Thursday, January 29, 2015

AMMUNITION: ”Shanghaied”

Rating: RRRR

Label: AOR Heaven 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

After the demise of Wig Wam, the band’s frontman Glam aka Åge Sten Nilsen wasted no time in putting together a new group. He enlisted the help of the prolific songwriter Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T., Jimi Jamison…) and put together this set of songs. Musically Ammunition doesn’t stray too far from the path that Wig Wam travelled, but it’s still clearly a different band. Gone are the over-the-top clothes and silly names, and while the band’s lyrics have good dose of humour in them, the overall vibe of the album is more serious than that of Wig Wam.

”Shanghaied” isn’t the most instant album you’ll hear this year. It took me a few spins to get into it. Even though I like it a lot now, I still think it could’ve used an additional dose of catchy melodies. Now, some of the choruses do not elevate the songs to the next level. In fact some of the tracks have bigger hooks in the pre-choruses - take the opening track ”Silverback” for instance: the build-up is great, but the actual chorus is just too simple and monotonous for its’ own good. Then again, I’m just nitpicking here, most of the songs are just fine as they are.

My favorite tracks include ”Give Me A Sign” (very Wig Wam’ish), the Europesque ballad ”Road To Babylon” and the insanely catchy ”Wild Card”. With Mårtensson as the producer, it was pretty much guaranteed that this album would sound good and to no-one’s surprise, it does. So does Åge Sten Nilsen, I’ve always liked his voice but I’m only now beginning to realize how damn good he really is!

This album is a sure bet for anyone into Wig Wam and anthemic melodic rock in general.


Rating: RRRR

Label: M.E Records

Review By: Alan Holloway

It was quite staggering, for me anyway, when I realized that it’s been twenty years since I reviewed and enjoyed Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Your Little Secret’ album. We’ve both been through some stuff since then, although Ms Etheridge has documented hers through eight albums whilst I’ve just bitched about it on facebook,

‘This Is .M.E’ (love the title) sees Etheridge break new ground by finally breaking away from Island Records and also using co writers for the first time. I really don’t know what sort of songs she’s been doing for the last 20 years but I can say that what she’s doing on this album is all sorts of right. For a start, there’s a feeling of real heart, etched through eleven songs that feel like Country music gone dirty. Each contains a solid, pounding drum base and throaty, powerful vocals, the sort of songs that have you drumming away with your hands. There are harder, angrier tracks like ‘Monster’ and ‘Ain’t That bad’, balanced by lighter but still powerful  fare such as spot on opener ‘I Won’t Be Alone’ and lead single ‘Take My Number’. The only song without the booming drums is soft album close ‘Who Are You Waiting For’, an emotional love song that may bring a tear to grizzled old eyes and will certainly be played at a few weddings in the future.

Overall, ‘This Is M.E’ is a powerful, soulful album in which country meets rock but in a good way. It’s down and dirty and full of songs that demand your attention once they start, capable of making you punch the air or reach for a tissue. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jorn LANDE & Trond HOLTER Present: Dracula "Swing Of Death"

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

The Horror! The Horror! Jorn Lande (Masterplan) and guitarist Trond Holter (aka Teeny of Wig Wam) present Dracula, a new Rock Opera concept album about the life of Count Vlad the impaler or if you simply prefer Dracula? Yup. It's the Fang-Tang-Clan or whatever and the story explores the inner struggle inside the multifaceted and engorging original character as well as cherry picking the best? out of the book by Bram Stoker. It's not strictly old school though as the two are exploring Dracula's inner thoughts and battle. Loneliness and the lost of true love as he wandered the earth for centuries with a thirst for blood which led him to the brink of insanity. Yup. It's all slightly bonkers.

In the original Bram Stoker version, Mr.Fang leaves Transylvania by ship and when he meets Lucy's best friend, she reminds him so much of his first love Mina, that he becomes obsessed. Dracula sees her as some kind of "holy grail", too good to turn into a vampire. Jorn Lande as the main character Dracula shares lead vocal duties with Norwegian singer Lena Floitmoen (representing Mina/Lucy from the Bram Stoker book) and it's very much the melodic rock effort and not quite as much of the bombastic overtures of the truly epic/symphonic concept album.

