Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PRETTY MAIDS: "It Comes Alive"

Live album

Label: Frontiers 2012

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

30 years. That's how long Pretty Maids have been around. To celebrate their anniversary, the band has released "the band’s first ever audio-visual release". Unfortunately I only have the audio to review...

With a career of 30 years, the band had a lot of songs to choose from. They've managed to put together a solid setlist, there are fast and hard songs as well as their melodic songs, with the emphasis slightly on the melodic side. I have no complaints about that! Of course I have my favourites among their catalogue and not all of them are included, but I guess that applies to each one of their fans. At least they didn't completely overlook my favourite album of theirs, "Jump The Gun", as they did way back in 2006 when I saw them live.

Although I'm not that fond of live albums, I must say that "It Comes Alive" is one of the better ones I've heard lately. The band sounds really good, and while vocalist Ronnie Atkins' vocal style cannot be easy on his vocal chords, he can still deliver. Damn, this album makes me regret that I missed their recent gig in Helsinki!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

FURYON: "Gravitas"

Rating: 6/10

Label: Frontiers 2012

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Furyon have finally secured a wider distribution for their acclaimed debut via Frontiers Records. They represent the heavier end of Frontiers' rooster, with a modern metal sound that as close to Alice In Chains as it is to old school hard rockers like Whitesnake. An AOR band they most definitely are not.

The band has been called "the best new metal band from Britain" and all sorts of accolades have been handed to them. While I can appreciate the talent in the band, I'm not going to start throwing superlatives their way. Yes, the album sounds great and they are very talented musicians, not to mention Matt Mitchell who is a top class vocalist... but still, there are far too many songs on the album that merely pass me by without drawing my attention to them. At their best the band can deliver "heavy and melodic" rock as they promise in the press release, both "Disappear Again" and "Wasted On You" are good examples of that. Then again, I don't know how many times I've played this album, but songs like "Souveniers" or "Fear Alone" may be decent enough, but I just don't remember anything about them. Heavy, but not melodic enough.

The fact that at times I find Furyon slightly dull doesn't mean that they couldn't go on to become the next Metallica, so do check 'em out... I have a feeling that they're onto something.

The Frontiers release includes a couple of bonustracks, no comment on those since the promo package didn't include them.


Friday, March 16, 2012

JACK BLADES: "Rock N Roll Ride"

Rating: 9/10

Label: Frontiers 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

RATT once sang, "Round and round, what comes around goes around, I tell you why". Okay, tell me why as it's hardly straight to the point (as if ever), but... it's sort of the circle of life. Hakuna matata or whatever kind of b.s. Elton sang about? Music gone the full circle and musicians ending up sounding like a mish-mash of classic and modern contemporary rock. Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees fame has certainly been blessed with the 'know-how' as the songs on his latest solo album blend a little of both camps (new and old rock).

The opening two numbers, "Back In the Game" and "Rock N Roll Ride", perfect examples of my theory, it's extremely fun and catchy-crunchy rock. Back to basic and acts such as The Foo Fighters are also trying to belt out these kind of tunes nowadays (their latest album). If you like, it's the modern/retro twenty twelve version of "You Can Still Rock In America" and the Damn Yankees. Pretty timeless stuff in other words. It's fun GUITAR rock, mo-fo! It's the sort of moment where you expect Ted 'Wacko' Nugent to pop out of his box and scream his head off for no other reason than being extremely excited. You'll be shouting along at the top of your lungs too - what kind of ride - a ROCK N ROLL RIDE!!

The first video/single, "Born For This", top notch rock in the vein of Bon Jovi? "Hardest Word To Say", goosebumps warning? the perfect ballad mix of Night Ranger, Damn Yankees, and Daughtry. "Anything For You", surely must be the result of the collaboration between Blades and Robin Zander? It's basically a (cool) mid-tempo Cheap Trick tune. The same goes for "West Hollywood" as the hall/trademark of Zander is written all over it. Well, The Beatles started out with these kind of tunes and the likes of Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Zander picked up the torch back in the seventies.

"Say You Will" takes the fun uptempo mood up Night Ranger and blends it (again) with what the Foo Fighters are trying to capture. If you haven't been in the game for the past years. Don't go thinking grunge and depressive rock as they're a classic/modern rock band in this century, grandpa/ma. "Don't Give Up", the piano arrangement and formula of Bruce Springsteen in the background while blasting out the timeless rock upfront. Final track, "Hey Now", the old rock'n roll blues gone cowboy Bon Jovi and Shaw/Blades. Yup, kids take notice, the old Night Ranger is back in the game. It's a rock'n roll ride...


