Friday, December 11, 2015

SIMULACRUM: "Sky Divided"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Inverse Records
Review by Martien Koolen

 The second album of the Finnish prog metal band Simulacrum is again a must for lovers of music that blends speed metal with neo-prog and classic power metal with melodic rock. Sky Divided is a kind of concept album dealing with science fiction inspired by classic sf books/movies, like War Of The Worlds, Fahrenheit 451 and Mad Max.

Musical highlights on this album are the two longest tracks being The Abomination and A New Beginning. The latter clocks 14 minutes and is a perfect example of the complex music of this band: great musicianship all around with influences from notorious bands like Symphony X or Fear Factory. The Abomination is my favourite as it features a superb instrumental passage with excellent guitar and keyboardsolos. Timelapse is the instrumental opener and this one almost sounds like a movie sound track, mainly due to the great orchestration in that song. Broken, a very dark song, has a surprise in store as it actually features a mean saxophone solo, giving that track an almost jazzy feeling. Sky Divided features endless guitar hooks and riffs and here the drumming is very dominant and powerful.

In fact I would say that there is not a bad song to be found on Sky Divided and if you like fast melodic neo prog metal and bands like Symphony X, Fear Factory, Yes and/or TesseracT then this album will certainly please you. Play at maximum volume or listen to the album thorugh your headphones and you will be amazed. Highly recommended for fans of Scandinavian power metal!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

QUEENSRŸCHE: ”Condition Hüman”

QUEENSRŸCHE: ”Condition Hüman” 
Rating: RRR¨
Label: Century Media 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The consensus seems to be that this second Queensrÿche album with vocalist Todd La Torre is superior to the first one. I don’t know about that. I admit that in my review of the ”s/t” album, I was perhaps a bit too overjoyed about the band going back to their early style. It’s still a good album but I have to say that I haven’t listened to it that much after finishing my review. I feel that this album will suffer the same fate. It’s quite good and the band sounds like vintage Queensrÿche, but somehow I just don’t seem to get a grip of the songs.

I’ve listened to the tracks quite a few times, yet only a few of them have the kind of riffs, melodies and hooks that leave a lasting impression - like ”Arrow Of Time”, the title track and ”Guardian” with it’s familiar ”Revolution Calling” catchphrase (or is it ”evolution”?).

Still, despite its’ shortcomings the album is a true ’Rÿche album featuring a band that sounds convincing and enthusiastic. They are playing the kind of music that they want to, and that’s something special. Maybe a few additional spins will make me change my mind about the songs, but as of now, it’s three R’s… okay, let’s throw in some umlauts there!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

C.O.P.: ”State Of Rock”

Rating: RRRR
Label: AOR Heaven 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Christian (Sundell), Ola (Af Trampe) and Peter (Sundell). That’s their excuse for yet another bloody D.O.T band name… but let’s just concentrate on the positive things, like the band’s music for instance!

All three members of the band have a band called Grand Illusion in their past, and I think most Grand Illusion fans will enjoy these songs too. The ”C.O.P. Rock” might be a bit more straight-forward, but Peter Sundell’s distinctive vocals and the band’s love for big, melodic choruses are a reminder of the past. For those not familiar with Grand Illusion, I’d describe the band’s sound as a mixture of Zeno, Harlan Cage and 80’ies TNT with lots of keyboards, all iced with the Swedish melodic sensibility. Damn, do they spend hours studying ABBA in the Swedish elementary schools or what?

The standout tracks on ”State Of Rock” include the super-catchy ”In The Night”, ”Loner” and ”I Want The World To Know” which reminds me a lot of Harlan Cage/Fortune.    Even though the album is very keyboard-oriented, it never sounds too wimpy, underneath the layers of keys there’s a solid guitar foundation by Ola Af Trampe which gives these songs a bit of an edge. Same goes for the songwriting, the songs have a darker edge than most standard AOR songs. Don’t know about you but I find that very appealing.

What’s more? Well, call me the ”songtitle police”, but I find it odd that a band can still come up with songs like ”Without You”, ”In My Dreams” and ”Broken Heart” in 2015. Just by looking at the track listing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a cover band…

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

LIFELINE: ”Scream”

Rating: RRR
Label: Escape Music 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I won’t try to pretend that I can keep up with the current UK melodic rock scene. There’s a few guys who are keeping themselves busy with multiple projects and bands, and Lifeline features at least two of these workaholics - Lee Small and Nigel Bailey.

Lifeline is the latest (or one of the latest) projects with two vocalists sharing the lead vocal duties. Lee Small has sung with Shy, Phenomena, Snowfall, Skyscraper while you might know Nigel Bailey from Three Lions, his own band Bailey or Stan Bush’s Rockingham live band. Both are great singers, Small has a bit of a Glenn Hughes-like voice while Bailey has a more of a raspy one with some similarities to Joe Lynn Turner’s voice. They sound good on ”Scream”, separately and together.

The band’s music has its’ foundations in the classic hard rock sounds of the seventies and early eighties. Many of the songs have a strong Turner-era Rainbow-vibe, while others remind me of Thin Lizzy (”Far From Home”) or early Whitesnake (”Destination Freedom”). My personal favorites are the strong opener ”Fear No More”, the AOR track ”Feels Like Love” and ”Danger In The Sky”.

”Scream” is a solid album with powerful production and great performances, and it should appeal to the fans of the aforementioned bands and era. I liked it, but in the end there were a few too many songs that didn’t leave a lasting impression. Still, the fourth ”R” was close…

Monday, December 7, 2015



LABEL: Shotgun Generation

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Say what you like about the French (seriously - they don’t care what YOU think), they’re not a bunch that you expect a great deal from when it comes to rock music. Yeah, yeah, there’s been a few, but it’s not exactly Sweden, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, Pleasure Addiction are a recent addition to the roster of French Bands You’ve Never Heard Of, and they’re following up their debut ‘INdependence’ with this offering, which according to the title should be more, well, ballsy.

As you may gather from the none too subtle cover and band name, Pleasure Addiction are camped firmly with the sort of bands who use enough hairspray to gas ISIS and enough lipstick to make all the corpses pretty. When done correctly, a bit of wham bam thank you glam is an enjoyable thing, and Pleasure Addiction certainly seem to understand this, as ‘Extra Balls’ is chock full of upbeat riff laden bouncy tracks, the sort of thing Poison used to do once upon a time. It helps that they kick it all off with the single ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, which is an outstanding example of the genre. On the downside is ‘Heaven & Hell’ which suffers greatly from being a slower song, highlighting the averageness of vocalist Butcho (wouldn’t be a glam band without silly names, right?), something the faster tracks manage to cover up with their wall of sound. In fairness to him, though, Butcho’s voice does sound right for the sort of music that’s being played, he’s just not a balladeer.

I hear a lot of bad Glam Rock in my job, and I’m happy to report that Pleasure Addiction don’t fall into the swampy pit of shite that swallows up so many others. They have a good energy to their sound, and have tapped into that mid to late Eighties vibe with a rare passion. There’s nothing deep or meaningful here, but there doesn’t always have to be. Check out ‘Don’t Le Me Down’ on YouTube, and if that floats your boat you could do worse than grabbing some extra balls as well.

