Saturday, April 4, 2020

SILVERNITE: "So It Began"

Rating: - (EP)
Label:  Valve Studio Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Silvernite is a Greek/Finnish band and as the name suggests, this is their first EP. 5 tracks, two of them instrumentals, all heavily influenced by the 80's. Every songs sounds like it could have been on a soundtrack of some glorious 80's B-movie, you can almost visualise the aliens, ray guns, convertible cars, mullets and sunsets in Miami.

Multi-instrumentalist Strutter and guitarist Thanks G. have put together the songs, and Finnish singer Tanja Härkönen has provided the vocals. The album starts with an intro type of a track "Colt Has Fallen. Run... Run...?" that sounds as if it was taken from the first Terminator movie. Plenty of blipping keyboards, synthetic drums and a steady bass line with cool guitars on top - tasty! "Sweet Mary" is the first "real" song and it's a gem - more conventional AOR with a big chorus and fine vocals from Tanja. "Cry For Love" follows, more in the vein of synthwave with 80's electronic drums sounds, although the chorus is more AOR with crunchy guitars.

"Lost In Your Eyes" is an instrumental that has touches of Italo-pop, synthwave, AOR'ish guitar work and (synth-)saxophone-driven pop hook, with a pulsating synth bass underneath it all.

The final track "We Will Be Back" is an ethereal synth-based track with vocals in a supporting role, rather than stealing the limelight. The song promises that SILVERNITE will return to save the Earth. Armed with more eighties' sounds, Simmons drums and Flying V's I'm sure.  

I'm looking forward to hearing more, both of the more conventional songs were very good and the more instrumental mood pieces very enjoyable as well. The EP has served its' purpose, it has left at least this particular listener hungry for more.

https://silvernite.bandcamp.com
https://www.youtube.com/silverniteofficial
https://www.facebook.com/silverniteofficial

Thursday, March 26, 2020

HAREM SCAREM: "Change The World"

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

"We all want to find peace and harmony" - You and I are gonna Change The World? And Lesperance breaks out into the 80's UK rock-riff? (think: The Alarm, U2,). They haven't changed much since their previous record though and that's probably a good thing? Recall when they did Rubber and band-wagon material? It has worked against the Canadians because people seem to still want to talk about it. It's not something that I feel is all too relevant to what the boyos' are doing now and in the 2000's. As far as I'm concerned it's all in the past and... hang on a minute, 'The Death Of Me' might just be Rubber meets Moodswings? The slightly downtuned vibe? Ehem. Anyhow. It's catchy and fun stuff and the following track "Mother of Invention" goes through the Queen and My Chemical Romance transformation before setteling in at the Harem Scarem. The refrain is pure magic with it's smothering message, "Just let love shine into your heart, mind, body, and soul".

They might have been accused of being very 'solid' and it is no coincidence that their 15th album sounds similar to some of their previous ones. It's however not a case of three chords and keeping it boogie-woogie. For instance. Take something like "Riot In My Head" with its punky attitude and punch to the teeth. If Green Day decided to go melodic rock? Then again. Green Day are doing a lot of Power-Pop melodies. "No Me Without You" is like a trusty old ballad with a formula and arrangement that goes hand in hand with the world according to Harry Hess.

"Fire & Gasoline" smells like something Hess and Pete Lesperance just write and play spontaneously, and it simply just end up scary deadly and darn catchy. You'd expect the heavy artillery with a title such as "Swollowed By The Machine" and to my surprise, it's not the latest Marilyn Manson single, but a super melodic HS composition. The track listing is kind of weird and I would personally change a lot of the numbers. Final verdict: I don't truly believe they can "Change The World" with this record. They can however change your moodswings (ouch! lame-o) and brighten up your day. It's professional and well executed rock from one of the best and most trusted melodic rock acts in the business. Recommended .https://www.facebook.com/harem.scarem.band

ALLEN/OLZON: "Worlds Apart"

