Monday, May 28, 2012

LITA FORD: "Living Like A Runaway"

Rating: 8/10
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

Lita Ford’s last album, “Wicked Wonderland”, was a bit of a mess, although it certainly had it’s moments. The main problem was that it wasn’t the Lita Ford we all wanted, and the blame fell (quite fairly) on the shoulders of her now ex-husband Jim Gillette. Well, Jim is history now, and Ford has made the sensible decision (or had it made for her) of teaming up with accomplished guitarist and songwriter Gary Hoey to produce “Living Like A Runaway”, the title a shameless callback to Lita’s early years with the Runaways.

The best news of all is that there are no attempts here to make Lita Ford a grungy, kick ass modern rock chick. It’s not a blatant 80’s throwback, mind, just a cool album with lots of catchy melodic hard rock songs on it. Sometimes that’s all you want, and personally I’ve listened to it a couple of dozen times now without getting the least bit sick of it. Lita sounds great, and although the tracks are a little more aggressive than the likes of “Kiss Me Deadly” they’re still very melodic. There’s a few beautiful ballads, notably “Mother”, a track filled with love and anguish and sung superbly by Lita. Nikki Sixx contributes a track, “Songs To Slit Your Wrists By”, and it says something that this is the most generic and uninspired track on the album, although it’s still a fun listen. Another standout is the title track, which starts out similar to “We All Die Young” and turns into a very nice, laid back introspective little song about Lita’s musical beginnings.

“Living Like A Runaway” is one of those albums that starts off as good, getting a little better as you listen to it more. There’s no need to force yourself to like it, just sit back and enjoy the return of a well loves vocalist with one of her best song collections yet. After the last album I wasn’t that bothered about Lita Ford either way, but now I want to see her tour and make something of what can justifiably be called a quality comeback album.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

OXYGEN: "Final Warning"

Rating: 7/10
Label: Escape Music 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

A veteran in the Swedish metal scene, vocalist Tony Niva has been around for quite a while. OXYGEN is his new band, and this time, AOR is the name of the game. His high-pitched voice suits this kind of melodic stuff quite well, although I'm sure it will divide opinions. I'm not even sure of my own opinion - at times his wailing gets a bit irritating.

Most of the album is up-tempo, bouncy AOR with somewhat sugary choruses. More than once, the name of ABBA comes up. Especially the ballad "I Remember" sounds like it was stolen from the Andersson-Ulvaeus vault of unreleased songs. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing though, those guys know how to write melodies! A departure from the poppy AOR sound is the slightly heavier "Gold From The Future", which has traces of TNT's lighter material. Niva hits some very high notes on it.

All in all, I quite like the album. However, it could've used a few real killer songs and I'm afraid it will be overshadowed by those recent releases that do have them. File under "nice".

DESPITE EXILE: "Re-evolve"

Rating: 4/10
Label: Despite Exile 2012
Review by Martien Koolen

After their rather successful debut album Scarlet Reverse Italian progressive deathcore rockers Despite Exile come up with a new EP; featuring three songs. And if you like your music heavy and loud then this band will be a treat to your ears. However if you hate - like I do - or dislike grunting instead of singing then this album will be a bit of a problem..... As much as I like the really heavy, melodic guitar riffs, hooks, solos and melodies I cannot get used to the horrible grunting of Jei Durisotti. But if you like that and you like a band like for instance Meshuggah then this EP will not leave your CD player for a long while. Oscillate is filled with trashy guitar riffs and lots of progressive, technical metal elements and melodies while the third track Mechanical is a rather melodic song, but of course it is rather heavy and breathtakingly loud as well. Perfection Neutralized was already released as a music video on BlankTV and it got a lot of good responses.So, if you like complex and heavy deathcore Despite Exile is the band for you, I will pass as the grunting disturbes me too much to really enjoy the music.

