Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lisa CUTHBERT: "Paramour"

Rating: RRR
Label: LS/PrescriptionPR 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Lisa Cuthbert's second full length album, "Paramour", the Progressive Art-Pop/Rock concept album based and inspired by the shocking stories from Ireland's now finally defunct Magdalene Asylums. I do type finally as it's merely been the odd twenty years since the last institute closed down. One of many scandals in the history of the Catholic Church. Not to exlude any other religion for that matter since they've all done wrong in the name of God. You may also recognize Cuthbert from her work with Anathema, Sister Of Mercy, or on tour as supporting act for Marillion.

It's the dark and disturbing story and we're dealing with the very soft Art-Pop concept album with grand piano and haunting vocals as main ingredient. I'm no expert on Irish folk-music (or anything else for that matter), but, I'd still say that Cuthbert's inspiration (vocal-wise) are the old traditional singers as well as the modern output of Stevie Nicks, Sinead O'Connor, Tori Amos, etc. It's the storytelling of the traditional singer/songwriter combined with the drama of above mentioned artists. An awful lot of ultra slow drama and ebony/ivory work and the album could benefit from a change of pace and the use of other instruments.

Opener, "Destitute", stunningly beautiful vocals and the real drama of a beginning. "Gartan Mother's Lullaby" and "Madame's Secret Pain", the definite sound of Ireland and their traditional folk songs of the past. "Run and Jump", the slow and very dramatic build-up piece ála Stevie Nicks, especially like her solo albums of the eighties. "The Sooner You Know" takes the piano drama to another dimension and the orchestration is a nice change - more of this next time please. "Libra" the intrumental piano number prior to the Sinead O'Connor-ish track of "This Kind of Sin". In fact, the very same Sinead O'Connor, (great artist and spokeswoman for/on organised religion, women's rights, war, child abuse, etc.) was at the age of 15! placed in a Magdalene Asylum/Laundries. By the way, when it comes to Miley Cyrus vs. O'Connor - I'll stand behind the latter any day of the week.

The existence of the asylums was not well known to the world, but surely Ireland must have known since we're talking about their daughters, sisters and mothers, until 1993 when an order of nuns, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, in Dublin sold part of their convent to a real-estate developer. The remains of 155 inmates who had been buried in unmarked graves on the property were found and reburied in a mass grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. Massive scandal of course and the women received a full state apology earlier this very year. "Paramour" is the proper concept album release by a proper artist. Nontheless, it's the nice, but not quite top notch experience. Superb vocalist. It's just a little bit too samey and laid-back in the long run. The end. And I didn't even mention the Pope and the whole papal infallibility. Oh crap. So close...
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Gerry LAFFY: "Wrecked But Not Crushed"

Rating: RRr
Label: Die Laughing Records 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Blimey. Gerry Laffy again? It's his second solo album release of the year and everything is self-written and performed by the former guitarist for Girl, John Taylor, London Cowboys and Ultravox? To be perfectly honest. I had no idea about the latter and I'm a fan of the Ultravoxers. I guess it's the tour only guitarist? But don't take my word for it. Previously just a little blurred - Laffy's brush with death was the main inspiration for "Wrecked But Not Crushed" as he contracted life threatening speticaemia earlier this year.

There's nothing like a close encounter with the grim repear to get your inspiration going and to make you appreciate life? That is if you're not already completely dead inside. Laffy's latest album and opener "High" is definitely more upbeat and happy going in the vein of rocking in the free world and good old fashioned guitar riffing. Vocally, the man end up somewhere inbetween the work of Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) and Mark Rankin (Gun). Not quite as impressive but could easily do as the Monday night stand in at the local rock venue. The drums are however not quite Laffy at his best and the timing... well... at times wild and (w)reckless.

The main idea and thinking behind this album is no doubt guitar rock, groovy beats, the good time blues (check out the track: Another Man), as well as the traditional U.K. formula only with a twist. I can't help thinking about the Phil Collen project of Manraze as well as the odd Gun track and Power Station. The latter, perhaps not that strange considering the cover of "Dope". Not the best of version for that matter as it may lack the extra omph and strenght of the original. Then again, their record label showered them with millions of $ to receive the best out of production and mastering. You really can't compare the two on such merit alone. "Wrecked But Not Crashed" is far cheerier than his previous attempt at world domination and yet I prefer several songs from his earlier album. Go figure.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anna MURPHY: "Cellar Darling"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Booyamusic/Prescription 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The folk metal vocalist Anna Murphy's (Eluveitie) first solo album is pop, rock and electronica into a wildly diverse mix, prompting comparisons to a variety of artists ranging from Florence And The Machine all the way to the likes of Jack White and Muse. You may categorize Anna's music as Alternative, although she much prefers the term Eclectica. Responsible not only for the lyrics and music, Murphy takes complete control including co-producing the album with Marco Jencarelli (Soundfarm Studios, Philipp Fankhauser, Dada Ante Portas) and even painting most of the artwork herself. The daughter of Swiss and Irish opera singers is basically the foundation of great vocals.

With a modern production and hypnotic lush keyboards/piano, it's difficult to keep track of all the different tracks (there's a total of 17), styles and genres found on 'Cellar Darling'. One minute, a track like, "Soundwaves", might just remind you of Alanis Morissette (the opening two tracks are the worst in my humble opinion). The next, "Lovelornia", the poppy, catchy, upbeat single with powerful vocals and haunting violins. Not to mention, "Out Of Control", the grand piano ballad feature background vocal chant and alternative arrangement ála Florence and Tori Amos. "Twin Flames", progressive pop metal with out of ordinary vocals. Excellent. The title track tells the story of a morbid fascination and addiction and how it's confronted when feelings like love and affection join the game. The vocals and drum/bass track of "Pale" - The Sugarcubes and Björk of old including extra hi-pitch scream and everything.