JEFF SCOTT SOTO: "Damage Control"

Rating: 7/10

Label: Frontiers 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

JSS, Jeff Scott Soto, the bloke upfront, powerhouse vocalist, U.S. Swede, the metal version of Terence Trent D'Arby? There are many different ways to describe the former member of Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, Talisman, Eyes, Takara, Soul SirkUS, etc. Me? I'd say he's a dou**e. I spent my childhood disliking him for hooking up with my crush and favourite Swede girl/woman as a kid, Tone Norum, and yeah, she's the one singing, 'hey, can't you stay'.

All jokes aside (I pretend to like him now as the memories hurt too much otherwise. LOL! No, seriously. I'm in pain), after plus 25 years in the business, you pretty much know what to expect from this all American singer. It's a very professional packaging and everything on, "Damage Control", speak volume of experience and a certain class. From the moment JSS decided to take some time off from touring, other gigs, sessions and various contributions, it's been more or less a controlled chaos to get this album together.

There are twentysix musicians from three continents involved (members of Y&T, Kamelot, Treat, Night Ranger, etc.) and they all do their part without ever stepping into the spotlight of JSS. Some of the tracks on display: The title track sparks like a radioactive cat in the dark. Very much the early Talisman sound, the mere hint of funk, and the odd reference to another US singer with capitol letters, JLT (or JOLT aka Joe Lynn Turner of Rainbow and Deep Purple). "If I Never Let Her Go", a neat poppy power rock song and borderline cheesy to be honest. "Die A Little" reeks of 1986 and the pure AOR sound of the era. And no, that's certainly not a neagtive mark in my book, quite the opposite really. Great stuff.

To my surprise, "Tears That I Cry", as well as most other tracks are true to the power pop and melodic rock sound. I sort of expected something else as this singer was never afraid to embrace and involve the funky/groovy stuff as we know, and much of 'Damage Control' is a pretty straight forward melodic hardrock affair. Starting out with a couple of notes of classic soul/blues piano, "Bonafide", quickly becomes yet another fine soft rocker with lines such as "wearing my heart on my sleeve". And even though if "Krazy World" flirts with the Jean Beauvoir, Prince, D'Arby, sound, it's still very much a melodic rock tune. "Afterworld" does sound like something Talisman could have done in the past (RIP Marcel).

I'm told the deluxe version holds three bonus tracks (not on my copy) where 'Take U Down' is a personal fave according to JSS. Final verdict: On the one hand, big, catchy rock. On the other, a tad too safe and predictable at times. Nontheless, overall a solid effort and a very safe purchase for the JSS and melodic rock fan.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The SUN EXPLODES: "Emergence"

Rating: 7/10

Label: Perscription PR 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Sun Explodes and the moon waits for its opportunity to finally shine? Actually, if the sun explodes, the moon will also, ehh... nevermind. We're discussing a heavy synth-laden rock/metal quintet out of the U.K. and hardly the scientific report of the day. You'll find an amalgamation of styles on their debut album, "Emergence", and it's very much the experimental approach to contemporary rock. It's basically a mish-mash of EMO, Prog (Math), Synth, and Metal melodies.

They have managed to produce a sonic display of musical angst and progressive ideas where the songs stand on their own merits even if you can't ignore the concept and the reviewers need to name-drop a couple of acts. They're from Carlisle in Cumbria and the likes of Coheed and Cambria and Muse, definitely something to have in the back of your mind while listening to their melodies. I'm a major C&C fan and their sort of music is all about emotion and thinking outside the box. The same goes for The Sun Explodes as the offer a quirkly atmosphere to a certain type of mood and formula.

They're at times heavier than afore-mentioned acts, but vocalist and keyboardist Dave Maclachlan sings with a very clean and poppy approach throughout the album. It's the ever so popular metal band meet poppy singer attitude. Maclachlan can really pull off the high notes though and there's quite a lot of keyboard/piano interludes on the record. The frantic display of "We're Not Soldiers", poppy vocals upfront, growls in the background, it's something we've noticed a lot of as of lately. This is a pretty great anthem though and the style which acts such as Dead By April should explore really. The autotune part is kind of annoying but doesn't last for long, thankfully.

I believe it's just a matter of time before you'll notice these guys on tour outside of the U.K. as it's "progressive music", but certainly more innovative and interesting than many other releases of its type and genre. The opening title track and the following, "Honour Bound", with its buzzing guitars and sweeping melody, the least interesting tracks in my opinion. Things kicks off big time with "Second Sight" and the next couple of tracks. It's a rather complex CD and I'm afraid they could end up inbetween two chairs. Perhaps too complicated for the average EMO fan and simply not enough to the Prog/Math lover? You need to be open-minded and possibly enjoy both genres to fully appreciate The Sun Explodes...