In fact. The majority of tracks end up sounding like Wig Wam on steroids. There's tiny bits and pieces of Alice Cooper, The Sparks, Meat Loaf, Dio, Queen, David Bowie, and tracks such as "Save Me" and "Swing of Death" takes the Rocky Horror Picture Show approach as plans are being made to stage this entire Rock Opera on Norwegian theaters. Bimey. Ambitious work indeed. "Walking on Water", catchy melodic rock with your vicious left hook 'ala Wig Wam goes Dio and blessed with the classy guitar part 'ala Gary Moore (RIP). I'm really fond of the duets feat. Lena Floitmoen as she makes the best of the situation and bring the story alive with killer performances and fang.

Perhaps not as 'dark' and 'evil' as expected really. Perhaps I personally hoped for more atmospheric keyboards and the sinister approach? It's the horror story after all. Nonetheless. It's the fine melodic hard rock opera concept project with a touch of swing? Wicked and slightly bonkers indeed. Me like. Recommended.

SWEET & LYNCH: "Only To Rise"

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

Only To Rise? Some of these studio projects, super groups or if you prefer all-star thingy's, simply do not come out sounding as great in reality as on paper. The 'Sweet' part is indeed singer Michael of Stryper fame and the 'Lynch' fellow no other than Guitarist-George from Dokken. Sweet was pitched this idea by the record label and loved it so much he took over completely, producing the album as well as co-writing the 12 tracks with guitarist Lynch.

Okay. So far so good. But whatever happened to the hooks and choruses? The songwriting is somewhat lacking and that's nicely put to be honest. The chemistry is sadly lacking and there's hardly any spark in the dark to be found here. There's plenty of groove, top-notch guitar work, and the slow burner or two. But I can't say that I recall much of the actual melodies as it's the sadly forgettable album. You simply expect more and better from this two fine musicians and 80's heroes.

The one and only downside with Michael Sweet as lead singer, each and every hi-pitch note sound exactly like any Stryper album. What's your point dumbo, you ask, since he's clearly been their lead vocalist for the past 35 years. Well. He's got this nearly single minded approach to reaching all those high places and thus why opener, "The Wish", come out swinging like a blind fighter. Or if you prefer to read this in plain English: Too much of the Stryper-ish sound and not enough of the original project of Sweet & Lynch. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the 'yellow and black attack' a lot, but this is second rate stuff. The next following two tracks are nice though (Dying Rose, Love Stays) as they have Sweet singing at mid-range and the guitar work of Lynch is very present.

I'm still not sure what to think of George Lynch to be honest. Not as guitarist though as we all know of him as the excellent six-string bender. However, keep in mind that the geezer torched his past and did nuthin' bout complain about his 80's hard rock records, and thought of his fans as stupid for enjoying the 80's stuff. He was also suing Don DOKKEN for the rights to the name of 'Dokken'. I mean... c'mon. Final thought: Are they going to be tossing Bibles left and right (Stryper-style). Or are they simply just a couple of tossers going at each others throats (Dokken-style). Only time will tell.

LEVEL 10: "Chapter One"

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

Never judge a book by its cover? Fair enough. Let's try and erase the image a.s.a.p. and start reading 'Chapter One' by Level 10. Not to be confused with Level 42 as they have clearly been playing the game the longest and are up with 32, if my math is correct? Never mind the b.s. as the man behind this project reads Mat Sinner of Primal Fear and of course Sinner. The German is as always in control of production, bass-playing, and co-writing. U.S. vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X, Allen/Lande, Adrenaline Mob) by the Sinner's side and the two are coming up with metal and hard rock in the style of Dio era Sabbath, Rainbow, Iommi/Hughes, and obviously the strong touch of both Primal Fear, Sinner, and some old fashioned power metal.

"If I dare to call you friend, would you stab me in the back?". It's an album that dabbles with the whole concept of light and dark(ness). It's the heavy yet melodic metal effort with the mighty mighty vocals of Allen at the centre of attention. They are building bridges and arrangements around the powerhouse vocalist and he alone is capable of turning the average tune to something better and much stronger. For instance, "Soul Of a Warrior", one of those formulas that you've heard a million times before by the likes of Sab, Dio, Jorn, etc. However, the singer grabs you by the throat and simply refuses to let go. Thus you (the listener) end up captivated by the sheer power of rock n roll.

