Tuesday, April 29, 2014


LABEL: Trash Unreal Management


Review By: Alan Holloway

Strange things are happening in Leeds, a city in the UK that is more normally associated with a rather average football team and Melanie B, the Northern one in the Spice Girls. Things are looking up, however, as there may come a time when Chasing Dragons can be added to the list, as well they should be if this, their new EP, is anything to go by.

When I read the terms “female fronted” and “raging typhoon” coupled with the fact that the female in question is called “Tank” I was rather nonplussed, expecting a shouty mess that I could make fun of with impunity. Fortunately for music (but not for lovers of sarcasm) Ms Tank can sing very well indeed. The band have been wibbling along for a couple of years now, and it’s nice that you can see their sound maturing, with “Checkmate” a definite pinnacle of songwriting and delivery, although that’s not to say previous stuff was bad, just not this good.

As seems to be the “thing” these days, we get a minute and a half of “Prelude” which, in all honesty, should have either been grafted onto opener “Throw Down Your King” as a single track or left in the bin. I hate into tracks, but at least when they’re separate I can delete them. Once the EP starts proper it’s a real eye opener, as Chasing Dragons are a seriously good rock/metal band. The hard, melodic music suits Tank’s vocals down to the ground, and it’s a genuine compliment to say that I don’t think they would be half as good with any male vocalist. Stylistically they are very up to date with what the young people seem to like, but are melodic and accessible enough for anyone who just appreciates decent hard rock with brass balls the size of Labradors.

“That’s Not Love” takes things into a slightly more poppy direction, and although I hate to say it I’m reminded a bit of Paramore (when they are good). There’s some very neat guitar work going on and a fine melody that in a just world would bother the rock charts of the world. “For The Sake Of Murder” metals things up a bit, but is, for me, the weakest track on the album because it doesn’t really go anywhere. “The Last Defense” turns things on their head a bit with a sweet piano opening followed by a cool, measured song that displays a real depth to the band. Good stuff. Finally comes the single “Broken Jaws”, which is the reason I decided to review the EP. This is a full on, in your face melodic and heavy track with a sweet opening riff, good dual vocals, and is ultimately another piece of evidence that given the right luck Chasing Dragons could have a rosy future indeed. If you like Paramore, My Chemical Romance (when they’re not being gloomy) and stuff like Avenged Sevenfold then you really need to check these guys out. A fine marriage of melody and power, Chasing Dragons have something for everyone.

Hear the single at the band's Official Website

Monday, April 28, 2014

BROTHER FIRETRIBE: ”Diamond In The Firepit”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Spinefarm 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a Brother Firetribe fan. I gave their first album the full points and while I didn't review their second one, I would have given it the same rating too. Now, five long years since the release of "Heart Full Of Fire", the band's ready to unleash their third album to the world. With two superb predecessors, they've certainly given themselves a challenge.

I've now lived with these songs for a week or so, and I think I'm ready to unleash my review... My first impression of it was a bit lukewarm, sure it sounded good but I didn't really find too many standout tracks. While I still think it's not quite as good as the previous two albums, after serious spinning I've found the standouts and I can assure you that this is quite a diamond of an album indeed.

The album starts with an intro that reminds me of the intro of Honeymoon Suite's "Love Changes Everything" - a band tuning their instruments and and warming up, then getting their sh*t together and finding "the groove". The groove that's found is called "Love Is Not Enough", a suitably fastpaced first track but frankly not one of my favourites. And come to think of it, none of the opening tracks of the band's three albums are among my favourites... Is it just me or is the band lousy at finding the killer opening track?

"Far Away From Love" follows, and I like it better than the previous track, but still, I'm not getting the chills yet. Next one is the first single "For Better Or For Worse", and now we're talkin'! The first time I heard it I wasn't totally sold, but it took only a second listen and then the deal was sealed. Glorious hooks, AOR majesty! I've gotta wonder - why wasn't this the opening track?

The album's most ballad-like track "Desperately" oozes radio hit potential, it's probably even suitable for the adult contemporary stations, to be played alongside Phil Collins and Chris Rea. That's not a dig at the song, I like it a lot, I'm just trying to say that it has crossover potential. "Edge Of Forever" is one of my favourites, reminding me of eighties cult AOR acts like Fortune and Touch, and the "manly chanting choir" is pretty hilarious. The subtle keys of "Hanging By A Thread" will please the AOR fans I'm sure, and some of them might pick up some similarities between this song and Shy's "Young Heart". It's a good song, but I like the harder-edged "Trail Of Tears" more. Somehow it sounds like it could have been penned by Michael Bolton back in 1987. Yes, it's that good.