Friday, November 6, 2015

DARK SARAH: ”Behind The Black Veil”

Rating: RR
Label: Inner Wound Recordings 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Former Amberian Dawn singer Heidi Parviainen has now adopted the name of Dark Sarah for her latest project. It’s a combination of finely orchestrated music with metallic leanings and operatic singing. Who said Nightwish? Actually this doesn’t like Nightwish that much, I’d say Dark Sarah is closer to Tarja’s solo material.

It’s a bit of a shame to give such a low rating to an ambitious album that’s obviously been put together with passion, precision and care, but I can’t help it. As great as the overall sound is, the songs just leave me completely cold. I kept hoping to come across a memorable hook, but no… everything is fine on the surface, the album sounds absolutely majestic and Heidi’s soprano soars above nicely, but damn it, where are the hooks, the memorable melodies? The most memorable song is ”A Grim Christmas Story”, a twisted and sinister adaptation of the old Christmas carol ”12 Days of Christmas”…

I tried, I appreciated certain aspects of this, but didn’t get it. Fans of Tarja Turunen, Nightwish and Within Temptation should check this out anyway.

Monday, November 2, 2015

S.A.Y: ”Orion”

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

Former StoneLake members Jan Åkesson and singer Peter Grundström decided to create a new band with a more melodic edge than their former group. Following the trends of the last few years, they chose to call their band ”S.A.Y.”… Yes, another d.o.t. band!

S.A.Y. have a distinctively Scandinavian sound, which reminds me of The Magnificent, Return and the poppier side of eighties’ TNT, maybe a bit of Work Of Art too. Everything’s technically okay, the songs are melodic and have soaring choruses, but… something just doesn’t click with me. The melodies are fairly predictable and some of the songs are very much alike.

Even though the music industry is in trouble these days, the amount of releases doesn’t seem to diminish. Therefore an album like this that’s just ”OK” might not end up on everyone’s ”essential purchases”-list. Still, if you’re missing the glory days of TNT or waiting for the second Magnificent album, this might be something for you.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

REASONS BEHIND: ”The Alpha Memory”

Rating: RR
Label: Maple Metal Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Found this album from the ”to be reviewed” folder… Reasons Behind… the press material included a lot of photos of the band’s lead singer Elisa Bonafe, but not much else… so, let’s google it…”Modern metal with strong electronic influences and charming female vocals.” Ok.

Reasons Behind play progressive metal with plenty of keyboards, but I don’t know about the electronic influences. And as charming she looks, Elisa’s semi-operatic, at times slightly Kate Bush-like are very much an acquired taste, and I can’t say I’m too fond of them. The music is well-played and produced, but somehow the songs don’t have enough memorable melodies. In fact, the old saying that ”less is more” wouldn’t hurt these songs - there’s just too much going on in them and Elisa seems to be singing all the time. I’m well aware that there are some instrumental passages too, but her presence is a bit overwhelming…

Who could I recommend this to? Fans of early Nightwish and Within Temptation might want to investigate. There are videos on the band’s website.

MINUTIAN: "Inwards"

Rating: RR
Label: Inverse Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Inwards is the second album of Finnish prog rockers Minutian and this album is dedicated to the memory of guitar player Jaakko Jernberg, who died in 2012. Inwards contains nine new songs and the last track Redeemer was was composed by Jernberg.

Most of the tracks are long (maybe some are too long?) and do not offer enough variety to keep the attention of the listener. Songs like Burning Light, The Crust Of The Earth and Aphelion just drag on and on and do not even have decent guitar and/or keyboard solos. But what irritates me most are the too dominant vocals of Mikko Heino; he just sings too much and his voice really gets on my nerves after a couple of tracks. The only two interesting tracks are On Derelict Sidings and Void Within as both at least feature some musical variety and intelligence. Most boring and tedious song is without any doubt the last one Redeemer, a song that does not come "alive" at all. Minutian is NOT my cup of tea but maybe there is an audience for music like this, but I think that in this genre, prog rock/metal, there is so much more to enjoy than Inwards, that this CD will end up on a pile of nice try but did not succeed.

Walter TROUT: "Battle Scars"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Records/Provogue
Review by Martien Koolen

This is the much-anticipated follow-up to Walter Trout's superb 2014 album The Blues
Came Callin'. Battle Scars is a chronicle of Walter Trout's survival after his liver transplant; staring death in the eye and not knowing if he would live to go on making his music.

On this excellent new album are 12 tracks dealing with his battle between life and death and the lyrics are really emotional and also give a message of hope and will power. The album kicks off with Almost Gone, featuring harmonica, two superb very bluesy guitar solos and of course very emotional lyrics dealing with Walter's illness and his survival. Another highlight on the album is Please Take Me Home, a classic blues ballad with almost magical, out of this world guitar solos; showing that Trout is still one of the best guitar pickers in the bluesrockworld.

Fly Away is an up tempo blues rocker with a catchy chorus and a mean, almost swampy, howling guitar solo. Move On is maybe the "heaviest" song on Battle Scars; a blues rock track with heavy riffs and hooks and two mean and lean guitar solos. My Ship Came In features Trout on harmonica again, but the song almost explodes with the howling high guitar in the end. Cold, Cold Ground ia another Trout milestone and reminds me of good old Jimi Hendrix, as it is a classic slow blues song filled with astonishing guitar work. Trout's guitar solos on Cold, Cold Ground are probably the best on the entire album.

Unfortunately Trout also composed two mediocre tracks for Battle Scars, being the utterly boring acoustic Gonna Live Again and the last track called Sammy, Sammy which in fact only features one minute silence and a speaking voice! Without these two missers, Battle Scars would have received the perfect rating from me; but this album again shows/proves that Trout always will have a special place in my blues (rock) heart; especially if I listen to outstanding tracks like Cold, Cold Ground, My Ship Came In, Please Take Me Home and Fly Away. The emotional, heartfelt lyrics do the rest: "Last year has been one where the blues truly came calling and I came face to face with death more than once."(Walter Trout). Battle Scars is a fantastic blues rock album and I hope that Walter (with his new liver) will live for many more years and make excellent albums like this one. Highly recommended for lovers of real blues rock with steaming guitar solos; play it loud and often!!

THE RADIO SUN: ”Heaven Or Heartbreak”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Melodic Rock Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

On their first album ”Wrong Things Right” The Radio Sun actually didn’t do the wrong things right, they did the right things right as far as I’m concerned. It was a nice collection of what I’d call ”summertime pop-rock”. On the new album, the band seems to have left the sunny days of summer behind, as I don’t get that ”summer vibe” out of these tracks. It being the end of October as I write this might have something to do with it too… But anyway, the songs are still melodic and catchy, but maybe a touch darker.

