Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MOLLY HATCHET: "Greatest Hits II" (2)


Rating: Compilation

Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Molly Hatchet - the name comes from 17th century Salem where the legendary lady would behead her lovers with the hand-tool (axe, goddamnit, axe!) made famous by Lizzy Borden (what? yet another metal band???). The Southern Rock band has been around for almost as long as they recorded their debut in 1978. They're sort of the natural process of bands such as The Allman Borthers and Lynyrd Skynyrd and as the imaginative title would suggest, this is a compilation album as well as their "Greatest Hits II".

It's a 2CD set where disc one hold 14 tracks from the SPV/Steamhammer albums: 'Devils Canyon', 'Silent Reign Of Heaven', 'Kingdom of XII', 'Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge' and 'Jusitice'. Disc two hold 8 live tracks from 'Locked and Loaded' [Bounty Hunter, Gator County, Edge of Sundown, Whiskey Man, Beatin' The Odds, Dreams I'll Never See, The Creeper, Flirtin' With Disaster] and the previously unreleased studio track, "Sacred Ground". Obviously inspired by the native Americans the new song kickoff things with typical "tribal/indian" drums and 'soaring eagle', ehem, guitarwork by Ingram/Hlubek. 'Woah-ooh' vocals in the background (sadly no 'hoka-heys' though) and a stomping beat makes this a interesting track if anything (would that be a howling wolf at the end of the song???).

It's difficult to say if this is the true definition of a Molly Hatchet' "Greatest Hits II". I guess it's always down to personal taste and you may or may not agree with the A&R responsible for tracklisting. The two pages liner notes by Bobby Ingram doesn't speak about the actual material rather than about the 'band', 'family', and how good life is when you're out and about with the fans. It's the perfect introduction of the "newer" material and a nice present to the beginner though.

Website

REECE/KRONLUND: "Solid"




Rating: 8/10

Label: AOR Heaven 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Reuniting the former (and future) Gypsy Rose pairing of David Reece and Martin Kronlund, “Solid” is a great surprise package that equals Reece’s best work with Bangalore Choir. Mind you, what’s wrong with band names these days? We’ve had the uninspiring “Williams/Friestedt” and now this! I know there’s probably marketing reasons, but I will remain miffed at this sort of thing. Bloody good job the music’s kick ass enough to cheer me up, is all I can say…


Powerful yet melodic, the dynamic duo deliver some intense tunes that benefit from the inclusion of some outside songwriting help. There’s real power here, with gloriously catchy tracks like “Samurai” and “Animals & Cannibals”, along with a couple of ballads that don’t make you reach for the skip button. As well as the powerful guitar of Kronlund, it’s nice to hear keyboards used sparingly yet effectively, with everything combining well to back up some of David Reece’s best vocals yet. No moulds are broken, yet the whole thing has an in your face feel about it and simply demands to be played over and over again.


By no means fluffy melodic rock, “Solid “will be a real treat for fans of Reece’s earlier work, even if it’s only the debut Bangalore Choir platter , and definitely wins the award for most apt album title so far this year.

Website

NIGHT RANGER: "Living In California"




Rating: 9/10

Label: Record
Label
2011

Review by Alan Holloway

I remember getting interested in Night Ranger in the mid eighties, when I heard their theme tune for the film “The Secret Of My Success”. I absolutely loved it, and soon started enjoying their energetic, hugely melodic back catalogue. The last album I heard, “Seven”, had some great moments on it, but it seemed their peak was definitely behind them. A few years ago we got “Hole In The Sun” which did a good job of splitting fans down the middle, and I wondered whether it was time for the to fade away and carry on with the “Greatest Hits” circuit.


Always at their best when containing the power core of Jack Blades (Vocals, bass), Kelly Keagy (Drums) and Brad Gillis (guitar), Night Ranger have done something very odd with “Somewhere In California”. What should be a decent but uninspiring platter has turned out to be one of the best albums the band has released, as they manage to once again put lightning in a bottle and grab hold of what is essentially the classic Night Ranger sound.


The most worrying track is album opener “Growing Up In California”, mainly because it’s so perfect. With shades of “You Can Still Rock In America” and a hook so catchy it should be quarantined, it’s Night Ranger through and through, and my first was that the rest of the album has no chance following this. “Lay It On Me” has a go, and despite starting off quite worryingly with a chunky core riff, it emerges as a good track that even so should not really be here, especially as track two. From here on, though, it’s fun in the sun all the way, and “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)” kicks down the walls with yet another horrendously catchy chorus that equals the opener with ease. Phew… thank fuck for that.


One of the best things, for me, about Night Ranger is Brad Gillis’ guitar solos. He manages to get a unique yet pleasing tone and energy to them so that every time he lets one fly it immediately lifts up any song, and this is abundant on this album. With Jack Blades’ vocals soaring like they did so long ago, it’s wonderful to hear the guitar parts complimenting and flowing with the vocal harmonies. I dare anyone to listen to the opening of “Follow Your Heart” and not get the urge to do a little Bill & Ted-esque air guitar. Excellent indeed.


“Somewhere In California” is the album Night Ranger fans have been begging for since the late eighties, full of energetic, happy happy joy joy melodic rock, and ballads that fit in just right. This is a band who have discovered the fountain of youth and want to share it with everybody. They can get away with a song called “Rock n Roll Tonite” without any shame and can pen a song called “Say It With Love” that isn’t a ballad. More catchy than Journey’s own excellent revival, and just as much fun as last year’s Danger Danger return, this is the essence of melodic rock, bottles so that future generations can understand why we loved it and why some of us thought mullets were a good idea…

Website

ELECTRIC BOYS: "Them Boys Sure Done Swang"




Rating: 7/10

Label: Escape 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Firmly ensconced in the rock lexicon known as “Oooh… I remember them!”, The Electric Boys had a bit of a thing going in the early Nineties with their stoner influenced funk rock, even going so far as to produce some pretty high quality albums, including the impressively titled “Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride”. It was all over pretty quickly, but many still hold a torch for the Swedish rockers.

Well, light up those torches (and spark up a spliff whilst you’re at it) , as The Electric Boys are back with “And Them Boys Done Swang”, which pretty much picks up where they left off. Mixing the full on hard rock of opener “Reefer Lord “ (subtle as ever…) with funkers like “The House Is Rockin” and even a pretty effective slower tune (“Ten Thousand Times Goodbye”), this is as solid a comeback as you could wish for. There’s small hints that someone in the band loves The Beatles scattered about, but mainly this album shows the ‘Boys for the original, creative force they always were. Others have tried, but no one does this sort of groovy shit any better than them. By turns psychedelic, melodic and intense, this isn’t just for the reefer lords, it’s for everyone who has ever sat and thought “Whatever happened to The Electric Boys?”. The answer is: Nothing… they were just chilling out for a while.

Website

Friday, May 27, 2011

TWISTED SISTER: "Under The Blade" +DVD


Rating: Re-issue CD/DVD

Label: Eagle/Armoury 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Good evening! Welcome to our show!!! It's late 1981 and Twisted Sister has been playing for years at the U.S. east coast selling out venues and had over 15,000 members in their fan base. They did however not have a recording contract until a mad English bloke (Martin Hooker/Secret Records) went over the pond to see the band at Christmas-81 and was so impressed that he signed them immediately. Appearantly too 'Twisted' for America the lads escaped to foreign shore. The land of 'fish and chips' and 'black pudding' greeted them with open arms and Pete Way of UFO produced this very debut, now re-released by Eagle/Armoury Records as a special edition: CD and DVD.

