Thursday, September 29, 2011

GREYLEVEL: "Hypostatic Union"


Rating: 7/10

Label: ProgRockRecords 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oh... the melancholy of melancholic melancholia!!! Blimey, the music of Greylevel will bring the most upbeat person right back down to the ground and straight towards the abyss. Actually, "Hypostatic Union" reminded me of an episode of Father Ted (do a google if needed - it's a great U.K. TV comedy series of the nineties) where they've finally managed to cheer up this suicidal/depressed Irish catholic priest and he's on the bus on his way home looking forward to tomorrow... when the driver decides to play a music tape with Radiohead. Bummer indeed.

Greylevel play a progressive rock version of the above mentioned act also reminiscent to Porcupine Tree, Muse, and just a hint of Pink Floyd. The lyrics are thoughtworthy and the emotional pattern of synthesizers and keyboards are definitely all gloom and doom. It's heavy and dark (in the sense of being melancholic and sorrowful) and it's music that makes you take astand against everything you believe in as a human. Okay, clearly a bit too much and perhaps a too colourful description? But seriously, at the end of the disc, it's like if there's no future, no tomorrow, no meaning whatsoever and you might as well just lie in bed all day.

It's darkness and rainy days at the beach and all the tracks, from the opening "Memory Remains" to the closing of "Signals", speaks volume of massive grief and sadness. Cheerful buggers they are not and I could actually do with a pick me up song or a silly old tune such as "Cherry Pie". No, wait, Jani Lane's dead... crap, I think I'll just stay in bed for another month. Final verdict: Kudos to the Canadian act for coming up with a mighty decent sophomore release that literally transport the listener to a world of sorrow and hurt.

www.greylevel.com/

41POINT9: "Still Looking For Answers"


Rating: 8/10

Label: ProgRockRecords 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Anyone for Pop friendly Prog?? Sure, why not... as long as they're mixing things at this remarkable high level which include a fine texture and interesting rhythms. To be completely frank, we're all pretty fed up with all the extremely boring acts who merely play a third rate version of Dream Theatre arranged music anyhow. Indeed, thus why 41Point9 strikes me as something completely different, out-of the-box, possible even new and fresh?

The stunning new project by Brian Cline, original singer/bassist with Enchant and his partner-in-crime, Bob Marsden of Xen and Enchant fame. Add to this guest performances by Nick D'Virgilio and Jimmy Keegan of Spocks Beard and an eighties pop sound in everything from the production to rhythm section. Oh shut up you infront of the pc with the cheeky remark - any serious 4-string player knows that Level 42, Japan, Kajagoogoo, had some of the most interesting bass-lines around in the eighties. If not, bow yer head in shame. Hi-tech prog? Well, it's almost like if they're shaking the tree just to see what comes out and down to the ground. Have a go at this apple if you fancy a fun and rather vivid mix of (new) Marillion, Midge Ure, Peter Gabriel, Level 42, Porcupine Tree and Japan. Recommended.

www.41point9.com/

ZEN ROCK AND ROLL: "Undone"


Rating: 8/10

Label: ProgRockRecords 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Old school, definitely old school... and remarkably out of touch with today's music scene and industry. Quirky, innocent, close to naive at times? yet strangely intriguing and charming. I constantly find myself with a grin on my face as I play the latest offering to the Gods of... what exactly??? Indeed, it's Zen Rock and Roll and also the work of multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Saunders. The man's responsible for all instruments and vocals and Undone is actually a darn nice mix of 70s Pomp, Symphonic, Art-Rock with just a hint of the complex Prog.

In truth, the grand concept of lushy keyboards and soft-soft melodic songs seems best in theory than execution. Honestly, the whole concept is so utterly dated, wimpy, it could make any ordinary rocker blush of sympathy towards the poor bugger. I wasn't around the first time this kind of music had its peak in the seventies. However, it's like if Saunders decided to bring together all the nerdy acts of the past and declare them Gods of rock and roll. The mind boggles. It's the pomp of STYX (Dennis DeYoung), the over the top agenda of SPARKS, the lively arrangements of JOHN MILES, the innocence of AMBROSIA, the vocal harmonies of ELO, and why not the odd melody of ZON and YES. I probably shouldn't? but I do enjoy most of the seven tracks on display and there's hardly anything wrong with looking out through rose colored stained windows every now and then???

