Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DIVIDED MULTITUDE: ”Divided Multitude”

Rating: RRRr
Label: Fireball Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Last year, Divided Multitude celebrated their 20th anniversary and this self-titled album is their 6th. My first contact with the band was in 2013 when I got my hands on their previous album ”Feed On Your Misery” which was a decent effort. The same goes for this one.

The band’s progressive metal covers many bases. I could imagine that fans of In Flames could find something to their liking here, Dream Theater fans too… and ”Only For You” has a definite old-school Yngwie vibe all over it. Not to mention the strong Queensrÿche-influence on ”Proud”… they even go for a more Power Metallic approach on couple of songs - for example ”Demise”, which reminds me a little bit of Sonata Arctica.

I like the fact that although the band’s music is fairly technical, the songs are still compact and approachable. There aren’t many extended solos or instrumental passages. Only the closing track ”Seal Of Faith” wanders into the epic direction, but it’s only 9 minutes long - a short ditty by prog metal standards!

Vocalist Sindre Antonsen still sings like he's hanging on the edge, but somehow I can tolerate it better this time around. He's certainly a very passionate singer! Extra mention goes to Eskild Kloften's atmospheric keyboard work.

This is definitely the better of the two DM albums I’ve heard, and pretty close to a four-R rating. If one or two of the songs would have stood out a bit more, I wouldn’t have hesitated… Hell, while I don’t normally mess around with the ratings, let’s throw in a small ”r” this time - this deserves a better rating than the previous one of theirs.


Sunday, March 27, 2016


Rating: RRRRr
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Cause I Am Havoc let me have my release". Blimey! The Norwegians of Circus Maximus are coming out swinging left and right and hit everything in sight with the latest release. Indeed. Step right out people. Since you're about to witness a real live circus freak reeking havoc in your neighbourhood. It's melodic/cinematic, Progressive Rock at its nearly best and the characters are truly coming alive through the pages and stories.

Havoc, clearly their most diverse and impressive album thus far and there's so much more to these melodies than first meet the eye... ehh, ear. Hi-tech yet strangely retro, the different layers and complexity of the compositions give things a bit more momentum and keep the album moving forward and upward. For instance, take the title track, not your ordinary Circus freak rather than Rage Against the Machine-light and with a flickering light at the end of the tunnel. The slightly oriental sound of Pages, different, outside the box material.

Sugar sweet melodic moments such as "The Weight", "Flames", "Loved Ones", listening to these songs is like a trip to the Prog-cinematic heaven. Vocalist Michael Eriksen take a lot from A-HA and their singer Morten Harket, building bridges and creating a moment that last and represent the best of both worlds. The epic soundscapes are a coming storm via the keys of Lasse Finbråtsen to the clear and impressive notes of Mats Haugen. Haugen's singing guitar work, a talking point throughout the record and simply check out the warm and rich tone.

Final verdict: Simply close your eyes and let the melodies/harmonies take you on a journey of cinematic Progressive Rock. "Intentionally lost. Never to be found. Some time ago this flame was drowned" (After The Fire). I know it's weird, however, "Remember", takes me away on a white fluffy dragon where the Never Ending Story (Limahl) meet Prog-Rock and it's friggin' good. Highly Recommended.


Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Straight to the point. Nicely put arrangements and atmospheric keyboards, but does have a little bit of problem standing out from the crowd in the already over saturated genre of progressive melodic symphonic power metal? The Spanish Lords Of Black are going through several different channels and sources to come up with their sophomore release, simply entitled: II. And yes, their impressive vocalist, Ronnie Romero, also the new Rainbow singer for the upcoming tour and festivals.

II - it's got a little bit of everything, thus why yours truly hinted earlier at several different genres and styles. It's however a rather typical 'European' metal outfit and album that you can put next to the likes of Kamelot, Jorn, Pretty Maids, Royal Hunt, etc. Starts out great with the smashing trio of "Merciless", "Only One Life Away", "Everything You're Not", and with each new track getting lost in their metal world and struggling to find its way back to a more powerful than life agenda.

Heavily relying upon the power vocals by Romero to deliver the special extra and he certainly manage to squeeze out the last drop of nectar and juice out of his lungs (huh? what are you talking about? it's supposed to be the music review not the poem of nerdy nerds). You're sort of fed up with over-the-top vocals by track six, 'Cry No More', as you start to notice the similarities and Romero's constant need of hanging on to every note instead of changing and mixing things up. Annoying and not diverse enough in the long run? I definitely had enough at "Tears I Will Be" as it's a really dodgy tune full of ticks and tourette-like Dio-ish vocals. It's all nicely mixed and mastered by Roland Grapow (Helloween, Masterplan).