CARMEN GRAY: "Gates Of Loneliness"

Rating: 7/10
Label: Grey Music Entertainment 2011 (international release 2012)
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Well this band has re-invented themselves! With their two previous albums, they had a bit of a gothic flair to their hard rock, and you would have been forgiven for finding similarities to HIM, Negative and the likes. "Gates Of Loneliness" showcases a band that has dug deeper and found influences from the seventies. Gone is the metallic crunch of their earlier material, replaced by the swagger of The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith. And add touches of Soul Asylum, Oasis, The Goo Goo Dolls and David Bowie to the mix too...

The sound might be a bit different than before, but the band are still capable of writing big choruses. The title track, "Love Story Town" and "Real Punks (Plastic Smiles)" prove that. A special mention must go to the lyrics, they're better than what Finnish bands usually write. Due to the overall laid-back sound and the lack of uptempo songs the album doesn't completely win me over, but still, it's pretty decent piece of work.

Neil DANIELS: "Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal" Book

Label: Independent Music Press 2012
Review by The Bailey Brothers

An in depth look at the rise of arguably Americas premier Metal Act Metallica highlights the huge impact their first four albums had on the whole metal Genre. From cover to cover it's a journey that only Metallica could have travelled.

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal included artiste such as Diamond Head a band that truly inspired Drummer Lars Ulrich and vocalist James Hetfield. It would be the glue that eventually kept this band evolving into the formidable force it still is to this day. Having been at the forefront of the NWOBHM ourselves it's really encouraging to note that although it was Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon who broke out into the big league, many acts such as Diamond Head played their part and influenced others to follow. The book also recognises the part Judas Priest and Motorhead played in influencing Hetfield and Ulrich.

This is a well researched and executed insight into what it takes to be Metallica; a band who wouldn't compromise their beliefs, played it harder and faster and in time evolved into a formidable monster that is Metallica. There are contributions from artiste, the press and those who have experienced the phenomena up close, also a complete dissection of songs, background information and input from band members. It's a good read; it's unauthorised and unofficial but informative and entertaining.
Author websited

HEAVEN RAIN: "Second Sun"

Rating: 7/10
Label: Music Buy Mail 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Heaven Rain is the very first Bosnian band that has crossed paths with me. Apparently they are influenced by prog metal and "The Finnish school of Power Metal". I wonder where that school is... Anyway, having listened to this album a few times before reading the bio, I was a bit surprised to find that they have a female singer. All this time I thought the singer was a guy, although with a soft voice similar to that of Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova). But no, Miona Graorac is indeed a woman, there's no mistaking that if you look at the band photos! I have to say that she has a pretty distinct voice, she's definitely not one of those semi-operatic or "angelic" female vocalists.

"Second Sun" is the second full-length release from the band, although they have released several EP's and CD-singles since 2006. Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Nightwish and Ayreon are mentioned as influences, but I'm glad to say the band has managed to create a nice, somewhat original sound for themselves. Plenty of melodic keyboards, driving guitar riffs and Miona's vocals are the focal points. The choruses could be stronger but all in all the album is rather likeable. Standout tracks are "My Only One" and the title track, both containing really fine melodies. As a special treat to the band's local fans, there's a version of "Veijte Snegori", an 80'ies hit from the Yugoslavian band Zana.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DETHONATOR: "Dethonator"

Rating: 7/10
Label: Ironstone Records 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

Dethonator get two ticks from me straight off. One is for having the balls to send an album by a band called “Dethonator” to a Journey fan for review, and the other is for having a song called “Massive Demonic Killing Spree”. This is the point where I might be expected to say that these are the only positive points for this UK band with a daft name and ghoulish cover, but knock me down with a Nelson guitar solo if they aren’t pretty darned good after all.

Previously knows as Kaleb (one of the few names dafter than Dethonator fact fans!), the band play straight heavy metal with inspirations from all over the place, never copying another band but obviously just writing what they themselves like, and bugger what anyone thinks. Lead track “Wreckers” starts off with a rather amateurish couple of bars of thrashing, and I was all prepared to hate it, but as soon as the main song and vocals kicked in I realized that perhaps Dethonator would have something to offer. Jim Burton has a pretty good set of pipes on him, and although there is also some grunting it doesn’t intrude on the songs. Tristan Lineker and Henry Brooks share out some excellent guitar solos throughout the album, as well as some fast, well handled riffs that hold the songs together.

