Saturday, June 13, 2015

SOUL SECRET: 4

Rating: RRRR 
Label: Golden Score 
Review by: Martien Koolen 

 Although this is only their third album it is actually called 4, which is quite funny or maybe just weird.. However as I really liked the debut album (Flowing Portraits) and follow up Closer To Daylight I am "obliged" to like their third release as well? No, I am only kidding of course, I really like 4, maybe it is even their best album so far. 

The third album of these Italian prog rockers also features a third new singer; Lino Di Pietrantonio is his name and he replaced former vocalist Fabio Manda. Lino's voice is more melodic than Manda's and maybe this could just do the trick for some listeners, although I actually preferred the voice of Manda; but who am I to judge?? 

4 is concept album and tells the story of Adam, who is standing on the roof of a large building, reflecting on his rather average, boring life. Opener On The Ledge already belongs to one of my Soul Secret favourite tracks as it really shows the musical capabilities of the band as this great song is complex, melodic and very versatile. Other highlights of the album are the two instrumental songs Silence and My Lighthouse where guitar picker Antonio Vittozzi and keyboarder Luca Di Gennaro show what they are capable of. But Soul Secret keep the best for last as The White Stairs, a 16 minutes epic track, is the absolute highlight of this album. This amazing track is a mix of rock, jazz, prog, great melodies, heavy guitars and the best part of it is that it all fits like a glove. 

Of course the band sounds like you know who; an American prog metal band consisting of 12 letters?, but I do not mind that at all. 4 is a great progressive rock album and a must for lovers of great, diverse, daring music; it is also the best album of Soul Secret so far. Keep up this good work guys and come to The Netherlands to do some live gigs to convince the non-believers. Play at maximum volume!!

TEN: ”Isla De Muerta”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Roctopia 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Only a few months after the release of ”Albion”, the 11th Ten studio album, the band is already offering us new material. This comes as no surprise to Ten fans, it was stated that the band recorded two albums’ worth of material during the sessions.

If you’re thinking that the songs on this album are leftovers from the ”Albion” session, you might want to think again. ”Isla De Muerta” is very much a ”complete album”, one that you can easily listen from start to finish.  I’ll admit that after first couple of spins I was slightly disappointed, as there didn’t seem to be many ”hits” such as the first few tracks of their previous album. After several spins I do still think that most of these songs can’t rival the best songs of ”Albion”. Then again, that album has a few songs that I tend to skip… ”Isla De Muerta” doesn’t.

There’s a common musical thread to most of these songs: subtle, understated choruses. It seems that the more defined hooks were used on ”Albion”. Most of the choruses of ”IDM” aren’t quite as immediate, it’s like they go with the flow the song and do not jump at you. However, you’ll catch yourself humming them eventually.

What separates TEN from most of the other bands are Gary Hughes’ lyrics. He writes rather articulate, intelligent and well-researched lyrics, not your typical AOR stuff about lost love or holding on. It’s not often that I have to look up a song title from a dictionary, but with ”Acquiesce” I had to do that… English isn’t my first language after all.

I want to mention a few highlights among these 11 songs. ”This Love” does have a bombastic chorus and it goes straight to the list of my favorite Ten ballads. ”The Dragon And Saint George” is an uptempo track that takes me back to the era of ”The Name Of The Rose”, the second Ten album. The heavier side of the band is showcased with ”Angel Of Darkness”, which kicks off with a high-pitched scream and an Iron Maiden-like riff. Then there’s the catchy ”Last Pretender”… and so on. Every song does have its’ charm.

http://www.tenofficial.com

Thursday, May 21, 2015

KEZIA: "The Dirty Affair"

Rating: RRR
Label: LogicIllogic 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Manic rockers and simply put the wicked fusion of Prog, Pop, Rock, Swing and electro. It's the vivid art-rock act from Brescia, Italy with a soft spot for the unexpected and bizarre. Influences and inspiration from acts such as System Of A Down, Pavlov's Dog, Frank Zappa, Dream Theatre, The Sparks? Squeeze all these acts together like an orange crush and end up with Kezia? Yeah. It's never that easy and you know it. Obviously never quite as superb as above mentioned acts. However, they certainly don't shun craziness, in fact they embraces it with all the power and might of Italian pizza and pasta.

It's the groovy acid trip of ups and downs where the listener is constantly forced to believe in outlandish arrangements and over-the-top vocals by the impressive Pierlorenzo Molinari. The overall structure is progressive rock, but they move in between the Dream Theatre-ish to the bizarre of Zappa to the aggressive attitude of SOAD and the playfulness of The Sparks. Opening track, "Before I Leave", the most Prog-metal-ish track of them all and also the weakest in my humble opinion. The interplay between piano and guitar is fun though and it's nicely done and executed.

"Ebola", System Of A Down meets Pavlov's Dog meets The Sparks, and I like it. "The Dirty Affair (Between Pelican and Bear)", good, but really too weird to express. "Sneakers", the real story of Roy Sullivan, the ranger with the gift of immortality. "Barabba's Son's Song", everyone remembers Jesus but nobody talks 'bout Barabba. Bombastic keyboards/piano and the complex structure with plenty of oddities. It's the terracotta pie syndrome with over-the-top (melodic) melodies and overall psychotic agenda. One for the open-minded to check out asap. Definitely worthy of your attention.
keziaofficial.it
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MAGNUM - 'Escape From The Shadow Garden LIVE 2014'



RATING: RRR
LABEL: SPV
REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Magnum are one of those bands who refuse to go away, and that's a good thing because they've always put their collective heart into everything they do, and over the years I have yet to see them put on a bad show. Live albums nowadays are ten a penny, and it's actually rare to find one that is badly made thanks to the technology now available, but it's still nice to hear a band in their natural setting.

As the title suggests, this one was recorded on last year's 'Escape From The Shadow Garden' tour. It's surprisingly short, with only twelve tracks on offer, but it's no surprise that those tracks are of the highest quality. There's plenty of more recent material, like 'Falling For The Big Plan', 'Dance of The Black Tattoo', 'Freedom Day' and 'Blood Red Laughter', with fans of older material placed by the likes of eternal favourite 'Les Morts Dansant', Bob Catley's favourite 'Vigilante' and Tony Clarkin's musical millstone 'Kingdom Of Madness'. It all sounds clear as day, and naturally the band don't put a foot wrong. the problem I have (aside from the length) is it's quite sterile. It could do with some examples of Bob chatting to the crowd, maybe some warm up chords or guitar tuning - something to reinforce it as a live concert not just a bunch of tracks stitched together.

