Saturday, September 26, 2015


Rating: RRRR

Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Female-fronted, symphonic, bombastic… who does that make you think of? Nightwish? Within Temptation? One of the answers to that is The Murder Of My Sweet, who have managed to create an identity of their own. Yeah, the music of TMOMS could very well appeal to the fans of the both aforementioned bands, but copycats they are not. First of all, Angelica Rylin has a very powerful rock voice with very little operatic traits. Secondly, the songs of Daniel Flores are something special, as if they were tailor-made for a stage performance, a hard rock musical or a metal opera. I can’t imagine these songs being played at some small club, They’re just way too ”big”… It has to be a theatre-sized setting with lights, smoke, choirs and massive screens. Well, at least something like that.

The concept of ”Beth Out Of Hell” is the ancient battle between good and evil, heaven and hell… it is also a dramatic love story. No more spoilers from me, you’ll have to listen to it yourself. This much I will spoil though - you’ll hear some of the finest songs of this year on the album. Some of them sound like Jim Steinman-written symphonic metal, and indeed the album title might be a tribute to Steinman’s classic work ”Bat Out Of Hell”.

To simply call this Symphonic Metal or Progressive Metal wouldn’t do justice to these songs. There’s huge amounts of pop sensibility in them. Those Swedes, they just can’t get away from the influence of Abba… and that’s a good thing!

”Always The Fugitive”, ”Still”, ”The Awakening” and ”Humble Servant” are among my favorite tracks, all boasting huge choruses and bombastic arrangements. Had the band been able to stay on this level throughout the album, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give this album the full marks. Unfortunately there’s a  few songs towards the end of the album which really don’t do it for me, hence only an RRRR rating.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Rating: RRR1/2
Label: Eone Music
Review by: Martien Koolen

Their previous album ONYX was a huge commercial success ( due to three consecutive #1 Rock radio singles) and their performances at Graspop and Pinkpop also convinced the European audience. So everybody was looking forward to their new, fourth album called Up. Pop Evil, hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a larger than life true rock and roll band that mixes the notorious showmanship of KISS and Motley Crue with the earnestness of grunge bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. In other words Pop Evil is a true modern rock band with a powerful indentity blended with mainstream American AOR flavors.

The album kicks off with the first single of Up, being Footsteps; and it is not a typical Pop Evil song, as it features computerised drum beats and a weird wall of sound. The follow up Core is much better, as it is filled with heavy guitar riffs and a great melody; this is the Pop Evil we like to hear! Other highlights on this very well produced album by Adam Kasper (o.a. Soundgarden, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam) are: Vendetta (very fast, almost trashy with raw vocals), Dead In The Water (mainstream heavy rock with superb vocals by Leigh Kakaty) and the longest track Till Kingdom Come, an excellent powerballad with very cool and melodic guitar solos from Nick Fuelling. Up also features a couple of soundalike, too radiofriendly, catchy rock tunes like for example: In Disarray, Ways To Get High, Ghost Of Mushegon and Footsteps of course... But these are all great songs to listen to in your car at maximum volume and scream along to, until you are fed up with these "poppy" songs, with al; due respect, of course.

Sadly Up also contains two mediocre fillers, namely the instrumental 31 second clocking interlude ... , which is utterly pointless and the rather boring, predictable acoustic ballad Seattle Rain. But overall I really like the new album of Pop Evil, it is modern rock at its best and although it is a commercial rock album, it is transcendent purity. The special edition of Up features two bonus tracks, being an acoustic version of the first single Footsteps and My Confessions, again a very catchy pop/rock song which kinds of reminds me of Creed....

Joe SATRIANI: "Shockwave Supernova"

Rating: RRRR Label: Sony Review by Martien Koolen Shockwave Supernova is Joe Satriani's fifteenth studio album and let me tell you right from the start that it is again a guitar masterpiece. The fifteen songs on this album were composed and written a couple of years ago and that is probably why you could call Shockwave Supernova an "old school" Satch album. A lot of tracks on this album remind me of Satch's old albums like Flying In A Blue Dream, Surfing With The Alien and The Extremist and they "breathe" the air of the eighties. Shockwave is a concept album and Satriani explores the inner demons of his alter ego on this remarkable album. If you love instrumental guitar music, then this is a must have album, as Satch plays some memorable songs filled with groove laden riffs, apocalyptic hooks, breathtaking melodies and outstanding solos. I would say that there really never is a dull moment on this album, even though it lasts 64 minutes! Satch's familiar phrasing and vibrato techniques are all there and his guitar does the talking all over, so you really do not miss vocal parts on this album. His magical, expressive guitar playing is eloquent from the first notes of the title track till the last notes of Goodbye Supernova and the album gets better with each listen; just try it out! On Peregrine Wings, one of my favs on the album, was already available on You Tube, and this song is really in the veins of Flying In A Blue Dream. Cataclysmic is another highlight and is filled with out of this world melodies and outstanding solos. Shockwave also shows Satch's groove based blues side, like for example in songs like Crazy Joey (with a very funky beat) and In My Pocket, where Joe also plays the harmonica again, and maybe that is why it makes me think of Big Bad Moon. Every Satriani album also features ballads and on Shockwave you can enjoy emotional guitar ballads such as: Stars Race Across The Sky, Butterfly And Zebra and San Francisco Blue; the latter being a Eric Johnson-like song. On Shockwave Satriani is assisted by Mike Keneally (keys, guitar), Marco Minnemann (drums) and Bryan Beller (bass guitar) and this is probably the best band Satriani has ever had. On four tracks, Keep On Movin', In My Pocket, Crazy Joey and Scarborough Stomp Satriani is assisted by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting) and bass player Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction). Shockwave Supernova was produced by John Cuniberti, who also was responsible for the production of Joe's debut and Surfing With The Alien. Shockwave Supernova is one of the best Satriani albums ever and it is doing overtime in my CD player; however if you are a beginning or moderate guitar player it can be very frustrating to hear this guy playing... Enjoy at maximum volume!!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

GAMMA RAY: "Sigh No More" (Reissue)

Rating: Re-issue
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

When this album originally came out in September 1991 it was compared to their debut and of course to what Kai Hansen achieved with Helloween. Hansen remembers feeling confused about the situation and if Gamma Ray had incorporated too many Helloween influences or perhaps not enough? Grunge also caused a great deal of confusion as old metal heroes were considered outdated. They decided in the end to stay faithful to their sound and the five of Scheepers (vocals), Hansen & Schlächter (guitars), Wessel (bass), Kusch (drums), rented a cottage at the Danish island of Romo to write songs for "Sign No More".