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

The latest project aka ambitious work of songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer: Magnus "Klister" Karlsson (Primal Fear, etc.) and we're still talking about melodic/symphonic metal with the rather poppy agenda. This time, Worlds Apart, and the male voice: Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob) vs. the female dito in Anette Olzon. Reading the press-release, it's funny how they're completely trying to erase the musical past of Anette. She's obviously the vocalist from ALYSON AVENUE which yours truly raved about in their demo days (I still have unreleased stuff in my collection) and gave a helping hand. This eventually led to Nightwish and fame with lots of... Hey! Where's my transfer cut? Nevermind ;-)

This album is certainly well produced with plenty of symphony and keyboard moments, Klister riffs and flashy guitar solos. Fistfuls of classy arrangements from a Swedish point of view, but with an undertow of elegant musicanship courtesy of the solid songwriter and project maker at the Frontiers. Does it work? Well... Anette echoes the ABBA-history on tracks such as "I'll Never Leave You" and "One More Chance" and that's including the Swedish accent and the Poppy/Symphonic vibe. In fact. Check out RockUnited.com and our massive archive and you may notice that my thoughts of Anette were always on a positive note, but she may at times sound like the 'dansband' vocalist. AKA The place where all the rock/metal musicians go when all of their dreams have died. Believe it or not. Anette's vocals were actually recorded at the Alyson Avenue studio by Niclas Olsson. Kudos!

Russell Allen sound also great on most tracks, but I struggle to enjoy duets such as "My Enemy" where the two vocalists are worlds apart (pun intended) and never really close on the pitch nor scale. The refrain is painful to say the least and I tend to skip this tune asap. Borderline off-key most of the time to be honest. Final verdict: Flashy guitar-work, smashing keys, but a tad too predictable. You are simply not left with anything on here that will knock your socks off. It's all drama and no thriller in my books or movies for that matter. FYI. Klister is the Swedish word for glue and Karlsson was the brand of the past. Which sort of make sense as this is a rather sticky affair. You might enjoy this more than I did if you're into Swedish Drama Metal though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

NOVENA: "Eleventh Hour"

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

Prog-Rock from UK and Novena which include the line-up: Vocals by Ross Jennings' (Haken) and Gareth Mason's (Slice The Cake), guitars by Dan Thornton's (Ex-HAARP Machine, Ex-No Sin Evades His Gaze), drums: Cameron Spence's (Ravenface) and wicked bass-line from Moat Lowe's (Slugdge, Ex-NSEHG) and keyboard by Harrison White. Well. It's hardly Progressive Rock if you're stuck with a growler? That's a very posh attitude especially considering that I enjoy the Semblant release (see review elsewhere). It's not really the growls rather than the arrangements that gets on my nerves. I do find them to be eclectic and out of the box, but at the same time I struggle to find any purpose or direction since the melodies goes around and around in circles like a darn merry-go-round. You'd like to scream at them to sit down, stop smoking all that pot, focus, find your path, as they clearly got lost somewhere along the way.

And don't give me that crap that I clearly don't appreciate Prog, I friggin' love the genre with everything from ancient 70's stuff to modern era. These particular compositions? I find them to be too introspective and without any lasting memories or choruses. "Lucidity" is however the exception from the rule and something that's clearly worthy of your attention. It's sadly back to the annoying stuff with the following track "Corazón" though. It's like if they're throwing stuff at you just to see what sticks. Nothing, nothing sticks! According to the press-release, "every song has a solid and personal identity, with choruses that dare the listener to try and forget them". Blimey. They sure got it dead wrong this time. Forget them? I bloody well couldn't find them in the first place. I haven't been this put off by an Prog album for years and years. The absolutely best thing I can say about the Eleventh Hour? Check it for yourself. Great musicians. It's... different, odd, but oh-so incrediable b-o-r-i-n-g. It's like if they've invented a completely new genre, Snooze-Prog... Zzzz!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

KHYMERA: "Master Of Illusions"

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

What once started out by Italian producer/musician Daniele Liverani and then Kansas singer Steve Walsh, has developed into a regular on/off melodic hardrock project by bassist and producer Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Magnum). I never quite understood why they decided to keep the moniker? All the previous musicians are gone and it's a completely different sound and project? Anyhow. It's still Ward-Khymera and you can except the great production and pretty darn solid songwriting by Mister Pink Magnum. Indeed. 'Master of Illusions' may have the appearance of some kind of electrifed Goddess with a wacky taste for success. Even the album title may suggest the progressive outfit, and it's kind of alarming to find several riffs that are just a bit too clichéd to be worthy of full praise and the 21 guns salute.

