Tuesday, December 10, 2019

HUMAN FORTESS : “Reign Of Gold”

Rating: RRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Human Fortress is a power metal band hailing from Hannover, Germany, and Reign Of Gold is their 6th studio album.

The new album contains 11 songs which are all largely guitar driven, featuring great riffs, hooks, solos and melodic guitar work by duo guitar pickers Wolf and Trost. First great song of this album is without a doubt Thunder, featuring an addictive chorus and a very melodic guitar solo in the middle. Another worthwhile track is Lucifer’s Waltz, which is slower indeed but with lots of atmosphere, while the obligatory ballad Shining Light also uses a lot of symphonic elements.

Martial Valor is a kind of folk-like influenced metal song while Legion Of The Damned is again a heavy power metal track; so there is something for everyone on this album as Reign Of Gold id indeed an excellent power metal album, although not as good as their milestone album Defenders Of The Crown, released in 2003. Human Fortress is a very competent power metal band which will certainly be to your liking if you enjoy bands like Iron Savior or Kamelot; play it f….. LOUD !!!


Thursday, November 28, 2019


Label: Universal
Review by Alan Holloway

Back in the day (yeah, I'm old) I'd buy pretty much anything Kerrang! told me to, and pretty much ebjoyed it all as well. One such disc was Dan Reed Network's sophomore release "Slam", which came out in 1989, a year after the debut. I remember well travelling to Shades (buy or die!) in London to get my CD signed, and I still have it to this day. Indeed, I even slip in a track or two when I'm DJing, as a bit of "Rainbow Child" or "Tiger In A Dress" easily passes as contemporary music thirty years on.

Ah yes, thirty years on, and time for the ever popular anniversary tour. In this case it's a triple heard with FM, revisiting their own second album"Tough It Out", and Gun, playing though their debut. I actually saw all three on their original tours and have been enjoying digging the relevant albums out. Thing is, there's no Dan Reed digging required, as I've now got a shiny new copy of "Slam" plus my first ever CD copy of the debut (I had it on cassette).

 Both albums are excellent, there's no other word for them. Whilst the debut has such catchy funk rockers as the awesome "Ritual" and "Forgot To Make her Mine", it also has some great chill out tracks, too, like Tamin' The Wild Nights' and "Halfway Around The World". Catchy, funky and passionate, it was a surprise when the band came up with an even better album a year later. "Slam" is simply a timeless classic, less out and out funk than it's predecessor but still unafraid to funk it up when needed and to rock it up when a change of style is required. "Rainbow Child" is a hippy love song that I think I will never grow tired of, and "Strong As Steel" would be a massive romantic hit in any sane world (not this one, then). It's a beautifully balanced album that, like the debut, makes you want to dance and smooch in equal measure. Seriously,these are two albums that have stood the test of time with consummate ease and everyone should own them.

Now as for the reissues... well, there's not a lot to say as there's zero extras. The 2019 "Slam" is identical to my 1989 copy, and although it's been remixed the original was pretty darned good and if I'm honest I didn't really notice. If you originally have the CDs then this isn't really aninvestment I can reccommend unless you're a completist. However, if you don't own them, or want to check them out before (or even after) the tour, then you should definitely pick them up, as Dan Reed Network were one of the most original, entertaining, creative and expressive bands of the late Eighties. Slam dunk the funk, because everyone needs to own these.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

RPWL: “Live From Outer Space”

Rating: RRRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Their last studio album Tales From Outer Space, RPWL’s 10th one, was again a prog rock blast. These German prog rockers now “return” with a double live album recorded at The Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. This great sounding double CD contains thirteen tracks and the entire last studio album (seven songs) can be enjoyed on the first CD.

The gig kicks off with a War Of The Worlds-like speech called News From Outer Space, before A New World sets the Boerderij “on fire”. Needless to say that the first seven songs are performed extremely well, with the definite highlights being: Light Of The World (magical guitar solo) and Give Birth To The Sun. CD2 features a back catalogue of classic RPWL songs from albums such as World Through My Eyes and The RPWL Experience. Kalle’s Gilmour-like guitar solo in Masters Of War is probably the musical cherry on the cake of this second CD. Of course Roses, the anthemic RPWL classic is also featured here as well as Hole In The Sky, Sleep, Trying To Kiss The Sun and Unchain The Earth. Need I say more???

Live From Outer Space is an amazing live recording of the best German prog rock band ever, a must have for lovers of prog rock, brilliant and highly recommended; get it now!!!

YOGI LANG : “A Way Out Of Here”

Rating: RRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Nine years after his solo album No Decoder, Yogi Lang, vocalist and front man of RPWL, releases his new solo project called A Way Out Of Here and without further ado let me tell you that this is again a brilliant neo prog rock/art rock album. Of course it also almost an RPWL album but that is mainly due to Yogi’s very recognizable, charming vocal performance.

A Way Out Of Here contains nine songs of which Move On, Don’t Confuse Life With A Thought (excellent song title), Love Is All Around and Early Morning Light are the musical gems. The latter, my personal fav, is an instrumental prog rocker, featuring heavenly, melodic sparkling guitar solos from Torsten Weber; in other words a very emotional and romantic track. Move On, the opening song, also the longest track, features a RPWL guitar riff, catchy guitar melodies and Manfred Mann-like keyboards solos from Yogi himself. The piano-led ballad-like last track I’ll Be There For You is again a typical Yogi Lang song featuring great vocals and lots of melody.

