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.

Friday, January 25, 2019

WAKE THE NATIONS: "Heartrock"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: AOR Heaven
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Wake The Nations initially started out as a solo vehicle for guitarist/songwriter Risto Tuominen. The first album, "Sign Of Heart" (2015) was more of a project than an actual band album, with several lead vocalists. However, it didn't take too long for the band to find its' current line-up. Krister Stenblom, one of the singers on the first album, took over the lead vocal duties and the band started gigging. At a festival in Turku they played before Sunrise Avenue, and made a lot of new friends there. A group of german fans fell for their melodies big time, eventually helping the band to do a tour in Germany. What's more, now the band's signed to the German AOR Heaven label.

The first album showed promise, and on "Heartrock" the band really deliver. With world-class production by Ilkka Wirtanen (Reckless Love, The Nights, Robin) and final touches by Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T.), fine performances by the band and top-notch songs, this album should make a considerable splash in the AOR genre.

Most of the songs are high-energy melodic hard rock songs with big hooks. The overall sound could be described as modernized scandi-AOR with a bit of an edge. Lots of lush keyboards but also crunching guitars and big drums.

My favourite songs include the strong opener "No Mercy" which reminds me of cult AORsters Valentine, the light and breezy "New Day", the intense "Higher" and the two songs provided by Sören Kronqvist, "Midnight Lovers" and "Something In Your Eyes". Although from an outside songwriter, they fit in seamlessly. I also want to mention the closing track "This Is Over", which sounds like a nod to the fans they share with Sunrise Avenue - it has that kind of a contemporary stadium-ballad vibe.  

It's nice to start this year's reviews with a strong album, that sets the bar high for the other releases of 2019!


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ROSS BYRON - "RED & BLACK"









RATING: RRRr

LABEL: REVERBNATION

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

If you've not heard of Ross Byron it's no surprise, as he's a massachusetts singer songwriter who has used the online platform ReverbNation to launch this album. As such it's no surprise that great things shouldn't be expected, though it's a hell of a lot more professional than a cassette at a gig.


'Black & White' is certainly what I'd class as a 'grower'. the first couple of listens had me happy enough but on the fence about the overall grade, hovering between five of six out of ten. After a few more spins, though, I got into what Ross does much more. There's a variety of styles here, although they all come firmly under the ROCK banner. Of particular note for me is 'Cat In The Hat', which reminds me of Living Colour' with it's funky guitar and bass. Elsewhere there really is plenty to enjoy, with Ross coming over like a hybrid of Phil Vincent and Blaze Bayley. What I'm getting at there is he has Phil's creativity, happy to go wherever the muse takes him, coupled with a basic vocal style that often reminded me of Blaze, though the music is softer in general. Lyrically he's pretty good, with 'Free To Be A Slave' hitting several right notes, and once again it's a case of writing what he feels at the time, not just protest or love songs or whatever. Ross plays guitar throughout the album, and again whilst it's not electrifying it does it's job well, especially during the six and a half minute 'Job' (as in the bible dude) adding another layer of competence to an already solid piece of work.

'Red & Black' is unlikely to set the world on fire, but it might provide an essential spark. I certainly enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and once you get your head around the eclectic mix here I think you will too.

Listen to it HERE


Monday, January 7, 2019

EVERGREY: The Atlantic

Rating: RRRRr
Label: AFM Records
Review by Martien Koolen

The Storm Within, the previous Evergrey album, was one of the best albums of the year 2016 and now these Swedish prog metal guys come up with another gem called The Atlantic.

Evergrey's 11th album is a must for fans of melodic, heavy dark progressive metal and the album features 9 new songs and one short instrumental intermezzo called The Tidal; the latter being a multi-layered keyboards Vangelis-like song, which is probably an introduction to The End Of Silence.

The Atlantic hits you in the face with the 2brutal" opener A Silent Arc which stands out due to the emotional vocals, the dazzling, heavy sound and the up tempo hooks and riffs. Furthermore A Silent Arc features two amazing ferocious guitar solos and astonishing drum passages. Weightless is a head-banging track with lots of heavy grooves and a howling fast guitar solo, which is followed by my favourite song of this album being All I Have. That track is bombastic, emotional and melancholic at the same time and it also features a magnificent beautiful chorus where Tom's very recognisable voice stands out like almost never before on any Evergrey album.