"Under The Blade", uncompromising heavy metal steeped in anger, frustration, and raw aggression 'ala 1982. I've learned to love this record over the years even though it's a far from perfect album. It's a more direct and blunt approach to metal than the successful MTV years. You can pick up influences such as The Dictators, Judas Priest and obviously Dee Snider's all-time fave, Alice Cooper. I love the ultra heavy and slightly twisted, disturbing, melodies of "Run For Your Life", "Under The Blade" and "Destroyer". The latter sounding like KISS' "God Of Thunder" if it had originally been recorded by Ozzy's Black Sabbath. The AC/DC rock of "Shoot 'Em Down" goes down smooth like a shot of whiskey and "Tear It Loose" comes with a flashy solo by Fast Eddie Clark. The re-mastering has largely dealt with any flaws displayed on the original recording and it's rough gem/diamond in their back catalogue. You'll also get the "Rough Cutts" EP and "Shoot 'Em Down" live as bonustracks.

The rather superb special edition of "Under The Blade" comes with a DVD of the Sisters' live performance at Reading Festival in 1982. They played on the third day (29th of August, 82) and the concert was never supposed to have been filmed or recorded in its entirely. The two cameras (one from each side of the stage) were there only for broadcasting the performance into a VIP tent. Thus why the stage left/right "side-view" as there aren't any cameras in or behind the audience. It's nontheless a rather smashing DVD and performance as it reeks of the enegry and attitude of a hungry band. Is that Bette Midler upfront??? They performed their eight (8) songs like true professionals even though not everybody in the audience liked or knew them ("Under The Blade" were still a couple of weeks away from its release date in the U.K.).

Strangely enough, they had to stop the show merely 'once' due to all the stuff being thrown at them. Reading, 1982, a bunch of U.S. cross-dressers with attitude on stage (Bette Midler on acid), hell, they should consider themselves lucky to be able to walk out of there alive. Dee Snider confronting the "wimps and pussies" to stop throwing things after their performance of "Bad Boys" (especially as they kept hitting the paying costumers in the audience upfront with all sorts of garbage) and wouldn't mind a face to face meeting later after the show (kikk-azz!). They band played on and dedicates the next track, "Destroyer", to all the real rockers in the audience. They ended the Reading gig with a cover of Rolling Stones, "It's Only Rock N Roll", and to be completely honest, it's a rather crappy version and definitely the worst song on this otherwise fine DVD. Essential stuff to any mad SMF! Just play it loud, mutha!!!

Website

TWISTED SISTER: "Still Hungry" Re-issue


Rating: Re-issue

Label: Eagle/Armoury 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I don't like it, I don't appreciate it... and I just don't get it at all. Did it have anything to do with royalties and/or dodgy copyrights??? To be frank (nope, I'm Urban), I don't care about why Twisted Sister decided to re-recorded the entire "Stay Hungry" album and re-name it "Still Hungry". It's just not one of those things you can do as a band without excepting to receive a massive stream of criticism from music lovers and fans all over the world.

Okay, the band never liked the "thin" recording sound that was popular at the time (1984). Well, booh-fooking-hou!!! No matter what, you simply can't change history, you can however learn from "mistakes" (I don't think it's such a crappy sounding album though) and simply get on with life. It sold what? Merely 6 million copies and this rather pointless re-recording from the year of 2004 sold... what??? 6 copies??? Okay, that's a bit harsh, but you get the point. So this particular reviewer doesn't like re-recordings, but perhaps millions of you out there does???

The re-release is complete with two lost tracks from the original sessions (Never Say Never, Blastin Fast & Loud), the 2004 studio bonus tracks: "Come Back", "Plastic Money", "You Know I Cry", "Rock N Roll Saviors", and "Heores Are Hard To Find" the latter previously released on the 'Strangeland' movie soundtrack in 2000. I believe it's originally a Widowmaker song??? Nontheless, it's however co-written by Bernie Torme. I guess it's not a completely pointless re-release after all since it's at 'midprice' and you'll get plenty of rare bonustracks.

Website

FREEDOM CALL: "Live In Helvetia"


Rating: Live

Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

A crack of thunder in the distance, the sinister voice of the 'shadowking' as the music appears, and blasting out through our loud speakers, "We Are One". Blimey, it's schlager metal and judging by the impressively long tour dates and thank you list, Freedom Call had a more than decent 2010. According to the bhoyos themselves, the year turned out to be the most successful and busiest time in the history of the band. "Live In Helvetia" (that's Switzerland if you thought of hell or any other hot place such as California?) - the recorded show took place on 29th of december 2010 at 'Z 7' Pratteln.

It's 'happy' power metal (could someone please explain to me why they're so bleeding happy?) and also the band's second live album (a 2CD set) after six studio albums in their back catalogue. Their previous live effort, "Live Invasion", came in 2004 and thus why you basically had this coming, sucker. The music is the main thing though and it clearly burnt brighter than a thousand lighters on this special occasion in Helvetia. Don't get me wrong, I sort of like the band, and they've done plenty of good in the past, but it's almost like an overdose of "happy metal" and it could most definitely get on your nerves in the long run.

Ehem, especially considering that most of their songs are built around the same basic structure and formula. To be honest, it's difficult to tell them apart at times and you need to stay focused or lose out on a handful of numbers at no time. In a 2CD set that comprises some of their finest moments, I'll be shouting loudly and gladly along to the likes of "Blackened Sun", "Hunting High and Low", and the sublime, "Mr. Evil". You may refer to me as 'Mr. Grumpy', but listening to this 2CD set, actually made me wish for a couple of darker, moodier, tracks in between all the happy-happy, joy-joy. Well, you can't please them all and at least they're very good at what they do.

Website

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

WILLY DEVILLE: "Live Come A Little Bit Closer"


Rating: Live Album

Label: Eagle Records 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I'm not going to pretend to know everything about Willy Deville. In fact, the only previous record in my collection is the "Cadillac Walk - The Mink Deville Collection" (check out the impressive liner notes in the booklet by the way). I bought it merely a couple of months prior to his death in 2009 (R.I.P.) and to be perfectly honest, I had absolutely no idea that 'Mink Deville' was a "band" and not just a solo project and nick for the man with "Italian Shoes" (yes, I can recall the MTV video). Go figure, the Minks' were also one of the first original house bands at CBGB, the classic New York nightclub (R.I.P.). But... you wouldn't call it 'punk rock' though.

Why haven't I got any old Deville records in my collection? Well, I've always been kind of afraid of the seventies music in the past, especially since I'm brought up with the utterly flashy and catchy eighties, early nineties music, Not any longer though as I'm actually proud to report that I now have in my collection, among many other artists of course: Bob Dylan, Todd Rundgren, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Roxy Music, and obviously, Bruce Springsteen. Why do I name these artists? Well, to r-e-a-l-l-y simplify things, you could put Willy Deville's name next to them and he'll fit right in (simply add the latin touch of Santana?).

"Live - Come A Little Bit Closer" - as the title suggest, a live album or rather a compilation of live tracks as the selection covers his whole career, with songs recorded in the years 1977, 1982, 1984, 1994, 2002 and 2006. The tracks were all recorded in Europe, Amsterdam, Montreaux, Nijmegen and Berlin. Unfortunately, "Italian Shoes", are missing, but the back catalog is more diverse than most modern performers. The genre span from early rock and rhythm and blues styles, to Delta-styled blues, from Cajun music to New Orleans second line, from Latin-tinged folk to punky salseros, to the Bruce Springsteen rock of "This Must Be The Night", "Love and Emotion", or "Just To Walk That Little Girl Home". The latter are complete with saxophone and typical "Bruce" arrangements. You'll notice how alike some of his songs were to Dire Straits, not that strange considering that he co-worked with Mark Knopfler. You'll get the usual live favorites such as "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl", Savoir Faire", "Spanish Stroll". But also his excellent version of Bryan Ferry's "Slave To Love". It's a nice 'compilation' live album and the liner notes are the work by the ex-President of Willy Deville's fan club. It's merely a shame that I didn't discover his music earlier on... then again, I wouldn't have enjoyed this as a kid...