All the music and lyrics were written by :Lang with the exception of Freedom Of The Day, which was composed together with Guy Pratt (bass player with Pink Floyd and David Gilmour). Lang is musically assisted by Torsten Weber (guitars), Stephan Treutter (drums), Yvo Fischer (bass guitar), Kalle Wallner (guitars on track 4 and 9 and Klaus Reichert (pedal steel and mandolin). A Way Out Of Here is a very impressive album, a must have for art rock aficionados.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

VANDEN PLAS: "The Ghost Xperiment Awakening"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Their previous attempt at world domination, "Chronicles Of The Immortals - Netherworld", the very ambitious two album effort and collaboration between Vanden Plas and fantasy writer Wolfgang Hohlbein. Perhaps a wee bit too ambitious as yours truly thought the following and I quote: "It's frankly just a blur of all the ancient sagas and stories. All this could still not put me off if the album came with great compositions. Sadly they are not quite as great as the grand concept as they lack killer hooks and epic chorus parts. It goes on like a sturdy tractor and at its sudden halt, you still don't recall that many parts or main riffs", end quote. Perhaps a wee bit harsh? Nah. It's their most ambitious work up to date, but unfortunately not quite their best material.

On the other hand, "The Ghost Xperiment: AwakenIng", the complete surprise and 'back to the roots' kind of album, including proper riffing, progressive arrangements, longer songs, and powerful melodies. It's however still a two part concept album, with the second part 'Illumination' to be released in 2020. The story is based on an actual documented paranormal experiment. The main character must constantly fight for his life against the relentless shadows and through knowledge with books he finds in the library of a school of metaphysics, he reads about secret teachers and parapsychological experiments, which become an important foundation from which he can fight against the creatures of darkness. Yes, well... excellent?

This time around the focus has shifted more on to the actual compositions and away from the orchestrations. Everything from the opening track of "Cold December Night" to the closing title track reek of experience and proper musicianship. They've been releasing records for twenty five years by now and this time it's hardly a tractor rather than a Ferrari at full speed.

If you're searching for comparisons for The Ghost Xperiment, the closest is obviously Dream Theater, but quite frankly that doesn't always do this German band justice. Sure, there are many hints at Theater especially considering the arrangements, only six tracks, but there is more to Vanden Plas than that. They have carved out a sound and place all of their own. Guitarist Stephan Lill and keyboardist Günter Werno takes the band into the realm of the the truly great. The interaction between the two something out of the ordinary and they combine flashy guitar work with great waves of keyboards and piano to great effect. Add to this a killer rhythm section (Andreas Lill on drums, Torsten Reichert on bass) and splendid vocals by Andy Kuntz, and you're all set to go Proggy. Recommended.


Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Heavier than thou. "Part of me is searching for the holiness in thee". It's the better part of me, according to the soldier under command aka Michael Sweet. "Ten" features an all-star guest line-up that includes appearances by Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy, Gus G of Firewind, Rich Ward of Fozzy, Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake, Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns, Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa from Firstbourne, Todd La Torre of Queensryche, etc. etc. On the subject of guest musicians Michael comments: "There is a different player appearing on every song. It started out where I was just going to have a couple of guest appearances on it, then I decided that it would be really interesting to bring in different players for every song".

Before I forget and start rambling on about To Hell With The Devil or the yellow and black attack... what's your definition of "solo album"? Or rather... what's the meaning of releasing a solo record that sounds like the previous two Stryper albums? Don't get me wrong. Merely asking out loud. It's a rather good and powerful metal album. I'm not saying that "Ten" - there is a title track on here about the Ten Commandments - should be banned and thrown off the edge of the world. But I do find it a wee bit strange when the main character and sole writer of Stryper releases a solo effort in the same style and formula as "Fallen" or "God Damn Evil".

Conclusion? I'd much rather hear something completely different from band members' going solo. Regarding the musical direction of the album, Michael states: "I'm very excited about this release, there are old-school, straight-ahead metal ideas in the vein of Judas Priest, Dio and Iron Maiden, all the stuff I love listening to!". Indeed. If you're not up to date with the Stripes as of lately, they've been on steroids for the last couple of albums (Jesus Juice?) and everything is slightly harder, heavier, faster, than in their MTV days/daze. The same goes for Ten vs. All This and Heaven Too.

It's never quite as old skool or progressive as the bands' mentioned above and Michael may still think otherwise though. The trademark harmonies are still there, just not crazy over-the-top. I'd say the sound is harking back to the first mini-album (Stryper) only with a modern sound and production. Ozzy Osbourne (in the 2000's), Metal Church, Sacred Warrior, are three acts I'd also put next to Sweet. Not a perfect "Ten", but a very impressive effort and you simply can't go wrong here if you enjoy the last couple of Stryper albums.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

ECLIPSE: "Paradigm"

Frontiers 2019
Rating: RRRRR
Review by Kimmo Toivonen 

This is the seventh Eclipse album, would you believe it!? They kind of reinvented themselves after the first two and stepped up to the elite level of melodic hard rock, at least in my books. There's been some line-up changes, but the nucleus of the band has remained the same = vocalist\guitarist Erik Mårtensson and lead guitarist Magnus Henriksson. The band's former drummer Magnus Ulfstedt played bass in the band for a few years and he plays on this album too, but recently quit the band. Eclipse recruited drummer Philip Crusner's brother Victor for the bassist position. He was introduced to the public at the album's release party.

