Friday, October 12, 2018

STEVE PERRY - 'TRACES'



RATING: RRR

LABEL: FANTASY RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Nearly a quarter of a century after his last solo effort, legendary Journey vocalist Steve Perry has surprised many people by coming back to the music scene to fulfil a promise to his deceased partner. So far, so Movie Of The Week, but as we all know Steve Perry is one of the most respected and missed vocalists in the genre, so the excitement and expectation has been at tsunami level. The thing is, have people let their love for the man overcome their critical senses? Well... yeah, mostly.

'Traces' starts off very well with 'No Erasin', a pleasingly upbeat track that is probably the one most liklely to appeal to Journey fans, followed closely by the hauntingly beautiful second track 'We're Still Here', a powerful ballad with a catchy refrain that would have slotted in nicely on the likes of the ballad heavy 'Raised On Radio'. So far, so good, and it's no surprise that these two tracks were promoted ahead of the album release date because they capture what we love about Steve perry's voice.

After the initial one-two punch the album gets into a ballad focused groove that has certainly split fans opinions. Whilst I'm not a huge fan of ballads myself I still adore a well written one - for example, one of my favourite Journey tracks is 'I'll Be Alright WIthout You' in all it's wimpy, syrupy glory. So what I'm saying here is I'm no hater, and I fully understand that the circumstances around the album and the age of the man himself were always likely to lend themselves to slower, more introspective songs.

The best thing about 'Traces' is, as expected, Perry's vocals. There's a hint of throatiness in there that isn't unwelcome, and it's simply a joy to hear new music sung with this much talent and passion. 'No More Cryin', a mid paced, sorta sleepy track, makes great use of The Voice and is the third of my top three tracks on the album, after the opening couple.On the other side of the coin is the track that follows it: 'In The Rain'. Lyrically, it's heartbreakingly sad, but as a song the structure just makes it a chore to listen to, more a funeral dirge than a track for the masses. A few tracks sit closer to this camp than the 'I Love Listening To This' camp, such as 'You Belong To Me', 'Most Of All' and, to be brtually honest, the final three tracks as well. 'Sun Shines Grey' breaks up the cloying syrup with a more upbeat, catchy refrain, but th second half of the album remains a bit of a slog nonetheless.

Whilst I wanted to love 'Traces' and wanted to welcome Perry back with open arms (natch), it's not an album I will be coming back to in full, more an album that will have a few select tracks amputated and added to my playlist, leaving the others to vanish in the mist. There are plenty of people who love the album, but go in forewarned and try to listen to it without rose tinted headphones. It's good, but it's just not as good as I was hoping.



Sunday, September 30, 2018

DYNAZTY: "Firesign"

Rating: RR
Label: AFM 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'Shadows fading - See the colors will light up the sky - a Firesign? It's like the octagonal red and white stop sign to be honest. On the first couple of albums there was a real eighties flavour to the sound, the Swedes strolled down the Sunset Strip using a similar structure and path as the triple capitol "S" (Steelheart, Slaughter, Skid Row). And if some people thought of that as cheesy, then I'm not quite sure how to describe the sound on their latest effort?

The progression of Dynazty has been very natural according to the band but some folks, including yours truly, say that it's been quite radical and unfortunately in the wrong direction, sound and quality-wise. It's been down hill and plenty of painful moments ever since the band took part in the Swedish qualification stages of Eurovision (nope. they didn't make it to the final). The content of Firesign in my opinion? Barren, sterile, too polished, melodic rock with a symphonic edge that I would describe as some kind of Eurovision Schlager Metal.

Basically. All the sleazy and fun attitude and approach of the past has been replaced with keyboard and synth-driven schlock and what-not. I'd go as far as kitsch actually. Keep in mind that a lot of the eighties sleaze rooted in both rock and punk. There's definitely no punk influences on this record and thus the lack of punk-ish attitude? (duh!). Vocalist Nils Molin was recruited by Amaranthe the other year and I do enjoy the A's. You might ask why I don't enjoy this, when I can listen to everything from Soft Pop, R&B, Prog, Punk, Funk, Indie Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues, Jangle Pop, West Coast, Goth, EMO, AOR, to Speed/Thrash Metal etc. etc? I guess it's got something to do with the Scandinavian sound as of lately? I do not appreciate my rock when it's been watered down with Eurovision melodies. In fairness, this album doesn't sound like it's been tossed off one dark evening. Great production and sonics. Heather Locklear to the rescue?

Friday, September 28, 2018

OUTLOUD: ”Virtual Hero Society”

Rating: RRRR
Label: ROAR!
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The Greek rockers Outloud have released 3 full length albums before this one, all worthy of your hard-earned cash, if you ask me. If you're familiar with any of those, you'll know what to expect - energetic melodic hard rock with big hooks. The band delivers that on "VHS" but with some new elements.

The Outloud main men Bob Katsionis and Chandler Mogel have never shied away from a pop hook, but on this album they've added some keyboard things that might be too much for Heavy Metal purists. Yep, there are traces of old school Eurodance on some of these songs, somewhat reminding me of Amaranthe's dance pop/metal hybrids. Thankfully the obligatory rappers of nineties' Eurodance are nowhere to be found, Outloud have just borrowed some synth sounds from the past.

The opening track "Fools' Train" is one of the heavier, more guitar-oriented songs, and doesn't really show what's coming next. With "My Promise" the band goes into the "disco metal" mood, and damn, it's contagious! "Virtual Heroes" is again much heavier and more lyrically more serious, but with "I Am The One" we're back in Hard Pop City. The almost progressive AOR ballad "Share My Dreams" is something quite different but still very good,  followed by another AOR-type track "World-Go-Round", with a sax solo.  Then you'll get the Bon Joviesque "whoa-whoas" of "We Got Tonite", accapella ballad "Fallen Love" and two hard edged rockers "Live With It" and "Fight On!".

Somewhere between those aforementioned tracks there are two songs that are Outloud's speciality, ultra-melodic "schlager metal" songs "Borrowed Time" and "...And I Tried". Whereas most hard rock bands rely on the anglo-american pop tradition when it comes to melodies, these songs (and several older Outloud songs) seem to take their melodic influences from some other place. The melancholic melodies remind me a lot of the 70ies/80ies Finnish schlager/pop, which itself was in many cases imported from abroad and translated to our native language. Let's call it "European melodic sensibility". I remember hating the schlager music with vengeance as it was dominating the air waves back then, but the times have changed and now those melodies work like a charm, when combined with hard edged music.

What else... Vocalist Chandler Mogel sounds like a hyper-energetic version of Danny Vaughn (Tyketto), he just sounds very excited when he's singing. I haven't seen the band live but I could imagine that he's a real dynamo on stage as well.

https://www.facebook.com/outloudtheband/

http://outloud.rocks/



Monday, September 24, 2018

The LAST BAND - Hisingen

Rating: RRRR
Label: Gain/Sony Music 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Don't give a shit about your city nights. We burn cars and dance around with knifes. Here we go again... Hisingen".  Absolutely. There's plenty of gang vocals, matching socks, grinding guitars, catchy hooks, and overall vicious melodies. It's suburbia, Gothenburg, Sweden, and not New York's Lower East Side or East L.A. U.S. of A though. They don't burn cars on daily bases and you're definitely not going to find as many gangbangers in the yellow and blue hood. You will however find The LAST BAND and the All-American sound on their latest offering to the Gods of hardcore and metal.

Seriously. The group have made the best US hardcore/metal tribute in years. Crunchy riffs, snarling vocals, it's the dark side as well as the rather fresh update of the 90s America generation acts such as Rage Against The Machine, Prong, Body Count, Beastie Boys. Yes. I know it's 80s acts too. However. They all recorded their best work in the 90s. After two albums and a solid rooting in the Gothenburg scene, the mad five are ready to take on the world with album three. Hisingen is music from the LA/NY underground school of sonics that stand miles above most followers of post-90's angst and destruction. It's basically the whole she-bang including the idea of the broken society and angry young men on dope. Perhaps not the latter as the lyric goes: they change, we won't. Still not in it for the drugs. Apparently also not in it for Keats or Shelley as some of the lines are just too blue for my personal taste.