There’s not a great deal of progression between the nine tracks, with all banging along at a good pace and containing enough melodic and thrashy elements to keep most people happy. It’s not, admittedly, the sort of stuff I would personally return to again and again, but as a heavy metal band Dethonator have enough talent and original ideas to really stand out above the herd. Perhaps the closest bands to them doing the rounds at the moment are Fury UK and Blaze Bayley. Fast and furious with melody and meat, Dethonator are worth listening to.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

WIG WAM: "Wall Street"

Rating: 7/10
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Woah, that's one ugly art cover (see pic right). It looks like the work of some halfwit daft kid using the Atari computer 'ala 1984. Who's the little genius at work? OMG! I Wish I Had A Gun (pun intended). Album number four by The Norwegian Glam, melodic rockers may not impress at first spin but it's a grower... up to a certain point (quite the opposite to the Great White platter). Clearly not as straight forward and plain simple as their previous attempts at world domination though.

The Wig Wam's have decided for the big/grande picture and various soundswaves in the form of children choir, electronica effects, stomping beats, and perhaps a more Freddie Mercury vs. Alice Cooper style to their melodies? Pompous and over the top? Not really, but it's a diverse sounding record and it may require a more open-minded attitude towards the arrangements. It's difficult to stay true to their colours and at the same time try out something new and different. It's the old saying of damned if you do, damned if you don't, people simply won't be pleased no matter what.

Glam sings on the opening title track "Wall Street" that and I quote, 'I don't care about the money'. But according to Meja it's all about the money. It's nontheless a catchy sing along anthem. "OMG (I Wish I Had A Gun)" feature a simple but catchy refrain which I believe came straight out of the closet (at the house?) where Des Child lives. "Bleeding Daylight" is a darker, moodier version of the band and it feels like a mixture of Scorpions 'Alien Nation-sound' and the gothic side of Primal Fear. The eighties funky/electronica (industrial extra lite) rock of "One Million Enemies" is a nice change from the usual schlock and the chorus is very Alice Cooper 'ala The Man Behind The Mask and Constrictor. The same could be said about "Try My Body On" only skip the electronica. "Natural High" - verses are (very) low key and close to speaky (spooky?) before the chorus explodes into Glam rock. Final verdict: some real turds among the nuggets and it's far from the perfect picture. However, it's a solid attempt at the experimential side of Wig Wam-Glam.

GREAT WHITE: "Elation"

Rating: 4/10
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Great Shite? Nah, there's no need for any abusive language. But what if you're once bitten... twice shy? Hah! hilarious (not!). Let's just calm down, shall we? stop messin' around with the poor band and their follower(s). Formed in Los Angeles during the early eighties but never really one of those fun/catchy glam acts from the strip. They've always been a rather basic 'meat and potato' blues/rock band with aggressive riffs and tight but-never-quite great (white) arrangements. Personally, I think of Great White as the stereotypical U.S. bar band and not nearly as good on record/cd/vinyl/whatever.

They are no longer fronted by vocalist Jack 'Dog' Russell and the numbers are not as uptempo as in their heydays. It's quite the laidback affair actually and some of the tracks bare more resemblance to Rod Stewart and The Faces rather than old skool melodic hardrock. Not necesarrily a bad thing in my book as they were never really a great hardrock band in the first place. Terry Ilous of XYZ fame sings and it's notable since both acts (XYZ, Great White) started once out with the help of Don Dokken (he produced and helped them win a recording deal).