Website

Duff McKAGAN'S LOADED: "Sick" (Re-issue)


Rating: Re-issue CD/DVD

Label: Eagle/Armoury 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Sick" with Duff McKagan's Loaded, Re-loaded and re-released by Armoury Records as a two-disc set and it's been nicely re-packaged with two bonus tracks and the approx 92 minutes long DVD. Obviously the third studio album by Loaded, originally released in 2009 and the former Guns N' Roses and current Velvet Revolver bassist: Duff (Homer Simpson's favourite beverage), responsible for lead vocals, rhythm guitar and most of the songwriting. It was their first album since reforming after they went on hiatus in 2002 and you'll definitely notice the band's influences of Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and yeah, The Ramones.

This special edition include as already mentioned a bonus DVD of Loaded's show at The Garage in Glasgow, Scotland, 2008 (11 songs), a promotional music video of "No More" and all five of the band's Webisodes, including the UK Tour Webisode. Martien reviewed it for RockUnited.com back in 2009 and thought, and I quote, "that the choruses are repeated too often and a lot of songs are rather "radiofriendly", end quote. I do not have any problem with 'radiofriendly', and tracks like "Mother's Day", "Blind Date Girl", "Wasted Heart", are actually all (very much) done in the tradition of Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and the seventies groove. Bonustracks are the acoustic version of "Wasted Heart", and "Roll Away", verse and some guitar parts of the latter are similar to Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven", the chorus on the other hand, commerical rock of today.

Duff, probably not the best lead vocalist out there, it's just a part of the charm, I guess??? You know, the blue notes performances on tracks such as "Mother's Day" (a forgotten mid-June gr'aaaa'y). But seriously, it's punk-rock, who gives a damn??? Sick is like a kick to the head...

Website

Monday, May 23, 2011

Neil DANIELS: "Don't Stop Believin' - The Untold Story Of Journey"


Omnibus Press 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Someone could say that Journey are such a faceless band that their story wouldn't make a good book. Yes, they are an AOR band known more for their music than for their wild showman antics or debaucherous lifestyle, but their story is far from boring. The plot has had its' share of twists and turns, and the band members are fairly complex characters. Author Neil Daniels has up taken the task of writing the first Journey biography, and with 30+ years of history, the amount of material he's had to go through must have been huge. Even our modest website gets a quote, so Daniels hasn't really limited his research to big and established sites and magazines...

Since this is an unauthorized biography, some of the content of the book is less than flattering to the band members. Their musical accomplishments get the credit they deserve, but some of the dealings behind the scenes are a bit shady. The band's former manager Herbie Herbert doesn't hold back when he talks about Steve Perry and other things, and indeed it's the material from his interview that offers a lot of insight into the Journey Corporation. The two singers that didn't ever record with the band (Robert Fleischman and Jeff Scott Soto) get more than a fair share of the story, probably because they were ready to talk with the author, unlike the current line-up.

As a long-time yet casual fan of the band, I found the band's story very interesting and quite surprising. I knew that they had their problems, but didn't know about the level of dysfunctionality. Now with their recent rise in popularity things seem to be quite ok in the Journey camp, but you never know... Anyway, I recieved the book on Thursday, used every possible opportunity to read it and finished it on Sunday. That's a recommendation if any.

Daniels' "reviews" of the albums are interesting, even though I don't always agree with him. He really doesn't care much for "Trial By Fire", which I think is a pretty good album - I mean, "Still She Cries" a "dull ballad"? Of course, these are merely matters of taste, and there's no point in arguing about them. I do have to point out that there were some minor slips in the book, worth of fixing in the next pressing: Steve Augeri didn't resurrect Talisman, that'd be Soto's band, and I don't think that W.E.T. have ever toured. Also, surely the first Tall Stories album deserves a place in the selective discography of Steve Augeri? It's a cult AOR classic, and important part of his career.

Website

SKANSIS: "Leaving You"


Rating: 8/10

Escape 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Switzerland's SKANSIS have a good thing going. Positioned musically somewhere between Bonfire and Gotthard, they have recorded an album of good, guitar-driven melodic hard rock. "Leaving You" should help them to get a wider audience, because it's simply a filler-free album with songs full of energy and good hooks. The influence from their fellow Swiss rockers Gotthard is undeniable, but thankfully the band hasn't tried to re-write their hits.

The album really doesn't have any weak links, each song is likeable in its' own way. The standout track is "Back From War", a very catchy track with an excellent chorus. To get a higer rating, the album would've used a couple of other standouts, but it's a solid piece of work nevertheless. Vocalist Reto Reist has a strong accent that might not appeal to those who want their rock "100% american/english sounding", but there's no denying that he's got the pipes.

Frankly, thanks to the rather weird name and whatever prejudices I had, I wasn't expecting this to be a rather average Euro-hardrock album, but no, I'm quite enjoying this. A strong "8"!

MySpace

Website

Sunday, May 22, 2011

TNA: TNA


Rating: 8/10

Label: Eonian Records 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The eighties 'big hair', spandex, leopard and zebra print leggings are coming at ya' at full swing on this spanking good debut album. TNA - we all know what the acronym stands for and it's certainly not the tattooed belly as seen on the cover of their CD. They are a fine 'Sleaze' act though, "Dirty Love", for instance, a rocking KIX/Dirty Looks-like song of the hairspraying kind and era that came with ozone layered skies. Oh, those were the days!!?? Pre-Al Gore and you merely had to fight off Mrs. Gore (Tipper) as she used to hang around backstage at each and every hardrock concert (darn groupie).

TNA from Memphis, Tennessee, started out in approx: 1985, a revolving door of musicians, including Todd Poole who aduditioned for the drummer slot before moving on as the front-man for Roxy Blue. Influenced by everyone from Kiss and Aerosmith to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, the band focused on delivering heavy hitting riffs and eventually landing a deal with Ardent Studios in 1988. They also hired Elton John's (???) entertainment attorney and declined several agency offers for various reasons. In other words, they sort of fumble and thus why you haven't heard about these guys outside of Tennesee. You may however recognize guitarist Wayne Swinny for his later work for major label island/DefJam recording artist: Saliva.

Yep, it's a retrospective release by Eonion Records and all songs were recording between 1989 and 1990 at the Ardent Studios (Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Allman Brothers, etc). The attitude is all groove and hair. The first track is titled, "All Nite Long", and the music speak of husky vocals and rough melodic hardrock in the vein of Kix, Cinderella, and Dirty Looks. Nothing too fancy, spectacular or out of the ordinary program, simply just fun eighties rock with a straight arrangement and one helluva groove. Next up, Bump & Grind", do I really need to spell this out? This formula continues on "Don't Look Back" and "Hard Way". The album drops its rough attitude for the 'at the time' typical mainstream 'power ballad' sound on "Don't Fade Away" and consequently becomes more about Poison and Mötley Crue than ever before on this record. What weakness there are may have something to do with a similar approach and sound to several other bands of the genre and style. Nontheless, TNA does impress with their energetic attitude and material. It's only rock'n roll - but I like it !!! Recommended.