Okay. There's hardly anything new or ground breaking music on this record. What more, a couple of tracks such as "Scream And Shout", a tad too much of the Stand Up and Shout (Dio) and not the enough of Level 10. But they are good at what they do and the result is still pleasing to these ears, even though they could need another superb tune or three. The two are blessed with the guest musicians of guitarists Roland Grapow (Helloween, Masterplan) and Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle), drummer Randy Black (Annihilator, Primal Fear) and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Eden's Curse, Hardline), and it's a cracking little effort.

Monday, January 26, 2015

BLACK STAR RIDERS – ‘The Killer Instinct’


Label: Nuclear Blast

Review By: Alan Holloway

Well this is a real turn up for the books, as I wasn’t really expecting that much. The debut album from Black Star Riders was a bit of a mess, being half Thin Lizzy and half something else, a result of the band deciding to ditch the Lizzy moniker half way through. It was a brave move, nonetheless, and signalled a determination to move forwards instead of living in the past.

With ‘The Killer Instinct’ Black Star Riders have released a Black Star Riders album through and through. What this means is that it definitely sounds plenty like you’d imagine Thin Lizzy might if they were around today, but it also has a separate identity, one that shares roots with Lizzy but isn’t shackled by them. Vocalist Rocky Warwick still sounds very like Phil Lynott, but this means he sounds brilliant, so there’s no complaints here. Six string slingers Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson seem to compliment each other well as players and songwriters, and the album gels perfectly throughout. It’s also a whole lot meatier production wise than the debut, and you can really feel the thunderous riffs through your bones.

There’s plenty of high energy tracks on offer, and if you like lead track ‘Killer Instinct’ (there’s an official video on YouTube) you’ll pretty much love the album. It’s led by a typical twin guitar intro that just gets your senses sparkling, bolstered when Warwick’s voice comes growling in. the first five tracks are all golden, with tracks like ‘Charlie I Gotta Go’ and ‘Finest Hour’ invoking the spirit of Lynott and taking it on a wild ride, whilst ‘Soldierstown’ kicks off with a classic Celtic riff. If I’m honest, the slower ‘Blinsided that cuts the album in half doesn’t really do much for me, and the four tracks that follow it are good rather than great, albeit with another great Celtic turn in ‘Turn In your Arms’.

So what we have here is, overall, a very good album. Some tracks are better than others but there are no duffers to be seen (or heard). It certainly sounds like a Black Star Riders album, and for those of you who might be wondering ‘whatever that is’, it’s ‘The Killer Instinct’. Thin Lizzy will never be removed from the band’s DNA, and it’s welcome to stay there as long as they can come up with music like this. God damn, it’s so exciting…

Friday, January 23, 2015

LONELY ROBOT – ‘Please Come Home’

Rating: RRRR

InsideOut Music

Review by: Alan Holloway

I find prog rock a funny old thing, because it certainly encompasses all manner of styles. For example, Asia are always bashed with the prog stick of love, but personally I wouldn’t call them a prog band, they are just a melodic rock band with some proggy people involved. Personally, I like prog that has a bit of balls to it, like It Bites, Pallas and the like, not so much the ones that do a fifteen minute song that never gets going. Atmospheric has a place in prog, but it should be balanced with the ‘rock’ part of the name, is all I’m saying.

Lonely Robot is the creation of one John Mitchell. Mitchell is very well known in the prog world as part of Arena, Kino, Frost and of course It Bites. He calls Lonely Robot ‘the most fun I have ever had in a studio’, mainly because there were no restraints on what he could do, or how the songs should sound. Unsurprisingly he has roped in a bunch of friends and contemporaries, including peter Cox (Go West) and prog vocalists Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) and Kim Seviour (Touchstone).among others. Findlay joins Mitchell on the mournful, haunting ‘Why Do We Stay’, a standout track amongst standout tracks, whilst peter Cox gets ‘Boy In The Radio’, a catchy mid tempo track, all to himself.