Other highlights on this superb album are Currents (with amazing guitar solos), Departure (a slower track filled with lots of emotion) and The Ocean (dark with dominating guitars). The Atlantic is a strong, diverse, consistent magical album and there is never a dull moment, so a must for prog metal fans all over the world. The Atlantic will definitely be in my top 3 albums of the year 2019, so check it out and play it loud!!!

evergrey.net

Saturday, December 22, 2018

MAGNUM "LIVE AT THE SYMPHONY HALL"


RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: SPV

REVIEWED BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Released just under a year after the tour it was recorded on, January 2019 sees the release of the new Magnum live album, recorded as ever in their hometown of Birmingham, this time at the prestigious Symphony Hall. A chance to play in front of the home crowd with recent additions Rick Benton (keyboards) and Lee Morris (Drums) whilst promoting their best album for some time must have seemed like a perfect opportunity to get the recording gear out.

I remember seeing them on this tour myself, and, quite frankly, it was the best I've seen them in years, bearing in mind they have never disappointed. This recording, spread over two discs, certainly brings back happy memories of that night, particularly the tweaked set list that brought a new breath of life to the show. Naturally, there's a selection of tracks from the excellent 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' album, 'Peaches & Cream', 'Without Love' and the amazing title track which is enlivened even more by the inlclusion of one Tobias Sammet onstage with the band for one night only. Elsewhere it's never less than excellent, and the closing foursome of 'Vigilante', 'Don't Wake The Lion', 'The Spirit' and 'When The World Comes Down' makes me wish I was there all over again -such a perfect end to a concert.

The band sound great, as would be expected these days on a live recording. the sound throughout is crystal clear, with the crowd crucially not lost in the mix. There's the added crunchiness that you get at a Magnum gig, with the studio smoothness nicely roughed up a little, giving the songs a fresh urgency. As live albums go, 'Live At The Symphony Hall' is up there with any you can mention, with fifteen tracks that will delight any and all Magnum fans.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

DALLAS: "s/t"

Rating: RRRR
Label: AOR Boulevard
Review by Kimmo Toivonen


This album has nothing to do with the oil business and the Ewing family, although if you play it backwards you might find out who shot JR... okay, that's enough of 80'ies TV drama. But we'll stick to that decade anyway, since that's what Bryan Dallas does too.
He might be a young(ish) dude but these songs of his are deeply rooted in the late eighties' melodic hard rock: Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Ratt... but kind of like Reckless Love has done lately, they've been mixed with contemporary sounds and production tricks. To be honest, this isn't nowhere near as polished as Reckless Love, the Dallas sound is much more raw, edgy, almost industrial at times.

The multi-talented Bryan Dallas has done most of this on his own, with some additional drumming by Zac Curtis. His vocals remind me a lot of Leppard's Joe Elliott, he sounds similary strained at times, but somehow this "painful" vocalizin' suits these songs.

And the songs! These are some of the most infectious songs I've heard lately. The production might not be on "Hysteria" level, but the likes of "Rock You Like A Bomb", "This Love" and "Bring The Light" are hysterically catchy. Def Leppard or Bon Jovi haven't written anything this catchy in the last 15 years, give or take a couple of songs.

With "Close My Eyes" Dallas proves that he can pen a tearjerker too - it's a power ballad of the finest order, featuring a gigantic chorus. Bryan's vocal performance is over-the-top, as if he's tearing out his heart right there in his studio.

The actual album features 9 songs with 4 songs marked as bonus tracks. Three of them are just as good as the actual album tracks, although with even more unpolished production. The "Neon Blue Mix" of the album track "Miles Away" could've been dropped in favour of another original song, but I'm sure it has its' fans too.

Some of these songs have been first released in 2012. Hopefully Mr. Dallas has been busy during the past 6 years and we'll get to hear new music from him soon.

https://www.bryandallas.us

Friday, October 26, 2018

CREYE: "s/t"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

One of the most anticipated debuts this year is here, the first full-length album from CREYE. I knew that this was going to be good, based on their previous EP and a live performance in Malmö, and indeed this is!

Superbly produced by Erik Wiss, this album combines 80ies elements with modern-day pop/rock sound. The EP had a bit of a "retro synth wave" vibe and it's still here, only slightly toned down.

Art Nation vocalist Alexander Strandell sang on the EP but this album features the vocals of Robin Jidhed. The son of Alien's Jim Jidhed has a great, smooth voice for this kind of material, but I've yet to hear him perform live. The two Creye gigs I've seen so far have been with replacement singers.

With 13 songs on the album, there's maybe a couple of songs I would have left as Japanese bonus tracks or something, but that said, most of the others went straight to my "Highlights of 2018" playlist! "Christina", "Holding On", "Never Too Late" and the Survivor-esque "Nothing To Lose" are all classy modern AOR songs, just to mention a few.

In my opinion, the band's most potential crossover hit in the making is the balladic "All We Need Is Faith". I don't know what it would take to get this heard by the masses, but I don't see any reason why the huge European fanbase of say, Sunrise Avenue, wouldn't love this song.