STORY OF JADE: "The Damned Next Door" (Know Your Neighbors)

Rating: 6/10

Label: WormHoleDeath 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Horror metal is a huge? part of the Italian scene as it's buried deep into their roots just as pizza and pasta. Yeah, well, they have several of those mad producers of (slightly) disturbing splatter/horror movies... and there seems to be new followers of the genre each and every year since the days of Death SS really. Probably even further back, but I'm no expert on pre-eighties rock out of Italy or anything else for that matter.

Story Of Jade are desperate to let you know about, "The Damned Next Door", as it's appearantly important to know your neighbors? It's their debut release at WormHoleDeath Records and the image goes hand in hand with the music concept. It's the usual corpse painting, zombies, dead bodies, and various other strange objects and items of horror and terror (Gremlins?).

What else to expect than morbid ideas from songtitles such as "Confessions of a Headless Man" and "Bloodsuckers Motherf**kers". The latter featuring lyric that goes and I quote, "Crawlin' through your veins, they bite when you fall asleep. Breakin' your filthy dreams, lickin' your sweaty flesh, creepin' under your clothes. You are their juicy prey, you're gonna die tonight", end quote. Indeed, they are the juvenile bloodsuckers and I'm not quite sure what to say really?

Okay, lyrics, perhaps not their strongest point. The music however mixes influences such as Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth, WASP, with the more modern core of The Black Dahlia Murder. Baphomatt (their lead vocalist) sings/growls like any twisted person of the genre. The clean vocals are quite similar to the ones by Mustaine (only worse?) and it's not a poor record. It's just that words such as neat, pleasant, decent, just doesn't ring true when it comes to horror metal.


R.O.C.K.: "Freedom"


Label: Playground Music 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

R.O.C.K. flirted with techno sounds and pop influences on their first album "Mirror Ball & Red Lights" last year, hoping to create the perfect crossover style. Their latest single sees them going for a more hard rockin', anthemic style, which is fine by me. As interesting as their crossover concept was, it sounded a bit contrived.

"Freedom" is a big, pounding stadium rocker with "Whoo-ohs", melody and a huge chorus. I'm not completely sold on the chorus, but the pre-chorus and the bridge are both pretty ace, so I'll have to say that this is a winner.

Somewhat off-topic... isn't it funny that H.E.A.T. has and album called "Freedom Rock"? Now we need a band called F.R.E.E.D.O.M. to release a song called "Rock Heat", right? No, that's enough d.o.t. bands...


Monday, March 12, 2012

The WAY OF PURITY: "Biteback"

Rating: EP

Label: WormHoleDeath 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Doing the Jesus Christ pose? (see artcover). For those of you who remain uninitiated into the bizzare world of The Way Of The Purity, here's a small chance to find out what the fuzz is all about. They're from Sweden. They're into black, core, doom, melodic metal (B-C-D?). They never show their faces (dodgy ski-masks). They actually want to spread the word of Christianity? (you seriously doubt them considering their image and approach). They have a female vocalist out of Norway (face shown and not using the smelly ski-mask). They are completely bonkers?

Their 3-track EP, "Biteback", follows a path of confusion, combining provocative ideals and lyrics with growling vocals by Tiril "Gwaargh" Skårdal. Mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox studios, there's no denying that these guys are the real deal (sound-wise). Tiril sings like a person possessed by demons and it's quite the brutal wake up call to the ones expecting the sound of gospel by a tiny blonde woman. And no, it's neither sexist nor demeaning to call a tiny blonde woman, a tiny blonde woman! (keep the PC people away from my door).

The songs, "Keep Dreaming", "Eternal Damnation to Rene Descartes", "Reverse The Time", are all steeped in the same formula and style. Nicely done with atmospheric keyboards in the background, crunchy guitarwork, and demonic vocals upfront. It's pretty decent stuff (but perhaps not too original) done in the Arch Enemy tradition with a similar female vocalist to Angela Gossow. "Biteback" will not only chew your head off, it'll keep haunting your headless body in your dreams.



Rating: 8/10

Label: RD Records 2012

Review by Alan Holloway

After FM came back on the scene, many fingers were crossed that Romeo’s Daughter might join them at some point, what with the bands being linked in the past by both marriage and tours. Although their revival has been slower and less high profile (by AOR standards), Romeo’s Daughter are finally ready to unveil what is only their third album, following on from 1993’s “Delectable”, now available again on Rock Candy records.

“Rapture” is certainly a confident album, starting out with a catchy, crunchy (for RD anyway) rocker, “Trippin’ Out”, sending out the same message as “Heaven In The Backseat” did on their debut. As with that album, this isn’t a guitar fest by any means, and there are a fair few emotional, laid back tracks. Romeo’s Daughter have stayed true to their original image and are a rock band that you’d have difficulty headbanging to. Guitar solos, when they come, are short and sweet, and keyboards are ever present.

