Thursday, August 25, 2016

JADED PAST: ”Believe”

Rating: RRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Jaded Past is a New Jersey-based band and ”Believe” is their second album. The self-titled debut was released independently and is currently available from the band’s website and several digital outlets.

The man behind Jaded Past is singer, songwriter and guitarist George Becker. On ”Believe”, I believe he didn’t have a band as such, he enlisted the help of drummer Dennis Zimmer and Trixter guitarist Steve Brown for the recordings. Brown also produced the album.

”Believe” is a decent album with a down-to-earth hard rock sound. Bret Michaels of Poison must be one of Becker’s main influences, as he’s adopted his singing style to some of the songs. Especially the ballads are pure poison… He’s much better when he rocks out and lets his own sound shine through. The album’s highlights for me are among the more uptempo tracks, namely ”Tattered”, ”Taken”, ”Don’t Judge” and ”Hurt”.

I can recommend this album to the fans of Poison, Tyketto, Tim Karr’s ”Rubbin’ Me The Right Way” album. I think those of you who are into the ”Bro-country” style might like it too… Glam-country anyone?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FIRE ACTION: "Rock Brigade"

Rating: RR
Label: Self release
Review by: Satu Reunanen

 Here's a very traditional hard rock/heavy metal release from the Finnish band Fire Action. Fire Action is still a newbie in the hard rock scene, they formed in 2013 and the members are Leo Barzola (vocals), Juri Vuortama (guitar), Samuli Häkkilä (drums) and Jani Hongisto (bass). Runaways kicks off the three song EP with Leo's original sounding vocals soaring high, with a little bit of Ron Keel twist in them. The EP has a real 80's touch to it, the band keeps everything in a compact, simple package, resembling the first releases from hard rock bands such as Ratt, Keel, Dokken and Kix to mention a few. The EP's sound is very raw and Leo's vocals match that. This unpolished sound might not attract every hard rock fan, but the songs are true to the 80's.

All of the songs have a catchy chorus and run with similar mid-tempo. There are no ballads. The band mixes hard rock and heavy metal and the line between the two is very thin. What makes it more metal is the occasional raging attitude and high screams from Leo and Juri plays some flashy, traditional 80's style guitar parts. The second track Lady In The Dark was released as a video and the last song Rock Rock Brigade continues in traditional metal style, now with Leatherwolf feel to it, especially from Juri's part. This EP has party feel to it and you might find yourself drumming along to the songs. It creates emotional trips to the 80's early days of hard rock, so if you need that trip, here's one to take.

GANDALF’S FIST - “The Clockwork Fable”


Label: Self Release

Reviewed By: Alan Holloway

I have an odd relationship with prog music, as it seems to either bore me to death or excite me enormously. I love It Bites, Flying Colours, Frost and the like, and as a younger man enjoyed IQ and Pallas, as well as Fish era Marillion. I’m telling you all this so you can see I like prog that has a bit of rock in it, not just meandering 15 minute yawn-fests that are atmospheric rather than fun. Much has been said about this, the 6th Gandalf’s Fist album, and I just had to have a listen for myself. That was a month ago, and I’m finally able to give it a proper review.

The reason it’s taken so long is that “The Clockwork Fable” is a three disc concept album that really has to be listened to as a whole to appreciate what the band have done, and finding a spare three hours these days is a tricky thing! Mind you, it’s well worth rearranging your schedule for this little beauty. Telling the story of a future civilisation forced to live underground after the sun fizzles out, this is a tale of good, evil, daftness and badgers. It’s all tied to a realization that the sun has returned and the desperation of those in power to make sure no one is able to leave the city and clarify this.

The meat of the story is contained in full cast excerpts, generally between each musical track. All kudos must be thrown at the band here, as not only have they got decent actors in, but they’ve also written a compelling narrative with a script that never sounds clunky. Background noise and music add a tremendous atmosphere to these parts, and an intrinsic sense of humour staves off any potential boredom as you catch all sorts of gems hidden in the conversations. Elsewhere, of course, is the music, and this takes the challenge set by the story parts and runs with it. If you want to imagine ELP, Marillion, Jon Mitchell and Iron Maiden getting together to write an opera you wouldn’t be far out. Guest artists like Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Blaze Bayley make a definite impression, and relative unknown Melissa Hollick fills out the sung parts of Eve (the main female character) beautifully. Bayley himself is in fine voice here, shining through the twelve minute “The Sign Of The Aperture” like a metal beacon.