I truly hope that CREYE is able to break down the barriers and find new fans outside the established AOR community, they deserve it... and the kids need to hear this!

www.creyesweden.com
https://www.facebook.com/creyesweden/

Friday, October 12, 2018

STEVE PERRY - 'TRACES'



RATING: RRR

LABEL: FANTASY RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Nearly a quarter of a century after his last solo effort, legendary Journey vocalist Steve Perry has surprised many people by coming back to the music scene to fulfil a promise to his deceased partner. So far, so Movie Of The Week, but as we all know Steve Perry is one of the most respected and missed vocalists in the genre, so the excitement and expectation has been at tsunami level. The thing is, have people let their love for the man overcome their critical senses? Well... yeah, mostly.

'Traces' starts off very well with 'No Erasin', a pleasingly upbeat track that is probably the one most liklely to appeal to Journey fans, followed closely by the hauntingly beautiful second track 'We're Still Here', a powerful ballad with a catchy refrain that would have slotted in nicely on the likes of the ballad heavy 'Raised On Radio'. So far, so good, and it's no surprise that these two tracks were promoted ahead of the album release date because they capture what we love about Steve perry's voice.

After the initial one-two punch the album gets into a ballad focused groove that has certainly split fans opinions. Whilst I'm not a huge fan of ballads myself I still adore a well written one - for example, one of my favourite Journey tracks is 'I'll Be Alright WIthout You' in all it's wimpy, syrupy glory. So what I'm saying here is I'm no hater, and I fully understand that the circumstances around the album and the age of the man himself were always likely to lend themselves to slower, more introspective songs.

The best thing about 'Traces' is, as expected, Perry's vocals. There's a hint of throatiness in there that isn't unwelcome, and it's simply a joy to hear new music sung with this much talent and passion. 'No More Cryin', a mid paced, sorta sleepy track, makes great use of The Voice and is the third of my top three tracks on the album, after the opening couple.On the other side of the coin is the track that follows it: 'In The Rain'. Lyrically, it's heartbreakingly sad, but as a song the structure just makes it a chore to listen to, more a funeral dirge than a track for the masses. A few tracks sit closer to this camp than the 'I Love Listening To This' camp, such as 'You Belong To Me', 'Most Of All' and, to be brtually honest, the final three tracks as well. 'Sun Shines Grey' breaks up the cloying syrup with a more upbeat, catchy refrain, but th second half of the album remains a bit of a slog nonetheless.

Whilst I wanted to love 'Traces' and wanted to welcome Perry back with open arms (natch), it's not an album I will be coming back to in full, more an album that will have a few select tracks amputated and added to my playlist, leaving the others to vanish in the mist. There are plenty of people who love the album, but go in forewarned and try to listen to it without rose tinted headphones. It's good, but it's just not as good as I was hoping.



Sunday, September 30, 2018

DYNAZTY: "Firesign"

Rating: RR
Label: AFM 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'Shadows fading - See the colors will light up the sky - a Firesign? It's like the octagonal red and white stop sign to be honest. On the first couple of albums there was a real eighties flavour to the sound, the Swedes strolled down the Sunset Strip using a similar structure and path as the triple capitol "S" (Steelheart, Slaughter, Skid Row). And if some people thought of that as cheesy, then I'm not quite sure how to describe the sound on their latest effort?

The progression of Dynazty has been very natural according to the band but some folks, including yours truly, say that it's been quite radical and unfortunately in the wrong direction, sound and quality-wise. It's been down hill and plenty of painful moments ever since the band took part in the Swedish qualification stages of Eurovision (nope. they didn't make it to the final). The content of Firesign in my opinion? Barren, sterile, too polished, melodic rock with a symphonic edge that I would describe as some kind of Eurovision Schlager Metal.

Basically. All the sleazy and fun attitude and approach of the past has been replaced with keyboard and synth-driven schlock and what-not. I'd go as far as kitsch actually. Keep in mind that a lot of the eighties sleaze rooted in both rock and punk. There's definitely no punk influences on this record and thus the lack of punk-ish attitude? (duh!). Vocalist Nils Molin was recruited by Amaranthe the other year and I do enjoy the A's. You might ask why I don't enjoy this, when I can listen to everything from Soft Pop, R&B, Prog, Punk, Funk, Indie Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues, Jangle Pop, West Coast, Goth, EMO, AOR, to Speed/Thrash Metal etc. etc? I guess it's got something to do with the Scandinavian sound as of lately? I do not appreciate my rock when it's been watered down with Eurovision melodies. In fairness, this album doesn't sound like it's been tossed off one dark evening. Great production and sonics. Heather Locklear to the rescue?