The remastered 2015 Anniversary release includes the ten original tracks, a number of previously unreleased recordings with Kai on vocals, home demos and the pre-production (among them 'Heroes' which later became 'Changes'), plus a number of selected live cuts. There's a total of 12 tracks on the second bonus disc. Generously, the liner notes inform us about recording techniques as well as the story behind the unusual artwork inspired by the second Gulf war. Add to this all the lyrics and the reprinting of some memorabilia photos.

For the most part, Sigh No More is pretty good. About the only thing really wrong with it is the fact that it may just sound a bit too unfocused and uncertain. Ralf Schepper's voice can get pretty annoying on a track such as "Start Running", and "Countdown" does absolutely nothing do cheer up the mood. "One With The World" on the other hand,one of my all-time favourite songs with the band. It's one of those let's get together and sing-a-long moments of metal when the refrain echos the words of "When I'm one with the world. I am one with my mind. Forget all the fury there's no need to cry. There's a place we all go, salvation to find. There's freedom to come when I'm one with the world and my mind".

Final verdict, the bonus songs are pretty cool, and it's decent power metal with several hooks and flashy solos. Bigger and better albums yet to come in the future though.

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT: "All Our Yesterdays"

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

"Once not very long ago or very far away. We used to laugh until the break of day. Now the days are colder. I can't help to wonder why". The Eastern European influenced opening title track speak of better, happier times, and distant memories of the past. "Hey hey, hey hey. We'd dance the night away. I wish that we could stay in All Our Yesterdays". Words that sums up each and every person's inner thought(s) as he or she is getting older and grey? Are we looking at their swansong? One final hurrah before it's time to hang up the shoes? No idea really, but he's not getting any younger, the man in the hat.

Not an act to miss at your local folklore and renaissance festival, Blackmore's Night is a musical and spiritual collaboration between vocalist, multi-instrumentalist Candice Night and the legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple,Rainbow). Their latest offering to the savage Gods of yesteryears, the mixed album with eight new original numbers and five olde covers.

They've actually included THE song that all Blackmore's Night compositions are based upon. No. I'm not talking about the olde renaissance music. It's Mike Oldfield's smash hit of 1983, 'Moonlight Shadow', and it's still THE best modern medieval influenced pop tune ever. Easily the best song on the record but never quite as good as the original. The Sony/Cher duet of "I Got You Babe" on the other hand, one of the most overrated songs ever. Cheesy and cringe worthy to the extreme, it's not a duet as Candice had to sing it all by herself (where's Ritchie? you bastard!). The traditional 'Allan Yn n Fan' and the work of 'Long Long Time' are more than decent covers.

The instrumental "Darker Shade Of Pale" could just as easily have been left-over from any of the Rainbow albums. Will O' The Wisp, medieval influenced stuff and the lyrics speak of an ancient rock, castle ruins, a forest, as well as the crescent moon. There is also a path that Candice saw as she watched the Disney/Pixar film Brave with her children. Entranced by an early scene in which the heroine, Princess Merida is led through the woods to a cottage by a will o’ the wisp, a light that floats over swamps and moors. Very much the traditional folklore theme styled music as expect from the two. Solid stuff.

SAGA: "The Security Of Illusion" (Reissue)

Rating: Re-issue
Label: earMUSIC 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The ninth studio Saga album "The Security of Illusion" was originally released 1993 and marks the return of Jim Gilmour (keyboards) and Steve Negus (drums). The remastered in 2015 reissue includes extensive liner notes, all lyrics, and the two live bonus tracks (Scratching The Surface - 'Heads Or Tales', 1983. Ice Nice - from their 1978 debut) have absolutely nothing in common with the original release.

If predecessors (Wildest Dream, The Beginner's Guide To Throwing Shapes) were thought of as hi-tech and perhaps a tad too poppy (I really enjoy both albums though), this album reek of meaty guitar riffs and your slightly harder rock illusion. That's merely in comparison to earlier Saga and don't go thinking it's heavy or hard as in metal. There's plenty of typical passages and arrangements that only Saga could come up with and there's even the classically-influences instrumental piece (Viola). However, guitarist Ian Crichton spoke out about the sound and I quote, "Indeed, there's a lot of guitar on the record. I played my ass off. It's the most guitar-heavy record Saga have done to date", end quote.

I personally think of Illusion as a tiny step in the wrong direction and not as proggy as expected. Nonetheless. The majority of tracks hit the spot and there's enough here to convince people that Saga had still a purpose in the nineties. But let's face it, most rock acts of the past struggled in those days and Saga were at a low point of their career. Simply remove the dodgy 'Stand Up' (cheesy shout-refrain) and 'Days Like These', you'd still end up with a more than a decent Saga album.


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

Operation Mindcrime, iconic concept and one of the best metal albums of the eighties alongside the work of Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc. It's now 2015 and vocalist Geoff Tate push the boundaries further and beyond the musical territory of classic Queensryche. I'm sure you're well aware of the nasty split up, so let's not dwell on the past. The Key, the prog rock trilogy and thus one of three albums for Tate to break new musical ground? The concept about some geezer finding the ultimate key which open up.... I don't know? The Internet? Not the best of concept to be honest and you tend to look at songs individually rather than story-wise.