‘Please Come Home’ is definitely a prog rock album, mixing aspects of all of Mitchell’s previous bands and adding a sprinkle of the man’s own personality on top. There’s narration by Lee Ingleby, an eight minutes plus track (‘Lonely Robot’), instrumentals, plus the requisite atmosphere and rock that are fitted together perfectly, along with plenty of melody. It’s by turns heavy and whimsical, downbeat and upbeat, introspective and expressive. For me, ‘The Tall Ships’ remains Mitchell’s finest work, but ‘Lonely Robot’ will definitely delight anyone who calls themselves a fan, and is a great starting place for newcomers who like their prog with big brass robot balls. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

STARGAZERY: ”Stars Aligned”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Pure Legend Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Even though 2015 has only just begun, the first contender for the title of ”The Best Melodic Metal album” has arrived! The second Stargazery album is going to be ”the one to beat” for the rest of the this year’s releases…

”Stars Aligned” is full of melodic metal anthems, with the emphasis on ”melodic”. Guitarist/songwriter Pete Ahonen has made sure that the choruses are big and catchy, and vocalist Jari Tiura’s slightly operatic style suits these grand melodies to a tee. The overall sound of the album is BIG too, with plenty of keyboards adding nice melodic touches to the songs.

Songs like ”Voodoo”, ”Missed The Train To Paradise” and ”Painted Into A Corner” are among the better melodic metal tracks I’ve heard in a while. For comparison, I’d say that the album has some similarities to Yngwie Malmsteen’s ”golden era”, which for me means the albums ”Trilogy”, ”Odyssey” and ”Eclipse”.

Even though most of the band’s self-penned songs are better, I guess their best bet for getting a radio hit from this album is the Cher cover ”Dark Lady”. The band has ”metalized” that 70ies hit and it works beautifully. They’ve even recorded it in Finnish too, which could be their ticket to those domestic channels that only play Finnish music. If it opens some new doors, I say ”go for it”…

Apart from a couple of less exciting songs (the bluesy ”Hiding” and ”Warrior’s Inn” don’t do it for me), this is a fantastic slice of melodic metal. Four very strong ”R’s”.

FORTH: ”Road Stories”

Rating: RRR

Label: Forth Productions 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Forth is a new Finnish band who describe their music as a cross between Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam. They’re led by Brian Forth, an Canadian singer, so this is one Finnish band that doesn’t have to worry about pronunciation or Finglish lyrics. Mr. Forth has a really likeable voice too - he reminds me of a smoother Chris Cornell.

I’m not so sure about the ”Pearl Jovi” comparison. I don’t hear much Jovi in these songs, but then again, the songs are considerably more happier than the usual grunge stuff. The Pearl Jam/Soundgarden influences are certainly there, but I also hear a bit of a Butch Walker vibe…

The production is excellent, smooth yet powerful. The band sounds like they’re ready for extensive airplay and arena tours. All they need is a couple of sure-fire hits. As good as many of these songs are, none of them hooked me instantly or even after a few additional plays. They’re enjoyable to listen to, well-written and constructed, but damn it, that extra drop of magic is missing. Still, you should check them out especially if you’re more partial to the rock of the nineties than I am.

A few songs I want to mention: the opening tracks ”You Get What You Deserve” and ”Up Up Away” are both good pop/rockers with solid hooks. ”Come Home To Me” is probably the most Bon Jovi-like track, comparable to their recent output. ”Fairytale Princess” is a curious one: it’s a cover of a song originally recorded by TikTak, an all-girl pop group who were massive here a few years ago. I’ve heard the original quite often on the radio, but didn’t realize this was the same song! Only after looking at the credits I figured out why it sounded a bit familiar. While the original is a balladic one, Forth have shaken it up and give it a kind of a pop-punk treatment.

There’s a lot of good things going on here. If the band progresses nicely, by the time they release their third album they could very well be filling the kind of arenas that Sunrise Avenue have been filling in central Europe for the last few years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WHITE LIMO: "Magic Formula"

Rating: EP
Label: OffYerRocka/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Sweden's White Limo are working hard on the 'Magic Formula' with their latest 5-track EP release. The press release speak of Soundgarden? But there's absolutely nothing on here that had me thinking about the Seattle group and grunge? Instead they actually end up standing with one leg in the arrangements and formula of arena rock while the other is firmly rooted in the Indie Punk/Rock scene.

It's some kind of Swedish hybrid rock project where Weezer meet Foo Fighters meet The Pixies meet Television and StretchArmstrong. Quirky, catchy, melodies and the constant reminder and message to the states: don't let your guard down or the Swedish Rock Mafia are going to run you over with melodies that you wise guys already recorded the ten, twenty, thirty + years ago?