(I've Got) "Something For You" is no different from all the other bar bands since it's a tiresome mixture of Led Zepplin and AC/DC rock. I'm afraid we've heard it all a thousand times before. "Love Train" is a really slow number which takes you on a journey through the blues as well as Deep Purple influences without ever hiting the nerve. The heartfelt ballad, "Hard To Say Goodbye", Rod Stewart and Rolling Stones did these type of numbers already back in the early seventies and it works out nicely by Great White in 2012 too. At first spin I thought this to be a decent CD with great vocals (true) and decent song material (false). It actually managed to get worse by the spin(s) and merely the vocalist shines throughout the album.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

THE RASMUS: "The Rasmus"

Rating: 6/10
Label: Universal 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The Rasmus have grown up. Their new, self-titled album is their most mature album so far, and whether that is a good thing is entirely up to you. I'm not so sure about it. This album is full of sophisticated, polished pop that owes more to the likes of U2 or Coldplay than to the Rasmus of old.

When Lauri Ylönen sings that "I'm A Mess" in the first single of the album, I find it hard to believe. The song is anything but messy, it's almost clinically clean and non-offensive. It was the first song I heard from the album, and I wondered why such a bland song had been chosen as the first single. Having heard the rest of the album, I don't wonder anymore. It's certainly one of the more immediate songs.

I'm not saying that there aren't any traces of The Rasmus as we know it here. Most of the melodies are unmistakebly Rasmusesque (Rasmussian?), but throughout the album I get the feeling that the band is holding back. As if they're saying "We've got to be mature, we can not write those easy hit choruses anymore"...

The highlight of the album for me is the ethreal ballad "Save Me Once Again", which might just do the trick as a single, despite of what I wrote above. But to pick the third single... that's a challenge.

PLAYER: "Addiction EP"

Rating: -
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The seventies' soft rockers Player have reformed and are working on new music. This digital-only EP is the first taste of what's to come, featuring two new songs and a remake of their US#1 hit "Baby Come Back". Player 2012 features the original members Peter Beckett (guitar, vocals) and Ronn Moss (bass, vocals) along with Rob Math (guitars), Johnny English (keyboards) and Craig Pilo (drums).

I've never been too familiar with Player, apart from the hit single I've only one of their albums ("Spies Of Life") quite a few years ago and I seem to remember it being very soft westcoast rock. Beckett's early nineties' solo album "Beckett" I do own and like. Ronn Moss is more familiar to me as "Ridge" in the Bold and The Beautiful, a soap opera which is very popular over here in Finland for some strange reason...

I didn't really know what to expect from the band after all these years. I was hoping for something more in the vein of Beckett than the Player of old, and to a degree, that's what I got. "Too Many Reasons" is a very decent AOR track with a harder edge than the old Player material. The remake of "Baby Come Back" is still hardcore "yacht rock", but the more organic arrangement adds a bit of roughness to it. The "titletrack" "My Addiction" is actually the weakest of the three, a lazy pop rocker with an unimpressive chorus. So... if these songs are anything to go by, I'd say there's a 50/50 chance that the new album will be a good one. Then again, that's usually the case, right?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

VARIOUS ARTISTS: "Working Class Dogs - A Tribute To Rick Springfield"

Rating: 8/10
Label: Melodicrock Records 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Now this is a fun tribute album! The "Working Class Dogs" in question include both modern rock bands like Waltham, Fig and Handsome Devil and more traditional melodic rockers like James Christian, Mitch Malloy and Steve Newman all celebrating the very fine music of Rick Springfield. What's noteworthy is that while the artists put their own stamp to the songs, in the end these versions are very faithful to the originals. No-one has tried to be too clever with these classic songs. Also, it's particulary interesting to notice how well these songs suit the slightly punky vibe of some of the "younger" acts on the album.

The production quality of the songs varies quite a bit, from the pristine sound of "Souls" (Eric Martin, Eric Ragno and Vic Rivera) to the demo-like quality of "Calling All Girls" (Brand New Machine) and "Beautiful You" (Clay Howard). With 20 songs on the album, there's still enough quality material to keep any Rick Springfield quite happy.