Friday, September 28, 2018

OUTLOUD: ”Virtual Hero Society”

Rating: RRRR
Label: ROAR!
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The Greek rockers Outloud have released 3 full length albums before this one, all worthy of your hard-earned cash, if you ask me. If you're familiar with any of those, you'll know what to expect - energetic melodic hard rock with big hooks. The band delivers that on "VHS" but with some new elements.

The Outloud main men Bob Katsionis and Chandler Mogel have never shied away from a pop hook, but on this album they've added some keyboard things that might be too much for Heavy Metal purists. Yep, there are traces of old school Eurodance on some of these songs, somewhat reminding me of Amaranthe's dance pop/metal hybrids. Thankfully the obligatory rappers of nineties' Eurodance are nowhere to be found, Outloud have just borrowed some synth sounds from the past.

The opening track "Fools' Train" is one of the heavier, more guitar-oriented songs, and doesn't really show what's coming next. With "My Promise" the band goes into the "disco metal" mood, and damn, it's contagious! "Virtual Heroes" is again much heavier and more lyrically more serious, but with "I Am The One" we're back in Hard Pop City. The almost progressive AOR ballad "Share My Dreams" is something quite different but still very good,  followed by another AOR-type track "World-Go-Round", with a sax solo.  Then you'll get the Bon Joviesque "whoa-whoas" of "We Got Tonite", accapella ballad "Fallen Love" and two hard edged rockers "Live With It" and "Fight On!".

Somewhere between those aforementioned tracks there are two songs that are Outloud's speciality, ultra-melodic "schlager metal" songs "Borrowed Time" and "...And I Tried". Whereas most hard rock bands rely on the anglo-american pop tradition when it comes to melodies, these songs (and several older Outloud songs) seem to take their melodic influences from some other place. The melancholic melodies remind me a lot of the 70ies/80ies Finnish schlager/pop, which itself was in many cases imported from abroad and translated to our native language. Let's call it "European melodic sensibility". I remember hating the schlager music with vengeance as it was dominating the air waves back then, but the times have changed and now those melodies work like a charm, when combined with hard edged music.

What else... Vocalist Chandler Mogel sounds like a hyper-energetic version of Danny Vaughn (Tyketto), he just sounds very excited when he's singing. I haven't seen the band live but I could imagine that he's a real dynamo on stage as well.

https://www.facebook.com/outloudtheband/

http://outloud.rocks/



Monday, September 24, 2018

The LAST BAND - Hisingen

Rating: RRRR
Label: Gain/Sony Music 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Don't give a shit about your city nights. We burn cars and dance around with knifes. Here we go again... Hisingen".  Absolutely. There's plenty of gang vocals, matching socks, grinding guitars, catchy hooks, and overall vicious melodies. It's suburbia, Gothenburg, Sweden, and not New York's Lower East Side or East L.A. U.S. of A though. They don't burn cars on daily bases and you're definitely not going to find as many gangbangers in the yellow and blue hood. You will however find The LAST BAND and the All-American sound on their latest offering to the Gods of hardcore and metal.

Seriously. The group have made the best US hardcore/metal tribute in years. Crunchy riffs, snarling vocals, it's the dark side as well as the rather fresh update of the 90s America generation acts such as Rage Against The Machine, Prong, Body Count, Beastie Boys. Yes. I know it's 80s acts too. However. They all recorded their best work in the 90s. After two albums and a solid rooting in the Gothenburg scene, the mad five are ready to take on the world with album three. Hisingen is music from the LA/NY underground school of sonics that stand miles above most followers of post-90's angst and destruction. It's basically the whole she-bang including the idea of the broken society and angry young men on dope. Perhaps not the latter as the lyric goes: they change, we won't. Still not in it for the drugs. Apparently also not in it for Keats or Shelley as some of the lines are just too blue for my personal taste.

Vocally. It's 100% Rage (Against The Machine) and you believe in every twisted word that Mr.Blood spits out in attempt to unleash all the demons and fury. "Behind The Flag", We're all numbers with a price tag. The bedtime story about your soulless individual in a mind controlling society. How we just strive to become more successful without knowing what success really is. Is it a bigger car, a hot wife and a first class ticket to heaven? Uncompromising stuff and even Jello Biafra would nod and agree that it's all about freedom of speech and anti-censorship. Authentic metal that feels like a kick to the solar plexus. facebook.com/TheLastBandmusic

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

VOLA - Applause Of A Distant Crowd

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Sweet Zombie Jesus!! Applause of a Distant Crowd by VOLA, no doubt the melodic "Prog" rollercoaster ride of the year!! Straight to the point. They're painting a vivid picture of alluring melodies and playful arrangements. Using big eclectic brushes and open minded musicians, the Danes explore the soundscapes and boundaries (in)between genres such as Prog Rock, Poppy AOR, EMO, Goth, and soft Electronica/Industrial Metal. Their genre-defying obsession and almost cinematic sound, definitely the strength of the album. No growls and not quite as heavy as previous attempts at world domination, you could say it's VOLA's "Images and Words" (Dream Theater).