Just like on the previous album, each one of these songs could be considered as singles. The choruses are big and the harmonies smooth as ever. Compared to the debut there’s a bit more variety, subtle keyboards add a contemporary sheen to some of the songs. Then there are others which have more of a metallic flavour, the title track being one of those for instance. Favorites of mine include ”Dying Without Your Love”, ”Hanging By A Thread” and ”Madness In This World” but frankly, there are no throwaway songs here.

After the first spin I wasn’t too sure whether I liked this album as much as the first one. Vocalist Jason Old’s very unique style of singing started to bug me a little and the songs just didn’t seem that catchy. Now that I’ve given this album more time, the hooks have found their way into my head… I still think that every now and then Mr. Old tends to streeeeeetch the words unnecessarily though.

Friday, October 30, 2015

GHOST MACHINERY: ”Evil Undertow”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Pure Legend Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

A few years have passed since the previous Ghost Machinery album ”Out For Blood”. That was a solid piece of work but I’ll have to say that ”Evil Undertow” is even better. Guitarist Pete Ahonen gave up his vocalist duties in his other band Burning Point, but meanwhile in GM he decided to step back to the microphone and became the lead vocalist again. The last album featured Taage Laiho (Kilpi, Altaria) on vocals. Fans of his voice should try to get a hold of this album’s limited edition, which features two superb cover versions with him on vocals, namely ”Fight For The Strangers” and ”Never Stop Runnin’”. Both are originally semi-legendary Finnish metal songs from the eighties by Iron Cross and Zero Nine.

The main ”core” of the album are the 9 new songs and one cover found on the normal edition of the album. The originals are all hook-laden metal songs with fine guitars, pompous keyboards and gritty, yet melodic vocals. Out of them my picks would be the opener ”Arms Of The Strangers”, ”Brave Face”, the Queensryche-like ”Dead Inside” and Dokkenesque ”Lost To Love”. Apart from the aforementioned bands, you can hear influences from ”Eclipse”-era Yngwie and many more classic melodic metal bands.

The one cover is Robert Tepper’s ”No Easy Way Out”, which is a great song. I’m not ”that” fond of the GM version though. The song’s classic bass line is a bit buried under the guitars and keys. Still, you can’t ”kill” a classic song like this by small changes and this is a worthy addition to the track listing.

If I have one complaint it’s the use of similar ”church organ” sounds on many of the songs. The sound just stands out and points its’ ugly finger at me a few too many times. Could be my strange paranoia too…

Anyway, earlier this year I think I said that Stargazery’s latest album is my favourite from the products of Pete Ahonen Metal Factory. I’m not so sure anymore, here we have a serious contender.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

BLACK-BONE: "Blessing In Disguise"

Rating: RRR
Label: SPV/Steamhamer
Review by Martien Koolen

This young rock trio from The Netherlands have recently signed a recording deal with Steamhammer/SPV and they have released their new album Blessing In Disguise on 18 September. Steef van den Bogaard (guitar/vocals), Sven Hompes ( bass guitar/vocals) and Jules Eck (drums) debuted with Back To Mayhem in 2012 and since then their popularity has grown. Furthermore these young musicians toured with the likes of Deep Purple, Saxon, Slash, Status Quo and Chickenfoot and this of course also helped a lot to become more known in the music industry. Black-Bone plays heavy rock and roll at its best and they are obviously influenced by iconic bands like Guns N' Roses and AC/DC; but they surely have their own musical style. The album, produced by Peter van Elderen (frontman/guitarist of Peter Pan Speedrock), the albums kicks off with the up tempo Nothing But History (the first single of the album); a song that reminds me of the rather unknown Dutch band New Adventures. Suicide Ain't No Way Out is one of the best songs, filled with great hooks and riffs and an excellent rough guitar solo. Wrong is a power ballad, which is new for Black-Bone as they have never played ballads before, and is rather melodic with two great guitar solos. Wrong has a kind of arena rock ambition and it could be a great anthem for these guys. But the musical highlight of this album is the track Save It For Tomorrow, which is real headbanging stuff, with heavy, catchy musical passages, lots of variety and again a more than superb guitar solo in the middle of the track. However,after listening to the album a couple of times I have to say that Black-Bone's songs, like Never Too Loud, Ashereah, You Gotta Nerve and Wasted Years tend to be very similar to each other. Meaning: the same tempos, similar riffs/hooks and the same vocals, which makes this album a bit too predictable... But nevertheless these three young Dutch musicians grab you by the balls and showcase their stuff in a very positive and aggressive way.Let's see what the future will bring for this promising band and until then, just enjoy Blessing In Disguise, at maximum volume of course, that goes without saying. Best tracks to listen to: Suicide, Wrong and Save It For Tomorrow!

Joe BONAMASSA: "Live at Radio City Music Hall"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Label Group/Provogue
Review by: Martien Koolen

One of the best blues (rock) guitar pickers of this world has just released a fantastic new album; a CD/DVD set and CD/Blu-ray set. In January of this year Joe took the iconic Great stage at Radio City Music Hall and he played his special half acoustic/half electric programma for a very enthousiastic crowd. The set features over 75 minutes of music with two newly recorded tracks and nine unreleased live tracks showing Bonamassa and band in second to none form. However, as you do know by now, I am not a fan of acoustic songs, so for me it is a shame that I have to skip five songs on the CD. These five acoustic tracks are played with Joe's acoustic band called The Huckleberries and I am truly sorry (maybe not) but I can not get enthousiastic about songs like Dust Bowl, Trouble Town, Still Water, Different Shades Of Blue and Happier Times, as they sound too much country & western/ blue grass to me. I really like it when Joe shifts into the electric mode with his regular touring band consisting of: Tal Bergman (drums), Carmine Rojas (bass guitar), Reese Wynans (keyboards) and his hornsection (Thornburg, Lane and Cerra). One Less Cross To Bear is a new song and it is a great one, featuring great guitar parts by Joe and an excellent keyboard solo as well. Other highlights of this outstanding album are: I Can't Be Satisfied (Muddy Waters-like), Living On The Moon, Never Give All Your Heart and the bluesrockin' Love Ain't A Love Song. But the best song of the set to me is: So What Would I Do, which features the most fabulous guitar solo of the entire album and which also includes a mean saxophone solo. This song is what Bonamassa is all about, great melodies, great variety, excellent singing and breathtaking guitarpicking. Overall I have to say that Bonamassa's voice has improved a lot over the years, he really is an excellent vocalist nowadays and his guitar playing is flawless as ever. This album is a career milestone for Bonamassa and an absolute must have for his fans all over the world. By the way the DVD contains all the songs as featured on the CD (13 tracks), plus a lot more, including over 2,5 hours of live footage and a special 45 minutes behind the scenes featurette. Check it out and you will be hooked; however without the acoustic songs I would have given this album a perfect rating; sad but true... Play it loud and bring it your air guitar to play along!