As live albums go this will keep fans happy, but not much more than that. the audience is mixed in well, the vocals are clean and clear, and the music is first class, but maybe I've been spoiled by the likes of 'Live After Death' and 'World Wide Live', because these days a live album doesn't seem to mean as much as it used to.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

RAGING DEAD: "Born In Rage"

Rating: EP
Label: AtomicStuff 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The horror, the horror! I recall spending way too many hours in my early teens to splatter-horror movies from Italy. The nights in front of the TV screen. Utterly sick and twisted... and so are these guys. Cloud Shade (vocals), Matt Void (guitars), Simon Nightmare (bass) and Tracii Decedence (drums), are trying to capture the images, make them come alive through their music and debut 6-track EP. They draw inspiration from the likes of Murderdolls, Wednesday 13, Misfits, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Skid Row?, etc.

They've been causing mayhem and destruction live on stage with other horror-metal acts from Italy such as Superhorrorfuck and Scream Baby Scream. Opening track, "Scratch Me", the energy and driving force of Lordi vs. Superhorrorfuck. Lyrically speaking, the traditional dodgy stuff and killer lines such as and I quote, "the devil, he came out from the monster's cradle. rippin off my flesh and heart, he said he was giving me another chance", end quote. Flesh/off. Heart/out. Whatever.

The suspicions of the more alert will have already been worried by the album cover (see pic right). Not to mention groovy titles such as "Awakening Of The Dead", "Nightstalker" or "Vengeance". The latter lifted off the punky songwriting style of Skid Row's Slave To The Grind for that matter. The songs are decent enough for a spin or two. But I believe they're still searching for their special horror theme. The shock effect? Clearly not as shocking in the era of Internet videos of bloodshed and murder. Isis is a Egyptian Goddess or a person-person who stutter-stutter. Not too shabby though, not too shabby at all.
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LIPSTICK: "Lipstick" (Re-issue)

Rating: R
Label: LGRec. 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Get the glitter out of the gutter. Steal the Lipstick from your Mother? I don't know. It's all a bit too weird. The re-release of the 2014 platter feature all 12 songs from the original release of Lipstick's debut, along with 4 new bonus tracks and a short essay written by the band's mascot, the infamous cartoon cat known as Mr. Cool. Where do I begin... to tell the story of how great a... wrong melody.

I'm desperately searching for the political correct words or basically anything to type down on a positive note and manner. But darn it, the cartoon cat of Mr. Cool, probably the best thing about the U.S. Nashville band. It's Glam Rock that would stand out as a friggin' terrorist amongst dodgy Glam rockers. Ka-blaam. It's exploding stuff. One dimensional songs and vocals that your daft neighbours band would be proud of as they've been drinking their day away. Back to the drawing board. Get your act together. Sign up as the participant of the intensive songwriting and vocal weekend crash course. Yours truly could do with the same re: reviews? Nah..

... And that's everything on a positive note. Now let's move on to the negativity. Harsh, but tongue-in-cheek. Highlight, the piano ballad of "I Want The World To Know". Lipstick were aiming for a simple Glam sound and that's exactly what you get. Unfortunately poo brown rather than cherry red. Don't let me stop you from checking out the band though.
lipstickgeneration.com

DRAKKAR: ”Run With The Pack”

Rating: RR

Label: My Kingdom Music 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”Drakkar is one of the prime movers of the Italian Power Metal Scene” says the bio. ”Their sound is powerful, aggressive, epic and very melodic”. What’s there to add? That they have songs called ”Ride The Storm”, ”Gods Of Thunder” and ”Call Of The Dragonblood”? They do. And they sound pretty much how you’d imagine them to sound. Lots of double bass drums, hymn-like choirs, folk-tinged melodies… The voice of Dave Dell’Orto isn’t the typical high-pitched power metal voice though, he sounds more like Rock’n Ralf of Running Wild or Joakim Broden of Sabaton (without his rrrollin’ R’s). At times he does attempt to go for the extremely high notes, and it’s not always pretty…

The band’s songs do have plenty of melodies, but somehow they fail to impress. The whole album just sounds like I’ve heard it a million times before. If you’re a die-hard fan of the Power Metal scene, this might be something for you, but I’ll have to pass this time, thanks.


https://www.facebook.com/drakkarmetal

TONK: ”Ruby Voodoo”

Rating: RRR

Label: MelodicRock Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Tonk Tonk! These Australian hard rockers take me back to 1991 - 1992, when bands like Kik Tracee, Bangalore Choir and Babylon AD were releasing their first or second albums. The ”hair metal” boom was fading, so some of the bands had already incorporated some new elements to their music. That kind of describes the sound of TONK too.

”Ass Kick'n Rawk!” is how they describe themselves, and who am I to argue? They do kick ass, even if some of their songs are a bit unmemorable. At their best they offer us cool riffs and good hooks and even when they are not at their best, their energy and drive carries the songs quite well.

My favorite songs: ”Pleasure And Pain” (cool chorus), ”Last Goodbye” (a balladic track with vocalist Jinks sounding a bit like original Autograph-singer Steve Plunkett), ”End Of The Line” (Kik Tracee meets Sven Gali) and ”Over The Edge”.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/TONK/12616642018

Thursday, May 14, 2015

BODYFACE: "No"

Rating: Rr
Label: PrescriptionPR/BFRecords 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

No. Sorry. But I'm going to vote no on 'No'. When asked why Bodyface would title an album 'No' the band say it is, "because we are living in an age of negativity and No is a product of its times. People's lives are not defined by what they are told not to do. To this we say, No". Fair enough. I'm still going to slam the door with a sturdy 'No' and better luck next time though. Sorry about the negativity and lack of understanding.

To be frank. The song material does not impress in my humble opinion. I'm not keen on the speaking/talking vocals for that matter. Not to mention that it's all very Kerrang of the 00's past. Alternative noise rock with hardly any finesse or hooks. The press-release is trying to convince us otherwise though, saying that we are currently experiencing a period wherein big choruses and sweeping vocals are increasingly seen as uncool, in short, a style that people are saying 'No' to. Thus why Bodyface decide to skip them? Well... 'No', they're obviously trying their best to include them? No? I don't know.