Since "Are You Ready To Rock" (2008) Eclipse has been on a winning streak, and it continues with "Paradigm". Sure, this album sounds very much like its' predecessors, and Mårtensson's pechant for certain kind of melodies is evident. But... Is that a bad thing? I'll that over desperate trend chasing or pointless experimenting. Besides, everytime I think that "now this song sounds very familiar" a surprise twist comes along and slaps me in the face!

The opening trio of "Viva La Victoria", "Mary Leigh" and "Blood Wants Blood" is the strongest triplet punch from Eclipse to kick off an album. Hell, it's one of the stongest opening triplet punches from any band! All three songs are anthemic, catchy and powerful, but different from each other.

The pace drops down a little after the breathtaking start, but there are plenty of fine tracks among the remaining 8. Those include the two single releases prior to the album, "United" and "The Masquerade". The former is a laidback anthem driven by acoustic guitars, reminding me of Nickelback, while the latter is a stomping heavy rocker with a big chorus. Both songs took a while to grow on me. "When The Winter Ends" and the intense "Delirious" are also among my favourites.

I must mention "38 or 44" too, which sounds like an unreleased Pretty Maids song from "Future World"... Could it be that it was intended for Mårtensson's Nordic Union project with PM singer Ronnie Atkins, but not used because it would have sounded too much like Pretty Maids with Atkins singing?
With no weak songs in sight, only a few that won't make it to my "Best Of Eclipse" playlist, I see no reason to hold back... It's another 5R album for ECLIPSE. Call me a fan boy if you want!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

DAN McCAFFERTY: "Last Testament"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMusic/Edel 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The pipes, the pipes are calling!!! It's the true Scottish sound by a highlander from Nazareth? It's the whole she-bang really and that's including the bagpipes, the haggies, the deep-fried mars-bars, as well as the accordion? It's actually quite the laid-back affair where Dan McCafferty take a step back from the hard rock arrangements and find himself at the singer/songwriter department?

Indeed. Don't go thinking Nazareth 2.0. since you'd be dead wrong. Last Testament stroll down the avenue of folk-rock and it's mostly about the interaction between Dan's ragged voice, the piano, the accordion, and the mix of acoustic and electric guitars. McCafferty met some musicians from the Czech Republic and got a lot of inspiration. Co-wrote all the song with Karel Marik, whose an internationally renowned accordion player, also responsible for production, piano, percussion, organ, and glockenspiel.

It's overall music in the vein of Joe Cocker (RIP), Rod Stewart/Faces, The Pogues, Lou Reed (RIP), and merely a couple or three uptempo hardrocking tunes inbetween the laid-back material (Home Is Where The Heart Is, My Baby, Bring It On Back). The accordion, very much present throughout the album and on all the tracks, giving 'Last Testament' a South-European feel and sound. However. The opening song-and-dance number, "You And Me", should have an fellow Scottish singer and Celtic-legend grinning while giving the thumbs up (that's Rod Stewart in case you got lost along the way). The transformation from Lou Reed to Rod on the opening verse is truly fascinating.

"Why", the heartfelt melody and lyrics that speak of being lonely and lost again. Marvelously raspy vocals by Dan and you sort of expect Marianne Faithfull to turn up for the duet? That would have been great actually, but sadly, no. "Tell Me" display all the mistakes and fault of McCafferty and speak of the damage and sorrow that he's caused in the past. It's sort of Dan's Johnny Cash moment and it's a very sad (but great) little tune to be honest. Nazareth fans might appreciate the piano remake of "Sunshine" from the year of 1974. Pete Agnew on back-up vocals. Final verdict: Quite different to be honest and not at all what we expected. This time, different is good. You probably need to enjoy the laid-back stuff to truly appreciate Last Testament. Recommended.


Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"A New Evil - a world on fire. No more heroes - will save us now. A New Evil - a world in darkness. No one hears you calling - it's over now". Blimey. Cheerful bastards? One thing's for certain. The Ferrymen are clearly not The Merrymen? They should however be pleased with their European melodic metal sound and listening to "A New Evil" it's not difficult to hear why as they combine fierce riffing by Magnus 'Klister' Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande, etc.) and power drumming (Mike Terrana) with a vocalist who can actually sing (Ronnie Romero).

Taking in small doses, tracks like "Don't Stand In My Way", "Bring Me Home", "The Night People Rise", offer pleasant metal listening but nothing more. It's not a question of holding back though and on the plus side, The Ferrymen sounds very professional and like the real deal. They certainly create a big melodic metal sound for a three piece and Karlsson are keeping track of both the 4 and 6 string in the studio. In fact. Some of the changes, chord progressions and guitar work reminds you of the old ancient masters of the seventies and eighties. The first couple of tracks are no doubt the best and Karlsson's still capable of writing an absolutely killer chorus or three.