The shocking poor singles, The Stranger, Hearing Voices, the worst two tracks on the record and people should bow their heads in shame for releasing them in the first place. What were they thinking? Let's scare off as many potential buyers as possible? Life or Death, (Mark Daly singer with The Voodoos, guests on this track), another shock to the system and there's several moments of ups and downs like a massive roller coaster ride. To be honest. There's not a whole lot to say on a positive note. But if you look past the worst drivel, there's actually a couple of good songs or more to be found on The Key.

Atmospheric, and at times dark, progressive rock, where 'Re-Inventing The Future' sounds more like a decent throwback to Eyes of A Stranger. Opener, Choices, written by former Queensryche guitarist Kelly Grey, tend to get on my nerves as it stays in second gear. It's Promised Land met alternative David Bowie and the same goes for Burn. Neither bad nor good, they never really reach out to touch ya'. Ready To Fly, atmospheric alt. metal with just a hint of classic ryche.

On Queue, the best song on here with its balladic sound and saxophone solo by Tate. The instrumental work of An Ambush Of Sadness and the following, Kicking In the Door and The Fall, three more decent tracks. It's like if I'm reaching for the stars though and let's hope for something bigger and better on album two (remember it's a trilogy?). Final verdict: Well. At least he's not cashing in on the classic Operation Mindcrime sound.

COUNTING DAYS: "Liberated Sounds"

Rating: Rr
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Bloody 'ell. Who let the demon out of the bag? Burned By Faith, which kicks off this debut album from UK's Counting Days, has an intensity bordering on insanity. It's a fashion statement (not really) aimed towards all those nutters that justifies their dirty deeds according to religion. Killing in the name of God? Bassist/vocalist Alex Dench and growler Thomas Debaere spits out the words: "Burned by faith, died in faith. You say there's a God who cures darkness and pain, so you spread violence and hatred, to praise his name. He created the earth, the sun and the rain, you murder those, who don't believe the same".

Recorded at Studio Fredman in Gotherburg/Sweden and produced by Fredrik Nordström (At The Gates, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, etc.), you pretty much know what to expect from the angry Englishmen. The main structure of Swedish Death metal, the over-the-top approach of hard core, combined with vicious breakdowns, gang vocals, growls, the occasional nod to thrash, and overall sonic batterings.

It's just so late nineties/early 00's and something that I used to enjoy in the past. You could say that I grew up? (posh) or simply decided that I don't need anymore of these albums? Tom Doyle at Kerrang apparently love these guys and believe they are shaping up to be one of the brightest emerging talents on the U.K. scene. Good for him and the band. I personally wish they would include more Thrash and Punk influences though. The screaming aka growls gives me the headaches and I believe it's time for some Kate Bush next... what? Oh feck off. She's heavy...

HEYLEL: "Flesh"

Rating: EP
Label: Prescriptionpr/Indie 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Now it's mostly autumn...pun intended. Recorded and mixed in Caverna at Lucifer's Studio, the devilish sound of Portuguese band Heylel show a more raw and direct approach to the similar work of Mostly Autumn, and various other Goth inspired female fronted acts. Formed in 2012, the band consisting of vocalist Ana Batista, Narciso Monteiro (guitars/keys) and Felipe Braga (drums) describe themselves as an alternative progressive rock band with a gothic twist.

I can say that I noticed much of their Progressive Rock side on their second effort "Flesh". There's no experimental lust whatsoever and the arrangements are straight forward guitar rock with a dark agenda and style. They admit to ditching their previous sound, which included covers by King Crimson and Emerson Lake & Palmer, rather relying more on guitars and alternative rock with little substance or charm.

There's something grumpily restless within the walls of Flesh and clearly not enough of meat to have us asking for seconds. The complex and slightly disturbing blend of guitar twitches and awkward songwriting (Paranoid Hysteria goes straight to the bin) is unlikely to see them at the top of the hill or bill for that matter. In fact. There's hardly anything on their 5-track EP that makes you want to reach for the repeat button. Good musicians. Nice singer. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The WINERY DOGS: "Hot Streak"

Rating: RRRR+
Label: earMUSIC/Loud & Proud 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Holy Cow. From the opening notes of Oblivion, Hot Streak is an massive rock assault of riffs, harmonies, and just the silly amount of power-trio tracks. To quote drummer Mike Portnoy, "The mission of this band is to write catchy songs, and not have the musicianship overpower that". That's easier said than done considering the vast experience and skills of Portney, bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, David Lee Roth, etc.), and vocalist/guitarist Richie Kotzen.

Kotzen, sounding better than ever and it's basically the direct insult to name drop Poison in the year of 2015, since he's so much more advanced than all of their other members put together. Easily the most gifted and accomplished player to come out of the glamsters as he almost makes his guitar talk on the record. Vocally, something out of the ordinary as he take the Soul, the R&B, as well as the Purple approach of Coverdale/Hughes, and makes his own mark.

Hot Streak is far from your ordinary rock album. The compositions are slightly different from the debut, it's all about taking chances and looking outside of the box rather than staying safe and in the middle of the road. Through it all though, there's the melody, the swagger of a proper rock album that gives it added boost and power. There's something utterly danceable about Spiral, while The Bridge sounds almost like something that Motown could have done in the past. The chemistry of the three is contagious and fit in the category of sheer class. They simply lose themselves in a swirl of emotion and bring out music from the advanced school of rock.

Final verdict: The sonic howl of the Winery Dogs and Hot Streak stands miles above most albums of the year. The funk, the soul, the rock n roll. It's all there. It's all good


Rating: RRRR
Label: Mega Collider 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Dopamine is a smashing return to the fray for Third Eye Blind and their ringleader, Mr. Stephan Jenkins. Why, you ask? The answer, to keep things sweet and short, there is a wicked sense of spontaneity and playfulness in the complexity of the compositions. Huh? Well. I never told you it would be easy. But please do stay for a bit longer and I'll try to explain my rambling.

