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.

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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.

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.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

DEE SNIDER - “FOR THE LOVE OF METAL”




RATING: RRRR

LABEL: NAPALM RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Love him or loathe him, there's no denying that Dee Snider is a bit of a legend in heavy metal circles, from his work with Twisted Sister and his defiance of the notorious PMRC to his Broadway, radio and TV work. Always larger than life, he is who he is and anyone not with the program is free to fuck off and find their own way.

The unsubtly titles 'For The Love of Metal' sees Snider at his snarling, heavy best, with twelve tracks that are heavy yet not offensively so. The titles tell you all ypu need to know about Snider's current attitude with 'Lies Are A Business', 'American Made' and 'I Am The Hurricane' letting you know that what's coming is going to be uncompromising. Featuring contributions by members of such bands as Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage and Arch Enemy, and produced by Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta, 'For The Love Of Metal' has a pedigree most would sacrifice their first born for.

As you can see from the score, this all works very well indeed. At the core is Snider himself, as he should be, who still has a fine voice for fast paced, aggressive metal, although he doesn't have the high notes of the old days. This gives the album less of a pop feel and roots it firmly in metal territory. That said, there's plenty of melody, as no song is allowed to go too over the top. Perhaps the lightest track is lead song 'Become The Storm', which you can check out on YouTube. It's a good indication of what you're in for with the rest of the album.

'For The Love Of Metal' is a fine example of a classic rocker coming back and giving his all, with music that straddles the old and new eras of Snider's career admirably. There's no instant anthems but it still manages to hook you on the first listen purely because of a decent songwriting, playing and singing. Dee still wants to Rock, and I'm glad.



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

HELL'S GAZELLES - 'TAKE YOUR MEDICINE' EP




RATING: RRR

LABEL: SELF RELEASE

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

British retro rockers Hell's Gazelles are not, as the name suggests, a female AC/DC tribute band. Seriously, I can't be the only one who has thought that. A band that have done all the hard work themselves, they have to be congratulated on how far they have come, and this, their second self released EP, is an eagerly awaited slice of rock pie in many places.

Way back in the first paragraph I mentioned the word 'retro', and it's rather appropriate with Hell's Gazelles. The five tracks of 'Take Your Medicine' are decidedly old school metal, though not of the grunting, satan worshipping variety, thankfully. The problem with retro metal is that it can be hard to make it really shine. Some bands manage it pretty well (Jack Starr, The Darkness), but plenty of others manage to sound like the sort of band that would have graced 'Kerrang!' in the early 80s but ultimately end up as no more than a footnote in metal history. Chrome Molly, I'm looking at you here...

As you may have surmised from the rating, Hell's Gazelles fall into the latter catagory, but are not without their charms. When they get things just right, such as on the title track, it's all rather enjoyable, but that track is the exception rather than the norm, and the other four tracks are punchy enough but not fight winners. Vocalist Cole Bryant has a really nice voice for this sort of music and the production is nice and clear, but desopite repeated listen I just can't get over excited about this one. I reckon they'd be fun live, though...

Official band Site

Thursday, May 24, 2018

JIM LEA - "LOST IN SPACE EP"



RATING: N/A

LABEL: WIENERWORLD

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


The name Jim Lea should be familiar to anyone who treasures good rock music with energy, melody and the best choruses in the galaxy. Why? Because Jim was one half (with Noddly Holder) of the writing team for Slade, and if you don't like Slade then you haven't heard them. It's been ten years since his solo album 'Therapy', and it's good to have him back with a guitar in hand and a bouncy chorus in his head.

I have to say that I'm not sold by the track 'Lost In Space' that leads off the album. It's light, not rocky and reminds me a bit of Del Amitri. It's nice enough, and deliberately written as a pop song, but is just too wimpy for my tastes. Things get serious with the next track 'What In The World', which certainly could have been a Slade track in the good old days of the 1980s (when they released some brilliant stuff). Jim has a decent, slightly edgy voice that works well with a rock track, although I'm sure he'd agree Noddy would have done it better! 'Megadrive' isn't a love letter to the old SEGA console, but continues the guitar driven fun with a slightly more laid back feel to it that would have made it a better choice for a single that the title track. 'Pure Power' follows, and it's a basic, punchy number with a big riff, a nice solo and a cowbell thrown in for good measure - this one will stay in your head, believe me. 'Back To Birmingham' and 'Through The Fire' finish off the EP, and both are very guitar heavy and very good indeed! Jim's vocals suit these songs better than any others on the EP, and I'd love to see him do them live, as these are both proper head bangers!