Murphy, definitely at her best on simplistic and fragile numbers such as "Epic Fail", "Island", "Red Lights", "Breathe" or "Woebegone". The latter has such a great repeated piano chord arrangement. For reasons best known only to themselves far too many artists are trying to inject as many tracks and styles as possible on their debut releases. It's perhaps the fear of not being able to record the follow-up? or the fact that debuts and their songs often are years of work where the artist goes through several different changes (music-wise). At turns "Cellar Darling" is grandiose, fragile, and perhaps just too quirky? Do not expect to find any of the folk metal of Eluveitie. It's more in the vein of Tori Amos, Björk, Florence and The Machine, the mere hint of Evanescence, and basically pure and naked Art-Pop music with the epic lyrical concept.

Final verdict: Strange and beautiful. And I do enjoy the idea of including the Peggy Lee cover "Johnny Guitar" as the closing track. Clearly not the instant hit album. You need to spin this several times and let it all sink in. Recommended.

VENGEANCE: "Piece Of Cake"

Rating: RRRR
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Opening number, "World Arena", a proper belter of a track with roaring guitars and stomping beat. Vocally, Leon Goewie has a haunting metal quality, mad, raspy, hi-pitch and completely riding on his own cloud, yet still blending into the song which soon will have you shouting along to the lines of 'get ready for the global rush'. It's proper metal mania and Vengeance at their best and merely the hint of Lizzy Borden and U.D.O. The great example of how to lure people off the street and into the metal arena - 'Piece Of Cake' really.

Promoted in the 80s under the slogan 'Do You Hate Hardrock? Guess You've Never Seen Vengeance' - the band from Brabant, Netherlands, are finally having/taking the cake and hope to eat it too. I'am really surprised by the high song quality throughout the album. Remove the dodgy rock of the "Train" track (pun intended) and end up with ten songs in the fine tradition of 80s hard rock and metal. The late and great guitarist Jan Somers (RIP) - replaced by his son Timo and he's quite the flashy six-string bender. Check out the impressive tone and style in the bluesy semi-ballad, "Back To Square One".

"Tears From The Moon", the fine mid-tempo song which Kal Swan and Lion would be proud of during their era of Trouble In Angel City. The wet "Raintime" is Vengeance heavy with lots of flowing guitar and "Sandman" is the blunt and direct metal tune with over-the-top vocals by Goewie. "Headquake" and "Mirrors", two completely different animals with A+ quality as their common trademark and ground. Neon Leon goes bezerk during the latter and its Kingdom Come (the band) inspired chorus. Title track 'Piece Of Cake' feature tongue-in-cheek lyric and fun vocals in the grand tradition of Bon Scott. "Goodbye Mother Sky" is the closing epic track that reeks of Arabia and Led Zep.

The bottomline: Older fans may still think of the "Arabia" album as their very best. "Piece Of Cake" is however 'same, same, but different' and loaded with headbanging material. \m/

MAD MAX: "Interceptor"

Rating: RR
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'Interceptor' is in fact the desert car in the original and first Mel Gibson film about Mad Max. The trigger happy post-WWIII road warrior is nowhere to be seen, however, there's a new video game coming up and I believe that free publicity is just as good reason for a new album as any. Mad Max, the band, was formed in 1981 in Münster, Germany, by guitarist Jürgen Breforth and I believe he's the only survivor and original band member since the war (WWIII). Lead vocalist and famed producer Michael Voss (Casanova, Demon Drive, MSG, etc.) joined the band when Andreas Bäsler decided to leave shortly after the recording of their self-titled debut.

Produced by Voss at his own Kidpool Studio in Münster, with the drum recordings completed at the renowned Principal Studios in Senden. The record was mastered at the MSM Studios in Munich, and according to Breforth: "This time we made a conscious decision to allow ourselves more external output, yet without overdoing it". For instance, Herman Ze German - not the ancient Teutonic hero, but former Scorpions' drummer (Rarebell), responsible for the odd song credit as they've decided to let several outsiders have a go at co-writing. The majority of the songs are still pretty melodic and not to be confused with the heavy metal of the early 80s.

Very quick track-by-track. The opening piece "Save Me", the decent Mad Max composition as it should be played, with feeling, passion, smashing guitar work and vocals. Sadly lacking the catchy hook. The following "Godzilla" with its larger than life agenda, as much fun as watching the old movies from Japan featuring the Monster. In other words, pretty boring stuff and merely the bridge is a keeper. Through the rest of their original material, there's the decent melody and guitar work that gives them added kick. "Sons Of Anarchy", very much the 80s sound of Dokken and Pretty Maids only lacking the great refrain. "Five Minute Warning", a fine semi-ballad which Breforth and Voss composed in Nashville in collaboration with American songwriter Van Preston. "Bring On The Night", main guitar riff ála Dokken and Lynch. "Streets Of Tokyo", the Herman Rarebell co-write and I'm told it's been inspired by their MSG Japan tour? Nontheless, decent party rock. "Show No Mercy", the re-recording of the bonus track from the 1987 album Night Of Passion. "Revolution", gritty guitar rock and finally, "Turn It Down", the obligatory and dare I say boring? cover song by The Sweet.

Great production, vocals, and guitar work. Unfortunately a bit too safe in the long run.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

LESLIE WEST: "Still Climbing"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot/Warner 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Leslie West - stand up next to a Mountain and chops it down with the edge of his hand - pick up all the pieces and make an island. Might even raise a little sand? It's hardly the Hendrix tribute and even though the title may refer to Mountain's debut album, 'Climbing', this platter might just be slightly heavier than your ordinary West release. Strong as steel and stubborn as a mule - the man fought off cancer, seriously bad diabetes (they eventually had to amputate his leg), drug addiction, and several wind-mills to come up with this fine effort at the mere age of 68?