MySpace

SANDRA DEE: "Visions of Pain"


Rating: 4/10

Label: Eonian Records 2011

Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Chicago's Sandra Dee, forced to make a split second decision on a band name, randomly plucked a snippet from Mötley Crue's "Come On and Dance" and said, 'what the hell, that's our name'. Unfortunately, the band decided against to pluck the sound out of Crue's debut album (what a shame) as they will remind you more of a second rate Skid Row act such as Canada's Slik Toxik (especially their 'Doin' The Nasty' era and material).

Add to this a heavier, darker, dirtier sound with a thick guitar sound and a meaner, harder edge, surely inspired by acts such as The Cult and Ozzy's Black Sabbath (Soundgarden?). Truth be told, it's a rather quirky, close to grungy and dark platter with a certain understated salute to the hippie generation. Sandra Dee lack the invention of say, the above mentioned artists, but nontheless produce a nice bracket, upbeat tunes that conjure up vivid images of "Peace, Pot & Politics". I personally don't find them too interesting mostly due to average song and dance material. I do not have as much to complain about when it comes to their actual 'sound' and 'style' (I'm a major fan of Soundgarden, etc, etc).

...And seriously, how many times in the history of hard rock and heavy metal, have you already heard songs such as, "Going Down", where they ALWAYS sing: going' 'down, down, down' (three times). To quote the press-release, "They wanted to craft the kind of killer tunes craved by fans of the genre, the sort of songs that pleasure the ears of hard rock lovers like sonic candy", end quote. Yeah? well, please do include them on your CD the next time (ouch, harsh).

MySpace

Thursday, May 19, 2011

8-IS: Frame of Us


Rating: 8/10

Label: Heta Productions 2011

Review by Endre 'Bandi' Hübner

Usually the name says it all, ain't it? Well, according to their bio these Italian dudes changed their name from Frame to 80-is to refer to their sound. Rightfully so, they sound like a smooth blend of underground legends C.I.T.A. and Toto, extremely melodic yet with a touch of a progressive approach.

The line-up appears to be far from constant, yet all musicians contributing to the album are seasoned session musicians and it is well audible. These guys know what they wanna play and know how to do it. Though it is an independent effort financed by (judging from the name) a Russian producer the sound is surprisingly good, the mix is balanced, crystal clear, even the vocals sound decent which is usually the achilles tendon of independent records. 5 musicians, 10 tracks, 41 minutes, 80s sound, countless happy hours when listening.

Don't shy away from independent efforts, with studio technology available to the masses at reasonable prices, more and more diamonds can be found in the rough. 8-is is one. Apparently there's life in Italy beyond Frontiers Records.

www.8-is.com

www.myspace.com/8is

Monday, May 16, 2011

David ROBERTS: "The Missing Years"


Rating: 6/10

Avenue Of Allies 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"The Missing Years" is a compilation of David Roberts' songs written during his hiatus as a recording artist. With 15 songs on the album, there's a lot of variety in styles, but the quality of songwriting shines through. It's a small wonder that none of these songs weren't picked up by major artists, because they're all classy in their own way. There's AOR, there's rock, there's r'n'b tinged pop and even country flavours here so it's a bit of a mixed bag. I can't claim that I like all of it, but for what its' worth, I think my favourite David Roberts song is on this album - the superb AOR track "I Still Believe". This reminds me of Richard Marx at his best. Another standout track is "Forbidden Fruit", very much in the vein of Van Stephenson and Bad English.

By leaving some of the more pop/r'n'b-styled tracks like the "Shoo-be-do" smooth "No Ordinary Girl" or the George Michael-like "Gone But Not Forgotten" for another album (David Roberts: "The Mushy Years"?), this one would've been a perfectly nice soft-rock album. Now there's just a little bit too much skipping required, but when it's good it's GOOD.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

David ROBERTS: "All Dressed Up" re-issue


Rating: 6/10

Avenue Of Allies 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Alright... originally released in 1982 and featuring most of the Toto guys as session musicians, this album is somewhat of a westcoast classic. Now it's been reissued by Avenue Of Allies so that everyone has a chance to get a copy.

After releasing this album, David Roberts has stayed out of the limelight, yet he's been quite profilic as a songwriter. Jimmy Barnes, Bad English and Diana Ross are among those artists who have covered Roberts' songs. Back in the early eighties, he had aspirations to become a star on his own, but as fate would have it, "All Dressed Up" didn't lit up the charts. Well, the status of a cult classic is better than nothing.

This album has clearly two sides, almost as if the A-side and the B-side were recorded both with a different style in mind. The A-side (first five tracks) showcases Roberts as a very good soft rocker, very much in the vein of early Toto or Foreigner. All five songs are pretty good, not necessarily what I'd call AOR classics but likeable enough. However, when you flip over the album (metaphorically of course...oh the good ol' times of vinyl...), Roberts sails away to a more jazzier, smoother style of music. Yes, it's "Yacht Rock" time! The second half of the album if frankly too wimpy even for me, with tracks like "Never Let You Go" or "Midnight Rendezvous" sounding like the soundtrack of a lost "Love Boat" episode. I know that there's a lot of westcoast rock fans who adore this sort of smooth music, but really, this isn't even "Adult Oriented Rock", this is elevator music. So, 8 for the A-side, 4 for the B-side... that's a 6 then. Thank you, next please.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

GERALD KRAMPL: "Lighthouse"


Rating: 5/10

Label: IndigoMusic 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Ebony and Ivory come together in perfect harmony. Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh lord, why don't we?". Yeah, it's friggin' insane to think differently about people simply because of skin colour!!!??? Make no sense whatsoever. So what about the Macca and Stevie quote then? I don't know, I thought it came together perfectly as we're talking about an all-instrumential piano/keyboard album here. Indeed, Gerald likes to tickle the old ebony and ivory and the result, "Lighthouse", twelve songs in a very minimalistic, prog-ish, neo-classical style exteneded with electronics and atmospherical effects.

It's hardly rock'n roll, honky-tonk, nor upbeat. Max Richter vs. Vangelis gone classic and more ambient without a clearly defined overall concept behind, rather as each title works as a musical expression of various solitaire emotional personal impressions that were collected throughout a year. Very posh. Gerald Krampl from Vienna/Austria started early by being trained in classical piano and music theory. In the 70's and 80's he formed two Prog-Rock bands, Kyrie Eleison and Indigo, which gianed a rather nice reputation worldwide in the die-hard prog-rock community. Agnus Dei, a project together with his wife Hilde (she sadly died in 2002 of cancer R.I.P.) and a soundtrack for an educational internet and TV documentary about the Holocaust (found at: www.31projects.at) are some of his other works.

I know that Gerald is a top-notch piano/keyboard player and song titles such as "Tomorrow Come What May", "Distant Shorelines", "Dance Of The Innocent", "The Guiding Light", thoughtful and expressive arrangements with lots of warmth and honest feelings, definitely not the half-baked compositions by the local nutter. However (there's always a 'however' huh?), I became more and more restless towards the end of the CD and the longer I played his songs the more I started thinking about loud guitars and thunderous drums. It's simply just too peaceful and several tracks would clearly work the best as background music while, yes, typing on your PC (heh!) or reading a book??? Well, perhaps not the latter, but, you'll get the idea. Very nice, very cool, it's just not me. I don't mind a couple of tracks of the style and/or arrangements, but it's just too much, too over-bearing, and too silent. You simply can't go wrong here though, if you enjoy the sound the silence, so to speak, you know, spiritual and meditative music...