So why has the UK concept album got full marks? To be honest, it’s probably second only to Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds” in terms of carefully plotted, musically diverse storytelling. This makes Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” look like a child’s poem scrawled on a post-it note. Masterful in every way and a real joy to experience, this is simply the best prog album that has ever been released, raising the bar for every concept album that will follow. When it rocks, it rocks hard, and when it progs it progs with passion, Just remember - beware of the badgers…

Official Site

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : "The Anthology" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 The Anthology, a three disc album, accompanies the first three DeLuxe ELP albums, being ELP, Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition. This great career spanning album features 39 songs from the years 1970 up to 1998. The Anthology is presented in a special case bound book packaging with detailed, informative sleeve notes by Chris Welch.

The 39 tracks are selected from the first three ELP albums, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, The Welcome Back triple live album, Works Volume 1 and 2, Works Live, Love Beach, Live At Nassau Coliseum, Black Moon, In The Hot Seat, Live At The Royal Albert Hall 1993 and last but not least the Then & Now album. The definite highlights of this album are: Peter Gunn, Brain Salad Surgery, Fanfare For The Common Man (play at maximum volume,please), Tarkus and Toccata. ELP's version of Copland?s Hoedown is also unique, as well as Greg Lake?s solo hit I Believe In Father Christmas (1975). Further remarkable tracks are Honky Tonk Train Blues and the trio?s interpretation of Jerusalem a song by Blake and Parry. The Anthology is a must for die hard ELP fans!!

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : "Pictures At An Exhibition" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 ELP's third amazing album called Pictures At An Exhibition has been credited with inspiring many young musicians to embrace and learn classical music. Pictures At An Exhibition is a concept album, based on the interpretation of the famous work by the Russian composer Mussorgsky. The album was recorded live in Newcastle and it is ELP's first live release and the entire album rocks!

 The songs on this amazing album are powerful and unique and ELP take on classical music as no other band ever did; so this album is a must for every prog rock addict! Pictures At An Exhibition was a huge commercial success and reached number 3 in the UK and number 10 in the USA album charts. On the first CD you can also enjoy a medley of Pictures At An Exhibtion recorded live in Puerto Rico. On the second CD you will hear another live performance of the album, recorded in London, complemented by live cuts of ELP favs like The Barbarian, Knife Edge, Rondo and Nut Rocker. Highly recommended!!

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : "Tarkus" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 The second album of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, which was released in 1971, saw the trio take a new direction with more complex keyboard sounds. The fantastic title track, an epic prog rock monster of more than 20 minutes, took up the whole side of side A and is a masterpiece of ELP music. On Tarkus, which lots of people still consider to be the best ELP album ever, the sound of the band is a blend of Yes, Genesis and even a little bit of Rush?

The technical performances on Tarkus are absolutely top notch, although the atmosphere of the album is rather dark and melancholic. ELP fans truly believe that Tarkus is ELP?s magnum opus and a must have for hard core prog fans and classic rock or neo classic rock fans. Tarkus was a very successful album as it peaked at number 1 in the UK and also charted at place 9 in the USA. On the second CD you can enjoy bonus tracks like Oh, My Father, Unknown Ballad and an alternate take of Mass, the fourth part of Tarkus.

This 2CD DeLuxe Edition includes a nice booklet with 2016 band interviews!

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 The debut album of prog giants Emerson, Lake & Palmer will be released as a 2 CD set, containing the original remastered 1970 album and an alternate album with bonus tracks. The debut album is filled with only 6 songs which are of course all examples of classical style of progressive rock.

The sound of ELP is strongly dominated by the Hammond organ and Moog synthesizers of Keith Emerson and the compositions are mainly influenced by classical music. Their debut, way back in 1970, features strong compositions and amazing musicianship although lots of music journalists always criticized the strong domination of Emerson, claiming that Lake and Palmer deserved a more prominent spot. Highlights of this debut are the three part suite The Three Fates, the epic Take A Pebble and of course their successful first single Lucky Man.

The second CD features 12 songs with lots of bonus tracks, like e.g. Rave Up, a rather superfluous drum solo and alternate versions of Lucky Man, Take A Pebble and Knife Edge. After 46 years, ELP's debut is still a great album to listen to; however only for die-hard progressive rock fans who enjoy organ, piano and classical music. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

FIRST SIGNAL: "One Step Over The Line"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

This is the second FIRST SIGNAL project album, centered around the voice of Harem Scarem singer Harry Hess. Whereas the debut was produced by Dennis Ward, this time the production duties were taken care of by Daniel Flores. The Find Me/Murder Of My Sweet -producer is fast becoming one of my favourite producers, his works sound excellent and I like the fact that he's bringing contemporary ideas to the table.

Just like the first album, the songs on "One Step Over The Line" are provided by various songwriters. I don't know who wrote exactly what personal favourites include "Love Run Free", "Minute Of Your Time", "She's Getting Away", "December Rain" and "Broken". There's a nice amount of variety in these songs, yet they all sound like they belong to this album. The songs range from anthemic euro-AOR ("Love Run Free") to modern melodic rock of "Broken", which reminds me a lot of Skillet. "December Rain" is probably the most "early Harem Scarem"-sounding track here, although I think the whole album should appeal to the fans of the Harem Scarem debut. 