The low-key vocals and second rate Jawbreaker and Bad Religion style does not impress in this particular case. Whispering Jack aka Jared Kerr (vocals/guitars) gives monotone a completely new meaning. It's all good during tracks such as "Dog", "It's Hard To Be Yourself", and the skater friendly title track of "No". It's unfortunately back to the whining/whispering kind of vocals in the next minute or two. Just say no to No? Well. Some of you might enjoy 'No' and say Yes? No?
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PADDY NASH & The HAPPY ENCHILADAS: "Laughter & Love"

Rating: RRRR
Label: MadMollyRecords 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

From a religious place where they praise ancient Gods such as George Best (RIP) and Van Morrison, The Good Friday Agreement was a major step in the peace process. 'Laughter & Love', by Paddy Nash and The Happy Enchiladas, the next natural step in the whole coming together as one nation under two Gods (Best AND Van the Man). The band from Northern Ireland gives the first impression of a happy family and the honest folks with no worries in the world. However, it's proper craftsmanship and songwriting that touches all kind of subjects from loneliness, minorities, to songs about travel as well as the odd nonsense track.

I have a soft spot for singer/songwriter music and this follows in the grand N.I. tradition of plenty of fun acts. Probably the best to come out of Northern Ireland since the latest effort by Bap Kennedy. The very first thing you'll notice? The harmonies are coming at ya' like flies on a picnic basket. Injecting a bittersweet after taste to their material, the seven-piece exude passion and an intensity that express honesty and invariability. Paddy was in fact a founding member of the award winning Folk Rock outfit The Whole Tribe Sings, and The Happy Enchiladas consists of Diane Greer (vocals, percussion), Liam McGuigan (guitar, harmonica), Jonny Nutt (bass), Rory Donaghy (guitars), Eddie O'Donnell (piano, organ) and John Spence (drums). They are all important to the overall sound picture. For instance, Paddy and Diane are both singing lead and duets.

"Happiness is a hard old place to find. Some people have been searching all their lives. That moment when you think that you've arrived. And you're last in line". I nearly started to cry as I heard the lyric to "Last In Lane", the instant classic of the genre as well as the introspective journey. Superb track with the sweet harmonica. There was a time when we were "Brave", now we turn and look the other way. The silent majority is the real problem today. "Wish", the excellent mid/uptempo track and the likes of Jackson Browne and Van Morrison would be darn proud to be mentioned in the same sentence.

The old Country shines through in "Cliches". "Adam & Evan", the political correct as well as every thinking person's tune about same sex marriage, but the song itself, in my humble opinion one of the worst tracks on the record with its honky-tonk and be-bop sound. "The Sunshine Blues", similar to the country/blues which the man-in-black used to perform. Closing track of "Stop Me From Dreaming" goes through several different stages of uptempo guitar rock inspired by the likes of Neil Young/Springsteen with harmonica and the excellent hook and sing-a-long refrain. Extra kudos to wee lass Greer (Alyssa) for her vocal performance.

'Somebody once said my music is like ‘A Poor Man’s Springsteen’ I like that'. There's no need for that actually, this singer/songwriter is a good Paddy Nash, and that's not too shabby. Effectual story telling with boots to match... and music.
paddynash.com
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NELSON: "Peace Out"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Timotei Twins are saying 'Hello, Everybody!' as well as Sayonara with one last hurrah and offering to the Gods of melodic hard rock? Merely five years on since the comeback album (Lightning Strikes Twice), Gunnar and Matthew Nelson are about to wave goodbye with the appropriate titled album of 'Peace Out'. The booklet holds a message and thank you note to the fans and I quote, 'who have supported us for over 25 years. It's been a fantastic ride, that alas, has come to an end. We wanted to make this our best one yet for you, and end this journey on a high note as we enter a new musical chapter', end quote.

Indeed. The twins are going after the singer/songwriter concept next and the updated (?) sound of the Everly Brothers and their dad (Ricky Nelson). It's a shame really, as I truly believe they could do both and still provide the goodies. So what about Peace Out, the high or flat note? It's nearly impossible to emulate the achievements of their debut album, "After The Rain", one of my guilty pleasures.

No, wait. I do not have any guilty pleasures or albums that are too embarrassing to speak of. Only a complete idiot would express these kind of feeling(s) and attitude towards the music you enjoy. Pop, singer/songwriter, punk, funk, rock, blues, folk, metal, progressive, the weird, the complex, the arty, the dark, the light. etc. It's all about quality in my opinion and not a certain genre or style. Good music is always good music no matter what.

Nelson delivers a warm summer breezy album that speaks of top-notch rock and excellent power-pop. The Twins are mainly here to entertain you with their hallmark/trademark harmonies and feel good moments. I love the super catchy, but slightly corny, "Rockstar". Roger from American Dad would totally sing-a-long to the whispered 'Rockstar' part. 'Back In the Day', 'Invincible', 'Let It Ride', 'Autograph', etc. it's all good. Closing track, 'Leave The Light On For Me', the semi-ballad in the style of Bon Jovi and Aldo Nova (Blood on The Bricks). Glorious hooks that will have believers reaching for the Kleenex, Peace Out is a record that any melodic rock fan should find to be a massive highlight of 2015. They're not trying to re-invent the wheel, they're merely out to pimp your ride.
matthewandgunnarnelson.com
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CAIN'S OFFERING: "Stormcrow"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Rising from the ashes a dark messenger of sorrow. I'm the Stormcrow. I'm your woe". Former Sonata Artica guitarist and overall mastermind and main songwriter of Cain's Offering. Jani Liimatainen is the name and bombastic, fantastic, symphonic, melodic, power metal, no doubt his favorite game.

Shell shocked by the opening tracks off their sophomore release and it's full marks to the title track with its highly technical structure and orchestral arrangement. The next following dance and song number, "The Best Of Times", another massive hit to the body and it feels like if you've been going the full distance and ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) behind the mic as always, but it's the addition of keyboardist Jens Johansson (Silver Mountain, Yngwie Malmsteen, Stratovarius) that really gets this all-star project ticking like a Swiss clock (or the bomb in the hands of the barking mad Power Metal terrorist? too much?). It's one sweeping run of speedy fingers after the other and the interludes of ebony/ivory vs. the stings of Liimatainen are impressive to say the least.

