you. Like the leader of the lederhosen boyos said, sharpen your laser katana and brace yourselves for the great cosmic ninja war! Sigh...

LOVEKILLERS: "Lovekillers"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tony 'The Tiger' Harnell is like a speed racer down the track(s) as he take each turn and corner with precise measurements and style. The Lovekillers are loud, fast, noisy, and the turbo kicks in at nearly all the right moments. Not quite the posh muscle car and TNT (pun intended) that gave us the all time classic of Tell No Tales. It might just be a tad too glossy and polished with a wift of schlock and several ballads.

Written by Tony 'The Tiger' Harnell (because he's grrrreat!) mostly with Alessandro Del Vecchio and together with other soft/melodic writers such as Nigel 'Blanket' Bailey, Pete 'The Pistol' Alpenborg, Marco 'Polo' Sivo, Jonas 'Fika' Hornqvist and produced by Frontiers inhouse guru Del Vecchio.

"There will be better days. Somewhere beyond the darkness. Sunshine after the rain and I'm Alive Again". Smashing opening track (Alive again) and the following "Hurricane" is a stormy affair in the Journey terrority and Tony's powerhouse vocals will definitely blow you away. The great semi-ballad "Ball and Chain" speak of yet another storm where there's no shelter from the rain? If that's not strange, how do you read the following message and lyrics and I quote, "If we stand together now we can be free of the ball and chain", end quote. Strange, considering that 'ball and chain' could also be your loved one as in a married couple. "Who Can We Run To" is slighly too sappy and a very soft ballad that I always tend to skip. It's one of few bland moments though and there's a rather high consistent level of quality throughout the album. Final verdict: Have a go at the Lovekillers if you're into Westworld meets Journey meets TNT. It's a tad predictable, but oh so enjoyable. facebook.com/tonyharnellofficial

A NEW TOMORROW: "Universe"

Rating: RRr
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

And now... something completely different??? Well. At least when we're talking about Frontiers and the slab of melodic records they are normally releasing. It's hardly different from the average white people on dope record as of lately. It's actually smack right down the middle of the road and in the style of Alter Bridge, Green Day and pretty much any other mainstream poser act. The latter is Punk, you say? Clearly you have never really been listening to Punk Rock? They are more like Power-Pop with Punk influences.

Formed in London by vocalist/guitarist Alessio Garavello (ex-Power Quest, Arthemis) and bassist Andrea Lonardi, the two were later joined by Tim Hall on drums and Michael Kew on guitars. The vocalist (Mister Garavello) is of the more modern kind, but there's nothing wrong with the singing or the pipes. It's all commercial online collage radio 'ala 2015 and the kind of stuff that goes a long way without actually moving or saying much. Don't get me wrong. It's hardly the worst record of the century, it's just so, been there, done that. And yes, the same goes for many of classic rock sounding albums. However. This is the stuff that all the new acts are playing at the moment or in the past ten years for that matter.

Drummer Tim Hall comments: "Several years of amazing times, full of both ups and downs, not just as a band but as great friends, gave us the foundation to write something special for this record. 'Universe' became the only title to encompass all our experiences as individuals and as a band, with themes – from fear and doubt to taking back the pursuit of our hopes and dreams – that I think all of us can identify with. The time we took gaining experience as a band, before writing 'Universe', has really allowed us to find our own space within the music allowing our own individual influences to come across a lot more than in our previous releases", end quote. Previous releases? This is their debut?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Gary MOORE: "Live From London"

Rating: -
Label: Mascot/Provogue
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Gary Moore's career can be roughly divided into two chapters: the Hard Rock and the Blues chapters. As the eighties ended, so did Gary's hard rock era, and he became a full-blown blues blues man. During the late nineties he did a couple of experimental albums, but returned mostly to the blues-style the rest of his recording career. This album was recorded 14 months before his untimely death, and sees him in full blues mode.

"Live From London" sounds like an authentic live recording. I don't think it's been much doctored afterwards. A over-polished sound wouldn't suit these songs anyway, this sort of a blues-rock needs to be a little gritty.

To be honest, I'm not much of a blues fan, so this release isn't really something I'll come back to. I can appreciate it for what it is - a tribute to the great talent of Gary Moore. He was a great, soulful guitarist and good singer. If you enjoy his blues albums, then this is a safe purchase. Considering that "Still Got The Blues" is his biggest-selling album, there's certainly an audience for this one too.

If you're more of a fan of his 80'ies material, then sadly you'll only find "Parisienne Walkways" here, which itself is a bluesy ballad anyway. Here's hoping that there's live material in the archives from his hard rock era, I think a quality live album from the "Wild Frontier" tour would be popular release.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

BLIND EGO : “Preaching To The Choir”

LABEL: Gentle Art Of Music/Soulfood
REVIEW by Martien Koolen

 Blind Ego, the German melodic rock band, featuring RPWL’s guitar picker Kalle Wallner, are back with a new album. I really loved Blind Ego’s debut album,Liquid, and after a couple of spins I can indeed say that I like Preaching To The Choir even better.

