Saturday, February 16, 2019

STARBREAKER: "Dysphoria"

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

From the opening few seconds of "Pure Evil" and along to the lines of "Breaking apart, killing your soul, the devil is driving, you've been out of control", you can tell that Starbreaker are out to shock the listeners. It's got that heavier than thou approach and I fully expected this to be all Metal in the vein of Judas Priest and Annihilator. Soaring vocals by Tony Harnell (TNT) and the metal riff by Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear) drop to reveal a driving bass (Jonni Lightfoot) and pounding kick (Anders Köllfors) before we hit the accelerator to top things off with a shout-along refrain. It's however a false start and the following tracks are certainly not as heavy nor blunt as the impressive opener.

It's sort of disappointing to find out that you'll have to wait another five tracks for the next heavy metal anthem. The title track with its depertate cry of "Now all our dreams have died with every tear we cried from pain we couldn't hide. In Dysphoria we tried". The lyrical theme of the album, I would say it's sad, but infinitely hopeful. In between you have a couple of superb melodic metal goodies such as "Wild Butterflies" with its already classic opening line of "I was born in the backseat of a car". It's a smashing semi-ballad with all the right harmonies and outstanding vocal performances by Tony "The Eagle" Harnell and the lads. Why The Eagle, you ask? Because the man likes to soar (vocal-wise). Not to be confused with Eddie The Eagle. That crazy bird crashed every single time.

"Last December" mid-tempo track in the style of TNT 'ala Realized Fantasies and I'm especially fond of its driving mood and bass for that matter. "How Many More Goodbyes" another mid-tempo track and the refrain keep things interesting. The shocking poor piano ballad of "Beautiful One" goes straight to the bin though. Clearly over the top, cheesy to the extreme, I tend to skip it everytime. James Blunt to the rescue? It's basically the worst ballad that Extreme and Queen never wrote. Another three deccent mid-tempo tracks before we're about to wrap things up with the Judas Priest cover of thier monicker (Starbreaker). Excellent production and top-notch, high-pitched vocals by The Eagle. The first half of the album is stronger than the second and merely nine new songs and one cover?

INGLORIOUS: "Ride To Nowhere"

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

The Inglorious Bastards... ehh... Quentin Tarantino? Inglorious are constantly bickering and fighting amongst themselves and vocalist Nathan James had a classic meltdown before Christmas. Oh, internet, you've done it again. When not throwing shite and squirrels at former members, each other, and the world, their third studio recording, "Ride To Nowhere", display a darker, more reflective album than their previous releases. Dark as the night or merely moody introvert?

One things for sure. You need to spin this on repeat and then let it all sink in for a while. It's definitely more of an album effort than trying to come up with radio hits and singles. "For me this album is very personal. I am for the first time writing about a lot of my feelings, relationships and losses", says Nathan James. "On this album I feel that the songs are a true reflection of what we've been through over the past few years - both as a band and as individuals" end quote. They've been through a lot according to the rant and merely James and Phil Beaver (drums) remain in the band last time I checked. The drummer is about to explode? -Spinal Tap style.

The albums eleven tracks offer some wicked variety, "Where Are You Now" is a upbeat number that its virtually impossible not to tap along to whilst something like "I Don't Know You" is a laid back, sinful soulful tune which would be a perfect soundtrack for the movie about the mentioned rant, more about mood and soaring vocals than some of the other tracks heard so far. "Tomorrow", borrow quite a lot from Coverdale and Whitesnake whilst "Time To Go" is very much Electric Boys. It's otherwise a very British sounding platter which inlude everything from black pudding, fish and chips, deep fried mars-bars, to Thunder, Whitesnake, Bad Company and Free. The album was mixed by the legendary Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith) and it's sonically pretty great indeed. Final verdict: You need to go old skool on this sucker and simply play it on repeat. It's getting better and better with each spin. Up to a certain point of course.

TOBY HITCHCOCK: "Reckoning"

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

Vertigo? Psycho? Birds? Or merely just a handful of beaks and feathers? What ever movie you fancy, this particular Hitchcock does not belong in the category of groundbreaking horror. In fact. He's about as scary and/or sinister as Winnie The Pooh in search of more honey. The dark front cover (James Hetfield from Metallica?) and title of "Reckoning" surely must be the most misplaced ART-work ever since Paul Simon decided to ditch that ginger bozo. Nevertheless. Since the Pride of Lions are no longer waving the flag of classic schlock and AOR, Toby's return to dut-dut keys will certainly keep things pink and fluffy.