Vocally. It's 100% Rage (Against The Machine) and you believe in every twisted word that Mr.Blood spits out in attempt to unleash all the demons and fury. "Behind The Flag", We're all numbers with a price tag. The bedtime story about your soulless individual in a mind controlling society. How we just strive to become more successful without knowing what success really is. Is it a bigger car, a hot wife and a first class ticket to heaven? Uncompromising stuff and even Jello Biafra would nod and agree that it's all about freedom of speech and anti-censorship. Authentic metal that feels like a kick to the solar plexus. facebook.com/TheLastBandmusic

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

VOLA - Applause Of A Distant Crowd

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Sweet Zombie Jesus!! Applause of a Distant Crowd by VOLA, no doubt the melodic "Prog" rollercoaster ride of the year!! Straight to the point. They're painting a vivid picture of alluring melodies and playful arrangements. Using big eclectic brushes and open minded musicians, the Danes explore the soundscapes and boundaries (in)between genres such as Prog Rock, Poppy AOR, EMO, Goth, and soft Electronica/Industrial Metal. Their genre-defying obsession and almost cinematic sound, definitely the strength of the album. No growls and not quite as heavy as previous attempts at world domination, you could say it's VOLA's "Images and Words" (Dream Theater).

In fact. The genius idea of mixing melancholy, happy-poppy keyboards, crystal clear vocals, and progressive elements, could only be described as the Scandinavian concept. Lyric-wise, it's all about light and darkness, sweet and sour, or simply put the struggle known as life of the common man and woman. The title track "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" is a metaphor derived from a relationship with social media (nah, it can't be facebook?), and how we pretend to have perfect lives and invisible friends from all over the world. Asger Mygind (vocals/guitar) says and I quote: 'We spend a lot of time trying to present ourselves in a flattering light in the pursuit of continuous applause, even if it’s a distant applause from those you may not connect with away from the screens'.

Kicking off with "We Are Thin Air", it's grand, emotional prog rock, where the episodes of soothing melancholy is merely out shined by its catchiness and marvelous keyboards. "Ghosts", keyboards 'ala rave, only on steroids and simplicity at its best really. The story is morbid and speak about the fear of dying and eventually... death. "Smart Friend", heavier, moodier, darker, yet ever so perky and fun. "Ruby Pool", its overall structure and idea might just have you thinking about Seventh Wonder (The Great Escape) and One Republic. The grand piano at the centre of attention. You can apply the same basic concept on the next following tracks, "Alien Shivers" and "Vertigo". The return of the crunchy guitar work, "Still" and "Whaler", the latter being the headbanging moment on the album. The closing track, "Green Screen Mother", the soft, laidback, piano/keys outro.

Final verdict: Definitely not just "Prog-Rock". It's hybrid stadium rock and you can pick up bits and pieces of everything from Dream Theater/Seventh Wonder, to Amaranthe, One Republic, and Nine Inch Nails. Highly Recommended.
facebook.com/volaband

AARON BROOKS - Homunculus

Rating: RRRR
Label: GentleArtofMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Wave goodbye to 2018 and say hello to the late sixties and early seventies groove. All-American Aaron Brooks moved in 2011 to Germany with his far-out psychedelic rock band Simeon Soul Charger and over the years they managed to build a large fanbase. Honestly. I don't know. It might have been large. For instance. The barking mad teutonic people adores the music of The Hoff!! However. The SSC group disbanded some five years later (2016) and Brooks decided to keep calm and carry on writing groovy songs for the far-out solo effort: Homunculus. It's been nicely produced by Yogi Lang (RPWL) and Kalle Wallner contributed a lot of guitars.

Spooky, quirky, and far-out. Brooks are taking you out on a vivid trip where the singer/songwriter melodies meet psychedelic folk rock. Definitely 'out there' and not of this earth or solar system for that matter. It's planet weird and strange space art-rock at its fullest. The weirdest part of all. Yours truly found the melodies to be strangely intriguing. You know, like ravishing purple alien women on bicycles. Oi! Sexist bastard! Throwing stones already? You can't look away. That's what I'm trying to say. You simply can't look away or in this case stop listening to the enchanting melodies.

One minute it's Jesus Christ Superstar The Movie/Musical meet Muse. The next, Sparks vs. The Doors. Or why not Leonard Cohen vs. Aphrodite's Child (666). The piano often plays a leading role, as well as strings and orchestral percussion. Brooks' sad crystal clear voice soar over the arrangements and you need to embrace the quirky concept from the opening words of "Consume" to the closing track of "Digital". In the hands of anyone else, it might sound like a bad idea and poor business. However. This crazy American would appear to have grasped the concept of being strange AND interesting. Simply keep the orchestra going and never stare directly at purple alien women on bikes? Definitely groovy and far-out, it's Homunculus.

www.aaronbrooks.net

Saturday, September 15, 2018

ALLY THE FIDDLE - Up

Rating: R
Label: GentleArtofMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The pros and cons regarding the album "Up" by the German sextet Ally The Fiddle. It's Progressive Rock/Fusion. The overall structure which obviously include compositions, arrangements, and lengthy passages, definitely suits the classically trained violinist Ally "The Fiddle" Storch. You could say it's something out of the ordinary, even if the lead vocals are ever so monotone and clearly not quite as impressive as the virtuoso violin work. The likes of "Sisyphos", "Living In a Bubble", "Center Sun", does not compute, are really sore, and difficult to praise. The majority of tracks are instrumental and that's a blessing in the disguise or if you prefer skies.

I'm not exactly having a go at The Fiddles, but they do play on the "posh" Prog-Rock card and aspect, that Prog being something that not everybody can play and thus why it should be enough to outplay the opposition. Unfortunately or fortunately? It's not always about skill or which level you've managed to reach on your musical journey to nirvana (pun intended - journey and nirvana. that's a double whammy). Most people tend to like material and structure where the melodies actually lead to something instead of merely stating the obvious - they we are darn good at playing our instruments. And make no mistake. These guys are d-a-r-n good musicians. There is just not a huge amount to rave about here if we're talking actual songs and melodies. In fact. The most memorable track, the cover of Surfing With The Alien.

Alex Storch explains and I quote, "For me, being progressive means to spin around thoughts and to further develop music", end quote. Fair enough. I enjoy their 'thinking outside the box' agenda and no matter what, a good song is always a good song. These particular thoughts and tracks are simply not to my liking. Alex is no doubt a superb musician and that's something to keep in mind. I'm sure you'd enjoy catching them live on stage if only just to say 'hey, that's one helluva' violinist - shame about the songs though'. Guest musicians includes Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats/The Mute Gods/Steven Wilson), Jen Majura (Evanescense), and Jerry Goodman (The Flock and Mahavishnu Orchestra).

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

DOYLE BRAMHALL II - Shades

Rating: RRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The future's so bright you gotta' wear Shades? Doyle Bramhall II's dramatic debut for the Provogue label, the eclectic mix of the seventies sounds and genres such as blues, soul, funk, and garage rock. I didn't expect the opening tracks to be quite as raw, rough, and at times even psychedelic. Then again. The man has been around the block a few times, picking up various inspiration, performing together with artists that includes Roger Waters, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Allen Toussaint and T-Bone Burnett, to name a few. More significantly, DBII had spent over a decade as Eric 'Slow Hand' Clapton's (ultra slow-motion nowadays?) musical right-hand man, collaborating closely with the legendary guitarist both in the studio and on stage

Starting up the album with some truly great, groovy, and nearly psychedelic tunes such as "Love and Pain" and "Hammer Ring". The first track was born out of inspiration, collaboration, and tragedy. It speak of the tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. It reek of Jimi H and the reverse guitar thing merely add to the overall vibe of 1968, proper freedom fighters, and trippy hippies. The latter (Hammer King) having this really cool rhythm pattern and style that acts such as King's X explored and played around with in the past. Doyle sounding a lot like their singer on this track.