Yeah. It's perhaps not the best of POPaganda and message really? They are however darn good at what they do and the songs are cheeky-fun in your alternative surf-styled genre which obviously include fuzzy guitar/bass tones and nice harmonies. Stillers (bass) and Svensson's (drums) steady rhythm section, Larsson's wicked guitar work, and Lindberg's raggedy, raw vocals and guitar work combining to form a sound that is both genuine and strangely familiar. Originals they are not, however, tracks such as "Winter Rain", "Girl On Fire", the latter blessed with a chorus part 'ala Foo Fighters meet Rhianna's Umbrella, if she had been the cool indie punk rock chick, should be enough to attract interest from near and far. Definitely worthy of your attention. Have a go at the White Limo via links below.

STORYTELLER: "Sacred Fire"

Rating: Rr
Label: Black Lodge 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"There's a storm lamp on the table. Throwing shadows to the gable. And you swallow if you're able. On a storyteller's night". Sadly there's absolutely nothing on here to vaguely remind you of the U.K. greatness of Tony The Hat and his partner in crime, 'the wave your arms about in the air like a mad traffic warden who just don't care', Bob The Cat.

Sacred Fire is the latest effort by the die-hard fantasy tale telling Swedes and it's clearly not scary enough to keep the night light burning. It's got that by now third rate power metal production and formula which Hammerfall previously used on their second rate version of proper heavy metal. Indeed. The 'Sons of the North' are 'In search for treasures, stones and gold' as they encounter 'The army of Southerfell' etc. etc. I much rather spend time in front of Dragon Tits (that's your highly popular fantasy TV production as of lately) as they have a nice medieval scenery and capturing stories. Starks vs. the rest? Yes, it's the Game Of Thrones.

It is quite the typical meat, blood, and potato album with a rather flat outcome and impression. This might just work as background noise as you 'try to sleep on your pillow and dream. Sleep in God's children to keep. Though we all lose track of time, disappears like  faded lines'...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


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

The Devil's Train, steaming down the rail of bluesy eighties hard rock and look no further than opening number "Down On You" for some biker rock. Blimey. Why do they ALWAYS sing the word 'Down' three times? Yes. Yours truly has been complaining about this (several times) in the past. It's never two, four, or any other number for that matter. What's so great about three anyway? I could give you countless examples of the Down x3 formula. Anyhow... let's move on shall we?

The smashing title of "II" or if you prefer "2" should imply it's the follow-up to their 2012 debut. Indeed. The band, singer R.D. Liapakis (Mystic Prophecy, Valley’s Eve), Drummer Jörg Michael (Running Wild, Saxon, Stratovarius). Bassist Jari Kainulainen (Masterplan, Stratovarius, Evergrey) and guitarist Lakis Ragazas (Mystic Prophecy) are combining the flashy sound of the 80s with the classic hard rock attitude of the 70s.

It's got that bluesy rock feel of Badlands, Tangier, Tattoo Rodeo, Talisman, and the hint of Shark Island (their most groovy, bluesy stuff). However, don't go thinking it's all smooth, since they add a healthy dose of the gritty guitar work of Black Label Society. Let's just say that six-string bender Ragazas (Mystic Prophecy) - working darn hard to be Jake E Lee and Zakk Wylde at the same time.

I do enjoy it a lot though. The melodies are old school and melodic and the album could just as easily have been released in the eighties. They actually beat fellow label mate SOTO aka JSS (see review elsewhere) at his own game with tracks such as "Let's Shake It", "Girl Like You", and "You And Me". The covers of Steppenwolfs 'Born To Be Wild' and Led Zep's 'Immigrant Song' are actually the two songs that I skip on this 13-track CD. The add absolutely nothing to the overall picture and the originals are untouchable. Final verdict: Badlands meets Talisman? Sounds good to me. Crank it up!

ANGRA: "Secret Garden"

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

It's no secret (garden) that yours truly struggled to appreciate the work of Fabio Lione and the albums of the Italian Kitch Symphonic Power Metallers Rhapsody (aka Rhapsody Of Fire). I wrote some harsh words about the man and go no further then to our massive archive to dig up the skeletons of the past. He's grown into his shoes though and the chemistry between Lione and the Brazilian band is definitely hear-able on the "Secret Garden". I'd go as far as saying it's Lione's best vocal performance ever and the Angra material clearly fits the man like a glove.