Toby didn't type any of the lyrics/music though and it's all done by Marcus Nygren (4 tracks), Steve Newman (3), Mike Palace (2), Alessandrio Del Vecchio (1) and Del Vecchio/Nigel Bailey/Pete Alpenborg (1). They've managed to write songs in a similar template and formula to acts such as Survivor/Jim Peterik/Pride Of Lions, Aviator, The VU, Jim Jidhed. Make no mistake. There are some unabashedly Jim Peterik-esque moments here and as if to admit as such, Reckoning offers a cheeky nod to Survivor on the opener "No Surrender", with its "where-do-we-go-from-here" call from/to the eighties. "Queen Untouchable" is every thing you ever wanted if you're the fan of AOR Drama.

Most of the tracks in this release seem to have pure old skool AOR as their official agenda and statement. Playing things on an more ambitious note than many other acts and artists, the pompous keyboards will certainly prompt some serious panty waving when played live infort of the ladies. To be perfectly frank. It's one of those albums which you could neither love nor hate. The soaring vocals, the close to perfect AOR production, it's a testament of how to mix heartfelt melodies and messages whilst avoiding overuse of modern thoughts and genres. It's just a feel good album, perhaps with a couple too many moments of deja vu? How to summarize in a few words? Try and look past the awful artwork and title as everything about this album breathes and lives like 1985. That's a more appropriate title right there: 1985.

KANE ROBERTS: The New Normal"

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

When you run into Kane Roberts and his 'The New Normal' in the unholy year of 2019, you're entitled to suspect it's no ordinary body of work. Steriods are plenty and the Child(ish) material of Saints & Sinners has been replaced with rather typical and sadly now a bit dated rock/soft-Metal of the last decade and 2009. Mister Master Roberts first came to fame as the very butch Alice Cooper guitarist of the eighties. Guest musicians on this platter include the old Coop' line-up and former bandmates: Kip Winger, Paul Taylor and Ken Mary. Not to mention that Alice sings on the creepy sounding "Beginning of the End" and you're basically all set for the return of Raise Your Fist and Yell!?

Unfortunately. There's not a whole lot of traditional melodic hardrock to be found on this electro produced album. Industrial light? Don't get me wrong. This is far from the shabby outing and effort. There's plenty of razor sharp hooks, dangerous riffs and flashy guitar work. It's just stuck inbetween two worlds and they say time waits for no one (unless it's Tom - geddit?). But once behind the mike and his guitar, there's no mistaking the man who, three decades ago, was spoken of as the Rock'N Roll Rambo.

It's a great opening to the record as an unmistakably classy slice of melodic metal comes your way in "King Of The World". It's ever so dark and cyber friendly in its structure and formula. Is that a smile, nah, didn't think so. But darn it, it's catchy as feck. I only wish this would be the overall standard and new normal. "Life is Wonderful. We're ugly beautiful". However. If you're going forward with your music and not looking back (as stated by Roberts in the info sheet) then why co-write songs together with Brent Smith (Shinedown) and Lzzy Hale (Halestorm). They are both yesterdays news and the kids has since long moved on to new and better(?) acts. Haledown and Shinestorm? It's The New Normal... ten years too late?

JETBOY: "Born To Fly"

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

Jetboy? The latest Marvel Super Hero movie? His mother always told him to not run at the airport, but the boy was clearly Born To Fly? Nah. Erase the dodgy introduction. Surely you recognize the name of the band that one graced us with "Feel The Sake" and various sleazy song and dance numbers such as... ehh... well. To be completely honest. I sold the CD on eBay many many moons ago and I can't recall a whole lot of titles. Simply google if interested in more background history. I prefered the Faster Pussycats' anyhow and I notice that Eric Stacy handles the four-string-thing at Jetboy.

Good to see that three of the Feel The Shake members are still together and that's including the hoarse vocalist aka Mickey Finn. One things for sure though. US of A gave us plenty of these kind of acts in the late eighties and it's no worse nor better than most of them. It's however never a good idea to kick things off with your worst song on the album. "Beating The Odds" about as fun as watching wet paint dry and as I reached for the gun, I kept thinking WWJD? Bored at hanging at the cross I decided to give this another go and I'm actually glad I did.