It's a great start. I fully expected the entire album to be more of the same. Eric Clapton appears on the R&B-tinged "Everything You Need" and it could just as easily have been released in the year of 1976. It's got that smooth sound going on at eleven and it's darn close to Yacht music or if you prefer soft-rock. This would fit nicely in with the Doobie Brothers and Clapton at the time. The duet with Norah Jones on "Searching For Love", the follow-up to the successful pairing on DBII's previous album. "Live Forever", back to the groovy late 60s, and to be perfectly honest, it reeks of CREAM. It's CREAM. Basically CREAM! So far, so good.

Unfortunately. The album, losing a bit of pace, life, and structure around track seven (Break Apart To Mend) and though it's never dull or boring, it's neither exciting. I must however say that "She'll Come Around" is a marvelous little ballad and worthy all the praise and awe. Overall, the first half of the album, perhaps just more interesting and eclectic than the second half. Do we really need another cover of "Going Going Gone"? Final verdict: ballads are plenty, could we ask for more fuzzbox on the next album? facebook.com/doylebramhalliimusic

Monday, September 10, 2018

ALCATRAZZ - Live in Japan 1984

Rating: Live
Label: earMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

What's not to like about this? Vocalist Graham Bonnet (Rainbow and The Michael Schenker Group) and young guitar genius Yngwie J. Malmsteen going at each other with two massive egos and the infamous chicken race. Add to this Alice Cooper, New England, Warrior, members Gary Shea (bass), Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) and drummer Jan Uvena, and you're in for a treat 'ala 1984. Big brother is watching? It's the honest, raw, uncut, definitive version of the concerts performed by Alcatrazz in January 28-29, at Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo. Excerpt of the show has previously been released as "Live Sentence". However. This time it's full frontal nudity (yuk!) aka the naked truth as the production is pretty darn real and without layers of overdubs (from the original 24 channel audio multitrack I may add).

18 tracks of pure joy where such numbers as "Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live", "Hiroshima Mon Amour", "Island In The Sun", "Big Foot", "Jet To Jet" were performed with a hunger and confidence that can only be acquired after spending years in the business (Bonnet), or simply having the big ego, sheer belief, and larger than life attitude (Malmsteen). Bonnet sounding a bit forced on Hiroshima, but it's the real deal, not the polished crap, and the kind of live recordings we prefer really. Yngwie, beating or rather breaking his poor masters' fingers on the Rainbow numbers, "Since You Been Gone" (originally the Russ Ballard tune), "All Night Long" and "Lost In Hollywood". Seriously. Almost any guitarist (signed to a metal label) could mimic Blackmore. Malmsteen's guitar work? You need something a bit out of ordinary. Bonnet, the real crowd pleaser, and there's storming versions of "Night Games" (his biggest solo hit) and MSG's "Desert Song" to be found on the fully restored and remastered recording.

To quote the great viking, six-string bender, and overall donut fan, "How can less be more? Surely more is more". The young guitar hero Yngwie J. Malmsteen could do no wrong in the eighties. The mad creator of the genre known as Neo-Classical Metal and Hard Rock rejected tons of riffs and arrangements other guitarists could merely dream about. Easily the best or at least the most prolific cat of the era. Especially since Ed Van Halen decided to dabble with keyboards (jump) and snorting cocaine and any other drug he could fit up his nose or arse for that matter. The mad fretwork and tapping shines throughout the record and we get treated to stunning versions of "Evil Eye" (still to this day one of the best instrumental guitar metal pieces) and "Coming Bach". Yngwie, clearly too big for the band. The first song after the curtain call, guitar solo and the traditional Japanese instrumental tune of "Kojo no Tsuki". 'Unleash The Fury' would continue to release gob-smacking, jaw-dropping releases throughout the 80s. Final verdict: The solid ground. Captivated. On the rock (pun intended) - it's Alcatrazz!!! Highly Recommended.
facebook.com/alcatrazzoriginalband1

Friday, September 7, 2018

ENUFF Z'NUFF - Diamond Boy

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The original recipe for the crazy cookies known as Enuff Z'Nuff? Piece of cake really. Get into the kitchen and grab me the following ingredients: The Beatles, Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick. Mix it all together in the blender, add the healthy dose of Glam and you'll usually end up with something sticky and sweet. 'Diamond Boy', no longer follow the original recipe though and the "NEW" cookies are perhaps just lacking a little bit of the great flavour and taste of the heydays. The band now centered around bass player and vocalist Chip Z'nuff, still alive, out there, touring and recording new material. This record is the first Enuff Z'nuff release where Chip handles all of the vocal duties, "Singing on the entire album was very challenging. I'm taking the place of my brother (Donnie Vie) who I consider one of the greatest singers of our generation", says Chip.

Yours truly. The nineties fan of the original cookies and grew up with the power-pop music. I knew absolutely nothing about acts such as The Beatles, Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, and it took me forever to discover their influences. People say that Donnie mimic and copied Lennon. But there's a whole lotta Costello in that voice too. Chip is no Donnie, and no schmuck for that matter. The echo voice effect works magic in the studio. I quite like it. It's old school. A bit rough around the edges but still worthy of your attention. Let me tell you another thing. This is the typical grower album and you need to spin Diamond Boy on his head several times before the drugs kick in. In fact. The song material grew with each spin up to a certain point of course. It's not like they're still growing.

The title track, Mott The Hoople on dope. Yeah right. They never used dope? "We're All The Same" sound as if Weezer decided to hang out with our crazy cookies. I also noticed their choice for the latest single, Metalheart, the weakest track on the album and I tend to skip it everytime. It's otherwise a very solid affair by the band, Chip, longtime guitarist Tory Stoffregen, ex-Ultravox singer/guitarist Tony Fennell and Chicago native Daniel Benjamin Hill on drums. "Love Is On The Line" is just poetry in motion, and the perfect "Dopesick" some of their best work and lines in ages and I quote: 'I'm the truth, but I lie. I'm a sheep, I can fly. I can work, but I'm high' -Dopesick. Yeah. Vie is gone. It's not the same, but similar. facebook.com/EnuffZnuffOfficial

D'ERCOLE - Made To Burn

Rating: RR
Label: Rock Company 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Two sides of the coin? There's at the least three sides to the overall sound of "Made To Burn" by D'Ercole. First you have the fun guitar rocking numbers such as the opening track of "Time To Walk Away". It came out swinging like the Rabbids Invasion on a suicide mission to Mars (fun animated stuff at Nickelodeon and from France), but it's not really representable of the entire album. It reminded me of XYZ and Terry's work during this century. Secondly. The Pomp inspired keyboard number of "Out Of Time", easily the best track on here. It's got that late seventies, early eighties, sound going on at eleven and the same goes for the following acoustic vs. electric guitar track, "Open Your Eyes". The harmonies are really good throughout the first three tracks.

Thirdly. You have the really blunt and dare I say boring 'meat and potato' numbers such as "Feel The Burn", "Mistreated", "Get Undone", "Tragedy In Motion". They all have a rather annoying and darn right irritating guitar sound. Style-wise, they sound like mid-80's Gene Simmons compositions performed by mid-90s Dokken. Things are looking up again with the likes of "Same Old Story", "Slow Motion", and "Don't Know What You Got", however, it's not enough to save this platter from ending up in the sink, dish washer, at the very back of the cupboard.