Two rather familiar songs are next in the tracklisting. The cover of Sammy Hagar's "Winner Takes It All" is quite faithful to the original and it's a good addition to BFT's series of "eighties' soundtrack song covers". "Tired Of Dreaming" was previously recorded by The Magnificent, but it's not really a cover as it was written by the BFT guys. The BFT version is easily as good or even better than the first one, but it being so familiar kind of ruins its' impact. I would have rather heard something new instead, maybe it could have been saved as the bonustrack for Japan or something.

"Reality Bites" is another very good hard-hitting rocker, and the slower "Close To The Bone" closes the show. It's one of the album's growers, initially I didn't really think too much of it but over the last few days it has raised its' profile.

To sum it up, "Diamond In The Firepit" is easily one of the better releases of this year and that fifth R wasn't really too far for this album either. The production is top-notch, Pekka Heino is still one of the best Finnish hard rock singers and the keyboard work takes me back to the eighties' glory days. Even though Emppu Vuorinen would have the skills to turn this into a shredfest, his playing is very tasteful throughout the album. What else... oh yeah, the artwork has divided opinions, but I kind of like it - it's probably a delibrate throwback to the mid-eighties. Keeping it old-school...


Sunday, April 27, 2014


Rating: N/A
Label: WormHoleDeath 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

CHAOS CONSPIRACY: "Who The Fuck Is Elvis"

Seriously wicked. Chaos Conspiracy are exploring the dark instrumental side of metal in a rather fun and disturbing way. Call it Primus on steroids or if you prefer experimental metal fusion with jazzy passages and vivid rhythmic structures. The less than 30 minute second album release, "Who The Fuck Is Elvis", leave the commercial side of music for the rest of the bands as this particular Italy power trio stand knee deep in chaos and disorder. The message is loud and clear and I quote, 'This is not a new religion. Elvis was never our God. He's not the Father of Rock - rather he's the Father of music business'.

I agree on all the above. The real Elvis came from U.K. and goes under the name of Costello. The U.S. version is a fake prophet as well as the lame business product of the old. Presley did absolutely nothing to contribute to rock music as he merely borrowed and stole from others. Two simple questions: How many songs did he write? All the millions of fans all around the world - how many times did Elvis tour outside the states? I believe the correct answer is big fat zero on both. This is jazzy post hardcore, noisy, alternative, instrumental metal in a strange fashion and way and I quite like it.

BIOSCRAPE: "Exp Zeroone"

In all honesty, I haven't got the slightest idea what any of these songs are about? You have a go at the following lines and email me your opinion. From the hit song 'Age Of Leeches' and I quote, "People who goes to brainwashing, convinced that they are the only founding fathers of the new race of manipulated androids unable to think with their f**king mind, Regardless of real feelings that surround our lives I live in troubled times where innovation does not end", end quote. Bloody'ell. These lads could need a helping hand since it's not clearly not healthy to go on like that. Not to mention the constant abuse from their uber aggressive cookie-monster vocalist. Great musicians though. Simply get rid of the lyricist and singer. Switch from boring Nu-Metal/Hardcore/Death to proper music and we're into business. Now where did I put my ELO album?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

OUTLOUD - "Let's get Serious"

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

“We’re gonna rock you to life, we’re gonna rock you to death!”. Blimey, Outloud certainly don’t hold back on their third album, with opener “Death Rock” promising slaughter and resurrection in equal measure. Let’s be frank, though, it’s not a million miles from the cheesy promise of the first album, where they promised “We’ll Rock You To Hell & Back Again”. As melodic rock bands go, Outloud take some beating in the bold statement department, if nothing else.

It’s been a long three years since the band’s second album “Love Catastrophe”, and in all honest it’s good to have them back. Outloud are as unpretentious as you can get, nothing more than a great melodic rock band with a talent for writing catchy tunes. As with the two previous releases, “Let’s Get Serious” is a treasure trove of solid guitar and keyboard driven melodic rock that will sneak under the radar whilst everyone is gushing over the new Brother Firetribe album.

