Wednesday, October 9, 2019

JAN AKKERMAN: "Close Beauty"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hocus Pocus with Focus. There you go. That's pretty much all I know about Jan Akkerman. Not a whole lot to be honest. But I won't lie or pretend to know everything about each and every (hard) rock artists out there and certainly not when it's instrumental music (his solo outings). Do the google, you say? No. You do the google. It's sort of interesting to listen to 'Close Beauty' without any knowledge, if you know what I mean? You simply can't keep track of them all and Focus was before my time. No real excuse since I obviously do track back in time.

However. It's twelve compositions, acoustic, electric guitar, and overall varied works. According to Jan, "I've always been able to tell that none of my albums sound the same. Exploring new things is something that I'd always wanted to do. Harmonica player Toots Thielemans once told me: ‘your timing, that’s your signature, your autogram’. I consider ‘Close Beauty’ exactly like that. If you stand very close to a cow, you can’t tell it’s a cow, after all", end quote. Conclusion? It's a cow!?

He's obviously 'Dutch' from the Netherlands (Holland) and "Close Beauty", instrumental rock in its more classical sense, having a penchant for more snappy medievil influences and open land/soundscapes, than never-ending cycles of riffs held together by shredding and pace, Akkerman's compositions are progressive when it comes to updating the vast spectrum of instrumental music. Hard to categorize, the mood changes from sunny afternoons to not so sunny melancholy. The music is really diverse, so the different music channels have different structure and avenues to choose from. Some of the songs are in the vein of the classical masters, others are more fusion influenced, there's fingerpicking, as well as a few odd numbers of clarity and Spiritual Privacy.

The bottom line: Less widdly widdly diddly, and more in time with the current 'less is more' vogue, the compositions add a wicked sense of individuality to the album which channels the timing, harmonics, virtuosity of a great guitarist. It's the great album to listen to while reading a book and I mean that in the best possible way and sense. One thing's for sure. It's the art cover of the year, if not for the sneaky fishy 72 year old geezer in the background :-) facebook.com/JanAkkermanOfficial

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

LAST TEMPTATION: "Last Temptation"

Rating: RRr
Label: earMusic 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I actually feel sort of sorry for guitarist Peter Scheithauer (Killing Machine, Belladonna, Temple of Brutality) and vocalist Butcho Vukovic (Watcha, Showtime) as they release their debut album. They are the masterminds of the new band and project of Last Temptation yet the press release and not to mention sticker on the album cover mention only that the recordings were accompanied by Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Rainbow) on bass, Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath) on drums, and Don Airey on keyboards (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ozzy) as they recorded their eponymous first album.

This record is decidedly old school in its execution and stands for classic 70's and 80's Metal, that is supposed to reminds on genre icons like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne. Well... hold your horses and keep your rabid rabbits and hungry hounds on the leash. It's never quite really that good and the compositions and arrangements (all by the dynamic duo of Scheithauer and Vukovic) are kind of samey and once you've noticed the refrain to one, you've pretty much heard them all. It doesn't help to repeat the words "Bring Your Light Out" a thousand times if you're sort of fed up the first time. The most Ozzy/Sabbath moment of "Blow a Fuse" and "Never Say Goodbye" might have the oldies going at least up until the refrain. The latter sounding more like Soundgarden in the late eighties, early nineties though and not bad at all.

The bottom line according to Scheithauer was "having that live feeling that seems to be missing with a lot of recordings these days. We'll go and rehearse in the studio, sometimes we'll hear something that would be a great take, and that’s a magical thing. What makes certain records magical is that the music is living and breathing; it’s organic, it's real, including the occasional mistakes (laughs)". Fair enough. It's organic, real, proper production, but never really exciting or fun. By the way. Guest musicians also include Rudy Sarzo, James Lomenzo, Stet Howland, etc. but why bother, since they don't fit the bill and classic rock genre?

SASCHA PAETH'S MASTER OF CEREMONY: "Signs Of Wings"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Sascha Paeth is one of metal's odd sod. The wicked multi-instrumentalist, producer, and overall mad genius. I'm really fond of his work with the likes of Avantasia, Edguy, Kamelot, and perhaps not as impressed with the Rhapsody Of Fire. The solo project of Masters Of Ceremony and their debut album, Signs Of Wings, treads a fine line between the merry Pirate metal of Running Wild, Within Temptation, and Avantasia, and incredibly it seems to work for the most part.

I'm also very fond of the vocalist on this record, Adrienne Cowan from Seven Spires, and she's no ordinary goth or the shy wallflower. Her range goes from head to toe, meaning she likes to play both the angel and the devil. Huh? What the fudge? Okay. Straight to the point. Just as good on the soft and hard parts and there's a lot of guts as well as gusto on the record. For the most part, Signs of Wings, revolves principally around the essence of all good metal, decent material and wicked guitar work. The majority of Paeth's arrangements accompanying the excellent vocals of Adrienne Cowan and her performance transforms a number of good songs into great ones. Keep in mind that you need to be slightly open-minded as you'll find the occasional modern metal growl(s) and style though.

Offering a wide range of styles within the metal spectrum, from aggressive and straight foward metal, to the more melodic and symphonic track, this record has a bit of everything. Soundwise, the sonic delivery is as good as ever by The Paeth and the guitarist sure do enjoy noodling to his hearts' content, making the best out of the situation, the motto of the day. The Path of The Paeth clearly have big intentions and highways in mind and with this album should achieve many of them. "Blissful I die and reach for the sky. Hoping to find a way through the night. I leave my worries alone way down below and try not to cry anymore, fight anymore".

Monday, October 7, 2019

MOTORHEAD: ''Bomber'"

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

This is the 40th anniversary edition of the classic Motorhead album 'Bomber'; their third studio album was released on 27 October 1979, just 7 months after their 2nd album "Overkill" This again must have album featured classic Motorhead songs like: "Dead Men Tell No Tales", "Sweet Revenge", "Stone Dead Forever", "Bomber" and one of my personal Motorhead favourites "Lawman". Again all the 10 songs on "Bomber" were composed by the three original members:Kilmister, Clarke and Taylor; therefore all the tracks are full of the characteristic sound of that classic line up. So, there were some real killer songs on this album, however, the fans and the critics found the overall songs on Bomber not as good as those on Overkill. Still the album ranked number 397 in Rock Hard magazine's book of the 500 Greatest Rock & Metal albums of all time!

Again this anniversary edition comes with a live bonus CD, whch was recorded in Le Mans and the set list contained 18 tracks with a total playing time of almost 70 minutes! Live classic Motorhead songs like Overkill, Stay Clean, No Class, Metropolis, Lawman, Motorhead and Bomber are featured here and they rock like hell. Other highlights on this amazing live set are Limb From Limb, featuring a superb guitar solo by Clarke, a cover of the old time classic Train Kept A Rollin' and a dazzling version of Capricorn.

I probably repeat myself here, but again this is a must have Motorhead release, not only for the great heavy rock and roll music but also for the splendid booklet that comes along with it. Highly recommended, again, and as Lemmy said it more than once: "we're Motorhead and we're gonna kick your ass!!", and they certainly did, enjoy!!


WAYWARD SONS - "THE FUTURE AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE"



RATING: RRRRR

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY : ALAN HOLLOWAY



One of the better albums from last year was Wayward Sons' debut release, which saw everyone;s favourite little angel Toby Jepson return to the forefront of the rock scene with a bang and a great new band alongside him. Naturally expectations are high for this second release, and I'm here to tell you that there's no need to riot (even if you wanna) because they've all been met with ease.