www.zenrockandroll.com/

BEYOND THE VORTEX: "One"


Rating: 4/10

Label: NonStopMusic 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"This Is War - This Is War" - Beyond The Vortex are screaming out the words 'Slayer-style' as the opening track "The Infinite Delirium" takes off like a 747 to the sky. The band's first record, "One", takes the listener on a 40-minute journey through the world of... or rather Beyond The Vortex. They materialise through a world of pain and dispear which also include earth-shattering breakdowns, relentless double-bass passages, various violent behaviour, and a barking mad vocalist. Had it not been for the fact that we actually like (old) Slayer, this record could have gone straight to the bin. It's not bad, not bad at all, the riffing - absolutely massive and I really enjoy the work of their two excellent six-string benders Simon Burri and Oskar Zekorn (now there's a comedy pair if ever - Burri & Zekorn).

The downside? the technical and not to mention vocal frustrations are too many and they lose their footing as soon as Lukas Villiger goes bezerk behind the microphone stand. For fecks sake, take a breather every now and then instead of constantly trying to infuse as many words/growls as possible on each and every darn track. It's actually a blessing in the sky every time he's gone quite and you can finally begin to enjoy the melodies and crunchy guitarwork. Not for long though as it's once again back to the monotone... ehh, singing. You simply need a more diverse sounding vocalist if you're ever going to break to the masses.

www.beyondthevortex.com/

NINE STONES CLOSE: "Traces"


Rating: 6/10

Label: ProgRockRecords 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Man, what's up with ProgRock Records and their releases as of lately? First I had to listen to the (fine) Greylevel disc and here's yet another utterly melancholic act? I simply won't bother getting up from bed this month then? Reading through the press-release certainly won't cheer you up, it's, and I quote, "a journey through loss, growing up and getting older. Letting things go and learning how to move on. Asking questions that don't have immutable answers, telling stories that don't necessarily have happy endings. Coming to terms with things you can't change or control. Mood music not for elevators", end quote. Sounds more like perfect match and music for suicidal booths (not to be confused with suicidal boots as those are made for walking... off the cliff).

The future is bleak and if that's the case, Nine Stones Close are having a wonderful time looking out through black tinted windows. Neat, how many other supposedly sorrow-thinking prog acts are you supposed to listen to before you simply had enough? To be perfectly honest, Nine Stones Close are quite good at what they do. The influences on the gloomy textured sound are quite diverse, but, wolven deep into the layered fabric of songs that reeks of Camel, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree. The guitar work intones a style similar to David Gilmour and the songs are overall more towards the old school sound than recently released prog albums. The keyboard sound is definitely old school and not quite as dramatic and atmospheric as the work of fellow label act Greylevel.

The musicianship throughout the 15 minute epic "Thicker Than Water" add a nice dimension, but unfortunately it's nothing most old prog rock bands haven't already done back in the days. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice little gloomy album, it's just not up to pair with the you-know-what release (see above).

www.ninestonesclose.com/

ODIN'S COURT: "Human Life In Motion"


Rating: 4/10

Label: ProgRockRecords 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Look out, the vikings are here! Hide your women and gold and simply run for the hills as fast as you... no, wait, wait, it's merely just another Prog-Rock act, unfortunately equiped with the worst possible monicker. Absolutely spot on if you're aiming at the primitive headbanger and other, ehh, various metalheads. However, if you're going for the average posh prog rocker and his/her wine drinking friends... ehhh, nope, please try again, and replace that eighties heavy metal artcover while you're at it.

"Human Life In Motion" is a concept album where each track deals with a primary emotion and an introspective look at the human experience. Strickly speaking the guitars are sometimes way louder and more upfront than your usual ProgRockRecords release. This obviously being down to their influences and inspirations as the band likes to spice up things with the odd Maiden and Metallica riff. I'd go as far as saying it's approx 3/4 prog and 1/4 old heavy metal to be found on this record. Sadly, however, the music of Odin's Court passed it's sell by date around the time of when David Lee Roth lost his hairdo and charisma. Final verdict: Meh!

www.odinscourt.com/

ALICE COOPER: "Welcome 2 My Nightmare"


Rating: 5/10

Label: NonStopMusic 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Why dear lord why? classic hard rock artist merely trying to ride the wave with ancient board and success. Why not just give it rest and try something completely different for a change? Golf? Clearly not Coop's best idea - naming the new album, "Welcome 2 My Nightmare", especially if you're not capable of coming up with material that goes hand in hand with the legendary album. What's next, Welcome 3 My Nightmare? Well, it doesn't make sense, but, Welcome 4 My Nightmare could possibly work if you're not too picky?

