Wednesday, October 21, 2020

DEFECTO: "Duality"

Rating: Rr
Label: Black Lodge 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Blimey. This will take you back the odd 15 years. It's high energy and cringe worthy slightly alternative metal from the early 2000's. You know, it's very much the now extremely outdated and no longer popular sound of Hoobastank, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, etc. They are about as original as the footballer covered in tattoos. Hint: They are ALL covered in tattoos. In other words. The multi-layered crusty pastry 'Danish' is originally from Austria/Vienna and not Denmark. They are simply named 'Vienna pastery or bread' in my homeland and not 'Danish' like the fake-copy. Ultravox wrote the song (Vienna) and the very camp 'Wonderful Copenhagen' as performed by some geezer just isn't the same kind of quality and you know it.

The third album from Denmark's Defecto, is very defecto as 'Duality' is some kind of thematic concept album taking inspiration from both "personal and external events, dealing with both the light and dark sides of human existence", according to the press release and info-sheet. Opener "Rings Of Saturn" goes from Avenged Sevenfold to Hoobastank metal (just like that) and it may just actually impress the average listener with its catchy refrain and uptempo mode. It's not too shabby. Several tracks are considerly darker though, including the ever-so-popular semi growls of the early 00's.

Truth be told. The entire Duality album is like a wet blanket music casualty that reflects the band's desire to compose since long-gone alt metal numbers with no real meaning or purpose. There are no actual fun songs to be found on the entire album, everything is diffused and disturbing from the opening number to the closing track. This release is supposedly based on your old heroes and rock/metal music of the past, but that will be little comfort to the poor schmucks who have to listen through all the heard-it-all-before compositions. It's very much a take it or leave it proposition and the majority of tracks would have you madly screaming and running for the hills. Back to the cave. Back to the basic. Back to the drawing board and start all over again.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

PANZERBALLETT: "Planet Z"

Rating: RR
Label: GentleArtOfMusic 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

That Panzerballett mastermind guitarist Jan Zehrfeld does not shy away from difficult musical experiments. Unfortunately the exact same statement goes for composing extremely boring instrumental guitar rock fusion music. The absence of a proper structure is clearly a faulty factor, contributing to its relatively disturbing product and final result. In my humble opinion, the style itself is just too hippie, LSD influenced, favouring and combining rhythmic lunacy and compositional shamelessness in one almost unlistenable album.

Why would anyone combine metal and big band jazz in the first place? Why not, you ask? Because it's simply not that interesting and all the vivid breaks, brass, and bar piano moves goes in through one ear and out the other. Unusual drumming (read jazzy fusion free-form stuff), howling saxophones, fast and snappy tempos, quirkiness and abundant guitar work, resulting in a confusing although fascinating effort with more diversity than guitarist are often given credit for.

One minute, I like the overall idea and concept, the next, I absolutely hate it! On tracks such as "Coconut" or "No One Is Flying The Plane" either the arrangements are so darn obscure that they're impossible to fully decipher or Pazerballet are simply recording their own doodgy version of Avant-Garde in an desperate attempt to be take seriously by old fart journolists and posh upper white class. The shocking fun Brutal-Metal version of "Walkurenritt" aka "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner is however the real talking point and highlight of the album. We all enjoy the smell of napalm in the morning? Yes? No? Final verdict: Oh... I believe I'd rather play me some Satriani...

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

DARWIN: "DarWin 2 A Frozen War"

Rating: RRRR+ 
Label: DarWinOOS 2020 

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom 

Progressive Rock and concept albums have come and gone in many different shapes and sizes over the past five decades. Even just looking at The Who and their dense start of Tommy to all the massive projects of the golden era of the seventies and the more metal-ish output of Dream Theater. It's always been about pushing the boundaries and looking outside the box while their minds and compositional skills run bezerk in the studio. In the case of "Darwin 2: A Frozen War", almost no aspect of the creative process was typical with team members spread out around the world and often under lock down. This second album builds on the previous idea and concept of Origin of Species and they certainly went bezerk on their instruments. 

Given plenty of space and time enough to paint with a big brush, big picture, complex pattern and smooth music, the Icelandic based artist of DarWin (guitar/vocals) continues the core collaboration with drummer and producer Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Jeff Beck, etc.) and bassist Matt Bissonette (Elton John, David Lee Roth, Ringo Starr, etc.). Joining them are Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, Talas, Winery Dogs, etc.) Guthrie Govan (Asia, Aristocrats, Hans Zimmer, etc.), Greg Howe (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake) and Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Kiss, etc.). Only 5 new tracks. However. The vinyl version adds an extra 8 tracks from this album and the debut reworked in orchestral and unplugged versions. Expect this live in the future with The DarWin laser suit which uses a medley of custom made LEDs and motorized spinning laser??