No longer filed under "where are the now", The Jetboys are as dirty, filthy, sleazy, and mean as ever. Call it sleaze, call it rock n roll, call it biker-rock in the vein of The Quireboys, Little Ceasar, Dirty Looks, etc. It really doesn't matter as it grooves nicely along to the sound of destruction. The ballads and especially "The Way That You Move Me" walks to the same beat as The Faces (ROD!) and The Stones doing the tearjerker, and obviously The Quireboys as of lately. "Brokenhearted Daydream" - The Clash goes hair metal and I seriously dig the sheer attitude of the track. Throw in bits and pieces of Hanoi Rocks and you're even closer to the core. Mickey FINN (geddit?) does a mean harmonica on various tracks and It's all very Matti Nykänen (RIP). WTF? First Eddie The Eagle (see Starbreaker) and now Matti? What about Janne Boklöv? Final Verdict: Not too shabby.

WALTER TROUT: "Survivor Blues"

Rating: Covers
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Trout's gone fishing for new material and ended up covering some of the coolest blues songs on this side of the century? That's what I thought at first as I played the marvelous opener of "Me My Guitar and the Blues". It's one of those all-time best slow blues anthems that you need to hear before you die. But you know what. I'm not even going to prented to know all about these songs and their original performers. I guess I could google and nicely name-drop as I go along, but what's the point?

I do not know every thing about the ancient blues. I do however know that "Be Careful How You Vote" is the living truth no matter time or era. Especially considering the bozo at the white house or the turkey in turkey, just to mention two of all the SMF's in this twisted sister world. Why try and emulate the sheer brilliance of the dino blues? Well. According to Trout, he was fed up listening to the same old covers on the same old radio stations and I quote, "Does the world need another version of that song?’ So I came up with an idea. I didn't want to do Stormy Monday or Messin With The Kid. I didn't want to do the blues greatest hits. I wanted to do old, obscure songs that have hardly been covered. And that's how Survivor Blues started", end quote.

Ehem. Yeah. It's obscure stuff and some of the tracks should have stayed hidden to the world in my humble opinion. The biggest problem with having "Me My Guitar and the Blues" as the opening track? Everything else now feels like second best and left over material. That's a bit harsh, but it's simply impossible to look past the song. It's every thing Gary Moore (RIP) ever wanted to be and record and Jimmy Dawkins did perfectly. Walter's warm tone and voice is however the next best thing and his solo will have Moore fans crying of joy. Final verdict: Nice. Cozy. A tad boring?

QUIET RIOT: "One Night in Milan"

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

Cum on feel the noize? Confession time again. I knew absolutly nothing about Slade (perhaps with the exception of Run Run Away?) when I first heard about the crazy gang of Quiet Riot. They were no doubt the eighties U.S. of A version of Slade as they recorded the best selling effort of Metal Health. Whatever. The kids of the eighties couldn't care less about any old fart act of the 60s/70s (which they supposedly copied?). No kid should ever bother finding out who copied who(m) anyhow since there's no such thing as "new" music anymore. It's all been done before and musicians are merely repeating the past. And we are all doomed according to this live CD/DVD.

It's hard to get mega excited about a band when/where the two main figures are dead and gone (Kevin Dubrow, Randy Rhoads). The rhythm section of Frankie Benali (drums) and Chuck Wright (bass) are still trying to keep the flame alive and I guess it works if you're at the venue and shouting along to the likes of Slick Black Cadillac or The Wild and the Young. It's no difference from your local act doing Slade and Quiet Riot covers. However. Infront of your TV/PC and while watching the DVD, it's just not happening and guitarist Alex Grossi is mostly looking down on his shoes. Not to mention that "new" vocalist James Turbin is truly annoying, with his over-the-top, stage persona. His crowd interaction: way too eager to please. His vocals are pretty darn good, it's a shame about the whole American version of Bruce-Bruce of Samson and Iron Maiden fame and the endless attempts at 'scream for me Milano'. Citizens of the world. Let's help out America with "The Wall" and extend it around all the states and not just Mexico and never let Quiet Riot out of there ever again. That's why they're building the wall, right? To never ever let any one out of America???