UGLY KID JOE: "Uglier Than They Used Ta Be"

Rating: RRR
Label: Metalville/Rough Trade
Review by: Martien Koolen

I never tought that this would be possible, bringing out a new album after a 19 year hiatus; but it is. Notorious Ugly Kid Joe have released a brand new album featuring 9 new tracks and 2 covers. Uglier Than They Used Ta Be was recorded in Louisiana under the helm of no one less than Dave Fortman, who has worked with Godsmack, Evanescence and Slipknot in the past, and features a seven member line-up of the band. The excellent album starts with the first single Hell Ain't Hard To Find, an up tempo track with heavy funky riffs and great singing by Whitfield Crane. Third song Bad Seed is the first highlight and has a remarkable gritty bass guitar line and the guitar solo in that song is just sheer brilliance. Under The Bottom is a great rather heavy track and features a very Black Sabbath influenced guitar riff. Enemy the longest song on the album, kicks off as a ballad, before it resurrects into a very hard rock hitting end with phenomenal guitar solos. So far so good, but then we have the utterly boring acoustic ballad Nothing Ever Changes and the two cover songs and you know I hate acoustic songs and covers... Ace Of Spades (Motorhead) features Phil Campbell on guitar (he also plays on My Old Man and Under The Bottom) and on the second cover Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Temptations) UKJ is assisted by Dallas Frasca on vocals. Uglier Than They Used Ta Be is a good rock album (despite the acoustic song and the two covers) and it contains all of what was and still is Ugly Kid Joe and it was defintely worth the wait of 19 years. Recommended listening: Under The Bottom and Bad Seed!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NAZARETH: "No Means Of Escape" [DVD]

Rating: Live
Label: Eagle Vision 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'No Means Of Escape' - the art cover is a brand new version of 'Friendly Fred' by fantasy artist Rodney Matthews. So far so good. A running time of approx 173 mins with the Live At Metropolis gig (2014 - 13 tracks featuring Linton Osbourne on vocals) and the documentary Made In Scotland, plus bonus features such as the acoustic session track 'Sunshine', additional interviews, and meet the super fans with their tattoos and stories.

Aye! Original Taggart, Haggis, Kilt, The Highlands, William Wallace, Alex Ferguson, Tartan, Skara Brae, Bagpipes, and of course Nazareth, they all have a special place in the hearts of the Scots. Originally formed in December 1968 in Dunfermline, Scotland, from the remaining members of local group The Shadettes (formed in 1961) by vocalist Dan McCafferty, Manny Charlton (guitars), Pete Agnew (bass), and Darrell Sweet (drums). They took their name from the first line of The Band's classic song "The Weight" ('I pulled into Nazareth') and Agnew (the sole remaining original member) speaks about it in the documentary, "The song came on and I said, what about Nazareth? And I tell you what it was. They didn't all go, Yeah! But nobody said no, and that's the reason why we're called Nazareth. Nobody said no."

"They've played 45+ years without a break. They never stop". I actually feel sorry for singer Linton Osbourne. How do you replace a legend such as Dan McCafferty after 43 years as their front man? Dan was forced to retire on 28 August 2013 due to ill health (he's got this illness that makes it difficult to breathe) and poor Osbourne didn't last for long and announced his departure from the band in early 2015. The band announced a couple of weeks later that Carl Sentance (Persian Risk, Krokus, Geezer Butler Band), was their new lead vocalist. It's weird to watch the gig knowing that the singer has already been replaced and you do miss Dan-The-Man. It's not up to me to say, but perhaps it's time for the refrain? It's nearly impossible to carry on after spending all those years (43 on record) with the one great vocalist.

It's otherwise a nice little documentary (50 mins) and interviews with Agnew and McCafferty. The two of them met on their very first day at primary school when they were 5 years old and they've been friends ever since. "I wasn't in it to be famous. I was in it because I though I had something to give to the music industry. Or to the people. NOT the music industry. Pffft... them", quote from Dan. It's the whole she-bang with stories from the past up to present date. Live-wise, Linton has the rather powerful voice with a more than decent range. However, there's something missing and you all know who....

VOODOO HILL: "Waterfall"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hoodoo wanna voodoo? It's been 11 long years since last we hang out at the Voodoo Hill. Time passed, things changed, and merely The Voice Of Rock stayed the same. Let's face it. Glenn is God, what a voice, still at the top of his game in the year of 2015. 'Too fat to rock' according to Gary Moore already back in 1985, and basically the massive drug user and 'has-been' according to most. Well. Hughes never leave you disappointed on record and that goes for every single effort from Deep Purple to Black Country Communion, Black Sabbath, Trapeze, Gary Moore, Phenomenia, John Norum, Hughes/Thrall, etc. Sheer class from first to last note.

"Waterfall", the latest work of the duo Glenn Hughes and guitarist/songwriter Dario Mollo. We're talking about classy arrangements and compositions in the 70's meet 80's melodic hard rock style. It's actually a lot more melodic and 80's sounding than previous album (also great and one of my fave albums of 2004) that had this dark riffing and Sabbath meet Kyuss sort of agenda. They have returned with a sound that is easily as good as any Hughes fronted act in the past 30 years. The songs slams its way out of the speakers and in to your little grey cells.

Not (always) instantly catchy though and you need to spin this a couple of times to get the full picture. 'Underneath And Down Below', the superb mid-tempo track slash semi-ballad that grows for each spin. It simply oozes of Blackmore and Plant. The title track, the ballad of the year? And there's plenty of great uptempo rockers that show us a duo that didn't stagnate or become just another bleak version of proper rock'n roll. Recommended.

Friday, October 9, 2015

DEF LEPPARD: "Def Leppard"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMUSIC 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'Welcome to the carnival - Welcome to the party'. Nostalgia? Retromania? Put-a-smile-back-on-yer-faceia? I dunno? Let's go (daft pun intended) and pour some sugar on the latest tracks recorded by U.K.'s pride and joy, The Def Leppards. Let's face it. Joe, Phil, Viv, and the Ri(c)ks, are strongly connected to the classic sound and albums. Have they decided to return to what they're doing best and never mind the critics?

Possibly, but not likely, since it's not all retro and back to the eighties. It's in fact the rather (too?) diverse sounding platter with bits and pieces of everything from slick melodic rock to 70's Glam, straight-ahead rockers, and the occasional modern rock piece. Do not. I repeat, do not expect all tracks to be 'Let's Go' or full on retro. It's the full Def Lep spectrum from start to present date. It's like if they're trying to please fans of all camps?

The opening tracks are also the ones sounding the most like slick Mutt-era. 'Let's Go', the fun arena rocker with sugar in the mix, while 'Dangerous', take a lot of inspiration from 'Photograph' (chorus). 'Man Enough', the fun Def-version of 'Another One Bites The Dust' as the Ri(c)ks are building up the verse with a tight rhythm section and sound. It's BASS and drums with a catchy refrain that reeks of Adrenalize. 'We Belong', the super classy ballad of the album and all members take a turn behind the mic. I believe that KISS took a similar approach on We Are One. 'Invincible', reminded me of a couple of other Brit-acts. It's GUN meet Manic Street Preachers on a date with Def Lep. It's just a great flow and the fun guitar driven track. One of those open roads, top down, car driving tracks.