What's the grand idea behind the title anyhow? It's obvious an attempt at attracting as many suckers and old fans as possible before they discover the truth about the album? Three or four decent/good tracks and a bunch of fillers? The album drops its metal noodling for dull mainstream pop/rock on a couple of tracks and consequently becomes less interesting. But, I'll have to say that the duet with Kesha is better than expected. Sure enough, "I'll Bite Your Face Off" is a nice tune in the style of the Rolling Stones vs. Cooper and Bob Ezrin's back behind the control desk. But hey, I'll be waiting for 'Trash 2' - the title may at least match the music then. Ouch, that's a bit harsh. The bottomline: it's just another Cooper release as of lately and it's been several years since his latest homerun? Huh, what? Beat It!?

www.alicecooper.com/

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kevin COSTNER & Modern West: "From Where I Stand"


Rating: 6/10

Label: Ear Music 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

You might know the name Kevin Costner and indeed it's the same guy, if you were wondering… As this album was available on the Finnish distributor's promo service, I downloaded it out of curiousity to check it out. And well, it's actually not too bad. There's nothing that really grabs me instantly, but it's pleasant to listen to, most of the songs are pretty good and Costner is a good singer and a songwriter. The lyrics are real stories, which is quite nice.

"From Where I Stand" stands somewhere between country and down-to-earth rock of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp. My favorite tracks of the album are probably "No Fences" (very Petty'ish) and "Let Go Tonight", which features an unlikely guest star, the german pop rock singer Nena.


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SLAVES TO FASHION: "Artistic Differences"


Rating: 6/10

Label: Hands Of Blue Records 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"Artistic Differences" is the first full-length album from Norwegian band Slaves To Fashion. They've previously released one CD and one EP as "P:O:B" and an EP under their current monicker. What we got here is a finely crafted progressive rock album, with interesting instrumentation and arrangements, fine playing and singing. It's obvious that the band has put a lot of effort into this.

Slaves To Fashion has an interesting sound that reminds me a bit of King's X and the acclaimed Finnish prog rockers Von Hertzen Brothers. Some of the songs have a bit of a psychedelic, even oriental vibe which doesn't really agree with me, but the vocal harmonies are fine. To these ears, the band is at their best when they cut corners a little and go for a more straight-forward approach, take the opening track "Love You Back" or the album's standout track "Libido Ride" for example. The more meandering and progressive tracks leave me a little cold.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SHY: "Shy"


Rating: 9/10

Label: Escape Music 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The unique voice of Tony Mills was the one thing that used to make Shy stand out among the competition and gave them an easily recognizable sound. Now that he's no longer in the band, the rest of the band had a difficult task in front of them - to re-introduce the band to the fans with a new, very different sounding singer. Sure enough, Shy 2011 sounds different, but what's important - it still sounds very good! Actually, the challenging situation has made the band stronger, and this self-titled album is far more satisfying an album than the previous couple of discs they made with Mills.

New vocalist Lee Small is definitely a different kind of singer to his predecessor, a bit in the vein of Glenn Hughes. Tony's high-pitched voice wasn't for everyone, but Lee's husky tones might have a wider appeal, so in a way he's a great choice.

When it comes to the music, the songs on this album are roughly in the same genre as the old Shy songs. Yet at the same time they sound different, as if the band had reinvented themselves. The "new" Shy is a bit heavier, should I say more "european" sounding, but on the other hand there are some really pop-styled melodies here and there. The guitars are more upfront, but so are the keyboards - both Steve Harris and Joe Basketts shine here.

There are no weak tracks on the album, but a few do stand out more than others. The opener "Land Of A Thousand Lies" makes it clear that this band is back in business. It's big, it's bold and the chorus is gloriously anthemic. Somehow it reminds me of Royal Hunt at their best. "Ran Out Of Time" is one of the more "vintage Shy" sounding songs, with plenty of keys and a strong hook, while the more mid tempo "Breathe" is a fine, moody song featuring a great vocal from Small. Fans of keyboards will probably fall in love with "Pray", which makes wonder whether Joe Baskett has more than two hands - there's a lot of ivory tinkling goin' on here! Those who are longing for the "old sound" there's the Journeyesque "Only For The Night" and the superb "Over You".