D'Ercole is in fact the band of the D'Ercole brothers: guitarist Damian and drummer BF. That's what I thought at first anyhow considering the moniker. Lo and behold. In reality it's one of the many projects of U.S. artist/ vocalist Phil Vincent (Tragic, Chinawhite, Legion, etc.) and it feature guest musicians such as David Zychek (RIP), Paul Sabu (melodic hardrock cult legend) and Vince O’Regan. It's clearly not Vincent's best work up to date and the production differ a lot from track to track. Some are absolutely fine and others are muddy and thin. I'm neither too keen on the guitar sound and tone of Damian. Let's hope for something more uplifting on the next Phil Vincent album.

HELION PRIME - Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster

Rating: RR
Label: AFM Records 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
 
Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster??? Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.!!! Ace Rimmer? The return of the Red Dwarf? Sadly no. It's once again Sci-Fi Power Metal from Sacramento, California and it's ever so Pluto and Mars. Actually. It's probably Uranus. Noted: They have this big weird mascot - the mighty Saibot - the lamest metal attribute ever since Ronnie James Dio fought a lame dragon on stage. What ever happened to Kayla Dixon? The lead vocalist is no longer in the band as she's been replaced with Sozos Michael. Band leader Jason Ashcraft comments on the audition of Sozos: "He is the kind of singer I have always dreamed of working with. Not only are his vocal skills top-notch but he understands and knows what the music needs. Writing together for this album was a breeze and I hardly had to ask for any rewrites. Often he would send me ideas that was exactly what I was thinking. I am thrilled to work with someone like that and can't wait to see what we accomplish together."

Sozos, definitely no schmuck and you can trust him to fight off all the little green aliens and purple space monsters with his powerful set of killer pipes. Nothing here to make me listen again though. However. It's probably the mega super cool album if you're nine years old and looking for something to scare the crap out of your younger sis or bro. If you are into so-so, Edguy meet Gloryhammer Sci-Fi laden powermetal then you'll probably give this 12 thumbs up. A Sci-Fi Metal band like Helion Prime, especially when armed with a song called "Spectrum", are always going to scale the weird end of the ehhh... metal spectrum. The seventeen minute monster title track marking a shocking finale that will leave you stunned and confused for days. The Sacramento band's new piece of work was mixed and mastered at LSD Studio by Lasse Lammert (known for his work with bands like Alestorm and GloryHammer). I'll type that again. LSD Studio. Plenty of space monsters. I rest my case and keyboards. Send in the Star Trek and Star Wars nerds.

KING COMPANY - Queen Of Hearts

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

What the fudge? King Company - released as one of the 'New Breed', Frontiers' stable of young, exciting, up and coming bands who are the future of hard rock and metal? Oh c'mon. These Finns are merely young at heart... And obviously in comparison to all the 70 year old geezers (Asia, Rick Springfield, Whitesnake, etc.) that you usually find hanging around at the office of the Italian label, dropping various objects on the floor such as records, walking canes, pants, liniment, and hearing aid.

Formed in 2014 by veteran drummer Mirka Rantanen (Warmen, Thunderstone, Kotipelto, etc.) and guitarist Antti Wirman (Warmen, Children of Bodom), the sophomore release speak of "Queen Of Hearts" and reek of Teutonic melodies? Yes. They are indeed from the land of the Mumintrolls and found their new singer on YouTube. Italian-Argentinian Leonard F. Guillan at first merely the short term solution and replacement to Pasi Rantanen, the band eventually asked Leonard to join as a permanent singer as Pasi fought off vocal chord problems.

Nonetheless. The music sound as if it should definitely be wearing lederhosen and a funny hat (Austria, Germany, Switzerland). It's Axel Rudi Pell, Shakra, Silver, and Gotthard, all over the place and straight across the album. Technically speaking a vintage production and sound, it's been nicely mixed by Janne Wirman and mastered by Mika Jussila, stylistically a tad heavier and closer to Thunderstone than the debut. The storming title track goes through several different stages of rock where the intensity and Jens Johansson-ish keyboards stand out as the two main ingredients. It's ever so decent but below the standard of the top acts of the genre. Unfortunately, this is the case of the vast majority of the album. It's nice, neat, but also difficult to name any real highlights on the record. The ballad of "Stars" is probably my favorite track and that's never a good sign if you're looking for a rocking good time. Actually. The following track, "Living In A Hurricane", the really catchy uptempo rocker in the German tradition of melodic hardrock and the standard the entire album so badly needed. Final verdict: Hook missing. Line, sinker - gone fishing.

SOULS OF DEAF - Fortune Favours The Bold

Rating: RR
Label: Rock Company 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

It's the Souls Of Deaf, man! Souls Of Deaf!!! (softly spoken in the voice of Grandpa Simpson). They are an Dutch band with a distinct metal flavour. They tread the fine line between eighties old school NWOBHM, hard rock, and the melodic hard core sound made popular by the likes of Prong. It's tight, meaty, heavy, and absolutely bulging with muscular riffs. Their dangerous looking singer (Francis van der Hoff) has clearly been inspired by Metallica's James Hetfield and the lads know how to mix it up with metal melodies and the aggressive attitude that far belies their moniker.

No major complaint regarding production, and whilst "Fortune Favour The Bold" is an extremely well executed metal album, it is almost too clinical, too safe, and dare I say too much of an deja vu experience in its structure and style. Their material rapdily becomes one-dimensional and the vocals overall fail to offer enough variety to hold my attention. For instance, "Forwards You Move", possible the best/worst Spinal Tap song since...ehh... Spinal Tap.

The band was formed in 2015 by bass player Sander Stappers and in guitar player Luc van Rens, drummer Carl Vereijken, and singer Francis van der Hoff, Stappers found like-minded metal heads. Perhaps it's merely just a question of time and coming up with another trick or two to add to their performances. One of my choices, "Fall From Grace", with an early to mid nineties classic metal sound to feature a bumping bass, enhanced tempo and grinding guitars that bring to mind the Prong metal either way. It's a good choice and match in terms of vocals as Van der Hoff allowing the gruff and rough delivery that fits the blunt metal approach. I'll have to say that it's desperately crying out beginners searching for identity.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

3.2 - The Rules Have Changed

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

ELP! ELP! HELP! To make a long story short(ish). U.S. musician Robert Berry (Alliance, Hush) got drafted by Keith Emerson (RIP) and Carl Palmer to work on the project of the late eighties. Carl didn't fancy ASIA anymore and Keith recorded one album as Emerson, Lake & Powell (drummer Cozy), and broke up shortly thereafter. Thus the idea of getting together as a new power-trio under the brilliant moniker of 3. They recorded 'To The Power Of Three', released worldwide by Geffen Records in 1988 and the first single 'Talkin' 'Bout' reached #9 on the Billboard charts.

Fast forward to 2015. Emerson listened to an upcoming 3 live album from their 1988 tour that was being released by the record company. Berry and Emerson got together again and Frontiers Records gave them a deal and complete artistic control over the material and recordings requesting only that it was a "3" record in the 80s style. The two wrote and collaborating long distance on music up until the tragic moment in Mars 2016 when Emerson decided to end his time here on earth. After months of grieving, Berry decided to resume work on the material that was created and craft a record that would ultimately be a fitting tribute to Keith Emerson’s musical legacy and at the same time re-energize and update the musical style started with 3 some 30 years ago. According to Berry. "The phrase ‘what would Keith do’ drove me, it guided me, it consumed my creativity". In other words. Keith is basically Jesus on this record and he's definitely turning water into wine as well as walking on water.

Some people think of this as Prog-Rock. Not entirely sure if I agree to 100%. This has also a lot in common with Symphonic Rock and the keyboard driven POMP/AOR which became popular in the early eighties. It's tons of dut-dut keys (fanfare) and the arrangements are overall a bit shorter and not quite as complex nor long as proper progressive work. Sure. You can still find the occasional old segment. The title track goes on forever, and both "Somebody's Watching" and "Your Mark On The World" takes you on a trip via all the different avenues of prog-land. However, the opening tracks are ever so radio friendly and more in the style of ASIA, Gowan, and obviously the 3 album. What's your definition of Prog? And what about Symphonic Rock? Pomp? Let's just type down that all mentioned genres/styles are included on this record.