In fact. The genius idea of mixing melancholy, happy-poppy keyboards, crystal clear vocals, and progressive elements, could only be described as the Scandinavian concept. Lyric-wise, it's all about light and darkness, sweet and sour, or simply put the struggle known as life of the common man and woman. The title track "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" is a metaphor derived from a relationship with social media (nah, it can't be facebook?), and how we pretend to have perfect lives and invisible friends from all over the world. Asger Mygind (vocals/guitar) says and I quote: 'We spend a lot of time trying to present ourselves in a flattering light in the pursuit of continuous applause, even if it’s a distant applause from those you may not connect with away from the screens'.

Kicking off with "We Are Thin Air", it's grand, emotional prog rock, where the episodes of soothing melancholy is merely out shined by its catchiness and marvelous keyboards. "Ghosts", keyboards 'ala rave, only on steroids and simplicity at its best really. The story is morbid and speak about the fear of dying and eventually... death. "Smart Friend", heavier, moodier, darker, yet ever so perky and fun. "Ruby Pool", its overall structure and idea might just have you thinking about Seventh Wonder (The Great Escape) and One Republic. The grand piano at the centre of attention. You can apply the same basic concept on the next following tracks, "Alien Shivers" and "Vertigo". The return of the crunchy guitar work, "Still" and "Whaler", the latter being the headbanging moment on the album. The closing track, "Green Screen Mother", the soft, laidback, piano/keys outro.

Final verdict: Definitely not just "Prog-Rock". It's hybrid stadium rock and you can pick up bits and pieces of everything from Dream Theater/Seventh Wonder, to Amaranthe, One Republic, and Nine Inch Nails. Highly Recommended.
facebook.com/volaband

AARON BROOKS - Homunculus

Rating: RRRR
Label: GentleArtofMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Wave goodbye to 2018 and say hello to the late sixties and early seventies groove. All-American Aaron Brooks moved in 2011 to Germany with his far-out psychedelic rock band Simeon Soul Charger and over the years they managed to build a large fanbase. Honestly. I don't know. It might have been large. For instance. The barking mad teutonic people adores the music of The Hoff!! However. The SSC group disbanded some five years later (2016) and Brooks decided to keep calm and carry on writing groovy songs for the far-out solo effort: Homunculus. It's been nicely produced by Yogi Lang (RPWL) and Kalle Wallner contributed a lot of guitars.

Spooky, quirky, and far-out. Brooks are taking you out on a vivid trip where the singer/songwriter melodies meet psychedelic folk rock. Definitely 'out there' and not of this earth or solar system for that matter. It's planet weird and strange space art-rock at its fullest. The weirdest part of all. Yours truly found the melodies to be strangely intriguing. You know, like ravishing purple alien women on bicycles. Oi! Sexist bastard! Throwing stones already? You can't look away. That's what I'm trying to say. You simply can't look away or in this case stop listening to the enchanting melodies.

One minute it's Jesus Christ Superstar The Movie/Musical meet Muse. The next, Sparks vs. The Doors. Or why not Leonard Cohen vs. Aphrodite's Child (666). The piano often plays a leading role, as well as strings and orchestral percussion. Brooks' sad crystal clear voice soar over the arrangements and you need to embrace the quirky concept from the opening words of "Consume" to the closing track of "Digital". In the hands of anyone else, it might sound like a bad idea and poor business. However. This crazy American would appear to have grasped the concept of being strange AND interesting. Simply keep the orchestra going and never stare directly at purple alien women on bikes? Definitely groovy and far-out, it's Homunculus.

www.aaronbrooks.net

Saturday, September 15, 2018

ALLY THE FIDDLE - Up

Rating: R
Label: GentleArtofMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The pros and cons regarding the album "Up" by the German sextet Ally The Fiddle. It's Progressive Rock/Fusion. The overall structure which obviously include compositions, arrangements, and lengthy passages, definitely suits the classically trained violinist Ally "The Fiddle" Storch. You could say it's something out of the ordinary, even if the lead vocals are ever so monotone and clearly not quite as impressive as the virtuoso violin work. The likes of "Sisyphos", "Living In a Bubble", "Center Sun", does not compute, are really sore, and difficult to praise. The majority of tracks are instrumental and that's a blessing in the disguise or if you prefer skies.