Make simplicity look simple yet exciting, one of the hardest things to do. There lies the ability to appeal to as many music fans as possible. Dopamine come bursting through your loudspeakers like a hungry pack of wolves in search of energy and food. But surely this can never measure up their early days and efforts, you ask? Understandable, considering their career and selling over 12 million records worldwide. However, I do not always agree. It's always damned if you do, damned if you don't, at this point anyhow [like people complaining about Def Leppard sounding like Def Leppard... or not].

It all comes down to the quality of songwriting. They rip through the new songs with the gusto you usually expect only on the (in hindsight) classic debut from the much younger new act. You would hail them as new kings if they started out today with this album. Sure enough. Get Me Out Of Here, echo and reek of David Bowie and there's a little bit of Ziggy Stardust on several tracks. But it's so nicely done and executed. Moody love songs, bitter pills, and catchy tunes in the grand tradition of USA Radio Pop met original UK goth (The Cure).

In fact. The songs literally bounce off each other making the whole album like a massive fun pinball machine. Time goes by like 'that' and all of a sudden it's full stop with the jumping track of Say It (wait for the comeback of the beat though). No. It's not their debut album. Yes. It's one fun song after the other. The sound has progressed, but the hooks are plenty.

The JOKERS: "Hurricane"

Rating: RRR
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Jokers, your Liverpool act that play the oblivious and obvious mix of seventies U.K. rock with the hint of fun eighties hard rock. What? Have you heard it all before? They don't look all too well or appealing according to the cover and you're forgiven for thinking about Foreigner's Kelly Hansen while reading the title out loud. It's however their third album of blues fused retro rock with just enough of a contemporary edge to keep it interesting in 2015?

As for the retro rock tag, they actually sound like all sorts of so called retro acts from FREE to... well... Y&T. They're good at it too, good enough to have you break dancing in front of their live stage, but perhaps not quite as exciting on record? To be completely honest. The tunes are darn groovy with just enough of hooks to have you sitting around all day in a state of dazed and confused?

I'm really on the fence here. Hurricane is a good album, it's just not exciting enough to have you screaming for more as they go out with the Rockerman, closing track on the album, not counting several bonus tracks taken off previous albums such as Silver City, Radio, Rock N Roll Is Alive, etc. What's up with that? They have a strong reputation and following on the U.K. live scene and Hurricane is vaguely pleasing to these ears.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

CATS IN SPACE: "Too many Gods"

Rating: RRRR

Label: Cargo Records
Review By: Alan Holloway

Described as ‘power pop rock’, the wonderfully named Cats In Space consists of a bunch of musicians with more experience than you can shake a box of cat treats at. Basically, these guys have been around and have banded together to make the sort of music they loved back in the 1970s. Think The Darkness with more talent and less squawking.

The members of Cats In Space seem to be mainly guys who have served their time in many bands over the years, such as founder Greg Hart, who has played with Asia and Ultravox, but is also a member of the ‘Supersonic 70s Show’, a fact that was left oss the official press release! It really doesn’t matter, though, as hart and his cohorts have an obvious affection for 70s rock that comes over in their valiant attempt to bring out an album full of new material that sounds, well, like old material.

The most obvious influence throughout ‘Too Many Gods’ are the Electric Light Orchestra’. Single ‘Mr Heartache’ is, for me, one of the best songs ELO never released, and boasts a guest roster that includes Sweet’s Andy Scott and late era 10cc vocalist Mick Wilson. It’s this song that really encapsulates what Cats In Space are all about – bringing the feel, energy and life force of the 70s back where it belongs… on your turntable.

Opening salvo ‘Too Many Gods’ and ‘Stop’ both radiate ELO throughout, then ‘Last Man Standing’ slows things down a bit with a Slade ‘How Does It Feel’ piano base and a very jaunty chorus. Another stand out track for me is the X-Factor baiting ‘Five Minute Celebrity’, which starts off like The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, all massive riffs and thundering drums from Steevi bacon. The production has been a labour of love, with multi layered vocals all over the place, and some lovely synth work from Andy Stewart. Vocalist Paul Manzi has a fine voice, fitting the musical style like a glove, and when you put it all together you realize you might have just found out what would have happened if Queen had made an album with ELO, whilst 10cc and The Who got drunk in the corner of the studio and shouted suggestions.

Whilst some of the slower tracks don’t encourage me to poke the repeat button as much as some of the livelier ones, there’s no denying that ‘Too Many Gods’ is a solid piece of work. If you have good memories of 70s pop rock, or just want to listen to some catchy well made music. 


Rating: RRRR
Label: Into Records
Review By: Alan Holloway

If you haven’t heard of Martina Edoff, you can join the club. When the CD dropped out of the envelope I didn’t know quite what to expect, especially after I saw she was a vocalist in the likes of Ace Of Base and Dr Alban, not exactly rocktastic acts. Her debut album last year passed me by completely, but as soon as I fired up this one I immediately wanted to track it down, because ‘Unity’ is exactly what you want in a melodic hard rock album.

Comparisons will be made between Martina and the likes of Issa and Fiona, and I have to say that’s completely fair. Ballsy, well sung hook laden melodic rock is certainly a linking theme with these three artists, but it’s the quality that makes them stand out from the chasing pack. Vocally, Martina has a clear, powerful voice that hits all sorts of perfect notes and wails when wailing is needed. For the most part the songs are strong kick ass powerful melodic rock – check out the promo for ‘World Has Gone Mad’ for a fine example of what to expect. There’s also a couple of songs that take a lighter approach - the Roxette-ish ‘Moment Of Truth’ of the catchy ‘Spirit Of Love’, but to be honest they’re still very well written tracks with great hooks. My personal favourite track is ‘Come Alive’, which is a stupidly catchy rabble rouser of a track that fills the air with vitality.