The undisputed star of the show is, unsurprisingly, Bob Katsionis (he of Firewind fame, amongst others), who provides some stellar keyboards and guitar work throughout (aided by guitarist Jim Scordillis). Close behind is vocalist Chandler Mogel, whose clear, powerful vocals often have more than a hint of Michael Sweet about them. This is never more apparent than on “Toy Soldiers”, a genuinely heavy track that belts along and includes a blistering solo from Adrenaline Mob’s Mike Orkando.

The big surprise on the album is kept until the end, as the band launch into a cover of the OMD classic “Enola Gay” that really shouldn’t work but ends up being rather fun, making you realize that the famous keyboard riff sounds just as cool on guitar. It’s a fitting finale to an album with no weak tracks (even the wimpy acoustic ballad “It Really Doesn’t Matter” has it’s own charm). Good as it is, we’re not quite in the territory of five “R”s, but this is a solid AOR album with everything to recommend about it, especially if you’re a fan of either of the previous two Outloud releases. Time to get serious…

Monday, April 21, 2014


Rating: RRRR
Label: earMUSIC 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Mega Power Trio - Lead vocalist/bassist Dug Pinnick (King's X), guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) and drummer Ray Luzier (Korn) got together to jam last year and the result is the superb, groovy and fun record. To be perfectly honest. It's not that far off the mark from your ordinary King's X album only with the hint of Dokken and Lynch Mob. However, don't go thinking it's the typical 80's guitar work of Lynch, since it's more about the overall beat and jamming along to the excellent groove.

At first "Stars" is all about Sepultura-like tribal drumming and the hypnotic beat though. Luzier beats the crap out of his kit and there's plenty more to discover. The ultra heavy guitar riffing by Lynch and his close to jazzy solo piece, very schizo, different, and frankly just out there. I do not get the distorted vocals at all though (verse only), especially not since Pinnick is the incredible soulful singer and it's simply not right to hide those magical pipes behind the masque of distortion. "Rescue Me", feature the fun riff ála Lynch Mob and huge vocal harmonies ála King's X on the chorus part. "Gunfight", the proper kick to the head with its larger than life beat and groove. "Never Stop", the sublime R&B ballad track oozing of soul and sassy guitar lines. "Faith Is a Room" is the gospel of Dug and the perfect flow of the band fronted by the X-star. "I'll Be Ok", I know it's getting boring, but it's basically the King's X arrangement right down to the shoe laces. Killer groove by Luzier and the flashy solo by Lynch. Speaking of flashy solo, check out the instrumental piece of "Tranquilize"

The tres hombres boast loads of skill and quality and it all comes down to if you enjoy the flow and to just groove along to the music or not? I'm the massive King's X fan anyhow so this fits your truly like a glove. It's the powerhouse rock album with ditto vocals and the mega tight and fun rhythm section. They'll be rocking your socks off and don't be surprised if you end up in front of mirror doing the KXM pose (huh?). Recommended. (earMusic Euro release 2th June)

Sebastian BACH: "Give Em Hell"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Correction. Give 'Em Hell ... as well as the worst artwork cover of the year in order to scare off any potential new buyer of your latest CD? Black Sabbath's Born Again as the adult or merely your creepy necrophilia (necrophile, no?) hanging around at the local graveyard? Nah. It's merely Birk striking the Seb Bach rock star pose and what ever makes him happy. The latter remark(s) has absolutely nothing do with the music though. Bang out of order? Never judge a book by its extremely daft cover, etc, etc.

Just when you thought it was safe to travel to America without hearing the sound of those (dated) down tuned guitars and not to mention the sight of those Nu-Metal freaks, Bach is back to hit you over the head with the sound of 1999. Party like there's no tomorrow and to the end of civilization? It's hardly modern or contemporary rock any longer since we've heard this sort of albums for the past 15-20 years or more. On the other hand. It's certainly not a poor effort or the crap album by the former Skid Row vocalist. Far from it actually. The more you spin, 'Give 'Em Hell', the hotter and better it gets (up to a certain point of course).