On first play it's a little bit on the safe side. However, it's definitely a grower and as a rock band the line-up of Ward (vox/bass), Michael Klein (guitars), Eric Ragno (keyboards), Pete Newdeck (drums) are bloody excellent, but it would have been nice if they hadn't completely drenched their melodies in all the eighties goo and muck. The quick track by track. The opener "Walk Away" is actually one of the more headbanging tracks on the album. It's uptempo and catchy stuff with the memorizing keyboard attack by Ragno and it's all very pleasing to these pair of ears. "The First Time" gets the blood pumping and your poor ticker may skip a beat or two as you're up dancing on the tables and screaming along to the refrain. The title track goes through Fair Warning and Bon Jovi vibes while keeing it Ward-y. "The Sun Goes Down" is a dark (pun intended) moment on the record and not really something to write home about. "Paradise" may not be the place to spend your after life since it's a rather sappy ballad. "The Rhythm Of My Life" is the sunny and fun moment and the same goes for "Follow The Sun".

"Spending my time drinking Whiskey and Wine" is the rather dodgy line from "Father And Son". It's however a really great sentimental ballad that goes straight to the heart with a heartfelt refrain that goes "Heaven help me, stand beside me, said the father to the son". All songs are written by Ward with the exception of "After All This Time" which is the work of Michael Palace. Not his best work up to date and it may just lack a proper hook. "Victim Of Your Love", great verse(s) and the so-so refrain. The closer "Just Let It Happen" is one of the highlights with its sophisticated sound and arrangement. Sadly hidden away as the last track on the album? Final verdict: It's a nice listening experience and you simply can't go wrong here, if you enjoyed the previous work by Ward and Khymera.

SEMBLANT; "Obscura"

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

I've got all the things that I'm "allowed" to mention written down when it comes to Frontiers and their releases. It's usally words such as pink, fluffy, melodic, catchy, hairmetal, AOR, shoulder pads, and several cans of extremely sticky hairspray. Imagine my surprise when Sergio 'Cookie Monster' Mazul came through my loud speakers with growls and howls in the tradition of Black and Death Metal. Now, please don't go thinking early 90's stuff and church burning psycho freaks from Norway. It's v-e-r-y melodic stuff, music-wise, and they have the clean female vocalist Mizhuo Lin at the very centre of attention.

In fact. Their only brutal take at the scene would be the 'every-now-and-then' growls by Mazul. I wouldn't even categorize this as melodic death metal (as mentioned in the press-release), it's more or less traditional melodic (symphonic) metal with a sidekick growler. Strange genre disasters apart, Frontiers provides the backing and Semblant are merely doing what any other band debuting their music would do (Obscura is their third album though), and taking full advantage of whatever kind of cash and marketing that a melodic Italo label can afford to splash on the so-called Melodic Death Metal band from Brazil. Ehem. It's not looking great when typed down and it might just be a strange combo?

Nonetheless. It's all about the music and it's actually quite darn good. Obscura takes catchy riffage of Neo-classical and symphonic acts and sets it aside a stylistic range that combines a meaningful grasp of female fronted 'Goth' and atmospheric horror and excellent growls. Sure. Something like "Wallachia" might just include too many growls for the average melodic fan. However. It's all very nicely done and I'd like to think of it as watching the great horror flick. It fits the concept as well as the story of the lord of the shadows. It's a real grower (and growler) of an album and and tracks such as Murder of Crows, Control The Masters, Daydream Tragedy, etc. show a band outgrowing any of the genres that people care to throw in their faces. Mizuho Lin is a proper belter of an vocalist and it's overall a very pleasant surprise of metal. Goody!!