"Insane", the most annoying refrain and lyric ever? as they throw in every thing that sort of rhymes, pain, vain, name. Indeed Insane. Listening to their cover of "Lady Of The Lake", you'll understand why Blackmore decided to recruit Romero. The voice, not a songwriter nor lyricist, and doesn't contribute to more beyond those great vocals (simply just mix things up a bit next time). Blackmore doesn't enjoy strong figures or promoting his albums for that matter according to the Frontiers lawsuit? There's merely one top dog at the end of the Rainbow...


Rating: Live
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Cargo is a low-key live return to the fray for the original vocalist DC Cooper and the venues are ProgPower (USA), Loud Park (Japan), Rockingham (England). They come out bursting onto one of three stages (no idea really) like a group of Marvel Superheroes with the super power of super harmonies and super background vocals (did you say f-a-k-e?), as they kick off with "The Mission".  The double disc recorded during 2015 festival appearances, 90 minutes of Royal Hunt where the concept album Paradox takes place on disc one.

The instrumentation is very smoothly performed and the vocals are spot on. Honestly, it's one of those live albums which you can't take too seriously, since they've been too generous after wards in the studio. Every thing spark and shine like the newly polished metal arse of Bender the Robot. I definitely enjoy my Royal Hunt albums and it's great fun to have DC back behind the mike. But by the time they finish things off with "May You Never (Walk Alone)" and the pile-driving "A Life To Die For", I thought to myself, is it worth playing again? I already have the studio versions and there's hardly any difference. There's just no point at all, really. Too polished, too bloody unbelievable.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Rating: R
Label: Massacre/ 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The absolutely best thing about War Brigade? Fredrik Nordström (HammerFall, In Flames, Arch Enemy), whom is responsible for the mix at the legendary Studio Fredman in Sweden. The worst? The always predictable and nearly ridiculous song material. Blimey! The band hit an all-time low on killer tracks such as "Pray For Hell" or the strange rumbling title track. The latter is just so Bad News-ish, if the comedy act decided to remove all the fun and giggle and record a serious attempt at power/thrash/heavy metal. Indeed. Simply remove all stick and lines and you'll end up with a daft, but, mystic, prophecy

In fact. I could/should stop right here since there's absolutely nothing to add on a positive note. They keep churning out the same riff after riff, the gargling of the vocalist, the utter bollocks lyric, and the nerve to come up with "Sex Bomb" as their first choice to cover? That's possibly one of the worst pop songs in the history of mankind (Tom Jones fans and Wales can say what ever they want). Okay. On a positive note: Their overall 'sound' is quite bombastic (but, far from fantastic) and the production is great. The rest? Meh. I believe it's time for Saturday U.K. football...

Friday, March 18, 2016

JOE LYNN TURNER: "Street Of Dreams - Boston 1985"

Rating: Live
Label: Cleopatra/Deadline 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Joe Lynn Turner: Street Of Dreams - Boston 1985. Originally the live radio broadcast and recording at the Paradise Club in Boston, MA on December 30th 1985, Turner had just released his first and best solo album, Rescue You, and there's not a bum note in sight. What a great way to finish the year off right (still alive in '85) and we all wish we could have been old enough to have been there. Let's face it. Turner has completely turned his music life around and perhaps upside down since writing these songs and is now just another former Rainbow and Deep Purple 'classic rock singer' so I don't think he will write and/or record anything as catchy and fun as 'Rescue You'. Sunstorm, you ask? Close but no cigar and he's not really the writer.

I may run out of hype as I type here, because each track is genuinely a different version of JLT at his peak and its own vocal best. The whole band at the top of their game, the same line-up that recorded the album, and guitarist Bobby Messano bring out the best of the pure AOR with smashing hard rocking lead and rhythm work. Add to this original Foreigner keyboardist Alan Greenwood (dut-dut keys all over the place), bassist Barry Dunaway (how are you?), and drummer Chuck Burgi (Rainbow, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel), and you're in for a treat. The audio quality of the recording is prety darn fine if not good indeed. Radio broadcasts tend to be your provider of fine quality.