I believe this to be a very fine effort actually, since it combines raw guitar rock, blues and nice songs nearly throughout the album. Merely a couple of dodgy moments. The first three are simply flawless and opener, "Dying Since The Day I Was Born" isn't particularly far removed from the raw and heavy blues rock of ZZ Top. Lovely gritty vocals and West really goes to town here, all dressed up and ready to knock much younger kids to the ground. "Busted, Disgusted or Dead" with special guest as well as legend Johnny Winter is my definition of cool blues rock including excellent slide work. "Fade Into You" is the very powerful slow-tune, R&B ballad with a catchy hook.

The rural "Tales Of Woe" fit West like a glove and the mix of acoustic guitar and electric lead is a perfect match. The Traffic cover of "Feeling Good" with special guest Dee Snider of Twisted Sister is another goodie where Dee steps up to the plate to hit a homerun with his Rambo-like vocal performance. "Hatfield or Mccoy", rootsy, swampy, roadhouse. "Long Red" is the re-recording of the Mountain song and I guess it's only fair that Les takes another shot at this when you consider that it's been sampled by everybody from Kayne West to Jay Z. I'm however not too keen on the cover of "When A Man Loves A Woman" simply because it's difficult to do justice to the original and Percy Sledge (one helluva singer). It's the duet with contemporary soul/R&B singer Jonny Lang and I guess the result is better than your average cover version.

The gritty voice, borderline savage but never really a problem. Emotional intensity is the key word and the same goes for the man's guitar playing. Mountain is often described as USA's answer to Cream and West worked together with Jack Bruce between the years of 1972-74 in a band simply entitled 'West, Bruce and Laing'. 'Still Climbing' proves that this U.S. Woodstock veteran is still alive and kicking.

HOLY CROSS: "Place Your Bets"

Rating: R
Label: PureSteel 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Could the latest album by Holy Cross hold the secret of how to confuse the listener and to make them believe they're confronted with several different singers? There's merely one of them though and in this case unfortunately one too many. Mickael Champon goes through at least five different stages of the strange metal persona and performances on "Place Your Bets" and the result is confusion and disorder. He's high and low, raspy and raw, but never really on the money.

The rest of the band are trying to keep up appearance by adding lots of fine heavy riffing and solos. The galloping drumming and thrashy bass-lines of highest order. I especially enjoy "Break Your Chains" where the aggressive metal meet more melodic stuff in great fashion and style.

There are times, however, when the singing comes to an abrupt halt and you merely pray for the all-instrumental song and order. All in vain and no such luck. The strange performer continue throughout all the nine tracks. The final chapter of "Higher and Higher", no doubt the best vocal delivery of the day. Alas, it's much too little and too late to save the day, or night for that matter. No one should ever tell Holy Cross what to do with their singer and music. But I would advice them to focus on finding the one style that works the best and not mess around with pitch and range. Not quite at the level of their thrash and metal heroes, this tale is a metal experience that will have this listener reaching for skip. Better luck next time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

BLACK TRIP: "Goin' Under"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Threeman/Playground 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Black Trip, the new Swedish hype metal band consist of guitarist Peter Stjärnvind (Entombed, Merciless, Nifelheim), vocalist Joseph Tholl (Enforcer, Corrupt), drummer Jonas Wikstrand as well as the two former Nifelheim members' Sebastian Ramstedt (guitar), Johan Bergebäck (bass). 'Goin' Under' -their debut album release at Threeman/Playground and it's all very back to basics and NWOBHM. Flat and slightly aggressive vocals in the style of Paul DiAnno (Iron Maiden) and Nicke Andersson (The Hellacopters) and the album is simply bursting with naive/blunt but energized and entertaining Heavy Metal of the very early 80s.

Oh crap. Now I'm in serious trouble. I really shouldn't do the whole comparison to the TV programmes of Channel 4 and Bad News all over again. Especially since it's merely been the silent battle cry of 'Warriors Of Ghengis Khan' or two since last. But honestly, I had no idea reality would knock down our door and hit us over the head with the debut album from Black Trip. They have been listening to all the old metal albums between the years of 1979 to 1983 and especially the likes of Iron Maiden (DiAnno era), Angelwitch, Raven, Mercyful Fate, Saxon, Tygers Of Pan Tang. Add merely the hint of Thin Lizzy and you're pretty close to the core of Black Trip.

In fact, the first single/video of "Radar" is clearly their most Lizzy inspired tune. The other seven tracks reeks of denim and leather, fish and chips, the old belt and wrist-band with pyramid studs, greasy non-poodle hairdo, and the traditional mud and urine-filled bottle barrage at any metal festival in the U.K. during the early eighties. The production is dead on and uncanny while the songs are utter, utter, utter metal. What they lack in orginallity, they make up for in energy, devotion, and sheer desperation. Final Verdict: In the famous words written in the centre of the denim jackets back panel of Vyvyan (The Young Ones: which also feat. Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall): VERY METAL!

LITA FORD: "The Bitch Is Back... Live"

Rating: Live
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Lita Ford is badass. The guitars are so badass. Live albums are... well, not quite as badass. It's now 2013. Can't we just all agree to skip the live album and simply replace them with the fun DVD/Blu-Ray release? Because that's the only badass experience you'll ever have regarding live stuff. Watching AND listening to your favorite acts and artists on screen is clearly the best and only way to go. Wouldn't it be great to have former Runaway aka Lady Lita Ford on your '50 big-screen' roaring, playing and singing the massive rock of "Hungry", "Back To The Cave", "Out For Blood", "Dancing On The Edge", and gulp, "Kiss Me Deadly". Sweet Zombie Jesus! That would be badass!