So… If I'm honest, I wasn't expecting that much of this album, but in this case it's nice to be proven wrong. Possibly the comeback album of the year and surely one of the Top Ten contenders.



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Monday, September 26, 2011

HOUSE OF LORDS: "Big Money"


Rating: 9/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"The Root Of All Evil - MMMONEYYYYY!" This is how the new House Of Lords album starts, a soft female voice saying the first line and James Christian belting out the "MMMONEYYYYY". Effective, gets one's attention.

A brief HOL history - three albums during the late eighties and early nineties, break-up, then a comeback with 4 out of the 5 original members and a new, seventies' like raw sound. The reviews were mostly unfavorable, so vocalist James Christian took reins and put together a new House Of Lords, with an intention to go back to the original sound of the first three albums. And he did it with success, this album being the fourth in a row, true to the origins of the band.

The previous HOL album "Cartesian Dreams" was a good album, but not quite as stunning as the previous two. A few of the songs were clearly fillers, not meeting the high standard set previously. I'm glad to say that there are no real fillers on "Big Money". Naturally there are songs which aren't quite as good as the others, but the quality never really drops that much. "Searchin'" and "Seven" are probably the most "average" tracks of the album, but they're still pretty decent ones. On the other hand, there's a few tracks that would deserve a place on a Best Of House Of Lords compilation for sure: the clever and catchy "Hologram", the pompous AOR of "Someday When" and the beautiful ballad "The Next Time I Hold You" for example. Not to forget "First To Cry", the same song that was recorded a few years ago by Ignition. I might prefer the Ignition version, but this one isn't far behind.

If you've liked the previous three HOL albums or the original three ones, you can safely hand your well earned money to the cashier in your records store. Or should I say "use your credit card and buy the songs from your favourite electronic music dealer"… whatever is your choice, this is one of the essential AOR purchases of the year.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gary John BARDEN: "Eleventh Hour"




Rating: 5/10

Label: Escape 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Gary Barden has returned, once again inserting his middle name for his solo projects as he utilizes his downtime from MSG. He’s been floating around since Schenker gave him a break back in 1980, with plenty of people affording him a God like status ever since. These days he seems to be doing as much as possible, although the promo blurb describing this as “Hard Rock Brilliance” may be a bit premature.

“Eleventh Hour” is, to be honest, pretty standard hard rock with some pretty cool tunes and some others that are a bit pants. It’s all quite bombastic, with some nice guitar and keyboard riffs and plenty of power throughout. “We Are Dead” and “Child Of Sorrow” both stomp about like petulant children, whilst “All In” is much more melodic in structure but lacks the conviction of the others. I had a bit of a surprise when I heard the Rainmakers-esque “Blackmail”, mainly because I genuinely thought Gary was singing “Black Man” (“Black Man, when you hold me in the night, Black Man, your grip is oh so tight” etc etc). Mind you, it did liven up a pretty dull song. Vocally, Barden does a good job, but he’s never been the best or worst of singers, nestling comfortably in the middle and offending no one whilst doing what he does.

It’s hard to really get behind “Eleventh Hour”, as I know I won’t be playing it any more than I have to. It’s passable without being exceptional, and has some pretty good songs as well as some below par ones. I think your enjoyment of it really will depend on how much you like Gary John Barden. Me, I can take him or leave him, and the same goes for the album.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FIONA: "Unbroken"





Rating: 9/10

Label: Cargo Records 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

A month after celebrating her 50th birthday and a staggering nineteen years after her last album “Squeeze”, Fiona Flanagan is perhaps not the most likely comeback queen, but she’s certainly as viable today as she ever was, as “Unbroken” demonstrates with every play. When I was younger I was quite a fan of Fiona, and whilst admittedly it didn’t hurt that she was a stone cold babe, her voice and hook laden, pretension free songs were always a pleasure to hear, particularly on the 1985 self titled debut. When I heard she was coming back I was intrigued but not too excited, if I’m honest, but then I heard the album.