The overall sound of the album, cruising down the same avenue as the likes of Kamelot, Masterplan, Allen/Lande, only perhaps not quite as impressive or with lasting power. Great musicians, great vocals, but rather typical middle-of-the-road when it comes to arrangements. "A New Evil is a bit heavier and more progressive", says Magnus Karlsson. "I'm always learning and trying to improve my songs and productions each time out. Working with Ronnie and Mike is a such a great experience. I can concentrate on the writing and whatever I will come up with, I know they will nail it! This time Jacob Hansen (Pretty Maids, Volbeat) did the mix and it works really well with the heavy style". Final verdict: Solid stuff, but hardly earth-shattering.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

MADHOUSE: "Money Talks Bullshit Walks"

Rating: RRRR
Label: MarsMusic 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

You came here looking for a derranged pig in shades (see artwork). Perhaps pure Sleaze and Melodic Hardrock rooted in a more sunny and fun era? Look no further than the debut album 'Money Talks Bullshit Walks' by Vienna/Austria's rockers, MADHOUSE (still drunk from yesterday), which includes twelve tracks full of lunatic Hair Metal! Indeed. The six-piece act including two vocalist and a hairdresser (latter statement not correct) are all about having pigs in a blanket and f-u-n. Current gang and line up: Tommy Lovelance & Lonewolf (vocals), Freddy Heart & Mikky Stixx (guitars), Ben Walker (bass) and Ken Shuri (drums).

It may sound like a cliche, but sheer dumb 80's party and FUN is what they provide. One listen to the opening song "Boom Boob Shaker" is enough to have anyone of a certain hairdo grinning and running for their retro KISS pinball machine. Lyrics in the questionable tradition and content of Gene Simmons and it's definitely a feast on the eye slash ear. The title track weirdly progress as they manage to cement themselves as holy rollers and followers of the new wave of sleaze, where the past is unshackled and a slightly new flavour is added. "Crazy Nights" may at first glance remind you of Kiss, but sounds more like Crazy Lixx and Motley Crue. Cheeky rock and naughty messages, "1st Time Lover" (featuring guest vocals by Kati Cher), the really catchy sing-a-long. "Tears Like Rain", the really great and slightly different power-ballad.

Powerful vocals and guitar work through the album and the absence of keyboards is a prime factor to proper sleaze, contributing to its relatively raw and mean production. The Glamour style itself is energetic and successful, unfortunately, they ran a little bit out of steam and stamina towards the end of the album. Some of the tracks are similar and they still need to work on getting all the pieces together. That's album number two, yeah? The haters may not agree, but simply to continue to exist will take young-ish acts such as Madhouse further up the ladder of success. Have a go at this if you enjoy acts such as: Crazy Lixx, Tuff, Motley Crue (Girls Girls Girls), Crashdiet, etc.

BLACK STONE CHERRY: "Black To Blues Volume 2"

Rating: EP
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"She's a 'Big Legged Woman' in a short, short, short, mini-skirt". Oh lordie, lordie. The blues in all its wicked nature? Wicked thoughts, wicked minds, wicked musicians? It's the devil's music, you know? And I'm speaking about the old skool devil and old skool nature. Not the family friendly kiddie version of today. Preachers used to roam the earth in desperate attemps to stop the blues from spreading like disease. All in vain of course since hordes of raving mad fans are still listening to the oldies (and newies) and Black Stone Cherry are merely trying to re-create the magic of proper roadhouse music. Correct. It's the cover album or EP since it's merely six tracks...

Starting up "Back To Blues Volume 2" with two powerful upper-cuts in "Big Legged Woman" (Freddie King) and Robert Johnson's "Me & The Devil Blues", it's a wonder that you're still standing. Chris Robertson (vocals/guitar) and the band have certainly gained confidence with these releases, taking more chances and letting it all hang out to dry. Showing off and even going for the first, second, round KO may not always be the best way to keep the audience on your side. However. When it's done properly like on the first two blows and the following Mississippi blues of "All Your Love (I Miss Loving - originally performed by Otis Rusch), it's no doubt the winning concept.

The songs are obviously more up-to-date (duh!), hardrocking, and heavier than the originals. Some may not enjoy the sound as they prefer the ancient production and style. Then again. How can you not enjoy the wicked groove of "Early One Morning" or the howling version of "Down In The Bottom" as originally performed by Howlin' Wolf? Covers are always difficult though and it's sometimes a no win situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don't? Nah... I'd rather go with damned if you don't have a listen, since this is pretty darn fun....

BLACKRAIN: "Dying Breed"

Rating: RR
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The artwork is... ehhh... interesting and had me thinking about my absolutely favourite waste of time... grave robbing!!! Yeah, baby! There's nothing more exciting than to really dig in and... huh? too macabre? Fair enough. The French sleaze rockers / grave robbers of Black Rain and the new album called "Dying Breed" - is like a response to the way the music world goes. Surrounded by electro music and R&B, struck by the death of many of their idols that made the rock history, asked by people why they still wear the old-fashioned hairdo, the four guys more and more felt like a "Dying Breed", 'the last of their kind' as the opening track will have you singing?

Truth be told. Not really singing rather than pointing, shouting, and screaming at their vocalist, Swan (song or lake?) as the vocal styling may not always fit the melodies. His ability can not be denied but for the most past I am left confused by what he's trying to communicate? The album's been composed and recorded in Sweden where frontman Swan is permanently settled and tracks such as "All Angels Have Gone", "We Are The Mayhem", "Rock Radio", are all pretty grand and sleazy to the extreme.