'Sea Of Love', slightly nerdy 70's Glam Rock with atmospheric/dreamy refrain and some excellent guitar work by Collen/Campbell. 'Energized', Euphoria meet X with the great hook. The annoying refrain to 'Battle Of My Own', keeps beating and repeating those four words 'til you barf. The rather dark and groovy acoustic met electric guitar piece with a nod to 70's sideburns of yesterdays. It's a grower though as it gets better with each spin (up to a certain point of course). 'Broke 'N' Brokenhearted', 'All Time High', and 'Forever Young,' are three fine guitar rockers. 'Last Dance', the wicked gather-around the bonfire acoustic guitar song. They recorded similar ones in the early/mid nineties. Closing track 'Blind Faith', the flower-power ballad with a special nod to Sgt.Pepper only not half as great.

Final verdict: No need for hysteria. It's the darn-good rather than superb album. It's however their best effort in a very long time and Elliott sound great (in the studio). Perhaps just a tad too diverse for its own best? Then again. You always expect better from one of your all-time best melodic hardrock acts.

STRYPER: "Fallen"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Holy Sweet... Michael and Robert? It clearly reads Stryper on the disc, but it's like if they've been on steroids for the last couple of years (Jesus Juice?). Everything is harder, heavier, and dare I say better? than in a very long time. Don't get me wrong. I'm the massive fan of To Hell With The Devil (it's still their best effort in my humble opinion) and all of the Mickey Mouse harmonies of the past. I treasure the yellow and black attack and In God We Trust had its fun moments. But this is overall a much more together effort metal-wise, vocal-wise, and let's face it, Michael simply can't reach those insanely high notes any longer.

The excellent trademark harmonies are still there, just not crazy over-the-top or across the universe. The sound is harking back to the first mini-album only with a galloping beat. Airtight solos collide with a muscular groove and it's more towards the sound of classic heavy metal than ever before. It's never blunt or boring though and "Love You Like I Do" will most certainly remind you of Always There For You. It's just not (as) hysterical over-the-top or sugar sweet. Oz Fox beats the crap out of his six-string and the catchy refrain fits perfectly in with the sound. They seem to be enjoying themselves in the studio.

Sevendust member Chris Lowery co-wrote lead single, "Yahweh" and it's basically heavy in a good way and structure. For the rest of the album, you'll be headbanging as well as singing-a-long to the melodies at the same time. You'll be on your knees, shouting along to the words of 'King Of Kings' no matter if you're a believer or not. And yes, there's a ballad amongst the tracks (All Over Again) as well as the Black Sabbath cover (After Forever). The downers, the drums are not nearly as fat as wished for and the same goes for the bass sound. But it's overall a blessed eighties metal stack of the yellow and black attack. The f-i-n-e album effort without any major downers whatsoever.

TERAMAZE: "Her Halo"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot/Music Theories 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

13:51. That's minutes and I'm talking about the opening track from Her Halo namely, 'An Ordinary Dream'. After a few odd years of obscurity and underground status in Oz, Music Theories/Mascot Label group have gone and signed these melodic masters of prog-rock and metal. Teramaze plays hi-tech melodic stuff that goes back and forth on the boundaries of Prog Metal and sophisticated, cinematic metal, inspired by film and video games scores? Well. That's my definition anyhow and not entirely sure if the band would agree?

It's however ultra melodic as well complicated stuff with several different layers of metal, emo, and prog and it all comes down to keeping busy while sounding posh. I would put them in the same kind of category as the Swedes of Seventh Wonder and vocalist Nathan Peachey is working in a similar field and mood as their former singer Tommy Karevik (Kamelot). Probably tailor made for Japan and their culture since it's simply oozing of 'name-your-fave-japan-video-game-here'. Guitarist Dean Well's axe cuts through the tracks like butter and it's just the ultra smooth performances and crystal clear tone and amp sound.

Everyone knows 'Images and Words', Dream Theater's finest moment as well as the starting point for this kind of prog waxing. Her Halo is simply just more of everything. More emotions, more crooning, more... but not quite as superb anyhow. Nonetheless. It's a smashing album and highly recommended stuff. Big in Japan? Should be big all over the place in my humble opinion.

JOEL HOEKSTRA'S 13: "Dying To Live"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Joel Hoekstra, who? Former Night Ranger and current Whitesnake guitarist, that's who. He's also part of the Trans Siberian Orchestra, but we never payed much attention to be completely honest. The 13 tag and band members such as Tony Franklin and Vinny Appice lead us first to to believe in Blue Murder and John Sykes only to realise that we've included the wrong Appice brother/drummer. Oh well. 'Dying to Live' is still something that John Sykes and Blue Murder could have recorded in the early nineties and I sort of think of Hoekstra as the lesser version of Sykes somehow? That's a bit harsh, but not necessarily wrong.

Russell Allen (Symphony X, Allen/Lande) and Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, Talisman, Eyes, etc.) are the two lead vocalists on the record and the latter gets stuck with second grade/rate material. Indeed. Allen sings all the goodies such as 'Anymore', 'Changes', or 'Long For The Days', excellent mid-tempo Whitesnake rock. In fact. Allen has never sounded this close to Coverdale in the past. Compare this to the blunt work of "Scream" and you'll notice that Soto is losing out big time. The only good thing about this track, the keyboards by Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Kiss, etc).

The title track (sung by Allen) and 'What We Believe' (sung by Soto and TSO singer Chloe Lowery) are the two exceptions as the first do absolutely nothing while the latter goes down smooth as the Heart/Led Zeppelin folk tune. The hit and miss kind of album. Neat guitar work though.

JOE LOUIS WALKER: "Everybody Wants A Piece"

Rating: RRr
Label: Provogue/Music Theories 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Everybody Wants A Piece of Blues Hall Of Fame inductee, Joe Louis Walker? Yes indeed. It's proper roadhouse and barroom boogie from the 66 years young guitarist (Tower of Power, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Ike Turner, etc). It's the back to basic, back to the roots kind of album. Walker pays tribute to the past as he plays average blues tunes that brims over with tongue-in-cheek attitude and simplicity. Simply check out the boogie-woogie of 'Buzz On You' for proof to the fact that sometimes you don't have to change a winning concept even though it's been played to death for the past 60 years or more.

The powerful ballad, 'Black & Blue', timeless stuff and something that could have been the work by any one from Buddy Guy to Fine Young Cannibals (weird, but true!). The attempt at being something more than an blues artist is obvious at 'Witchcraft' since it's blues, funk and soul, all rolled in one. The tone is warm and welcoming and the spiritual side shines through in several compositions. 'One Sunny Day' have an fine understanding on how to make a blues work and the instrumental 'Gospel Blues' takes down the tempo like a sledgehammer to the head.

Hardly everything on here is great, fresh or new. It's still a decent effort from the Walker.

CIRCLE II CIRCLE: "Reign Of Darkness"

Rating: RRR
Label: earMUSIC 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Immediately striking is the powerful approach of the song, 'Taken Away'. Lyric that speak of darkest nights, shadows that come to life, and the sorrow of losing your precious one. "Someday I want to show you everything you've taken away from me". Indeed. Ex-Savatage singer Zak Stevens did well to start making music in the strangely familiar formula of Circle II Circle.

