Thursday, September 10, 2020

Album round-up/ Summer of 2020 (part two)

 Mini-reviews by Kimmo Toivonen

Okay, let's continue the rounding up of the recent releases! SAPPHIRE EYES' "Magic Moments" (RRRR) took a whole lot of spins before it made it to my "Top Albums of 2020" list. The first impression was a bit "AOR by numbers", enjoyable but nothing earth-shattering. A couple of more spins and some of the songs found their target - I caught myself humming those melodies! Sneaky Swedish b**tards! Seriously though, this is a solid album, with superb vocals from Kimmo "Finland's Steve Perry" Blom.  If you check out just one song from this, "Just Leave Me" would be the one I'd pick. 

There's no getting away from the Swedes, CAPTAIN BLACK BEARD are the next band in spotlight. Their sound is somewhere between The Nightflight Orchestra and H.E.A.T., which itself is already a recommendation. Their songwriting isn't necessary on the same level as those masters of their craft, but they're getting there and I like their energy. Although this is the first time I hear their music, "Sonic Forces" (RRRR) is actually their fourth album. I guess I'll have some investigating to do.

Enough of these Scandinavian bands, let's check a band from southern Europe: WILD SOULS from Greece. Their third album "Queen Of My Heart" (RRRr) is a bit of a hit-or-miss affair. They're very good at AOR-type of stuff, as the likes of "Nothing But Loving You", "Love Ain't No Lie" and "I Remember You" prove, but they also dabble in sleazy hair metal type of stuff, wh. "Night Groove" and "Sexcellent" (yeah, seriously...) could've been left off the album and the fourth "r" would have been a stronger one.

Back in 1987, MAD MAX were probably one of my top five favourite bands, and I still consider "Night Of Passion" one of my favourite albums. The band has already kind of revisited that album with "Another Night Of Passion", and now they are kind of continuing the story of "Stormchild", their third album from the mid-eighties. "Stormchild Rising" (RRR) is the name of their latest effort. I really don't hear that many echoes of the original "Stormchild" album musically though. It's still decent enough melodic hard rock or even metal at times, but somehow I can't really get into it. "Talk To The Moon", "Eyes Of Love" and "Kingdom Fall" are good songs, but are they "Best Of Mad Max" material? Not necessarily. The jury's still out.

After the great "Heart Of The Hurricane", I had really high expectations for the new BEYOND THE BLACK album "Horizons" (RRRr). It didn't quite meet them, but it's not as disappointing as I first thought it was. The first three tracks still leave me a bit cold, but starting with "Some Kind Of Monster" the band shape up and sharpen their hooks. With 13 tracks, this album might have benefitted of leaving one of the tracks as a "Japanese bonustrack" and maybe the sequecing could've been better too. Recommended for fans of Within Temptation and that sort of stuff. 

"Storm In Paradise" (RRRR) from TANNA is basically a continuation of the band PRAYER, main man Tapani Tikkanen just went back to using his old band name from the eighties. Tanna was a fairly big name back then, scoring some hits with their songs sung in Finnish. It remains to be seen whether the old fans of Tanna will discover this english-sung material. I hope they do because this is good stuff. Tapani's vocals are instantly recognizable, and that's a good thing when so many bands in this genre sound quite alike. The biggest "hits" for me are the title track, the "Thin Lizzy goes AOR" of "Silhouettes", "This Town Ain't Big Enough" and "Mysterious Fire". 

Next one on my list is DEVICIOUS with "Phase Three" (RRRR). Devicious is a German band with an Italian singer Antonio Calanna, who was recruited soon after the release of their previous album. "Phase Three" is a real throwback to the late eighties, and doesn't really contain many modern influences. For some reason I can only think of German bands when trying to find comparisons - Bonfire, Domain, Axxis, early Pink Cream 69. Nothing wrong with that of course! If you've got albums from those bands in your collection, you should check this album out. 

The overall consensus seems to be that GIRISH & THE CHRONICLES from India are just about the best new hard rock band in years. I simply cannot really understand what the fuss is all about. "Rock The Highway"(RRR) isn't bad, the band certainly has enough drive and attitude, but none of the songs really do it for me. Girish himself sounds like combination of speeded-up Sammy Hagar, Axl Rose and Sebastian Bach - very over-the-top and maybe a bit too "screechy" for my taste. All in all, this album sounds like it could have been released in the tail-end of the "golden era of hair metal", 1992 and thereabouts. Song to check out: "Indentity Crisis".  As the title suggests, not really representative of the album, but has some cool semi-progressive elements and hooks.





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