Pretty much all the songs were co-written by Bach and famed producer Bob Marlette. Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens wrote however "Push Away" and the track feature the weirdest vocal performance ever by Bach. Could someone please tell me what those borderline flat notes are all about? One thing's for sure, dogs are howling and running away in the opposite direction. The opening four tracks are good fun though and there's several of neat moments to be found within these walls of horror and terror. The vocals are constantly in-your-face and it's perhaps just too much in the long run. In fact, the April Wine cover, "Rock N Roll Is a Vicious Game", like a sweet cool breeze on a hot summer day and exactly what the doctor ordered. Nice but no cigar...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

WINGER: "Better Days Comin"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Damned if you do - damned if you don't? Opening track and single, "Midnight Driver Of a Love Machine", harks back to the dated and cheesy sound of their debut and it's clearly not Winger at their best in 2014. It's got all the woh-ho's and tacky lyric in the vein of and I quote, 'She runs on sex and gasoline, she's a midnight driver of a love machine? Oh dear. What ever happened to the excellent music and progressive vibes of 'IV' or any other album beside their debut, the worst record in their ever growing back catalogue in my humble opinion. Okay. We're off to a really dodgy start, but things are about to improve and change to the better.

"Queen Babylon" is the fun prog-lite tune with remarkable harmonies and atmospheric keyboards by Cenk. The uptempo guitar attack track of "Rat Race" do remind me of Dokken somehow (Tooth and Nail?) and not too shabby, but still not Winger at their very best. However, the album takes off like a rocket to the sky with the groovy title track and the remaining six tracks. "Tin Soldier", mesmerizing keys/guitar riff and the uplifting refrain. "Ever Wonder", definitely Winger at their very best and its haunting melody gets you in the heart. "So Long China" atmospheric rock with a special nod to Mr. Peter Gabriel (bridge) and Pull. "Storm In Me" is the darker and excellent prog-vibe of IV and merely the hint of King's X.

"Be Who You Are Now", speak of the evolution, revolution, and that everything is always changing. Indeed, Kipper. Simply ignore the voice inside your head that screams "Seventeen" over and over again on the next album :) [and the bald and chubby middle-aged stalker fan outside your house for that matter]. Winger are at their best, right here, right now, in this very moment, (2014 not 1988), performing the slightly moody, atmospheric, proggy rock of numbers such as the excellent closing track, "Out Of This World".

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

LOUD LION: ”Die Tough”

Rating: RRR
Label: MelodicRock Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

As if Grand Design's two recent "budget Leppard" albums weren't enough... Loud Lion is taking it a step further - even the band's name is a tribute to Def Leppard. Mind you, the project's main man, producer/songwriter Bleu isn't even trying the sell this as anything else but a homage to DL: "Def Leppard hasn't put anything as good as Loud Lion out in at least a decade! If you like Pyromania and Hysteria (and f**k you if you don't) then you'll love this record - and that's not even taking into account the brain-liquidating shred-fests. An homage has never (ever) sounded so majestic!". Okay... if you say so.

I do like "Pyromania" and "Hysteria" as most of our readers do too, but whether we all will fall in love with "Die Tough" remains to be seen. I already know that I won't. Sure it is a fun record with some good songs, but it's still just a tribute. Despite the advances in recording technology, it's still quite impossible to emulate the larger-than-life sound of "Hysteria". This is a pretty good attempt though... good harmony vocals, fine Clark/Collen-inspired guitar work, not to mention very Joe Elliott-like lead vocals.

With only 9 tracks, the album is a bit on the short side, especially when two of the tracks are more or less "brain-liquidating shred-fests"... Out of the "real" songs, my absolute favourite is "The Hills Have Eyes" from the movie by the same name. It's as Leppard as the rest of the songs, but not quite as blatant a "re-write" as the others. Elsewhere you've got "Die Tuff" ("Love Bites"), "Lion Eyes" ("Photograph" maybe?), "Lion's Den" ("Women"), "Love Will Break Your Heart" ("Pour Some Sugar On Me") and "Sunset Strip" ("Rocket")... the "shred-fest" "None More Fast" with its' narration sounds to me like it escaped from a goofy musical like "Rock Of Ages"...

Fans of 80'ies Leppard will surely get a kick out listening to these tracks, although I'm sure that there's a grumpy fan or two somewhere out there thinking that this is blasphemy... but you can't please everyone.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Rating: RR
Label: MCM/Playground 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Whatever possessed these guys to dress up/down as Trolls in the first place? Then again... one quick glance at singer Frode 'King' Anderssen and you know they couldn't have done it any other way. The perfect fit and hordes of other dark creatures such as goblin, ogre, Norwegian [No need to go berserk, please! it's just a lame joke] are quick to follow in the massive tracks of the King of Trolls.