This isn't a complete dire album, far from it, although it would be difficult to get over excited about many of the tracks on here. I guess someone forgot to tell BlackRain that the album sounds like a typical reject of the eighties scene. You know, clicheville and heard-it-before-city via 2ndrate-town. To each great song, there's two really dodgy ones and that simply won't do in the long run. I believe it's back to the drawing board (really? it's all computers now!) and let's hope for better next time. We need to support these acts after all or they're all end up as dying breed....

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

JAN AKKERMAN: "Close Beauty"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hocus Pocus with Focus. There you go. That's pretty much all I know about Jan Akkerman. Not a whole lot to be honest. But I won't lie or pretend to know everything about each and every (hard) rock artists out there and certainly not when it's instrumental music (his solo outings). Do the google, you say? No. You do the google. It's sort of interesting to listen to 'Close Beauty' without any knowledge, if you know what I mean? You simply can't keep track of them all and Focus was before my time. No real excuse since I obviously do track back in time.

However. It's twelve compositions, acoustic, electric guitar, and overall varied works. According to Jan, "I've always been able to tell that none of my albums sound the same. Exploring new things is something that I'd always wanted to do. Harmonica player Toots Thielemans once told me: ‘your timing, that’s your signature, your autogram’. I consider ‘Close Beauty’ exactly like that. If you stand very close to a cow, you can’t tell it’s a cow, after all", end quote. Conclusion? It's a cow!?

He's obviously 'Dutch' from the Netherlands (Holland) and "Close Beauty", instrumental rock in its more classical sense, having a penchant for more snappy medievil influences and open land/soundscapes, than never-ending cycles of riffs held together by shredding and pace, Akkerman's compositions are progressive when it comes to updating the vast spectrum of instrumental music. Hard to categorize, the mood changes from sunny afternoons to not so sunny melancholy. The music is really diverse, so the different music channels have different structure and avenues to choose from. Some of the songs are in the vein of the classical masters, others are more fusion influenced, there's fingerpicking, as well as a few odd numbers of clarity and Spiritual Privacy.

The bottom line: Less widdly widdly diddly, and more in time with the current 'less is more' vogue, the compositions add a wicked sense of individuality to the album which channels the timing, harmonics, virtuosity of a great guitarist. It's the great album to listen to while reading a book and I mean that in the best possible way and sense. One thing's for sure. It's the art cover of the year, if not for the sneaky fishy 72 year old geezer in the background :-) facebook.com/JanAkkermanOfficial

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

LAST TEMPTATION: "Last Temptation"

Rating: RRr
Label: earMusic 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I actually feel sort of sorry for guitarist Peter Scheithauer (Killing Machine, Belladonna, Temple of Brutality) and vocalist Butcho Vukovic (Watcha, Showtime) as they release their debut album. They are the masterminds of the new band and project of Last Temptation yet the press release and not to mention sticker on the album cover mention only that the recordings were accompanied by Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Rainbow) on bass, Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath) on drums, and Don Airey on keyboards (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ozzy) as they recorded their eponymous first album.

This record is decidedly old school in its execution and stands for classic 70's and 80's Metal, that is supposed to reminds on genre icons like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne. Well... hold your horses and keep your rabid rabbits and hungry hounds on the leash. It's never quite really that good and the compositions and arrangements (all by the dynamic duo of Scheithauer and Vukovic) are kind of samey and once you've noticed the refrain to one, you've pretty much heard them all. It doesn't help to repeat the words "Bring Your Light Out" a thousand times if you're sort of fed up the first time. The most Ozzy/Sabbath moment of "Blow a Fuse" and "Never Say Goodbye" might have the oldies going at least up until the refrain. The latter sounding more like Soundgarden in the late eighties, early nineties though and not bad at all.

The bottom line according to Scheithauer was "having that live feeling that seems to be missing with a lot of recordings these days. We'll go and rehearse in the studio, sometimes we'll hear something that would be a great take, and that’s a magical thing. What makes certain records magical is that the music is living and breathing; it’s organic, it's real, including the occasional mistakes (laughs)". Fair enough. It's organic, real, proper production, but never really exciting or fun. By the way. Guest musicians also include Rudy Sarzo, James Lomenzo, Stet Howland, etc. but why bother, since they don't fit the bill and classic rock genre?


Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Sascha Paeth is one of metal's odd sod. The wicked multi-instrumentalist, producer, and overall mad genius. I'm really fond of his work with the likes of Avantasia, Edguy, Kamelot, and perhaps not as impressed with the Rhapsody Of Fire. The solo project of Masters Of Ceremony and their debut album, Signs Of Wings, treads a fine line between the merry Pirate metal of Running Wild, Within Temptation, and Avantasia, and incredibly it seems to work for the most part.

I'm also very fond of the vocalist on this record, Adrienne Cowan from Seven Spires, and she's no ordinary goth or the shy wallflower. Her range goes from head to toe, meaning she likes to play both the angel and the devil. Huh? What the fudge? Okay. Straight to the point. Just as good on the soft and hard parts and there's a lot of guts as well as gusto on the record. For the most part, Signs of Wings, revolves principally around the essence of all good metal, decent material and wicked guitar work. The majority of Paeth's arrangements accompanying the excellent vocals of Adrienne Cowan and her performance transforms a number of good songs into great ones. Keep in mind that you need to be slightly open-minded as you'll find the occasional modern metal growl(s) and style though.