What keeps “Rapture” from being a snooze fest is the simple fact that all of the songs are well crafted and catchy. “Bittersweet” may be verging on country music, but that doesn’t stop me from warbling along to the chorus each time it pops up. The other thing that perks up every song is, unsurprisingly, Leigh Mattey’s vocals. It may be 18 years since she’s delivered the goods, but she sounds exactly the same, like someone pouring honey laced with sugar cubes onto an Oompa Loompa.

So what you have here is an album that should certainly appeal to fans of the band’s debut, but may not be to the tastes of people who just like pure pop rock AOR goodness. Romeo’s Daughter are rock-lite, that’s for sure, but “Rapture” is a great album full of catchy, guitar based tracks that once again show a band that were cruelly robbed of wider appreciation.


Sunday, March 11, 2012


Rating: DVD

Label: WormHoleDeath 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Thirty minutes of brutal romantic atmosphere created, written, directed by Susi Medvsa Gottardi featuring the music of the Swedish band, The Way Of Purity. Ehem, yeah, it's thirty minutes of something alright. Not the usual music DVD really even if the plot follows the first WOP album? The band (obviously united in faith through a blood pact), lost in the woods of Bohemia, discover an abandoned house and in it they find an old skool tape recorder. When they play it (oh, no! don't play it!) the harsh screaming lyrics of a suffering female voice causes them to have insane visions of blood and martyrdom.

Yep, it's appearantly jam packed with the screaming and visual being of some poor naked woman (obviously covered in blood) that lived in the house and committed suicide in the name of God back in 1972. Why nude? Who cares? The woman is however played by some Hungarian porn star (Lena Cova) and she's definitely a sight for sore eyes. So now you have one cute and very naked Hungarian porn star as well as poorly Italian actors with horrible accents running around in the forrest while the plot thickens? Nah, the band (actual actors?) walks through the forrest wearing ski-masks and looking extremely corny. The old traditional corpse painting would have been a so much better visual experience really.

The short film is cheesy scary in the same way as the first Evil Dead (only worse). And please don't tell me that you actually enjoy utter shite horror movies of the eighties? All the eighties movies sucks with a few exceptions really. Scarface, Alien 2, Gremlins? Ehem, yeah, erase the latter. No wait, don't... gremlins are cool. The film isn't dark enough and it could have been more fun to watch had it been all gothic and dirty. Ah! Lena! (Donnie Iris?? Nah, he sang Leah?)



YouTube Film Intro

Friday, March 9, 2012

MURDER BAY: "Never Was An Angel"

Rating: 7/10

Label: Eonian Records 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

A quick glance through the press release and the name Eric Valentine caught my attention. Indeed, the former T-Ride drummer and nowadays famed producer (Good Charlotte, Queens Of The Stone Age, Third Eye Blind, etc.) is responsible for tweaking six out of thirteen tracks on "Never Was An Angel". The rest are all done to the hard work of Rob Beaton (Guns N Roses, Sammy Hagar, Santana, etc.) so expect a rather professional packaging and sound here.

The Murder Bay songs were recorded in 1990 and magazine's such as Metal Edge took notice and the Bay's were included in the 'Bands On The Rise' section. Within a few short months, the band would be showcasing for one of the major labels. The changes the label demanded of the band during negotiations didn't sit well and Murder Bay turned down the offer. Gee, that must be a rather bitter experience and perhaps not their best decision?

Fast forward to 2012 and the band and guitarist Michael Karafilis' soaring, driving work is captivating on highlights as diverse as the opening stomping, "Land Of Plenty", and the Kee Marchello meet Mick Mars riffing on "Honey Child". The latter sounding a lot like a mix of the two afore-mentioned guitarists acts (Europe, Motley Crue). "Outta Line" is slick and catchy hair-metal (yeah, we're not afraid to use the term on a positive note) and "Ultraglide" is groovy yet catchy rock with a capitol R. "Simple Man" is a friggin' great and different sort of softy and not quite as stereotyped as most power ballads. It's almost a jazzy composition without losing the melodic hardrock formula. Again, excellent guitarwork, inspired by the Scorpions?

On record it's undeniable they have/had a fine collection of songs at their disposal in the likes of "Never Was An Angel","Dirty Work", and another great ballad, "Alone Again". However, towards the end of the CD, choruses could overall have been slightly better, bigger, catchier, as they often tend to stick to the Van Halen idea of grooving along to the melody without a sharp, edgy, point to the story. The formula is charming at first... but there are a couple too many of them without a proper refrain (Keep Me Mind, Got No Business, Song?). But hey, if you enjoy the average VH composition and groove. I personally find them dull and merely the debut and especially "5150" are classic albums in my book.

In conclusion, definitely one of the better sounding releases by Eonian Records anyhow. If you fancy the real deal and sound of the late 80s/early 90s, and don't mind some groovy (and excellent) guitarwork, have a go at Murder Bay as they're good at what they do.