This guitar-oriented album kicks off with a song called Massive and that is what it is, powerful, energetic and massive indeed; this great opener is followed by the title track, clocking over 6 minutes; this one is probably one of the best melodic hard rock songs I have heard in a long time. The first single of this album called Burning Alive is a kind of funky/poppy song with a real catchy chorus and vocal-wise I hear clear Threshold influences.

Next up is the “weakest” song, as Line In The Sand is kind of boring; however, follow up Dark Paradise is again a musical highlight. This track features an amazing guitar solo, lots of variety and again Threshold-like vocals by the excellent singer Scott Balaban. Favourite and definitely the best song is Heading For The Stars, in which Kalle plays his balls off in an extraordinary guitar solo!! Preaching To The Choir is a fantastic melodic hard rock album performed by a band (especially Kalle) at the height of their game. Looking forward to seeing/hearing Blind Ego in the flesh in Maastricht (The Netherlands) on 7 March !!


Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Rating: RRRR
Label: Escape Music
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Remember Brighton Rock? The Canadian band that had their heyday in the late eighties, but have been sporadically active every now and then? The band's guitarist Greg Frasier has put together a new band called STORMFORCE, and if you like Brighton Rock there's a very good chance you'll like this album as well. Other members of the band are vocalist Patrick Gagliardi, drummer Brian Hamilton and bassist Mike Berardelli.

If I didn't know better, I'd be easily fooled to think that Stormforce is a young band with a deep admiration for all things eighties, such is the level of energy here. They've got razorsharp riffs and hooks, not to mention a few vintage sounding power ballads. Vocalist Patrick Gagliardi is a real find, not a soundalike to Brighton Rock's Gerry McGhee but he does have that similar "smooth & rough" quality to his voice. He'd be able to do justice to BR material should the band choose to play those songs live.

My favourites include the first single and opener "Because Of You", which is a fine, breezy melodic rocker, the metallic yet melodic "Age Of Fear", "Ringside" and "Breathe", which features Serena Pryne on guest vocals . The three ballads on the album are rather good too, with "Ember Rain" standing out. There are touches of Skid Row's "I Remember You" in the chorus, but not too much, just enough to make you... remember that song.

Halfway down the tracklist you'll find a few rather straightforward hard rockers, riff-driven steamrollers "Ride Like Hell", "Dirty Vegas" and "Marshall Law". They are all right, but not catchy enough to be among my top picks. No doubt they'll work better when the band blasts them out on a gig.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

VOODOO SIOUX : "Professor Balthazaar's Psychedelic Medicine Show"


Voodoo who? Haha, what a hoot wordplay is, eh rockin' readers? Seriously, though, not having heard of this Midlands based UK band is not a surprise, but not getting to know them very soon may be a mistake you'll wish you never made. First heard in the 90s, they gained a good reputation through hard work, winning a national radio competition (on The Friday Rock Show) and the release of a superb debut, 'S.K.R.A.P.E'. Then it all just didn't work and they vanished into the ether. In 1997.

It's now 2020, and the Sioux are back with their second album since reforming ten years ago. The last one, 'Grotesque Familiares' (2013), was a real kick in the nuts for fans (in a good way, natch), and so excitement has been building for this one. Worth the wait? Is Gene Simmons a greedy bastard? (That's a yes, by the way).

Opener 'Running On Empty' really plays to the bands basic strengths, with a powerful guitar, catchy melody and replayability to the moon and back. 'Pandora's Box' follows with a crunchier sound and a no less catchy chorus, and brings in a favourite trick of letting vocalist Nicky Flaherty have a littls solo moment in the sun before being joined again by guitars. '(You Make Me Wanna be A) Better Man' brings a lighter touch and a chorus that won't quit, after which things are slowed down for 'Into The Garden', one of a few emotional acoustic tracks spotted amongst thirteen songs that lasts comfortably over an hour.

Voodoo Sioux prove over and over again that the fact they never became superstars is a criminal oversight. Flaherty has a top notch voice that seems like someone got Joe Elliot and Noel Gallagher fused together in a cloning machine, whilst the music has it's roots in straightforward rock but it's flowers reaching out for funk, pop and psychedelia, yet never losing those essential roots. There's nothing here I haven't fallen in love with, from the aggression and melody of 'Alias The Jester' to the simple but moving acoustic 'Dreamcatcher', all capped off with a beautiful piano version of 'Can't Stand To See You Cry' from the debut. Perfect.

If the name rings a little bell in your head, this is that band you liked years ago but forgot. If you're a fan, then this album will not disappoint in any way. If you're oblivious, then you need to buy this, enjoy it, and track down the other two, because trust me that's exactly what you'll want to do whilst you scour the listings to see if they're playing near you. If this isn't in my top five at the end of the year I'll buy a hat, because I'll have to eat it. Time to take your medicine...