You may or may not have heard about them from the Norwegian Melody Grand Prix in 2008. Indeed. They desperately tried to shock their homeland with a similar approach to the winning concept of Finland and Lordi. Norwegians are not easily impressed though and especially not considering the dark wave of Black Metal and church burning trolls in the past. It's the kid friendly version of Troll-Metal and the mix of 70's folk hard rock and overall melodic schlock is strange to the ears.

According to the press-release: you can hear influences from bands such as AC/DC, KISS, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden? I can't say that I agree with any of the above. Try the second rate version of the following acts instead and you're closer to the core: Focus, Thor, Uriah Heep, Wig Wam. Former Europe and Easy Action guitarist Kee Marcello is responsible for production as well as co-writing the 11 tracks. Clearly not his best work and the songs are plain naive at times.

Going through some of the weirdest moments and tracks. "Master Of The Game", Elvis Presley number of the early/mid 70's and Vegas only with more and heavier guitars. "Angeline", dansband song 'ala Norway and Sweden [sort of like U.S. Country only wimpier and less attractive] and something that should cause the average senior citizen of Scandinavia to get up on the dance floor and shake her money maker. I do enjoy the strange ska-lite beat of "Battle of Trolls". Ehem. Let's just say there's no need for Edvard Grieg and "Peer Gynt Suite - In the Hall of the Mountain King" fans to feel threaten, since it's still the best way to experience the Trolls of Norway. Hocus Pocus by Focus vs. weird folk-rock, not your ordinary skull crushing troll of the tale. Bränn, Bränn, Bränn. Var är Fjant? Här mamma....

WELL HUNG HEART: "Go Forth and Multiply"

Rating: RRR
Label: WHH/Prescription 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Neat. Noisy U.S. indie garage punk rockers met Joan Jett at their local.. ehem... garage? Recorded live in the studio in Southern California using minimal overdubs and direct to tape, more or less the very definition of the raw and uncompromising underground punk movement. They have plenty of cool riffs and not necessarily too many ideas, if you get my drift? At times very primal/primitive rock by the Well Hung Heart duo of vocalist Greta Valenti (Fuji Minx) and UK born blues guitarist Robin Davey.

The Davey dude started out jamming with the likes of Buddy Guy, recording with Mick Jagger (that's Rolling Stones), and touring the world as a member of The Hoax. In fact, according to the press he's the youngest ever inductee into the British Blues Hall Of Fame? Blimey. So what's he doing playing the indie punk sludge thing in sunny beach California US of A? They have excellent black pudding over there? Surely not.

"Go Forth and Multiply" do have a couple of sort of blues numbers (not quite though), but it's mostly 'heads-down in splatter-punk town' and the odd whiff of Garbage and cult heroes such as Pixies. The overall vibe on the record is mean, nasty, raw, grungy/garage-y, and Valenti likes to strut the vocals around like a fueled Wendy O'Williams (R.I.P.) in her Plasmatics heydays. Opening track as well as single, "Big Plans", go forth and multiply with everything from a bulldozer to your elephant and the main riff is like a violent kick to the head. Their rampant rowdiness in the studio is all well and good but they may just lack that special underground hit and instant sing-a-long. Entertaining, loud and nasty.

THREE LIONS: "Three Lions"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The very first thing you'll notice about U.K.'s Three Lions and the opening track of 'Trouble In a Red Dress', the smashing fret work of Vinny Burns (Dare, Ten). It's the distinctive sound of the six-string bender and his singing guitar. Darn flashy, upfront in the mix, and probably inspired by Gary Moore? The other two Lions or if you prefer Pussycats? fellow ex-Ten/Dare drummer Greg Morgan and vocalist/bassist Nigel Bailey.

Hold the press and re-do the frontpage as the following statement may come as the complete surprise. Out of the blue? Ehem. certainly not! Their debut album, basically the watered-down version of Ten? also considering that Ten sounded like the watered down version of Dare (mega classic debut), this is extremely safe and mid-tempo. British meat and potato AOR for the average person including egg, bacon, bangers, black pudding, fish and chips. Dessert? Deep fried Mars-bars of course. Hardly anything new on this platter, merely the standard slop of leftover and over-cooked material, served cold and the lack of spice and special ingredient is prominent.