I'm not exactly having a go at The Fiddles, but they do play on the "posh" Prog-Rock card and aspect, that Prog being something that not everybody can play and thus why it should be enough to outplay the opposition. Unfortunately or fortunately? It's not always about skill or which level you've managed to reach on your musical journey to nirvana (pun intended - journey and nirvana. that's a double whammy). Most people tend to like material and structure where the melodies actually lead to something instead of merely stating the obvious - they we are darn good at playing our instruments. And make no mistake. These guys are d-a-r-n good musicians. There is just not a huge amount to rave about here if we're talking actual songs and melodies. In fact. The most memorable track, the cover of Surfing With The Alien.

Alex Storch explains and I quote, "For me, being progressive means to spin around thoughts and to further develop music", end quote. Fair enough. I enjoy their 'thinking outside the box' agenda and no matter what, a good song is always a good song. These particular thoughts and tracks are simply not to my liking. Alex is no doubt a superb musician and that's something to keep in mind. I'm sure you'd enjoy catching them live on stage if only just to say 'hey, that's one helluva' violinist - shame about the songs though'. Guest musicians includes Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats/The Mute Gods/Steven Wilson), Jen Majura (Evanescense), and Jerry Goodman (The Flock and Mahavishnu Orchestra).

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

DOYLE BRAMHALL II - Shades

Rating: RRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The future's so bright you gotta' wear Shades? Doyle Bramhall II's dramatic debut for the Provogue label, the eclectic mix of the seventies sounds and genres such as blues, soul, funk, and garage rock. I didn't expect the opening tracks to be quite as raw, rough, and at times even psychedelic. Then again. The man has been around the block a few times, picking up various inspiration, performing together with artists that includes Roger Waters, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Allen Toussaint and T-Bone Burnett, to name a few. More significantly, DBII had spent over a decade as Eric 'Slow Hand' Clapton's (ultra slow-motion nowadays?) musical right-hand man, collaborating closely with the legendary guitarist both in the studio and on stage

Starting up the album with some truly great, groovy, and nearly psychedelic tunes such as "Love and Pain" and "Hammer Ring". The first track was born out of inspiration, collaboration, and tragedy. It speak of the tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. It reek of Jimi H and the reverse guitar thing merely add to the overall vibe of 1968, proper freedom fighters, and trippy hippies. The latter (Hammer King) having this really cool rhythm pattern and style that acts such as King's X explored and played around with in the past. Doyle sounding a lot like their singer on this track.

It's a great start. I fully expected the entire album to be more of the same. Eric Clapton appears on the R&B-tinged "Everything You Need" and it could just as easily have been released in the year of 1976. It's got that smooth sound going on at eleven and it's darn close to Yacht music or if you prefer soft-rock. This would fit nicely in with the Doobie Brothers and Clapton at the time. The duet with Norah Jones on "Searching For Love", the follow-up to the successful pairing on DBII's previous album. "Live Forever", back to the groovy late 60s, and to be perfectly honest, it reeks of CREAM. It's CREAM. Basically CREAM! So far, so good.

Unfortunately. The album, losing a bit of pace, life, and structure around track seven (Break Apart To Mend) and though it's never dull or boring, it's neither exciting. I must however say that "She'll Come Around" is a marvelous little ballad and worthy all the praise and awe. Overall, the first half of the album, perhaps just more interesting and eclectic than the second half. Do we really need another cover of "Going Going Gone"? Final verdict: ballads are plenty, could we ask for more fuzzbox on the next album? facebook.com/doylebramhalliimusic

Monday, September 10, 2018

ALCATRAZZ - Live in Japan 1984

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

What's not to like about this? Vocalist Graham Bonnet (Rainbow and The Michael Schenker Group) and young guitar genius Yngwie J. Malmsteen going at each other with two massive egos and the infamous chicken race. Add to this Alice Cooper, New England, Warrior, members Gary Shea (bass), Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) and drummer Jan Uvena, and you're in for a treat 'ala 1984. Big brother is watching? It's the honest, raw, uncut, definitive version of the concerts performed by Alcatrazz in January 28-29, at Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo. Excerpt of the show has previously been released as "Live Sentence". However. This time it's full frontal nudity (yuk!) aka the naked truth as the production is pretty darn real and without layers of overdubs (from the original 24 channel audio multitrack I may add).

18 tracks of pure joy where such numbers as "Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live", "Hiroshima Mon Amour", "Island In The Sun", "Big Foot", "Jet To Jet" were performed with a hunger and confidence that can only be acquired after spending years in the business (Bonnet), or simply having the big ego, sheer belief, and larger than life attitude (Malmsteen). Bonnet sounding a bit forced on Hiroshima, but it's the real deal, not the polished crap, and the kind of live recordings we prefer really. Yngwie, beating or rather breaking his poor masters' fingers on the Rainbow numbers, "Since You Been Gone" (originally the Russ Ballard tune), "All Night Long" and "Lost In Hollywood". Seriously. Almost any guitarist (signed to a metal label) could mimic Blackmore. Malmsteen's guitar work? You need something a bit out of ordinary. Bonnet, the real crowd pleaser, and there's storming versions of "Night Games" (his biggest solo hit) and MSG's "Desert Song" to be found on the fully restored and remastered recording.