What about the things that clearly will not stand the test of time? One thing's for sure. Power ballads are not supposed to mimic the soundtrack of Titanic or your Russian contender from the Eurovision song contest for that matter. Remarkable bland and boring, "Too Tired To Run" and "On The Shore", goes straight to the bin. Low points elsewhere range from the slightly below average work of "My Heart Beats For No One", to "Rising Sun", with its one dimension style and repetition of previous tracks.

Final verdict: Starting out like a proper slugger, "Stormcrow", may just lack the stamina and moves to go the full distance. Watch out for the killer hook(s) at the beginning. Still worthy of your attention though?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Radioactive: ”F4ur”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Escape Music 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Swedish guitarist/songwriter/producer Tommy Denander is no stranger to anyone who has followed the melodic rock scene lately. His name pops up on a few albums each month it seems. Radioactive is his very own project, and ”F4ur” (pronounced ”ffourur”?) is the fourth Radioactive album, as you might have guessed. I haven’t been listening to the previous three lately, but I’d say that this one is the best of the bunch.

Lovingly put together with some great songs performed by an all-star cast, ”F4ur” will definitely be one of the more successful AOR albums of 2015. With 14 tracks on it, there’s room for a couple of less enthralling songs, but when Denander and co. hit the bullseye, they hit it big time.

It’s taken me a while just to get past the first song ”Summer Rains”. It’s the nostalgic soft-rock anthem of this summer, with immaculate vocals from the late Jimi Jamison and some seriously gorgeous harmonies. For the first few spins the overwhelming brilliance of the song made the rest pale a little in comparison, but subsequent plays have brought up a few other favorites too.

”Back To The Game” with vocals from Fergie Frederiksen, another singer who sadly no longer with us, is rather Totoesque AOR with some progressive elements. Something I was somehow expecting from Denander, who has never tried to hide his Toto influence. I prefer the cool, slightly bluesy ”Beautiful Lies” though. Cult AOR god Jeff Paris shines on vocals and the hook is one of the catchiest of the album.

Steve Walsh’s strained vocal on ”The Piper” somehow suits the track, but it’s also a bit disturbing. The chorus is rather fine again, reminding me of the late eighties’ Kansas albums. The Robin Beck-sung ”When The Silence Gets Too Loud” and Jean Beauvoir’s ”You’ll Find The Fire” are both among the highlights, as is the second Jeff Paris-sung song ”Start All Over”. Goddamn it, we need a new AOR album from Mr. Paris and soon!

Dan Reed is a good choice to sing the smooth pop-rocker ”If Only My Memory Could Lie”. ”Just A Man” is another Fredriksen-sung track, and I like it more than the prog-Toto track earlier in the track listing.  As much as I usually like James Christian, I can’t say that I’m too crazy about the track he gets to sing, ”Give Me Your Loving”. Compared to the others, the production sounds a bit messy and as much as the song tries, it isn’t the ”Still Of The Night” for this decade. The last song is a short, atmospheric instrumental piece called ”Memoriam”.

I was pleasantly surprised by this album. Being the skeptical, jaded old man I am, I was expecting more of Totoisms and songs all carved from the same wood. Instead ”F4ur” turned out to be a versatile album with some superb performances by the guest singers. And yeah, Tommy isn’t completely hopeless when it comes to playing guitar! :)

https://www.facebook.com/tommydenanderradioactive

Friday, May 8, 2015

MASTER MASSIVE: "The Pendulum"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Vicisolum 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The underground mythical Swedish Heavy Metal project of Master Massive, led by the flashy guitarist Jan Strandh (Zanity), is finally set for a proper release after spending the past 23 years as the obscure cult act with several demos on their hands. Based in Skövde, the concept album and Metal opera of The Pendulum feature a long list of singers from their hometown, including: Peo Pettersson (Axia, Leviticus, solo), Katarina Lilja (Therion), Tony Niva (Niva, Lion's Share, Zanity), Tony Yoanson (Masquerade), Petter Karlsson (Therion), Öivin Tronstad (Jupiter Society), and original vocalist Erik Forsberg.

It's old school metal that you either could file under (very early) Yngwie Malmsteen (think: 'Marching Out') meets Mercyful Fate, or why not the more melodic version of Candlemass and Manowar with just the hint of Maiden? It's nonetheless pretty impressive stuff and it's one of those albums that gets better with each spin (up to a certain point of course, it's not like it would go on forever and ever). And like a proper libretto, the lead singers are playing different parts and characters in this fantasy world of ancient Gods. It's basically the old story of good vs. evil. According to Strandh: "In this opera – The Pendulum, one single individual is given the power to change the fate of the Earth. Impossible in real life, but totally viable within the aesthetic framework of opera as an art form. In our opera the human being chosen for the assignment is a normal person, not a hero character. His only weapon in the fight for the Earth’s survival is his ability to refrain from the thoughts, feelings and habits hitherto a natural part of him."

Ehh. Yes. It's all a bit over the top. Don't confuse the words 'metal opera' with typical high pitch screaming folks though. Sure enough. Peo, Niva, Lilja, etc. are all working in their upper range, but never as extreme as say King Diamond. The Pendulum provides 70 minutes of epic heavy metal of excellent caliber, firmly rooted in the eighties groove. In fact. The track, "Time Out Of Mind", dates back to the eighties as it's the old Zanity song with reworked lyric to fit the concept. It's difficult to pick any special tracks and highlights since they're all part of the story. I'd have to say that it's all good stuff even if something like 'Sovereign Power' with its DIO meets Mercyful Fate sound might just attract hordes of headbangers.

I enjoy the fact that you can actually pick up the sound of the bass player (Karl Nyhlin, also lute, theorbo, mellotron) as he lay down some wicked lines in the old school of Harris, DeMaio, and indeed Andersson (Leviticus). Add to this excellent guitar work by Strandh, Yngve Frank (Zanity, Mean Streak), and top notch vocals by the cast and you're in for a metal treat. You need to spend some time with this album though. Ambitious work with a complex structure and progressive undertones. Recommended if you're into above mentioned acts and styles.
Master Massive facebook

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: "The Contented Man (These Halcyon Days)"

Rating: Single
Label: Right Track Rec./Universal 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The second single from the forthcoming debut album by the up and coming U.K. artist Michael Armstrong follows the success of "The Radio Years", which garnered raving reviews across the board. "The Contended Man" (These Halcyon Days), reeks, speaks, or rather echoes? the West Coast and Rock era of the late seventies and early eighties. It's the fun song with a rather simple message of the person looking for happiness and tenderness, but with a smooth and excellent sound structure that could have you dreaming about better days?