If one of the goals of a tribute album is to generate interest towards the artist that's being honoured, I must say that this album has served its' purpose: I think I will dig up my Rick Springfield CDs now, and put together a seriously mindblowing "Best Of Rick Rock" compilation. "I feel the big beat..."

REINXEED: "Welcome To The Theater"

Rating: 5/10
Label: Liljegren Records / Doolittle Group 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I've actually liked some of the previous Reinxeed albums I've heard, but with "Welcome To The Theater" Tommy Reinxeed and his band is really testing me. I'm afraid I'm failing the test, as this album is just TOO MUCH. Apparently these songs were influenced by movies, and by listening to it those movies must have been nothing but BIG spectacles. You can imagine huge armies with swords in the air, dragons flying above and giants stomping around...

Just about each one of the songs on the album is ultra-fast and heavily orchestrated. The use of the orchestration can only be compared to that of Nightwish, but somehow Reinxeed's way of doing it is much more overbearing. I guess I could've dealt with it if there had been some remarkably great melodies in the songs, but no... Somehow I feel that Tommy has lost his touch or become obsessed in making everything bigger than everything else. Okay, "Somewhere In Time" and title track and couple of others have traces of what I liked in Reinxeed's music, but otherwise, this is a case of "not enough cake, too much icing".

HARDLINE: "Danger Zone"

Rating: 9 /10
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Vocalist Johnny Gioeli has once again revived HARDLINE. "Danger Zone" is the band's fourth album with its' fourth recording line-up. Johnny himself is the sole remaining member of the original band, that featured his brother Joey and Neal Schon (Journey) on guitar, Todd Jansen on bass and current Journey drummer Deen Castronovo. On the new album, the band consists of European musicians Alessandro Del Vecchio (keyboards), Thorsten Koehne (guitar), Anna Portalupi (bass) and Francesco Jovino (drums).

With Del Vecchio contributing heavily to the songwriting, some have said that the band has more of an "European" sound now. I don't know about that, but the most of the modern rock leanings of the previous album have been ditched in favour of more of a traditional melodic hard rock sound. I did like "Leaving The End Open", but I prefer this style.

I have no specific info on who actually wrote what, but I can tell you that there are a few real gems on the album. The opening double-punch of "Fever Dreams" and "10.000 Reasons" will have most melodic rock fans gasping for air, they're both superb melodic rockers with massive choruses. The thumping title track is a good one too, although not in the same league as the previous two track. "What I'd Like" has an air of familiarity to it, it's a breezy rocker very much in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen's "Heaven Tonight". "Stronger Than Me" is one of the tracks I like less, a ballad with a contemporary sound and a slightly boring hook.

Next up is a familiar song, "Never Too Late For Love" which has previously been recorded by Phil Bardowell. It's one of my favourite tracks of the last few years, and Hardline do it justice. "Stay" is a good, melodic track too with a great build-up to the chorus, which itself could have been stronger though. The repetitive "I Don't Wanna Break Away" I could've done without, it's clearly the weakest track on the album.

"Look At You Now" features a nice melody and a cool, relaxed vocal from Johnny. It's followed by the AOR Monster that is "Please Have Faith In Me", which is just dripping with melody. Yes, it's one of my favourites here! "Show Me Your Love" sounds remarkably like Talisman to these ears, but that's not a bad thing. The album is closed with the metallic "The Only One", which is the one track that fans of Johnny's work with Axel Rudi Pell might enjoy the most.

A big thumbs up for everyone involved in creating "Danger Zone", it's an album that can proudly stand alongside the classic debut. It may be a bit different, but the essence of Hardline is still there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

SAXON: "HEavy Metal Thunder - Live"

Rating: N/A
Label: UDR/EMI 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

Surely one of the bands that sweats the essence of Heavy Metal, Saxon are a British institution who never stopped pushing forward, even in the bad old nineties, constantly tweaking and refining their sound, yet never selling out (although there was a bit of an airbrushed period, admittedly). As well all know, Germans love this sort of thing, and it’s no surprise that Biff Byford and the lads have played the glorious Wacken Open Air festival a few times. In a bit of a genius move, someone has had the bright idea of sticking on the best of their 2004, 2007 and 2009 shows on one DVD, which is jolly nice of them.