Website

MySpace site

SHELLCASE: "Dead Memories"


Rating: 6/10

Label: Universal 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Shellcase is according to their press-release a Belgian power-trio that plays 'post-grunge-rock'. Meaning what exactly? No idea really especially since these sort of statements could pretty much include everything post 1996. On the commerical metal scene of today that looks all too likely to be dominated by bands with a reputation for dodgy guitar solos and shouting a lot, these guys are proving that you can do much better with a bit of finess. They do have the aggressive tendency of a frustrated catholic nun at ruler rehab, however, the hail marys are flying across the room alongside the nafty melodies.

'Dead Memories' is (again according to the press-release) a subtle mixture of strenght, energy, and melody, a solid and coherent album that explores the darker side of human behavior. Internal struggles, the longing for freedom, second chances, hope, forgiveness, the purity of love, and all those hidden demons deep inside of us. Yep, pretty much like your average Blackpool night down by the piers, no?

On the one hand they're quite pleasant, a nice little band with decent enough material, and on the other they're bitter as fook. Some of the lyrics, this from "Scars", and I quote: "I'm left with scars, I'm broken, torn apart. This wounded heart will never heal", end quote. Pay extra attention to the word, 'never', as I continue with the following from track eight, "Pain", and I quote again, "You can wipe away the tears, overcome all your fears. You can wash away the stains, but you can't erase the pain", end quote. Again, the key word here: 'can't'. Bitter, bitter, bitter, or simply just the harsh reality of aBelgian power-trio??? You be the judge!!! They obviously have other lyrics and songtitles such as "Faith", "Fucked Up" and "Lobotomy", should provide for an interesting listen. 'Dead Memories' is an album that will stand with some resolve amongst the expected wad (we're not wading through strawberry fields though) of 'post-grunge' rock of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They're pretty good, darn bitter, and probably even better on the follow-up album. Final verdict: solid!

Website

MySpace site

BACKSTAGE HEROES: "Too Rude To Be Cool"


Rating: 5/10

Label: TSM/SLW 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Who's the Backstage Heroes??? We're the Backstage Heroes!!!! Who like short-shorts??? We like short-shorts!!! Yes, yes, hold your horses and buckle up for a bumpy ride. I do enjoy the intense energy and attitude of the band, however, there's something regarding their strong belief in that 'backstage' would be better than 'frontstage'? that makes you stop and think twice about the band. To be completely honest, I can't seem to get past the lead vocalist and his lively singing accent. Lory Cruel is his name (yeah, right!) and wild voice is the game. It's a shame, especially considering the band's kikk-azz sleazy rock'n'roll music, not poorly recorded at all really.

Appearantly, "Too Rude To Be Cool", and from Turin/Italy, the band and their songs are basically a wild and dangerous mixture of eighties sleaze and "newer" acts such as Hardcore Superstar, Vains Of Jenna and Velvet Revolver. They've done more than 110 gigs in a little bit more than two years and been the opening act for the likes of Crazy Lixx, Last Vegas and Adam Bomb (ka-blaam!!! exploding s**t). It's raw, noisy, dirty, sleazy, complete with gang-like vocals in the background and screaming guitars by Ritchie Mohicano.

What more do you need? Well, again, I find the vocalist too lively and straight in your face (production-wise). You wish he would just 'calm down' for a minute and have a 'breather' for once as this goes on throughout the entire record. Not to mention the accent. All the other elements that are integral parts of 'sleaze' are sort of, but not quite, in place though. The image, the songs (even if they could certainly improve on this part too) and I'm sure they're a capable live act. Will they eventually emerge and become Frontstage Heroes??? Only time will tell...

MySpace site

SAXON: "Call To Arms"





Rating: 8/10

Label: UDRl2011

Review by Alan Holloway

19 albums down, and British metal stalwarts Saxon aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Although like most bands they are unlikely to ever recapture the lightning in a bottle of their classic albums, they are at least consistent without ever being complacent.

“Call To Arms” opens with a bold statement of intent, “Hammer OF the Gods”, also the best track on the album. Fast, fluid, melodic and heavy, it exudes the essence of Saxon throughout. Showcased on the recent tour, “Back in 79” is a little like a slower version of “Denim & Leather”, and like that song could well become a live favourite. It’s a good foot stomping anthem, but I’m more partial to some of the faster tracks, like the sizzling “Afterburner” and the fluid “Surviving Against The Odds”. Biff Byford still sounds as good as ever (I type this phrase a lot, I know, but he does!), and his vocals bring a healthy dose of personality to the songs. There’s plenty of crunchy guitar and intricate solos, and the band never substitute melody for power, always keeping the two balanced just right. Perhaps the least interesting track is “Call To Arms” itself, which plods on a bit, but there is a bonus orchestral version tagged on the end of the disc which really gives it some gravitas and much needed welly. Ideally, this would have been the main version.

There’s something here for any Saxon fan, basically. They seem to have settled into a good compromise between the melody of much of their 80s output and the sheer heavy metal of the late 90s and early 00s. “Call To Arms” can stand proudly beside any Saxon album before it, and that’s as good a recommendation as I have got.

Website

Sunday, May 8, 2011

WILLIAMS/FRIESTEDT: "S/T"




Rating: 5/10

Label: AOR Heaven 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

It seems you can take the man out of Toto, but you can’t take Toto out of the man. Joseph Williams was one of many who went through the Toto revolving vocalist door (although he has now come back again), and here he’s teamed up with easy listening song expert Peter Friestedt to produce an album that should come packaged with a comfy chair and a pair of vibrating slippers.

The biggest problem with this sort of album is that they always see to start with a good, upbeat track, folling you into thinking you’re going to have a cool, summery album. Inevitably this isn’t the case, as most of the album will be slow, boring and devoid of much in the way of excitement, passion or kick ass tunes. “Swear Your Love” starts it off, and it is indeed an upbeat track that’s lightweight but catchy, a nice piece of Westcoast style rock - heavy on melody, light on guitars but happy and fun. Williams is your typical Toto vocalist, with a great voice that drips sincerity on ballads whilst perfectly competent on lighter numbers. Seriously, if all the tracks had been like the first one, I would have adored this album. Unfortunately, although there are some catchy pieces (“Where To Touch You”, “Sometimes You Win” or “One More Night” for example), the album just doesn’t get my motor running. The production is crystal clear, and everyone sounds wonderful, but the songs are generally more middle of the road than white lines. There’s a staggeringly clear Toto influence, and if you are a fan then I suspect you will enjoy this much more that I did. In the end, it’s just too light and insubstantial, lacking any real excitement to be anything more than a nice CD to have on in the background. Toto fans add 3 or 4 to the review total!

WARRANT: "Rockaholic"

Rating: 8/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Love them or hate the, it’s hard not to get a big grin on your face when “Cherry Pie” comes over the speakers, and for that, if nothing else, Warrant will always have a special place in my heart. They came, they went, they came back, then they went again, and now they’re back yet again, this time with ex Lynch Mob man Robert Mason on vocals, and what a good choice he’s turned out to be.

Like current labelmates Black n Blue (whose own vocalist, Jamie St James, was with Warrant on their last comeback attempt), Warrant have stripped everything back to the core, revelling in the chance to make an album that celebrates everything that they used to be about, without any attempt at modern day relevance. It’s a breath of 25 year old fresh air, to be honest, because everybody needs to kick back and just rock sometimes, without having to pay too much attention. The opening salvo of “Sex Ain’t Love” , “Innocence Gone” and “Sanke” should please any Warrant fan, and following it up with the rougher, gritty “Dusty’s Revenge” is a masterstroke of tracklisting - it’s good to know people still think about this shit. Mason has fitted in perfectly, and hopefully he can do the live stuff equally well, with the rest of the band as tight as you’d expect for guys who have been together (on and off ) for nearly 25 years.