Aside from the title track, 'Lost In Space' is stuffed full of melody and guitars, with only one track sounding like Slade. What a shame it's taken ten years to get these together, as Jim Lea knows how to rock out with his cup a[f tea and comfy chair out (well, he is  now after all). Recommended.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

KOBRA & THE LOTUS - "PREVAIL II"



RATING: RRRR

LABEL: NAPALM

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY



I've been listening to Kobra & The Lotus albums for some time now, but have never felt moved enough to review them, mainly because there's always tone of albums fighting for my time and I didn't quite get the buzz from them that others did. Until now, anyway. Following up from last year's 'Prevail I' (unsurprisingly), this second part has put the band firmly in my eyeline.

The three years between 2014s 'High Priestess' and 'Prevail I' certainly seem to have done the band good, and 'Prevail II' takes that goodness and runs with it, impressing from the off as (lead single) 'Losing My Humanity' and 'Let Me Love You' both fuse metal and melody with ease, tying both together with Kobra Paige's cracking vocals. Her voice stays on the right side of operatic, although I have a feeling she would really shine in a symphonic rock setting. There's even a track called 'My Immortal' here, but it's nothing to do with the Evanescence song. Instead, KATL go more for the jugular, with pounding beats and aggressive melody throughout, perhaps none more so than in 'Fallen Empire', a full on metal track that benefits from the softening that a talented female singer brings - there's no shouting or grunting here. The band are no slouches either, as the tuneful noise behind her is never less than spot on, benefitting from a crystal clear production. In contrast, following sont 'Heartache' is closer to melodic rock than metal, showing a lighter side to the band that provides a welcome contrast to the heavier songs. The even finish up with  half a cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' which is pretty good though unfortunately leaves out the awesome middle instrumental bit. There's also an acoustic version of  'Let me Love You' that closes the album perfectly, showcasing Kobra's vocals nicely and coming accross like an old Heart track!

'Prevail II' certainly hit me harder than last years part one, and I can see myself coming back to it again and again just for the pleasure of it, and as any overworked reviewer will tell you that's the real mark of a good album. A pleasing mix of styles but focussing more on metal, this is a real treat for anyone who likes female fronted rock music that bites back.

Official Website



PADDY & THE RATS - "RIOT CITY OUTLAWS"



RATING: RRRr

LABEL: NAPALM RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Do you ever think that there's just not enough Celtic punk bands from Hungary? No? Fair enough, as I don't think anyone has EVER thought that, especially as Paddy & The Rats are enough Hungarian Celtic punk for anyone. Album number five sees a definite 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' attitude, with accordians and pipes joining the guitars for a pirate themed romp that is hard to dislike.

If the thought of Pirate Metal makes you cringe, you may want to stop reading now, as Paddy & The Rats are not ashamed of their love for murdering cutthroats with peg legs. 'Black Sails', Sail Away', 'Castaway', 'Where Red Paints The Ocean' and more demonstrate that there's a bit of a theme going on here. What counts, though, is the music itself, and in that respect 'Riot City Outlaws' delivers nicely. With more than a hint of Flogging Molly or Sir Reg, PATR turn up the fun control to eleven for the most part, with lively guitar fuelled jigs designed to be listened to with a mug full of mead in one hand and a busty serving wench in the other. Vocalist Paddy O'Reilly certainly channels the Emerald Isle nicely, though I have doubts that this is hid real Hungarian name! there's a couple of slower tracks that break the album up, but all in all it's a fun romp that will have fans of the genre bouncing upand down and waving their cutlases in the air.

'Riot City Outlaws' is derfinitely a fun listen, and almost impssible to ignore once it's started. Bouncy Celtic metal it may be, but anyone who can listen to Paddy & The Rats without a smile on their face may just be dead from the neck up. Personally I prefer the passion of Sir Reg, but if these rats ever leave their sinking ship and come my way I'll be first in the queue with a yo ho ho and a bottle of cider (I don't like rum, okay?).