This has been released in a few different formats, but what we have is the most common, and serves up not only the 30 track DVD, but also a double CD with a further 24 tracks from Glasgow in 2011, meaning there’s a few tracks from their last, great album, “Call To Arms”. It should (and does) go without saying that the performances on both DVD and CD are exemplary. I’ve been watching Saxon live on and off for 28 years now, and I have never seen them put on a below par performance. They obviously love Wacken and all it entails, and the response shows that Wacken certainly loves them back. There’s no track doubling up at all, and the 30 songs perfectly reflect the band’s illustrious career, with something for fans of any era. The stage sets are bright and exciting, the camerawork swooping, the sound beefy and the band tight as damp leather trousers.

The CD’s do offer some of the same tracks as the DVD, but to be honest it’s not too much of a worry, and it’s also good to have something you can lob onto your iPod. Surprisingly, 9 of the tracks, (including “Princess Of The Night”, “Demon Sweeny Todd” and “Never Surrender” as well as tracks from the last album), are not on the DVD, so not only does it work as an additional source of material, it’s a great memento for anyone who saw the last tour.

“Heavy Metal Thunder - Live” is an absolute peach of a package, and old and new Saxon fans alike will find something for them. If you’re a lapsed fan who gave up in the 90s perhaps, then this is a great time to kickstart those fond memories and also get into some of the material you’ve missed.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Rating: 7/10
Label: TSM/Indie 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Scythe Of Orion and their first long play release, "Sun-Dial". I quite like this, it's different. Mystical metal music and not just another female fronted Goth act. The Finland based band certainly are a promising and fresh prospect. Keyboardist Kristian Wrang bring a certain dreamy atmosphere of mystic to the table and the violin (by Maarit Koivisto) merely add yet another layer of myth and medieval ways. There is a certain angular, folk-rock meet pop influence at work here which gives most of the eleven tracks a different take at the standard symphonic/prog/goth metal as of lately.

The lyric tells about the values of today's world. There are songs about greed, the use of power, and the state of nature. It's been mastered by Mika Jussila at the famous Finnvox studios and their lead singer Anu Lamminsaari is a very confident and strong vocalist. Unfortunately, the vocals are perhaps a tad too strong and heavy on the accent and could at times almost be mistaken for J-Pop or ABBA-ish? I do however enjoy Anu's sweet voice! The same goes for the almost innocent approach of catchy tracks such as "Ice Soldiers", "Perfect Silence", "Catch My Dreams", "From Behind" or "Listen My Friend". It's a fun meltpot of very melodic symphonic metal, ABBA, folk-rock, neo-classical Goth and J-Pop? (again, intentional or not).

Main songwriter Petri Lamminsaari (guitar) cites Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon-recordings as one source of inspiration, but there are several others and the chances of finding Scythe Of Orion as just another copy-cat act are actually quite slim. It's definitely different from the rest. I don't understand why there's a CD-R in the digipack though? It's really not too expensive to get the real deal nowadays and especially not if you're a company of five or six musicians. Final verdict: Neat!

FOUREVER: "Solitarium"

Rating: 6/10
Label: Fastball Music 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

According to the press-release, the first all-girl metal band to ever tour Egypt! Yeah? The Bangles did walk like an Egyptian already back in the eighties though. I don't believe it's relevant (it all comes down to the quality of their music) if they're a band consisting of women (yes, the correct term here would be women or even better musicians, definitely not girls) or if they've been touring the pyramids of Egypt.

Orignally formed in Olofström, Sweden in the year 2000 as a four piece (hence the name and why forever never last) but are nowadays a power-trio lead by twin sisters: Mia (vocals/guitar) and Nina Moilanen (drums). They grew up listening to their dad's Rainbow, Iron Maiden and Uriah Heep records, and their debut album simply oozes of denim and leather. Don't go thinking it's all retro though as their melodic metal melodies are actually steeped somewhere in between the classic NWOBHM and the Goth metal of the 00's. This piece of evidence can also be found in Mia's vocal performances as her influences (intentional or not) are coming through loud and clear. There are hints of the old skool guard and quite a lot of Amy Lee from Evanescence.