Starting up the concert recorded at the Canyon Club, L.A. California in early October of 2012 with the Elton John cover "The Bitch Is Back" is odd to say the least. Nothing remotely wrong about the song (originally found on the 1974 album 'Caribou' -featuring the worst artcover ever!) but the people are clearly there for Queen Lita. The band are solid on the evening and get a nice reaction. However, I can't say that I enjoy the rather hollow sound of the snare-drum. The simple and very effective party rock of "Out For Blood" -like a kick to the head, but, I really wish they could perform "Gotta Let Go". Lita is still very much the badass rocker with something to offer even if this particular platter had me longing for the non-existing DVD/Blu-Ray.

Why do I keep typing badass on every line? Lita loudly says and I quote: 'There's nothing like the roar of those guitars man. They are so badass', prior to introducing, "Relentless", and the line kept haunting me throughout the album. Release date Europe: October 28th on digipak. facebook

The BOOMTOWN RATS: "Classic Album Box"

Rating: Sampler
Label: Universal/Mercury 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Boomtown Rats, you simply can't type shite about the kikkazz band without sounding (inside your head) like the self-promoting genius Paddy git legend of Bob Geldof. It's simply impossible. I can hear Bob's haunting voice right now at this very moment, reading out this very sentence and he's just as pleased as the time when this geezer leapt up from the audience and whacked him on the gob. The photos of Bloody-Bob hit the papers in grand style and I'm sure this piece of art will do the same. No? What? Perhaps not. Did you know the Rats reformed earlier this year? Great! Did you also know they are re-releasing the first six albums in digipak sleeves with attendant bonus material or at least so I'm told. They've sent me the 10-track sampler...

I should probably complain direct to Bob Geldof for that matter. How about some charity work this way mate and the proper product? It's bloody pointless to talk about the Irish gold of The Boomtown Rats and their spanking new box-set, if you're stuck with merely the 10-track sampler and not the actual set. Then again, any publicity is good publicity? What's next? People are sending out books for review that are missing out the last 250 pages. I can tell you that I don't like this particular Monday since it came with a mere sampler of all the albums between the years of 1977 to 1984. Rats indeed. Geldof, you moody legend. Stop revolving around the sun for a moment and come back to earth to help out this poor bastard. I can't review six albums on the 10-track sampler? I'm not Irish for christ's sake and we're not dealing with (small) potatos. Pun intended. Ireland. Potato. No? Nevermind. Dún Laoghaire!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

DEGREED: "We Don't Belong"

Rating: RR
Label: AORRecords 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Swedes of Degreed proclaim - We Don't Belong - or rather they don't belong. They certainly do not fit any particular category as they combine Melodic Rock and soft Progressive stuff with contemporary and modern pop metal. I guess you can call it Soft Rock? The key ingredient is however melodic melodies with layers of keyboards and their overall sound, at times similar to Platitude, Erik Grönwall (the solo album) and bland Swedish radio P3 music. The best thing about their second release - no doubt the smashing keyboards throughout the album.

I know you're supposed to enjoy this a lot since several people on the web told you so. Then again, the same reviewers praise all the bands and end up raving about everything they review. Why bother typing about music in the first place? Simply put up a sign that reads - They're All Great - and be done with it. I'm a fan of music - not musicians. "We Don't Belong" it's just too sterile, redundant and boring. I expected a lot more considering the decent debut. 'Black Cat' is the nice opener with cool guitar/keyboard work and biting pre-chorus. No, wait, that's the actual refrain? "In For The Ride" is however one great tune from start to end and 'Access Denied' is the high energy power pop tune. The rest are just too similar in structure and style and merely the keyboards are keeping them together.

There's no end, no beginning, dodgy middle section and lack of proper hooks. I noticed that Erik Lidbom has written songs for the album and he's the best selling songwriter in Japan. That explains a lot actually. Don't get me wrong. I love the old and new culture of Japan. The freedom to do what you want - dress up as your fave manga/video game hero or whatever. The hi-tech stuff. Basically, Nippon rules. However, 98% of the Top-50 J-Pop. Not a shred of human involvement nor a single note of real engagement. I don't blame the good people of Japan for that matter since it's mostly Swedish songwriters. 9 to 5 factory made corp. b.s. Seriously, they work in a studio in Sweden and it's like any industrial business. Cold and completely soulless. It's all about the $$$

'Could it be that love is just a four letter line', quote taken from the title track off the album. Could it be that Degreed is just a seven letter word? Could it be that we don't belong?


Rating: R
Label: RockRoad 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The song 'Satan's City Shuffle' is an interesting attempt to break down the boundaries between hardrock and comedy. The title may be an amusing, nostalgic trip down the TV programmes of Bad News and the work of Rik Mayall and co. Unfortunately the guys and doll of Hollywood Burnouts are not trying to re-create the spoof rock of Channel 4 in the U.K. since they are the proper band with proper members such as Chrizzy Roxx and Nikki Sinn. Ehem, wait. Are they German rockers or porn-stars? No idea really as their names are probably straight from the dvd-box of the latter category.

Apparently the first album had the Glam/Sleaze style which clearly didn't work? They are now mixing and trixing the 80's style with third rate 70's Aerosmith shuffle as well as the latest Glam/Sleaze out of Scandinavia (think Reckless Love & Crazy Lixx only worse). Musically, they have sadly not that much to offer, whining vocals and the sod boring mediocrity that local pub bands have done for years and with much better result I may add since their audience are always drunk.

The absolutely best thing about Hollywood Burnsouts - the smashing guitarwork (thumbs up!). The not too shabby rock of "Access All Areas", and of course their ability to believe in rock'n roll. Yes I know. You're supposed to write about music in the old fashioned and boring way. Some old fart geezer set the formula back in 1898 and that's the only way things should be. Don't do anything out of ordinary or you're bound to upset people. So... okay. Rik Mayall and co. they are not, but the irony is that Bad News had more exciting and fun songs (Warriors Of Ghengis Khan!!) and they played Monsters Of Rock. Kick it...