“Unbroken” is an absolute corker of an album, co written with the reliable likes of Tommy Denander, Holly Knight, Marc Tanner and James Christian (who also does a bang up production job). Fans will be glad to hear that Fiona’s voice has lost none of it’s power and passion, and is still oddly unique in the way she sounds like she’s being gently strangled much of the time (but in a good way…). The songs themselves are a tight collection of rather cliché ridden staples that nonetheless bear, even demand, repeated listening. Opener “Loved Along The Way” sets the tone perfectly, hearkening back to the earlier albums with an irresistible melody and chorus. There’s nothing remotely new here, and fans of the genre will be able to spot the inevitable last chorus key change coming a mile off, but for whatever reason (Aliens? Vampires?) it just works. Holly Knight contributes “Badge Of Love”, which is, disappointingly, close to a carbon copy of “Hide Your Heart”, co written by Knight back in the 80s and done by Bonnie Tyler, Kiss and Molly Hatchet as well as Knight herself. Every time I hear it I can’t help sing the older song over the chorus, and it fits perfectly, which sort of kills the song for me.

Fortunately, “Badge Of Love” is the only disappointing track here, with the rest providing catchy melodies, fist in the air moments and some truly memorable choruses. There’s a killer duet with Robin Beck, “This Heart”, unsurprisingly a power ballad but a bloody good one. There’s some oddness to "Wild One", as Fiona sings about her rebel bloke picking her up from school and things of that ilk, but it's still a great song. Things get a little rockier for the brash, punchy “Get Yer Kix” and the alpha female “I Love You But Shut Up”, the latter a track that Paramore wouldn’t find out of place on their set list. There’s two cover versions as well, with Fiona doing justice to Pat Benatar’s “Shadows Of The Night” (a great track then and now), as well as a superb cover of Prophet’s “Everything You Are”, which may or may not have been written originally about the girl now singing it.

I’ve waffled on a bit longer than usual about this album, I know, but it’s entirely justified. It is simply a top class melodic rock album that is not ashamed of giving us uncomplicated throwback anthems sung by a woman who should always have lasted for more time than she did and got more recognition. Whether treated as a comeback album or simply a new slice of the AOR pie with added deliciousness, “Unbroken” will definitely be in my personal top 10 this year, and deserves to be checked out.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Various Artists: "Embrace The Sun - The Lion Music Japan Benefit Project"



Label: Lion Music 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The tsunami that destroyed parts of north-eastern Japan in March really brought people together to help the victims. Hard rockers seemed to be specially touched by the events, as there have been at least three charity albums made for the cause. This one features artists of the Lion Music record label, who specialize in guitar-oriented, mostly progressive metal. There are 28 tracks and artists here, most of whom have chosen to donate balladic tracks to the album. Thanks to that, this is a bit more accessible than a full-blown blast of 28 prog metal tracks from the same bands... okay, not all of Lion Music's bands are progressive, but anyway.

There are several rather nice songs from artists like Milan Polak, Anthriel, Missing Tide and Mastercastle, to name a few. Then again, a couple of the songs are just hideous, most notably the pointless instrumental jam by Mastermind and the schitzophrenic metal by Infinity Overdrive, and I can't say I'm impressed by the title track, performed by The Lions, a Lion Music All-Stars type of a thing. Sure, the virtuoso guitarists and keyboardists showcase their talent but the song itself is a jazzy, dull instrumental - elevator metal...

Despite what I wrote above, there way more good than bad here and if you like progressive metal and guitarists in particular, you could do much worse than invest a few euros in this double album. It's for a good cause, so it'll be money well spent.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

SAURUXET: "Saurusplaneetta"


Rating: 7/10

Label: Playground 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"Dinosaurs playing heavy metal to the kids". That was the concept that Mirka Rantanen (drummer of Thunderstone) came up with a few years ago, and HEVISAURUS was born. Two highly successful albums were released under that name, but last year things went sour between Rantanen and the band's label Sony. Lawsuits, dirty dinosaur suits and insults were flying all over the internet and media, and as a result, things are a bit complicated now. There are actually two dinosaur bands now touring and recording in Finland: Sony-owned Hevisaurus which includes the orignal vocalist and production team/songwriters and SAURUXET, Rantanen and the original live band with a new vocalist. Sauruxet were the first to release new material, and apparently the new monicker didn't alienate them from their audience - the band went straight to number two on the Finnish Top 40 chart this week. Without diving any deeper into the waves of controversy (or is it too late already?), let's take a look at the album...