On the other hand, you can't go completely wrong here if you enjoy the clinical and sterile sound of any of dozen albums in the style of Ten's Gary Hughes (not to be confused with Glenn 'The Voice' Hughes). Nigel Bailey sings in a similar pitch and style and it's AOR inspired by listening to lack-lustre albums from U.K. artists such as Chris De Burgh and Moody Blues. My favorite tracks, the instrumental "Sicilian Kiss", and "Two Hearts Beats As One". The latter 80's Pop in disguise and I notice that producer Alessandro DelVecchio gets the co-writing credit.

FREE SPIRIT: ”All the Shades of Darkened Light”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Carpel Music Oy 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Although this is only the second album from Free Spirit, the band has been slugging it out for over twenty years. I've heard some of their early work and it was quite different to what the stuff they are playing now. The band had a darker sound which reminded me of The Cult (their late eighties' era). A few years ago the band went through some line-up changes and fine-tuned their sound towards Melodic Hard Rock. Their first album "Pale Sister Of Light" got some rave reviews, but I wasn't blown away. With ”All the Shades of Darkened Light” I think they've taken another step further, and they're starting to compete with bands like Brother Firetribe and H.E.A.T.

Just like the aforementioned contemporaries, Free Spirit draws influences from the big commercial melodic rock bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard and especially their "vintage" stuff. You can easily spot "Hysterical" arrangements and production tricks or maybe a Bon Joviesque bassline. I can't blame them for that because just about every other melodic hard rock band on the planet does the same thing... maybe having a song called "Hysteria" is pushing it a bit too far, but damn if isn't one of my favourite tracks here!

Just about every one of the songs boasts a huge, anthemic chorus and I could imagine them transforming into big live favourites. Some of my personal picks would be "The Dew Of The Rose", "Fever" and "Ever Come True", but I can't really find a real filler among the eleven tracks.
Vocalist Sami Alho's vocals aren't exactly to my liking, he has a style that's slightly similar to that of Jakob Samuel of The Poodles or Leppard's Joe Elliott - a bit uncomfortable sounding at times, especially when most of the songs require him to sing in high register. With songs as strong as these it's easy to overlook, and really it's a question of personal taste (or the lack of it). Anyway, highly recommended and easily one of the better albums of this year so far.


Friday, April 11, 2014



Label: Spectra

Review By: Alan Holloway

Blessed (or cursed) with an instantly recognisable surname to any rock fan, Deborah Bonham has been recording music for twenty years now, although to be fair she hasn’t exactly been productive, with “Spirit” only her fourth solo album. What is evident to anyone who has seen her live is that prodigious or not, Deborah Bonham has a voice that encapsulates what blues rock is all about.

“Spirit” contains twelve new tracks, and flits between blues and country rock without really settling. Unsurprisingly, it’s the bluesy stuff that stands out best, such as the soulful opener “Fly”. Whilst the more country orientated tracks like “Take Me Down” are catchy enough they lack any real punch or passion. Bonham sounds great throughout, her vocals like honey in the ears, but I don’t get the sense of power from “Spirit” that I did when she supported FM a couple of years ago. In effect, this seems to be a rather watered down version of what I saw on that stage, with an undeniable talent but some forgettable songs.

What you have here is an easy listening album that is pleasant but uninspiring. The twelve tracks certainly don’t fly by, but when one jumps out at you it seems worth the wait. I suppose the most accurate thing I can say is that I like it, but not as much as I wanted to. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

DIESEL - "Into The Fire"

Label: Escape Music
Review By: Alan Holloway

This one came out of the blue – a collaboration between, among others, Jim Kirkpatrick, FM’s guitar slinger, and ex Bad Company voice Robert Hart. Whether this will be a studio only event only time will tell, but trust me when I say that once you hear it you’ll be praying for some live shows.

The album starts off with a bit of a bang, as Kirkpatrick goes all Satriani in the aggressive and catchy “Love Under Cover”. At this points it’s obvious that Hart can still toe the line vocally, and expectations are well and truly set. “Into the Fire” follows, and is another fast paced track with a sweaty beat and greasy feel that definitely reminds me of the last FM album “Rockville”. This happens a lot, to be honest, as “Into the Fire” shares a lot with Jim’s other band (not least their lead singer, as Mr Overland provides backing vocals here). This isn’t to say that Diesel are indistinguishable from modern day FM, but I have to admit that if you like “Rockville” you will absolutely love “Into the Fire”.