The album kicks off with the electrifying single 'Any Other Way', a full on melodic rock feast that has melody, harmony and solid brass balls all the way through. Jepson sounds as good as he ever did, and the band are as tight as to expected after a punishing schedule of touring, rehearsing and recording over the last 12 months or so. 'Black As Sin' follows a similar template, not giving the listener a chance to catch their breath as the hard hitting melodies and attitude whacks them about the face whilst laughing like a loon. Speaking of laughing like a loon, 'Jokes On You' is a bit more radio friendly (with a smidge of piano to help the flow) with a killer chorus that is immediately hummable. If you haven't yet, do check out the clown based videos the band are putting out as well- they're quite mental and lots of fun. Elsewhere, Toby gets angry in the monumentally brilliant track '(If Only God Was Real)', allowing the old scream to sneak out, whilst the title track has a slower, mesmerizing stomp to it and a chorus that won't quit.

The band have wisely allowed themselves to play with different tempos throughout the album, and whilst the big guitar stompers are plenty of fun it's nice to chill out with the lighter 'Little White Lies', 'Us Against the World' and 'Fade Away', a song which will have fans of 'Soapbox' creaming their spandex. Ah, yes... it's time for the Little Angels part of the review, which is sort of inevitable. Wayward Sons definitely bring to mind those Scarborough scamps plenty of times, and for me that's exactly what I was hoping for. Jepson's vocals make it pretty hard not to think of them, and the similar style of songwriting and playing just reinforce it. Let me put it this way, if this was a new Little Angels album fans would be ecstatic with the fact that they wouldn't have radically (your lover?) altered the sound. Ya get me?

In the end, 'The Truth Ain't What It Used To Be' is a terrific release. Twelve absolute blinders plus a sneaky bonus track, it's even better that the debut, and that's no easy task. If you've yet to check them out please get to YouTube and see what all the fuss is about. Believe me, you'll be converted. Possibly the best release of the year so far, Wayward Sons may not be original but by Harry they're fucking good so do yourself a favour and join the Wayward Army.

Friday, October 4, 2019

MOTORHEAD: "Overkill"


Rating: RRRR 
Label: BMG 
Review by Martien Koolen 

This is the 40th anniversary edition of the classic Motorhead album 'Overkill'; their second studio album was released on 24 March 1979. This great album featured classic Motorhead songs like: "Stay Clean", "Capricorn", "No Class", "Metroplis" and of course the notorious title track. All the songs on "Overkill" were composed by the three original Motorheaders, being: Lemmy Kilmister, Fast Eddie Clarke and Phil Philthy Animal Taylor. Besides the original Motorhead album you can also enjoy a live album recorded at Aylesbury Friars on 31 March 1979. Sadly the sound of the live album is a bit shallow at certain points but the Motorhead energy takes you through this and makes you forget the rather hollow sound of certain tracks. This live album features 17 tracks with a playing time of over 75 minutes, so you get your money's worth!! Killer tracks on this live recording are "Overkill", "No Class", "Iron Horse", "Metropolis" and of course the last track called "Motorhead". Listening to the second studio album of Motorhead again makes me realise how good and powerful these three guys were; so this anniversay album is a must for Lemmy fans all over the world and play it f... LOUD, if you can!!!

imotorhead.com

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DRAGONFORCE: "Extreme Power Metal"

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

Fast! faster!! Dragonfa.. force!!! Extreme Power Metal: the short version - It's the insane shredding, sweeping and tapping skill of Yngwie J Malmsteen. The German Metal arrangements of Helloween, Blind Guardian, Scanner. The eighties sing-a-long harmonies and melodic keyboards of Robby Valentine (he's big in Japan, you know). Last but not least. The over the top influences of Japan and especially the themes of retro video games. Known as the fastest band in the world, it's obviously all done at neck breaking speed. More importantly, it's melodic and great, no, it's better than great, it's Dragongreat!

Bombastic, fantastic, and ever so phenomenal. It's one of those album that get better with each spin and there's always something new to discover and cheer about. Herman Li and Sam Totman, a pair of monsters on the six strings (or seven, eight?) and they are constantly pushing the bounderies on what's humanly possible to play without losing a finger or three. I feel sorry for Gee Anzalone (drums) since there's no place to hide and definitely no time to rest. It's wicked though and the trigger happy drummer goes bezerk behind the drums. The hard work of the rhythm section (including Frederic Leclercq on bass) - the heart and soul of the album. Marc Hudson's singing is dead on and out of this world and that goes for all the harmonies and choirs on the record.

"Feel the engines fire. Feel the thunder rise. Now touch the path of glory. Power to the turbo drive". It's full on turbo throughout the record and the opening of "Highway To Oblivion" really is extreme (and very melodic) power metal at its sonic best. Kudos to the excellent production and they're off at "500 miles an hour - All gravity defied". Next up, "Cosmic Power Of The Infinite Shred Machine", the face-melting Indiana Jones moment where the Nazis' gets the full blast of the Ark. Shocking to say the least. "The Last Dragonborn" will have the Skyrim fans crying of joy as they set off for new adventures. Tracks such as "Heart Demolition" and "Strangers" really are the energizer bunny version of Robby Valentine. Superb melodic metal.

Final verdict: Epic and extreme. Catchy and fast. Triumphant and uplifting. It's Dragonforce at their very best! Highly recommended. facebook.com/pg/dragonforce/

TOM KEIFER: "Rise"

Rating: RR
Label: Cleopatra 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Rise - is it a fairytale story or a dissatisfying platter? Former Cinderella vocalist in search for the tiny glass slipper? I've been looking forward to listening to the new solo album by Tom Keifer ever since the previous one aka the solo debut of 'The Way Life Goes'. Unfortunately a lot of things happened inbetween those years and it's been bad news from the Keifer camp. "We were trying to capture the feeling of what people have witnessed live with this band", Keifer explains. "There's an off-the-rails, real live feel to 'Rise' and that's what we were going for. It shows a real kind of angst and reckless abandon that we tried not to polish too much", end quote.

He's not kidding. It's angst overlord and there's no such thing as polish if we're talking about a turd? Nah. That's too harsh. However. The production is raw and really gritty without ever trying to focus on more than one thing at the time. It's rather dodgy to be honest. The songs are average at its best, some are below, the voice is raspy as hell and the evil stepsisters cuts off toes, and the other heel so they can both fit into the shoes of RISE. Are we jealous of Cinderella's charm and music. Do we cruelly take advantage of Tom's musical past and the fact that anything by Cinderella would blow this out of the water? Well. The rather laid back "The Death Of Me" and the classy tune of "Waiting On The Demons" are not bad at all.

The big question, will the Fairy Godmother magically transforms a pumpkin into a carriage, the mice into horses, The Cinderella vocalists' horse into a coachman, and dog into a footman, before turning the ruined production into a shimmering soundscape and the shoes into glass slippers. Well... do remember that as Cinderella leaves for the ball, the Fairy Godmother warns that the spell will break at the stroke of midnight. The Bottomline: The glass slipper shatter on the floor - the end.