“Rockaholic” is the antidote, thankfully, to po faced rock music, which is precisely what Warrant should be. Sure, it’s not going to change music, but who the hell wants it to. Let Nightwish and various European tech-heads write the epics - Warrant are here to party. Plenty of kick ass rock tracks and even a good ballad (“Home”), this is an album for the old you, the one who had patches on his jacket and an air guitar, so let him out to play and make the most of the sunshine.

Website

Friday, May 6, 2011

AC/DC: "Live At River Plate" DVD





Label: Columbia 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

When you’ve been kicking around for as long as AC/DC you tend to build up quite a catalogue of live albums, videos and DVDs, each one proclaiming to be the ‘ultimate’ experience. Rather than ‘ultimate’, “Live At River Plate” goes for ‘definitive’, and for a change there’s a very real chance that the back cover boasting may contain more than a few grains of truth.

Filmed in Buenos Aires in front of a sold out, madly enthusiastic crowd, it’s nice to watch a DVD that doesn’t put a single foot wrong. The concert itself is 140 minutes of sweat soaked genius, perfectly mixed and filmed by no less than 32 cameras in shiny high definition. Split screen techniques are used very effectively, allowing the viewer to see the band and the rapturous crowd response, although they are not overused. The stage set is the full monty, including the train crashing through the back and an massive inflatable Rosie riding it like the brazen hussy she is. The best set design since Maiden’s “Powerslave” tour, it makes for a great DVD. The songs are a good mix of old and new, including the classic “Shot Down In Flames”, along with “The Jack” and “TNT” amongst the usual greatest hits stuff. There’s a few off the phenomenally successful “Black Ice” album, and they fit in pretty well. Although “Rock n Roll Train” takes the honours as the best one, as well as opening the set.

For me, the definitive AC/DC concert recording and video will always be “Let There Be Rock”, but as far as the post Bon Scott era goes, “Live At River Plate” gives you everything you could possibly ask for from a live AC/DC DVD in the 21st Century. The true test of any live DVD is that you wish you were there, and the best thing about this one is that it’s as if you really are.

Website

JOURNEY: "Eclipse"





Rating: 9/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

A band that really needs no introduction, Journey had something of a resurgence when the moppets from ‘Glee’ decided to breathe a bit of new life into some of their songs. ‘Don’t Stop Beliving’ became a bigger hit than ever before, and suddenly people wanted to know about this old band from the 80s. Previous to this, Journey had released a very good (if traditionally ballad heavy) album with new vocalist Arnel Pineda, and so the pressure is really on to come up with the goods now.

Just for a change, guitarist Neil Schon has promised a rockier album this time round, but the big surprise is that he wasn’t talking out of his flange pedal. “Eclipse” is certainly the most guitar heavy album since “Frontiers” (my favourite by the band), although it still has it’s fair share of slower numbers. Indeed, whilst listening to the opening track “City Of Hope” today, a friend asked if it was Satriani playing guitar, such was the sheer volume of widdling coming through the speakers. Even “She’s A Mystery”, the albums acoustic (and quite lovely) ballad, kicks off at the end so Schon can turn his guitar up to eleven for a minute. Add to this that the songs are allowed to develop, with ten of the twelve running for over 5 minutes (half of them over6), and you get a staggeringly mature album that feels much more complete than “Revelation”.

To give you some idea about what sort of Journey album to expect here, there are only three ballads out of twelve tracks, and even those feature rocky moments. The whole album sees more guitarwork from Schon than on any other Journey album as he stamps his mark on it at every opportunity. Arnel Pineda sounds great, slightly less of a Steve Perry tribute than he sounded before but still utilizing a brilliant range. I had a few doubts about the last album, mainly because it was never allowed to really get going, but this is the one we have been waiting for, this is the Journey album that fuses rock with melody in the way that we love so much.

If you’ve been dithering over whether to get “Eclipse”, trust me it’s a no brainer. If you have ever been a Journey fan this album will have plenty of tracks to delight you, especially if you miss the days when they didn’t overload with ballads. It’s not an attempt to copy the good old days, or to write another hit for the ‘Glee’ cast, it’s a bunch of guys making a great album for their fans. What more do you want?

Website

Thursday, May 5, 2011

THREE WISHES: "Obsession"


Rating: 7/10

Three Wishes 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

These days we rarely get unsolicited CDs to review, and when we do, it's usually death metal from Poland or something equally unsuitable for RockUnited. Once in a while someone does manage to catch us by surprise by being right up our alley. Three Wishes are the latest "nice surprise" - their melodic hard rock is something that should appeal to many of our readers.

Although "Obession" is the bands' fourth album, I don't think I've ever heard of them before. With an open mind I put the CD to the player, and the first bars of "Living A Lie" proved right away that this certainly isn't Polish death metal. Hard rocking guitars, colourful keyboards and vocalist who at his best sounds like L.A. Greene's (Harlan Cage, Fortune) german cousin!

With 15 songs, this album is too long for its own good, hence the rating. If you skip over the weaker tracks, there's still plenty to like. Keyboard player Arthur Quaku is the star of the show for me, adding a lot of athmosphere to the songs. And the songs then... they range from the outstanding melodic rock of "Save My Soul" to the slightly proggy "New Tomorrow", mostly staying on the more melodic end. In my opinion, that's where the band is at its' best, the more "tricky" tracks don't sound natural.

The band has produced the album themselves, and I think it shows a little. An outside producer might have told them to drop a few of the lesser tracks. Also, some of the songs suffer of a bit cluttered mix, there seems to be too much going on. But enough of my nitpicking, an album with such tracks like the aforementioned "Save My Soul" and "Living A Lie", "Fight" or "Red, Hot And Wicked" is worth of your attention. Especially those of you who enjoyed the albums of CITA back in the late nineties should investigate.

MySpace

Website

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ANA KEFR: "The Burial Tree"


Rating: 9/10

Label: Muse Sick Music 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Kefr?? Ana Kefr??? Holy crap!!! These guys are good... and weird, so utterly and completely bonkers. It's simply blistering metal with several layers and depths of influences and multi-cultural roots. I don't believe that I have enjoyed a "extreme metal" CD (FYI: I do not count 'Trash' and 'Speed' as 'extreme metal') this much since Extol's "Blueprint" album in 2005?? Okay, don't take these words as the 'Urban Gospel' (hah!) since I might have forgotten about a CD or ten. Nevertheless, Ana Kefr and "The Burial Tree" - top notch stuff from the opening track "Ash-Shahid" to the closing one, "The Collector" and that's all you need to know really.

Crystal clear and excellent production, complex songwriting, lyrically, a journey of religious, political and social disorders. Highly technical 'outside-the-box' metal and such a vivid mixture of Trash, Death, Progressive and Black Metal. Melodic and brutal, piano/keyboards and grinding guitars, this my friend, will knock you down to the ground and leave you gasping for air. Vocally, Rhiis D. Lopez works within a similar frame to the "Extol" approach, meaning all sort of types, from clear and melodic ones to darn right sinister and growling ones. Plenty of growls actually, but I don't mind when it's being synchronized with the music and not like some bands where it's merely 'there' to upset or annoy people.