Friday, January 3, 2020

TYLOR DORY TRIO: “Unsought Salvation”

Rating: RRRr
 Review by Martien Koolen

 The Tylor Dory Trio is a prog metal trio hailing from Edmonton, Canada and so far this band has released an EP called: “Carried Away” in 2015. Now four years later the band releases their first full length album with the obscure title : Unsought Salvation. Maybe you have heard the 1st single East Of Eden from that album already and if you liked that track then you can purchase this album without further ado. So, if you as a listener are into Devin Townsend, Opeth, Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree then Unsought Salvation is a gem for you, at least if you are not bothered by a bit of “grunting’ now and then….Unsought Salvation kicks off with a song called The Righteous And The Rest and that one is filled with killer riffs and really brings out the Devin Townsend feeling in me. Glass Menagerie is another highlight with Floyd characteristics and marvellous guitar passages. But the best is yet to come as the album draws to an end and you can experience the epic Cenotaph, which clocks over 13 minutes. A prog metal rollercoaster musical ride played almost perfectly and second to none! Play this at maximum volume and you will be blown away!! The Tylor Dory Trio has some great and excellent musical potential, so be sure to check them out!


Thursday, January 2, 2020

MAGNUM: "The Serpent Rings"


Showing no signs of slowing down, and looking like rocking out until Clarkin and Catley crumble into dust (nowt wrong with that), Bristish rock legends Magnum return fresh for the new year with their eleventy fifth (or something) studio album, the rejigged band now containing bass maestro Dennis Ward, who replaces the lovely Al Barrow.

The most important thing here is that what we have is a Magnum album through and through, and I'll happily allay and fears by saying that “The Serpent Rings” does not disappoint in this regard. Tony Clarkin still writes all the songs and he still has his eye right on the ball, not trying to disturb the winning formula that he nailed on “Lost On The Road To Eternity”, an album that seemed to feature a revitalized Magnum, possibly due to new keyboard tinkler Rick Benton.

“The Serpent Rings” doesn't break any moulds, with typical titles like “House Of Kings”, “The Archway Of Tears” and “Crimson On The White Sand” showing typical grandiosity. It all comes down to how the sound, however, and the whole album is rather like a comfortable slipper if you're already a fan. “Where Are You Eden” is a storming, crunchy opener that will make a great set starter on the upcoming tour, whilst “You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets” is a slower, heavy track that works well. There's plenty of melody about, with “Madman Or Messiah” so Magnum-y you can almost see Bob Catley waving his arms as he sings it. “Not Forgiven”, the track that has been used to promote the album, is a good example of the sort of thing that you're getting here, whilst “The Archway Of Tears” has a chorus that won't quit.

There's no short tracks here, but no epics either, with the title track touching on seven minutes but never becoming a drag. The eleven tracks give us nearly an hour of music, which is refreshing on any day, and there's genuinely not a duffer in sight. If you're a fan who has everything else this is a no brainer, but I have to say if you're a lapsed Magnumite this and the last album are perfect stepping stones to rekindling your relationship with Tony, Bob and the lads. A wonderful mix of all you've ever loved about the band, “The Serpent Rings” is Magnum for Magnum fans, and aren't we all a bit of a fan?

H.E.A.T.: ”H.E.A.T. II”

Gain 2020
Rating: RRRRR
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

What better way to start the new year than with a review of one of the most anticipated 2020 releases? Especially when you can throw the full set of R’s to it and proclaim it as a very potential ”Album Of The Year”? 

The previous H.E.A.T. album got very mixed reactions. The band flirted with pop sounds which irritated a lot of people. I didn’t mind the pop influences, I was more concerned about some of the harder-edged songs which were frankly a bit boring. I’m glad to say that with ”II” the band has found their way back to their roots, yet moved forward. This is the album that should please most H.E.A.T. fans - it rocks hard but it’s still very melodic, there’s hooks everywhere!

The bouncy, groovy ”Rock Your Body” is the album opener, and it’s bound to be the kind of song that works well live. It reminds me a little bit of ”Skin To Skin” by Heaven’s Edge, but it’s basically a very classic H.E.A.T. track that makes a statement - ”the H.E.A.T. is on again”.

”Dangerous Ground” rocks a bit like ”Kickstart My Heart” with a trademark H.E.A.T. chorus, catchy as hell. Another killer live track I’m sure. With ”Come Clean” the band takes a more keyboard-driven approach and sure enough, the song is an instant AOR classic. 

”Victory” is something different, a highly melodic yet rather heavy rocker with a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sabaton album! The bluesy ”We Are Gods” is my lest favourite track of the album, it doesn’t seem to take off despite its’ big chorus. I’ve warmed up to it a little over the last weeks, so it doesn’t jeopardise the album’s rating…

”Whoa Ohh Whoa Ohhh”.. yeah, they have one of ”those songs” here, and what a song it is. ”Adrenaline” is another AOR gem with an irresistible chorus. You’re probably already familiar with ”One By One”, the album’s first single. It’s a great song and if you like it, you’ll most probably enjoy the rest of the album. 