RATTLESHAKE: "Rattleshake"

Rating: 7-Track Mini-Album

Label: Eonian Records 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oi! Everybody do the Rattlesnake shake! Having devoted much blood, sweat and tears to every darn club in the Bay Area while opening for major acts such as Winger, Warrant, Tesla, things went belly up when Kurt officially proclaimed that hair-metal was dead in 1992. Indeed, it's the same old sob story as always and you're kind of fed up listening to bands bitchin' about it? Especially since it's been twenty years, Kurt's long dead, grunge too, and trends will always come and go. With the sole exception of Rap? Seriously, they've been playing the same old song and dance number to death for the past 20 years! Where's the new "black" music? Flavour Flav and co. - the last originals? Anyhow, Public Enemy and Run-DMC rawks!

And just for the record, black music should simply be "music" as it's everything really, jazz, blues, soul, R&B, pop, rock'n' roll, and even the first hardrock guitar hero (Jimi H!). No white people came ever up with any modern music, they stole it. Truth be told, Rattleshake will never ever be originals and these seven tracks, recorded, mixed and produced by Rob Beaton (Guns N Roses, Sammy Hagar, Santana, Sea Hags, etc.) are at their best fun, but hardly groundbreaking or even close to original.

In the belly of the Rattleshake snake is the sleazy and sneering attitude of acts such as Ratt, Faster Pussycat, Tuff, the first Lynch Mob (the debut). It's a pretty straight forward, standard template, spiced up with the groovy backbone of the band. Vocalist Don McBee (Flame) spits out the lyrics like a proper sleaze rocker and you're tapping and humming along to the melodies. You can't help thinking... this must be some kind of guilty pleasure? It's so, 'been there, done that', but the fact is that Rattleshake are pretty darn good at keeping things sleazy and catchy at the same time.

Man, the songtitles are sort of lame too, "Shootin' Whiskey", "Gypsy Queen", "Take Me Down", "Mudbone, Delight", "Jump On Me", "Rattleshake Boogie". And not to mention, "Never Say Goodbye", the typical power ballad of the time, sounds like any other sappy number of the era. Guardian had a similar one and so did others. But, when everything's said and done, this 7-track mini album goes by quickly and I keep hitting repeat for another spin. Final verdict: Forget about "original", simply call it hair-metal and deal with it - sucker.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Rating: 7/10

Label: Indie 2012

Review by Martien Koolen

Franck Carducci is a multi-instrumentalist who already played with 20 different bands and who got involved in the recording of 15 different albums. Four years ago Franck moved to Amsterdam and in 2010 he opened a gig for Steve Hackett from
Genesis. Now, finally he released his first solo album called Oddity and if you like
good old-fashioned melodic prog rock then you will probaly enjoy this CD very much.

Franck invited a couple of friends to play along, like e.g. John Hackett, Larry
Crocket, Phildas Bhakta and Yanne Matis. The albums opens with the epic song
Achilles, which clocks over 14 minutes and features a lot of beautiful melodies,
lots of flute and also acoustic guitar passages. Follow up The Quind is again filled
with lots of acoustic guitars, keys and rather dreamy and melancholic vocal parts
and melodies. Alices Eerie Dream ia agreat prog rock song with lots of nice guitar
solos, while The Last Oddity is maybe a bit tto long and too spacy altought the
guitar and keyboard solos are again rather nice. The only "bad" song on the album is
the rather boring The Eyes Of Age which is too folky for me. What I also do not
understand is why Franck covers the Genesis song The Carpet Crawlers; I HATE covers.
All in all not a bad effort, but I think that Franck can do much better as my advice
would be: leave out the long acoustic parts and stay away from covers!


RUNNING WILD: "Shadowmaker"

Rating: 5/10

Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2012

Review by Alan Holloway

I’ll be honest here - I don’t know much about Running Wild, except that they’ve been going since the late 70s and are credited as the first ‘Pirate’ metal band when they released “Under The Jolly Roger” in 1987. That’s sort of it, so I had no preconceptions as I spun this, their first album since they split in 2009.

“Sons Of Malice” actually starts of pretty well, if rather unoriginally. “Piece Of The Action” grows from a “Breaking The Law” type riff into a catchy old school metal track, and “Riding On The Tide” carries on the pace nicely. Standard bearer and original member Rolf Kasparek has a nice, traditional metal voice and does a good job here, with him and Peter Jordan providing some exciting guitarwork as well. They pick up the pace for “I Am Who I Am”, a fast track with a great headbanging backbeat, and to be honest by this point I was pretty impressed by the album. Nothing exactly new, but in a good way, if you see what I mean. From here on, it’s pretty much traditional, uninspired old school heavy metal, with touches of Accept (“Me & The Boys”) and any other chest beating 80’s band you want to mention.

