Thursday, January 28, 2016

DENIGRATE: ”Hollowpoint”

Rating: RRR
Label: Denigrate 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”Hollowpoint” is Denigrate’s second album, released 12 years after the band’s debut ”Dismal Euphoria”. Finnish readers might know that the band scored a big hit with their cover of 70’ies hit ”Mombasa” back in 2002, and I believe ”Dismal Euphoria” did pretty well thanks to that. I have a vague memory of listening to the debut back in the day, but apart from that hit song, I can’t remember anything specific about it. Just that the overall vibe was dark and gloomy… very Finnish indeed.

I was kind of expecting this to be more of the same, so I was pretty surprised when the opening track ”Engraved & Hellhound” leaped out of the speakers. Uptempo, sharp riffs, aggressive yet melodic… Okay, you’ve got my attention, what else have you got?

”Am I Facin’ Hell” is perhaps a bit closer to my expectations, a somewhat HIM-esque track with a strong chorus. Good… as is ”Erased Pages”, a midtempo song with Pekka Heino (Brother Firetribe, Leverage) sharing vocals with the band’s singer Micko Hell. Very melodic and again a good chorus. Interestingly, Pekka is only credited for ”backing vocals” in the liner notes. With ”Death Reflection” the band slow it down more but still keep it melodic.

”My Corrupted Soul” features very aggressive, shouty vocals but also some highly harmonious, melodic parts, not one of my favorites but still rather interesting. Hauntingly beautiful piano intro leads into ”Liar” on which Micko Hell shows that he’s a very versatile singer. The song reminds me of Amorphis for some reason, even though I haven’t really listened to them that much.

”Taken Away” is kind of what I expected this album to sound like: slow, dark and slightly depressing. The intro sounds very ”Twin Peaks”-like… could that grunting diabolic voice be ”Bob”? The  faster ”Into Demise” combines gloomy verses with an edgy chorus, but the overall vibe is again a bit depressing. The last track ”Meitä Ei Enää Ole” takes the depression to the next level though. Growling, heavy guitars, melancholic melodies and on top of it all, spoken word or rather poetry reciting in Finnish and in English. The whispered words towards the end of the album are really the final nails in the coffin. This must be the gloomiest song I’ve heard in a while.. The ultimate Finnish Depression Metal song? Forget about EDM, give me FDM anyday!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MAGNUM: "Sacred Blood, Divine Lies"

Rating: RRRRr

Label: SPV/Steamhammer

Review By: Alan Holloway

Incredibly, this is Magnum’s eighth studio album since reforming in 2001, only two less than their output beforehand. Maybe it’s time to judge Magnum on what they are now, rather than what they were, and stop crossing fingers and waiting for ‘…Storytellers’ part 2. The simple truth is that Magnum remain an astonishingly consistent rock group, and as such this new album will delight existing fans whilst having enough quality to hook a few new ones at the same time.

The title track opens the album, and as expected it’s Tony Clarkin showing his usual disdain for religion. More than that, it’s a huge melodic stomper with a very Magumesque break in the middle. It bodes well for an album described in the press release as being ‘among the group’s most dynamic releases’. The track itself is certainly a highlight of the album for me, along with ‘Quiet Rhapsody’, a quieter song with a solid, catchy guitar refrain and excellent vocal work from the ever reliable Bob Catley. That said, this isn’t an album with any weak tracks at all, full of guitar heavy bruisers that have will have old fans such as myself doing the Bob Catley arm movements as they listen and sing along. There’s no short, sharp fixes, as all the tracks clear the four minute mark, but those hoping for a Clarkin magnum opus will be unsatisfied, as nothing reaches the seven minute mark either.

‘Sacred Blood…’ is, in my eyes (and ears) the finest Magnum album since they returned, purely because of the sheer quality of the whole thing. There’s no temptation to skip a track, and each has it’s own merits whilst resolutely remaining Magum-like in essence. ‘The Gathering’ compilation was a fantastic reminder of what modern Magnum is all about, and took the standout tracks from several albums. ‘Sacred Blood…’ matches those standout tracks, with Clarkin choosing  wisely from the 25 tracks he had written, narrowing it down to a solid ten. Well, I say that, but the digi pack has three extra songs that I didn’t get sent. Boo! What I do have, though, is a Magnum album that I know will remain a favourite.

Official Website

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Nalle Påhlsson’s ROYAL MESS: ”Royal Mess”

Rating: RRR
Label: MelodicRock Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Nalle Påhlsson has been a permanent fixture in the Swedish rock scene for many years. He’s currently playing bass in Therion and Last Autumn’s Dream, and you might know him from Treat or Vindictiv as well. Royal Mess is his own band, in which he is also the lead singer. And not a bad singer at all.

So what do we have here? According to Mr. Påhlsson, ”meat & potato hard rock”, and who am I to disagree. Most of the songs are straight-forward rockers with influences from Kiss and AC/DC. If I remember correctly, Nalle plays the part of Gene Simmons in  a Kiss cover band and somehow that kind of shines through, even though Nalle’s songwriting is closer to that of Paul Stanley. There’s one song that strays away from the chosen path, and that’s ”The Pieces Of My Heart”. It’s a slow, somewhat prog-styled track that reminds me a lot of Winger’s more complicated stuff. It’s one of my favorites, along with ”Hell City” and ”Loaded Gun”. Some of the others are a bit too straight-forward for me, that’s why only three Royal R’s for this Mess. I’d rather listen to this than the last few Kiss albums though.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the guest list is basically the "who's who of Swedish hard rock"? Take a look at the band's website... a rather impressive list!