The set is comprised largely of the 'Rescue You' material (8 tracks), a couple of Rainbow's (Stone Cold, Street Of Dreams), the Buddy Miles cover (Them Changes) and a couple of lost tracks (I Found Love, Good Girls Gone Bad) the latter which Messano later recorded for his solo album. The combination of the quality musicianship and the evident top-notch work in the songwriting department bodes for a rocking good time. The only official live release of the era, it is one which Turner supports and vividly recalls still to these days. Melodic rock of this calibre deserve all the praise they can get. JLT, I believe it's time to bring back the following songs into your live set: 'Losing You', 'Young Heart', 'Endlessly', 'Rescue You', 'Get Tough'.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Black Stone Cherry is of course an American hard rock band founded in Edmonton, Kentucky in 2001. The band consists of Chris Robertson (lead vocals andd guitar), Ben Wells (rhythm guitar), Jon Lawhon (bass guitar) and John Fred Young (drums). Kentucky is their fifth album and it is the first one to be released by Mascot Records; the previous albums were released by Roadrunner. BSC have charted eight singles on the USA Mainstream Rock Track Charts and their new album is to be released on 1 April.

You might already be familiar with the first single of the album The Way Of The Future, which was released on 18 December of last year. The new songs on Kentucky are all back to the basic roots of the band, which means: aggressive,heavy up tempo rock with southern influences. The beforementioned first single is a perfect example of what BSC's music is about as it is rock and roll,southern, hard, dirty, grungy, melodic and even catchy. The second single of the album In Our Dreams, co-written by Bob Marlette (ALice Cooper) is one of my favourite tracks, as it really rocks like hell, featuring heavy washed-out guitar hooks and riffs and some extreme bonecrunching percussion.

Soul Machine is the other absolute highlight of this amazing album and that one really is a sheer brilliant guitar monster track with a couple of typical soul influences. Hangman and Shakin' My Cage are rather heavy and dark and even have some distinctive grunge characteristics. The best title of a BSC song goes to Cheaper To Drink Alone, which is an up tempo rock song in the veins of Guns N' Roses.. In fact all the songs are just excellent, but unfortunately Black Stone Cherry ends with a song called The Rambler, a country & western like acoustic song which i cannot really appreciate; furthermore I would also have left out the cover of Edwin Starr's classic song War, but hey, there is no account for taste. Too bad, as without The Rambler and War I would have rated Kentucky with 5 R's, but it is definitely already one of my favourite albums of 2016. Check this band out, they are really cool!!

Joe BONAMASSA: "Blues Of Desperation"

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

Blues Of Desperation is Joe Bonamassa's most powerfully diversed and maybe even his boldly realised album in his entire career so far. For this fantastic album the maverick super star guitarist mustered an overwhelming line up of musicians including Greg Morrow (drums), Anton Fig (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass guitar), Reese Wynans (keyboards) and horn players Paulle Cerra, Lee Thornburg and Mark Douthit. For the production of Blues Of Desperation Bonamassa asked Kevin Shirley to do the job once more.

Blues Of Desperation is a perfect album for lovers of astonishing guitar work, as there are some really kong smashing guitar solos on this record. Take for instance the best track of the album called No Good Place For The Lonely, where Joe's guitar solos are really out of this world. Distant Lonesome Train and How Deep This River Runs are perfect examples of steaming blues rock with extraordinary howling guitar solos. This Train, Mountain Climbing and Drive are all "familiar" blues rock songs packed with excellent vocals and technical guitar wizardry from the master himself. The title track of the album, which is also the second longest track of the album, features an astonishing slide guitar solo which gives me goose flesh every time I listen to it! Livin' Easy, filled with saxophone and honky tonk piano even sounds jazzy and the album ends with a lovely slow blues ballad called What I've KNown For A Very Long Time.

So, this is without any doubt Bonamassa's best album by far, but I cannot really understand why the rather cheesy, acoustic based (dull) Americana song The Valley Runs Low is featured on this otherwise perfect blues rock album? But, 10 out of 11 is sheer brillance, so, go and buy this record, play it as loud as your neighbours allow you to and enjoy magical blues music played by the blues rock guitar icon Joe Bonamassa; and No Good Place For The Lonely really contains one of the best guitar solos I have heard in a long time!!