Upbeat, uplifting, uptempo. It's summer fun piano rock with the saxophone solo and catchy refrain. Billy Joel, Leo Sayer, Elton John, merely some of the influences that first comes to mind. Armstrong's been performing at Queen's Jubilee Concert and are going out on tour with Leo Sayer this summer. His upcoming debut album (release date: 29th of June) feature guest musicians from bands such as Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Eric Clapton, The Hollies, etc. I'll make sure to feature the album review here at RockUnited.com later. For now, check out music at the links or why not attend the album previews/showcase and performances at 5.30 PM, 28th May - Gallery Different. 14 Percy Street. London. The Cavern Club (Liverpool) at 7PM, 14 June.
michaelarmstron.co.uk
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TOWN PORTAL: "The Occident"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Subsuburban/SmallPond Rec. 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Instrumental rock, it's either boring as hell or simply just the grand experience as well as the massive jam party. Put this down for the latter. The Danish power-trio of Town Portal are coming up with goodies on their sophomore release - The Occident. Danskdjävlar!! Excuse me. I merely thought of this Swedish character (Dr. Helmer/ Ernst Hugo) from the TV series of Riget. It's one monster chord after the other and the complex time changes and structures found on this record goes beyond expectation.

Keep in mind. You won't find any of the fast shredding solos or over-the-top flashy work of guitar heroes of the past. It's mind blowing Math-Rock and Metal (or progressive stuff if you're old school) with atmospheric passages and thick layers of bass vs. guitar duals. To keep things (very) basic and direct to the point. It's the melodic approach of Rush, the fatness and heaviness of Tool, the weirdness of Shiner, and add to this the rhythmic complexities that have come to characterize the band.

Heavily synchronized and almost tectonic quality that allows the three of Christian Henrik Ankerstjerne (guitars), Morten Ogstrup Neilsen (bass), Malik Breuer Bistrup (drums), to run amok across the music fields. It's themes of repetitions that surely will attract anyone from the nerdy gamer to the sophisticated (oh, well) math metal and progressive rock fan.

Abstract pictures of acid creatures and cyber-junkies are constantly bouncing inside my head as I experience their wicked playfulness of "Yes Golum" or "World Core and Periphersal Islands". It's hardly every man/woman's poison, but darn it, this is good!
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ROMEO’S DAUGHTER: ”Spin”

Rating: RRR

Label: RD Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Romeo’s Daughter released two albums back in the late eighties and early nineties. Their Heart-meets-Def Leppard sound attracted quite a few fans and they scored a couple of minor hits. The industry took notice of their songs, and several of them were re-recorded by bigger names such as Heart, Bonnie Tyler and Eddie Money. Especially the Heart version of ”Wild Child” was a big success.

in 2009 Romeo’s Daughter made a comeback to the stage at Firefest and in 2012 they released their third album ”Rapture”. I haven’t heard it but the reviews I’ve read have been mostly positive. That’s enough history, let’s give ”Spin” the attention it deserves.

Compared to the hi-tech AOR sound of the first album, ”Spin” is a more down-to-earth, natural-sounding affair. It’s still melodic rock, but you can spot some modern country influences here and there. Take ”Tonight” for example - with some additional fiddles and lap steel guitar this song could probably be a major country hit in the USA. That applies to most of the other songs too.

Leigh Matty hasn’t lost any of her charm during the years, she’s still a great vocalist and her performance definitely helps some of the weaker songs to stay at least somewhat interesting.

Oh yes, the songs… ”Already Gone”, ”Enemy”, ”All Because Of You” and a couple of others hit the right buttons, but then there are a few songs that don’t seem to go anywhere. The opener ”Touch” and ”Didn’t See You Coming” for example - they just can’t hold my attention at all.

Final verdict - this won’t probably disappoint any Romeo’s Daughter fans too much, but it won’t rival the first two albums either.

http://www.romeosdaughter.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/romeosdaughterofficial

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SANTA CRUZ: ”s/t”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Spinefarm 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The first Santa Cruz  ”Screaming For Adrenaline” album was released two years ago and it was a decent piece of very vintage-sounding late eighties/early nineties hard rock. For this album the band has done some minor ”modernizing” tweaks to their sound but nothing too drastic. The album still sounds more like Skid Row than Slipknot. In fact, many of the songs remind me a lot of Skid Row’s ”Slave To The Grind” album when it comes to the overall vibe. And Sven Gali’s first album from 1992, possibly even more.

What has changed in two years? Well, the guys have written better songs and vocalist Archie sings better than ever. The over-the-top shrill screams have been ditched and that’s definitely good news. The fact that both guitarists Archie and Johnny are wicked axemen won’t go unnoticed on this album, there’s guitars left and right and in-between.

Let’s go through the songs quickly. ”Bonafine Heroes” opens the album with a full blast - the quiet intro turns into a 10-second thrash metal assault in a blink of an eye! The rest of the song is more ”familiar” Santa Cruz material, catchy chorus and lots of ”whoa whoa’s”. This band surely loves them…

”Velvet Rope” is one of the more Skid Row-sounding songs but not one of my favorites, the chorus just doesn’t work for me. The latest single ”My Remedy” is better, no ”whoa’s” here but a healthy dose of ”nanana’s” instead. ”1-2-3-4-5-6-6-6 feet under!” goes the intro to ”6(66) Feet Under”, another rather catchy song with just a little bit of ”Whoa’s” in it. ”Bye Bye Babylon” is a slower track but I doubt that it’ll be the band’s big ”Hit Ballad”. I could be wrong, but I just can’t get a grip of it.

Next up are the two singles, ”We Are The Ones To Fall” and ”Wasted & Wounded”. They are both among my favorite Santa Cruz tracks so far. I like the way how the guys have managed to mix contemporary pop influences to their sound without watering it down. The catchy ”Let Them Burn” could very well be another single sooner or later.