TWILIGHT FORCE: "Dawn Of The Dragonstar"

Rating: RR
Label: Nuclear Blast 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

There's a brand new 'Dawn Of The Dragonstar' at the castle of Twilight Force. There's also a brand new vocalist in the shape of Alessandro Conti (Trick or Treat, Luca Turilli's Rhapsody). What's more to reconsider or rather try and ignore? They have now gone even more Rhapsody Of Fire and kitsch and that's including the accent and everything that goes along with pizza and pasta. Not the best of idea. In fact. I would describe the band's latest album as something that mostly and perhaps only hordes of die-hard Rhapsody Of Fire fans may enjoy.

"With the Light of a Thousand Suns" borrows heavily from you know whom, but proceeds to add a jarring mix of choral vocals and soaring guitars, attempting to emulate the symphonic power metal of the past without getting remotely close. Nearly all the tracks continues with the same references, keeping it true to modern kitsch and galloping metal. To be frank. It's simply just not the same kind of quality and songmaterial as the latest effort by, say, Dragonforce. It's clear that The Twilights' are the mid-league championship team while the Dragons' are at the Premier league and Champions league.

There is so much lyrical nonsense to these songs that you could be forgiven for thinking you were being told a story about Tom Cruise and his "wonderful" life and religion. However. As a metal unit, they bring the music in all its colourful fantasy and cinema glory, and it's filled with not too shabby orchestration. It's the overall material and vocals that makes Twilight Force a band for the second league though. Final verdict: have a go at the 'Dawn Of The Dragonstar' if you simply can't get enough of the genre and style.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The DEFIANTS: "Zokusho"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Power Pop? Melodic Rock? or maybe Hair Metal? Don't you just hate the latter term? The cheeky "insult" to all the eighties bands as they are basically trying to say: it's all about hair, make-up, image, and not really music? But hey, what ever floats your boat. 'We all float down here and you will, too. In fact, they ALL FLOAT! THEY ALL FLOAT!' - oh piss-off, Pennywise. This is 'IT' rather than spooky clown shit. One thing's for sure. The Defiants are original and current Danger Danger members: Bruno Ravel (bass), Rob Marcello (guitars), now with drummer Steve West as a special guest, and of course former D2 vocalist and long-time AOR solo artist: Paul Laine.

In the same way Survivor brought AOR and Pop together to the masses, these chaps are mixing Party Metal and Pop with great result on "Zokusho. Their instantly recognizable austere yet insanely catchy and richly layered combination of guitar driven melodic hard rock and power-pop, it may still come as a mild surprise to realise just how many hooks and sing-a-long moments are on this album. Laine provide New Jersey vocals in the tradition of Bon Jovi, Franke & The Knockouts and Springsteen, while keeping in real and true to The Defiants' formula. He may just soar a little too high on "Stay", but it's at least the honest approach and not the computer or robot voice.

It's nothing new, you say? We've heard it all before, you say? Yeah. This may come as a surprise... there's no such thing as "completely new" in the year of 2019. It's all been done before and rock music hasn't experienced anything "new" (genre, style-wise, etc.) since the eighties. Tracks such as "Love Is The Killer", "Hollywood In Headlights", "Fallin’ For You", "Hold On Tonite", "U X'd My Heart", "Alive", sweeps you away to a place where all the colours, lights, and sounds are constantly playing in the background of your favourite movie or tv-show. Hair Metal City?

Perhaps not quite up there with a masterpiece, it's a friggin' catchy, consistent and pretty excellent sequel. On the one hand containing more yeah's and woah-oh elements of the trademark D2 style to satisfy fans of their later mature work, while on the other still showcasing more of their POP(py) influences to be of fascination to those unfamiliar with their earliest music and who want to experience the Jersey roots of the band members. The second chapter is indeed the intriguing platter, and it's been an enjoyable listen so far. Highly Recommended. facebook.com/TheDefiantsRockBand

BLOCK BUSTER: "Losing Gravity"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Block Buster? I thought they went out of business a long time ago? Appearantly not? You can still rent your VHS and DVD's in Finland where... wait... what? My bad. My spiritual guides from the other side are informing me that we're talking about the hard rock band formed by the Metsäpelto brothers Aarni (vocals/guitar) & Jaakko (drums) in Kuopio, Finland. Saatana Perkele! That could have been embarrassing. Still not as embarrassing as the press release and I quote, "The best way of describing their music: take AC/DC and Motörhead, spice it up with some Extreme and Bon Jovi, the rougher side of The Rolling Stones, throw in some hunger and energy of the rock torch carriers of the newer generation such as Airbourne and The Darkness, add a good dose of modern vibe to the mix and put it in a giant blender", end quote. Huh? No seriously... What??? I can't hear or find any trace of the fore-mentioned acts in their music?

Well... okay. Use your imagination and several bottles of Koskenkorva, and you might just find the tiniest trace of AC/DC, only not quite as raw or direct to the point. Then again. It could also just be the extremely loud guitars and amplifiers. You may pick up just as much Foo Fighters and Mustasch on this record. Let's not dwell on the subject any longer. Let's focus on the fact that "Losing Gravity" is a proper rock album where the Busters manage to avoid the certain metal death traps by investing in some serious adrenalin fuelled riffing. In fact. They go for the jugular faster than Dracula after a week trapped in his crypt. Or if you prefer the Zombie version and the need for your brain? It's not like you're using it anyhow?

Tracks such as "Out In the City", "Gone By The Morning", "Flammable", "Back From The Shadows", are all nicely produced and performed by the Flying Finns. Not always catchy as bushfire, but always energetic, loud, and straight in your face. It's the solid album effort without any real downers. They might be still looking for THAT special song to really lift them to the next level. But it's certainly good enough until their next effort. facebook.com/blockbusterband

25 YARD SCREAMER: "Natural Satellite"

Rating: RR
Label: White Knight 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

25 Yard Screamer? They are from Wales, you know. They should be raising their tiny little fists in anger and shouting obscenity to the ref about not getting awarded the penalty in their previous football match. 25 Yard Screamer?? Whatever. "Natural Satellite" is nevertheless their latest offering to the ancient Gods of Prog and various spectacles and flower-power nonsense.

The opening track of "Storyteller" and especially its intro may sound like circus macabre at first before turning into the very melodic rock tune. Not nearly as much Progressive Rock as expected and it's rather more Tomorrow's Child than Pink Floyd. I seriously doubt that people may still recall and remember the early/mid 90's group of Tomorrow's Child though? The following track, "Devastate", Styx meets Tommy Shaw goes solo and Nick James (vocals/guitars) may have been listening to quite a lot of Shaw material in the past? Add to this PORCUPINE TREE and you're even closer to home.

The start losing the plot around "The Silent Rising" and it's 15 minutes of proto gaga and lyrical moments that tell the strange tale about people that hides in the plain sight of all people, as they silently walks with the fearful. It sadly got worse and slightly more disturbing when "While We Are" are trying to convince us and I quote, 'while we drink, we are fun'. Gee... that's deep. The rest of its lyrical content, hardly worth the trouble and you really shouldn't be drinking and smoking all that stuff while putting down your message on record.

Although it's interesting to begin with, Natural Satellite just doesn't do it for me. In fact. By the end of it I have grown quite tired of what becomes a lot of detours and off-the-road driving. "It's an album that has had a varied and unexpected journey" say bassist Matt Clarke. Fair enough. It's just not my kind of Journey. No pun intended. But hey... don't stop believin'

Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARDOURS: "Last Place On Earth"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Ardours, a nu alternative gothic metal band featuring lead vocalist Mariangela Demurtas (Tristania) together with multi-instrumentalist and producer Kris Laurent. Originally formed in 2015, Ardours was the product of Mariangela and Kris' longstanding friendship from both of their involvements in the Sardinian (Italian) metal scene. In 2006, Mariangela moved from Italy and joined the Norwegian band Tristania, but she and Kris always kept in touch. They'll no doubt be accused of ripping off the likes of The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation's gothic approach as well as the vocal phrasing, and clearly shares their ability to dramatise their vivid point of reality. For instance, the title track speak of sad and depressive moments where "No matter how bright you shine. Your glitter will never be gold".