The music of SAURUXET is very 80'ies-sounding melodic metal and hard rock, well performed and produced. The lyrics have been written to appeal to the pre-school and elementary school children, so there are songs about things that that age group can relate to. For example, there are songs about visiting a candy factories, goblins, little green men and treasure maps. And dinosaurs, of course. Sure it's kinda weird to listen to these songs and I can't really relate to the lyrics, but then again, if I can listen to the obscenities of Steel Panther or the worship songs of several christian bands and enjoy them, why I couldn't enjoy these songs too?

The style of the songs ranges from the power metal á la Teräsbetoni, Manowar or Stratovarius to the melodic rock of Europe and Van Halen. The influences are at times very thinly disguised, take the title track for example. It's a song about leaving for another planet, and features a familiar sounding keyboard parp... You can easily spot some other familiar bits and pieces here and there.

My favourite song of the album is the irrestibly catchy "Kummitusten Yö", a fine slice of pop-metal that wouldn't sound out of place on a Lordi album either, except for the vocals and lyrics. Strangely the hook reminds me of a Kaija Koo song - Finnish readers might know a song called "Tinakenkätyttö". Other noteworthy songs include the aforementioned titletrack (never mind the Europe similarities!), the funny "Iskää Hevittää" (about a dad who plays in a metal band) and the sport anthem "Voiton Huumaa". Yeah, I'd surely rather listen to this than the Smurfs or The Chipmunks in the car. I'll try to introduce this to the one in my family who's in the target age group too...

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Friday, September 16, 2011

NEWMAN: "Under Southern Skies"




Rating: 9/10

Label: AOR Heaven 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

A familiar face to melodic rock lovers, Steve Newman has been a bit busier than his previous record might indicate on the solo front, with “Under Southern Skies” being his second album in as many years, following on from the very well received (and deservedly so) “The Art Of Balance”. As usual, Newman plays as many instruments as possible, although touring guitarist Shaun “Da Prawn” Bessant is allowed to contribute to one track.

Not your usual AOR crooner, Newman has a voice that has a good sense of power, and is quite deep compared to any of his cotemporaries. Thankfully, he can hold a tune with the best of them, and coupled with his excellent guitar work and songwriting ability it’s rare that he releases an album of inferior quality. With this said, it’s no real surprise that “Under Southern Skies” is as solid as Jason Statham’s abs, chock full of guitar heavy melodic rock. It follows on very nicely from the last album, and if you liked that then this is really a bit of a no brainer. There’s some corking tracks, with the cream of the crop being opener “Killing Me”, power ballad “Strength To Carry On”, chorus king “Ghost In The Night” with a special mention to the haunting album closer “Monsterrat”. If anything, it’s a step up from “The Art Of Balance”, with a powerful, strong line up of beefy but melody filled tracks.

“Under Southern Skies” may well be Newman at the height of his abilities, or at least until the next album. Existing fans will love it, and it’s definitely too good not to pick up plenty of new ones. Both familiar and uniquely Newmanesque, this is AOR with an edge that doesn’t come about often enough.

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Sebastian BACH: "Kicking & Screaming"


Rating: 5/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Sebastian Bach hasn't been the most profilic recording artist since leaving Skid Row in 1996. This one is his second studio album of original songs, following "Angel Down" (2007). That album had its' moments, especially the ballads were something quite special. "Kicking & Screaming" has its' moments too, but I'm afraid they more "that's pretty good" moments than the kind of moments that will make you go "WHOA! Great!".

The first taste of things to come from this album was the title track. When I first heard it, I thought it was a good track with a reasonably melodic hook, and it still is. Of course Bach screams throughout the choruses, but what else there's to do with a song titled "Kicking & Screaming"? "My Own Worst Enemy" showcases a different style of singing in a high register from Bach - a clean, highpitched, slightly nasal sound. It could be a bit irritating, but for four minutes it's okay. And "okay" is the song itself as well, the chorus is quite good. "Tunnelvision" reeks of the 90'ies, the melodies remind me a bit of a more polished "Pearl Temple Garden" with Bach's trademark high-pitched vocals. Although I'm no fan of nineties' grungy stuff, this isn't actually too bad. Three out of three so far...