Opener, "One By One", the grand piano intro based on a piece by Grieg, prior to the three headed beast known as Korg/Roland/Moog is unleashed and it's all very perky and Asia. The Berry/Emerson composition clocks in at +seven minutes and that's not shabby at all. "Powerful Man" goes straight to the heart with its fun and innocent eighties sound and the massive attack of fanfare keys. Really catchy, sunny, uplifting work by Berry and you can't help to grin along to the melody. Still got those innocent kid eyes. The title track is grand and epic and about losing someone and the disbelief in people being capable of ending their lives. "What You're Dreaming Now", originally intended for the the second 3 album and Emerson did the music with melody and lyric added by Berry 28 years later. Again. Those massive fanfare keys and I love the break-down. "This Letter", one of those songs that just as easily could have been the work of Todd Rundgren or Lawrence Gowan for that matter. Final verdict: 3.2 is definitely 4.0. It may well be the last compositions we'll ever hear by Emerson?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

BODINROCKER - Eye to Eye

Rating: RR
Label: Hemifrån/Bearman 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'It's time for a vacation - Let's go on holiday'. The opening track is literly everything you could ever wish for from the straightforward Gothenburg rocker Anders Bodin and his clever moniker of Bodinrocker. It's fun! it's catchy! it's boogie! It's one of the best Status Quo-esque songs in ages. What else do you need? Keep it simple! Keep it catchy! Keep it coming? Unfortunately. This is not the standard of the album and to each great track, there's at least two or three dodgy ones.

For instance, "Brown Bear", sounds darn lethal on paper or your screen, but its claws are blunt, shaggy fur, and its roar? Worse than Ted 'Motormouth' Nugent and his awful redneck music of the seventies. Seriously. Poor Teddy recorded merely one great song during the era (Cat Scratch Fever) and Lemmy's version is just sooo much better (Motörhead). Sonically, and this being my second stab at the artist/band, Bodinrocker still riding hard on the boogie woogie era of the late sixties very early seventies. They endeavour to tread the same path and route of the classic acts, but take away the actual route, time, era, and classic.

The band lower the intensity level a notch or three for the barely rocking of "New Sweden", the historical stab at Sweden's second and latest colony in North America. The first? The vikings - the last is yet to come. It certainly boogies and maims its instruments for all its worth. There's a certain innocent charm and swagger to this album, not least considering the solid rhythm section of Stefan Deland (bass) and Klas Anderhell (known as the two from Sven-Ingvars). I'm really fond of tracks such as "Roller Coaster Ride" or the closing track of "Life Ain't Fair", which combines hook and captain. By the way. You may also recognize Bodin from Gothenburgs' Ambulance Service as seen in the reality TV series of '112 På Liv och Död'. Final verdict: DOA. DOA. Tongue-in-cheek. There's still life. We just need to kick-start the heart. bodinrocker.se

WEEND'O - Time of Awakening

Rating: RRR
Label: Nineteen-73.co.uk 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Weend’ô? Sacrebleu! I'm told it's pronounced Window and the French quartet are certainly doing their best to keep things complicated and Proggy. Indeed. It's Prog-Rock/Metal at its fullest and I think I'm in love with their lovely singer/keyboardist Laetitia Chaudemanche. I know. Clearly not the professional way to start up a review with such a remark. But honestly... what a name... Laetitia Chaudemanche... it sounds like something from an ancient story book and the lead vocals are simply floating above or over the complicated compositions. The name is however more original than her singing. It's the rather typical casted singer as of lately and strongly influenced by Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering).

The arrangements are airy (lots of space) as well as musically challenging, modern crystal clear production, yet with a retro sound. It's something of a concept album where side one features 'Time Of Awakening' Parts 1, 2 and 3. The concept is kind of out there and speak of a new and true evolution of mankind. That we are entering a new period in the history of man and woman. And as soon as the opening part starts, the keyboards are making you feel like you're catapulted back to the hairy seventies and why not Alan Parsons and Van Der Graaf Generator. Never quite as 70s or good though, but they've nearly managed to capture a certain keyboard spirit that all of the bands from this period had.

Don't go thinking it's all seventies though, since they have clearly borrowed the "modern" riffs of TOOL for use in their arrangements. Don't think it's anything "modern" about TOOL for that matter. They've been around the blocks for the last 25 years or more. Dream Theater vs Alan Parsons Project, that's one way to describe the music. Final verdict: 'I keep on being amazed by the phenomenon of life'. Emotionally charged and loaded with six prog tracks (plus the bonus radio edit of Angel Dust), Time Of Awakening is perhaps just a bit too airy, spacey, dreamy. Spice up the song material next time and we're definitely cooking.

DANIEL TRIGGER - 'RIGHT TURN'



RATING: RRRR

LABEL: MELODICROCK

REVIEW BY:ALAN HOLLOWAY



Daniel Trigger is a new name on me, which is odd because he's been making melodic and hard rock music for over 15 years now. Coming back to his more melodic roots after some heavier albums, 'Right Turn' will come as a bit of a bolt from the blue for those who were as oblivious about him as myself.

The bizarre first impression I got from opener 'Penitence' was that this guy must be from Europe, as his nasal, slightly accented vocals certainly point to a Germanic origin. I can imagine him singing, for example, an early Bonfire album and doing a fine job. Well, I felt a right tit when I read the biography and found out he was from Birmingham in England. Putting this aside, it's the music that matters (as ever), and straight from that opener there's plenty to like about Daniel Trigger. Second track 'Days Gone By', for example, uses the classic AOR staple of remeniscing about the good ol' days, and contains a chorus that will stick in your head all day. After that the gears are shifted down to a more countrified area, as 'Drive' replaces bounce with mosey. The quality remains high, though, and the album pretty much continues in this vein, alternating between classic, upbeat AOR and mid paced country rock, with the AOR getting the lion's share. It's a bit like Johnny Lima and Bon Jovi (this century's Bon Jovi, anyway) getting together and getting the best out of each other.

'Right Turn' is a cracker of an album, not weighed down by ballads and with plenty of energetic, catchy tracks from start to finish. Many albums tend to tail off in the second half, but Daniel Trigger keeps things fresh, even closing with two high energy rockers, 'Rock n Roll Party' and 'Wheels In Motion'. This is a fresh slice of AOR that will make any wimp rock fan pee their pants with joy. It may have taken me many years to find Daniel Trigger, but I hope to hear more from him in the future.


Daniel Trigger Bandcamp

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The KENTISH SPIRES - "The Last Harvest"


Rating: RRRR
Label: Nineteen-73.co.uk 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Blimey! Canterbury calling - It's The Kentish Spires and their offering to the Gods of early seventies Prog-Rock. Seriously. In the year of 2018, it's nearly impossible to find a new group of musicians with such a rich tapestry of British/English sounds and styles. Everything from the excellent production by guitarist Danny Chang (award winning composer/producer in the field of musical scores and songs for film and television) via all that brass and woodwinds to the wonderful diction and pronunciation of singer Lucie V (former frontwoman at Thunderstick - Samson/Iron Maiden), reek of Folk and Prog-Rock which made the Canterbury scene THE place to be in the early 70s.

At least that's what I'm told. Canterbury was probably never the place "to be" since people tend to go slightly bonkers when it's all about nostalgia. Pretty much like Woodstock, it was probably just a field full of mud, shite, and acid tripping hippies. Unless you're into the Canterbury Cathedral of course, the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop.