Offiicial Facebook Page




Thursday, April 12, 2018

PERFECT PLAN - "ALL RISE"






RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


My catch up of Frontiers new and forthcoming releases continues with this debut offering from Sweden's Perfect Plan. Formed in 2014, the band have been working their way towards the debut with care and attention and it certainly shows in what they've come up with.

As the first chords of the ridiculously catchy and upbeat "Bad City Woman" belt out from the speakers it's clear that Perfect Plan have something special here. As a song it's nothing groundbreaking, but as a piece of AOR it sits right at the top of the pile, with melody spilling out of every pore, bouncy keyboards shining through and classic melodic rock vocals from Kent Hilli. Seriously, people, this man can wail with the best and I'm sure he's going to be a big name in AOR circles for some time. Opening with such a perfect example of your music is always a good move, and even if Perfect Plan struggle to better it (and any band would) it really sets the mood perfectly and will bring a big smile to any melodic rock fan's face.

Although the pace slows with 'In And Out of Love' it's still a great song with a nice, catchy chorus, even if it's a bit of a come down after the frenetic pace of the opener. That said, 'Stone Cold Lover' brings the energy levels straight back up. It's a track that I can see being much loved by fans of H.E.A.T when they rock out, with Hilli's vocals showing a nice tinge of Joe Lynn Turner as a bonus. Fourth track 'Gone Too Far' has a Turner-era Rainbow feel about it, with Hammond-ish keyboards and a nice funky rhythm both proving effective. It's hard to dislike, a description that fits the entire album. When Perfect Plan turn it on and allow themselves a bit of pace and bounce they are as good as any band I've ever heard, with slick guitar solos, perfect AOR vocals and an innate sense of what makes a song enjoyable. Unusually, there's no ballads to be found, and the majority of the eleven tracks are well paced. The album in no way outstays it's welcome, and is one of those that you can happily put on repeat three or four times without getting at all tired of it.

Perfect Plan are a real surprise, delivering a debut that nails the whole AOR thing perfectly. A heady mix of W.E.T, Eclipse, H.E.A.T and the likes of One Desire and Work Of Art, this album can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of them. It's not deep and it's not meaningful, but 'All Rise' will have you tapping your feet and smiling away throughout the duration, and sometimes that's all you need from an album. 

Official Facebook

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

VEGA - "ONLY HUMAN"


RATING: RRRRR

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Back in the late Nineties I was a fan of a band called Kick, featuring a pair of twins and vocalist Nick Workman, who made ridiculously enjoyable melodic rock. Fast forward to 2010, and after a few middling bands Workman finds himself hooked up with another set of twins and making ridiculously enjoyable melodic rock once more. The twins are Tom and James Martin and the band is Vega. Eight years of hard work later they're still fighting to bring high energy melodic rock to the masses, and I'm happy to reveal that album number five carries on the good work admirably. It seems maximum ratings are like buses for me. No, not that they smell of piss - I mean you wait for ages and two come along!

With most albums I get it's easy after a few spins to identify a favourite track or two and maybe pick out a weaker one that will probably end up deleted once the review is done. With 'Only Human', Vega have come up with their stroingest album yet, and if you've heard the other four you'll know that's quite a feat. The Martin twins are well known as powerful songwriters in their own right (see Issa and Ted Poley albums for evidence), but when Nick Workman joins in it's such a holy trinity Don McLean should have been singing about them at the end of 'American Pie' (google it, it's a cool reference, dammit!). Add to that live performances full of fire and fun and you get a band to be reckoned with.

'Only Human' is a real all killer no filler affair, perfectly encapsulated by the first four tracks. 'Let's Have Fun Tonight' is a traditional upbeat Vega album opener that will no doubt kick off the live shows on the upcoming tour (see you at the bar, boozers), followed by the album's advance single 'Worth Dying For'. This is a track that is like a stick of rock (sorry - ROCK!) with VEGA stamped through it, so perfectly typical is it of their sound. 'Last man Standing' follows, introduced by Planet Rock DJ Darren Reddick, and it's an upbeat, catchy song about getting rat arsed. Remember, kids, what happens in Vega stays in Vega. Lastly, we have 'Come Back Again', the album's first slower paced song. There's just something about this one that keeps me coming back (again, natch) - it's a smooth, majestic sounding tune that has a chorus that sticks in your head.