JEFF HEALEY: "Heal My Soul"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I still recall the first time I heard or rather watched the Jeff Healey video and thought to myself, what the heck is he doing with a guitar in his lap? Those were the days when a blind man could still play the blues on MTV... and it mattered to the kids. The Cancer took his sight and eventually his life in 2008 and the unique style and tone died with the man. Beyond the grave, resurrected, are twelve new songs that the Jeff Healey Estate has managed to dig up (no pun intended) and completely restore.

So what if it's a mixed bag. Some truly classy tunes and future classics and a couple of typical leftovers. That's pretty much what you'd expect anyhow. Nonetheless. The genuine work and style of Healey shines through as "Heal My Soul" is powered by a strong back-beat and rhythm section, wailing, spot-on guitar chords and lead, and vocals that border on the possessed. It's dynamic R&B/Blues, one minute ripping up Richard Thompson's 'I Misunderstood' and proving that some covers are just as good, if not better than the originals, the next, blues crooning with "Kiss The Ground You Walk On", and going folk-power-ballad-ish with "All The Saints".

The Jeff Healey Estate's Cristie Healey and Roger Costa have this to say about, Heal My Soul, "it's a project that we have wanted to tackle for years. A ‘lost’ album, it contains material recorded during one of the most creative periods in Jeff’s rock career. Until now, it has never seen the light of day. Jeff was very proud of this work and it features some of the most powerful and impassioned performances he ever committed to record. With complete creative control we’ve laboured hard, tracking down recordings, identifying the right performances, restoring them to their proper stature and mixing and mastering them from the ground up. This has been a true labour of love for us from beginning to end and we’re absolutely thrilled to be able to finally share this significant release with the world.”

Actually. I'll take back my words. It's not really a mixed bag, quality-wise. Sure. There's a couple of not so great moments, however, the overall impression of "Heal My Soul", a lot better than expected when it comes to these kind of after-death releases. The horrible Michael Jackson's? Opener, "Daze Of The Night", set the pace and standard of the album with those fuzzy notes and licks. Another talking point, the starting line of 'The devil is in my shoes again'. It's far from the best track on offer though. The tracks I tend to skip? The dodgy, "Moodswing", since it feels like second rate Cream and Eric Clapton, and "Temptation" (great guitar work and solo as always tho'). I'm surprised over the many slow songs and ballads. The likes of "Baby Blue", "Love In Her Eyes", and "It's The Last Time" are however superb and especially the latter send shivers down the spine. Recommended. Release date: 25th of Mars. Happy Birthday Jeff (R.I.P).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016



One run through of the latest from Big Boy Bloater will have you joining him wading through the Louisiana swamps fighting grouch gators and downing home made moonshine whilst keeping an eye out for the law (who, of course, are idiots). The thing is, ol' Bloater is from Surrey, not Alabama, but boy can he hold his own against any bluesman from across the Atlantic, with 'Luxury Hobo' reinforcing what is already an iron clad reputation.

As well know, the blues come in different shapes, from the traditional slow, languid guitar workouts to the plethora of blues based rock bands fro Whitesnake upwards. Big Boy Bloater floats somewhere inbetween, capable of rocking out when he wants to, but happy to sit back and let an impressive solo float above a simple riff. Opening track 'Devils Not Angels' is by far the most upbeat, and a bit misleading as a guide to what's to come. With a fast pace that keeps up with The Georgia Satellites 'Railroad Steel' it's a great track, followed by the more traditional 'It Came Out Of The Swamp', itself a hard, heavy take on the traditional blues riff-o-matic machine. From there on things do calm down a bit, although the quality is still high. 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand You)' is a highlight,as is the Santana-esque 'I Got The Felling Someone's Watching Me'. 'Robot Girlfriend' is a fun song that bounces along nicely with a great solo in the middle, whilst closer 'Not Cool Man' is another upbeat track with some delicious slide guitar. Through it all, Bloater sings with a cool, gutteral growl that perfectly suits the music. Seriously, play this to anyone and they'll do a double take when you tell them it's a British band.

'Luxury Hobo' is a slam dunk for fans of Bloater and the blues in general. It's just so cool and fun and laid back all at the same time it's hard to dislike. Some may find the slower songs a bit harder to love, but it's a good template for exactly what the blues should be when played by someone who has a love of the genre and the talent to show that love.