”Nothing To Say” is The Ballad of the album, and it’s one of the standouts here. A heartfelt, great vocal from Erik Grönwall. Somehow this song reminds me a bit of Roxette’s finest moments. its’ melodic bliss is followed by another slice from the same cake, ”Heaven Must Have Won An Angel”. It’s simply a stunning melodic rocker. ”Under The Gun” doesn’t win any prizes for an original song title, and to be honest it’s one of the less memorable songs of the album, but still pretty good. It’s a fairly straight-forward hard rock song with a shout-along chorus. Could be a winner live, I don’t know.

Last but not least, there’s the second single, ”Rise”. It’s a stomping melodic monster with a bit of a Gotthard meets Pretty Maids vibe. The power metal choir from song ”Victory” returns to the scene of the crime… 

I hope this is the big ”breakthrough” album for H.E.A.T., it definitely should please their existing fan base and basically any melodic hard rock fan. With the harder-edged tracks they shouldn’t have any trouble to find their way to the metal playlists either.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

HUMAN FORTESS : “Reign Of Gold”

Rating: RRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Human Fortress is a power metal band hailing from Hannover, Germany, and Reign Of Gold is their 6th studio album.

The new album contains 11 songs which are all largely guitar driven, featuring great riffs, hooks, solos and melodic guitar work by duo guitar pickers Wolf and Trost. First great song of this album is without a doubt Thunder, featuring an addictive chorus and a very melodic guitar solo in the middle. Another worthwhile track is Lucifer’s Waltz, which is slower indeed but with lots of atmosphere, while the obligatory ballad Shining Light also uses a lot of symphonic elements.

Martial Valor is a kind of folk-like influenced metal song while Legion Of The Damned is again a heavy power metal track; so there is something for everyone on this album as Reign Of Gold id indeed an excellent power metal album, although not as good as their milestone album Defenders Of The Crown, released in 2003. Human Fortress is a very competent power metal band which will certainly be to your liking if you enjoy bands like Iron Savior or Kamelot; play it f….. LOUD !!!


Thursday, November 28, 2019


Label: Universal
Review by Alan Holloway

Back in the day (yeah, I'm old) I'd buy pretty much anything Kerrang! told me to, and pretty much ebjoyed it all as well. One such disc was Dan Reed Network's sophomore release "Slam", which came out in 1989, a year after the debut. I remember well travelling to Shades (buy or die!) in London to get my CD signed, and I still have it to this day. Indeed, I even slip in a track or two when I'm DJing, as a bit of "Rainbow Child" or "Tiger In A Dress" easily passes as contemporary music thirty years on.

Ah yes, thirty years on, and time for the ever popular anniversary tour. In this case it's a triple heard with FM, revisiting their own second album"Tough It Out", and Gun, playing though their debut. I actually saw all three on their original tours and have been enjoying digging the relevant albums out. Thing is, there's no Dan Reed digging required, as I've now got a shiny new copy of "Slam" plus my first ever CD copy of the debut (I had it on cassette).

 Both albums are excellent, there's no other word for them. Whilst the debut has such catchy funk rockers as the awesome "Ritual" and "Forgot To Make her Mine", it also has some great chill out tracks, too, like Tamin' The Wild Nights' and "Halfway Around The World". Catchy, funky and passionate, it was a surprise when the band came up with an even better album a year later. "Slam" is simply a timeless classic, less out and out funk than it's predecessor but still unafraid to funk it up when needed and to rock it up when a change of style is required. "Rainbow Child" is a hippy love song that I think I will never grow tired of, and "Strong As Steel" would be a massive romantic hit in any sane world (not this one, then). It's a beautifully balanced album that, like the debut, makes you want to dance and smooch in equal measure. Seriously,these are two albums that have stood the test of time with consummate ease and everyone should own them.

Now as for the reissues... well, there's not a lot to say as there's zero extras. The 2019 "Slam" is identical to my 1989 copy, and although it's been remixed the original was pretty darned good and if I'm honest I didn't really notice. If you originally have the CDs then this isn't really aninvestment I can reccommend unless you're a completist. However, if you don't own them, or want to check them out before (or even after) the tour, then you should definitely pick them up, as Dan Reed Network were one of the most original, entertaining, creative and expressive bands of the late Eighties. Slam dunk the funk, because everyone needs to own these.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

RPWL: “Live From Outer Space”

Rating: RRRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Their last studio album Tales From Outer Space, RPWL’s 10th one, was again a prog rock blast. These German prog rockers now “return” with a double live album recorded at The Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. This great sounding double CD contains thirteen tracks and the entire last studio album (seven songs) can be enjoyed on the first CD.