STRYPER - "No More Hell To Pay"

LABEL: Frontiers

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Let's be honest, we were all starting to wonder what the point was of having Stryper back. The covers album was pretty cool, but in the end it was a covers album. The re recordings of their old classics was also kinda cool, but rather pointless as it generally added nothing (and in a couple of cases made the songs worse). So it's a blesses (literally) relief to have an album full of new material from Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Tim Gaines and Oz Fox - originator's of the "Yellow & Black Attack" so many years ago.

For my part, I've been a Stryper fan from way back, in the days when I was a Christian and out the other side in my more rational Atheism days. The music was so good, however, that it even got cynical old Atheist me singing along to such cheese as "Makes me Wanna Sing", although I was impressed by their rebellious teenage years album "Against The Law", where God took a well deserved rest.

So first up it should be said that "No More Hell To Pay" is a return to the God Squad days, as Stryper sing about faith with much sincerity and passion, and this is only a abd thing when it just gets too silly, as on "Jesus Is Just Alright", a song with such an embarrassing Sunday School chorus I have had to delete it from the iPod just in case I start singing it in the street and people think I am deranged.

With that aside, "No More Hell To Pay" is about as good as we could have hoped. The best thing about it is that it really sounds like the Stryper we all know and love. There hasn't been any attempt to change the sound or style, and they sound brilliant. Michael Sweet's vocals are impeccable, especially when he is allowed to go a bit mental as he does on the blistering rocker "Saved By Love". Naturally, there's a syrupy ballad in  the shape of "The One", and it's okay but no "First love" or "Together As One" to be honest. Elsewhere the song titles certainly transmit the band's message, as in "Marching Into Battle", "Water Into Wine" and "Revelation".

One of my favourites, apart from "Saved By Love", is "Te Amo" (Spanish for "I Love You") - a perfectly paced track that benefits from a beautifully melodic chorus (very classic Stryper) and some pounding drums from visual timekeeper Robert Sweet. It should also be said that throughout the album Oz Fox provides some really great guitar solos, making the few lesser songs much more listenable.

"No More Hell To Pay" is a triumphant return to heavenly glory for Stryper, an album with so much going for it you can easily overlook the few faults. Some of the songs are certainly as strong as anything they've done before, and that statement alone should tell you enough to make you want to hear it. Finally, the real Stryper have achieved their second coming, and we should thank Richard Dawkins for that...
Oficial Site

Friday, October 11, 2013

FISH: "A Feast Of Consequences"

Rating: RR
Label: Chocolate Frog Record Company
Review by Martien Koolen

It is sad but true to say that Fish has only made one really great album, namely his first one called: A Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors (1989) and all right, let's be fair, one rather nice CD called Field Of Crows, released in 2003. The other albums are all rather mediocre rock albums on which the Scottish singer repeats himself over and over again. Furhermore one has to say that his voice, especially during live gigs, has become less interesting and he cannot reach the high notes any longer as he used to, which you could call wear and tear...

The new album "A Feast Of Consequences" is approached from an acoustic standpoint and that is what bothers/annoys me most as the bulk of the eleven new tracks are packed with acoustic guitar passages and melodies. And if you read my reviews regularly yuo know that I am not a fan - euphemistically speaking - of acoustic guitar based songs, or so-called unplugged stuff. Now, the new album opens with a long track called "Perfume River", and the first 2:40 minutes are filled with dull piano and acoustic guitar passages, till finally around the six minutes mark you get to hear some electric guitar and the song tempo goes up. "All Loved Up" sounds very familiar and is an up tempo symphonic poppy song with a singalong chorus. "Blind To The Beautiful" is an utterly boring semi-acoustic ballad with violin parts as additional nothingness. The title track sounds like a follow up of the previous song and is again a rather mediocre one.

Finally we come to the only good track on this album: "High Wood Suite", which is divided into five parts of which "Crucifix Corner" and "Thistle Alley" are the absolute highlights. "Crucifix Corner" shines with great guitar riffs, musical diversity, good singing and at last a melodic guitar solo. "Thistle Alley" features splendid guitar hooks and catchy melodies and is dark and rather mysterious. The question now comes to mind why Fish did not record more of these songs?? The last two tracks on the album, "The Other Side Of Me" and "The Great Unravelling" are again, boring, filled with lots of redundant piano parts, acoustic guitar passages and the so well known Fish melodies. All in all I must say that this album is again a disappointment, but a lot of reviews I have read are very positive+ some critics even call "A Feast of Consequences" the best album Fish has ever made..... I beg to differ as 26 minutes of good music, "High Wood Suite", do NOT make a great album!


Rating: RRRR
Label: Melodicrock Records 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Well, well. This new line-up of House Of Shakira with Andreas Novak on vocals seems to work fine. I liked their first effort, last year's "HoS", and now with "Pay To Play" they have come up with an album that's at least as good as its' predecessor.

House of Shakira have always had a certain element of quirkiness in them, and they've still got it. Their lyrics aren't the "usual kind of stuff" and their music has some nice twists and turns. In the past I've missed some anthemic, catchy hooks, but now they've delivered in that department too. I also like the neat references to classic rock tracks they've built into the songs - take a listen and see if you can spot some bits of Queen, Foreigner, Def Leppard and Hendrix...

Highlights: "Pay To Play", "Dopamine Junkie", "Two Things" and "Bending The Law". A few minus points for the production, it's decent enough but somehow slightly flat.

FAITH CIRCUS: "Turn Up The Band"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Melodicrock Records 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Turn up the band and let it take you back to the summer of 1989... The second Faith Circus longplayer is most certainly a very vintage sounding album, but I'm not complaining because it's a throwback to a time when many of my favourite albums were released. More importantly, the band manages to sound convincing and energetic, even though they are not offering us anything particulary "new".