According to Mariangela, "Ardours has more rock and 80s influences compared to Tristania, including a bit of new wave sound which is something that me and Kris love. When I chose to be part of this project, I knew I wanted to sound very expressive without being technical so that I could give a more nostalgic sound to the words", end quote. Since Mariangela wanted Ardours to be a melting pot of different personalities to add to the unique flavour of the songwriting, she decided to ask Tristania's drummer/lyricist Tarald Lie to write the lyrics and record the drums for the album. The mix of these three elements has resulted in a style, straddling the lines between rock, metal and goth.

They certainly don't shun sentiment and sadness rather than embraces it, where the moving stories of missing you, goodbye, this is the end on "Last Moment" and "The Mist" are prime examples of old skool 80s Goth meet modern ditto. The keyboards/synths are very much upfront on many of the tracks and are at the same time very bombastic and utterly dark. More to be found of the catchy and direct 'No One Is Listening'? I certainly have and I find their messages and stories about melanchoy and sadness to be rather... ehh... uplifting?? Last Place On Earth is a good place with the right kind of atmosphere... if you're into female fronted nu/alt/goth. facebook.com/ardoursband

Thursday, September 5, 2019

ROBERT RANDOLPH & The Family Band: "Brighter Days"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

New Jeresy? Orange, baby! and it's proper old skool Roadhouse material from the word go. Robert Randolph grew up playing sacred steel music – gospel played on pedal steel guitar – on the House of God church and began taking his joyous, gospel-infused music out to clubs and into the world. The Grammy-nominated musician and his band consisting of various family members (minus the dodgy uncle down the basement) are going back to Randolph's gospel roots, mixing it up with blues, R&B, soul, funk, and the unmistaken sound of the pedal steel guitar.

I've been playing this non-stop for weeks now (release date was delayed) and I can safely say that "Brighter Days" speak of quality and there's hardly a poor track in sight and certainly no dodgy musicianship. The massive sideburns and groovy 70's vibe is set perfectly by the great production by Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Brandi Carlile) and by Robert Randolph's gravelly voice cutting through the hordes of wailing keys and steel guitars. Sister Lenesha Randolph is a little ripper on vocals and cousins Danyel Morgan on bass and Marcus Randolph on drums are rock steady throughout the platter.

The family band flawlessly construct each track, injecting joy and hope of brighter days, avoiding the often similar structure of the genre and put themselves up there alongside R&B finest. Opening track "Baptize Me" provides slide and gravelly voice of highest order. According to Randoplh the song is "a love story, about an all-round love: for each other, for our audience", end quote. "Don't Fight It" takes the gospel to the people with a driving mood and big beat drums alongside excellent slide guitar work. "Simple Man" is a smashing cover of the old Staple Singers composition and I'm sure Pops would nod and smile along to RR's version (Mavis too for that matter). Highly Recommended.

KENTISH SPIRES: "Sprezzatura"

Rating: RRRr
Label: bandcamp/1973 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

In a dodgy music culture and time when plastic and pace seem to be the new order, The Kentish Spires' approach to musicianship and recording is certainly worthy of some praise. They haven't gone apes**t over the compositions and there's plenty of space between all instruments, allowing all the band members to shine like radioactive cats in the dark. Everything is so friggin' clean and crystal clear that I couldn't help but think about the sterile landscape of atomic winter when I first heard it.

More than this? there's nothing? Oi! We're not talking about Roxy Music. It's the Canterbury-style Prog at full swing. However, the choice of sound and structure favours the quirky arrangements and that is clearly first noticed on the opening tracks of "Overture (instumental)" and "A Sea Shanty". They are both part of the trilogy of Knots. The experienced musician of Danny Chang (guitars, keyboards, producer), no doubt the Captain of the ship and he's taking his merry crew on a journey across the seven seas where you're not supposed to shoot the Albatross?

It's definitely also worth pointing out the Spires effective use of light and shade vs. the moody keyboards and woodwind. The cinematic "Horsa From Beyond The Grave" seems to be a cross or the bridge between the ancient year of 1970 and today, while "The Long Goodbye" goes through several different changes of Prog and Spacey Rock with an infectious melody. Vocalist Lucie is a shining star in the making and as the sound travels through the different years´of rock (even though it's mostly 70s styled prog), the album seem to have the confuse/intrigue thy listener as its official agenda of the day. Atmospheric Prog-Rock and moody fragmented musical arrangements constantly collide with experimental pieces and you can feel the force of all of them at once. Final verdict: Perhaps not quite as great as their debut. Still recommended if you're into Canterbury and old skool Prog though. thekentishspires.bandcamp.com/a> facebook.com/TheKentishSpires/a>

SPREAD EAGLE: "Subway To The Stars"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Switchblade Serenade", one of the cool songs from MTV past that you might still find on... ehh... youtube?? Spread Eagle is however the name and position and punky sleaze is the game. They actually reformed already back in 2006 under the direction of original members Ray West (vocals) and bassist Rob DeLuca (who has also worked with UFO and Sebastian Bach) along with two new members, Ziv Shalev (guitar) and Rik De Luca (drums). The New York band has been together ever since and finally decided to record the comeback album aka "Subway To The Stars".

What to expect from the band? A slightly updated sound and vision, but still rather true to their roots. West is not quite as high-pitched nowadays and the dirty, gritty sound of something like "Grand Scam" may not always fly under the wings of the original Eagle. I like it though. It's rough stuff, straight-in-your face, and very much energic. According to the lyrics, "We've been sleeping where the eagle lies under evil skies that never fail to monetize the plan". Yeah? History repeating? It's the Sex Pistols' story all over again.

Recording took place at Studio E in Brooklyn, NY with Grammy Award winning engineer Tom Camuso. There's a punky and dark groove to the material with many tracks shining as potential head smashing faves. It's ever so melancholy and anti-social though. In fact. It's borderline grungy on several tracks and always snotty punky without the usual happy ending. Do not expect eighties AOR or hair metal from the Eagles and you might just do fine. You'll probably end up in the pit, madly dancing along to their vicious melodies. Try it if you enjoyed the latest album from LA Guns also at Frontiers. facebook.com/spreadeaglenyc/

UNRULY CHILD: "Big Blue World"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The unruly children have always been driven by the power of melodic melodies and soft rock. Let's face it. Music can by something as direct as one chord hitting just the right nerve at the right moment or as simple as a group of people coming together to create the rather sophisticated rock album. Uber glossy and simply filled with great vocal harmonies, "Big Blue World", takes its listener on a ride throughout the poppy melodic scene and car cruising moments under the cover of the bright neon lights.

So.. is it all good, all GTA Vice City, all bright lights, AOR music to move your feets? This time around we'll be Breaking The Chains? Are these words enough? Well... let's see if she floats. It's really not about the one-hit-song rather than a decent and safe pop/rock album effort with plenty of layers and clever arrangements. Perhaps a tad too clever at times? Something like, "All Over The World", tend to get on your nerves with its "hey-look-at-me-stuck-in-second-gear-going-nowhere" kind of beat. "Beneath A Steady Rain", again, uber slick and the harmonies are straight out of AOR heaven. It's just a wee bit too pretencious and this particular piano ballad goes straight to the recycling bin. It's second rate Michael Jackson meets Celine Dion music and not even the great legend that is Marcie Free (King Kobra, Signal) can save it in the end. On the other hand... the following track, The Harder They Will Fall", featuring the classic Winston Churchill speech as also used by Iron Maiden, rawks nicely along the road.