So we have an opening quartet that beautifully demonstrate the Vega sound in all it's guises. So far so good, as they say. The thing is, the quality doesn't dip at any point, so we get another eight tracks that keep the bar raised with as much passion as Eddie Hall picking up a car. There's the aggressive 'Gravity', the high melody of 'Fade Away' and the emotional ballad 'Turning Pages', where Nick Workman get to show there's more to him than a nice haircut and a deep, natural love of Joe Elliott. Seriously, though, Workman is on stellar form throughout, deserving of a place amongst the melodic rock greats for his soaring range and vocal gymnastics. When he's given a good tune to belt out he still makes me smile like he did almost twenty years ago (feeling old now, Nick?). Just when you think they must be tired by now, the album closes with the brilliant upbeat track 'Go To War', and the compulsion to just listen to the twelve tracks all over again is hard to resist.

I've always banged on about Vega in the past, and it's true that they are right up my alley as far as melodic rock is concerned. They can handle speed when needed, but also put a lot of soul into a passionate ballad too. Keyboards are mixed in very well, and whenever Marcus Thurston gets a chance to let loose on guitar he always gives it serious welly (let him do an instrumental, guys).Consistently impressive, always fun and sometimes sober, Vega are a band who should be palling around with the big boys on the big stage, but part of me still loves the fact I can see them in small venues. If you haven't discovered them yet you really need to get the album and a ticket for the tour, because to be this good takes Vega...

Officia lWebsite





JAMES CHRISTIAN - "CRAVING"


RATING: RRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Jamea Christian has a long, distinguished history in melodic rock, for his tenure with House of Lords, his songwriting and also for his three solo albums released over the last quarter century, now joined by this, the fourth to come out under his name. Whilst Christian is a known songwriter himself, on "Craving" he has been helped out by Tommy Denander, Chris Pelcer, Jimi Bell, Clif Magness, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Richard Hymas, Charlie Mason and Jeff Kent, so I was expecting a bit of a mixed bag.

A quick peruse of the tracklisting reveals a distinctly, um, Christian slant, and by that I mean the religion rather than the man. I mean, obviously there's a Christian (the man) slant, as it's his bleedin' album! 'Heaven Is A Place In Hell', 'Jesus Wept', 'If There's A God' and 'Pray' make me double check this isn't the new Stryper album, but when the music starts it's definitely of a wimpier nature so everything is OK. 'Heaven Is A Place In Hell' kicks things off in a nice, lively manner, aggressively melodic and making good use of Chritian's raspy, tuneful vocals. Follow up 'Wild Boys' is a bouncy affair that's pretty good but really loses out by leaving the guitars at the back of the mix, whilst the title track is an acoustic affair that is a pretty nice tune. A mixed bag? Definitely. 'Jesus Wept' is a mid paced melodic track that really hits the spot with a smooth refrain, 'World of Possibility' is a rather stale acoustic number, whilst 'Sidewinder' is another upbeat guitar fuelled aggressive melodic number and it certainly looks like a pattern has formed, and it contunues til the end, where the album limps home with the dull as ditchwater 'Pray'. Before that, however, we do get possibly the best track, the in your face 'Black Wan't Black', featuring some sweet guitar widdling from Jimi Bell.

So with 'Cracing' James Christian has delivered a package that mixes acoustic tracks, mid range smoothies and hard hitting melodic rockers in equal measure. The heavier tracks all work very well, as do the mid paced ones for the most part, but a couple of the acousticnumbers are so damn syrupy and devoid of charm that they totally disrupt the flow of the album. Despite this, there's a lot of good music here, and Christian's vocals are as good as ever, but too mahy cooks make this broth less sweet than it could have been.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

WHITECROSS & GUARDIAN - "REVIVAL"


RATING: N/A

LABEL: INDEPENDANT

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Some of you may be aware of Whitecross and Guardian, two Christian rock bands from a while back. What we have here is a merging of members from both bands to form a new unit playing songs from the collective back catalogue. It's not a terrible idea and I can see them going down well on the live circuit. Neither bands have split, by the way, it's just that these guys are the ones who want to tour more than the others.