To quote the great viking, six-string bender, and overall donut fan, "How can less be more? Surely more is more". The young guitar hero Yngwie J. Malmsteen could do no wrong in the eighties. The mad creator of the genre known as Neo-Classical Metal and Hard Rock rejected tons of riffs and arrangements other guitarists could merely dream about. Easily the best or at least the most prolific cat of the era. Especially since Ed Van Halen decided to dabble with keyboards (jump) and snorting cocaine and any other drug he could fit up his nose or arse for that matter. The mad fretwork and tapping shines throughout the record and we get treated to stunning versions of "Evil Eye" (still to this day one of the best instrumental guitar metal pieces) and "Coming Bach". Yngwie, clearly too big for the band. The first song after the curtain call, guitar solo and the traditional Japanese instrumental tune of "Kojo no Tsuki". 'Unleash The Fury' would continue to release gob-smacking, jaw-dropping releases throughout the 80s. Final verdict: The solid ground. Captivated. On the rock (pun intended) - it's Alcatrazz!!! Highly Recommended.
facebook.com/alcatrazzoriginalband1

Friday, September 7, 2018

ENUFF Z'NUFF - Diamond Boy

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The original recipe for the crazy cookies known as Enuff Z'Nuff? Piece of cake really. Get into the kitchen and grab me the following ingredients: The Beatles, Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick. Mix it all together in the blender, add the healthy dose of Glam and you'll usually end up with something sticky and sweet. 'Diamond Boy', no longer follow the original recipe though and the "NEW" cookies are perhaps just lacking a little bit of the great flavour and taste of the heydays. The band now centered around bass player and vocalist Chip Z'nuff, still alive, out there, touring and recording new material. This record is the first Enuff Z'nuff release where Chip handles all of the vocal duties, "Singing on the entire album was very challenging. I'm taking the place of my brother (Donnie Vie) who I consider one of the greatest singers of our generation", says Chip.

Yours truly. The nineties fan of the original cookies and grew up with the power-pop music. I knew absolutely nothing about acts such as The Beatles, Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, and it took me forever to discover their influences. People say that Donnie mimic and copied Lennon. But there's a whole lotta Costello in that voice too. Chip is no Donnie, and no schmuck for that matter. The echo voice effect works magic in the studio. I quite like it. It's old school. A bit rough around the edges but still worthy of your attention. Let me tell you another thing. This is the typical grower album and you need to spin Diamond Boy on his head several times before the drugs kick in. In fact. The song material grew with each spin up to a certain point of course. It's not like they're still growing.

The title track, Mott The Hoople on dope. Yeah right. They never used dope? "We're All The Same" sound as if Weezer decided to hang out with our crazy cookies. I also noticed their choice for the latest single, Metalheart, the weakest track on the album and I tend to skip it everytime. It's otherwise a very solid affair by the band, Chip, longtime guitarist Tory Stoffregen, ex-Ultravox singer/guitarist Tony Fennell and Chicago native Daniel Benjamin Hill on drums. "Love Is On The Line" is just poetry in motion, and the perfect "Dopesick" some of their best work and lines in ages and I quote: 'I'm the truth, but I lie. I'm a sheep, I can fly. I can work, but I'm high' -Dopesick. Yeah. Vie is gone. It's not the same, but similar. facebook.com/EnuffZnuffOfficial

D'ERCOLE - Made To Burn

Rating: RR
Label: Rock Company 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Two sides of the coin? There's at the least three sides to the overall sound of "Made To Burn" by D'Ercole. First you have the fun guitar rocking numbers such as the opening track of "Time To Walk Away". It came out swinging like the Rabbids Invasion on a suicide mission to Mars (fun animated stuff at Nickelodeon and from France), but it's not really representable of the entire album. It reminded me of XYZ and Terry's work during this century. Secondly. The Pomp inspired keyboard number of "Out Of Time", easily the best track on here. It's got that late seventies, early eighties, sound going on at eleven and the same goes for the following acoustic vs. electric guitar track, "Open Your Eyes". The harmonies are really good throughout the first three tracks.

Thirdly. You have the really blunt and dare I say boring 'meat and potato' numbers such as "Feel The Burn", "Mistreated", "Get Undone", "Tragedy In Motion". They all have a rather annoying and darn right irritating guitar sound. Style-wise, they sound like mid-80's Gene Simmons compositions performed by mid-90s Dokken. Things are looking up again with the likes of "Same Old Story", "Slow Motion", and "Don't Know What You Got", however, it's not enough to save this platter from ending up in the sink, dish washer, at the very back of the cupboard.