Martina Edoff, with a little help from fellow Swedes H.E.A.T, has constructed a first class piece of melodic rock with ‘Unity’. It doesn’t reinvent anything, or stretch any musical boundaries, but contains the sort of music that reminds you just why we still get off on big guitars and hook laden melodies. So all you fans of Issa, Chrissy Steele, Fiona and the like, you really need to pick this beauty up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

SAGA: "The Beginner's Guide To Throwing Shapes" (Reissue)

Rating: Re-issue
Label: earMUSIC 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

earMUSIC releases the SAGA reissue series, covering all studio albums from 1989 to 2007. Two of them every other month up until July 2016. All twelve albums are enhanced by exclusive live bonus tracks, newly recorded at Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany (their home away from home) in April 2015 (previously unreleased). The flashy designed booklets, including original fan material, press articles, liner notes, a sight for sore eyes.

Released in chronological order, September kicks off with The Beginner's Guide To Throwing Shapes. Originally released in 1989, it's one of only two albums which they recorded as a trio. Michael Sadler (vocals, keyboards) and the two Crichton brothers, Jim (bass, synth) and Ian (guitars, synth), the only ones still standing after Negus and Gilmour decided to bugger off in 1986 (both were to return in 92 though).

First the trio recorded 'Wildest Dreams' in '87, the effort received a massive beating in the hands of many hard core fans as they thought of it as too hi-tech and poppy? I love the album though and you could say that 'Shapes' continued to stroll down the bright eighties avenue and sound. Slightly progressive and perhaps not quite as hit friendly as the preceding 'Dreams', the catchy hi-tech sound is still present and it's just a very pleasant experience from the opening notes of 'How Do I Look' to the closing ditto of 'Giant'. The latter, one of Sadler's all-time favourite tracks on any of their albums and I quote, "For me, this song has all the elements that make up the core Saga sound, including banjo, It's all there", end quote.

The two live bonus tracks (Wind Him Up and The Flyer) sadly out of place, considering it's from two completely different albums. (Worlds Apart & Heads or Tales). I'm a sucker for the posh, but oh-so-catchy and underrated work of Shapes, and the same goes for its hi-tech production and sound. It's a product of its time and the completely remastered version works in 2015. Recommended.

ANDERSON PONTY BAND: "Better Late Than Never"

Rating: Live
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Better Late Than Never? The duo re-visit the original music created by vocalist Jon Anderson (YES) and Jean Luc Ponty (violin) over the years with new arrangements, virtuosic performances and new energy. Ponty was originally approached by Anderson with the idea of working together as far back as the 1980's. Now 30 years later the dream has finally come true. It's one of those 'not-sure-what-to-think-really' releases as it's the studio album taken from a live performance, and enhanced with innovative production. Yeah. Whatever. It's still sort of live though.

Some of them stripped down to bare bones (not really though, there's still plenty of keys and meat on them) others completely rearranged, while "Owner Of a Lonely Heart", sounds almost the same as in the eighties only with violin. Some of Ponty's compositions, with Jon's lyrical vocals and melodies are creating a special and unique thing such as "Infinite Mirage" a new song incorporating Jean Luc's classic tune "Mirage". It's sometimes alarmingly posh and occasionally a little too Jethro Tull-ish. However, I really do enjoy the previous mentioned track and Jon seems content to forget the original arrangements and play with his past and the music. Good for him. There's too many traditionalists out there.

Returning fans as well as the casual listener should enjoy Better Late Than Never almost in its entirety, as it's solid performances, and the deluxe version include the live DVD and interview sequences (not on my review copy). The backup band includes guitarist Jamie Glaser (Ponty, Chick Corea, Bryan Adams), keyboardist Wally Minko (Pink, Toni Braxton, Ponty, Barry Manilow), bassist Baron Browne (Steve Smith, Billy Cobham, Ponty), and drummer Rayford Griffin (Stanley Clarke Band, George Duke, Michael Jackson, Ponty).
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Thursday, September 10, 2015

TASTE: Live At The Isle Of Wight" [DVD]

Rating: Live
Label: Eagle Vision 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"We don't restrain ourselves in playing certain phrases for the sake of losing a certain tag". Original Taste and their genius guitar player  Rory Gallagher (R.I.P.). I must admit that prior to watching this DVD I never really thought of Rory as the proper guitar hero. Yeah. I know. However, this is ancient rock stuff and way before my time. No excuse and merely the note as to say, you can't keep track of all the rockers in the past no matter how hard you try.

Their 1970 gig at Isle of Wight in front of the largest festival audience yet held (up to 600,000 people), reek of blues and compositions that have a lot in common with Jimi Hendrix and The Cream (Eric Clapton). Rory was the Northern Ireland version of both mentioned geezers and there's plenty of improvising with the blues scale, on the quarter tones, on the feedback, and on the vibrato. There's also some kind of avant-garde jazz in the mix and Rory even played the alt-sax on a couple of tracks.

The old roadhouse blues of Gambling Sound and Catfish ditto, blend nicely in with Rory's own Morning Sun or What's Going On. John Lennon championed Taste while Hendrix when asked how it felt to be the world's greatest guitarist, replied that he had no idea and the question should be redirected to Rory. There's no bitter after Taste, simply just a great live performance and surprisingly good sound and vision for such a old concert. The bonus material is the black/white gig at Beat Club (1970) and P3 Music promo Videos where especially "I'll Remember" goes to history with its trigger happy old time geezer.

Murray Lerner, director of the documentary spoke to several musicians and there's a mix of old and new interviews. Bob 'Boomtown Rat' Geldof talks about the 1970 gig when he saw Taste up against everybody, The Doors, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen. "I will put them, at that festival (this very DVD) top three acts easily". The Edge (U2), thought that Taste had basically done the impossible. Come out of Ireland and gone all the way, played on the same stage as Hendrix, and taken most of the world by storm. Brian May (Queen) talks about Rory as a magician. "He's one of the very few people of that time who could make his guitar do anything it seemed, it just seemed to be magic. Rory gave me my sound and that's the sound I still have", end quote.