The majority of the tracks are just too "middle of the road" and we really do expect more and better from the otherwise great Guy Allison and Bruce Gowdy. 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 endores a disbelief in the sophisticated and safe". Because that's the final verdict of the album -a wee bit  too sophisticated and safe.

ROXY BLUE: "Roxy Blue"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Want Some? Sure... but the cheesy introduction might just do the trick? Seriously, I did not see this coming and I doubt that many or any folks did? Originally signed to Geffen Records and brought to this world on a rocket ship full of hairspray and party hardy songs, it's a completely different trip and space walk in the year of 2019. In fact. Simply forget about everything you might recall on the subject of Roxy Blue or songs such as Too Hot To Handle. They now look, sound, and play their vicious US of A music as if they were crazy post-WWIII bikers on speed?

No doubt vocalist Todd Poole is mad and angry at the world? He screams, spits, and howls like a man possesed. Poole says: "I think the new record is definitely a different sound than the 1992 version of ROXY BLUE, but not unrecognizable. The new record is much heavier, but still has some cool ballads and hints of early ROXY in there. I feel that it's a well-balanced record". Well... let's just say that the aggressive biker sleaze vs. Hinder rock have absolutely nothing in common with the Warrant vs. Bulletboys debut of the past. Surely they tried to be Van Halen, but they sounded more like Bulletboys, and that's never really a good sign in my books.

The self titled release in 2019, the new start and also the new sound. The opening tracks, "Silver Lining", "Rockstar Junkie", "Scream" are all modern sleaze numbers. Hardly any harmonies or singing guitars, merely blunt and aggressive stuff lacking both finess and hooks. Why the comeback and new music as Roxy Blue when it has very little or nothing to do with what the 92 version of the band brought us? Let's face it, it's mostly about nostalgia and old fans anyhow. Then again, perhaps the truth is rather... they were never really that great in the first place??? facebook.com/OfficialRoxyBlue

VISIONATICA: "Enigma Fire"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Wait... what? yet another Glasya album? (see review elsewhere). Nah. It's merely just another symphonic metal album with crystal clear female soprano vocals combined with powerful melodic guitars and orchestral elements. It's once again the whole darn package including the classically trained vocalist (Tamara Avodem) and the rather mad, but rather excellent, over-the-top guitarist (Manuel Buhl). And like forementioned Glasya, the strenght of the band, no doubt the vocalist and not nearly as much the song material.

Not as diverse nor original as you'd wish to tell you the truth. There's not much here in terms of style and arrangements that you haven't heard many times before. You'd wish for a few better stonkers and a few more chances wouldn't have gone a miss either to be honest. Kudos for the production and the simply desperate fan of acts such as Within Temptation, Nightwish, Delain, Xandria, etc. might just still get a kick out of these tracks until the next big album of the genre arrives. Personally, I couldn't remember a lot from this album as I woke up the following day and week for that matter. Conclusion and final verdict: Tamara is a star and has a wicked voice but the material is anything but memorable. facebook.com/visionatica

GLASYA: "Heaven's Demise"

Rating: Rr
Label: Pride&Joy 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Glasya was founded by Hugo Esteves in 2016 with one main purpose: to become the new Ronaldo? or to create a musical project that would join full orchestral arrangements with metal. Esteves was already familiar with symphonic metal, but wanted to do it in a more dramatic and cinematographic way. Add to this, Bruno Ramos, former drummer of My Deception, Davon Van Dave, a Dutch-Portuguese keyboard player (Urban Tales and Shadowsphere), Bruno Prates and Manuel Pinto, former members of Enchantya. All have many different influences, from classic to progressive, creating a very stylish and distinctive sound which offers symphonic, ethnic, slow emotional songs and powerful metal riffs.

The leading star is however, Eduarda Soeiro, the front-woman of the band and clearly something out of the ordinary. The high-pitch vocals are high as a thousand kites and in the long run, the singing tend to get on your poor reviewers nerves. The former singer of the Portuguese Nightwish tribute band, Nightdream, and being a classical performer and trained singer, you should perhaps only try this at home if you fancy the mix of classical performances and the Nightwish-ish outbursts. Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy the odd high-pitch stuff... if they're as great (and quirky) as say, Kate Bush. Heaven's Demise on the other hand? Nah. It must be the accent and daytime TV drama that doesn't work on this particular platter? The songmaterial is darn right annoying and very much, been there, done that. Back to the drawing board and let's hope for better on their next recording.

HOLLIS BROWN: "Ozone Park"

Rating: RR
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Simply Red on steriods? Opening track "Blood From A Stone" sure had me thinking about the ginger geezer and his band. Singer/guitarist Mike Montali provide a lot of soul and the mix several different layers and elements of funk, blues, disco, and soft rock on their latest record, Ozone park. It's sort of music in the vein of The Faces (or rather Rod and his Americana), Simply Red, Tom Petty, and the smooth tapestry of the Counting Crows. On paper or screen, the rather interesting concept and record. Unfortunately not quite as fun or memorable in harsh reality. The songs are simply not radio friendly or catchy enough to grab ya' and they are all pretty much steeped in the same mid-tempo formula and mode.

"I think with this record we wanted to make a statement,” explains Montali. “Rock music can still be done in a modern way that is still as good as some of those acts from the past". Well. The Petty like groove of tracks like "Do Me Right" impress initially but never build on the moment. They throw some fashionably smooth type vocals into the mix and even indulge in the odd country/The Cars melody (Forever In Me), but nothing really sticks. The latter a poor man's version of Drive. "Someday Soon" is about as fun as watching wet paint dry or listening to the dodgy Counting Crows composition.

Final verdict: Meh. Perhaps they still lack the ability to process their obvious passion for music into great melodies?

GRAHAM BONNET BAND: "Live In Tokyo"

Rating: Live
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Nevermind the bottle cap b.s. Here's the way more fun and interesting Graham Bonnet guitarist' challenge. Did any other hard rock/metal vocalist ever work with a better set of guitar players? Merely speaking about actual bands/groups and not the odd studio project. Richie Blackmore (Rainbow). Michael Schenker (MSG). Yngwie J Malmsteen (Alcatrazz). Steve Vai (Alcatrazz) and last, perhaps least, but still v-e-r-y impressive, Chris Impellitteri (Impellitteri). Not bad, especially considering that Bonnet never really became a household name to the average rock/metal fan. In fact. Most of them are still trying to figure out who the hell we're talking about and how did he manage to work with all the big names?

Anyhow. The other year, the man released the re-recordings of songs from the Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Alcatrazz, Impellitteri days/daze and went on tour in Japan. Thus the very live recording of this album and The Graham Bonnet Band's 'Live In Tokyo 2017'. There's also been several Alcatrazz' live recordings as of lately and we already knew that mr Bonnet can belt out these songs in fashion and style. The very confident snger and especially considering... ehem... his age. I know. It's kind of lame and not PC to single out the age thing, but it's quite relevent when it comes to singers and their voice.