"Solitarium" is quite the raw and basic sounding power-trio album with not too many layers of guitars and not a single piano note to be found on the record. Of course, there are tons of bands doing similar things out there on the web, but what sets Fourever apart is the almost hypnotic beat and arrangements. Tracks such as "Shout Shout My Name", "I'm Sorry", "Solitary", "No More", and my personal fave, "Stand Alone", are all worthy of your instant attention. They are still a work in progress though and I do miss out a couple of hooks and sing-a-long moments.

LAMERA: "Mechanically Separated"

Rating: 2/10
Label: Transhumanz 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Bloody'ell... I can't understand a word of what Thomas Franklin sings or rather growls. GWRRUURRLL, GWWAARRR, GNNNUUURR?? I do enjoy some of their arrangements as Lamera combine core elements with thrashy passages and Tool-like (the band) riffing. But for fecks' sake, the vocals are so extremely boring (monotone) and out of date. It's like if you've been traveling back in time to the year of 1998. Do people still find this interesting? dodgy vocals? Lamera from Germany, Austria, Switzerland? is touring Europe since 2006 with the likes of Maroon, Neaera, Emil Bulls, Ektomorf, Hackneyed. Are they Smurfs or band names? Probably both as on the one hand they're quite tiny and blue and on the other hand they're bloody annoying. Sadly, Lamera are not one band that makes much sense in the metal scene of twenty twelve. "The Cycle" track with its catchy modern uplifting beat and clean vocal refrain - the only real keeper in my book.

Monday, May 7, 2012

AHOLA: "Stoneface"

Rating: 8 /10
Label: Playground 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

AHOLA is the new band of Jarkko Ahola, the vocalist of Teräsbetoni and one of The Northern Kings, the all-star Metal cover project. The language has changed into english and the epic, heroic "Manowar Metal" of Teräsbetoni has taken the backseat. With this band Jarkko Ahola has chosen to go for a more hard rockin' style, taking influences from the 70'ies and 80'ies classic hard rock bands. Thanks to his recognizable voice and songwriting style, there are some similarities, but for the most part AHOLA is a different animal altogether.

I have nothing against Teräsbetoni, but I must say that this album showcases Ahola's talent much better. There's no question that he is one of the top vocalists in Finland, and on "Stoneface" he truly shows his versatility. Not to mention that there's hardly a trace of a Finnish accent in his voice.

The album is full of melodic heavy rock songs with a production to match the quality of the songwriting. While you might hear similarities to the greats like Rainbow, Dio or Whitesnake, the band isn't trying to recreate classic tracks, they are putting their own stamp on the songs.

With 14 songs and an interlude (and fourteen minutes of silence and an outro), the album is perhaps a bit too long for its' own good, but I understand that the band wanted to stretch their boundaries. I could've easily done without the jazzy "Hurt You" and the "Mötorhead-tribute" "Eat Me Alive", not to mention the silence and the outro, but I guess those out-of-character songs are important to the band. I can't complain much though, as there are some real gems on the album, like the steamroller-like opener "DonWana", the catchy "Hurricane" or the positively massive "The Spell". Yeah, this is good stuff!

Friday, May 4, 2012

John TAGLIERI: "Lucky #9"

Rating: 7 /10
Label: Leap Dog Music 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

After one album under the band name of "TAG", our old friend John Taglieri returns as a solo artist with this 6-track EP. If you're familiar with Taglieri's music, you know what to expect - melodic rock comparable to likes of Goo Goo Dolls, Vertical Horizon and Train, but with a hint of the vintage early eighties' AOR sound.