"Dance On Your Grave" is a heavier track, but also one of the most boring ones of the album. The chorus might be drippin' with attitude, but it doesn't work for me at all. The bass-driven "Caught In A Dream", has an okay chorus but that's about it, while "As Long As I Got The Music" sounds a bit like a lost track from one of Ozzy's post-eighties albums. Well, Bach's vocals are quite different, but I could imagine Ozzy singing this too. The album's first ballad "I'm Alive" is a decent one, but again I can hear the 90'ies vibe crawling in... the hollering vocals, the blandess and certain chord progressions just make me think of Seattle and flannel shirts.

The hard rockin' "Dirty Power" and "Live The Life" are fairly unremarkable, and the balladic "Dream Forever" doesn't win me over either. It builds up nicely to a chorus, but the chorus itself doesn't cut it. "One Good Reason" is another attitude-fuelled track with Bach spitting out the lyrics with conviction, but it doesn't save it from being merely "okay". The forgettable and grungy "Lost In The Night" follows, but thankfully the album ends on a positive note with the album's strongest ballad, "Wishin'". It's a timeless, melodic track.

This is not the album I was hoping Bach would have delivered. New guitarist Nick Sterling shines on the album as a player, but the songs he has come up with Bach are a bit on the average side. Disappointing.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

BADMOUTH: "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"


Rating: 7/10

Label: Rambo Music 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

It's always hard to review an album when you know someone in the band, and this is the case with Badmouth. However, as always, I'm going to tell you what I really think about this album, be it good or bad. Fortunately it's mostly good.

Produced by Chips Kiesbye (The Hellacopters, Sahara Hotnights etc), "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" is the missing link between 80'ies metal and "actionrock" represented by The Hellacopters, Backyard Babies and the likes. The album has a great, powerful sound, yet there's enough nuances to keep it interesting and multi-dimensional.

"Son Of Sam" with its' eerie intro is a good opener, a straightforward hard rock track with a strong chorus. The next song "Radiator" lacks a little when it comes to the melodies, but I can't help but like it to some degree. "I need a radiator, 'cause baby you're so damn hot" - just for that line the song gets a thumbs up! "Judas" is one to skip for me, a rather boring fast rocker with not much of a hook to talk about. "Silver Lining" is much better, but still it's no match for "City Is Burning", a rather brilliant uptempo track with awesome guitar work and plenty of melody. Some interesting lyrics too... "I'm Gagney sans Lacey"?

The first video track "Tired" is the kind of an attitude-fuelled song that will surely appeal to all the angry young (and why not old) people. A surefire crowd pleaser, this one... the line "Why Don't you make like a tree, and get the fuck outta here" baffled me at first, but then I googled it - "make like a tree and leave" - get it? Anyway, apparently it was first used in the movie "Back To The Future"... you'll learn something every day!

"Bottoms Up" and the second video track "Blue Ribbon Days" kind of leave me cold, but I enjoy the title track a lot more. It's a throwback to the eighties with some pretty cool lyrics and a melodic chorus. And just when you thought that you knew what Badmouth were all about, they serve you a fine, authentic sounding Power Ballad á la "18 And Life" in "Jake Brakes". A fine song and it would've been the perfect closing track, but no, there's one more. I could've done without "Facing My Demons", which is frankly a really boring track with my pet hate - a chorus that consists of the song's title shouted repeatedly. "Judas" was already enough of that...

So let's have a look... 4 songs that I dislike more or less, and 7 songs that I like... translated into the rating language, that's a "7".

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Monday, September 5, 2011

EMERALD SUN: "Regeneration"


Rating: 6/10

Label: Pitch Black Records 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Greek melodic metal band Emerald Sun have managed to put together a fairly entertaining CD out of recycled power metal clichés. They surely have studied their "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums, and maybe a few chapters from the Primal Fear songbook too. There's no denying that "Regeneration" is a well-produced and well played album, but the band's songwriting doesn't lift them to the next level. The album's standout track "Holding Out For A Hero" is pretty special though, but it's a cover of an eighties' Bonnie Tyler song, written by Jim Steinman and Dean Pritchford.

What is kinda appealing in this album is the humour and should I say "playfulness". It doesn't sound like the band is grinding their teeth trying to be the fastest and hardest power metal band of all time, they might have even been - shock, horror - smiling and laughing when recording this album. I'm not so sure about the vocalist though, Stelios "Theo" Tsakirides screeches through the album in his own, imitable style that must be somewhat painful at times. His voice is definitely an aqcuired taste, maybe better enjoyed in smaller portions than a full album at a time. The female vocalist who sings on the aforementioned "Holding Out..." offers some variety to the vocals on the album, and I wouldn't have minded if she would've been given a few more songs to sing.