It's overall the very melodic project where you can find bits and pieces of everything from Extreme, Robby Valentine - to Spock's Beard (Neal Morse), King's X, Rush (especially their mid/late 80's albums). DarWin is no doubt highly influenced as a guitarist by Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani. The hard rock virtuoso shredding goes hand in hand with grand orchestral structure (including Reykjavik String Quartet), layered vocals 'ala Spock's Beard, Extreme and King's X, soaring harmonies 'ala Kansas and catchy choruses. With songs like "Nightmare of My Dreams", "Future History" and "A Frozen War" showing that they are also not afraid of experimenting with sound and arrangement, this comes across as an highly interesting and mesmerising album. If you usually find prog-rock invert and not melodic or catchy enough, have a go at this platter and you'll quickly produce an excessive amount of drool and saliva. Highly Recommended!

DarWin at Facebook

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

BROTHER FIRETRIBE: ”Feel The Burn”

Label: Brother Firetribe/Odyssey 2020

Rating: RRRRR

Review by Kimmo Toivonen


I didn’t rush out and review this as soon as I got it. I thought I’d give it some time so that the excitement over a new product from one of my favourite bands would simmer down. You see, I’m trying to be an objective reviewer… and failing miserably, some of you are already saying. Well, maybe so but after numerous spins, this album is becoming one of the top-ranking BFT releases, and I have a feeling that it will stand the test of time. 


The band teamed up with Jimmy Westerlund, who’s not only the producer/guitarist in One Desire but also the man behind several mainstream hit albums here in Finland. He has definitely created a  contemporary, polished sound for this album. There’s a bit of a ”synth wave” vibe in some of the tracks and the in general, the keyboards dominate the sound. As you may know, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen stepped aside from the band earlier this year, and he only plays on two of the songs. The band’s new guitarist Roope Riihijärvi and producer Jimmy Westerlund are responsible for the remaining guitar work. It’s subtle and stylish, but I can’t help but think that maybe a little ”crunch” wouldn’t have gone amiss on some of the tracks. 


I gave the band’s previous album ”Sunbound” the full set of R’s, but in hindsight maybe I was a bit generous. This set of songs is arguably stronger - while the band is experimenting, there are no ”oddities” such as ”Shock” or ”Phantasmagoria” or anything as bland as ”Indelible Heroes”. If melodic rock bands could still get airplay, basically all of the songs on the album could be ”singles”, even the more experimental tracks like ”Night Drive” (which actually was a single) and ”Battle Ground”. The Toto-meets-Foreigner ballad ”Love Is A Beautiful Lie” is the latest single release, and I hope it’s given a chance on some radio stations, because it deserves a wider audience than us already converted.


My personal favourites include the aforementioned ”Night Drive”, a song tailor-made for late night driving (obviously), but I can tell you that it works like magic on a bicycle drive at 6:30 am too. Apparently there’s a mini-movie based on it on the way. ”Chariot Of Fire” is catchy as hell, and extra mention to Jason Flinck’s melodic bass lines on that one. The melancholic pop-rock gem ”Ticking Away” ticks all the right boxes, and the synthwave-meets-earlyBonJovi of ”Candle In The Window” is superb too. ”Rock In The City” is an anthem, and ”Arianne” another synth-driven, modern rocker with Pekka Heino belting it out with intense passion. Really, there are no "skippable" tracks on this, and once we're able to see the band live again, I wouldn't mind if they played all of these songs in the live set.


Although in general 2020 hasn’t been a great year, at least we’ve gotten some stunning albums. ”Feel The Burn” might just be the best one of them.  


Monday, October 5, 2020

BON JOVI: "2020"

Rating: RR

Label: Island 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

2020 Vision? More like gone blind, gone deaf, voice gone. 2020 give love a bad name? The very best thing I can say about the effort, at least he's trying to do good and supporting Black Lives Matters and various anti-violence happenings. The singer songwriter or if you prefer Bruce Springsteen-lite music of "American Reckoning" has strong lyrics about the awful George Floyd killing by racist coppers in America and included are the very last words by Floyd, yes, I can't breathe.

Lyrically, this is a rather enjoyable album performed by the really rich, white privileged rocker... and some background musicians with no real meaning or say. Musically, it's the same dull and uneven affair as usual. It's Americana, pop/rock, but not really the kind that people enjoy and support to its fullest. There's a couple of real nuggets in between all the dust though. The 70's Glam-lite of "Brothers in Arms" take Bowie influences and mix it up with typical Jovi post 1995. The slightly uptempo rock and soft whoo-ooh choir of "Beautiful Drug" conjures up the brief prospect of something wicked along this dusty road. I believe it's a case of middle of the road though. Listening to this over and over again, there is nothing that suggests this not to be the case.

Final verdict: Jon deserve some credit for lyrical highlights about human rights, social justice (Lower The Flag), etc. But if the Jovi's are hoping to get out of the mess they've been in since that glorious ROCK period of fame (and the main reason why they're still popular today), they'll have to come up with something better and stronger than 2020. How about 2021? 2022? or 2023?