Their sophomore release reaffirms their belief in the integrity of art, and to shed a light to their beliefs, this from the track, "Parasites", and I quote, "They believe beacuse they're terrified to know. The empire of denial is burning as anomalies are cast below. So the parasite benefits the most when it's sanctified and adored by its host. How I wish I were the hypocrite, that I could kill them all and be at peace with it", end quote. It's such a intense experience that you'll completely forget about time and place - it's simply Ana Kefr. Highly Recommended!!!

Website

MySpace site

YouTube site

GHOST: "The Engraving"


Rating: 7/10

Label: TSM/SLW 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Not to be confused with the U.K. group nor any other spiritual being or dodgy movie of the past. It's all history and this is now. Well, not quite 'now', as in spring 2002 Kim "Ihzzy" Sandvik (vocals) and Oystein "Oyz" Wiik (guitars) got together and took the first steps of what would later become the Ghost. The result of what started out in the basement of Ihzzy's house in the country side of Norway, Nesodden, their self-released debut album, "The Engraving". It's hard hitting riffs and a punchy rhythm section behind the melodies and the band's nicely-crafted material comes across like the work of serious musicians and professionals.

They hardly sound like anything out of Norway though (style-wise). They're actually doing something similar to what metal acts from Germany (such as Accept, Bullet, Bonfire, and of course U.D.O.) did already back in the eighties. It's the old twin-guitar sound gone highwire and out of control. Kim Sandvik, definitely a deadringer to Bonfire's Claus Lessman (if he had a slightly more 'aggressive' Norwegian cousin) and there's quite a lot of "Don't Touch The Light" moments on this platter (the Bonfire debut from 1986). Add the more direct and blunt approach of Bullet and early Accept and you're sort of halfway there. Obviously never quite as good as above mentioned acts, but it has to be one surprise update this time, and this is it, mainly beacuse Ghost are actually pretty good without creating something extremely 'out of ordinary' or unique. It's simply just good, old, Melodic Metal of the past? The band will probably not agree with the statement thinking this is the latest s**t, but let's face it, fellows, we've heard it all before... still good though... pretty darn decent.

Website

MySpace site

BLACK SUNDAY DREAM: "Light Of The Night"


Rating: 5/10

Label: TSM/SLW 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"People Get Ready" - The opening number is coming at ya' at full swing with singing guitarwork and monster riffing. The attiude and energy of the band is certainly present throughout the album and it's all about loud guitars and fast cars. It's supposed to be the full force of seventies guitar rock (Montrose, Van Halen) verses the cocky strutt of David Michael-Phillips' (King Kobra) acts such as Big Cock and Tunnel and merely a hint of metal in the vein of Bruce Dickinson (his solo albums).

To really make a stand and point as to what they are all about, Black Sunday Dream decided to record a rather intense version of "Rockin' In A Free World" (Neil Young). No doubt, this red white and blue American band like their guitars loud, that much is obvious. The power chords are flying across the room and the soaring vocals by Donald Hillier is an equivocal experience. Always borderline 'over-the-top' and screaming in your face, like a poor man's version of Bruce Dickinson. I don't mean poor as in crap, nope, merely not quite as good as Bruce-Bruce, but than again, who is??? A v-e-r-y capable vocalist nontheless and definitely 'power-house' work in the old metal tradition.

In fairness, the band have added a slightly different slant to the already much copied 'Montrose' sound (the band Van Halen copied right down to their shoe-laces) by injecting the odd metal singing and material in the vein of Bruce Dickinson (his solo albums). Brian George's guitarwork ignite like fireworks around me and the solid bassplayer Terrence Allen - a Bay Arena rock veteran since the year of 1969. Yep, Black Sunday Dream are very capable rockers, yet they have a fair amount to go before we're talkin' in terms such as sensational and superb. The songs are never really the 'catchy' sing-a-long numbers you'd expect them to be. The choruses are missing somehow? Final Verdict: fancy a 50/50 mix of Montrose and Bruce Dickinson without any real hits? The best track?, Young's Rockin' In A Free World. Have a go at soundclips below (links).

Website

MySpace site

Monday, May 2, 2011

FINN ARILD: "Testament"


Rating: 7/10

Label: TSM/SLW 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Musician, songwriter, producer, last but not least, Norwegian, Finn Arild is a talented multi-instrumentalist with a passion for complex structure and progressive arrangements. Experimental Progressive art-rock with a strong flavor of mid-seventies Genesis and tons of other influences such as Yes, Marillion, Transatlantic, the result of his rather impressive second album release simply entitled "Testament". This is a v-e-r-y grand and pompous affair, an epic progressive rock concept album telling the creation of the universe (such a trivial story), life, and almost everything between the sky and the earth. It's over 60 minutes of non-stop listening experience, no pauses included and the work of an dedicated and determined man.

The album, which has taken poor Finn five years to finish, covers the modern story of the creation of the universe starting with the big bang, the creation of stars and planets, the emergence of life on planet earth, the whole she-bang including the human race and the mark we put on earth. You will also notice that Finn had several years of classical training as the guitarwork is really throughout the album full of bits and pieces of the toccata and fuge. It's a very tasteful mixture and the technical aspect of it all, totally synchronized with the main story and prog melodies.

The only real let-down? perhaps the lead vocals at times as they're not quite interesting enough for an entire album. Don't get me wrong, they're not bad at all, never out of tune, it may however lack the extra quality and class which could lift this album to yet another level. The simply awful, "Robin", a pop/folk song with too much sugar and "Disney" melodies, should never have been included in the first place though. Geez, there's 5:19 minutes of my life I'll always regret spending on Robin. The overall effect this record will have on the die-hard prog-fan is somewhat the one of surprise and sheer interest though. It's close to innovative prog-rock and his possible the next "cult" follower and musician of the genre. Recommended to fans of above mentioned acts as well as perhaps Pendragon and Mike Oldfield? Nicely done.

Website

MySpace site

LEMON BIRD: "Hangman and The Jury


Rating: 4/10

Label: YellowNote 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Here's a statement from inside the booklet of the new Lemon Bird and I quote, "After the soaring first flight on the wings of 'Rara Alvis' comes a new flight. This is Hangman and The Jury, eleven new eggs in the Lemon Bird nest. Perfectly shaped and developed, they are ready to explode into your ears and beautify your mind with the sound that can only be Lemon Bird. Remember, Lemon Bird never disappoints, only satisfies", end quote. Blimey? Well, that's birdie nam-nam, entertainment, and a fun read for sure, I'd hate to be the one to let them know though, but in my humble and very personal opinion, they do disappoint on their sophomore release.

Lemon Bird are probably a fun live band with the presence, confidence and attitude, and whatever club they play they will trash. Sadly the appeal is not in the songs themselves this time rather than in the spirit of the band that plays them in the late sixties/early seventies mood. The Swedes are genuine rockers and it's merely a shame that tracks such as "Black Heart Woman", "Get You", Market Street", etc, will have you asleep at the wheel at no time. Influenced by Led Zeppelin, Cream, November, and every other band of the daze, Lemon Bird are desperately trying to revive the free spirit of yesterday's era.

The band proceed to kick out the jams and fair enough, they're good at what they do, but the melodies are just not strong enough on this platter. It's almost like many of the songs are merely reduced to untogether jam sessions and simply add soaring vocals on top of this. I do enjoy, "Down The Hatch", and the mellow, "Melodrama", the latter being frankly just marvelous rock in the early seventies groove and Led Zeppelin. In fact, it's a smashing example of the songs they should be writing ALL of the time - simply marvelous stuff!!! Make sure to at least check out soundclips of "Melodrama" at links below if you're into the genre and style.

www.lemonbird.se

MySpace site

DAVID ROBERTS: "Better Late Than Never"




Rating: 7/10

Label: Avenue Of Allies 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Missing in action since 1982’s “All Dressed Up” (now re released on Avenue Of Allies), David Roberts has made his way writing for other artists over the years, including Starship, Bad English and House Of Lords. In terms of solo music, however, he is much closer to the West Coast scene than AOR, so as a result his return to the recording studio sees a guitar more suited to chilling out than air guitar.