So we get Jamie Rowe (vocals) and David Bach (bass) from Guardian, paired with Michael Feighan (drums) and Rex Carroll (guitars) from Whitecross, and as they are lovely, cuddly Christain pals they go very well together. The 'Revival' EP is really a taster for their prospective audience to show that the whole thing works, and unsurprisingly it has a decent selection of tracks, given the back catalogue they had to choose from. 'Enough Is Enough' from Whitecross is a jaunty, crunchy opener, nicely matched by Guardian's 'The Rain'. There are also two versiions of Guardian's powerful ballad 'Never Say Goodbye' in English and Spanish (I assume because they have fans south of the border) and a cover of Hendix's 'Spanish Castle Magic'. Whitecross tracks 'In The Kingdom' and 'Top Of The World' flesh out the playlist nicely, and the end result is a tidy collection of God-centric rock tunes. Jamie Rowe does a fine job with the Whitecross material, and all four members come accross as tight.

There's only 1000 CDs and 300 red vinyl records available of this EP, so it you like the idea then pick one up fast. Good songs well played is always a nice draw, and even this old Atheist enjoyed it so those blessed with faith keep your eyes peeled for this holy team up.

Official Website

ROMEO RIOT - "SING IT LOUD"



RATING: RRRRR

LABEL: KIVEL RECORDS

REVIEW BY:ALAN HOLLOWAY

Romeo Riot are a sort of supergroup, mainly if you're a big fan of Kivel records. For me, the real draw was the inclusion in the band of one Jace Pawlak, noted songwriter and keyboard player (as well as a nifty vocalist in his own right), and I've been waiting to get my ears wrapped round a copy. As you can see from the rating I was not disaapointed, and if you like quality AOR neither will you be.

What you have  here are ten knock-it-out-of-the-park upbeat melodic rock winners, and whilst I don't have an inlay or album credits the songs are very comparable to those on Pawlak's last solo album but with lower register vocals. Those vocals belong to Mark Giovi, late of Farcry, and he has one of those voices that is hugely melodic but with a slight edge to it that works beautifully. One of Pawlak's songs 'Every Now & Then' appears on both albums, with the different vocalist turning it into quite a different experience, despite the very similar arrangement. It's one of two ballads unwisely both on the latter half of the album (makes it unbalanced), but with that said they both, along with every single other track, hit the aural sweet spot. It's so hard to pick out favourites as they all qualify - there's more fun and bounce here than a trampoline factory. You've got the high enegry opening duo of 'Room To Run'and 'Streets Of  Babylon', or the more crunchy 'Same' and finish off with the upbeat glory of album closer 'Twist of Fate' (very Night Ranger), and there's still six other tracks to choose from, all with their own claims to being the best one. Well bugger it I really can't decide so I guess I'll just have to listen to 'em all again.... and again.

'Sing It Loud' is one of those AOR records that makes you remember why you got into this type of music in the first place. It's so hard to fault that I've given up trying, and can't reccommend it highly enough. It's very rare that I give a full five out of five to an album, but I can't see any reason to drop any marks here. Melodic rock perfectoon can be yours, so go out and get some.

band facebook page

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

ISSA - "RUN WITH THE PACK"


RATING: RRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

It's hard to believe that Issa released her first albumway back in 2010, pushed as the new femme fatale of the melodic rock world, with sexy photo shoots taking prominence over the music. Of course, it helped that the music was solid as you like, and it's been great to see her contiunue to release high quality albums. 'Run With The Pack' is album number five, and although not as good as 2015s 'Crossfire' it still keeps Issa's name at the higher end of any connoisseurs' lists.

As usual, Issa's vocal skills are prominent from the beginning as she breathes life into every song here, aided on 'Sacrifice Me' by Deen Castronovo. the two main differences from 'Crossfire' are the songwriters and the main guitarist. Gone are James and Tom Martin (of VEGA fame) as songwriters and band members, and in comes a smorgasbord of new writers, including Bob Mitchell, Glenn Ballard and the ever present Alessandro Del Vecchio. The guitars have been handed to Simon Mularoni, and to be fair his widdling is a constant standout throughout the album. The songs themselves are all prefectly acceptable, but if I'm honest they just aren't as exciting as the ones on 'Crossfire'. That said, none of them could be described as poor in any way, it's just that I'm nodding my head and tapping my feet rather than punching the air. Unusually for me my favourite track is a slow(ish) one, 'The Sound Of Yesterday', where Issa gets to show real passion and strength. She's one of those vocalists who is a ballad writer's dream, and soars when allowed to get her teeth into a tune.