Sure. They might at first glance just appear to be another Power metal outfit that people only wish to cherish as long as there's no Savatage reunion, but they are an extremely talented band with excellent twin guitar work by Bill Hudson and Christian Wentz. You only need to hear the opening riffs to 'Victim Of The Night' and 'Untold Dreams' in order to appreciate their wicked licks and tricks.

The slightly down tuned work of 'It's All Over' and 'One More Day' are on the other hand not quite as impressive. It's frankly just too much of the late nineties past and not enough of proper metal? The great range and soaring vocals of Zak, always at the centre of attention as he come off sounding as the real deal. Definitely at his best during epic sounding tracks such as 'Somewhere', 'Deep Within', 'Solitary Rain', where keyboardist Henning Wanner finally receive a place in the spotlight. I only wish they would dress up all of their compositions in atmospheric and lavish orchestration. It's the pattern of success and Circle II Circle should really explore the full rock opera thingy on their next album.

"You might say that Reign of Darkness represents a musical reinvention for us, but the minute you hear each song you know right away that it's CIIC. We wanted to pay homage to the past, but we also wanted to create a musical renaissance within our genre that is fresh and energetic. This is an album that will positively pave the way for our future."- Zak Stevens. Final verdict: Solid as a rock, but not enough of roll.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Rating: RRR

Label: Polydor

Review By: Alan Holloway

Back in the day (yeah, yeah… shut up gramps) I used to be quite the fan of Bryan Adams. For me, his creative output peaked with the mature, heavy and accessible ‘Into The Fire’, although I’ll happily admit to liking the cookie cutter fun rock of ‘Waking Up the Neighbours’, where Mutt Lange tried to make him sound like every other band he’s produced but at least included some lively, enjoyable tracks (with Vallance hanging in for two of the best). Basically, I think Bryan Adams started on his downhill course when he stopped working with Jim Vallance, so when I learned that this new album saw the return of Vallance to the Adams camp I was actually looking forward to hearing a new Bryan Adams album. Weird…

Since then, Adams has been one of those artists that releases a ton of middle of the road stuff with a handful of tracks that remind you of what he once was. ‘Get Up’ is yet another mixed bad, unfortunately, but at least it has some promise contained within. So let’s start with the good: it has some good tracks on it. No great tracks, not really, but certainly some that will perk you up, like the upbeat, catchy ‘You Belong To Me’ or album closer and standout track ‘Brand new Day’. The last, more than any other, really brings to mind classic Adams and deserves to be a hit. There’s songs straight out of the Rock Cliché handbook, like ‘Go Down Rocking’ and ‘Thunderbolt’, and of course there’s ballads, none of which have a tenth of the passion of the likes of ‘Heaven’ or ‘Rebel’. To be completely honest, you get nine new tracks, about six of which are worth the price of admission.

So we come to the not so good. Tacked on the end of the album are acoustic versions of four of the previous tracks, about as pointless as Rob Halford’s hairdresser. Without these, the nine tracks that really form the album give you a mere 25 minutes of entertainment. Okay, there have been great short albums in the past, but this doesn’t even fill out that short time in a memorable way. The addition of the covers seems to be an artist who’s run out of songs and is on a deadline. The final bit of not so good is Adams’ vocals. Now don’t get me wrong he can still carry a raspy tune, but there is no real passion anywhere to be seen. It’s probably just age, but I don’t think Adams could convince me any more that the kids wanted to rock.

So whilst the return of Vallance has added definite value, and the production by Jeff Lynne is clear and bouncy, ‘Get Up’ ultimately falls down. There’s five or six songs that old time fans can take to their hearts, plus some dull ones and some pointless acoustic covers. Make of that what you will, but don’t expect another ‘Reckless’ because you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Rating: RRRR

Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Female-fronted, symphonic, bombastic… who does that make you think of? Nightwish? Within Temptation? One of the answers to that is The Murder Of My Sweet, who have managed to create an identity of their own. Yeah, the music of TMOMS could very well appeal to the fans of the both aforementioned bands, but copycats they are not. First of all, Angelica Rylin has a very powerful rock voice with very little operatic traits. Secondly, the songs of Daniel Flores are something special, as if they were tailor-made for a stage performance, a hard rock musical or a metal opera. I can’t imagine these songs being played at some small club, They’re just way too ”big”… It has to be a theatre-sized setting with lights, smoke, choirs and massive screens. Well, at least something like that.

The concept of ”Beth Out Of Hell” is the ancient battle between good and evil, heaven and hell… it is also a dramatic love story. No more spoilers from me, you’ll have to listen to it yourself. This much I will spoil though - you’ll hear some of the finest songs of this year on the album. Some of them sound like Jim Steinman-written symphonic metal, and indeed the album title might be a tribute to Steinman’s classic work ”Bat Out Of Hell”.

To simply call this Symphonic Metal or Progressive Metal wouldn’t do justice to these songs. There’s huge amounts of pop sensibility in them. Those Swedes, they just can’t get away from the influence of Abba… and that’s a good thing!

”Always The Fugitive”, ”Still”, ”The Awakening” and ”Humble Servant” are among my favorite tracks, all boasting huge choruses and bombastic arrangements. Had the band been able to stay on this level throughout the album, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give this album the full marks. Unfortunately there’s a  few songs towards the end of the album which really don’t do it for me, hence only an RRRR rating.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Rating: RRR1/2
Label: Eone Music
Review by: Martien Koolen

Their previous album ONYX was a huge commercial success ( due to three consecutive #1 Rock radio singles) and their performances at Graspop and Pinkpop also convinced the European audience. So everybody was looking forward to their new, fourth album called Up. Pop Evil, hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a larger than life true rock and roll band that mixes the notorious showmanship of KISS and Motley Crue with the earnestness of grunge bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. In other words Pop Evil is a true modern rock band with a powerful indentity blended with mainstream American AOR flavors.

The album kicks off with the first single of Up, being Footsteps; and it is not a typical Pop Evil song, as it features computerised drum beats and a weird wall of sound. The follow up Core is much better, as it is filled with heavy guitar riffs and a great melody; this is the Pop Evil we like to hear! Other highlights on this very well produced album by Adam Kasper (o.a. Soundgarden, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam) are: Vendetta (very fast, almost trashy with raw vocals), Dead In The Water (mainstream heavy rock with superb vocals by Leigh Kakaty) and the longest track Till Kingdom Come, an excellent powerballad with very cool and melodic guitar solos from Nick Fuelling. Up also features a couple of soundalike, too radiofriendly, catchy rock tunes like for example: In Disarray, Ways To Get High, Ghost Of Mushegon and Footsteps of course... But these are all great songs to listen to in your car at maximum volume and scream along to, until you are fed up with these "poppy" songs, with al; due respect, of course.