Full of the sort of music that suits summer days and convertibles, “Better Late Than Never” cruises along like it’s on greased rails, although as with most West Coast style albums it never worries too much about shifting into high gear. I’ve experienced this plenty of times, and in the end it comes down to the quality of the songs and your own tolerance for relaxed easy listening rock that doesn’t mind throwing in a bit of piano or a horn section here and there.

Roberts has a fine voice, well suited to the music, and it’s no surprise that he has the songwriting chops to create music that provides a gentle lift to the spirit. Even when I’m wishing for a kick ass guitar solo or for him to just let go every so often, I’m still enjoying the music and wishing it wasn’t raining so I could listen to it outside with a cocktail or two. One for fans of Blanc Faces, Chicago, Bruce Hornsby and the like, this is a nice, pure slice of radio friendly rock-lite.

Website

Black 'n Blue: "Hell Yeah!"




Rating: 7/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Somewhere, there must be people with big hair who have been salivating over the prospect of a new Black n Blue album. The mid to late eighties saw the band release some good, catchy anthem led albums, but they were never anything to write home about, although they certainly had a knack for writing songs that had catchy singalong choruses. The good news is that nothing much has changed, and the bad news is that nothing much has changed - you make your own mind up about which is true.

Black n Blue are a genuine throwback to the heyday of glam rock, throwing about various cut and paste influences as Kiss, Y&T and Skid Row, with plenty of Motley Crue creeping in as well. Naturally, this all means that when it all comes together properly, as on “Target” or “C‘mon” for example, it’s all quite a lot of fun. Sure, some tracks like “Hail Hail” (a very Kiss alike fist-in-the-air thing) it can all get a bit embarrassing, but if you’re with like minded people (or it’s just you and the cat) you won’t be able to resist singing a long.

As well as the twelve tracks, there’s a couple of pointless short piss abouts, namely “Jamie’s Got the Beer” and “A Tribute To Hawking”. Both probably seemed hilarious in the studio, but they’re really just stupid. That said, the twelve full tracks on offer are guaranteed to entertain anyone who got off on the band’s original releases, but don’t expect any miracles here. If you like good old fashioned thumping sleaze like wot they used to make when I were a lad, you could do a lot worse that raise your fist and yell “Hell yeah!”


Website

BEAUTIFUL BEAST: "Adult Oriented Candy"


Rating: 7/10

Rockload Records / G.T.O. 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"Beautiful Beast's "Adult Oriented Candy" is intended to be that mixtape that used to run in your (and my) walkman circa 1989." Bold words... in 1989, melodic hard rock was at the height of its' success and there were top quality albums released virtually every week. I know, I spent most of my money on them back then. Now, when a young(ish) upstart puts his material to a direct competition with songs I have lived with for 20+ years, the first thing that comes to mind is "are you serious, dude?".

"Adult Oriented Candy" comes wrapped up in a decidedly ridiculous artwork, with a photo of the band's leader Julian Angel in glowing colours and some young lady inspecting his zipper or something. When you put the CD to the player, it gets even more ridiculous, but in a good way - the album does sound like a throwback to the late eighties. No, it's definitely not as good as my mixtapes were, but it's a decent album with some rather fine songs.

I remember hearing some early Julian Angel material, and if my memory serves me correctly, he had some ok songs but the production wasn't very good. No such worries here, as "AOC" doesn't sound half bad. Angel has produced the album himself, but it's been mixed by Rolf Munkes. Actually, Julian seems to be responsible for just about everyting on the album, despite Beautiful Beast being marketed as a band with two other members. Admirable versatility, even though I must say that the album would have benefitted of a top class vocalist. Mr. Angel can hold a tune but his vocals are probably the weakest part of his many skills.

Virtually every track on the album is a relative of an eighties song you may have heard of, sometimes a close one and sometimes just a second cousin. Bon Jovi, Poison, Ratt, Autograph and Valentine are just a few bands you'll likely to spot as influences here. My favourite songs of the album are hands down the more AOR'ish ones, like "Tokyo Nights" and "Wild Tonight", both blessed with strong choruses. Never mind that the chorus of "Tokyo Nights" sounds a little like Valentine's "Tears In The Night"... and talking about similarities, the album closer "Singer And Guitarist In A Hair Band" was surely called "She's A Tease" in its' previous incarnation as an Autograph song? Angel can also write a very decent power ballad, as "Save My Heart" and " Still I Dream Of You" prove. The more "hair metallic" tracks like "Showdown" and "Rock All Arenas (Born To Rock)" aren't quite as good, pretty average to be honest.

If "Beautiful Beast" isn't just an one-off project, I'd suggest that Angel would hire a great vocalist for the next album. Maybe then Beautiful Beast could really rival the classics of 1989.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

QUBE: "Incubate"


Rating: 4/10

Label: Electrum 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

We are NOT amused!!! We are actually unimpressed and slightly disturbed by the fact that we are refering to ourselves in second, third, and possibly fourth person. Are we going to continue with the charade and b.s. for long? Are you fed up already and leaving this review as we speak? Good for you... since there's hardly a lot (on a positive note) to inform you about when it comes to Qube and "Incubate". At least not when it comes down to actual song material, the musicians are top notch performers as always when it's metal from Poland.

Nontheless, "Incubate" is an album that, if truth be told, can be nothing than a let-down in the genre of metal/hardcore meet progressive metal. Complex riffing in the vein of Tool - something that will always make this fellow sit-up and take notice. Sadly twelve more different styles and influences on this record are built more around hype and aggressive tendencies than actual business. I don't mind blunt and straight-to-the-point metal (every now and then) and they do have a couple of tunes the mosh-pit people will instantly love and adore. However, at the end of the day, it's always up to the band to come up with decent material and songs. Qube are not quite there in my books and it's becoming clear after you've spent days listening to the CD on many spins and still not being able to come up with any memorable hook nor melody. Back to the drawing board and here's hoping for a better second time around. Final verdict: what good are great musicians if they lack great material?

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HUMAN COMETH: "HCII"


Rating: 5/10

Human Cometh 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

As anyone would have probably guessed, "HCII" is Human Cometh's second album. I haven't heard the first one, and all I know about the band is that Kaj Roth of Melodic.Net is the band's lead vocalist. He does a good job behind the microphone as do the rest of the band members, but I'm just a little bit unimpressed by the song material.

The album does get a good start with "Alone In The Dark", which reminds me of Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath with AOR overtones. Heavy, but melodic. Unfortunately, a certain dullness becomes the norm for the album, with most of the other tracks plodding along at a steady pace. Guitarist Morgan Pettersson throws in some excellent axework to spice things up a little, and there's even a Cookie Monster guesting on the track "Hyperspace", but the hooks just aren't sharp enough for me. "Challenger Deep" and "Love Games" are probably the tracks I like the most out of the remaining ones, while the likes of "Supervulcano" and "Ambassadeur Of Rock" are merely competently played, yet forgettable. Okay, the "slightly" repetitive "Supervulcano" is memorable, but for all the wrong reasons - I can't help but think of Spinal Tap when listening to it...

The band offer their first album as a free download on their website, and you can listen to some of this album's songs there too. Go visit and check them out, because even though I didn't warm up to their brand of hard rock, you could very well like them.

Website