Throughout the album there’s a very heavy blues influence, which is expected with these two at the helm, but this isn’t old school, sittin’ on a porch blues – this is modern, heavy handed stuff. “Fortune Favours The Brave”, for example, has a monster riff, yet like many other tracks it mixes it with a great, catchy chorus. Perhaps the best singalong track is “Brand New Day”, which has a chorus right out of the Big Book Of AOR, accompanies by a neat little guitar flick that begs to be played in an open top sports car on a hot summer day. It's not the only one, with stuff like "What Is Love" and "Let's Take The Long Way Home" equally guilty of being too catchy for their own good.

In essence, “Into The Fire” mixes heavy, melodic blues, AOR with catchy choruses and the sort of old school vibe that Heaven & Earth did so very well on last year’s “Dig” album. Both Kirkpatrick and Hart put in sterling performances, and there’s some truly memorable tracks scattered throughout. Certainly not just another run of the mill team up, Diesel have come straight in at the top with an album that encompasses all that is great about British rock. Go get it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Michael BOLTON: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough - A Tribute To Hitsville USA"

Rating: Comp
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

...Ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep Michael 'Pale as death' Bolton from getting to you with his latest album, a tribute to Hitsville U.S.A. or if you prefer Motown. It's the 2014 Euro release of the U.S. comp and I noticed that trolls of the internet complain about Bolton acting black? So what if he can't get enough of the Motown or that he's jewish and pale as the grim reaper? deal with it or leave this space. It's never a question of skin or religion for that matter. Acting black? ALL modern music in the last 100+ years. Blues, R&B, Jazz, Soul, Pop, Rock, Rap, etc. The heritage of black musicians and songwriters. Black Metal on the other hand, that's all white, and the worst shite genre of them all. Geez...

I've recently discovered that I'm the major fan of 70's Soul/Motown and the albums of Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Harold Melvin (and the Blue Notes), Curtis Mayfield, Withers, Bland, etc. Perhaps not as much the 60's stuff, but you can't completely ignore the classic Motown. Never managed to stomach the music of Stevie Wonder though. People keep saying he's great? But I find the majority of the compositions to be sort of juvenile and cheesy/corny somehow? It certainly doesn't help when the only song you ever heard as a kid - "I Just Called To Say I Love You". The horror, the horror. Bolton does however, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", and that's Wonder's personal best in my opinion.

"You Keep Me Hanging On", yet another distant memory as we first heard the song by Kim Wilde. Oh, shut up. Her version became the #1 hit in the states and we didn't know any better or other. Bolton tear down the 60's song and Supremes with a huff and a puff like a train in the night, like a train in the night (My Lovely Horse? by Fr. Ted Crilly and Fr. Dougal McGuire?). Simply ignore the latter remark. "What's Going On", gets the easy listening treatment by Bolton and it's not far fetched to think of it as the Simon Cowell approved version of the classic MG tune. As long as the songwriters get their royalties (which they didn't always back in the days), who gives a damn about who covers whom? Mikey cut two R&B albums in the mid seventies before turing into the AOR singer in the eighties and releasing the self-titled album in 1983 and Everybody's Crazy in 85. Oy Vey. "Sittin' on The Dock of the Bay", made him every hausfraus' favorite pet object and he never looked back.

The bottomline. There's simply not enough of 70's Motown on this record and why bother when you have the originals? The digipack 2CD version of the album comes with the greatest hits disc.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

PRETTY MAIDS: "Louder Than Ever" [CD+DVD]

Rating: Comp.
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hear the cry from label's past - downloading is killing our music industry. Here's a couple of more things to add to the long list of dodgy business. Releasing five different issues or the special edition of each and every album or like the Pretty Maids, re-recording old songs from your back catalogue. What's the point? Some of the artists are obviously doing this to avoid legal problems and ownership. It's not extremely difficult to get hold of the Maids' material from the years inbetween 1995 to 2006.

In my opinion. Songs are memories and statements specially written by a band/artist at a particular time of their career. You're not meant to re-record stuff or take advantage of new technology since it's just plain wrong. It's sort of like art (like it or not) and speaking of Pretty Maids, don't mess with Mona Lisa? These songs are hardly perfect or the work of genius. Far from it. I'm merely trying to say, let the past be the past. People have special needs for their memories to certain songs or albums. Are some re-recordings better than others? Well. Perhaps if you have the new vocalist onboard? By the way. New tech, not always the same as the improved sound, since it's all down to the quality of the engineer and his ears. The old desk, vintage microphones, the know how to pair the right microphone with the right instrument etc. the key to any good production.