The gig kicks off with a War Of The Worlds-like speech called News From Outer Space, before A New World sets the Boerderij “on fire”. Needless to say that the first seven songs are performed extremely well, with the definite highlights being: Light Of The World (magical guitar solo) and Give Birth To The Sun. CD2 features a back catalogue of classic RPWL songs from albums such as World Through My Eyes and The RPWL Experience. Kalle’s Gilmour-like guitar solo in Masters Of War is probably the musical cherry on the cake of this second CD. Of course Roses, the anthemic RPWL classic is also featured here as well as Hole In The Sky, Sleep, Trying To Kiss The Sun and Unchain The Earth. Need I say more???

Live From Outer Space is an amazing live recording of the best German prog rock band ever, a must have for lovers of prog rock, brilliant and highly recommended; get it now!!!

YOGI LANG : “A Way Out Of Here”

Rating: RRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Nine years after his solo album No Decoder, Yogi Lang, vocalist and front man of RPWL, releases his new solo project called A Way Out Of Here and without further ado let me tell you that this is again a brilliant neo prog rock/art rock album. Of course it also almost an RPWL album but that is mainly due to Yogi’s very recognizable, charming vocal performance.

A Way Out Of Here contains nine songs of which Move On, Don’t Confuse Life With A Thought (excellent song title), Love Is All Around and Early Morning Light are the musical gems. The latter, my personal fav, is an instrumental prog rocker, featuring heavenly, melodic sparkling guitar solos from Torsten Weber; in other words a very emotional and romantic track. Move On, the opening song, also the longest track, features a RPWL guitar riff, catchy guitar melodies and Manfred Mann-like keyboards solos from Yogi himself. The piano-led ballad-like last track I’ll Be There For You is again a typical Yogi Lang song featuring great vocals and lots of melody.

All the music and lyrics were written by :Lang with the exception of Freedom Of The Day, which was composed together with Guy Pratt (bass player with Pink Floyd and David Gilmour). Lang is musically assisted by Torsten Weber (guitars), Stephan Treutter (drums), Yvo Fischer (bass guitar), Kalle Wallner (guitars on track 4 and 9 and Klaus Reichert (pedal steel and mandolin). A Way Out Of Here is a very impressive album, a must have for art rock aficionados.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

VANDEN PLAS: "The Ghost Xperiment Awakening"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Their previous attempt at world domination, "Chronicles Of The Immortals - Netherworld", the very ambitious two album effort and collaboration between Vanden Plas and fantasy writer Wolfgang Hohlbein. Perhaps a wee bit too ambitious as yours truly thought the following and I quote: "It's frankly just a blur of all the ancient sagas and stories. All this could still not put me off if the album came with great compositions. Sadly they are not quite as great as the grand concept as they lack killer hooks and epic chorus parts. It goes on like a sturdy tractor and at its sudden halt, you still don't recall that many parts or main riffs", end quote. Perhaps a wee bit harsh? Nah. It's their most ambitious work up to date, but unfortunately not quite their best material.

On the other hand, "The Ghost Xperiment: AwakenIng", the complete surprise and 'back to the roots' kind of album, including proper riffing, progressive arrangements, longer songs, and powerful melodies. It's however still a two part concept album, with the second part 'Illumination' to be released in 2020. The story is based on an actual documented paranormal experiment. The main character must constantly fight for his life against the relentless shadows and through knowledge with books he finds in the library of a school of metaphysics, he reads about secret teachers and parapsychological experiments, which become an important foundation from which he can fight against the creatures of darkness. Yes, well... excellent?

This time around the focus has shifted more on to the actual compositions and away from the orchestrations. Everything from the opening track of "Cold December Night" to the closing title track reek of experience and proper musicianship. They've been releasing records for twenty five years by now and this time it's hardly a tractor rather than a Ferrari at full speed.

If you're searching for comparisons for The Ghost Xperiment, the closest is obviously Dream Theater, but quite frankly that doesn't always do this German band justice. Sure, there are many hints at Theater especially considering the arrangements, only six tracks, but there is more to Vanden Plas than that. They have carved out a sound and place all of their own. Guitarist Stephan Lill and keyboardist Günter Werno takes the band into the realm of the the truly great. The interaction between the two something out of the ordinary and they combine flashy guitar work with great waves of keyboards and piano to great effect. Add to this a killer rhythm section (Andreas Lill on drums, Torsten Reichert on bass) and splendid vocals by Andy Kuntz, and you're all set to go Proggy. Recommended.


Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Heavier than thou. "Part of me is searching for the holiness in thee". It's the better part of me, according to the soldier under command aka Michael Sweet. "Ten" features an all-star guest line-up that includes appearances by Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy, Gus G of Firewind, Rich Ward of Fozzy, Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake, Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns, Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa from Firstbourne, Todd La Torre of Queensryche, etc. etc. On the subject of guest musicians Michael comments: "There is a different player appearing on every song. It started out where I was just going to have a couple of guest appearances on it, then I decided that it would be really interesting to bring in different players for every song".