One of the tracks that I’m not particularly fond of is ”Vagabonds (Sing With Me”). It could be described as ”progressive sleaze rock” with its’ several rhythmic changes and tricky stop-go riffs. This is one for the guitar freaks. The closing number is the balladic ”Can You Feel The Rain” which somehow reminds me of a movie that was filmed in the ”real” Santa Cruz area - ”The Lost Boys”.


http://santacruzbandofficial.com
https://www.facebook.com/santacruzband

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The LEISURE SOCIETY: "The Fine Art Of Hanging On"

Rating: RRRR
Label: FullTimeHobby/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Leisure Society, one of those folky/quirky acts that's been going the long way around in search of success. Clearly superior to a good few U.K. acts doing the rounds with much larger audience and hype. The dreamy landscape of The Fine Art Of Hanging On could have you thinking about everything from Burt Bacharach pop to Macca/Wings, traditional folk-rock, Brian Eno, and merely the hint of Wainwright and Marc Bolan (pre T-Rex era). It's dark blue colours and melancholy at its nearly best and not to mention slowest form. Don't expect a lot or hardly any uptempo tracks on this record though.

Performed from the heart and with thoughtworthy material that will have you in awe, it seems to speak to you with a message that reads: Don't be afraid of the silence, don't let the world of clutter bring/drag you down. Simply relax, breath in the air, and enjoy the adult music and fine crafted melodies of despair and sorrow. It's the ever so smooth yet complex folk Art-Pop/Rock with several fun passages and structures that bares the trademark of proper songwriting by Nick Hemming (ex. She Talks To Angels). "Wide Eyes At Villains", Macca must be smiling in agreement as this will clearly remind the ex. Beatle of his great mellow songs of the early/mid 70s.

Other tracks includes the horn section, flute, strings, and various sweeping sounds of the eighties synth and new wave movement. It's built around beautifully well-crafted melodies and slow-marching rhythms that's clearly just been waiting for your emotional outburst and response. It's got that nice flow to it and the opening title track, the perfect mix of new-folk and eighties new-wave. Recommended.
theleisuresociety.co.uk
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EMMY SOPHIE: "Inte Som Förut"

Rating: EP
Label: Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Emmy Sophie is the up and coming young singer/songwriter from Gothenburg, Sweden, and 'Inte Som Förut' (not like before or like it used to be), her first 7-track EP or possibly album? I'd go with the first option though. Very down-to-earth honest music and performer. The voice is warm and welcoming and the words are embracing you with personal issues about childhood memories (När Jag Var Liten), going astray or lost (Vilse), or simply just the everything will be alright kind of song (Det Ordnar Sig).

Swedish and English lyric where tracks such as "Bright Spots Building a Wall" and "Morningstars" (excellent tunes), are painting vivid pictures of the sophisticated artist with a certain knack for tender moments. I love the hit friendly 'Hon Står På Tå' and it's surely something for Swedish daytime radio to pick up a.s.a.p. It's overall the gather around the bonfire kind of platter with the great production and seasoned studio and backup musicians such as Mats Lindberg (Robyn, Timo Räisänen, Miss Li, Natasha Bedingfield, Jill Jonsson, Björn Skifs), Thomas Fanto (Mwendo Dawa, Ulf Dageby, Cosmic Agogo) and the rest of Den Ofattbara Orkestern with 35+ years of experience in the business.

The opening title track, the sweet surprise and car driving track with a sound that harks back to the laid-back west coast era of the seventies. Melissa Horn, Cajsa Stina Åkerlund, and the basic structure of Carole King are coming to mind while listening and something like, 'När Jag Var Liten', takes the shape and form of the blues meets the lullaby kind of track. All in all this is a fine debut from a fine debutant.
emmysophie.com
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GOLDSMACK: "Wild Season"

Rating: EP
Label: PrescriptionPR/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Not to be confused with Godsmack or any other kind of potent drug for that matter. Goldsmack are a psychedelic power pop trio from Italy with experiential lust as their biggest asset and strength. To be honest. I'm utterly gobsmacked (or should that be Goldsmacked?) by their mesmerizing melodies and dark rock material. You have the female (Georgia Minelli) and male singing which instantly would have you thinking about Nico and Lou Reed and there's quite a lot of The Velvet Underground's basic concepts on this EP. You could go even further back in time and hint the Nancy Sintara and then move forward to a more 'modern' output of Nick Cave. It's all there and it's all pretty darn good.

It's soul strengthening material comprised of five tunes complicated yet simple enough in their own brilliance as to make them instant indie rock classics. Not a shred of the at times (too) lively accent of Italo artists and the compositions give you the alley scent and sounds of New York City rather than a small village in gentle hills of northern Italy. The three of Minelli, Dave Tebaldi, and Luca Bagatti, are childhood friends who started a band to escape isolation and broaden their horizon. The style and extravagance of the three should be enough to cause interest from far and beyond.

They might just still need that extra special kind of song that would literally shake the foundations. However, tracks like "Good Morning Star", "A Wild Wild Season", "Kids With Guns", and "Of Human Bondage", are superb enough to have us wanting and longing for more. I'd say they're on the very brink of success. Goldsmacked indeed. 'Be still my wicked heart, be still my wicked heart'...
goldsmackmusic.com
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GOLD DUST: "Hard Love"

Rating: RRRr
Label: CouBroMusic 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The quick glance through the press-release is clearly enough information to have you cheering for these guys and I quote, "Gold Dust - Their eponymous self-titled debut album was released on vinyl in 1986 to mostly negative response. There were fist fights, death threats, and someone even spray painted 'Gold Dust Sucks' in huge black letters on their driveway. 27 years later, the band discovered that it's considered by some to be a 'psychedelic heavy metal masterpiece', a very rare collectors item, selling for up to $700 and is listed in the '6001 Record Collector Dreams' by Hans Pokora with a 4 star rating".

The U.S. band and the Couper Brothers (Scott: guitars, keys, taurus pedals. Jay: drums, percussion, backing vocals) are cult figures and underground heroes of the Boston rock scene. If retrospective retribution is the driving force. What about the music quality? 'Hard Love' is a collection of twenty of their most hard rocking originals on CD. The third album in the series featuring the controversial and enigmatic lead vocalist and bassist Davo Kiah. During his seven year tenure with the band, they recorded hundreds of songs. It's fuzzy bass-lines and slightly psychedelic rock from your obscure U.S. power trio of the eighties. And a lot better than expected really. I'm definitely impressed by their wicked material.

These tracks were all recorded between the years of 1986 to 1993 and they've all been digitally remastered. Opener, "Journey Through The Darkness", display their love for Sabbath-ish arrangements and compositions. However, there's so much more to Gold Dust and the following track, "Fool's Parade", classic rock and more like if Montrose decided to hook up with Ted Nugent to jam with Mountain. The title track,"Hard Love", party rock 'ala seventies KISS meets the eighties melodic groove. "I Just Can't Live This Way Anymore",  power pop with your killer hook and buzzing sound. "Deep Freeze", the return to the psychedelic heavy metal. "Anticipation Blues", lovely fuzzy stuff in the vein of Mountain meets BTO (that's Bachman Turner Overdrive). They always seems to have the punk-ish vibes of The Replacements going on in the background though.

