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. They've also decided to bring in drummer Hans in´t Zandt (Praying Mantis, Mad Max, Vengeance) to give some 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.

AMERICAN TEARS: Hard Core

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

Mark Mangold (Touch, Drive She Said) - one of the good guys of AOR. He's been out there on the frontline and at the very final frontier for the last +40 years. Fighting dragons, ogres, goblins, pestilence, plague, windmills, grunge, and what not really. Clearly mad about his precious keyboards and keeping the ebony/ivory glowing like radioactive cats in the dark. American Tears was Mangold's first real band and the keyboard driven trio released its first record, "Branded Bad", on Columbia Records in 1974. They broke-up already back in 1978 and the band evolved into the critically acclaimed band Touch. 40 years on and American Tears is sort of back on track, however, in reality, it's merely Mangold and a bunch of dusty old music instruments from the seventies.

That's correcto mundo. Mangold sings, tickle the bones, as well as get groovin' on bass and drums. The other band members are nowhere to be seen or heard. It's the whole she-bang including Hammond organ, synths, mellotron, clavinet, electronic melodica and playing progressive music which shows its early 70's agenda. Eclectic in their approach, the music range from agressive keyboard based extravaganzas to sleepy/dopey melodies of the past. I've always enjoyed the work of Mangold with the exception of American Tears. Frankly... many of their compostitions bore me to tears and nothing on "Hard Core" could convince me otherwise.

It's not a question of music style or simply just too dated. But it's sadly not enough "Van Der Graaf Generator", and too much "Moody Blues" on the record (and they only recorded one great song and you all know which one). It's all about the song material - not up to his usual melodic rock standard.

TNT: XIII

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

'Oi, oi, oi!!! See me ride out of the sunset - On your color TV screen. Out for all that I can get - If you know what I mean'? Sadly unworthy the Nobel moniker since its hardly TNT? Clearly no dynamite, they certainly won't win the fight, definitely no power load, but you can still watch them explode... or rather implode? The Norwegians can/could still make good music in the new century though. In fact, My Religion is my favorite TNT album... closely followed by Tell No Tales. “XIII” is the bands' thirteenth studio album to date and founding members Ronni Le Tekro (guitar) and Diesel Dahl (drums) are still with us alongside bassist Ove Husemoen and new vocalist Baol Bardot Bulsara (Triple B - Oi!), who has replaced the once again departed Tony Harnell. The result? Let's just confirm that 13 is not your lucky number, huh?

So...it's basically TNT and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad album? Look what the cat dragged in? Yeah I know it's Poison and not TNT, however, this is kind of icky, sticky and frankly sort of messy, exactly like any poor dead creature which your cat is bringing home infront of your feet(s). It's all down to the material and you'd wish the A&R person could have been more in control, and simply had informed Le Tekro that you need to return with better, stronger, material, prior to recording the album. It's not too loud, too modern or too aggressive. It's simply just a bit dull.

TNT are taking us on a magic carpet ride throughout their private wasteland. It's a very mixed bag containing a couple of absolutely storming tracks (Come Together, Tears in my Eyes) where you can taste and feel the heydays. Triple B, not all bad on the pipes. Sadly the rest are poor man's version of TNT and sort of stuck in second gear. It's frankly just a terrible, terrible mess, lyric which seems to be the work of a twelve year old kid and some uninspiring guitar work. Simply just not cool enough. A&R to the rescue? Sadly not. There's absolutely no point in going any further. I'd say cherish your fond memories of TNT and wtach out for #13. 'So lock up your daughter. Lock up your wife. Lock up your back door and run for your life'...

LYNYRD SKYNYRD: Collected

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

Lynyrd Skynyrd - The band that during their golden era (the hairy seventies) ruled over all the hillbilly rednecks and white trash people in the states. It's all just a wee bit tacky. They were constantly flying/waving the Confederate flag as well as proudly proclaiming that 'the south will rise again' while playing the classic numbers of Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird. Heck. You could buy t-shirts and various merch featuring the band's logo and their proclaimed statement. Rock heroes or basically just a bunch of not-so-good people? Or both? So what if the last original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, abandoning the Confederate flag signified the band cutting its ties to racism in 2012, they were still using it on stage and at various locations..

Universal Music releases a 3CD set entitled Collected and it's the same old songs as ever before. Nothing new or completely unreleased songs. Business as usual? Sure, there are some early recordings, demo versions and various rare-ish live recordings to be found on the third and final disc. However, it's mostly stuff that die-hard fans already have. I guess it's mostly intended towards the next generation and finding new hillbilly and white redneck people out there. Do I enjoy some of these songs? Absolutely. Do I find the whole "Southern Rock" a bit too Trump-ish? Absolutely.

REBELLION: A Tragedy In Steel Part II

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

Never judge a book by its cover? However, the captured text on the front cover clearly reads "A Tragedy In Steel" and nothing could be further correct as well as direct to the point. You'll be crying, hurling, and shouting at the arrangements, compositions, excellent vocals (no?), and not to mention radical titles such as 'Dowerless Daughter'. 'Thankless Child'. 'Stand Up For Bastards'. etc. It's... like... if... the... braindead children of Frankenstein's Monster and Bride decided to put on a metal show set in Shakespeare's drama.

Oh c'mon, it surely can't be that bad? It's just the old eighties Power Metal with a singer that clearly enjoy to show off his brilliant impression of Boris Karloff on fire while in character as Frankenstein's Monster? No? Well... strange... because that's what the lead vocals will remind you of the most... Boris Karloff on fire!!! Expect no resurrection, nor the mighty power of lightning as they stuggle to find a single dry match in this dark cornor of metal.

The Rebellion's new album is characterized by its dark and gloomy atmosphere, weak arrangements and ludicrous vocals. Sadly on this release, the Rebellion's ideas are still more work-in-progress and let's head back to the drawing board. At least Shakespeare must be greatful that he's long gone and six feet under ground... or never truly excisted at all in the first Place?. But seriously... picture it... Boris Karloff on fire!!! Oh the horror, the horror.