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: "Heaven Forbid"

Rating: Re-issue
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Sci-fi/horror lyrics and traditional guitar rock in the year of 1998? Heaven Forbid! Originally released during the alternative years and thus dark ages of Classic Dino Rock, it was the 'comeback' album of Blue Öyster Cult after ten years of absence. The United States of America science fiction and horror writer John Shirley wrote lyrics to most of the songs on the album and the Bouchard brothers are nowhere to be seen/heard along with the cowbell.

The rather muscular and blunt opener of "See You In Black" is soon replaced by the catchy number that is "Harvest Moon". The latter may suggest the Pink Floyd or Neil Young agenda and sound, and it's a very decent composition by Donald Roeser. Eric Bloom (guitars, keyboards, lead vocals) and Buck Dharma (guitars, keyboards, lead vocals) are the two leading stars though and they continued to perform the guitar rock of BÖC's past on this very record. "Still Burnin" was supposed to be a sequel to the song "Burnin' For You" that appeared on Fire of Unknown Origin. It's not quite as great though.

BÖC in the nineties managed to retain some of the virtues of their formative years, without the need to completely change their sound to grunge or alternative. Then again, 1998 was the last big year of depression and the magical world of internet opened up for the comeback of classic rock. Perhaps not always as entertaining, but it's certainly the more than decent album with a neat production by the two. It's one of those late 90's studio efforts that went many by the first time around and here's your chance to pick up the reissue.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

GRAND DESIGN: "V"

Rating: RRRR
Label: GMR
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Album number five from this band, would you believe it? They started out as the biggest Def Leppard wannabes of all time, but somehow over the years they've matured into something else. It's still very Leppard-flavoured, but I can also see/hear the outlines of their own grand design.

"V" is a good album. I pretty much like all of the songs. Having said that, afte a dozen spins I still have trouble remembering some of them. Fun to listen to, but necessarily the kind of songs I find myself humming during the day.

The DL influence is very obvious in the guitar work, the harmonies and some of the melodies. Pelle Saether's distinctive voice doesn't really sound like that of Joe Elliott, his higher register is very unique and an acqured taste I'm sure. I'm still getting used to it, after all these years of listening to the band.

One track that's among my favourites is "The Warrior", originally recorded by Patty Smyth and Scandal. This early 80's hit gets re-designed and it works really well. Other standouts include the opener "Right Away", "I Dunno Wut To Say" (chek yer spelling! My spell checker is going crazy with these titles!) and "Guilty Of Luv In The 1st Degree". Then there are those mid-paced "hysterical animal" songs "Wut Are U Waiting For" (shouldn't that be "Wut R U Waiting 4"?) and "Take Me To Yer Heaven", good stuff too. As are the others, some of them might make you want to burn down something though.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

THE DARKER MY HORIZON: "Seize The Day"

Rating: RRRR
Label: TDMH
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

This is the third album from the hard working lads of The Darker My Horizon. Over the last five years they've gone from strength to strength, supported many name artists such as Nazareth and Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime and headlined some smaller-scaled festivals. They've achieved their status independently, which is very impressive.

"Seize The Day" follows their successful formula of mixing 80's styled melodic rock with modern rock. They've got their Nickelback'ish rockers like "Sleaze" and "Still Alive" which I frankly don't find  that interesting, but they also have a more melodic side which appeals to me more. Many of the album's songs are ballads or at least balladic, ranging from the more power-ballad styled songs like "Carpe Diem" and "On My Way" to understated, delicate ones such as "No Turning Back" with its' sparse instrumentation.