But I digress. This is an impressive debut album and you can instantly pick up various bits and pieces of acts such as Camel, Caravan, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Soft Machine and Van Der Graaf Generator. Indeed. The full music spectrum with all the old prog instruments including several different saxophones, flute, clarinet, hammond, and of course the mellotron. We must never forget the mellotron. What would we be without the mellotron?

It's a celebration of classic prog, but also the old harvest festival, and going back to the place where it all started. Danny Chang wanted to evoke the feeling of the more simple way of living that he experienced as a child in Kent in the early 60's. Actually. The title track is the great epic apocalyptic tale about the very last harvest before earth refuses to grow any more food. Lucie V, not your typical Goth/Siren influenced singer as of lately. She's got 'soul' and the distinctive warm voice that will gladly take you on a trip around the moon and back again. The band decided to compose several tracks about Kent and its ancient history. It's however not a concept, it's an album of many hues and textures, the title track alone proves that the Kentish Spires are anything but one trick ponies. Final verdict: Old school. Old sound. Old dogs (with the exception of Lucie of course). Old tricks. New favourites.

facebook.com/TheKentishSpires

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

DESTINIA: Metal Souls

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Rip. Rip. Rip and destroy! All hail the latest guitar hero Nozomu Wakai and his project of Destinia. Pay attention fans of proper heavy metal and old school shredding in the eighties formula and style. Metal Souls, new album release from the band of the land of the rising sun, the first to feature vocalist Ronnie Romero (Blackmore's Rainbow, Lords of Black) and the excellent rhythm section of Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, etc) and the legend behind the drums, Mr. Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, MARS etc).

Destinia, featuring music composed, written and produced by Nozomu himself. Hailed in Japan as an artist who could bring forth a rebirth of authentic and melodic heavy metal in the 21st century, has been recognized in the Japanese hard rock and heavy metal scene for his contributions on guitar, compositions and sound directions on releases by the countrys' leading musicians and animes.

It's got the swagger of mad neo-classical guitarist meet Ronnie James Dio obsessed/possessed vocalist. Kicking off with a series of hits to the body, Metal Souls goes for the jugular in a crescendo of skillful licks and crunching tricks. Pulling on a colourful spandex rock finesse and driving six-string hairspray melody, the likes of Metal Souls, Rain, Promised Land, are pulsating. Vivid guitar work and arrangements that are well executed only not all too original or groundbreaking. It's Dream Evil and Loudness meets MacAlpine and Yngwie Malmsteen. At times Romero's accent and pronunciation is a bit sloppy and he's definitely singing Raise Your Feast rather than Fist. Once you've noticed it, you're stuck with the fun experience throughout the track. We really do like the vocalist though. It's been nicely produced by Wakai, mixed by Fredrik Nordström at studio Fredman and mastered by Jens Bogren. Final verdict: Extra Superb guitarist - decent/nice material. Not too shabby.

FRED MIKA: Withdrawal Symptoms

Rating: RR
Label: Rock Company 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Fred Mika? To be honest... it doesn't ring a bell.. but there might be a gong? Oh the sheer joy of making fun out of drummers. Kindly introduce yourself to the audience: My name is Mika. I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. Yes I think you've seen me before. If you hear something late at night, some kind of trouble, some kind of fight. Just don't ask me what it was - Just don't ask me what it was - Just don't ask me what it was. Mika, Luka, it's all Vega. Yes indeed. Some of these songs might just remind you of a second rate version of VEGA - the band and not the lovely Suzanne, and it's not music from the point of view of a person who is abused for that matter.

Fred Mika on the other hand is the chap behind the drums in Sunroad, a Brazil based Christian metal and hard rock act credited with six full-length albums and one EP over a twenty-year period. Blimey. Yours truly has unfortunately never heard of Sunroad and thus ending up feeling a bit sad and left out in the cold. It's a project featuring many lead vocalists and the following are singing lead on the tracks. Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch, April Wine, Guess Who). Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova, MSG). Steph Honde (Hollywood Monsters). Haig Berberian (Dogman). Andre Adonis (SunRoad). Rod Marenna. Daniel Vargas and Mario Pastore. Where the last five are all from sunny Brazil.

The self-produced album has taken bits from modern melodic rock which might trend towards the rougher end of melodic metal but still allows room for details to shine through. Lyrics... ehem... here's the direct quote from the opening track, 'Wired In' (lead vocals Carl Dixon) - 'I have to find my shapeless soul in this sack. I know it's bad, so bad, weird side effect', end quote. I haven't got a clue to what they're talking about and the same goes for the majority of tracks. The actual 'Wired In' track is a little cracker steeped in commercial AOR and melodic rock though. Carl Dixon is no doubt the best singer on the record closely followed by the 'Mad Max', which in this case is Michael Voss and not some old racist from down under aka Australia. The rest are not too impressive and the songs are frankly not that interesting nor intriguing.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

CLIF MAGNESS: Lucky Dog

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'Step right up take your best shot. Don't be shy gimmie everything you've got. No right to do me wrong. Knock me down I'm coming back twice as strong'. Words that speaks directly/straight to/from the heart? What can I say? Clif's a fighter and the lyric on the opening track, "Ain't No Way", pretty much sums up the whole idea and concept behind the 'Lucky Dog' album. It's not exactly about politic, the complex storytelling, or out of the box arrangements that will leave you stunned and confused in the following months to come. It's simply just the great melodic rock album that oozes of quality and class songwriting and production.

To be perfectly Frank or Urban. Lyric content will most likely also appeal to your average teenager or fans of Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. And yes, Magness produced and wrote songs to above mentioned artists as well as all kinds of artists such as Clay Aiken, Joe Bonamassa, Céline Dion, Amy Grant, Steve Perry, Wilson Phillips. Magness has a Grammy for the song The Places You Find Love from Quincy Jones' Back On The Block and was nominated for an Oscar. Very posh. You may also recall the great Planet 3 and his first solo effort from the year of 1994.

What to expect if you haven't heard his music? Production/harmonies clearly inspired by the work of David Foster and that's always a big plus in my books. Uptempo rockers such as "Ain't No Way" and "Shout", could just as easily have been on any of the latest albums by Night Ranger. "Unbroken", superb semi-ballad and I believe that's David Foster calling wanting his eighties sound back. Add Planet 3 and you're closer to the core. "Love Needs A Heart" is a semi-ballad duet with Robin Beck and a nice slice of AOR. Clif goes Todd (Rundgren) in the "Rain" [Todd in the Rain??? Not to be confused with Robin Beck's Tears in the Rain :)] and the Nelson twins are mad they couldn't come up with "All Over My Mind".

Conclusion. All you need is hooks and the catchy approach? One thing's for sure. There's plenty of both and it's the great fun summer album that yours truly enjoy. Don't hesitate to pick this up if you're into classy melodic rock. Perhaps you'd wish for a bit more, dare I say, mature lyric content? You know... considering the age of the man. Nothing too pretentious and I certainly do not except John Keats. But... there's more to life than Avril Lavigne lyrics. Tongue-in-cheek people. Tongue-in-cheek. So what if he's stuck in his teenage set and mind and never bothered to grow up? You Lucky Dog!!! Highly Recommended.

PS. Goddamnit. Now I can't stop singing Todd to the music of Robin Beck. 'You can't see Todd in the rain. No matter how hard you try'...

SUNSTORM: The Road To Hell

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

This is the Road To Hell? Not entirely sure if Chris Rea would nod and agree? However. Hard Rock fans and yours truly are certainly no stranger to Joe Lynn Turner and his impressive back catalogue. From the successful stints fronting Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen and through his heralded solo career, the New Jersey-born singer has had his vocal talents on display for decades. Time passes and merely the JOLT is as electric as ever before? Indeed. Lightning strikes as he's one of those singers that hasn't completely lost touch with his audience nor the flexibility of the pipes.