Out of the band's own material, I'd pick out "We Won't Fall" as the best of the bunch, the somewhat silly "Planet Metal" is pretty fun too. "Speak Of The Devil" has to be mentioned as well, if only for the fact that it sounds a lot like Primal Fear. The other songs aren't that bad either, but you've heard it all before. "Regeneration" is not a bad album but that's about it... apart from the fine Bonnie Tyler cover, I don't think this album will get a lot of airplay on our household.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

EVER SINCE THE DAY: "Passion Without Patience Is A Waste Of Time"



Label: indie 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

ESTD are back for another try with their quirky contemporary rock sound. I reviewed their previous effort three years ago, and in between they've released one internet single and an acoustic 2-track CD. This is their longest CD so far, with a total of 5 songs...
The highlight of the EP is the catchy and energetic opener "It's In My Head" and I quite like "Resentment Stuck Deep" too, which owes a little to "Here Comes The Sun" by The Beatles. The title track has some of that bounciness and energy of the opener, yet it's like a more melancholic and less catchy cousin of it. The last two tracks see the band moving towards a "post-grunge" style, although still keeping their polished and finished sound. "Repeat" has an OK chorus, but "Night" leaves me a bit cold. Fans of Poets Of The Fall might find it to their liking though.

The production is spot on, the vocals are excellent and the overall feel of this CD is again very "ready". Yet they're still unsigned... one of these days they'll write "that one song" which will knock down the doors I hope.


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GRAND RESERVA: "Badlands" CD-single



Label: Tripaway 2010

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Here's a one-track single from Swedish hard rockers Grand Reserva. They play the kind of "Tough Guy Rock" that usually gets a lot of airplay on Finnish rock radio stations, but I'm not convinced that this song will take them straight to the A-playlist or even the B one. It's a straightforward rocker, slightly hollering vocals á la Volbeat and a not a lot of hooks. A rather cool guitar solo saves a little, but no... this doesn't make the cut. Hopefully they've got stronger songs on their album and this was just a misguided choice of a single.


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Thursday, September 1, 2011

SWEDISH HITZ GOES METAL: "s/t"



Label: Doolittle 2011

Review by The Bailey Brothers

In England we have something called the WMC (working men’s Club) a circuit that is usually full of artists doing cover versions of well known songs to a predominantly working class audience. It’s notorious for being a difficult environment to play and usually the acts have to do two sets with the interval consisting of a few games of Bingo (numbers game ). Sadly the bingo gets more appreciation than some of the acts performing. If you are lucky (or maybe not) the band may sell you a CD of them playing a few cover songs to help earn a little extra. What’s my point? That’s exactly where this CD belongs. Ok yeah, I did smile when Mamma Mia kicked in and thought I can appreciate that for a one off but I found myself cringing at the obvious attempt to jump on the fame of Abba and co to try and gain some sort of recognition. Everyone loves ABBA because their songs were brilliantly composed and the hooks memorable. They were a one off and have been the template for many a pop wannabe. The playing on this release is fine and Tommy Rein Xeed has got a decent voice. A good producer could make a decent album with him if he put the screams in the right place. It’s a shame a decent musician has to go down this road to try and gain exposure especially after releasing credible albums prior to this but after murdering the final song on the disc “Listen To Your heart” (originally by Roxette) I think I had to listen to mine and just be honest. I thought this album was like a bad Eurovision song contest entry and deserved little more than Nil-Pwa. Long live Yngwie Malmsteen.


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PRIVATE ANGEL: "Nailed"



Label: Point Music 2011

Review by The Bailey Brothers

A group of friends who have known each other for 25 years - so that should be a cool environment to be creative. The lyrics suck on this album. For mature guys who have seen alot of events unfold in the world the lyrical content is at best naive. They have tried to cover modern day issues like Afghanistan but the lyrics and their delivery on this release are like a shoe that just doesn’t fit right and the vocals are a bit average also. It’s a shame because songs such as “Last Chance“ are ok, Tram Stamp Boogie” has some cool riffs and a catchy chorus and “Valiant Song” has again a catchy hook in the chorus. It sounds like a demo with potential rather than the finished item but it’s cool to see people making music they want to. Yeah, a bit dated but very authentic and honest.


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