I was slightly disappointed in the first half of the album (all the "nickelrockers"), but thankfully the second half was much better. The "B-side" of this album has most of the better tracks, including the aforementioned "On My Way" and "No Turning Back". The album's highlight for me is track number 8, "Lies, Lies, Lies". It's a clever uptempo track with an absolutely majestic guitar hook. I'm talking about Bostonesque proportions here! "I Will Rise Again" is another fine track with great axemanship. The acoustic version of the ballad "Dear Olivia" closes the album, or maybe it's supposed to be a bonustrack, I don't know. The electric version of it was released on the band's previous album. I like it, and apparently the band likes it too, since they've released both versions of it as singles!

http://www.thedarkermyhorizon.com/

Friday, February 21, 2020

ALBERT CUMMINGS: "Believe"

Rating: Rr
Label: Mascot 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Here's Albert!!! Not to be confused with Whitney Cummings or any other comedian for that matter (Whitney'd be glad all over if people thought she was Albert tho'). To start up your brand new album with the rather tiresome old blues of "Hold On" (Sam and Dave) may not please this particular reviewer. Especially since we've heard this blues story way too many times in the past. "Do What Mama Says" strolls down the same old lane as previous track and it's so been there, done that. Don't get me wrong. Albert's no schmuck and guitar work and vocals are spot on. The song material on the other hand will have you constantly day dreaming about smokey bar rooms and 7 drunken geezers around the tables throwing various strange items at the poor entertainer.

"Red Rooster", oh dear, it's not getting any better and by the time "Queen Mean" blast through the speakers, I'm afraid that you've already lost this listener and overall music fanatic. No. Wait, wait. The Van Morrison cover of "Crazy Love" saves the moment as the ballad goes straight to the heart, before it's right back to where we started from with "Get Out Of Here".

It's just too safe, middle of the road, predictable, and not at all exciting blues material that's been done to death. Sure. It's easy accesible and geezer friendly and "Me and My Guitar" shows Albert's best side (guitar-wise), but ultimately it's all a little disappointing. Sort of if 'Best Buy' would release a blues record. Nicely recorded in Muscle Shoals, with the legendary Jim Gaines in the producer's chair, I do however not "Believe" in the songmaterial...

DEWOLFF: "Tascam Tapes"

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

"Trouble, trouble, trouble". It's the Tascam Tapes. This is DeWolff's new album, it was recorded on the road for less than $50, but it sounds like a million bucks. A Million? Why not billion or trillion? Some of you may remember the band when they only recorded $30 albums, but they have clearly moved on to the fancy and posh enstablishment. The average rock fan isn't too bothered about your albums' cost to be honest since they're still paying the same price in the record store... ehh, except there's no store anymore? And people don't actually pay for records rather than individual songs? What the fudge? There goes the old Tascam 4 Track Cassette tape recorder (which always broke anyhow according to the band) down the river.

It's definitely old school recording but not always old school blues since DeWolff's are mixing things up with a little bit of electronica and dist to the max. No drum kit, no Hammond and no guitar amps though. The two part story of 'Blood Meridian' goes through several stages of genres and styles and I kind of like it. It will most certainly appeal to the devotees of open minded blues and R&B. "Love Is Such A Waste", featuring a 'Crazy' sampling and quirky arrangement which could almost have you thinking about a certain 'Crazy' hit from the 2000's.

The soulful display of tracks such as "It Ain't Easy", "Rain" and "Let It Fly" goes straight back to the future with its timeless sound. DeWolff are at their best when the playing is kept a bit quirky (see, 'Am I Losing My Mind'). When they enter some of the more basic blues sections the production and the very limitied budget (what budget?) do shine the most though. Final verdict: Quirky and darn interesting, it's probably worthy of $55 and then some.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/heavypettinofficial/

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.

REVOLUTION SAINTS: "Rise"

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”

RATING: RRRR
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 !!

https://www.blind-ego.com

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

STORMFORCE: "Age Of Fear"

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.

https://www.facebook.com/officialstormforce/
https://stormforce.ca/

Thursday, January 16, 2020

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

RATING: RRRRR
LABEL: WHITE BUFFALO
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

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!

  https://tylordorytrio.band

Thursday, January 2, 2020

MAGNUM: "The Serpent Rings"

RATING: RRRRr
LABEL: STEAMHAMMER/SPV
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

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 !!!


www.human-fortress.de


Thursday, November 28, 2019

DAN REED NETWORK: "s/t" AND 'Slam" REISSUES



RATING: N/A
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.

OFFICIAL SITE