The sound quality is pretty excellent and the opening notes of "Eyes of the World" sets the pace and standard of the live album. "Live In Tokyo" is a great collection of Bonnet's finest moments and performances. The live sound is raw yet relatively polished if that makes sense. The authenticity of the man and his band though, never really in doubt. You can still do wonder with the right amount of reverb and gloss. Neat

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

BLACK PAISLEY: "Perennials"

Rating: RRRR
Label: -
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm pretty impressed by the Black Paisley promo package: a CD, a good-looking 7" single-sized info letter and coasters! It's rare that I get any physical promos these days, it's mostly just links to downloads and there's so many of those that it's overwhelming. It takes some effort from the band to put together something like this, and for this they have to be applauded. They certainly stand out from the competition with this.

A nice package doesn't guarantee that the music inside is any good, but I'm glad to say that Black Paisley have got that covered too. "Perennials" is their second album, the first being "Late Bloomer" (2017). The name of the debut reflects the fact that the guys in the band have been around for quite some time, and the name of this album suggests that Black Paisley will bloom year after year... Horticultural Rock, anyone?

The leader of the band is vocalist/guitarist/main songwriter Stefan Blomqvist. He has a cool, raspy voice similar to another Swedish singer, Jan Johansen.  At times he uses his vibrato in a way that reminds of Chris De Burgh.

Let's check out some of the album highlights: The heavy rocker "I Want Your Soul" which opens the album is definitely one of those, it has a bit of a Europe-vibe ("Superstitious") and a big, stomping chorus. "Sometimes" is a classic rock ballad that wouldn't be out of place on a Gotthard album, while "Without You" is another ballad that has touches of Bryan Adams and Def Leppard. "Trying" takes us back to the early eighties with its' Uriah Heep/Rainbow stylings, but with "Out Of My Life" we're back in the "now", yet still firmly rooted in classic rock!? I also have to mention the delicate, piano-driven ballad "Stronger", which is a beautiful piece of songwriting.

As you may gather from the above, "Perennials" is a diverse album. Yet it's an album in a good old-fashioned way, there's a common thread in the songs.

https://www.blackpaisley.com/perennials
https://www.facebook.com/blackpaisleys/

Monday, April 1, 2019

LA GUNS: "The Devil You Know"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

L.A. Guns and The Devil You Know. It's basically raw, you know, everything from song material, performances by the band members to the so-so production by Tracii Guns. And that's nicely put by the way. It's grit, dirt, filth, stench and goo, plus various other words that would normally make people turn around and walk away. It's basement horror and sheer terror. If you came here looking for goodie-goodies, rainbows and unicorns, keep dreaming sucker. Derranged and darn right wicked and mental Sleaze-Rock on the other hand? I guess it's you're lucky day! Do you feel lucky, punk?

It ain't pretty. It ain't clean. It certainly ain't soppy/sloppy and soft poser rock. It's frankly just ugly and aggressive glitter-gutter and the stuff you'll find at the bottom of a backalley in the LA scene. Gotta' love the way Phil Lewis sings the words "Loaded Bomb" as the Queen's English (he's from good old England and Girl, you know?) shines through and add yet another dimension to the material. The title track howls like a mental Adam Ant (to close to home?) on a night out with Kyuss. Darn right nasty. I'm not entirelly sure why I like it? But I do. It's bigger, louder, better. It's L.A. Guns on steriods. "Needle To The Bone", fun and catchy stuff. "Gone Honey" draw inspiration from MC5, Iggy, The Stooges, and Detroit. "Another Season In Hell", the much needed break from the asylum and the great ballad I may add.

The resulting mess is pure Sleaze/punk gore. They aren't about to use the LA Guns to completely kill rock n roll and that's as good as you'll get these days. The guns are blasting from the word go. It's a shame about the production though. It may lack the extra volume and sound. However. It's Punky/Sleazy stuff and these acts never sounded like Def Leppard's Hysteria or whatever. Final verdict: The Devil You Know, like a sucker punch on your birthday. It's a surprise - but not always nice. Deal with it... sucker! facebook.com/L.A.GunsOfficial

The TREATMENT: "Power Crazy"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Treatment and dare I say the cure to all your basic (very basic?) needs regarding rock n roll? "I don't need you to tell me want you what me to do. So here's my middle finger and it's aiming straight at you". It's album number four and yet another new voalist? Sound and lyric-wise, they are now about as original as a rocker or indeed footballer covered in tattoos and that's not saying a whole lot(ta Rosie) in the year of 2019. It's like if they've been drinking a whole lotta beer while listening to a whole lotta Acca Dacca albums and thinking, we can do that, we're not from down under (that's Australia if you're too posh to geddit), but what could possible go wrong? Not a whole lot(ta Rosie). It's okay to be from Cambridge, U.K. It's all about four chords and no frills anyhow.

The new shouter? Tom Rampton is the name and the game is darn excellent vocals in the tradition of Bon Scott and the two blokes from Airbourne/Bonafide. There's a healthy dosage of Aussie rock and roll throughout, and the whole thing is brought to a new acca dacca level by fresh out of the woods vocalist Rampton. For instance. "Bite Back", the best beer drinking anthem of the year. You'll be howling along to the opening line of "Stick and stones may break my bones". Are the Grey's Power Crazy? That's correct, the six-string benders are brothers. Acca Dacca right down to the shoe-laces? "We believe this record is a strong statement from the band and we look forward to playing the new songs live. We will be touring throughout 2019 and can't wait to see all you Treatment troops at our shows next year", says the band.

Unlike past Treatment recordings, where their Airrace background and not to mention lead vocals usally ended up getting short changed in the mix, here, it leaves a lasting effect long after the darn thing's stopped spinning. Do people still spin records? All guitars, all the time? Actually, "King Of The City" could also double as the soundtrack of your street fighting movie of the eighties. But yeah. It's still pretty much about guitars though. "Waiting For The Call", the cool breeze during a long hot summer of Power Crazy tunes. The bonus track, the acoustic version of "Bite Back" is frankly just no good. The living proof to the fact that you need crazy power (not to be confused with Power Crazy) and electric guitars to get the songs going at eleven. Crack it Up! Try it if you're into acts such as Airbourne, Dirty Looks, Kix, Krokus, Dangerous Toys, and you-know-who... made who. facebook.com/TheTreatmentOfficial

BURNING RAIN: "Face The Music"

Rating: Rr
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Face The Music? I can barely face the day and certainly not eleven tracks of blues driven hard rock w/o memorable melodies. Burning Rain is a hard rock band established in 1998 by guitarist extraordinare Doug Aldrich (Lion, Whitesnake, Dio, The Dead Daisies, Revolution Saints) and vocalist Keith St. John (Ronnie Montrose). The brand new line-up featuring Blas Elias (Slaughter) on drums and Brad Lang (Y&T) on bass, add a wicked rhythm section, but sadly not quite enough of swagger.

Tracks such as "Nasty Hustle", "Since I'm Loving You", the title track, or "Beautiful Road" really are poor man's version of Whitesnake. The latter trying to be cool 'ala still of the night and ended up sounding like a tool 'ala who-gives-a-damn. It's in one ear and out the other and all the time in the world wouldn't help in your quest to recall the melody. What melody? "Shelter" is a decent attempt at Led Zeppelin and their balladic stuff. "Hit and Run" include killer lines such as "Mamma always love me like the bird and the bees". "Givin little Sally in the alley when you're ready to play". Or why not "Baby always like it on top but ya love to go down. Always put me in the middle and play me like a fiddle all night". What the fudge? Yours truly wrote the same kind of lyrics at the age of twelve and I barely knew English.