Just like on the TAG album, Taglieri opens the album with its' strongest track, the excellent "Losing Me". Plenty of attitude and melody in an appealing package is how I'd describe this song. "I Never Knew" has a similar "break-up song" theme, yet it's a slower and even darker song, not to mention very good too.

Having exorcized his demons with the previous two tracks, Taglieri comes up with the sentimental "Without You". To be honest, it sounds a bit sugary after the two "angry" tracks. It's still a decent, melodic ballad with the kind of hook that those profilic country songsmiths of Nashville could come up with. The moody "Dying Alive" would have been a more suitable follow-up to the first two tracks though.

The first single "Make Me Believe" is a happy little acoustically-driven mainstream rock track tailormade for radio play. At the time of writing this, it's enjoying success on Amazon's Adult Alternative chart. Congratulations for that, but I must say I prefer the other tracks of the album.

I'm not totally sold on the production, the EP sounds a bit muddy at times, but for an indie album it's not too bad.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FREEDOM CALL: "Land Of The Crimson Dawn"

Rating: 6 /10
Label: SPV 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The seventh album from Freedom Call doesn't offer you any surprises. It's full-on melodic power metal with epic songs, massive choirs and lyrics about flying free like an eagle, power and glory, warriors and black leather tights (I kid you not!). The band has an ear for a hummable melody and a catchy riff, so I doubt that any of the die-hard fans of the genre are going to be disappointed. However, for the casual listener the band's Power, Pomp and Glory sounds a bit overbearing at times. The stadium-sized choirs border on being ridiculous, especially when it's hard to understand what they're singing. I suspect that in the intro of "Warriors" the lyrics might go "Warrior, Oh Warrior" but they sound like "Worrya, euphoria"... and I'm not sure but it sounds like they sing about a "Happy Metal Party" in the last track of the album.

Despite of the above comments, there's something quite likeable in the "Happy Metal" of Freedom Call. With fourteen songs, this album album is simply too long though, and by dropping out a few of the weaker songs it would have been a stronger package. Recommended for fans of Helloween, Edguy, Axxis and that sort of stuff... It's a bit silly at times but fun nevertheless.

The SUNPILOTS: "King Of The Sugarcoated Tongues"

Rating: 8/10
Label: HoneyTrap Records 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Sunpilots from down under released their debut album in 2008 to rave reviews in Australia including a MusicOz Award, an Indie Album Of The Year and two Indie album of the week awards from Australian press. Doesn't really say too much about the quality of the band as the Ozzies rave about everything from Crocodile Dundee to Kylie, Yahoo Serious, and Oz burgers. Hmmm, Rolling Stone magazine thinks they're a must see live act. Nope. Close but no cigar. Wait, the all live in a small flat in Berlin and have clocked up more than 100,000 kms in their 1996 VW Transporter to play at more than 160 shows and festivals across Europe. Okay, now they have my full attention and respect.

Their sophomore release, 'King of The Sugarcoated Tongues' - a concept story set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed. It's an 8 chapter/song story about the human need for security and the freedoms we are willing to trade in return. Ambitious work and both the story and music had me captivated from the opening track "3 Minutes To Midnight" to the closing of "Exodus". Catchy and at the same time complex music. It's progressive lite, Muse and Coheed & Cambria influences are mixed with some old skool bands such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. To be completely honest, I can also hear quite a lot of Skunk Anansie, and more poppy influences such as on the opening '3 Minutes To Midnight'.

Vocalist Raj Siva-Rajah wails like a stormy wind in the trees. Marvelous theatrical singer with tons of soul and attitude. Add to this a metal jazzy/funky rhythm section with the occasional slap basslines, complex guitarwork and you're in for a treat. They combine several different styles in a way that doesn't actually sound quite like any other band, even if you obviously can pick up on the above mentioned influences. The love of melody and complex arrangements sets them apart from most of the pack. Final verdict: The Sunpilots have come up with an emotional inspiring record and it's very much an album effort. You definitely need to be open-minded and enjoy several different styles of music to truly get the best/most out of The King Of Sugarcoated Tongues...