NIGHTMARE: "Aeternam"

Rating: Rr
Label: AFM Records 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Studio album #11 (really? who's counting?) sees Nightmare back, unbowed, unbreakable and inspired, ready to take the music to a whole new level. The band returns with the hugely talented female vocalist Madie (Faith In Agony) behind the microphone and has recorded the most ambitious album to date, "Aeternam". Now, I haven't been listening to all eleven albums by the French metal act. Merely a couple or three of them to be honest and I'm definitely okay with that. It's a mixed bag of tracks drawing on Thrash, old School Heavy Metal and symphonic rock, "Aeternam" is an album lacking spark and basically anything remotely memorable. The songs are all the same, based around the basic template and structure which quickly becomes the long deja vu experience and 'been there, done that'.

Heavier and more raucous than some of their previous offerings, with the most fun melodies of yesteryear been thrown out of the band, the first half of the album is ever so gloomy and dull. "Crystal Lake" picks up the pace, not really, but it's a decent effort. The real star of the album though and worthy all the praise would have to be the new vocalist, ehh... Madie? Much like Madonna or Beyonce, she's the one-name kind of character with a great set of pipes. The second half of the album and things get all loose and disjointed again and the band seems to think that repeating the first half compositions will be enough to see it through. It clearly isn't. It's back to the drawing board for the French Nightmare... sacrebleu!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

PERFECT PLAN: "Time For a Miracle"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The bells are ringing and the lads are singing - 'When the war comes closer and the fight is all we got. It's time that we know it's time. It's Time For a Miracle' Bloody'ell. I believe they are saying it's TIME? The band's second album finds them in excellent form with undoubtedly the best pure 80's AOR release of the year so far. The Swedish lads has captured a lot of the dud-dut and stabbing keyboards from Jimi Jamison-era Survivor, Foreigner, Giant, Signal, and Scandinavian AOR (Alien, Europe) with a personal magical touch and feel.

The band features the superb singer Kent Hilli together with Rolf Nordström on guitar, Fredrik Forsberg on drums, Leif Ehlin on keyboards, and new bassist Mats Byström. The latter used to play with Ehlin in the band Desert Rain (Bang Bang/1991) and are now once again reunited. Catchy and hooky to the last, Perfect Plan piledrive their way through the now familiar pure AOR territory, from the opening title track to closer, "Don't Leave Me Here Alone". And the cleanest production ever from this particular label lifts the material to the highest high. The bluesy Europe-styled, "Nobody's Fool", a darn nice breather from the shock-value AOR and something different from the rest of the compositions. Nicely done!

The other compositions have a lovely tendency to slowly creep up on you from behind and smoother you with keyboards and killer vocals. Best of all. Perfect Plan are serious about their music-al agenda and beliefs. It's not some kind of parody act or the half-arsed effort. They're not making a mockery of a bygone era. They're not trying to be AOR - they truly are AOR right down to their shoe-laces! It's all or nothing. Final verdict: This is simply just a marvellous example of U.S. Rock crossing over to Scandi-Rock to form one helluva alliance and union. For those about to AOR - we salute you! Highly Recommended!

Perfect Plan facebook

LANDFALL: "The Turning Point"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Reading the press release it said that Landfall had in singer Gui Oliver (Auras) the natural successor to Steve Perry and that 'The Turning Point' can be described as falling between classic melodic rock à la Journey with some slightly heavier influences, such as classic era Dokken, White Lion and Extreme. Well colour me not too impressed since it's clearly more like if Perry on a bad hair day (or with the flu), decided to record the solo album where... hang on minute... Perry did record a rather so-so solo album the other year?

Actually. Perhaps it's only me? But on the opening track of "Rush Hour", I can hear and notice just as much of a young Eric Martin (Mr Big) in singer Gui Oliver. It's 'Sucker For A Pretty Face' and 'I'm Only Fooling Myself' rather than Escape or Frontiers. Not quite (geez) as superb as the two legends of melodic rock and killer vocals though. Let's face it. You simply shouldn't start up the info-sheet with words such as "a true deadringer for the legendary Steve Perry of Journey". It will only come back to haunt the poor bugger for the rest of his life. He's not bad but not really 'Perry' and the overall sound of the album doesn't always ring true 'ala Journey for that matter.

In fact. Why the hell are we talking about Perry/Journey? Landfall certainly deserve to be measured on their own merits. Opener "Rush Hour" feature the fun riff (guitarist Marcelo Gelbcke) and it's definitely more hair-metal than pure AOR. "No Way Out" is darn catchy and fun. "Across The Street" bops nicely along to the Harem Scarem influenced melody. Final verdict: The nice but uneven affair, at times storming along like second rate Journey with a bad Perry fixation, at others being choc-a-bloc with hair metal brilliance. In fact. The less AOR it gets, the better it seems to sound. What's the difference between AOR and Hair Metal? About 20 cans of hairspray? LOL! Take this for what it is and give Landfall a chance to stand on their own two, ehh... eight feets. Neat!

Landfall facebook