Sadly Up also contains two mediocre fillers, namely the instrumental 31 second clocking interlude ... , which is utterly pointless and the rather boring, predictable acoustic ballad Seattle Rain. But overall I really like the new album of Pop Evil, it is modern rock at its best and although it is a commercial rock album, it is transcendent purity. The special edition of Up features two bonus tracks, being an acoustic version of the first single Footsteps and My Confessions, again a very catchy pop/rock song which kinds of reminds me of Creed....

Joe SATRIANI: "Shockwave Supernova"

Rating: RRRR Label: Sony Review by Martien Koolen Shockwave Supernova is Joe Satriani's fifteenth studio album and let me tell you right from the start that it is again a guitar masterpiece. The fifteen songs on this album were composed and written a couple of years ago and that is probably why you could call Shockwave Supernova an "old school" Satch album. A lot of tracks on this album remind me of Satch's old albums like Flying In A Blue Dream, Surfing With The Alien and The Extremist and they "breathe" the air of the eighties. Shockwave is a concept album and Satriani explores the inner demons of his alter ego on this remarkable album. If you love instrumental guitar music, then this is a must have album, as Satch plays some memorable songs filled with groove laden riffs, apocalyptic hooks, breathtaking melodies and outstanding solos. I would say that there really never is a dull moment on this album, even though it lasts 64 minutes! Satch's familiar phrasing and vibrato techniques are all there and his guitar does the talking all over, so you really do not miss vocal parts on this album. His magical, expressive guitar playing is eloquent from the first notes of the title track till the last notes of Goodbye Supernova and the album gets better with each listen; just try it out! On Peregrine Wings, one of my favs on the album, was already available on You Tube, and this song is really in the veins of Flying In A Blue Dream. Cataclysmic is another highlight and is filled with out of this world melodies and outstanding solos. Shockwave also shows Satch's groove based blues side, like for example in songs like Crazy Joey (with a very funky beat) and In My Pocket, where Joe also plays the harmonica again, and maybe that is why it makes me think of Big Bad Moon. Every Satriani album also features ballads and on Shockwave you can enjoy emotional guitar ballads such as: Stars Race Across The Sky, Butterfly And Zebra and San Francisco Blue; the latter being a Eric Johnson-like song. On Shockwave Satriani is assisted by Mike Keneally (keys, guitar), Marco Minnemann (drums) and Bryan Beller (bass guitar) and this is probably the best band Satriani has ever had. On four tracks, Keep On Movin', In My Pocket, Crazy Joey and Scarborough Stomp Satriani is assisted by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting) and bass player Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction). Shockwave Supernova was produced by John Cuniberti, who also was responsible for the production of Joe's debut and Surfing With The Alien. Shockwave Supernova is one of the best Satriani albums ever and it is doing overtime in my CD player; however if you are a beginning or moderate guitar player it can be very frustrating to hear this guy playing... Enjoy at maximum volume!!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

GAMMA RAY: "Sigh No More" (Reissue)

Rating: Re-issue
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

When this album originally came out in September 1991 it was compared to their debut and of course to what Kai Hansen achieved with Helloween. Hansen remembers feeling confused about the situation and if Gamma Ray had incorporated too many Helloween influences or perhaps not enough? Grunge also caused a great deal of confusion as old metal heroes were considered outdated. They decided in the end to stay faithful to their sound and the five of Scheepers (vocals), Hansen & Schlächter (guitars), Wessel (bass), Kusch (drums), rented a cottage at the Danish island of Romo to write songs for "Sign No More".

The remastered 2015 Anniversary release includes the ten original tracks, a number of previously unreleased recordings with Kai on vocals, home demos and the pre-production (among them 'Heroes' which later became 'Changes'), plus a number of selected live cuts. There's a total of 12 tracks on the second bonus disc. Generously, the liner notes inform us about recording techniques as well as the story behind the unusual artwork inspired by the second Gulf war. Add to this all the lyrics and the reprinting of some memorabilia photos.

For the most part, Sigh No More is pretty good. About the only thing really wrong with it is the fact that it may just sound a bit too unfocused and uncertain. Ralf Schepper's voice can get pretty annoying on a track such as "Start Running", and "Countdown" does absolutely nothing do cheer up the mood. "One With The World" on the other hand,one of my all-time favourite songs with the band. It's one of those let's get together and sing-a-long moments of metal when the refrain echos the words of "When I'm one with the world. I am one with my mind. Forget all the fury there's no need to cry. There's a place we all go, salvation to find. There's freedom to come when I'm one with the world and my mind".

Final verdict, the bonus songs are pretty cool, and it's decent power metal with several hooks and flashy solos. Bigger and better albums yet to come in the future though.

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT: "All Our Yesterdays"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Once not very long ago or very far away. We used to laugh until the break of day. Now the days are colder. I can't help to wonder why". The Eastern European influenced opening title track speak of better, happier times, and distant memories of the past. "Hey hey, hey hey. We'd dance the night away. I wish that we could stay in All Our Yesterdays". Words that sums up each and every person's inner thought(s) as he or she is getting older and grey? Are we looking at their swansong? One final hurrah before it's time to hang up the shoes? No idea really, but he's not getting any younger, the man in the hat.

Not an act to miss at your local folklore and renaissance festival, Blackmore's Night is a musical and spiritual collaboration between vocalist, multi-instrumentalist Candice Night and the legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple,Rainbow). Their latest offering to the savage Gods of yesteryears, the mixed album with eight new original numbers and five olde covers.

They've actually included THE song that all Blackmore's Night compositions are based upon. No. I'm not talking about the olde renaissance music. It's Mike Oldfield's smash hit of 1983, 'Moonlight Shadow', and it's still THE best modern medieval influenced pop tune ever. Easily the best song on the record but never quite as good as the original. The Sony/Cher duet of "I Got You Babe" on the other hand, one of the most overrated songs ever. Cheesy and cringe worthy to the extreme, it's not a duet as Candice had to sing it all by herself (where's Ritchie? you bastard!). The traditional 'Allan Yn n Fan' and the work of 'Long Long Time' are more than decent covers.

The instrumental "Darker Shade Of Pale" could just as easily have been left-over from any of the Rainbow albums. Will O' The Wisp, medieval influenced stuff and the lyrics speak of an ancient rock, castle ruins, a forest, as well as the crescent moon. There is also a path that Candice saw as she watched the Disney/Pixar film Brave with her children. Entranced by an early scene in which the heroine, Princess Merida is led through the woods to a cottage by a will o’ the wisp, a light that floats over swamps and moors. Very much the traditional folklore theme styled music as expect from the two. Solid stuff.

SAGA: "The Security Of Illusion" (Reissue)

Rating: Re-issue
Label: earMUSIC 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The ninth studio Saga album "The Security of Illusion" was originally released 1993 and marks the return of Jim Gilmour (keyboards) and Steve Negus (drums). The remastered in 2015 reissue includes extensive liner notes, all lyrics, and the two live bonus tracks (Scratching The Surface - 'Heads Or Tales', 1983. Ice Nice - from their 1978 debut) have absolutely nothing in common with the original release.