Friday, March 11, 2016

STEEL PANTHER: "Live From Lexxi's Mom's Garage"

Rating: -
Label: Open E Records 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oh dear. The live acoustic album by the Steel Panthers. The nerve to type down that something should or rather must be avoided at all costs, could backfire and have the opposite effect. However, to help you avoid the mistakes that will literally cost you several minutes (what?) of your precious life, yours truly had no other option really. Blissfully unaware of the negativity they spread, the clearly not-so-funny blokes are taking the piss at millions of rock fans as well as proper acts and musicians. Harsh? Yeah, but, c'mon. Let's not even mention the lyrics and the way they treat half of the world' population (that's women if you got lost).

"Live From Lexxi's Mom's Garage", the band's first full-length film featuring a live ten-song acoustic concert was taped in Los Angeles last October in front of a live audience inside the lit garage of Ms. Foxx (Bobbie Brown), who coincidentally also happens to be the mother of Lexxi Foxx? Huh? Remember that there is no such a thing as bad publicity, only bad marketing and packaging? Hardly correct since this is the very definition of poor business and utter crap lyrics (Gloryhole. Bukkake Tears, etc.).

Final verdict: Juvenile? Redundant? Wasteful? Sexist? Clueless about the meaning of irony and the correct use of the word (now, that's irony). One trick pony. The daft comedians without a single proper joke. I could go on and on. In the end though, you be the judge. This is however my personal opinion. Avoid at all costs...

Sunday, March 6, 2016

AMBOAJE: ”All About Living”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records 2016
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Wow. Blessed with a name that’s rather hard to pronounce, AMBOAJE (”am-bo-age”) is vehicle for vocalist/songwriter Toni Amboaje.  He is an award winning Spanish song writer and a finalist in the 2012 edition of The Voice. The album hasn’t gotten that much attention and I don’t understand why, because what we have here is a so-called ”complete package”. Great, catchy songs, up-to-date production… and when it comes to marketing,  it doesn’t hurt that the vocalist is good-looking bloke. Not so sure about the band name though!

Let’s take a look at the songs on ”All About Living”. ”Over And Over Again” starts the album, and does it very well. It’s a very catchy song, the kind of stuff Bon Jovi should be writing these days, instead of whiny ballads. Great hook and a the kind of a groove that’ll make you want to tap your feet. The title track has some similarities to Hinder’s ”Loaded And Alone” during verses and the chorus sounds familiar too, but it’s still a great song with that groove I mentioned earlier.

The mid tempo ”Rise & Fall With You” is another potential hit single and the Bon Jovi comparisons come up again. They just rarely release songs as good as this one these days. ”Able” could be the band’s hit ballad and it kind of reminds me of Gotthard.

The party is kickstarted again with ”Gotta Be A Good Girl”, a bouncy rocker with a big hook and a big beat… even touches of Anastacia somewhere there. And then it’s time for slow-dancing again with ”Something To Say”, a very traditional rock ballad. I like it but I prefer the uptempo stuff, the next song ”Five Years Gone” for example. Someone like Nickelback or Sunrise Avenue could turn this into a monster hit.

The biggest surprise of the album is ”Give Me The Real Thing”, a very country-flavoured track. I had to check if I was still listening to the same album when I first heard it! It’s not too bad though, and some of the modern country tracks are basically melodic rock with fiddles anyway. ”It’s Always You” is another ballad, a duet with Paula Rojo. Not one of my favourites but an OK song anyway. The country flavour continues there.

”Feels Like Saturday Night” is very much in the vein of Hinder’s ”Up All Night” and their other party rock tracks. It’s good, but somehow sounds a bit too familiar and calculated. It’s as if the band had thought that ”let’s write a big American-style weekend anthem, whoa!”.

The last two songs are both balladic ones. I like them both, but they make this album a bit too ballad-heavy. Almost half of the album is slow songs… Still, it’s the album’s only major flaw. I could go on about Toni’s Spanish accent, but it seems to come and go… on some songs it’s stronger and on others you can hardly hear it.

If 2016 brings us many albums better than this one, it’s going to be a hell of a year. For now, Amboaje are easily in the Top 5 of 2016.


Friday, March 4, 2016

SOTO: "Divak"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMUSIC 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Not too keen on the SOTO debut the other year, I hoped and expected better from Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman, Journey, Eyes, etc.) and the band. Cominato on drums, lead guitarist Jorge Salan, bassist David Z and keyboardist/guitarist BJ. Low and behold, dreams are coming true as "Divak" is in my opinion a huge step forward since last. It's overall a much stronger effort as it feature solid and more consistent song material throughout the record.