It's all there. Approx 163 mins. Full live tracks, background history and musical beginnings. A must have if you're into Gallagher or artists such as Clapton/Cream and Hendrix. Highly Recommended.

ELO: "Live In Hyde Park" [DVD]

Rating: Live
Label: Eagle Vision 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Brummies are bonkers? Chuffed? Their humor and northern upbringing could forgive you for thinking, it's like watching a more altogether version of Ozzy? No matter what, the son of Beatles, Jeff Lynne is a genius and he gets things done. A true master at what he does and this could be everything from ELO to producing and writing records with the likes of Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Ringo Star, the all-star project of Traveling Wilburys inc. Bob Dylan and all the above mentioned artists.

And eventually The Beatles and their Free As A Bird release. He's responsible for all the sounds and records of the 70's and 80's and it's just as good since he never cared much for working for living. "It was always like a nightmare getting up at like 7:30. It was dark and I had to go on the bloody bus. And every body's like coughing up their guts".

Never keen on touring either for that matter or doing 66 shows in 76 days or whatever. Thus why you haven't seen ELO on stage for 28 years prior to this concert in Hyde Park on September 2014. It's just bloody ridiculous to watch. It's one Soft-Rock hit after the other and it really doesn't matter if you have the stamina of Mike Tyson, you'll be down for the count, praying for the bell to toll. Livin' Thing? It's magic. Evil Woman? Classic. Mr Blue Sky. Pomp at its best. It's weird, but the likes of Don't Bring Me Down and Rock N Roll Is King, could just as easily have been the two greatest songs that Status Quo never did. Hardly any banter in between tracks and time fly by as they end the show with the only cover tune, Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry). The audience of 50,000 and BBC Concert Orchestra makes this the ultimate ELO live experience. Lynne can still hit most of the high notes and the backing band do rock.

Running time approx 173 mins. and you'll get the entire gig (17 tracks), interview with Lynne, and Mr Blue Sky - The Story of Lynne and ELO. "You've got your rock n roll, harmonies, classical bits. Stick 'em all together and what have you got? You've got ELO". Listening to endless guitar solos and epic tracks on early 70's radio, made Lynne think of wanting to do something different from that. Like writing Evil Woman and I quote, "I wrote it in six minutes. Those three chords that you hear, they came to me immediately and the whole thing was ready. The quicker it comes, the more... usually, the more memorable it is, cause the simplicity of it, and simple things are always the best in music".

Contributions from and interviews with Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, etc. Plenty about songwriting and the stories behind the songs. I can't get it out of my head. Recommended indeed!

DEEP PURPLE: "From The Setting Sun" [DVD]

Rating: Live
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Looking out through a vast sea of tattoos, denim, and black leather, Deep Purple took on Wacken Open Air in 2013 to the opening notes of Highway Star, and with its infectious riff and roaring hammond, Black Night, the perfect closer. The songs in between are technically pretty great indeed. Their professionalism drives the set list forward in lack of enthusiasm or hunger?

Don't get me wrong. It's seventeen tracks of sheer class on this live DVD, however, it's not the most exciting thriller as of lately. Not to mention that the following three of Into The Fire, Hard Lovin, Vincent Price, does absolutely nothing for the Wacken audience. They seem to be half a sleep and merely Strange Kind Of Woman gets them going for a while. Too many beers and not enough of stamina? or not enough of metal?

The band, sharp dressed from top to toe in flamboyant outfits that's just about as bright as their light show, as they possess enough of the latest fashion wear to attract the beautiful people? Nah. Not likely. They're just no fun and you couldn't tell them apart from your East European truck driver or hobo for that matter. Gillan, sporting the dodgy white Pull & Bear t-shirt and old geezer pants has clearly decided that it's all about comfort from this point on. Steve Morse and his Well Dressed Guitar is a flawless solo though and they bring up Uli Jon Roth to jam along to Smoke On The Water. The average Purple gig and perhaps not their audience? It's still something that die-hard DP fans will more than likely enjoy.

AEROSMITH: "Rocks Donington 2014" [DVD]

Rating: Live
Label: Eagle Vision 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The quick backstage view and we're off to the stage. Headlining the massive Download festival at Donington Park 2014, a site where the band last played in 1990 at the classic Monster Of Rock, when they were joined by a certain Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. This time around, there's no special guests, nothing extra whatsoever. No bonus material, interviews, or background history. Merely the live concert on DVD/Blu-Ray and five Boston geezers doing the Same Old Song And Dance. They're still rocking though.

I still don't know why they insist on playing Train Kept-A-Rollin? If there's ever been a dull moment. The toxic twins are looking dead on their legs as we quickly fast forward to the Aerosmith classics of Eat The Rich and Love In A Elevator. Tons of flashy moves and camera views that will literally have you flying across the stage and all around the musicians, capturing the huge gathering of people (that's audience) and the atmosphere of the evening. Actually. Looking through the set list, there's quite a lot of 80's, 90's, and 2000' and not nearly as much 70's material as expected. Suits me fine as I prefer latter era Aerosmith, starting with their comeback album in the mid eighties.

A couple of dodgy moments such as Joe Perry taking a turn in the spotlight singing lead and playing Freedom Fighter from the 2012 album Music from Another Dimension. Proof that some vocalists are better than others, and some guitarists should stay far away from the mike. The biggest sing-a-long moment of the gig? The Diane Warren number of "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing". They enjoyed disaster movies in the U.K.? The ode to Vince Neil (Dude Looks Like A lady) goes down well along with the cool version of Come Together (The Beatles). Not to mention the encore numbers of Dream On, Sweet Emotion, and Mama Kin. Pros are plenty. Cons: ancient old geezers shouldn't be running around on stage screaming great tits to their female fans. Definitely stuck in the 70's.