Before I forget and start rambling on about To Hell With The Devil or the yellow and black attack... what's your definition of "solo album"? Or rather... what's the meaning of releasing a solo record that sounds like the previous two Stryper albums? Don't get me wrong. Merely asking out loud. It's a rather good and powerful metal album. I'm not saying that "Ten" - there is a title track on here about the Ten Commandments - should be banned and thrown off the edge of the world. But I do find it a wee bit strange when the main character and sole writer of Stryper releases a solo effort in the same style and formula as "Fallen" or "God Damn Evil".

Conclusion? I'd much rather hear something completely different from band members' going solo. Regarding the musical direction of the album, Michael states: "I'm very excited about this release, there are old-school, straight-ahead metal ideas in the vein of Judas Priest, Dio and Iron Maiden, all the stuff I love listening to!". Indeed. If you're not up to date with the Stripes as of lately, they've been on steroids for the last couple of albums (Jesus Juice?) and everything is slightly harder, heavier, faster, than in their MTV days/daze. The same goes for Ten vs. All This and Heaven Too.

It's never quite as old skool or progressive as the bands' mentioned above and Michael may still think otherwise though. The trademark harmonies are still there, just not crazy over-the-top. I'd say the sound is harking back to the first mini-album (Stryper) only with a modern sound and production. Ozzy Osbourne (in the 2000's), Metal Church, Sacred Warrior, are three acts I'd also put next to Sweet. Not a perfect "Ten", but a very impressive effort and you simply can't go wrong here if you enjoy the last couple of Stryper albums.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

ECLIPSE: "Paradigm"

Frontiers 2019
Rating: RRRRR
Review by Kimmo Toivonen 

This is the seventh Eclipse album, would you believe it!? They kind of reinvented themselves after the first two and stepped up to the elite level of melodic hard rock, at least in my books. There's been some line-up changes, but the nucleus of the band has remained the same = vocalist\guitarist Erik Mårtensson and lead guitarist Magnus Henriksson. The band's former drummer Magnus Ulfstedt played bass in the band for a few years and he plays on this album too, but recently quit the band. Eclipse recruited drummer Philip Crusner's brother Victor for the bassist position. He was introduced to the public at the album's release party.

Since "Are You Ready To Rock" (2008) Eclipse has been on a winning streak, and it continues with "Paradigm". Sure, this album sounds very much like its' predecessors, and Mårtensson's pechant for certain kind of melodies is evident. But... Is that a bad thing? I'll that over desperate trend chasing or pointless experimenting. Besides, everytime I think that "now this song sounds very familiar" a surprise twist comes along and slaps me in the face!

The opening trio of "Viva La Victoria", "Mary Leigh" and "Blood Wants Blood" is the strongest triplet punch from Eclipse to kick off an album. Hell, it's one of the stongest opening triplet punches from any band! All three songs are anthemic, catchy and powerful, but different from each other.

The pace drops down a little after the breathtaking start, but there are plenty of fine tracks among the remaining 8. Those include the two single releases prior to the album, "United" and "The Masquerade". The former is a laidback anthem driven by acoustic guitars, reminding me of Nickelback, while the latter is a stomping heavy rocker with a big chorus. Both songs took a while to grow on me. "When The Winter Ends" and the intense "Delirious" are also among my favourites.

I must mention "38 or 44" too, which sounds like an unreleased Pretty Maids song from "Future World"... Could it be that it was intended for Mårtensson's Nordic Union project with PM singer Ronnie Atkins, but not used because it would have sounded too much like Pretty Maids with Atkins singing?
With no weak songs in sight, only a few that won't make it to my "Best Of Eclipse" playlist, I see no reason to hold back... It's another 5R album for ECLIPSE. Call me a fan boy if you want!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

DAN McCAFFERTY: "Last Testament"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMusic/Edel 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The pipes, the pipes are calling!!! It's the true Scottish sound by a highlander from Nazareth? It's the whole she-bang really and that's including the bagpipes, the haggies, the deep-fried mars-bars, as well as the accordion? It's actually quite the laid-back affair where Dan McCafferty take a step back from the hard rock arrangements and find himself at the singer/songwriter department?

Indeed. Don't go thinking Nazareth 2.0. since you'd be dead wrong. Last Testament stroll down the avenue of folk-rock and it's mostly about the interaction between Dan's ragged voice, the piano, the accordion, and the mix of acoustic and electric guitars. McCafferty met some musicians from the Czech Republic and got a lot of inspiration. Co-wrote all the song with Karel Marik, whose an internationally renowned accordion player, also responsible for production, piano, percussion, organ, and glockenspiel.

It's overall music in the vein of Joe Cocker (RIP), Rod Stewart/Faces, The Pogues, Lou Reed (RIP), and merely a couple or three uptempo hardrocking tunes inbetween the laid-back material (Home Is Where The Heart Is, My Baby, Bring It On Back). The accordion, very much present throughout the album and on all the tracks, giving 'Last Testament' a South-European feel and sound. However. The opening song-and-dance number, "You And Me", should have an fellow Scottish singer and Celtic-legend grinning while giving the thumbs up (that's Rod Stewart in case you got lost along the way). The transformation from Lou Reed to Rod on the opening verse is truly fascinating.