The Faith Circus sound is a very appealing mix of eighties' Kiss, Bon Jovi and Skid Row (first album) - there's plenty of melody but also a lot of raw power that makes it a bit special. The production is excellent, and the individual performances top notch. Some fine, fluid guitarwork here, not to mention Marc Ferrano's fine vocals.

My favourite tracks include the superb summertime anthem "Sunshine Radio" (Blue Tears fans, take notice), the strong opener "Restless Heart" and the ballads "Tears You've Never Cried" and "Into Your Heart", both of which would have turned the bands into MTV darlings back in 1989. The only weak track is the plodding "Love Me Dry" which reminds me of Gene's half-hearted tracks on the eighties' Kiss albums. Otherwise it's all good, some better than others but thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY: "Unblackened" Blu-Ray

Rating: Blu-Ray
Label: Eagle Vision 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Black Label Society and "Unblackened" - not the traditional acoustic unplugged happening, but they are sitting down and several songs are sort of but not quite stripped down to basics. The gritty post-grunge southern rock metal is indeed the winning concept for BLS and the band, including gang leader and former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde as well as famed keyboardist Derek Sherinian are playing their most popular BLS songs, a couple of Wylde's solo as well as the project of Pride & Glory.

Recorded and filmed March 6 2013 at Club Nokia in L.A. U.S. of A the band plays a set of intimate versions which goes down extremely well and it's just a great atmosphere on stage as well in the audience. It's like if they invited their fans to come on over to their house and have a meeting at the living room of Black Label Society. I actually prefer several songs this way to the originals. The slightly laid-back 'southern rock' flavor add a new dimension and bite to several tracks such as 'The Blessed Hellride, Sold My Soul, Road Back Home, Spoke In The Wheel', etc. Zakk's just a top notch player and I really enjoy the guitar tone at the concert. The sludgy vocals, well, not too shabby, but there's better singers out there. The total of seventeen tracks and running time is approx 165 min including bonus feature. The Blu-ray disc version is simply flawless.

The bonus content: Zakk visits HM Prison Stocken U.K. The warden introduced him prior to our guitarist sat down in a chair on the small stage and basically started this awesome flashy 10 minute solo before playing 'Spoke In The Wheel'. It's followed by the Q&A where the comedy factor is high as Zakk can barely understand the English accent of the convicts. Glorified drug and booze stories and basically Ted Nugent material and I quote, "If I was in Guantanamo Bay. I'd go hey buddy just so you know. Let's just make believe these guys (in the prison) are attacking us [making gun sound] I'd kill every one of them. It's self defense. That's a shame". The perfect role model and speaker at any prison? Oh my. The anti-bully message is however good even if the method is orthodox.

There's also the short interview with Zakk (about Unblackened). Video for "Losin' Your Mind", and the photo gallery.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Andy FAIRWEATHER LOW & The Lowriders: Zone-O-Tone

Rating: RRR
Label: Proper Records 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Why is Andy Fairwheather Low? He's merely three feet tall? Nah. Pun intended and the lame example of a beginning, etc. The man came to fame in the swinging sixties as the lead vocalist with Amen Corner and scored several hits, including the number 1 "(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice". He went on to enjoy a successful solo career, and enjoyed another hit with "Wide Eyes And Legless". Also known as second guitarist to the U.K. stars as he played a role working with the likes of Eric Clapton, The Who, George Harrison, Roger Waters, Bill Wyman. The latter not the musician to be connected to since he dated the 12/13 year old and married her a couple of years later (Mandy Smith).

The band, 'The Lowriders' consist of Paul Beavis on drums (Thea Gilmore, Robbie Macintosh & Sunday All Over The World), Nick Pentelow on saxes and clarinet (Roy Wood, Roger Chapman and Gary Moore) and long standing associate Dave Bronze on bass (Clapton, Concert For George, Dear Mr Fantasy tribute to Jim Capaldi). It's very much the throw-back album inspired by the music of Stax and Atlantic soul/R&B, The Four Aces, Josef Locke, Johnny Kidd, Lonnie Donegan, The Shadows and many more.

A couple of the tracks are perhaps a tad too similar in structure and style to the classic 'See You Later Alligator'. The really laidback material on the other hand may certainly remind you of Slowhand and Macca a.k.a. Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. AFL is still a very impressive vocalist and the horns backing provide a certain 'Yorkshire sound' to the melodies. The end result is an album of vitality and professional songs that combines the old sound with todays technology and recording. Solid as a rock.
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ELECTRO NOMICON: "Unleashing The Shadows"

Rating: RRR
Label: NoRemorse 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Eyes, mouth, nose, and Electro Nomicon. Huh. What's that? Things that are in your face!! They are loud, obnoxious, hard rocking, and 'Unleashing The Shadows' - very much the intense classic metal experience throughout its ten tracks. Recording all these numbers certainly the band delivered the goods as the songs are raw and have loads of attitude in the style of anything ever so slightly related to the hard rock God of Ronnie James Dio (RIP).

Indeed, the group consisting of band members from USA and Argentina are basically paying tribute to the RJD albums with Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and obviously DIO on their debut album. Pretty much like any JORN album in other words and if you can't get enough of the Norwegian, look no further as this platter will do just fine until his next album. Singer Diego Valdez (Helker, Triddana) works in a similar pitch and overall style as the Norwegian and that fellow from Astral Doors (which name escapes me at the moment- do a google if needed). Perhaps not quite as impressive but close enough.

Guitarist Juan José Fornés works the fretboard like a maniac, however, the instrumental "Dark Flight" is a nice breather from the aggressive power hard rock. Not to mention that their drummer (Owen Bryant) slam and kick behind the kit with the energy of a very particular bunny. Play it loud and perhaps the little Elf will once again appear? That theory might explain their obsession, but I can't imagine DIO flying all across the cosmos to check them out? It might however attract JORN to appear at their next concert though?