'Run With The Pack' slots nicely into Issa's repertoire, but treads water rather than breaking new ground. It's well produced (by Del Vecchio) and will certainly be welcomed by fans, but the feeling that there's something missing, however small, still haunts me every time I listen to it. If you like fun melodic rock with great vocals then you really can't go wrong here, so give Issa a try if you haven't already.

Issa's Official facebook



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

FM - 'ATOMIC GENERATION'



RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of FM (old and new), so it stands to reason I'd like their new album. The things is, I hope those people would also realise that I wouldn't ever give them a free pass just because of who they are. After the excellent 'Heroes & Villains' from a couple of years ago, though, I'll admit I didn't have too many concerns over the quality that was likely to emerge.

Straight off,  it's clear 'Atomic Generation' will appeal to those who enjoyed the previous album, with opener 'Blac Magic' coming off not a million miles away from that album's 'Digging Up The Dirt' opener. Solid, punchy and catchy, it's a good opening statement though. Second track 'Too much Of  A Good Thing' is oddly placed, as it's a slower track that, whilst catchy, is possibly the weakes on the album. Fortunately it all comes to life again with the standout track 'Killed By Love', a ridculously catchy melodic rock gem, the crunchy 'In It For The Money' and the smooth melody of 'Golden Days', a nostalgic tune that stays with the listener. there's been a bit of divided opinion over 'Playing Tricks On Me', which has been released as an advance track, mainly because it really sounds like it should be on a Carlos Santana album, and this is pretty accurate if Carlos had Steve Overland's golden tonsils. Either way, it's a REALLY catchy song that can be enjoyed by rockers and Radio 2 fans alike, and I can see why it was included here. The second half of the album is as strong as the first, rocking out with the likes of 'Make The Best of What You've Got' and 'Follow Your Heart' and closing with the really beautiful 6 minute ballad 'Love Is A Lie', a track that will either move you toi tears or bore the arse off you. Me, I liked it.

'Atomic Generation' is a perfect representation of where FM are in 2018, with straightforward AOR mixed with more creative styles, all held together by a band that are tighter than Scrooge McDuck's purse strings. There's plenty here for those who like to sing along, with nothing to offend anybody in any way whatsoever. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and enjoy an album of melodic rock growers, and that time is now. Defininitely my sort of generation.

Official Site


NO HOT ASHES - S/T


RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Whilst Jurassic Park was an adventre 65 million years (give or take) in the making, the debut album from Ireland's No Not Ashes has been brewing for just 35 years, since the band's formation way back in 1983. Although they were singned in 1988 and recorded an album it was never released. This, however, is not that album, as after reforming in 2013 and finding out people still liked AOR they've recorded a fresh new album for our listening pleasure, and a pleasure it is.

Whilst nine of the ten tracks here are fresh as a daisy (although one is a cracking cover of Rick Springfield's 'Souls'), I guess we should start with 'I'm Back', the sole survivor from the band's original days. It says a lot that if pressed to pick the older song without any othert information I wouldn't have had a clue, as 'I'm Back' slips into the middle of the album without any surface ripples at all. All ten tracks here are of a similar quality, and that quality is high. Laid back, melodic AOR with a blues edge, No Hot Ashes show a real understanding of what makes a good song. Straight off the bat, opener 'Come Alive' showcases this with a solid rhythm, a sweet riff, nifty guitar solo and fine melodic vocals from Eamon Nancarrow. 'Good To Look Back' ups the ante with an even catchier refrain coupled with a nice inclusion of a strong keyboard presence, and it's clear that the album is going to be a keeper. Sure enough, there's not a duffer in sight, with melody piled upon melody throughout, mixed with a little funk and blues when approriate.