KORITNI: "Night Goes On For Days"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Rock N Roll Ain't No Crime - It's just a matter of trying to entertain as many as possible without getting caught with yer hands in the cookie jar? In this particular case, the Ozzies of Koritni are baking their cookies and working the cliches with just the right amount of ingredients and the fun attitude. Let's face it, music works in circles or cycles. These lads are merely trying to recapture the simple yet effective guitar rock attitude of the seventies and eighties.

Night Goes On For Days is the band's 4th studio album. Produced by singer Lex Koritni (not the best of band name), the album was mixed by legendary producer/mixer Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, etc.) and mastered by Ryan Smith (AC/DC, Guns N' Roses). It sounds bloody fantastic actually and opener, Horns Up, sets pace and standard of the entire album. Lex captivating vocals take the lead as the music dips into the party pool of rock, a fun side to the AC/DC and Dirty Looks music being more than hinted at. Deeply impassioned and nostalgic, there's something enthralling about the simplicity of the track.

Try To Live (A Little Bit) being more passionate and towards the U.K. rock of the early seventies. Rock N Roll Ain't No Crime, another favourite with its pedal to the metal riff and sing-a-long refrain. You simply can't resist shouting along to the lines of ain't no crime. The fun breakdown is very tongue-in-cheek and cheeky indeed. Although Acca Dacca almost put a full stop on Aussie guitar rock with their Back In Black (no one will ever top that record?), this is an album that drives on the ozzie tradition of loud guitars and shouting.

Don't go thinking it's all AC/DC though. It's a little bit of Southern Rock, English 70's (Free, Bad Company) and the Thunder debut. Bits of Tesla and Def Leppard's High N Dry? The title track is the 50/50 mix of Tesla and Def Lep's High N Dry. Great stuff. The band was also honored to have legendary drummer John Coghlan of Status Quo, for his first studio recording since 1985 as guest on the song Water Of Life. Keep it simple, keep it rocking. Nice!


Rating: RRR
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The no-original members line-up of Stratovarius are still out there doing their Euro/Finn version of melodic/symphonic/pompous power metal. And they do it pretty darn good without ever pushing their limits nor breaking any boundaries. It's still pretty Eternal and the diverse sounding power-pop-metal record with plenty of wicked guitar/keys interludes and over the top harmonies.

It's borderline melancholia and all those choirs should be enough to dust off your old broadsword and shield and head off to your local battlefield. It's the sort of record that would do just fine in the background while playing Skyrim or any other Eldest Scroll for that matter. They've become more "pop" and melodic with the years and it's difficult to compare this with U.S. Power Metal. It's just not the same kind of structure or blunt approach. Sophisticated?

Kotipelto should however stay clear from singing R's as in Man In The Mirror. He's no Michael Monroe for sure and the heavy accent could spoil an otherwise great experience. Jens Johansson, the genius that could mimic all the things Yngwie Malmsteen did (and then some) in the past, take total control of the ebony/ivory and delivers yet another stunning set of keyboards throughout the album. Most of these songs show us a band who are fast outgrowing their own legacy and are now heading for a more mature playground with melancholia and pop as two of their toys. In my humble opinion, a tiny step in the wrong direction since last time around, but overall a rather enjoyable album worthy of your attention.

LYNCH MOB: "Rebel"

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

Oni Logan on vocals and George Lynch (Dokken) on guitars, it's a proper Lynch Mob and all songs produced and written by the duo. Add to this Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio, Foreigner) on bass and drummer, Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Slash, etc.), and you're all set for a pretty cool and groovy affair. It's been 25 years since Wicked Sensation and you're not supposed to expect another record by now? Rebel is however the best Lynch effort for quite some time and it's definitely the grower album.

Nope. It's not as easy listening as the debut, but there's a killer groove, plenty of riffing, excellent rhythm section, and Oni's soaring voice on top of everything as the icing on the cake. That man can still belt out all the high notes and the vocals are what keeps this record going to 4R's and then some. I have this love hate relationship to Lynch ever since he opened up his mouth only to bad talk the eighties (not to mention burning the Dokken past). However, I can still set this aside and appreciate Rebel as good music is always good music, and there's too many weirdos out there anyhow (look who's talking).

Do however not expect this to be all catchy and Wicked Sensation as nuthin could be further from the truth. It's slightly darker, heavier, groovier, but with just enough of flashy moves to keep the rock n roll going on at eleven. For instance, take Pinetree Avenue or Dirty Money as the perfect examples of something that would also fit a certain King's X singer perfectly. Did you say KXM? Great production, smoking guitar solos, what's there not to like? Turn it up, sucker!


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

The Legacy of Praying Mantis? One of those acts (Saracen, Nightwing, Demon, etc.) that lazy U.K. journalists filled under New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). They never really belonged there in the first place though. Always out of place, always under the radar. Thick, narrow-minded, rock writers of the past, simply couldn't grasp the reality that your working class U.K. act just wanted to play Pomp and Melodic Metal harmonies.

They were always more about Magnum than Iron Maiden. Even if they once included several ex-Maiden members. For feck's sake. That's Rodney Matthews and not  Derek Riggs on the cover artwork. Although Praying Mantis were treading water from about 1985 and onwards, the Troy brothers (Tino -guitar. Chris -bass) are still waving the melodic flag, and it's the U.K. version of soft hard rock. To be perfectly honest. I didn't expect much from Legacy, but it's a darn solid effort, and one third each from the styles of melodic metal, pomp, and AOR.