Fuzzy, catchy, eclectic. Screaming guitars, wicked drums, the raw sound, it's a roller coaster ride.

JOHN MOOSE: "John Moose"

Rating: RR
Label: Anlesser/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Escapism and back to nature with John Moose (it's the 5-piece band and not a person). What if you decided to move to Sweden and join the weird music cult in the deep dark woods of Värmland? It's the concept album about John Moose and his longing for the late sixties/early seventies hippie collective and trying to free yourself from the chains of civilization? I don't know. It makes no real sense and especially since they rely on high-tech and the App to d/l stream the album. Here's the catch. The App only works when you're out and about in the bush? Great thinking there. Internet in the woods? Yep. It's all broadband and 4G speed... not!! Basically the direct insult to all of us with a dodgy connection.

All the above would however be forgiven in the blink of an eye if John Moose came through with flying colours and great material. Don't get me wrong. There's definitely moments of clarity and ultra slow and mellow tracks such as, "Home I" and "Mountain", impress in all its simplicity. It's First Aid Kit and The Weeping Willows light, if you know what I mean? But it's good stuff no doubt and, "Villager", another fine moment in the spirit of Americana v.s Swedish melancholy. Sadly, it's all too weird from this point on.

"Spirits", the overall feeling of the song could have you thinking about A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the Hare Krishna Movement. Keep in mind that I'm not actually saying they are chanting like your average Hare-Hare's at the airport. It just feels like it's too much New Age and not enough of the quality folk-rock and melodies to please this particular reviewer. "Ocean", poor man's version of First Aid Kit. "Flower", every rose has its thorn. Final verdict: The first four tracks are all great. The rest? could still be enjoyable if you're into New Age and dropping acid.
johnmoosemusic.com
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MESSENGER: "Captain's Loot"

Rating: RR
Label: Massacre 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Too many Messengers about? There are at least a couple of Christians hard rock acts from U.S. of A and Sweden. Add the Germans of Francis Blake (vocals), Chainmaster (guitar), Pyro Jack (guitar), Dr. H.R. Strauss (bass), and Merlin (drums), and you might as well hand over the loot. What's up with all those monikers of the eighties past? Produced and mixed by Captain Rolf Munkes at Empire Studio, there's a rather typical Teutonic vibe over the material.

The gunfire attack of the ack-ack are blasting out speedy power metal tracks such as 'Sign of the Evil Master' and 'Asylum X-T-C' with little or none finesse. Sure. They may have the admirable taste and aim of carrying on the torch of fine German acts of the past but fail miserable with their own material. It's perhaps not the greatest of idea to overlook the power of the sing-a-long melody, especially when you are about to cover your metal heroes on the next following five tracks.

Indeed. Kill the King (Rainbow). Port Royal (Running Wild). Black Bone Song (Zed Yago). Dr. Stein (Helloween). Don't Talk to Strangers (Dio). They are all heads and shoulders above the rest, but never even close to sounding as good as the originals. Classic metal is the overall feeling at hand. Sadly the emphasis is on the covers and gives the impression of a band not being able to pen down something decent of their own. Let's hope for better next time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HURRICANE LOVE: "EP"

Rating: EP
Label: PlaygroundMusic 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The 6-piece (2 female, 4 male) of Hurricane Love are currently recording the sort of stuff that mainstream dreams are made of. Because, let's face it. Their debut label 5-track EP is as melodic and radio friendly as they come in this digital era. There's no savage white suburban aggression or frustration to be found on this record. Let's not forget to take into account that we're talking about Sweden here. These guys are more likely to have been pampered to death than being exposed to drive-by shooting and the daily struggle of trying to stay alive in the streets.

... And I actually prefer the softer side of the band (Paradise, You Are The Sun, Only Human) instead of the half-decent uproar and slightly rebellious side of "Blind, Deaf and Dumb". The first mentioned tracks are all top notch and have the sophisticated sound of Mumford & Sons and Coldplay going on at full volume as well as their own 'Swedish Sound'. The only downside when you draw influence from the likes of Mumford & Sons and Coldplay in the year of 2015? There's literally hundreds of similar acts in your very own backyard and neighbourhood. These guys are perhaps no originals or breaking any new ground so to speak. But the songs are darn catchy and should attract hordes of Internet followers.

Opening track as well as first single, "Free Ticket", the nice but rather repetitive song. They could/should include more lyric and words to the refrain in my humble opinion. The mix of female/male vocals is however the winning concept for Hurricane Love and Nina or Johanna? might just remind you of Pink (the singer and not the colour). One thing's for sure, the tracks of 'Paradise', 'You Are The Sun', 'Only Human'. -World class arena pop/rock!
hurricanelove.com
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Monday, April 20, 2015

IMPELLITTERI: "Venom"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

What a pleasant surprise. Venom, the latest effort by the virtuoso guitarist Chris IMPELLITTERI and band (Rob Rock - Lead Vocals. James Pulli - Bass. Jon Detti - Drums) goes through several different layers of US. Metal and speedy Neo-classical stuff. In fact. You don't come across many of these pure guitar shredding styled albums anymore. There's Yngwie of course, but he's been kind of off beat lately and there's not much else on the horizon. At least not with this kind of high quality and swagger.

The easiest way to just try and start to explain the sound of 'Venom' and especially if you've never even heard of Impellitteri before? First of, shame on you. Secondly. Try and imagine the mix of albums such as Stryper's (The Yellow and Black Attack), Annihilator (Set The World On Fire), the healthy dose of DIO, and of course Yngwie Malmsteen (the 80's era). Plenty of licks and tricks, speedy soloing and riffing, powerful hi-pitch vocals by Rock, and melodies that works in between the styles of (melodic) Trash to old school metal and the neo-classical. But I shouldn't point out these things for you since I believe it's their ninth or tenth? full-length album. I only have about five or six of them though.