Overall, Road To Hell, merely slightly heavier than some of the previous Sunstorm albums and more towards the Malmsteen and Neo-Classical genre. Nonetheless. Opener, "Only The Good Will Survive", sounds pretty much as you would expect in the past, with the AOR and impressive guitar work by Simone Mularoni from prog metal rockers DGM's. The title track feature the Yngwie Malmsteen-esque riff and style and flashy Mularoni, constantly coming up with the fun lick and trick. "On The Edge", more of the same and I can't stop thinking about the JOLT fronted Yngwie album. On the other hand. "My Eyes On You" sounds like something Yngwie could do one-handed in his sleep. We've heard this particular riff and structure a million times before. Deja Vu dreams come true?

Hardly rocket science. It's one of those albums that are quite easy to put into context. Especially since it feature Joe Lynn Turner, his voice will instantly turn the average effort into something familiar, cozy and safe. Road To Hell sees the Sunstorm Project strive to drive their sound baby steps forward, while at the same time appealing to those fans which are reluctant at the prospect of change. It's not easy to please the long time fan. One word review: Solid... as a rock. Wait. That's more than one.

TWO OF A KIND - Rise

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

It's been eleven long years since the debut and I can't say we've been eagerly awaiting the follow-up. In fact. I completely forgot about the project and that Fred Hendrix, better known as main songwriter and singer for Terra Nova, heads up the band. Following several suggestions from Frontiers Records' president and A&R director Serafino Perugino, Fred hooked up with not one but two female singers, Esther Brouns and Anita Craenmehr.

Thus the birth of Two Of A Kind and while they're trying to be Heart, it's unfortunately more like spleen or even kidney. It's basically the AOR version of Ace Of Base and that's including the average vocals, musical compositions, and final production. While the slick AOR found in opening track "Here Is The Now" might be darn memorable, sharp hooks are sadly lacking from this point on. Track two feature the strong message and lyric such as 'Hey hey Two of a Kind is gonna rock your world. Hey hey we're the girls who're gonna kick some ass'. It's not going to come true simply because Hendrix wrote it. Action not words.

Truth be told. "Without You" is a fine tune and the same goes for the mellow and soft work of "Naked" and "Alienation". At times, "Rise" threaten to get the old ticker going like a runaway jackhammer in the night, but then the music loses the plot and goes back to missing the mark and your Heart for that matter. Final verdict: I keep hearing good things about Cher and the ABBA tribute album. Nah.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

LESOIR: Latitiude

Rating: RR
Label: GentleArtofMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Lesoir and their fourth attempt at world domination At heart, "IV Latitude" is a quirky album with an experimental progressive, dark and mysterious feel to it. This time more focused on Progressive melodies than blunt rage. However, it's difficult to pin point and I certainly wouldn't file this under simple and direct "Prog-Rock". The songs are almost like cyborgs, hybrids, misfits, or if you prefer freaks of nature? Ambient moments and doomy arrangements where female vocals work as the only light at the end of a v-e-r-y long tunnel.

According to the band, More than ever there is a clear, both experimental as well as ambitious balance between lyrics, melody, groove, and explosive dynamics. For instance, during the mixing process for Latitude there was the imperative intention of giving the music space to breathe. In reality, the contrasts are almost too much to bare and the lack of proper identity may just work against them. It's almost like they've decided to be quirky and strange instead of great, and thus why their agenda appear to have been added simply for the sake of strangeness. Let's face it. The Dutch act has been pissing against the wind for years and this release is unlikely to see the wind turned. Conclusion? Expect another year of piss stained pants?

Many pieces of art are limited by measurements, norms and formats - that is not the case with Latitude. Then again. It's not difficult to be strange or odd. The real challenge is to be strange, odd, and great. But hey, like the Meat Loaf once sang, two out of three ain't bad.

AIRRACE - "UNTOLD STORIES"


RATING: RRRR

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


For a band that released a debut in 1984 the disappeared from the face of the Earth, Airrace are doing a good job of refusing to bugger off. Resurfacing in 2011 with a very decent comeback album, it's fantastic that they're still going at it with this, their third release in 35 odd years. The reason it's fantastic is that if they'd been content to just release one comeback album we'd have been denied this little beauty, so welcome back (again) Airrace.

Although opener 'Running Out of Time' starts with a slow piano intro, it's clear as soon as it actually gets going that the listener is in for a treat. There's a big Bad Company vibe going on, and I mean the 'Fame & Fortune' era here, with a big, bouncy refrain getting straight into your brain. Follow up 'Innocent' ups the pace a bit, throwing in a Mama's Boys (AOR incarnation), whilst 'Eyes Like Ice' nestles comfortably between the two. It's odd, but I get a strong feeling that I'm listening to an album that was buried by a record company in 1991 and has been resurrected and given a good polish. It doesn't feel like a new album, but it does feel like an overlooked classic. Vocalist Adam Payne absolutely nails it throughout, and the band behind him don't put a foot wrong, either. Every song aside from the ballad 'Lost' is horrendously catchy, and whenever I finish listening I tend to just stick it back on again for the hell of it.

Reviewers will tell you that it takes a special album to make their private playlist, as there's a lot of competition. 'Untold Stories' makes it with ease, as it's right up my street in every way. The only reason it doesn't get full marks is that I personally found the 'Lost' rather boring. Aside from that, if you enjoy AOR that is unpretentious and, above all, fun, then this is the album for you. get it, enjoy it, repeat.

Official Facebook Page

Sunday, August 12, 2018

CHINAWHITE: Different

Rating: RRRR
Label: Rock Company 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hell Yeah!!! This is a lot Different from the poor work of Challanges. It's been nine long years since I trashed their previous effort and gone are all the elements which made me dislike the album. The sick sounding hammond, the horrible mix, the stale arrangements. To be frank. Chinawhite are more or less reborn and US vocalist Phil Vincent (Tragik, D'Ercole - AOR underground hero) literary the icing on top of the cake. Vincent, the v-e-r-y confident singer and very much on top of things throughout the album. Experienced drummer Hans in´t Zandt (Praying Mantis, Mad Max, Vengeance) give extra oomph to the material.

Do however not expect them to sound like in the 90s. The Saga inspired rock is no longer relevant and you could almost put them up their against the likes of Saracen, Demon, Nightwing, and just a hint of Dare, but merely their 1991 album 'Blood From Stone' and not the rest of their back catalogue. It's sort of aggressive Symphonic Rock of the eighties... but on steroids. Not quite "prog rock" and neither simple straight rock. Nothing too disturning and perhaps still too soft in the ears of the blunt metal head?

I like the new Chinawhite though and it's definitely their best work up to date. Peter Cox is still the leader of the gang/main songwriter, and his guitar work on the record, slightly more aggressive than in the past. At times perhaps a tad too much upfront in the mix, but that's nitpicking. Always able to create the occasional hit song, it's not until now they've managed to maintain the standard throughout a whole album. For instance, Hello To The World", the 50/50 mix of Queensryche's soft moments during 'Empire' and the work of Boston and Tom Scholz. Sure, not quite as superb, but neither too far away. "Wings of the Wind" was also present on their previous album 'Challenges'. It's completely 'Different' as Cox felt the song deserved better. So they added new lyric and vocal melodies, Phil did an amazing job and the harmonies are just great. Final verdict: Have a go at something "Different" if you're into aggressive melodic symphonic 80s rock on steroids (yeah... I know).

TAD MOROSE: Chapter X

Rating: RR
Label: GMR 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
 
The Apocalypse dawning according to the Swedes of Tad Morose and the opening track off their latest album, Chapter X (that's 10/ten if you're not a fan of latin/roman or numbers for that matter). Then again, if we're going by song titles, it's all very deprived, dusty, cynical and preachy. I do recall praising the band and some of their earlier work featuring the excellent vocalist Urban. It's no wonder considering that we share the excellent name (latin strikes again - it'll never happen, but that's twice in just a couple of sentences). Acta est fabula plaudite.