One of the main problems with the band, in the past and now, the lack of front men. They seem to be changing lead singer with each new album and that's never a good thing when you're about to build your fan base. John 'Jaycee' Cuijpers, the latest in a long line of vocalists and he's a proper shouter with just the hint of Jorn Lande (Masterplan). A stint in a Dio tribute band may suggest that you're in for a treat. He's no bozo for sure. Smeared with twin guitar harmonies, atmospheric keyboards, nicely put arrangements, Legacy may still lack the extra oomph, the super catchy hook, but it's overall a very fine album effort without any real downer. You may just need to spend some time with the songs as several of them are growers not showers. NWOBHM? Not in my books.

P.O.D. "The Awakening"

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

Still alive in 2015? I haven't been keeping track on Payable On Death (P.O.D.) as of lately and it's quite the surprise to find another effort from the christian act. Titling the album The Awakening might suggest they are atheists now? Nah. Probably not. But seriously, it's all about the music and this being some kind of concept album, complete with lame moments of dialogue in between songs. The crying kid gets on my nerves.

Each and every song explores a character dealing with life, making mistakes, fighting, trying, whatever. It's the drugs bad, Jesus good, kind of message and there's really nothing more to add. It's a new world order? The triple platinum hit of Satellite seem far away and they are no longer die-hard followers of the Nu-Metal (Thank God!). The secret, it seems, is to take bits and pieces of everything from their old nu-metal to punk (guest musician Lou Koller from Sick Of It All), the odd reggae twist, core metal, and the more straight ahead rock of something like This Goes Out To You.

It may seem like a rather safe record with a diverse sounding pattern and structure. Each and every band member gets to shine and pick their own favourite style and song. Worldwide sales exceeding 10 million, three Grammy award nominations, and four #1 music videos, something to brag about in their old days. The Awakening is one of those records that leaves you right in the middle of things. The Criminal Conversation (feat. Maria Brink from In This Moment) takes a slower pace with an ethereal feel and this is something to explore on future records. Final verdict: Nice. Decent. Not bad at all. Mainstream rock/metal.

CREATURE: "Ride The Bullet"

Rating: R
Label: Karthago Records 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Who let the metal monster out? Kept under lock and key for many years, the Creature manage to crawl up from the abyss only to release another beastly effort in 2015. They released one album, a self-titled debut in the year of 1989 before disappearing into the woods and the utter wilderness of Hamburg, Germany. Nope. We haven't heard the debut and the same goes for most of you out there. Ride The Bullet kicks off like your third rate Teutonic display of metal before pandering to absolutely horrific stuff and a Nervous Breakdown (that's one of their songs).

Two female background vocalists and neither any good. One brute male behind the lead, shifting between the disturbing and plain boring, this clearly isn't your metal album of the year. Then again, let's not make any hasty decision. They do have plenty of fast and heavy stuff, but that's hardly a compensation for having to listen to drivel such as Bitch? It's a second rate NWOBHM and Teutonic Power metal record which jumps all over its influences of the eighties. Kudos to the lead guitarist though as he manage to rise above the monster mash.

Destined for obscurity and the occasional cult status, the Creature may attract barking mad hunters all over the world to go out and.... you know what. It's eighties stuff, but nowhere near as good as the good eighties, and I luv the good eighties.

CLOSE QUARTERS: "Always Alot Never Little"

Rating: RR
Label: Fassberg &Osterlind 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

My first reaction to this Sleaze/biker sort of an album was to yawn and get ready for yet another hey-ho, let's go, moment. The Swedes of Close Quarters are Always Alot, Never Little, and Niclas Borg (Backyard Babies) co-wrote the track according to the ABC of songwriting. The biggest surprise? There's absolutely nothing on here to surprise the listener. Not necessarily a bad thing since you get exactly what you expect from a 80's influenced sleaze rock band from Sweden.

Have you been listening to Bandit Rock? These guys and their record are tailor made for the radio stuff. It's like if they called in to check with the station prior to recording as to say, what do you need of us? Yeah. That's perhaps a bit too harsh and especially since I kind of enjoy this record. It's hardly rocket science though and you're going to pick up influences from the likes of Hanoi Rocks to Nasty Idols, Backyard Babies, and The Quireboys. Spike from the latter act guest appears on Friday Feeling (barbwire vocals to the rescue).

It's glorified Sleaze by numbers and it's not going to change the world or your personal surrounding. It's heads down in tinsel town and party til' you puke. Or like the quarters would put it, "It's a crazy world. Got all our systems going. It's a crazy world. I got my motor running". The twelve year old me would absolutely love this shit. It's still a decent party album.


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

"Some people think heaven is in Hollywood. Some people think hell is under their shoes. Some folks believe, what they believe and you can't tell 'em nothing. But you gotta believe in something". Lyrically, the Magic Lightning' Boys album deals a lot with the emotional roller coaster ride that singer Casey Gomez' family dealt with after losing his wife in cancer. Opening track, Mind Funk, originates from a lengthy discussion Casey had with his son about all this and religion, and they agreed that you gotta believe in something. Well... that's quite the mood setter... I'm not quite sure what to type from this point on?

Tracks such as Sucker Punch, Broken Dream, Gone, deals with more of the same as I'm sure you tell from the song titles. It's the anger, the struggle, the emptiness, and just the heavy subject matter indeed. Musically, the U.S. quartet consisting of Gomez (vocals), Brian Tarter (guitars), Richie Lee (bass), Kurt Lipphardt (drums), are taking their cue from the likes of The Allman Brothers, CCR, Govt. Mule. Throw in the odd Pearl Jam groove and you're pretty close to the core of the band.

So, having set the scene with a dark agenda and groovy tunes, do they deliver on record? According to yours truly, the songs are sort of steeped in the tradition of Govt. Mule and that's just like saying it's difficult to pinpoint. They get off to a storming start, impressing with genuine raw emotion and groovy swamp southern rock. But the last few numbers on this seven track album fail to deliver and I'm not too keen on the Stones Thrown. Perhaps they're being a might too similar to something we've heard before, but there's no denying the spark in the dark created by The Magic Lightin' Boys. Have a go at this if you're into the swamp groove.