D'Ercole is in fact the band of the D'Ercole brothers: guitarist Damian and drummer BF. That's what I thought at first anyhow considering the moniker. Lo and behold. In reality it's one of the many projects of U.S. artist/ vocalist Phil Vincent (Tragic, Chinawhite, Legion, etc.) and it feature guest musicians such as David Zychek (RIP), Paul Sabu (melodic hardrock cult legend) and Vince O’Regan. It's clearly not Vincent's best work up to date and the production differ a lot from track to track. Some are absolutely fine and others are muddy and thin. I'm neither too keen on the guitar sound and tone of Damian. Let's hope for something more uplifting on the next Phil Vincent album.

HELION PRIME - Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster

Rating: RR
Label: AFM Records 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
 
Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster??? Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.!!! Ace Rimmer? The return of the Red Dwarf? Sadly no. It's once again Sci-Fi Power Metal from Sacramento, California and it's ever so Pluto and Mars. Actually. It's probably Uranus. Noted: They have this big weird mascot - the mighty Saibot - the lamest metal attribute ever since Ronnie James Dio fought a lame dragon on stage. What ever happened to Kayla Dixon? The lead vocalist is no longer in the band as she's been replaced with Sozos Michael. Band leader Jason Ashcraft comments on the audition of Sozos: "He is the kind of singer I have always dreamed of working with. Not only are his vocal skills top-notch but he understands and knows what the music needs. Writing together for this album was a breeze and I hardly had to ask for any rewrites. Often he would send me ideas that was exactly what I was thinking. I am thrilled to work with someone like that and can't wait to see what we accomplish together."

Sozos, definitely no schmuck and you can trust him to fight off all the little green aliens and purple space monsters with his powerful set of killer pipes. Nothing here to make me listen again though. However. It's probably the mega super cool album if you're nine years old and looking for something to scare the crap out of your younger sis or bro. If you are into so-so, Edguy meet Gloryhammer Sci-Fi laden powermetal then you'll probably give this 12 thumbs up. A Sci-Fi Metal band like Helion Prime, especially when armed with a song called "Spectrum", are always going to scale the weird end of the ehhh... metal spectrum. The seventeen minute monster title track marking a shocking finale that will leave you stunned and confused for days. The Sacramento band's new piece of work was mixed and mastered at LSD Studio by Lasse Lammert (known for his work with bands like Alestorm and GloryHammer). I'll type that again. LSD Studio. Plenty of space monsters. I rest my case and keyboards. Send in the Star Trek and Star Wars nerds.

KING COMPANY - Queen Of Hearts

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

What the fudge? King Company - released as one of the 'New Breed', Frontiers' stable of young, exciting, up and coming bands who are the future of hard rock and metal? Oh c'mon. These Finns are merely young at heart... And obviously in comparison to all the 70 year old geezers (Asia, Rick Springfield, Whitesnake, etc.) that you usually find hanging around at the office of the Italian label, dropping various objects on the floor such as records, walking canes, pants, liniment, and hearing aid.

Formed in 2014 by veteran drummer Mirka Rantanen (Warmen, Thunderstone, Kotipelto, etc.) and guitarist Antti Wirman (Warmen, Children of Bodom), the sophomore release speak of "Queen Of Hearts" and reek of Teutonic melodies? Yes. They are indeed from the land of the Mumintrolls and found their new singer on YouTube. Italian-Argentinian Leonard F. Guillan at first merely the short term solution and replacement to Pasi Rantanen, the band eventually asked Leonard to join as a permanent singer as Pasi fought off vocal chord problems.

Nonetheless. The music sound as if it should definitely be wearing lederhosen and a funny hat (Austria, Germany, Switzerland). It's Axel Rudi Pell, Shakra, Silver, and Gotthard, all over the place and straight across the album. Technically speaking a vintage production and sound, it's been nicely mixed by Janne Wirman and mastered by Mika Jussila, stylistically a tad heavier and closer to Thunderstone than the debut. The storming title track goes through several different stages of rock where the intensity and Jens Johansson-ish keyboards stand out as the two main ingredients. It's ever so decent but below the standard of the top acts of the genre. Unfortunately, this is the case of the vast majority of the album. It's nice, neat, but also difficult to name any real highlights on the record. The ballad of "Stars" is probably my favorite track and that's never a good sign if you're looking for a rocking good time. Actually. The following track, "Living In A Hurricane", the really catchy uptempo rocker in the German tradition of melodic hardrock and the standard the entire album so badly needed. Final verdict: Hook missing. Line, sinker - gone fishing.