Friday, January 22, 2016

RADIO EXILE: ”Radio Exile”

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

Here’s some kind of a melodic rock supergroup, with 5 musicians who have been around the block a few times. Or, if you want a more poetic way of saying that, ”Now, together as one, five brilliantly successful, creative worlds collide in a panoramic musical explosion” (this courtesy of! Yeah, the bio on the band’s website is worth reading… Anyway, keyboardist Charlie Calv (Shotgun Symphony) and vocalist Chandler Mogel (Outloud) are the main writers, with Jimmy Leahey (gt), Kenny Aronson (bs) and Dave Anthony (drs) completing the line up.

While checking out some facts about this release, I noticed that it’s gotten some very good ratings from other reviewers. I’ve been giving this album its’ fair share of attention, yet I can’t seem to get into it. It’s a well-produced album and the musicians are superb, but…

Something about this album makes me think of the slightly quirky AOR acts of the late eighties/early nineties like Tall Stories, Neverland and Diving For Pearls. This isn’t melodic rock by numbers, which is refreshing, but at the same time, some of the  tracks could have used much sharper hooks. The best moments are in the middle of the track listing, where you’ll find the melodic ”Feels Like Home”, the Queen-esque ”Higher Than The Sun” and ”Hang On”, which reminds me of Tyketto. I also like the verses of ”Down In A Hole” but the chorus is such a letdown that it almost makes me angry!

I like the organic sound of the band, Mogel is a great singer and the band’s songwriting has a nice original quality to it. I’m pretty sure that they are capable of coming up with a potential ”Album Of The Year”, but this isn’t it yet. How to say it differently… let’s attempt the poetic style of the band’s press release: ”Somewhere there’s a door to be unlocked. Once the creative forces of Radio Exile unlock it, they’ll find a radiating array of irresistible melodies”. Hmmm…

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

NAKED: ”End Game”

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

Not to be confused with the Finnish sleaze/glam band, this particular Naked hails from Sweden. Vocalist Peter Sundvall and guitarist Mats Stattin are the founding members, with Mikael Wikman on drums and Tony Berg of Alien taking care of production and lead guitar. Paul Logue of Eden’s Curse plays the bass on the album.

”End Game” that could have been marketed as an ”undiscovered gem” from 1985, and most of us would have bought the story. Fortunately the most plastic production elements of the year are nowhere to be heard, but I can’t deny that there’s something very ”vintage” in the overall sound. Compared to most modern day AOR albums, this sounds less pristine but warmer and more ”human”, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The songs range from the Kansas-like opener ”Silverthorn” to the hard-edged AOR of ”Destination Unknown”, which sounds a lot like Last Autumn’s Dream at their heaviest.  Vocalist Peter Sundvall sounds uncannily like Mikael Erlandsson on this one.

My favorites include the two aforementioned tracks and ”Aim For The Heart” which reminds me of obscure eighties bands like Legs Diamond and Aviator. On the second half of the album there are a few songs which do not appeal to me at all, hence only three R’s… it was a close call though.

BURNING POINT: ”Burning Point”

Rating: RRRR
Label: AFM Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Burning Point introduced their new singer Nitte Valo with this album last year. With the former Battle Beast singer on board, the band recorded 4 new tracks and one cover. In addition to those, they also re-recorded 6 older BP tracks to which Nitte’s vocals added a new twist.

If you’re not familiar with Burning Point, this album is a good one to start with. They’ve chosen strong material from the past albums and the new songs aren’t half bad either.

Burning Point play Heavy Metal, simple as that. You’ll hear echoes of Judas Priest, Helloween and Accept in these songs, maybe with a little bit of Avantasia/Nightwish-like pomp thrown in. Out of all the bands of mastermind Pete Ahonen , Burning Point might be the heaviest one, but there’s still plenty of room for melodies and hooks. Just about every song has a distinctive, big chorus hook, ”Signs Of Danger”, ”Heart Of Gold” and ”Queen Of Fire” being three examples of that.

The aforementioned cover is ”I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)”, an eighties’ Kiss track from the ”Animalize” album. Nitte does a good job singing the not-so-easy Paul Stanley parts, but I’m not that fond of the Teutonic Metal treatment given to the chorus.

Monday, January 4, 2016

DIRTY GLORY: "Mind The Gap"

Rating: RRRR

Label: Self Release

Reviewed By: Alan Holloway

Sleazy rock is one of those genres that features lots of men with daft names trying to be Motley Crue, sometimes exceeding the original’s talent but more often rattling off a pale imitation. The first happy surprise of the new year is this debut from Brazil’s Dirty Glory, who have managed to release a rather solid retro rock album despite having a bassist called Vikki Sparkz who doesn’t even have the decency to be a girl.

‘Mind The Gap’ is a bit of a treat for those that bemoan the fact that grunge came along and stopped all their favourite bands from making increasingly shit records and snorting up half of Columbia between solos. He best thing about it is that you can’t lazily sit back and say ‘Oh, they’re a Guns and Roses clone’ or whatever, as Dirty Glory manage to pilfer from any number of bands , mixing it all up into a highly entertaining mix in a way that the likes of faster Pussycat of Pretty Boy Floyd could only dream of. “20 Years Of Moving On”, for example, would have been a killer song for Guns ‘n’ Roses instead of just about anything on the wank fest that is ‘Use Your Illusion’. Vocalist Jimmy DG handles the whole thing very well indeed, his voice somewhere between Axl Rose and Vince Neil, and you can imagine the nifty power ballad “Every Time I Think About You’ rocking MTV in the late Eighties with ease.

With a cover that’s not even a bit embarrassing and a solid, well put together booklet, Dirty Glory have put together an album that is pleasing aesthetically as well as musically. Obviously there’s a target market that it will appeal to most, but really anyone who enjoyed ‘Rock Of Ages’ will get a real kick out of “Mind The Gap”. It’s not gonna change the world, but it might just sprinkle some fairy dust over whoever buys it.

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