If predecessors (Wildest Dream, The Beginner's Guide To Throwing Shapes) were thought of as hi-tech and perhaps a tad too poppy (I really enjoy both albums though), this album reek of meaty guitar riffs and your slightly harder rock illusion. That's merely in comparison to earlier Saga and don't go thinking it's heavy or hard as in metal. There's plenty of typical passages and arrangements that only Saga could come up with and there's even the classically-influences instrumental piece (Viola). However, guitarist Ian Crichton spoke out about the sound and I quote, "Indeed, there's a lot of guitar on the record. I played my ass off. It's the most guitar-heavy record Saga have done to date", end quote.

I personally think of Illusion as a tiny step in the wrong direction and not as proggy as expected. Nonetheless. The majority of tracks hit the spot and there's enough here to convince people that Saga had still a purpose in the nineties. But let's face it, most rock acts of the past struggled in those days and Saga were at a low point of their career. Simply remove the dodgy 'Stand Up' (cheesy shout-refrain) and 'Days Like These', you'd still end up with a more than a decent Saga album.


Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Operation Mindcrime, iconic concept and one of the best metal albums of the eighties alongside the work of Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc. It's now 2015 and vocalist Geoff Tate push the boundaries further and beyond the musical territory of classic Queensryche. I'm sure you're well aware of the nasty split up, so let's not dwell on the past. The Key, the prog rock trilogy and thus one of three albums for Tate to break new musical ground? The concept about some geezer finding the ultimate key which open up.... I don't know? The Internet? Not the best of concept to be honest and you tend to look at songs individually rather than story-wise.

The shocking poor singles, The Stranger, Hearing Voices, the worst two tracks on the record and people should bow their heads in shame for releasing them in the first place. What were they thinking? Let's scare off as many potential buyers as possible? Life or Death, (Mark Daly singer with The Voodoos, guests on this track), another shock to the system and there's several moments of ups and downs like a massive roller coaster ride. To be honest. There's not a whole lot to say on a positive note. But if you look past the worst drivel, there's actually a couple of good songs or more to be found on The Key.

Atmospheric, and at times dark, progressive rock, where 'Re-Inventing The Future' sounds more like a decent throwback to Eyes of A Stranger. Opener, Choices, written by former Queensryche guitarist Kelly Grey, tend to get on my nerves as it stays in second gear. It's Promised Land met alternative David Bowie and the same goes for Burn. Neither bad nor good, they never really reach out to touch ya'. Ready To Fly, atmospheric alt. metal with just a hint of classic ryche.

On Queue, the best song on here with its balladic sound and saxophone solo by Tate. The instrumental work of An Ambush Of Sadness and the following, Kicking In the Door and The Fall, three more decent tracks. It's like if I'm reaching for the stars though and let's hope for something bigger and better on album two (remember it's a trilogy?). Final verdict: Well. At least he's not cashing in on the classic Operation Mindcrime sound.

COUNTING DAYS: "Liberated Sounds"

Rating: Rr
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Bloody 'ell. Who let the demon out of the bag? Burned By Faith, which kicks off this debut album from UK's Counting Days, has an intensity bordering on insanity. It's a fashion statement (not really) aimed towards all those nutters that justifies their dirty deeds according to religion. Killing in the name of God? Bassist/vocalist Alex Dench and growler Thomas Debaere spits out the words: "Burned by faith, died in faith. You say there's a God who cures darkness and pain, so you spread violence and hatred, to praise his name. He created the earth, the sun and the rain, you murder those, who don't believe the same".

Recorded at Studio Fredman in Gotherburg/Sweden and produced by Fredrik Nordström (At The Gates, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, etc.), you pretty much know what to expect from the angry Englishmen. The main structure of Swedish Death metal, the over-the-top approach of hard core, combined with vicious breakdowns, gang vocals, growls, the occasional nod to thrash, and overall sonic batterings.

It's just so late nineties/early 00's and something that I used to enjoy in the past. You could say that I grew up? (posh) or simply decided that I don't need anymore of these albums? Tom Doyle at Kerrang apparently love these guys and believe they are shaping up to be one of the brightest emerging talents on the U.K. scene. Good for him and the band. I personally wish they would include more Thrash and Punk influences though. The screaming aka growls gives me the headaches and I believe it's time for some Kate Bush next... what? Oh feck off. She's heavy...

HEYLEL: "Flesh"

Rating: EP
Label: Prescriptionpr/Indie 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Now it's mostly autumn...pun intended. Recorded and mixed in Caverna at Lucifer's Studio, the devilish sound of Portuguese band Heylel show a more raw and direct approach to the similar work of Mostly Autumn, and various other Goth inspired female fronted acts. Formed in 2012, the band consisting of vocalist Ana Batista, Narciso Monteiro (guitars/keys) and Felipe Braga (drums) describe themselves as an alternative progressive rock band with a gothic twist.

I can say that I noticed much of their Progressive Rock side on their second effort "Flesh". There's no experimental lust whatsoever and the arrangements are straight forward guitar rock with a dark agenda and style. They admit to ditching their previous sound, which included covers by King Crimson and Emerson Lake & Palmer, rather relying more on guitars and alternative rock with little substance or charm.

There's something grumpily restless within the walls of Flesh and clearly not enough of meat to have us asking for seconds. The complex and slightly disturbing blend of guitar twitches and awkward songwriting (Paranoid Hysteria goes straight to the bin) is unlikely to see them at the top of the hill or bill for that matter. In fact. There's hardly anything on their 5-track EP that makes you want to reach for the repeat button. Good musicians. Nice singer. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The WINERY DOGS: "Hot Streak"

Rating: RRRR+
Label: earMUSIC/Loud & Proud 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Holy Cow. From the opening notes of Oblivion, Hot Streak is an massive rock assault of riffs, harmonies, and just the silly amount of power-trio tracks. To quote drummer Mike Portnoy, "The mission of this band is to write catchy songs, and not have the musicianship overpower that". That's easier said than done considering the vast experience and skills of Portney, bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, David Lee Roth, etc.), and vocalist/guitarist Richie Kotzen.

Kotzen, sounding better than ever and it's basically the direct insult to name drop Poison in the year of 2015, since he's so much more advanced than all of their other members put together. Easily the most gifted and accomplished player to come out of the glamsters as he almost makes his guitar talk on the record. Vocally, something out of the ordinary as he take the Soul, the R&B, as well as the Purple approach of Coverdale/Hughes, and makes his own mark.

Hot Streak is far from your ordinary rock album. The compositions are slightly different from the debut, it's all about taking chances and looking outside of the box rather than staying safe and in the middle of the road. Through it all though, there's the melody, the swagger of a proper rock album that gives it added boost and power. There's something utterly danceable about Spiral, while The Bridge sounds almost like something that Motown could have done in the past. The chemistry of the three is contagious and fit in the category of sheer class. They simply lose themselves in a swirl of emotion and bring out music from the advanced school of rock.

Final verdict: The sonic howl of the Winery Dogs and Hot Streak stands miles above most albums of the year. The funk, the soul, the rock n roll. It's all there. It's all good