Final verdict: Essential (?) to the raving mad fan of Masterplan and Jorn. The rest of us might think it's a nice album with smashing guitarwork... but lacking a bit in the songwriting department.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

EDEN'S CURSE: "Symphony Of Sin"

Rating: RRRR
Label: AFM Records 2013
Review by Dan Mann

Well I guess we need to get the fact there's been quite an important lineup change out of the way first. The good news is new vocalist Nikola Mijic has slotted in perfectly. And as I've said before, if you don't like the singer then you'll struggle to like an album. For me this release delivers everything you want in a melodic hard rock album.

I would say that whether you're already an Eden's Curse fan or not it will not disappoint. With some albums I'm sent I play them through once and find I can't remember a single thing about them.

This album has thankfully got the penmanship of Paul Logue behind it, with the end result being a guitar fueled album of superior song writing.

I think the simplest summing up would be, would I buy this album if I hadn't been sent a promo copy? Damn right I would, it's going to be somewhere in my list of favorite albums of 2013. Another 4 RRRR album for me.

REDS'COOL: "Bad Story"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mausoleum 2013
Review by Rich Dillon

It’s not too often that we in North America hear of a Russian rock band, in fact the only one that comes to mind is Gorky Park with their minor MTV hit, 1989’s “Bang”. But what other heavy metal outputs does the “Red Country” have? Well, I just discovered one called Reds’Cool.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2011 they quickly expelled their first full length record entitled Attraction in the same year. Now two years later they are poised to unleash the sequel with Bad Story on October 18th, 2013. The forthcoming album consists of nine melodic rock tracks in the vein of, as they describe on their Facebook page, “classic hard rock with modern interpretation, turning to blues and art rock”. Several places report that the legendary Michael Wagener produced the record, but in a post by Wagener on the Reds’Cool Facebook page says that he did not produce it, but only recorded some overdubs, mixed and mastered it.

Bad Story starts off rockin’ with, “Bite” and immediately conjures up images and thoughts of Whitesnake. “Hey You” continues the trend with a catchy little riff throughout. From there we go through the slower tempo of “Confession” before ramping up a little again for “Love and Pain”. By the time I get to “Upside Down” in every listen so far, it has all blended together and I don’t realise that the songs have changed, completely missing “Feel You”. Another slow tempo ballad appears in “You Must Go”, while “Fooling Myself” gets better with every listen. The gang vocal chorus of the shortest and arguably best cut, “Bad, Bad Story” end the recording on a high note.

Overall I don’t see anything groundbreaking on here and while it does at times seem to lack some “balls”, Reds’Cool has put together a fairly solid collection of radio friendly tunes great for fans of Whitesnake, Brighton Rock or even Bad English. I recommend full volume for your total listening enjoyment.

Friday, October 4, 2013

SAGA: "Spin It Again Live In Munich" DVD

Rating: DVD
Label: earMusic/Edel 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'Five years ago I stood on this stage and I said goodbye. Five years later and I'm standing on this stage and I say hello' - Lead singer Michael Sadler, no doubt pleased to be back and sporting the bald eagle style which at first confuses half of the audience to believe their at the REM reunion? 'Spin It Again' - The DVD, title obviously taken from the song off the 20/20 album celebrates Saga as they are, together again on stage. Well... they were merely apart for five years... geez, lemon squeeze. The total running time of this DVD is approx 130 min including the bonus behind the scenes doc.

Germany is home away from home to the Canadians and especially Munich hold a special place in their hearts. Starting up the concert with the new composition of "Anywhere You Wanna Go" and the instant follow up with one of the oldest (Mouse In a Maze) is a nice reminder to the fact that Saga always been true to their colours. Perhaps with the only difference that some of the eighties songs are basically Synth-pop meet Prog-Rock? In my humble opinion, the golden era sounded a lot like the fusion between synth and prog (no?). Darn catchy and poppy keys no doubt.

The audience, way too laidback at first, but things are about to improve with the perfect sing a long of "Careful Where You Step" - classic Saga if ever. The instrumental, "Corkentellis", clearly not the favourite and basically the intermission and/or tea break. The darn catchy "The Flyer" is however and it always remind us of a rockier A-HA somehow? New drummer = new drum-solo? Not quite as "Fish Beat" is at first based upon the old and very classic solo with a twist. Sadler sounds really good throughout the gig and the break was probably a good thing as well as time for him to recharge the battery and give it another go. Saga end the show with their very best and the likes of "On The Loose", "Wind Him Up" and "Don't Be Late" almost brought a tear to the eye.

The behind the scenes documentary takes us through the whole on tour she-bang including road crew as well as all the band members. Sadler and Gilmour speak about energy and the joy of performing together on stage. It's the standard chat 'Each time they walk on stage, its fresh and new', but they seem to have fun, cracking jokes and having a laugh or five. For instance, the first two things to figure out at hotel rooms in Europe. 1) The TV remote control. 2) The plumbing? There's something dodgy about the foot bath? Apparently the band found new drummer Mike Thorne under a rock? (according to the DVD and Mike - not my opinion) I don't know. They make however sure to give each other space and believe themselves to be more responsible nowadays since they are family men.

To the tech nerd, there's your sound and monitor engineer where the latter goes on and on and on about working the soundboard and how not to cause feedback. That's strickly sound related stuff and not your must leave positive/negative b.s. opinion online or whatever. The guitar tech gives us important information about the fact that Ian 'Statue' Crichton use merely two guitars on stage. One tuned to 'D and the other to 'E and he can't break a string, if he breaks a string, the song is done. Poor guitar tech has to make sure to change strings everyday or end up in the naughty corner. The band merely wish he could provide the same strict routine regarding his underwear (he shoots, he scores!).

Final verdict: Addictive music and professional musicians with the nice DVD production and excellent photo. Highly Recommended.