Aside from the first three tracks, “Sons Of Malice” is like an album of out takes from early 80s metal albums. It’s not pirate metal in any way, and it’s not good enough for fans of traditional metal either. There’s a few spikes of interest (“Shadow Maker“, “Saving Fire“), but in the end this isn’t worth coming out of retirement for, and perhaps Running Wild should be put out to pasture.


UFO: "Seven Deadly"

Rating: 7/10

Label: Steamhammer/SPV 2012

Review by Alan Holloway

So UFO are determined not to sit back and coast, releasing their sixth album since 2000, and still managing to hold on to two ordinal members in vocalist Phil Mogg and drummer Andy Parker, both of whom have been in the band for 43 years now, unlike keyboard player Paul Raymond who ‘only’ joined in 1976. The current line up is completed, oddly, by Vinnie Moore, a man more famed for neo classical guitar widdle than blues based Brit rock, but actually making his 4th UFO album appearance, so he must be enjoying himself.

In itself, “Seven Deadly” is pretty impressive, and I can see that existing fans should get a real blast from the low down, dirty blues edged vibe throughout. Phil Mogg isn’t what you’d call the greatest singer in the world, but he has a unique style that lends itself perfectly to the music, and amazingly hasn’t changed over the years. Musically, this is as UFO as you’re likely to get, from opener “Fight Night” right through to “Waving Good Bye” at the end, this could be no other band. If you’ve never heard UFO it’s not a bad place to start, as it’s powerful, crunchy and well produced, and with Vinnie Moore on guitar duties has some truly cool solos, although he sensibly doesn’t try and stamp his mark over the top of the band’s existing sound.

As with most UFO releases, “Seven Deadly” takes me to a certain point and no more, because whilst the songs fly they rarely soar, although this may be because I’ve never been a big fan, and so my capacity for enjoyment is limited. Maybe it’s fairer to say that I’ve enjoyed this as much as any UFO album I’ve heard before, and if you’re a fan you should certainly go out and get it, as you’ll probably adore it to bits.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SEETHER: "Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray"

Rating: 7/10

Label: Wind Up Records 2012

Review by Alan Holloway

I have to say that normally we wouldn’t be too bothered about a bonusfied re-release, but as we never covered Seether’s latest when it was released last May it’s only fair that we give it a spin now it’s been spruced up with bonus tracks and a DVD, something that will not doubt see some fans justifiably annoyed at having to shell out for a second time to get the new bits.

So what we have here is the original 12 track album, and it’s really quite a good one. Seether are from South Africa but sound like they grew up listening to bucketloads of Nirvana and Metallica, and have forged a heavy, powerful sound that mixes the old school with elements of The Foo Fighters and Nickelback. Shaun Morgan has a very powerful voice, and the songs on the album are uniformly strong, with some made for radio (like the very chart friendly but still heavy “Country Song”), and others made to rock out to, such as the blistering opener “Tonight”. It’s a little unfortunate that the rockers are outnumbered, as the album could certainly do with a little more meat on it’s bones. Nonetheless, there’s plenty to like if you like a bit of contemporary rock with the occasional bite.

In addition to the original release, the main disc has 4 new tracks and 3 remixes of existing ones. The remixes include an absolutely ghastly club type mix of “Country Song” that should have been strangled at birth, a dance remix of “Roses” that sounds like it was done by a retarded monkey and yet another rock/dance mix for “No Resolution”. In all seriousness, these make a mockery of the band and their fans and should never have been put here. I hope against hope that the band themselves didn’t authorise it, because if they did they have gone way down in my estimation.

Elsewhere, the four bonus tracks (“Dead Seeds”, “Yeah”, “Nobody” and “Effigy”) are pretty much in the Nickleback vein and pretty good as a result. There’s also a DVD which throws in five surprisingly effective live acoustic tracks along with teo blistering live versions of “Remedy” and the ever present “Cowboy Song”, which crops up for the fourth time, although as it was a massive hit for the band it makes sense (apart from the remix, natch).

If you haven’t heard Seether, or just missed this album for whatever reason, this is a good way to get involved. It’s not the most dangerous album you’ll ever buy, one of those that looks freaky and mad from the cover and the title, but once you play it is actually quite cuddly despite the big riffs scattered about. Nothing really new, but still entertaining and catchy, Seether are a band worth looking out for (especially if you are seeing Three Doors Down in the UK, as they are the support).


MEAT LOAF: "Hell In A Handbasket"

Rating: 6/10

Label: Sony Music 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

Incredibly, this is only the 12th studio album for Meat Loaf, a figure that becomes even more odd when you consider he has had 16 compilations made from his work. Unlike some artists with his longevity, his albums have been consistently successful, with his reliance on a certain Jim Steinman slightly exaggerated by some. Whilst the last album, “Hang Cool Teddy Bear” received a glut of positive reviews, album number twelve arrives barely a year later more mediocre than meteorite.