Offering a wide range of styles within the metal spectrum, from aggressive and straight foward metal, to the more melodic and symphonic track, this record has a bit of everything. Soundwise, the sonic delivery is as good as ever by The Paeth and the guitarist sure do enjoy noodling to his hearts' content, making the best out of the situation, the motto of the day. The Path of The Paeth clearly have big intentions and highways in mind and with this album should achieve many of them. "Blissful I die and reach for the sky. Hoping to find a way through the night. I leave my worries alone way down below and try not to cry anymore, fight anymore".

Monday, October 7, 2019

MOTORHEAD: ''Bomber'"

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

This is the 40th anniversary edition of the classic Motorhead album 'Bomber'; their third studio album was released on 27 October 1979, just 7 months after their 2nd album "Overkill" This again must have album featured classic Motorhead songs like: "Dead Men Tell No Tales", "Sweet Revenge", "Stone Dead Forever", "Bomber" and one of my personal Motorhead favourites "Lawman". Again all the 10 songs on "Bomber" were composed by the three original members:Kilmister, Clarke and Taylor; therefore all the tracks are full of the characteristic sound of that classic line up. So, there were some real killer songs on this album, however, the fans and the critics found the overall songs on Bomber not as good as those on Overkill. Still the album ranked number 397 in Rock Hard magazine's book of the 500 Greatest Rock & Metal albums of all time!

Again this anniversary edition comes with a live bonus CD, whch was recorded in Le Mans and the set list contained 18 tracks with a total playing time of almost 70 minutes! Live classic Motorhead songs like Overkill, Stay Clean, No Class, Metropolis, Lawman, Motorhead and Bomber are featured here and they rock like hell. Other highlights on this amazing live set are Limb From Limb, featuring a superb guitar solo by Clarke, a cover of the old time classic Train Kept A Rollin' and a dazzling version of Capricorn.

I probably repeat myself here, but again this is a must have Motorhead release, not only for the great heavy rock and roll music but also for the splendid booklet that comes along with it. Highly recommended, again, and as Lemmy said it more than once: "we're Motorhead and we're gonna kick your ass!!", and they certainly did, enjoy!!





One of the better albums from last year was Wayward Sons' debut release, which saw everyone;s favourite little angel Toby Jepson return to the forefront of the rock scene with a bang and a great new band alongside him. Naturally expectations are high for this second release, and I'm here to tell you that there's no need to riot (even if you wanna) because they've all been met with ease.

The album kicks off with the electrifying single 'Any Other Way', a full on melodic rock feast that has melody, harmony and solid brass balls all the way through. Jepson sounds as good as he ever did, and the band are as tight as to expected after a punishing schedule of touring, rehearsing and recording over the last 12 months or so. 'Black As Sin' follows a similar template, not giving the listener a chance to catch their breath as the hard hitting melodies and attitude whacks them about the face whilst laughing like a loon. Speaking of laughing like a loon, 'Jokes On You' is a bit more radio friendly (with a smidge of piano to help the flow) with a killer chorus that is immediately hummable. If you haven't yet, do check out the clown based videos the band are putting out as well- they're quite mental and lots of fun. Elsewhere, Toby gets angry in the monumentally brilliant track '(If Only God Was Real)', allowing the old scream to sneak out, whilst the title track has a slower, mesmerizing stomp to it and a chorus that won't quit.

The band have wisely allowed themselves to play with different tempos throughout the album, and whilst the big guitar stompers are plenty of fun it's nice to chill out with the lighter 'Little White Lies', 'Us Against the World' and 'Fade Away', a song which will have fans of 'Soapbox' creaming their spandex. Ah, yes... it's time for the Little Angels part of the review, which is sort of inevitable. Wayward Sons definitely bring to mind those Scarborough scamps plenty of times, and for me that's exactly what I was hoping for. Jepson's vocals make it pretty hard not to think of them, and the similar style of songwriting and playing just reinforce it. Let me put it this way, if this was a new Little Angels album fans would be ecstatic with the fact that they wouldn't have radically (your lover?) altered the sound. Ya get me?

In the end, 'The Truth Ain't What It Used To Be' is a terrific release. Twelve absolute blinders plus a sneaky bonus track, it's even better that the debut, and that's no easy task. If you've yet to check them out please get to YouTube and see what all the fuss is about. Believe me, you'll be converted. Possibly the best release of the year so far, Wayward Sons may not be original but by Harry they're fucking good so do yourself a favour and join the Wayward Army.