SHAMELESS - "Beautiful Disaster"


LABEL: RSR Music 2013
REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

German sleaze merchants Shameless return with their sixth album, reinforcing their solid reputation for classy gutter rock (if that's possible) and as many guests as David Letterman. In fairness, the main guests are rather regular vocalist Steve Summers and Runaways legend Cherie Curie, who pops up on a couple of tracks.

I think the last Shameless album that came my way was "Queen 4 A Day", thirteen odd years ago, and as I remember I liked it, and it's nice to see that several albums later Shameless are still managing to pump out solid, entertaining sleazy rock. There's certainly an Alice Cooper vibe fro this particular disc, from the pounding "Train To Hell" to a faithful cover of "I'm Eighteen", and you cab throw in to the pot a slice of Skid Row and every good time glam band you've ever heard of.

Cherie Curies sounds great on "Dear Mum", a jaunty, upbeat piece that can only have taken her back a few decades to her former bands short heyday, whilst Summers nails "I'm Eighteen" with a nasty snarl and duets to great effect with Curie on the slower T-Rex cover "Life's A Gas". Elsewhere, the bands original tracks shine through, full of vim and vigor, with the barnstorming "Greed Is God" kicking off the album with a bang. The energy and quality is held right through to closer "Rock n Roll Girls", which has an usurprising rock and roll flavour to it.

All in all, "Beautiful Disaster" is anything but. High energy sleaze rock with enough diversity to stand out from the crowd, this is a throwback that makes the listener want to live back in 1989 when this sort of thing would have garnered praise, fame and chicks by the bucketload. Almost impossible to dislike, Shameless have once again delivered the goods.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

LEVITICUS: "The Strongest Power" Reissue

Rating: Reissue
Label: Ektro Records 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Originally released by Pure Metal Records (US Version) in 1985, The Swedes of Leviticus and 'The Strongest Power' received international acclaim when Kerrang called it a powerful, direct and passionate platter and finished the review by calling it one of the best records of the year? Back then dodgy music journalists ruled the world and people had to believe them by their words since you couldn't exactly rush to the computer and check for yourself on the internet. False prophet or the word according to the gospel? Keeping in mind that 1985 was a pretty average year in hard rock and metal (at least in comparsion to 83' 84' and the following years), this is indeed a rather decent release if you appreciate the Christian sub-genre.

Now re-released by Ektro Records and remastered by guitarist and songwriter Björn Stigsson, you'll notice a slight different to the sound. Truth be told, this was a pretty raw recording in the first place and the opening two songs (The Winner, Deborah and Barak) are doomy and very loud metal tunes. It's weird as I have always thought of the early Leviticus albums as pretty much their own style and genre.

However, much like various other obscure acts such as, Quartz, played basic metal with Sabbath overtunes, but with less menacing vocals and they were more given to melody, these Swedes were steeped in a similar mode (more melody/harmony) as they mixed NWOBHM with the first wave of Swedish Christian Hardrock (Jerusalem) and the melodic yet blunt heavy metal of its era. The odd up-tempo Tokyo Blade style action according to the press-release and why not?

Vocalist/bassist Håkan Andersson's roaring bass sound and mid-pitced, rough vocals, definitely an acquired taste. Basically the working class down town singer without the proper upper register. I believe the man borrowed his amp sound from this other bassist/vocalist including warts and everything? Brother Kjell Andersson, the third and final member of the band, the proper drummer with impressive time-keeping attribute, simply check out "I Got Power". Leviticus became more melodic with each following album and I prefer the late eighties version of the band. The Ektro Records remastering comes with six page booklet made up of band photos, a couple of notes, and the concert shot that graced the back cover of the old platter.

2BLACK: "Mind Infect"

Rating: RRR
Label: WormHoleDeath 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

2Black was formed in Zurich in 2007 and has been playing several shows with bands like Mekong Delta, Tankard, etc. They fit nicely in with the older acts of the eighties since it's old school Thrash/Speed Metal featuring traditional riffs and speedy double blast drumming. It's very much metal in the old fashioned style of Kreator, Testament, Vio-lence, Overkill, and the vocals by Andre' Ellenberger are mostly clean and without the awful approach of the raving mad cookie monster.

This is pure, honest, and very melodic in comparsion to most acts at the WormHoleDeath label. The songs are more accessiblie without losing intensity or credibility. It's frankly just old school and to be honest, that's the way we like our Thrash/Speed Metal. In fact, 2Black remind you of everything that was good about the genre in the first place. Uncompromising raw attitude and basically full of sweaty denim and leather. Each and every member of the band  (Jose Venegas & Skullshreader - guitars. Denise 'Ballbreaker' Gutzwiller -bass. Robo Indrist - drums) contributes with their energy to the eleven tracks on display and it's a nice, but hardly original, album, that is cut from the same cloth as the first wave of brutal metal acts.

Final verdict: The mindless typing aside, this is still a worthwhile record for those of us into old skool thrash. Mosh!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

KING'S CALL: "Lion's Den"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mausoleum 2013
Review by Dan Mann

Well it has to be said that if you don't particularly like the vocalist's singing then you’re pretty much certain to struggle to like the album. Thankfully this isn't the case with this release, having Mike Freeland of Praying Mantis on vocal duties.

My first impression of the album is the real influence of classic British rock, the opening track "Mother Nature" having a real Uriah Heep undertone. Okay, Mike's vocal style is going to direct things somewhat in the British direction, but the infill of keyboards and guitar riffs reinforce this feel, as does the fact Chris Tsangarides is at the production helm, having been previously responsible for Judas Priest & Thin Lizzy amongst others.

Now it's very easy these days to go somewhat overboard with the guitars. However guitarist Alex Garoufalidis keeps things on an even keel and doesn't get all wrapped up in a guitarist’s ego. What you get instead is a solid dose of melodic rock with strong songs and catchy riffs.
I really need to base my score on the number of times I've played this album over the last few weeks. And I've found myself going back to it again & again.