It should be pointed out that the various lead vocal appearances by guitarist Bittencourt's make for something else as well as the styles are mixing nicely together. The album is the fictional concept effort about a scientist who fights to restore his happiness after a tragic accident. It's death, religion, and various scientific, philosophical and aesthetic beliefs and values. The whole science vs. religion and what not really.

"Newborn Me" is the opener and you may pick up the odd reference to Dream Theater and Pull Me Under. However, there's much more to this and the impressive drum parts by Bruno Valverde has clearly been inspired by fellow-Brazilian Igor (Sepultura) while the guitar work of Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt are technically challenging throughout the track. In fact. The two are constantly pushing each other to and over the limit. Very progressive and something different from the band. Great.

"Black Hearted Soul" is traditional Angra. "Final Light" really gets Valverde going behind the kit and the tribal drumming works like a charm. Again, very nice and slightly different from previous albums. Animated accent by Lione and perhaps a bit too Rhapsody-like on this track? "Storm of Emotions", the great ballad with a special nod to Dream Theater. Next, 'Synchronicity II', a pretty decent version indeed of the classic song by The Police.

It's plain weird that the album's title track feature Simone Simmons (Epica) on lead vocals. Nope. It's not a duet and it sure makes you wonder about the logic behind this decision. Her voice and lively accent is hardly something to brag about and definitely not in this particular case. It's not a winning concept and especially not in comparison to "Crushing Room", the fine power ballad duet between Doro (Warlock) and Bittencourt.

Pre-produced by Roy Z (Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson, Halford) and recorded and produced in Sweden by Jens Bogren (Arch Enemy, Dragonforce, Kreator, Opeth), Secret Garden is quite the surprise and a fine mix of happy Euro metal and mature progressive stuff.

BONAFIDE: "Denim Devils"

Rating: RRr
Label: OffYerRocka/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Bonafide are clearly not reinventing the wheel here as the sound on "Denim Devils" can only and best be described as Ozzie Rock in the vein of Acca Dacca and Rose Tattoo. Well. That's the lazy and straight to the point reference anyhow. Rough and dirty, bluesy rock with the combination of a solid rhythm section, ragged vocals, and edgy guitar work without any of the fancy 1000-notes a minute widdling, and you're closer to the true core of the band. Awwww. What the hell. It's beer drinking - 'no-need-for-thinking' music.

In other words, you pretty much know what to expect by now if you're familiar with any of their previous four albums. It's a solid, but hardly spectacular record that if anything else fails should get the beers flying across the room. With tracks such as "Hold Down The Fort", the lads are at least admitting to their formula and staying true to their colours.

A couple of odd stand out tracks from their usual formula where "One Kiss" stick out as Weezer(s) at a Black Metal festival. Very quirky and poppy and similar to the debut album by Weezer. "Who Am I To Judge", the nearly funky guitar riff and your old school Stones refrain. The ballad of "Missing You" harks back to the heydays of Free and Bad Company. The groove of tracks like "The Game" impress initially but never really build on the moment and thus ending up sounding like Thunder without the bang (Thunder the band. Not your force of nature a.k.a. Thor in the sky).

Final verdict: Decent effort without the swagger of the truly great of the genre.


Rating: R
Label: Pavement 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The cover of 'Lady Marmalade' sums up or should I say 'Capture' the essence of One-Way Mirror perfectly. Tacky. Bland. Pointless. I could go on and on since there's absolutely nothing here that would make me want to play this ever again. Listen to this and recall any shady moment that you'll have ever had and heard on any dodgy record during the dark ages in the history of rock and metal (the late nineties). One-Way Mirror manage to 'Capture' each and every genre from alternative, to metalcore, nu-metal, modern metal, industrial, rap-metal, and basic rock. And they are unfortunately shite at every single one of them. The key fact that they have sadly overlooked is that you need songs to go with your message and especially if it's a vivid and slightly deranged agenda. Arrangements all over the place and little or none structure. Let's not continue with the One-Way bashing and simply end by stating that "The Clock Is Ticking" is indeed the decent tune.

SOTO: "Inside The Vertigo"

Rating: RRr
Label: earMusic 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

'The past 5 or more years have propelled me a plethora of anger and frustration, I'm actually quite pissed off about a lot of things, SOTO is my outlet to release some of this pent up emotion'. - The strong and harsh words of U.S. powerhouse vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, previously of Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, Talisman, Eyes, Takara, and what not really. It's however not just another solo record (even though the moniker may suggest otherwise) as the singer insisted on making this more of a band effort with the help of Jorge Salan (lead guitar), BJ (keys, guitars), David Z (bass) and Edu Cominato (drums).