Friday, October 4, 2019

MOTORHEAD: "Overkill"

Rating: RRRR 
Label: BMG 
Review by Martien Koolen 

This is the 40th anniversary edition of the classic Motorhead album 'Overkill'; their second studio album was released on 24 March 1979. This great album featured classic Motorhead songs like: "Stay Clean", "Capricorn", "No Class", "Metroplis" and of course the notorious title track. All the songs on "Overkill" were composed by the three original Motorheaders, being: Lemmy Kilmister, Fast Eddie Clarke and Phil Philthy Animal Taylor. Besides the original Motorhead album you can also enjoy a live album recorded at Aylesbury Friars on 31 March 1979. Sadly the sound of the live album is a bit shallow at certain points but the Motorhead energy takes you through this and makes you forget the rather hollow sound of certain tracks. This live album features 17 tracks with a playing time of over 75 minutes, so you get your money's worth!! Killer tracks on this live recording are "Overkill", "No Class", "Iron Horse", "Metropolis" and of course the last track called "Motorhead". Listening to the second studio album of Motorhead again makes me realise how good and powerful these three guys were; so this anniversay album is a must for Lemmy fans all over the world and play it f... LOUD, if you can!!!


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DRAGONFORCE: "Extreme Power Metal"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: earMusic 2018
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Fast! faster!! Dragonfa.. force!!! Extreme Power Metal: the short version - It's the insane shredding, sweeping and tapping skill of Yngwie J Malmsteen. The German Metal arrangements of Helloween, Blind Guardian, Scanner. The eighties sing-a-long harmonies and melodic keyboards of Robby Valentine (he's big in Japan, you know). Last but not least. The over the top influences of Japan and especially the themes of retro video games. Known as the fastest band in the world, it's obviously all done at neck breaking speed. More importantly, it's melodic and great, no, it's better than great, it's Dragongreat!

Bombastic, fantastic, and ever so phenomenal. It's one of those album that get better with each spin and there's always something new to discover and cheer about. Herman Li and Sam Totman, a pair of monsters on the six strings (or seven, eight?) and they are constantly pushing the bounderies on what's humanly possible to play without losing a finger or three. I feel sorry for Gee Anzalone (drums) since there's no place to hide and definitely no time to rest. It's wicked though and the trigger happy drummer goes bezerk behind the drums. The hard work of the rhythm section (including Frederic Leclercq on bass) - the heart and soul of the album. Marc Hudson's singing is dead on and out of this world and that goes for all the harmonies and choirs on the record.

"Feel the engines fire. Feel the thunder rise. Now touch the path of glory. Power to the turbo drive". It's full on turbo throughout the record and the opening of "Highway To Oblivion" really is extreme (and very melodic) power metal at its sonic best. Kudos to the excellent production and they're off at "500 miles an hour - All gravity defied". Next up, "Cosmic Power Of The Infinite Shred Machine", the face-melting Indiana Jones moment where the Nazis' gets the full blast of the Ark. Shocking to say the least. "The Last Dragonborn" will have the Skyrim fans crying of joy as they set off for new adventures. Tracks such as "Heart Demolition" and "Strangers" really are the energizer bunny version of Robby Valentine. Superb melodic metal.

Final verdict: Epic and extreme. Catchy and fast. Triumphant and uplifting. It's Dragonforce at their very best! Highly recommended. facebook.com/pg/dragonforce/


Rating: RR
Label: Cleopatra 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Rise - is it a fairytale story or a dissatisfying platter? Former Cinderella vocalist in search for the tiny glass slipper? I've been looking forward to listening to the new solo album by Tom Keifer ever since the previous one aka the solo debut of 'The Way Life Goes'. Unfortunately a lot of things happened inbetween those years and it's been bad news from the Keifer camp. "We were trying to capture the feeling of what people have witnessed live with this band", Keifer explains. "There's an off-the-rails, real live feel to 'Rise' and that's what we were going for. It shows a real kind of angst and reckless abandon that we tried not to polish too much", end quote.

He's not kidding. It's angst overlord and there's no such thing as polish if we're talking about a turd? Nah. That's too harsh. However. The production is raw and really gritty without ever trying to focus on more than one thing at the time. It's rather dodgy to be honest. The songs are average at its best, some are below, the voice is raspy as hell and the evil stepsisters cuts off toes, and the other heel so they can both fit into the shoes of RISE. Are we jealous of Cinderella's charm and music. Do we cruelly take advantage of Tom's musical past and the fact that anything by Cinderella would blow this out of the water? Well. The rather laid back "The Death Of Me" and the classy tune of "Waiting On The Demons" are not bad at all.

The big question, will the Fairy Godmother magically transforms a pumpkin into a carriage, the mice into horses, The Cinderella vocalists' horse into a coachman, and dog into a footman, before turning the ruined production into a shimmering soundscape and the shoes into glass slippers. Well... do remember that as Cinderella leaves for the ball, the Fairy Godmother warns that the spell will break at the stroke of midnight. The Bottomline: The glass slipper shatter on the floor - the end.

TWILIGHT FORCE: "Dawn Of The Dragonstar"

Rating: RR
Label: Nuclear Blast 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

There's a brand new 'Dawn Of The Dragonstar' at the castle of Twilight Force. There's also a brand new vocalist in the shape of Alessandro Conti (Trick or Treat, Luca Turilli's Rhapsody). What's more to reconsider or rather try and ignore? They have now gone even more Rhapsody Of Fire and kitsch and that's including the accent and everything that goes along with pizza and pasta. Not the best of idea. In fact. I would describe the band's latest album as something that mostly and perhaps only hordes of die-hard Rhapsody Of Fire fans may enjoy.