"Why", the heartfelt melody and lyrics that speak of being lonely and lost again. Marvelously raspy vocals by Dan and you sort of expect Marianne Faithfull to turn up for the duet? That would have been great actually, but sadly, no. "Tell Me" display all the mistakes and fault of McCafferty and speak of the damage and sorrow that he's caused in the past. It's sort of Dan's Johnny Cash moment and it's a very sad (but great) little tune to be honest. Nazareth fans might appreciate the piano remake of "Sunshine" from the year of 1974. Pete Agnew on back-up vocals. Final verdict: Quite different to be honest and not at all what we expected. This time, different is good. You probably need to enjoy the laid-back stuff to truly appreciate Last Testament. Recommended.


Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"A New Evil - a world on fire. No more heroes - will save us now. A New Evil - a world in darkness. No one hears you calling - it's over now". Blimey. Cheerful bastards? One thing's for certain. The Ferrymen are clearly not The Merrymen? They should however be pleased with their European melodic metal sound and listening to "A New Evil" it's not difficult to hear why as they combine fierce riffing by Magnus 'Klister' Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande, etc.) and power drumming (Mike Terrana) with a vocalist who can actually sing (Ronnie Romero).

Taking in small doses, tracks like "Don't Stand In My Way", "Bring Me Home", "The Night People Rise", offer pleasant metal listening but nothing more. It's not a question of holding back though and on the plus side, The Ferrymen sounds very professional and like the real deal. They certainly create a big melodic metal sound for a three piece and Karlsson are keeping track of both the 4 and 6 string in the studio. In fact. Some of the changes, chord progressions and guitar work reminds you of the old ancient masters of the seventies and eighties. The first couple of tracks are no doubt the best and Karlsson's still capable of writing an absolutely killer chorus or three.

The overall sound of the album, cruising down the same avenue as the likes of Kamelot, Masterplan, Allen/Lande, only perhaps not quite as impressive or with lasting power. Great musicians, great vocals, but rather typical middle-of-the-road when it comes to arrangements. "A New Evil is a bit heavier and more progressive", says Magnus Karlsson. "I'm always learning and trying to improve my songs and productions each time out. Working with Ronnie and Mike is a such a great experience. I can concentrate on the writing and whatever I will come up with, I know they will nail it! This time Jacob Hansen (Pretty Maids, Volbeat) did the mix and it works really well with the heavy style". Final verdict: Solid stuff, but hardly earth-shattering.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

MADHOUSE: "Money Talks Bullshit Walks"

Rating: RRRR
Label: MarsMusic 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

You came here looking for a derranged pig in shades (see artwork). Perhaps pure Sleaze and Melodic Hardrock rooted in a more sunny and fun era? Look no further than the debut album 'Money Talks Bullshit Walks' by Vienna/Austria's rockers, MADHOUSE (still drunk from yesterday), which includes twelve tracks full of lunatic Hair Metal! Indeed. The six-piece act including two vocalist and a hairdresser (latter statement not correct) are all about having pigs in a blanket and f-u-n. Current gang and line up: Tommy Lovelance & Lonewolf (vocals), Freddy Heart & Mikky Stixx (guitars), Ben Walker (bass) and Ken Shuri (drums).

It may sound like a cliche, but sheer dumb 80's party and FUN is what they provide. One listen to the opening song "Boom Boob Shaker" is enough to have anyone of a certain hairdo grinning and running for their retro KISS pinball machine. Lyrics in the questionable tradition and content of Gene Simmons and it's definitely a feast on the eye slash ear. The title track weirdly progress as they manage to cement themselves as holy rollers and followers of the new wave of sleaze, where the past is unshackled and a slightly new flavour is added. "Crazy Nights" may at first glance remind you of Kiss, but sounds more like Crazy Lixx and Motley Crue. Cheeky rock and naughty messages, "1st Time Lover" (featuring guest vocals by Kati Cher), the really catchy sing-a-long. "Tears Like Rain", the really great and slightly different power-ballad.

Powerful vocals and guitar work through the album and the absence of keyboards is a prime factor to proper sleaze, contributing to its relatively raw and mean production. The Glamour style itself is energetic and successful, unfortunately, they ran a little bit out of steam and stamina towards the end of the album. Some of the tracks are similar and they still need to work on getting all the pieces together. That's album number two, yeah? The haters may not agree, but simply to continue to exist will take young-ish acts such as Madhouse further up the ladder of success. Have a go at this if you enjoy acts such as: Crazy Lixx, Tuff, Motley Crue (Girls Girls Girls), Crashdiet, etc.