Whilst Meat’s live performances have received heavy criticism, he can still cut it in the studio and sounds pretty good here. Some of the songs work really well, such as the John Mellencamp-like “Live Or Die”, his collaboration with fellow ‘Apprentice’ contestants “Stand In The Storm” and the upbeat “Party Of One.” Interestingly, Lil Jon has a very well placed rap part in “Stand In The Storm” that works well, whilst Chuck D is totally out of place on the otherwise good “Mad Mad World”. Rap and rock is an exact science, and sometimes an experiment goes awry. There’s two great duets with Patti Russo (a staple guest for Meat since the 90s), “Our Love & Our Souls”, and a rather spiffy version of “California Dreamin” that works against the odds.

“Hell In A Handbasket” is, on the whole, a reasonably laid back album by Meat Loaf standards, although there’s still a fair few rockers. The biggest problem is that nothing much sticks in your head, and as a result the album drags it’s feet in the mud rather than flying, fifty minutes seeming more like ninety. I still personally admire Meat Loaf for his career and staying power, but this is one that made me wish for Steinman’s return to the fold, although it still has some rather nice high points.


Monday, March 5, 2012

H.E.A.T: "Address The Nation"

Rating: 9/10

Label: earMUSIC 2012

Review by Alan Holloway

Swedish youngsters H.E.A.T have a habit of not giving a fuck. This is a very admirable quality, and has seen them release two albums of music that is certainly not what the masses are crying out for, and Bod bless them for doing so. After the unfortunate departure of vocalist Kenny Leckremo in 2010, H.E.A.T recruited the winner of the 2009 edition of Swedish Idol. He certainly proved he was up to the job with excellent liver performances, and many a breath has been held waiting for the band’s debut with the new boy.

Whilst Finnish band Reckless Love seemed to go towards a more poppy, synth sound for their recent album, H.E.A.T have pretty much decided that if something ain’t broke there’s no point trying to fix it. Each of the ten tracks on “Address The Nation” is a snapshot of what AOR is all about, with big choruses and joyful bouncing galore. Only the final track, “Downtown” has a seriousness not associated with the band, but it makes up for it by being a superb if moody, track with a first class guitar solo.

Vocalist Erik Gronwall does not disappoint in any way here, and those who predicted a doom laden future for the band after Leckremo left will look pretty silly after people hear the vocals here. Opening track “Breaking The Silence” really showcases his voice, bringing to mind his awesome “18 And Life” Swedish Idol audition in 2009. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also one of the best songs the band has produced, and I love the fact that for each album they have opened with a kick ass track that really puts you in the mood for the rest.

“Address The Nation” is one of those albums that you listen to several times in a row, because time goes so fast when it’s on. It’s over 40 minutes, but you will seriously wonder where the time went as “Downtown” once again rolls to a close. There’s not a lot of variety here like there was on the new Van Halen album, and for some that may be a drawback, but none of the songs beg to be skipped or outstay their welcome. A wonderful fusion of keyboards, guitars and a fantastic voice, “Address The Nation” should see H.E.A.T get bigger and bigger.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

FROZEN RAIN: "Ahead Of Time"

Rating: 7/10

Label: Avenue Of Allies 2012

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

As I recall, the first Frozen Rain album was a rather lightweight album, too sugary for its' own good. Our reviewer Urban gave it a bit of a slapping, I merely forgot it after listening to it briefly. I'm glad to report that the band has taken several steps towards the AOR royalty they want to belong to. Gone are the various vocalists, replaced by Carsten "Lizard" Schulz, a much-in-demand German singer. Gone is the limp-wristed, overtly smooth wimp rock style too. I don't know what gave the band a much-needed shot in the arm, but I quite like the results.

While Kurt Vereecke and his troops may not have written any all-time AOR classics yet, there are several rather good songs on the album. And would you believe it, one of the best ones is an instrumental?! I'm not a big fan of instrumentals, but "Voodoo Party" is a special track, an excellent uptempo AOR song with tasty keys and guitarwork. Other noteworthy tracks include "The Last Dance Ain't Over", "Forever", "Not At Home" and the classy ballad "Too Late". A few of the other tracks suffer of somewhat weak choruses - good intros, the verses are fine, there's a nice build-up... and when the chorus should "close the deal", so to speak, it doesn't. Therefore only a 7, but still, "Ahead Of Time" is in a different league than its' predecessor.




Friday, March 2, 2012

MR. BIG: "Live From The Living Room"

Label: Frontiers 2012

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I don't usually have too much time for live albums, but "Live From The Living Room" isn't too bad at all. Mr. Big has taken the "unplugged" approach and reworked a handful of their songs into the acoustic format. They work really well this way, still highlighting the incredible musical talent of the band, not to mention their superb vocals.