Just as groovy, slightly funky and aggressive (simply check out the track of "Time"), not to mention progressive as previous attempt. They've managed to take their metal game to the next level by adding the touch of Midas. Gold you say? Yeah. Tracks that glitter are plenty and it starts with the hard-hitting metal trio of "Weight of The World", "Freakshow" and "Paranoia" to the softer ones of "In My Darkest Hour" (no, it's not the Megadeth cover) to the Talisman' sounding ones of "Misfired", "The Fall From Grace", etc.

Bigger, bolder, harder, but catchier, there's plenty of clever arrangements and grooves on tracks such as "Unblame" and "Suckerpunch". The only track I tend to skip every time, 'Cyber Masquerade', since it's sort of stuck in first gear and feels more like something they threw together in the last minute. Kudos to the wicked bass solo though (RIP Marcel), but JSS is way over the top here with all those screams. He's otherwise right on track and hit all those metal notes with ease. Definitely one of those singers that you could listen to each and every day and never get tired of.

Final verdict: Their debut displayed many ups and downs and I'm happy to report that this is a way smoother ride with merely the odd downer and many highlights. Divak is a bold statement from a true METAL band that apparently grows with each new task and release. [Release date 01.04.16]

JONNY NUTT: "Songs of Yesteryear"

Rating: RRR
Label: Yesteryear Records 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Jonny Nutt, a complete nutter or the unsung hero? From Derry/Londonderry, N.Ireland, the bassist/vocalist and songwriter has brought his own collection 'Song of Yesteryear' for your listening pleasure. Formerly The Whole Tribe Sings and Red Organ Serpent Sound, currently with Paddy Nashy & The Ennchiladas, also presently recording with Rebecca Harkin and the legendary Junior Johnson.

Indeed. It's N.Ireland at its storytelling best as 'Songs of Yesteryear' blends acoustic, folk-rock, the touch of country, and traditional singer/songwriter stuff. It's so darn easy to name-drop Van-The-Man (that's Morrison in case you got lost?) every time you hear an album in this particular style and genre. Truth be told. It dates back even further to the old bards and storytellers of yesteryear. The ginger hobbit (one of the most popular artists in the world at the moment) would feel right at home as Nutt is a great wordsmith writing honest, bittersweet, down-to-earth stories.

Opening track, 'The Flowers Of Spain', speaks about his love for Barcelona or rather the Senorita from over there and I quote, "From the roses of old England to Persia's fragrant plains. There's none to compare, none to compare. You wont find finer in this world, anywhere, than the flowers of Spain", end quote. The Spanish sound (trumpet) and lovely background vocals by Harkin and Diane Greer (Paddy Nash). Merely eight tracks and time fly(s) by just like that and then it's over.

We're barely scratching the surface here and if you're looking really hard you can probably pick up bits and pieces of everything from Cat Stevens to James Taylor. Solid stuff.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

DREAM THEATER : "The Astonishing"

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Roadrunner
Review by: Martien Koolen
Three years ago Dream Theater released their twelfth studio album called Dream Theater and it was not the album I was waiting for as it still lacked something?. Now DT bring out a double album which clocks over two and an half hours and which could best be described as a full-blown rock opera avant la lettre! In 1999 Dream Theater released their first true concept album Metropolis Part 2, Scenes From A Memory, but The Astonishing is more than just a concept album, it is a melodic rock monster, which you could best compare with Rush's 2112, Pink Floyd's The Wall or Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar.

After a couple of spins I really love this album, although I can imagine that for a lot of listeners the album will be too long and maybe too ambitious. The Astonishing features great progressive rock music with some extremely catchy melodies, complex instrumental passages, completed with a cast of characters and a fantastic plot. James LaBrie really shines on this album, as his vocals are probably the best I have heard in a very long time, and the guy enacts no less than eight different characters!!

The album features 34 tracks ranging from movie-like instrumentals to almost mellow-sweet ballads to the band?s well-known prog metal songs. You can also hear a real and complete orchestra and choir on the album and this gives an extra musical dimension and provides depth and lots of atmosphere. As there are so many songs that are so well played I cannot go into all of them individually, but I will stick to the highlights of this monumental album. A short orchestral song called Descent of the NOMACS is the opening track, followed by one of the highlights of the first CD, namely the amazing instrumental Dystopian Overture, filled with strings, great melodies, piano passages, a choir and a breath taking guitar solo by Petrucci. The Gift of Music, the third track is also a favourite of mine, featuring typical DT riffs and melodies and again a very fast melodic guitar solo. A Life Left Behind, clocking almost six minutes, is another musical masterpiece; it kicks off with an acoustic guitar intro, followed by piano and keys melodies and then James sets in his amazing emotional vocals. This track has a very catchy chorus and the melody is absolutely stunning. The first CD almost ends with the rather long A New Beginning (7:41) and this one is Dream Theater old school, meaning prog metal pure with staccato guitar riffs, a long ferocious guitar solo and a top notch melody.