BLACK STONE CHERRY: "Black To Blues Volume 2"

Rating: EP
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"She's a 'Big Legged Woman' in a short, short, short, mini-skirt". Oh lordie, lordie. The blues in all its wicked nature? Wicked thoughts, wicked minds, wicked musicians? It's the devil's music, you know? And I'm speaking about the old skool devil and old skool nature. Not the family friendly kiddie version of today. Preachers used to roam the earth in desperate attemps to stop the blues from spreading like disease. All in vain of course since hordes of raving mad fans are still listening to the oldies (and newies) and Black Stone Cherry are merely trying to re-create the magic of proper roadhouse music. Correct. It's the cover album or EP since it's merely six tracks...

Starting up "Back To Blues Volume 2" with two powerful upper-cuts in "Big Legged Woman" (Freddie King) and Robert Johnson's "Me & The Devil Blues", it's a wonder that you're still standing. Chris Robertson (vocals/guitar) and the band have certainly gained confidence with these releases, taking more chances and letting it all hang out to dry. Showing off and even going for the first, second, round KO may not always be the best way to keep the audience on your side. However. When it's done properly like on the first two blows and the following Mississippi blues of "All Your Love (I Miss Loving - originally performed by Otis Rusch), it's no doubt the winning concept.

The songs are obviously more up-to-date (duh!), hardrocking, and heavier than the originals. Some may not enjoy the sound as they prefer the ancient production and style. Then again. How can you not enjoy the wicked groove of "Early One Morning" or the howling version of "Down In The Bottom" as originally performed by Howlin' Wolf? Covers are always difficult though and it's sometimes a no win situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don't? Nah... I'd rather go with damned if you don't have a listen, since this is pretty darn fun....

BLACKRAIN: "Dying Breed"

Rating: RR
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The artwork is... ehhh... interesting and had me thinking about my absolutely favourite waste of time... grave robbing!!! Yeah, baby! There's nothing more exciting than to really dig in and... huh? too macabre? Fair enough. The French sleaze rockers / grave robbers of Black Rain and the new album called "Dying Breed" - is like a response to the way the music world goes. Surrounded by electro music and R&B, struck by the death of many of their idols that made the rock history, asked by people why they still wear the old-fashioned hairdo, the four guys more and more felt like a "Dying Breed", 'the last of their kind' as the opening track will have you singing?

Truth be told. Not really singing rather than pointing, shouting, and screaming at their vocalist, Swan (song or lake?) as the vocal styling may not always fit the melodies. His ability can not be denied but for the most past I am left confused by what he's trying to communicate? The album's been composed and recorded in Sweden where frontman Swan is permanently settled and tracks such as "All Angels Have Gone", "We Are The Mayhem", "Rock Radio", are all pretty grand and sleazy to the extreme.

This isn't a complete dire album, far from it, although it would be difficult to get over excited about many of the tracks on here. I guess someone forgot to tell BlackRain that the album sounds like a typical reject of the eighties scene. You know, clicheville and heard-it-before-city via 2ndrate-town. To each great song, there's two really dodgy ones and that simply won't do in the long run. I believe it's back to the drawing board (really? it's all computers now!) and let's hope for better next time. We need to support these acts after all or they're all end up as dying breed....

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

JAN AKKERMAN: "Close Beauty"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hocus Pocus with Focus. There you go. That's pretty much all I know about Jan Akkerman. Not a whole lot to be honest. But I won't lie or pretend to know everything about each and every (hard) rock artists out there and certainly not when it's instrumental music (his solo outings). Do the google, you say? No. You do the google. It's sort of interesting to listen to 'Close Beauty' without any knowledge, if you know what I mean? You simply can't keep track of them all and Focus was before my time. No real excuse since I obviously do track back in time.

However. It's twelve compositions, acoustic, electric guitar, and overall varied works. According to Jan, "I've always been able to tell that none of my albums sound the same. Exploring new things is something that I'd always wanted to do. Harmonica player Toots Thielemans once told me: ‘your timing, that’s your signature, your autogram’. I consider ‘Close Beauty’ exactly like that. If you stand very close to a cow, you can’t tell it’s a cow, after all", end quote. Conclusion? It's a cow!?

He's obviously 'Dutch' from the Netherlands (Holland) and "Close Beauty", instrumental rock in its more classical sense, having a penchant for more snappy medievil influences and open land/soundscapes, than never-ending cycles of riffs held together by shredding and pace, Akkerman's compositions are progressive when it comes to updating the vast spectrum of instrumental music. Hard to categorize, the mood changes from sunny afternoons to not so sunny melancholy. The music is really diverse, so the different music channels have different structure and avenues to choose from. Some of the songs are in the vein of the classical masters, others are more fusion influenced, there's fingerpicking, as well as a few odd numbers of clarity and Spiritual Privacy.

The bottom line: Less widdly widdly diddly, and more in time with the current 'less is more' vogue, the compositions add a wicked sense of individuality to the album which channels the timing, harmonics, virtuosity of a great guitarist. It's the great album to listen to while reading a book and I mean that in the best possible way and sense. One thing's for sure. It's the art cover of the year, if not for the sneaky fishy 72 year old geezer in the background :-) facebook.com/JanAkkermanOfficial