It's a new-ish vocalist nowadays and a new chapter in the history of the band (yes -it's X). Unfortunately nothing on the Chapter X album live ups to the highs of the band and their back catalogue, with a large number of fillers and stale arrangements. Closest to the Urban Breed era would be the decent work of Slaves To The Dying Sun. It has the sheer attitude, guts and blood needed to really come across as Conan Metal. The others are either sonically flat or lacking proper vocal melodies. It's heavy, it's power, but you can simply forget about finding the memorable riff or the decent shout-a-long refrain.

It's perhaps a bit harsh. However. I prefer to be loudly singing-along to my power metal hymns as I ride to the battle field while bashing my plastic sword against my ditto shield. Make no mistake. Christer Andersson as well as Kenneth Jonsson are fine guitarists with passable true metal-esque execution and performances as well as technique and tone. It's just that song-wise Chapter X is as bland an album as you could expect from the likes of Bon Jovi or even Take That.

TEMPERANCE Of Jupiter And Moons

Rating: RR
Label: Scarlet Records 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

According to the info-sheet and I quote, 'with three modern melodic clean vocals, Temperance is the one and only band in the world to feature this twist of vocal harmonies both in the studio albums and in its live shows', end quote. Okay. Not sure about any of that. It's nontheless album four from the Italian group and it marks the debut of vocalists Alessia Scolletti and Michele Guaitoli. It's funny... or rather unusual, strange, and darn right peculiar. I absolutely love Italian culture, art, calcio, food, passion, language, etc. etc. I can listen to Italo melodies and/or opera all day and all night (sung in their native language of course). However, there's nothing more annoying than listening to three modern melodic symphonic metal vocalists singing with heavy accent and rather broken English. Seriously. These guys and gal will definitely benefit from a serious workout on accents as well as pronunciation (especially the lads). Alessia Scoletti has at least the strong potential to become one of the voices in the genre and there's lots of time to work things out for the future.

It's the standard set-up featuring crystal clear female vocals and the male grunt. It seem like vocalists of today (thanks to the mighty power of the internet) should be a lot more confident and provide stronger lead vocals than what's on display here. I guess these fellows are merely using internet for games and porn, huh? If you're going for the title of successful professional singer, why not have a go at one of the free English vocal studies at youtube or whatever. Heck. I'd do the same regarding typing, if not for a really dodgy connection. It's still the stone age at my place.

"Of Jupiter And Moons" is the latest one step forward, two steps back, album from the Italian quartet. Mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Epica, Amaranthe), with the cover artwork by Yann Souetre (Ayreon) and the official photo set by Tim Tronckoe (Nightwish, Ghost), Temperance is going to spread Italian guts and music all over the world! Final verdict: Good music, not so good, you-know-what.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

FREQUENCY DRIFT: Letters to Maro

Rating: RRRR
Label: GentleArtofMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Cinematic Progressive-Rock. Frequency Drift and Letters to Maro. This is their most direct straight to the point work up to date, yet they've painted a landscape which you could walk around in its vivid structure for hours and hours. Hell. You would probably get lost in the woods along the way and finally wander off to the nearest pub. It's not exactly top-twenty easy-listening, there's no easy and direct path. You definitely need to spend some serious leisure time with the compositions. All this in mind I really enjoy their atmospheric art/prog-rock.

The angelic voice of Irini Alexa and the eletronic harp, definitely at the centre of attention throughout the album. Stunning and haunting vocals which might just remind you of the way Mike Oldfield used to work with female singers in the eighties. Throw in tiny bits and pieces of Toyah, Kate Bush, Fiona Apple, and you're closer to home. Expect layers and layers of backing tracks and beautiful vocals on display.

Dimensions of sound that are as complex as they are experimential, Alexa uses her emotional eloquence in her voice as well as song writing style on 'Letters to Maro'. Do however not expect to find many or any headbanging prog-metal moments on this record. Nope. It's more towards the magical, mediveal, atmsopheric, folky-kind-of prog and for instance, "Neon", borrow quite a lot from Oldfield and Nerissa Schwarz (Sythesizers, harp, mellotron) seems to be a major fan of the man. To make things simple and not always 100% correct. Think Oldfield - not Dream Theatre.

The strength of the album, there are no real downers nor massive uppers for that matter. The music is soft and not far off pop music on several occasions. It's the proper album effort and you can easily enjoy it without skipping tracks. Recommended.

Monday, August 6, 2018

GIOELI-CASTRONOVO: Set The World On Fire

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The former Hardline duo (Gioeli-Castronovo) driven by the power of melodic rock and apparently also melodies composed by Alessandro Del Vecchio. Let's face it. Rock can by something as simple as one chord hitting the right nerve at the right moment. It can also be something as complex as a group of people coming together and creating the sophisticated rock album. This is uber glossy and simply filled with great vocals and harmonies,  Set The World On Fire, are taking the listeners on a ride throughout the eighties scene and car cruising moments under the cover of neon lights.

But... is it all glamour, GTA Vice City, bright lights, AOR music that make you want to move your feets, or a world where one bloke (Del Vecchio) writes all the songs and you might just get tired of all the projects and the samey sounding recordings? Well... let's see if she floats. Nothing new under the sun (lyric/music-wise) and it's really not about the unique experience rather than a decent album effort with plenty of layers and at times clever arrangements. Perhaps a tad "too clever" at times as the material tend to get on your nerves with its "hey-look-at-me-stuck-in-second-gear-going-nowhere" kind of beat. Again, it's uber slick and those harmonies by Johnny Gioeli & Deen Castronovo are straight out of AOR heaven. It's just a bit too pretencious and sterile, yeah? no?

The production is a bit muddy and not quite as clear as you'd like your AOR. Some of Del Vecchio's projects are good, others bad, while the majority are right smack down the middle of the road. On the other hand... many people surely do enjoy the Journey-esque styled music. And we didn't even mention once that Castronovo has been sentenced to four years probation after pleading guilty to domestic abuse once again. Final verdict: Music-wise, Not too shabby, but nothing earth shattering.

DARE: Out Of The Silence II

Rating: N/A
Label: Legend Records 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Question: Why do acts/artists go down the re-recording route as well as getting the sudden need or urge to re-visit their past? Answer: Simply just to get back the control of their songs and hopefully make some money in the process. Then again. Their old record company could simply just re-release the original recording and people would still buy them in ship loads (since we all prefer originals). In my humble opinion, this is more or less a case of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'.

Dare is probably best known for their singer/songwriter Darren Wharton, who first rose to fame in the early eighties playing keyboards with legendary Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy. The band's superb debut 1988 A&M album "Out Of The Silence", recorded at Joni Mitchell's Bel Air Studio in Los Angeles and produced by Nickelback producer Mike Stone has now been re-recorded as Out of The Silence II. Having gained cult status among AOR fans throughout Europe while touring with Europe (the band - not the continent), the UK act has sadly never managed to reach the wonderful heights of the classic debut. Nearly each track draws in the listener, they hang on to each and every word, each hook. In fact. Every household should have at least two copies. With this release nothing has been added to the re-recordings. Nothing extra, no bonus.

They're not going to make much money from old recordings and probably the same with this. They should just get back into the studio and record a brand new album. Preferably somthing that rocks and doesn't make you fall a sleep halfway though (hint-wink). Me thinks the band should do what others (sorta') did in the past and put a disclaimer sticker on their product saying, "This album in no way endorse a disbelief in being bloody pointless". Because that's the album in one word if you're a long time fan - pointless. The original record sound better, the band was DARE I say young and hungry, and you can't ignore the eighties styled production and sound. For the record, I don't dislike or have a grudge with any past or present members of DARE. Quite the opposite. I really like the 1988 album. It's always originals over re-recordings and that goes for all musicians out there. Even if we understand the logic behind these records.