TORQUE: "Torque"

Rating: Re-release
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Do you recall Vio-lence? The San Francisco Bay Area thrashers decided to hang up their boots in 1994 and the remaining members formed the riff heavy, groove infused thrashers Torque. Fronting the band was guitarist Phil Demmel (Machine Head), who also took on lead vocals for the first time, along with guitarist Ray Vegas, bassist Deen Dell and with drummer Mark Hernandez. Torque released three demos between 1994 and 1997. The self-titled album released on Mascot Records in 1996 stands alone as the sole studio release from the band.

It's now been re-released with four previously unreleased bonus tracks from their 1997 demo. What ever the reason, Torque split up a long time ago and I haven't the faintest idea why they decided to re-release this at this particular time and year? Some people are going to say they should stop making such a horrible reacket. However. I must say that I prefer this style of Thrash and Hardcore-lite over some of the later era albums by Pantera. This has got cheeky Vio-lence met Prong (gang vocals all over the place) break downs and merely the hint of Pantera and Machine Head of course.

Torque takes no prisoners from its off, kicking straight in to the opener "H.L.S." which is a pounding number which I can only assume Phil Demmel is kicking himself for listening to while thinking about acts such as Prong and Suicidal Tendencies. The volume goes down a bit as you play the four bonus tracks, but nothing too disturbing or out of control. They don't add much to the overall sound picture, but they are frankly too much later era Pantera for my personal taste. I prefer the early/mid 90's sound. Disturbing is the word regarding the art cover though. Sick!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

CATS IN SPACE - 'DAY TRIP TO NARNIA'



RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: CARGO

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


I've been a bit of a slow learner when it comes to Cats In Space. Sure, I heard a couple of singles and liked them, but didn't search out the albums until a couple of months ago in preparation for seeing them at a festival. Well, I'm glad I did, as Cats In Space really are my sort of band. A delightful mix of Queen, E.L.O, Supertramp and Styx (at least), they fuse pop, rock, pomp and a barrel load of fun to great effect with the added bonus of gorgeous harmony vocals. the difficult second album hurdle was easily cleared with 'Scarecrow', but will 'Day Trip To Narnia' continue the winning streak? You bet your nine lives it will!

Album number three is split into two parts, what us old buggers used to call 'Side One' and 'Side Two' until these new fangled CD's and downloads came along and shat on our memories. As is the trend these days you can get a vinyl copy, but I've just had the CD version myself. The first part of the album is mainly dominated by songs about the music business, quite appropriate as between them the members of the band have apporximately 900 years of experience in the 'Biz'. The title track is set to a marching beat and compares being in a band and doigg your shit to visiting a fantasy land, whilst the exceptionally catchy 'Hologram Man' is suitably scathing about the money grabbing people who bring back dead singers as holgrams for a tour or two. 'Tragic Alter Ego' is about being stuck in a tribute band, endlessly churning out the same hits by a band you used to admire but are now sick to the back teeth of,  and 'Silver & Gold' remenisces about the good old days of the 70s, when we were oh so glam, darlings. It's all very Queen in many ways, with a 'Killer Queen' guitar sound here, or the 'Yeahhhhh' from a''A Kind Of Magic' there, and even a chorus that goes 'You're a tragic alter ego- play the game'. Never a rip off, always a homage, these tracks all work beautifully.

Seperating the music biz themed tracks are a mixture of songs that may divide the audience a bit. 'She Talks Too Much' is a two minute whirlwind that is rushed out so quickly it's almost as if the band is a little embarrassed by what is a fun throwaway track about a woman who won't shut up but is really hot so, you know... 'She's been on the phone for seven hours, but you should see her when she gets out of the shower'. Make of that what you will. 'Chasing Diamonds' is sparse, haunting track that allows vocalist Paul Manzi to demonstrate that he's actually pretty damned good even without being surrounded by harmonies and crashing guitars, whilst 'Unicorn' is a good, melodic track that will have you singing along and nodding appreciateively at the big chords involved.