In my humble opinion CD 2 is even better as the second song Moment Of Betrayal is probably my favourite track of the entire rock opera. MOB is really a DT classic and the chorus is so melodic and catchy that this song has been sticking in my head for days already and I will not get out?..Petrucci's high guitar solo is sheer magic as well. Another highlight of CD 2 is Begin Again, again a song that has a breath taking melody with superb vocals and again, I am sorry to repeat myself, a very, very catchy melody. This song would also be very suitable for their older concept album Metropolis PT.2, Scenes From A Memory.

The last song I would like to mention is Our New World which is really ready for radio single treatment. The Astonishing is a fantastic album and without any doubt Dream Theater?s most ambitious and daring studio album in their almost thirty years existence! James delivers a first class performance and the piano and keys of Jordan are very much present, but the real Dream Theater fans will master the challenge of listening to the album in one take and they will, just like me, really dig this amazing album. However for some listeners the album might simply be too long and too much of DT music. Dream Theater have set the bar very high and I wonder if they can ever top this epic rock opera? I really do not care, because I will cherish The Astonishing for a very long time, maybe forever?. This album will stay in my CD player for months and I think that my wife will get crazy if she hears this album over and over again, but I cannot get enough of it. For me, this is the best album of 2016, play it loud and very often. Dream Theater is back and with a f?.. vengeance!!!

LODY KONG: "Dreams and Visions"

Rating: RR
Label: Mascot Records 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Keep it in the family? You have been warned! Lody Kong contains the Cavalera brothers, Igor (vocals/guitar), Zyon (drums), and some of you may recall their old man, Max of Sepultura and Soulfly fame. What to expect on their debut album at Mascot Records? Hardcore riffs, the punky attitude, aggressive vocals, thrash/speed breakdowns, and the usual mayhem of chaos and disorder? Their mission: to challenge the phoniness, fakery and pretension of the modern scene and restore it with honesty, vibrancy and grit.

Yeah. It's a pretty meaty platter and at first the rather traditional metal stew, but they stir things round further by adding the odd ingredient and spice. Describing it as a collection of brutal, depressing, nihilistic songs, merely just to simplify things, 'Dreams and Visions' sits nicely in between the fury of Fugazi and the no mercy of Prong. Igor's vocals, which somehow manage to channel the Rob Zombie stomp?, are at times deeply buried in distortion and just a wee bit too monotonous in the long run.

However, the hidden complexities and sudden twists and turns of the album is probably rewarding to the blunt metal lover. Sadly, yours truly, no longer the mad follower of the genre and I spin my Fugazi and Sepultura albums less and less with each new year. Too blunt? too much of the 'been there, done that'? I honestly believe that I'll draw the line at classic SLAYER nowadays and leave the ultra-brutal stuff to the barking mad followers out there. Now... where did I put my Sex Pistols album?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WIGELIUS: ”Tabula Rasa”

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

”Tabula Rasa” is the second album from Swedish AORsters WIGELIUS. They have started with a clean state, if the album title is to be believed… I don’t know about that, but they have surely released an album that is much better than their debut. Which wasn’t that bad to start with, so this is actually pretty damn good!

If you enjoy the likes of Houston, Nelson, Work Of Art, Michael Morales and the lighter side of Def Leppard, this is an album for you. It’s smooth, immaculately produced (by The Wigelius brothers) and contains some of the best soft rock tracks I’ve heard lately. Vocalist Anders Wigelius has a great melodic rock voice which reminds me of a combination of Michael Morales and John Waite, and the band behind him has managed to create a sound that’s retro and modern at the same time.

Some highlights for me: the insanely catchy ”Deja Vu”, the mid-tempo, Def Lep-influenced ”These Tears I Cry”, ”Time Well Wasted”, ”Run With Me” and ”Please Please Please” (Nelson, eat your heart out!). The only song that I tend to skip is ”9 Out Of Ten” which just isn’t as good as the rest of them.