Bow yer heads in shame as the overall lyrics are so juvenile and dare I say sexist? I do and I did. It's frankly just sad. You need more proof? Above mentioned "Nasty Hustle" and I quote, "Ohh your face looks like a trainwreck. Baby please I think I'll need a raincheck. Don't want ya down on your knees. You're just a dime a dozen, it's a fact". Geez. It just goes on and on throughout the track. Hostility? Misogyny? In fact. The entire track is one long international woman hating anthem. Let's leave with one last quote, "Your filthy body's such a bore. Gotta toss ya like a whore. So say goodbye". Indeed. It's time to say goodbye. Tossers.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The END MACHINE: "The End Machine"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Phew. It's darn difficult to keep track and/or record of all the projects by George Lynch and Jeff Pilson (both of Dokken fame). The band name changes are confusing yet the musicians are more or less the same geezers as always? It's 'Wild' Mick Brown behind the drums (also of Dokken fame) and Robert Manson (Lynch Mob, Warrant) behind the microphone. So why not simply release this under the old Lynch Mob monicker? The line-up may have fans making assumptions about the sound, things took a different turn. "The real truth of it is that George and I have this great songwriting partnership that's been going on for 35 years and we love to work together", says bassist and album producer Jeff Pilson.

In other words. They love to mess about and confuse their fanbase? If you're looking for the full-on eighties sound (the upbeat zebra-spandex-style) try and recall the monicker. It's End machine, not Time machine. They are asking us to take a "Leap Of Faith" on the opening track as Mason sings about exposing weakness and revealing scars. It's unfortunately one of the worst tracks here and the really strange choice as track one. Supposed to work the tables and become the great invitation to the rest of album. In reality... a real downer and no fun at all. The mid-90's sound. Things are looking up with "Hold Me Down", since it's a neat mix of the bluesy side of Lynch Mob sound and Dokken. Gee... what a surprise? Mason delivers a great vocal performance and it's all very UFO (the band) somehow?

"No Game", the rather typical mid-tempo Dokken track? Pay extra attention to the guitar work by Lynch. Not as flashy or over-the-top as in the eighties groove, but you don't always need all that bling-bling to impress. "Hey fool, can't you see. Thought you'd seen the last of me? I can't die, I'm too high. My hands scratch holes in the sky". Indeed. "Bulletproof" speak of not giving up, and the tougher it gets, the harder I fight. Ultra slow rock and perhaps just a bit too monotone. "Ride It" on the other hand, uptempo and hard hitting to the point of being punky/sleazy. "Burn The Truth", the stereotyped production sound of the mid/late nineties and the same goes with "Alive Today" and "Line of Division". The epic, Kingdom Come, Rainbow-thick ballad "Sleeping Voices" will be up there at the end of the year and Lynch does his very best impression of Blackmore (solo-wise). They close the album with the pop sounding melody of LILIM (Life Is Love Is Music) and extra points for attempting to educate the people rather than coming up with a dodgy phrase? When to expect the first tramp-stamp? You know... LILIM. It's catchy though. I like it.

Final verdict: damned if you do, damned it you don't? They can't win either way? Me thinks The End Machine are stuck somewhere in the middle of two rock genres and it's difficult to know which leg you're supposed to stand upon. It's neither bad nor great and thus why you'll end up right down the middle of the road.

MARVEL - "GUILTY PLEASURES"



RATING:RRRR

LABEL:  THE SIGN RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Sweden's self proclaimed barons of rock & roll, Marvel are a bit mad. They used to depict themselves as superheroes, enjoy using aliases like The King, The Burher and The Vicar, and since forming in 2002 have released several well received EPs and albums. Me, I'd never heard of them until this morning when 'Guilty Pleasures' dropped underwhelmingly into my life. I say underwhelmingly because it's a covers album by a band I've never heard of. As you can see by the score, things improved.

Interestingly, the guilty pleasures that Marvel have covered are quite eclectic, with just a couple that I'd even heard of, like Dire Straits' 'Sultans Of Swing', Elvis' 'Burning Love' and REO Speedwagon's 'Keep Pushin'. The fact that the rest were unknown made it fun to track down the originals (Thanks, youtube) and see how things compare. There's Lee Dresser's 1969 rockabilly song 'El Camino Real', or the brilliant 1979 pop song "10 O'Clock Postman' by Fellow Swedes Secret Service. Carrying on the Sweish connection is the little known track 'Can't Shake Loose', originally by Agnetha Faltskog of aBBA fame. Although written by Russ Ballard it's quite a tedious song that Marvel manage to make into a pile of fun that puts the original to shame.

This is a common theme throughout, as Marvel play fast but not too fast, turning each track into a high energy fun fest that owes a lot to the 70s and a small amount to Kiss (the lead track "All For Glory" is, for me, better that Kiss' own version). The King has a great high(ish) register voice and can play a mean guitar to boot. For a three piece they really do make a glorious noise that is akin to a hyperactive toddler who's also a musical prodigy. Every track has it's merits, but I kept coming back to that ten O'clock postman and closing track 'Rock & Roll Hootchie Koo', a fine tribute to the Johnny Winters/Rick Derringer classic.

'Guilty Pleasures' takes an idea that can go either way and boots it securely into touch thanks to an inspired track list and a band determined to make each track their own without sacrificing what made the original (except 'Can't Shake Loose', natch) great in it's own right. This album is lots offun and will keep you coming back for more, and that's a win in my book.

Official Website






Tuesday, March 26, 2019

APE SHIFTER: "II"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Brainstorm/Maximum 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom


Instrumental hard rock from Germany? Kraut Rockers? Are they finally getting the recognition they deserve after decades and decades of obscurity? Hold your horses and woolly Mammoths. Let's get that monkey right off the back as the power-trio of Ape Shifter releases their sophomore studio album entitled "II", but do NOT really play the Kraut-Rock of yesterday's-years. According to the press-release, they are appealing to both seventies groove-rock fans and the punk/metal scene, the band seem to have their music definition sort of correct-ly. Calling it a off the chart mix of chunky riffs, edgy fret work, fuzzed out arrangements and cinematic landscapes wouldn't be too far off the monkey cage (hold the banana though).

Jeff Aug is the US of A underground guitarist who lives in the foothills of the Alps in the southern Germany for the last 20+ years. He has toured with the likes of Alan Holdsworth, Soft Machine, Stu Hamm, Anne Clark, etc. The great rhythm section of bassist Florian Walter and drummer Kurty Munch, ever so important to the overall sound of the Apes.

It's got the technical approach of Tony MacAlpine and the loud, noisy, close to blunt, approach of Ted Nugent going on throughout the CD. "II" is an instrumental album which changes over a series of listens to ultimately become the trusty companion on your daily trip to the local butcher. You do not enter the building though. You merely love the smell of dead animals? Only kidding. I'm sure you barely eat (raw) meat anyhow. But seriously... its easy accessibility, fun and catchy songwriting, a testimony to the power of rock n roll. I do not easily warm to all-instrumental albums, however, this is the one exception to the rule so far in 2019. It kind of makes you wonder why they're not at Mascot/Provogue? Go Ape, Go! facebook.com/apeshifter

Monday, March 25, 2019

NINE SHRINES: "Retribution Therapy"

Rating: RRRR
Label: MascotLabelGroup 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom


How many shrines? Nine? Let's pay attention to the band and their offering to the Metal Gods. Nine Shrines blend the extreme elements of active-rock/metal-core with well-crafted, melodic songwriting. This Cleveland (rocks!) quintet arose on the scene in 2014 from the ashes of aggressive Ohio bands like Attack Attack!, Life on Repeat, Downplay and Strangers to Wolves. All band members grew from their previous efforts to build something powerful and slightly disturbing with Nine Shrines. It's more or less melodic metal-core and they are armed with catchy melodies in the style of Bullet For My Valentine vs. the aggressive work of Static-X and Powerman 500.