Majority of the songs are from the band's latest studio album "What If", which makes sense as they were recorded while the band were promoting it in Japan. I actually like some of these versions more than I like their normal album versions.

What's also cool is that at least to these untrained ears, the album doesn't sound doctored - it hasn't been tweaked to squaky clean perfection. Eric Martin's soulful voice may crack here and there and I'm sure that even Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert and Pat Torpey may have miss a note somewhere along the line, but really, that's the "human touch" that makes this a LIVE album.


IT BITES: "Map Of The Past"

Rating: 9/10

Label: Inside Out Music 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

You know, I just love it when beloved bands and performers come back from the dead and prove to be just as good, if not better, than they were before. Last year Fiona Flanagan appeared with a fantastic album, and recently Van Halen blew me away against all expectations. For me, though, the best comeback was when It Bites recruited John Mitchell and blew many away with “The Tall Ships”, an album that was in many ways a true successor to their classic “Once Around The World” disc. It’s been three years, incredibly, but I’m glad to say the wait is over with the release of “Map Of The Past”, for which the band have taken a bit of a sideways step.

“Map of The Past” has ostensibly been touted as the band’s first concept album, and to be honest I was a bit wary, as concept albums seem to be the most likely to disappear up their own arsehole whilst being awfully clever at the same time. The concept, however, is actually very loose, and simply deals with looking at past events and fixing things that once went wrong. Well, that’s what the press release says, but as usual I can’t make a lot of sense out of John Mitchell’s lyrics.

Whereas the previous album had plenty of bounce and pop sensibilities amongst prog and rock overtones, “Map Of The Past” is in general a more relaxed affair, and definitely has more of a prog feel, courtesy, no doubt, of Mitchell. With that said, there are still plenty of It Bites touches, as keyboard player and general songwriting guru John Beck joined Mitchell on songwriting duties, with the two of them creating a varied, entertaining mix of tracks that get better with each listen.

There’s some more straightforward stuff here, like the catchy “Flags”, which features a very nice little keyboard riff that sneaks in through the back door, and “Cartoon Graveyard”, with the first featuring quite an energetic guitar solo from Mitchell, whilst the latter has a typically quirky John Beck keyboard piece as well as another blistering little guitar solo. These tracks mix keyboard and guitar very well, and have the bounce factor that will delight existing fans.

Many of the tracks blend in together without a break, creating the illusion of a complete piece of music, and this can be lots of fun, like when “Cartoon Graveyard” seems to segue into an orchestral piece which is actually the opening to the subdued “Send No Flowers”, a track that is for me the only real low point of the album, as it doesn’t seem to really go anywhere much. Fortunately, the rest is a real treat, with tracks that wander in their own directions, full of quirky charm as well as some very nice choruses that will get lodged in your noggin (“Meadow & The Stream”, I’m talking about YOU!).

So what we have here is a nice, natural progression from “The Tall Ships”, allowing Beck and Mitchell (ably backed by bassist Lee Pomeroy and long time drummer Bob Dalton) to stretch their prog wings a little more than before whilct still capturing the essence of what It Bites are all about. Don’t be put off by the labels ’prog’ or ’concept’, this is a stunning album of melodic rock that dares to be a little different.


Thursday, March 1, 2012


Rating: 7/10

Label: Kiln/PerscriptionPR 2012

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Gee, great artcover... not! However, Twelve Feet Clay are an interesting four-piece rock band out of Cambridge, U.K. Devoted to the cult following of hometown hero: Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), the lads are clearly out on a mission to conquer the world with slightly depressive rock. The opening two tracks, "Cornfed" and "Tribal Girls", has taken elements from all the U.K.'s previous trends including (early) U2, The Cult, The Verve, to create their own sound. It's epic, moody, rock arrangements, with lots of light and shade.

In fact, add merely a hint of the radio friendly rock of Nickelback and you're pretty close to home. "Still Life", starts off promising enough, oozing with both angst and melancholy, the driving bass/guitar takes the melody way beyond your average composition, transforming it into mellow and excellent arena rock of twenty twelve. Next up, "Sarajevo Bombs", you can obviously tell by its title that it's going to be a rather laidback and sad little melody.

The band with the Jeffs brothers upfront clearly owe quite a lot to the traditional U.K. melancholy sound of the past and this album will most certainly appeal to those with a tender heart and/or broken home. "Sour Rum" is quite bitter to be frank and not easy to digest on empty stomach (I believe the correct term would be swallow). Going through the eleven tracks on display only to find out that it's all v-e-r-y mid-tempo. Not always exciting and in my humble opinion, 'Totem Bells', could only have benifited from a change of pace every now and then. Especially since they've now basically arrangend all their melodies in a similar song structure and formula. The lack of an outside voice is quite obvious? Nontheless, a fine debut by the sons of Syd.