The band starts off the record sounding like an angry wasp with its relentless title track and speedy metal approach. According to Chris he worked for three years to develop a new picking technique that allows him to shred and strike each note with greater clarity and attack. Something which the "Empire Of Lies" is living proof to with its hammer on technique and flashy solo. The lyric speak of the end of time with the following message and I quote, 'All hail to Caesar, the ruler of the world. So full of delusion, his arrogance unfurled. I see the writing on the wall in neon lights. Welcome to all- Empire of lies', end quote. "We Own The Night", DIO metal meets Impellitteri and "Nightmare" goes through several horror stages of Megadeth and Annihilator-like segments. It's one of those fist in the air kind of melodies in neck-breaking speed and style. Very metal, very good. "Time Machine", Impellitteri meets Iron Maiden and spend plenty of time discussing old Eddie memories and moments.

It's twelve tracks of relentless Impellitteri metal and it's old skool. Wicked!

Jim PETERIK & Marc SCHERER: "Risk Everything"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Risk Everything? Surely you mean keeping it safe but still rather impressive? There's absolutely nothing on this record that would suggest the risk taking or the complete change of structure and style. But if anyone is entitled to sound like Survivor meets Pride Of Lions, surely Jim Peterik is your to go to guy. That's his legacy and place in the history of music. The theatrical, neo-romantic, emotional, songwriting style which is present from the very first note to the last. The crystal clean production, the singing guitar, the slightly nerdy but catchy melodies. It's all there, and it's all pretty darn good.

... And what about this Marc Scherer guy? The five octave ranged jeweler is one precious gem with a golden voice that could easily cut through diamonds. He makes the songs shine brighter and bigger than all the bling-bling in the world. Well... that's over the top. Nonetheless. Great vocalist and I haven't been grinning this much since last time we dug up Katie from the cemetery graveyard (what? again?). Hardly everything that glitter is gold though. It's the very mid-paced material steeped in the familiar mode and AOR formula and fans of Peterik/Survivor/POL should know by now what to expect (much like the AC/DC fan for that matter).

The opening numbers (Risk Everything, Chance Of a Lifetime) are solid tracks and especially the latter gets you into the Survivor mode with tasteful guitar work and hook. "Cold Blooded", the opposite to the Foreigner hit? Nah. It's just the classy and catchy 80's AOR hit with Scherer's rich vocal tone at the centre of attention. The best track so far. "Desperate In Love", starts out as the ballad only to become yet another rock solid mid-paced number. "Thee Crescendo", over the top and basically the AOR version of Jim Steinman (Meatloaf's writer) with just the hint of Styx? "The Dying Of The Light", pretty boring actually. "How Long Is A Moment", one of those sappy ballads and the perfect match to Mariah Carey. "Brand New Heart", the return of the singing guitar, but there's something missing during the refrain. "Broken Home", the proper tear-jerker and ballad of the album with touching lyric and excellent guest vocals by Shoshanna Bean. "Milestones", no doubt my fave and just as good as any (mid-paced) Survivor hit of the past. Top notch AOR. Closing track of "Independence Day" yet another good song by Peterik.

The final verdict: There's no hidden agenda/door or secret passages. What you see/hear is what you get. Professional AOR by one of the real legends of the genre and you should all be grateful that he's still out there recording new material in the year of 2015. Like it or not, he's a true Survivor...

KISKE/SOMERVILLE: "City Of Heroes"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic, etc.) and Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Avantasia, etc.), our two lead vocalists in the City Of Heroes. It's one of those huge melodic metal projects by Frontiers and all the songs are co-written by the pair of Mat Sinner (Sinner, Primal Fear) and Magnus 'Klister' Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande, etc). The follow-up to the 2010 album and Sinner/Karlsson are as always responsible for everything from production to backing vocals and all the instruments with the exception of drums, the work of Veronika Lukesova.

You will quickly notice the main theme and ground structure of the album. The duet of female/male vocals during the verse and mostly Somerville during the refrain. The typical standard arrangement as of lately and it's a bit boring in the long run. I wish they could have recorded Kiske's voice as the number one lead track on the choruses. But no such luck. It's mostly layers and layers of Somerville and the lads are backing her up in the background. And once you'll notice this, you simply can't let it go. It's so darn annoying. Track after track. It's nearly all the same with very few exceptions.

Overall, the guitar and keyboards combine nicely with pattering drum-work to produce a stunning rhythm of symphonic metal with just the hint of proper metal. Tracks such as "Walk On Water" and "Open Your Eyes", the Eurovision song contest version of Within Temptation? Cheesy and sort of tacky metal with choruses that are too syrup and sticky. However, the first of the two wins you over with its enchanting refrain 'over the mountains and the seas. I walk on water. I'm drying all your tears', and you'll be humming the tune all day (for better and worse). The latter is duller than Rob Schneider though and I always tend to skip the track. "Rising Up", a lot better, powerful, and it's the old Phoenix story of the past. "Salvation", gives Within Temptation a run for the money. "Lights Out", Ankie Bagger pop (where were you last night - do the google/youtube search if needed) meets melodic metal and it works just fine. "Breaking Neptune", one of few songs featuring strong male vocals during the refrain and also the only none Sinner/Karlsson composition. It's the Somerville/Gommans tune and the nice change from the rest. "Ocean Of Tears", the fine ballad and "After The Night Is Over" give our heroes another chance to rest for a moment.

Final verdict: it's difficult to find anything too negative to say about City Of Heroes. It's nice, it's catchy. It's solid stuff with smothering metal songs. Do not confuse this with Power Metal though, since there's absolutely nothing sinister or dark about this album.

RUTHLESS: "They Rise"

Rating: RR
Label: Pure Steel Records 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

They Rise, they fall, they crash, only to rise again? Only time will tell. Ruthless started out as the pure U.S. L.A. Heavy Metal act in 1982 and recorded two underground releases (the 1984 EP 'Metal Without Mercy' and their LP debut 'Discipline of Steel' in 1986) before falling off the edge of the world never to be heard from again. Well hold on to your hats kiddies as obscurity strikes back on their comeback album "They Rise".

Never really in the spotlight as well as the limelight in the past, the future might just hold great expectations? They've clearly managed to crawl back up from the bottom and to the surface only to disappear once again? "Hangman" is an pretty awesome song though. Fast paced with a slower chorus and quite powerful in the old school of Heavy Metal. The epic sounding "Systematic Terror", and its gang vocals, another home run for the Ruthless guys. It's really not the crap record, it's just so been there, done that, and we've read the book and seen the movie way too many times already. Ruthless, not completely pointless?