"Nimrod" is an outstanding opening track though, motivated by revenge and the whole you-shall-not-break-me attitude of the band. The title track, the band's agenda, retribution and therapy, which include lightning fast riffing and dito double bass drumming. "Chain Reaction" is a really fun track. Slightly goofy, quirky, trippy keyboards in the background and Chris Parketny howling upfront. The former Strangers to Wolves vocalist is in fact no stranger to wolves (at all) and any song that howls like this is a winner in my book. "Happy Happy" paints (not to be confused with pants) the sad and lonley picture of the typical outcast and the failure of today's society. The curse of always being on the outside looking in. Darn catchy and fun metal.

Next up is "Dead", a killer metal anthem and I believe the trippy keys are about to break away from the rest of the band. As you get past the half mark of the album, there are some truly wicked tracks, such as the morbid sounding "Hymn/Conjure" which in my humble opinion is Depeche Mode's Violator gone metal. I seriously doubt that's what they had in mind as they wrote the song though. "Pretty Little Psycho", the proper headbanger. "Ghost" slows things down a bit and features the metal boy-band choir and powerful 'oh-woah-oh-woah's. Pretty catchy, I'd say.

Sure. It's hardly groundbreaking stuff and you've heard a lot of this before, but... it's aggressive and catchy, something which is easier said than done. You know, intensifying the power and speed without losing the simplicity of hooks. Tricky business. Nicely produced by Dan Korneff (My Chemical Romance, All That Remains, Papa Roach, etc).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

FM: "The Italian Job"

Rating: Live
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"The Italian Job" - sheer class from the opening note to the last? Absolutely. Steve Overland is still the man and the voice really hasn't changed much since the eighties. The rest of the grey gentlemen: Jim Kirkpatrick (guitars), Merv Goldsworthy (bass), Jem Davis (keyboards), Pete Jupp (drums), are solid and provide great musicanship, if only a bit too safe and robotic. To be completely honest. They hardly move around at all on stage and they're not THAT old, you know. Mick Jagger to the rescue?

FM are a bit like the full English breakfast on a Monday morning, as you roll out of bed, they hit the stage with black pudding, bangers, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, and egg everything in sight. You'll end up satisfied by all the soul food, but... do people really need all that fried stuff at 7 a'clock? Sure they did. Back in the days and around the year of 1886!! People worked hard in the coal mines, woods, or fields. Nowadays? 12 hours hardly at work infront of the PC screen, facebook every 10th minute? I don't think so, chubby. Try the continental.

Certainly, the FM set had been updated as the first rhythm of "Black Magic" seems to at least please parts of the audience. There's no holding back from the pack when Steve get his six-string out and they burst into "I Belong To The Night", one of those all-time best AOR tunes. The three grey gentlemen (Steve, Jim, Merv) stand briefly together in the traditional rock pose as they play "Let Love Be The Leader". They hammered on a piece of AOR something as if there were no tomorrow on "Killed By Love" and the front row do the sing-a-long during the new(ish) track (recorded live in Italy/Milan, April 2018). It's mostly the yeah-yeah's. However. The audience - definitely at full swing as they even pick up the old 'ole-ole-ole' chant and we're not talking about Man United.

"Love Lies Dying" merely second to the Strangeways tune and it's a friggin' great little semi-ballad. The four last numbers are all golden oldies and "Bad Luck" never sounded this good in the studio? Canned backup vocals? It's no doubt a good fun live CD/DVD package if you're the long time fan. Nothing extra, bonus, or interviews to be found. Still. I dare anyone to not smile/grin along to the music as they end the show with "Other Side Of Midnight". Simply ask Jem. He's clearly delighted and happy-all-over at finding himself upfront with the rest of the gang (sorry Pete!).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

KINETIC ELEMENT: "The Face Of Life"

Rating: RRR
Label: MelodicRevolutionRecords 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The long and winding road that eventually leads us to the Face of Life by Kinetic Element? Don't go thinking the Beatles though as this is old skool Symphonic, Progressive Rock. It's all very 'fantasy' sounding and role-playing nerds all over the world are going to wet themselves over the extra long compositions. "When you cross over the Rubicon that everyone must face. You'll turn around at the trumpet sound and see the whole human race". Lyrically, it's spiritual themes and observations on the state of the world and the human condition.

"We know the wind doesn't blow in vain. Seeking to cry out every person's name. And though the list has no end once it's begun. The song of finishing is often sung". Musicwise, it's early YES meet early PETRA (up to More Power To Ya') and the CD features four (4!) tracks of new music clocking in at 47 minutes. However. There's a special bonus track at the end of the disc, so I guess that's five tracks and 50 minutes to be completely honest. Expect layers of fantasy sounding keyboards and overall impressive ebony/ivory work by band-leader Mike Visaggio.

The production is old skool and bassist Mark Tupko thumps the strings in the style of Chris Squire (RIP). Vocally, Saint John Coleman is no match to Jon Anderson though. Nonetheless. One listen is all it takes to tell you where the band are coming from. It's Yes, Yes, Yes, and hardly a single 'No' throughout the album. Nothing on here is particularly original, nor is it modern sounding in its structure and sound. It simply oozes the seventies and there's not a single note post 1975 to be found. Keeping in mind that Petra never sounded 'up to date' or in touch with their times on the classic, original, line-up (perhaps with the exception of Beat The System). "Angel of change, Gibraltar's roots are shaking by your coming". Never boring, never truly intriguing. It's simply just pretty solid stuff... if you're into Yes-prog.

LAST IN LINE: "II"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Cause when the hero dies and the truth becomes a lie. Black out the sun". The Dio connection? Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell were Ronnie Dio's co-conspirators and co-writers on the "Holy Diver", "Last In Line" (the album from which they took their name) and "Sacred Heart" albums. Not enterily sure why I should include this since "II" sound absolutley nothing like those classic albums. Unfortunately. Jimmy Bain passed away at the age of 68 on January 23, 2016 (RIP) and their debut album was released in February 2016. They brought in renowned bassist Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy Osbourner etc.) and continue to release music that have as much in common with DIO as yours truly (I'm the Urban Legend).
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In fact. Tracks such as "Black Out The Sun", "Give Up the Ghost", "Sword From The Stone", "Electrified", "The Light", sounds like Soundgarden-light and I definitely prefer the classy work of Bad Motor Finger, Super Unknown and Down On The Upside. Major Soundgarden fan. "Year of The Gun", sounds more like the Tygers Of Pan Tang leftover than Dio and that's never a good sign in my books. The meat and potato version of NWOBHM. Truth be told. I miss the extra crunch and not to mention extra memorable melodies. The whole album suffers from this and as a result, it lacks that certain something that turns a decent effort into a great album.

Final verdict: There's simply not enough of stuff here that really reaches out and grabs you by the throat. "Landslide" is however all great from start to finish. Great musicians, great production by Jeff Pilson (Dokken) - pretty average/decent song material.