No Hot Ashes may not have got their shot back in the day, but against the odds they've come back to become a genuine melodic rock prospect. Seriously, this will be one of the best purchases you make this year if you like quality AOR played with a genuine passion. Me, I'm looking forward to seeing them on tour and singing along with each excellent track .Hot stuff indeed, just don't confuse them with the other No Hot Ashes band because you will certainly come off with the concolation prize.

official facebook page


Saturday, March 24, 2018

BONFIRE - "TEMPLE OF LIES"


RATING: RRRR

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Fifteen albums and about twice as many line up changes have caused some to wonder if this is even Bonfire any more, but guitarist Hans Ziller owns the name and as long as he's in charge then Bonfire will be the name of the band, except when it's EZ Livin', Charade etc etc. Of course, when you get down to it, it's all about how good the music is, and Ziller certainly doesn't tend to put put crap if he can help it, si maybe don't light those torches just yet.

"Temple Of Lies" kicks off with the now standard wanky intro piece that tells of the legend of the Temple Of Lies like it's a frickin' concept album (it's not). At least it's improved by some serious guitar widdling as it goes into the title track. This is where things get interesting, as it's really pretty darned good, with a serious crunch, power and melody that works well, bolstered by the powerful vocals of Alexx Stahl, on his second album with the band. After this things continue to be interesting, with "Wings Of An Angel" and "Feed The Fire" giving way to the fist-in-the-air catchy "Stand Or Fall". this may not be the Bonfire of old, but this new Bonfire can seriously rock, with Ziller's guitarwork underpinning everything rather brilliantly. Seriously, the man can work a fretboard with the best of them. The most AOR track is the melodic "Fly Away", probably my favourite on the labum, with the sole ballad, "Comin Home" being the only track that I will end up deleting as it's a bit shite.

With thsi album, Bonfire come accross as a band determined to show the naysayers that they still have what it takes, and I'm convinced that they do. Ziller shines throughout and Stahl suits the music nicely, and whilst plenty of it is by the book melodic hard rock it's so well done it's a pleasure to listen to. Definitely the surprise of the month for me, "Temple Of Lies" is proof that the 'fire is still burning brightly.

Official Site

Thursday, March 15, 2018

GREYBEARDS - 'FOR THE WILDER MINDS'






RATING: RRRr

LABEL: Attitude

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Greybeards may sound like some prog rock outfir comprised of septuagenarian musos, but in reality they are a bunch of young, hip Swedes who like to belt out uncompromising hard rock not a million miles away from Foo Fighters at their most fluid and aggressive.

'For The Wilder Minds' is the second effort from the band, following on nicely from their debut 'Learning To Fly'. They've been flying round the world on the back of that for two years now, and although the new album isn't a leap forward musically it delights in following it's predecessor's footsteps. This will certainly be good news to those who liked Greybeards style of straightforward rock with good melody and a galloping pace. There's no guitar heroics, no super silky vocals, just head down music that will either energise or bore you. Personally, I found myself somewhere inbetween, as I certainly like listening the likes of 'Fast Asleep', (the new single) or humming along to the catchy 'One In A Billion', but whilst the album is a snappy ten tracks long the lack of variety can mean full playthroughs are not as enticing as quick listens to certain tracks.

Full on, ferociuos and fun, 'For The Wilder Minds' is a solid follow up for Greaybeards and will appeal to anyone who liked the debut or looks back wistfully at the time when Foo Fighters still had big balls of steel.

Official Website

Monday, March 12, 2018

CRAZY CULT ROADSHOW: "Crazy Cult Roadshow"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Self- release
Review by Martien Koolen

Crazy Cult Roadshow is a Dutch hard rock/metal band from the beautiful south of The Netherlands. After two impressive Eps, the four piece band, consisting of Roel Peijs (vocals), Steven van der Vegt (bass, keys, vocals), Krit Verbeek (guitars) and Kiki Beemer (drums and vocals), now release their full length debut album on vinyl. The self-titled album contains 10 songs and these tracks form an apocalyptic roller coaster ride of rock, metal, rock and roll, grunge and stoner music; so get ready to bang your head!! Opener "Luring Lights" sets the tone for the rest of the record: mean heavy guitar riffs, "brutal", rough vocals, pounding drums and more than excellent guitar solos. "Closure", which is already a well-known cult song in Limburg, features a very catchy opening, extremely raw vocals from Peijs and a ferocious guitar solo at the three minute mark! Other tracks like "Fistful Of Boomstick" with a more than excellent bass guitar riff or the experimental, almost instrumental "That Thing From Another Planet" kind of remind me of bands like Monster Magnet and Hawkwind; so really awesome. Suitable for a single would be the song "Ride The Fuzz", as that one really has an addictive chorus. This excellent album ends with a song called "Risky Business", which again features a nasty guitar hook and a splendid howling guitar solo. Crazy Cult Roadshow can be very proud of this album, so check it out, buy it, and play it f... LOUD and keep on banging your head and screaming along till your voice stops making noise!!! This is already one of the great surprises of this rock year, so do not miss this release!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BURN - 'ICE AGE'



RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: MeloidicRock Records

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


British rockers Burn have certainly trodden a troubled path on the way to 'Ice Age', their fourth album in 25 years. Founding members Marc and Barney Stackhouse have kept the fire burning over the years on and off, resurrecting the band in 2007 for the very highly rated 'Global Warning' album, but even a triumphant appearence at Firefest in 2008 didn't end up being the glue that kept the band together for good. As we all know, though, you can't keep good musicians down, and Burn are back once more with a new secret weapon or two in their armoury.

So what do you do if you want a lead singer who can handle the material, has a ridiculous amount of experience and a built in fan base? Simple - you call Steve Newman. As you should be well aware, Newman in a bit of a veteran at this melodic rock thing, and apparently was very happy to be part of a band without his name on it, especially one with the quality of songs Burn were offering. The other secret weapon is guitarist Chris Green (Furyon, Tyketto and more), who brings a very high standard with the benefit of being used to botgh AOR and metal. What could go wrong?

the simple answer is 'nothing'. Seriously, there is nothing at all wrong with 'Ice Age', which really grinds my gears as I can't take the piss. Okay, so it's got a wanky intro at the beginning, but that's just a personal annoyance and I can always skip it. As for the rest, the only accurate thing to say is 'wow'. Straight away things get chunky and melodic with 'Irontown', a song that I guarantee you'll be singing along with during the first listen. As it's the lead track you can go listen to it now on YouTube, and trust me it's a VERY hard song to dislike. One thing that's apparent is Steve Newman is really on fine voice here, raising his register slightly at times to fit in perfectly with the songs. The songs themselves, meanwhile, are some of the best I've heard for a while now. The songwriting is a real band effort, with guitarist Phil Hammond collaborating with Barney, Chris and Steve on most of the songs, and they seem like they've been hammered into shape by people who really care about what they're doing and won't let a song out of it's cage until it's ready.

'Ice Age' is a triumph, full of meaty rock tracks with a ton of melody, beautifully mixed by Tobias Lindell. There's a few songs where it slows down, like the soulful 'Wasreland', but it doesn't adversely affect the album as a whole, simply because every song is a winner in it's own way. There's a proper bluesy vibe to it, but with big handfuls of AOR as well, like Hand Of Dimes or Whitesnake of old. the cover, although fitting the title, is a bit shite but don't let it put you off in any way. 'Ice Age' is an absolute stonker of a melodic rock album that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in well crafted, catchy rock music. Never before have I been so happy to be Burned...

Official Website

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Black Stone Cherry: "Family Tree"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Family Tree is the sixth album by (blues) rockers Black Stone Cherry and in my humble opinion it belongs to one of their best so far as on this album their sound is really unique. Their music being a mix of Cream, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, rock and roll, blues and rock really comes to life on Family Tree; just listen to the amazing opening track Bad Habit and you will be hooked.

This new album contains 13 tracks and the musical highlights are numerous, take for example Carry Me On Down The Road (heavy rock and roll with great wah-wah guitar solos), Get Me Over You (funky Lynyrd Skynyrd-like southern rock), Bad Habit (heavy, up tempo with a bluesy guitar solo) and the title track, a mid tempo blues rock stomper with a melodic slide guitar solo. However the very best song is without any doubt Dancing In The Rain, a mid tempo blues rocker where the guitars dominate, featuring guitar legend Warren Haynes. Family Tree was sell-produced and Chris Robertson (guitars/vocals) mixed the album and this resulted into an excellent up to date blues-based rock album of the highest quality. Highly recommended, so be sure to check it out!