There are a lot of cool little details that add their magic to the material - fantastic backing vocal arrangements, neat keyboards, fine guitarwork, not to mention Harry's great vocals... yeah, this is a fine album indeed. If it wasn't for the somewhat less impressive ballads and a couple of too predictable tracks with too many recycled parts I would have given this the full 5R rating. "One Step Over The Line" is definitely one of the better albums of 2016.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Rating: RRRR

Label: Lionsprides Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

First up, let’s get the name out of the way. 7HY is Seven Hard Years (they of the quite special ‘No Place In Heaven‘ a couple of years ago), and if you think the logo on the cover looks a little familiar that’s because you use to like British rockers Shy. Former drummer Alan Kelly, who is also in the band Edge Of The Blade (also recommended), wrote the songs here as well as playing most of the instruments (along with various guests). Vocals, however, are left to the highly competent Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire), who brings a touch of extra class to proceedings.

Anyway, now we’re all up to the same page we have to talk about the music. One thing this shouldn’t be dismissed as is a ‘drummer album’. Kelly’s days as a drum stool warmer are behind him, and he’s now very comfortable in his main role as songwriter . ‘Stories We Tell’ certainly gets off to a good, aggressive start with ‘I’ll Survive’, which worships the twin gods of power and melody with equal devotion. I just love a fast, melodic opener and this doesn’t disappoint, with Shawn Pelata really nailing his vocals as well. Pelata has a high register that may no sit well with everyone (just like a certain Tony Mills back in the day) but suits the music here down to the ground. There's plenty of very nice guitarwork throughout (with 6 lead guitarists contributing I would hope so, too!) and keyboards are used very effectively and allowed to shine only when appropriate. A solid production helps everything come together, and you're never far away from choosing a new favourite track.

‘Stories We Tell’ is certainly stuffed with quality rockers, with a good mix of mid and fast paced tunes. It’s honestly hard work to pick out favourites, as the enjoyment level is pretty high throughout. The only track that doesn’t excite me is the mid paced ‘Broken Man’, which sort of meanders it’s way through nearly four minutes, but it’s a rare dip. In honesty, it’s the slower tracks that stop the album being a classic, mainly because the ones with more oomph  leave more of an impact on your brain. Even so, there’s plenty to enjoy here, especially if you enjoyed the last album or Kelly’s Edge Of The Blade work. I have to say that ‘Stories We Tell’ is an album that should keep you coming back for more, and that’s really all you can ask for.

Official facebook Page

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jace PAWLAK: "Promise"

Rating: RRRRr

Label: Kivel Records

Review By: Alan Holloway

If you haven’t heard of Jason “Jace” Pawlak, then you can join the club, as until last week I hadn’t a clue either. Through the miracle of face book, however, a musician friend shared the lead track from this, his fourth solo album, and suddenly I was very aware of Jace Pawlack, because “Tonight Is Everything” pushed all of the buttons in my head reserved for only the highest quality AOR.

As both singer and songwriter, what Jace Pawlak has done here is produce a quintessential melodic rock album that could easily be used a a template for new bands wanting to get it right, a sort of “AOR For Dummies” if you will. Don’t get me wrong - this is not any sort of insult. Hey - those Dummies books are freakin’ awesome, and so is “Promise”. It’s a straight up melodic rock instant classic, adhering to the rules and regulations set down in fluffy pink stone back in the early eighties. Ten tracks? Check. Ballad at positions 3 and 7? Check. Songs about love, love and more love? Check. Hugely infectious choruses? Neat guitar solos? Good, high vocals? Check, check and check! You get the idea…

“Promise” is an album that’s stuffed to the gills with catchy tracks, each one benefiting from a crisp production. The more upbeat tracks, such as the aforementioned “Tonight Is Everything” (which there is a link for on our facebook feed) “late On Loving You” and “Too Late” are instant monsters, ready to take up residence in your subconscious. Then you have the more mid paced tracks, none of which are any less catchy, and a couple of ballads to complete the experience, with the whole package topped off the closing track “Nothing But Rain”, a song that is best described as a hard edged ballad with balls, and just has something about it that makes it stand out as a quality song amongst quality songs.

So there you have it. If you have never heard of Jace Pawlak this is the time to rectify the situation with an album full of AOR gems. The only track that leaves me a bit ‘meh’ is the ballad “Every Now & Then”, but that’s just me. This is one of those albums that you play over and over again, simply because you just want to hear the songs one more time. Buy or die…

Official Website