Ehem. Let's move on to the good stuff about 'Louder Than Ever'. Four new songs and opener, 'Deranged', exactly what the title may suggest. Raspy vocals by Atkins, hard hitting riff, dodgy metal refrain? The standard throw-away rocker and definitely meat and potato stuff. Lyrically, the story of a mad gun man and violent to the extreme. 'My Soul To Take', the melodic tune with a catchy hook. 'Nuclear Boomerang', yet another straight a-head rocker with plenty of balls. The cracking ballad of 'A Heart Without A Home', the sad little sob story about loneliness and never finding your place in time or space. Overall the neat 4-track EP plus 8 re-recordings of the past.

The DVD? Basically the 40+ minute roadmovie 'Why So Serious' - the unveiled story that will show you how it is to be on tour with the geezers. Backstage banter, various nonsense, jokes, more nonsense, balloons, behind the scene stuff, pre-show warm up and singing ABBA (Dancing Queen) and Bee Gees (How Deep Is Your Love) while in Japan. Ronnie is spot on with the phrasing and nasal sound of what's his name again? the surviving member of Gees', Maurice? No idea. Do the google if needed. Atkins is more or less Denmark's version of Biff Byford and the natural leader of the gang. The interviews are short, direct, and mostly about tour memories (the good old days and Monsters of Rock 1987), killing time on the bus, no privacy, been there, done that, we're all like a family, etc. Major shock value of the DVD - Morten Sandager (keyboards) playing Italo disco and Sabrina's old hit, 'Boys, Boys, Boys'. Ehem. Yeah. We sure do recall the lady and her big pair of... lungs. What's more? The odd 1990 clip and more recently from Wacken. The day out in Germany and driving the Tank (Tiger). Also the voice of producer Jakob Hansen and why they decided to d-tune the guitars on the re-recorded stuff. Sound quality may differ a lot and the lack of subtitles may not suggest the perfect roadmovie. It's all fun and giggles though and sadly not a pretty maid in sight (merely five ugly geezers).

L.R.S.: "Down To the Core"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

First of all. The moniker of L.R.S.? The first letter from each project members surname and perhaps not the best of decision? But seriously, who cares as long as the music is any good. The L stands however for vocalist Tommy LaVerdi (21 Guns) finally back in the recording studio doing the melodic rock after many years in Norway? and God knows what really. It's been too long since the excellent "Salute" album in 1992.

The voice intact even if there's too many Steve Perry moves and not enough LaVerdi on a couple of tracks and especially the unshameful clone of 'Never Surrender. Poor man's Journey and very cliché-like. The last thing you need is Laverdi doing Perry, since he's actually blessed with his own unique voice and style. Hardly something you'd throw in the bin as yesterday's news. The R stands for guitarist Josh Ramos (The Storm, Le Mans, Two Fires, Hardline) and make sure to check out the excellent guitar work and tone on the record. At times Neil Schon-like, but we knew this from previous records, yeah? Finally, the S - drummer Michael Shotton (Von Groove, Airplay) and his playing is definitely a notch or three above the normal Frontiers release and the same goes for the production.

The material? Overall mid-tempo AOR and slower tracks actually and do not expect to find more than one or two uptempo rockers. Alessandro Del Vecchio is the man responsible for production, keyboards as well as writing the majority of the tracks. However, Shotton is the real winner and songsmith supreme with ultra smooth AOR numbers such as "I Can Take You There" and the unbelievable classy and glossy "Universal Cry". Christ oh mighty. The stuff soft-rock dreams are made of. Let Shotton have a go at writing the bulk of the songs for the next LaVerdi album. Such a vast quality gap between this and the second rate Journey of Never Surrender.

Let's get down to the core. Remove a couple of the worst Journey and you'd still end up with a very enjoyable album. I do enjoy the smooth, slick numbers of "Livin' 4 a Dream", "Almost Over You", "Shadow of a Man", "I Will Find a Way", "To Be Your Man". Welcome back LaVerdi. Top notch stuff from the very first note to the last. Simply ignore the Perry tracks next time and go for 5 R's. By the way. The years in Norway may have rubbed off as I notice the mere hint of Morten Harket? A-HA?