Side two, as it were, is given over to 'The Story Of Johnny Rocket', a six part story (plus a short intro piece) about a young man who wants to be an astronaut. He falls in love (at a disco) and promises to get married after he returns from the moon, but will he return? I first listened to this without reading the back story, and boy it was hard to work out what that story was, so I did the homework (which only took five minutes, really), and the lyrics of the tracks took on a new resonance. It starts off boisterously with 'Johnny Rocket' and the shamelessly disco track 'Thunder In The Night', but after this it all slows down a bit as the story unfolds, and whilst I like every track it would have been nice to finish with another big rocker. It's a sad story, really, but still has a happy ending.

'Day Trip To Narnia' is another excellent album from Cats In Space, with the first half throwing in all sorts of influences and some first class lyrics and the second half telling what is a really sweet story in a very poignant way. The band are tight as ever, with a great mix begging for a decent system or headphones to get the best effect. It's on par with the first two albums without copying what's gone before, and it's wonderful to hear a band that are willing to be creative and take a few risks to bring catchy, intelligent songs with a lot of heart. No wonder everybody wants to be a cat - cause being a cat is definitely where it's at.

Catch them on tour in the UK in MARCH

Official Website



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

ROCK GODDESS - "THIS TIME"



RATING: RRRr

LABEL: BITE YOU TO DEATH

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Rock Goddess are a name that will be familiar to anyone who grew up with UK heavy metal in the 1980s, even if you can't hum any of their songs. Me, then. They were a band I was always aware of but never listened to over their 5 or so years of being in the spotlight. Formed by the Turner sisters Jody (vocals/guitars) and Julie (Drums), "This Time" is their first full length release in over 30 years, aided by Jenny Lane on bass, replacing original Tracey Lamb who has had to step down.

A cool cover gives the release some class before you listen, and those who expect some tired old NWOBHM music will be in for a shock, as although Rock Goddess are unashamedly retro in their style they are certainly not without charm. Lead single "Are You Ready" kicks off the album, and it's a decent, upbeat track that shows you that Jody Turner can still belt out quality vocals. The music is decidedly old school but it's played very well by the trio and a decent, bass-heavy production really makes a difference. To be honest, there's not a great deal of variety throughout, save for the closing rock ballad "Drive Me Away", which is pretty good an contains a killer solo from Jody that should have been twice as long. Along the way we have some catchy, heavy songs that work very well, like "Call Into Space" and the galloping "Why Do We Never Learn". Yes, it's all quite similar, but it's also good fun and certainly gets the head nodding and the foot tapping.

"This Time" isn't going to win any awards, but Rock Goddess should be applauded for coming back into the metal arena armed with a product that will fill existing fans with joy. I wasn't expecting to like this much, but the more I listen the more I appreciate what they are doing. The album is out at the beginning or March, so if you're a fan make sure you pick it up and catch them on the Cats In Space tour in the same month -  I think I will...

Official Facebook Page



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

NEAL MORSE BAND: "The Great Adventure"

Label: Radiant Records
Rating: RRR
Review by Martien Koolen

The Similitude Of A Dream was the previous Neal Morse Band album, released in 2016, and it was a typical Morse album; meaning: great musicianship, very familiar melodies and unfortunately those spiritual (religious) lyrics.

Now, almost three years later The Great Adventure sees the light of day, a double CD filled with 22 tracks. TGA is a concept album, again, dealing with the "adventures" of the pilgrim's abandoned son; so lyrically you know what you can expect; again not my cup of tea!! Musically speaking this album is a must for prog rock fans as the entire album is a splendid blend of rock, prog, metal, jazz and classical music; and I do not need to tell you that these guys can play!! However, I hear too familiar melodies, keyboard riffs and choruses, take e.g. To The River, Welcome To The World, Dark Melody or Long Ago and for me, original musical highlights are rare on this album.

I really like/love the two instrumental songs Overture and Overture 2, which show the true craftsmanship of this band, orchestral prog rock at its best. Furthermore I enjoy I Got To Run, The Great Dispair, Freedom Calling and A Love That Never Dies, featuring amazing guitar solos by Eric Gillette. Unfortunately I really cannot listen to songs like Child Of Wonder, Hey Ho Let's Go, Beyond The Borders, The Dream Continues or the completely weird pop song Vanity Fair.

Conclusion: TGA is another typical Neal Morse album with lots of ups and down, irritating lyrics and only for the die-hard Neal Morse fans; sad but true.