Produced by J.S.S. the album features tracks co-written with his band mates as well as other musicians. Collaborators include guitarists Gus G (Firewind, Ozzy), Jason Bieler (Saigon Kick, Talisman), Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) and Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger/TSO), all of whom perform on their penned tracks for the album. Others appearing as guests/co-writers are Casey Grillo (Kamelot), Connor Engstrom, Tony Dickinson, Leo Mancini, Hugo Mariutti and Gary Schutt.

Inside The Vertigo is the rather angry effort and it's all about power riffs, metal, grungy prog-ish vibes, and basically the modern rock album. There's plenty of excellent guitar work, powerful vocals, but sadly not a whole lot of hooks or songs that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. I find it difficult to separate the majority of tracks and it could just as easily have been one long groove session in the studio. However, opening track, "Final Say", one of the most positive moments.

'The Fall', 'Wrath', 'Break', sounds like Ozzy and KISS rejects during their grungy mid nineties era and you should get the idea just by reading the titles. Never utter crap or bad, it's just so been there and done that. "Narcissistically Yours" is however darn interesting and the nine + minute epic tune of "End Of Days" hits you right between the eyes with sheer emotion and children choir. Not at bad as it looks on paper or in this case, your PC screen. The song is Prog-lite and frankly put a tiny masterpiece in my opinion. Low and behold. The following title track is yet another home run with its hint of the neo-classical metal and groovy guitar break. Very classy and the mid-section of the album (tracks# 5 to 8) are all top notch with "When I'm Older" as your excellent semi-ballad. Very much the hit and miss album.

STORMWITCH: "Season of The Witch"

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

Originally formed in March 1981 in Germany by guitarist Harald Spengler (aka Lee Tarot) the band imposed themselves a horror-like image and signed with Scratch Records to release their debut album 'Walpurgis Night' in September 1984. Hardly the most successful band to come out of the Teutonic territory during the eighties and they didn't have much luck with the Western public. The band realised this and concentrated on the East bloc, by giving many concert behind the Iron Curtain.

Fast forward the odd 30 years and the Berlin Wall is long gone and thus DDR and that darn curtain. So are most of the original members for that matter and merely singer Andy Muck (aka Andy Adrian) can be found shouting along to average metal melodies of the past at The Season Of The Witch. The album ticks in at approx 36 minutes and the nine tracks on display here are showcasing a second rate version of Demon vs. the old Stormwitch horror material.

They are more cult than great to be honest and it's just a question of how many of these 80's cult metal acts can you stomach today? The drums are way to soft in the mix and it's more like tin-cans than thunder. They do have a couple of decent ballads on here and the track, Last Warrior", may just get your heart ticking at rapidly speed for a couple of minutes. It's otherwise a rather dry platter and simply not enough of satisfaction to the action. Meh.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Neil DANIELS: ”Reinventing Metal”

Rating: - (book)

Publisher: Backbeat Books 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

From my pile of ”books to read”, I found this book that I have actually read and then forgotten about it. It was sent to me for a review, and I guess a long overdue one is better than no review at all.

The whole title of the book is a bit more revealing that just ”Reinventing Metal”. It is ”The true story of Pantera and the tragically short life of Dimebag Darrell - an unauthorized biography”. And that’s says it all, really. If you’re familiar with any of the other Daniels’ biographies, you’ll know that he’s done a lot of research and interviews for his books, coming up with different sides to the story. After reading this, I probably know more about Pantera than most of my favorite bands.

Even though I don’t really like Pantera, their story was fascinating to read. To some younger fans of the band it might come as a surprise that the band had released several albums before their breakthrough album ”Cowboys From Hell”. It might be an even bigger surprise that 80’ies Pantera was a full-on spandex-clad Hair Metal band. This book has the photos to prove.

There’s a definite ”dramatic arc” in the book, starting with the passionate, metal-loving Abbott brothers’ fight to get Pantera off the ground. With the addition of Phil Anselmo, they find a new style that takes them to the forefront of the metal scene. Then things go sour and the band splits up. With Dimebag’s tragic death in 2004 the story of the band ends violently, but their legacy lives on.