"With the Light of a Thousand Suns" borrows heavily from you know whom, but proceeds to add a jarring mix of choral vocals and soaring guitars, attempting to emulate the symphonic power metal of the past without getting remotely close. Nearly all the tracks continues with the same references, keeping it true to modern kitsch and galloping metal. To be frank. It's simply just not the same kind of quality and songmaterial as the latest effort by, say, Dragonforce. It's clear that The Twilights' are the mid-league championship team while the Dragons' are at the Premier league and Champions league.

There is so much lyrical nonsense to these songs that you could be forgiven for thinking you were being told a story about Tom Cruise and his "wonderful" life and religion. However. As a metal unit, they bring the music in all its colourful fantasy and cinema glory, and it's filled with not too shabby orchestration. It's the overall material and vocals that makes Twilight Force a band for the second league though. Final verdict: have a go at the 'Dawn Of The Dragonstar' if you simply can't get enough of the genre and style.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The DEFIANTS: "Zokusho"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Power Pop? Melodic Rock? or maybe Hair Metal? Don't you just hate the latter term? The cheeky "insult" to all the eighties bands as they are basically trying to say: it's all about hair, make-up, image, and not really music? But hey, what ever floats your boat. 'We all float down here and you will, too. In fact, they ALL FLOAT! THEY ALL FLOAT!' - oh piss-off, Pennywise. This is 'IT' rather than spooky clown shit. One thing's for sure. The Defiants are original and current Danger Danger members: Bruno Ravel (bass), Rob Marcello (guitars), now with drummer Steve West as a special guest, and of course former D2 vocalist and long-time AOR solo artist: Paul Laine.

In the same way Survivor brought AOR and Pop together to the masses, these chaps are mixing Party Metal and Pop with great result on "Zokusho. Their instantly recognizable austere yet insanely catchy and richly layered combination of guitar driven melodic hard rock and power-pop, it may still come as a mild surprise to realise just how many hooks and sing-a-long moments are on this album. Laine provide New Jersey vocals in the tradition of Bon Jovi, Franke & The Knockouts and Springsteen, while keeping in real and true to The Defiants' formula. He may just soar a little too high on "Stay", but it's at least the honest approach and not the computer or robot voice.

It's nothing new, you say? We've heard it all before, you say? Yeah. This may come as a surprise... there's no such thing as "completely new" in the year of 2019. It's all been done before and rock music hasn't experienced anything "new" (genre, style-wise, etc.) since the eighties. Tracks such as "Love Is The Killer", "Hollywood In Headlights", "Fallin’ For You", "Hold On Tonite", "U X'd My Heart", "Alive", sweeps you away to a place where all the colours, lights, and sounds are constantly playing in the background of your favourite movie or tv-show. Hair Metal City?

Perhaps not quite up there with a masterpiece, it's a friggin' catchy, consistent and pretty excellent sequel. On the one hand containing more yeah's and woah-oh elements of the trademark D2 style to satisfy fans of their later mature work, while on the other still showcasing more of their POP(py) influences to be of fascination to those unfamiliar with their earliest music and who want to experience the Jersey roots of the band members. The second chapter is indeed the intriguing platter, and it's been an enjoyable listen so far. Highly Recommended. facebook.com/TheDefiantsRockBand

BLOCK BUSTER: "Losing Gravity"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Block Buster? I thought they went out of business a long time ago? Appearantly not? You can still rent your VHS and DVD's in Finland where... wait... what? My bad. My spiritual guides from the other side are informing me that we're talking about the hard rock band formed by the Metsäpelto brothers Aarni (vocals/guitar) & Jaakko (drums) in Kuopio, Finland. Saatana Perkele! That could have been embarrassing. Still not as embarrassing as the press release and I quote, "The best way of describing their music: take AC/DC and Motörhead, spice it up with some Extreme and Bon Jovi, the rougher side of The Rolling Stones, throw in some hunger and energy of the rock torch carriers of the newer generation such as Airbourne and The Darkness, add a good dose of modern vibe to the mix and put it in a giant blender", end quote. Huh? No seriously... What??? I can't hear or find any trace of the fore-mentioned acts in their music?

Well... okay. Use your imagination and several bottles of Koskenkorva, and you might just find the tiniest trace of AC/DC, only not quite as raw or direct to the point. Then again. It could also just be the extremely loud guitars and amplifiers. You may pick up just as much Foo Fighters and Mustasch on this record. Let's not dwell on the subject any longer. Let's focus on the fact that "Losing Gravity" is a proper rock album where the Busters manage to avoid the certain metal death traps by investing in some serious adrenalin fuelled riffing. In fact. They go for the jugular faster than Dracula after a week trapped in his crypt. Or if you prefer the Zombie version and the need for your brain? It's not like you're using it anyhow?

Tracks such as "Out In the City", "Gone By The Morning", "Flammable", "Back From The Shadows", are all nicely produced and performed by the Flying Finns. Not always catchy as bushfire, but always energetic, loud, and straight in your face. It's the solid album effort without any real downers. They might be still looking for THAT special song to really lift them to the next level. But it's certainly good enough until their next effort. facebook.com/blockbusterband

25 YARD SCREAMER: "Natural Satellite"

Rating: RR
Label: White Knight 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

25 Yard Screamer? They are from Wales, you know. They should be raising their tiny little fists in anger and shouting obscenity to the ref about not getting awarded the penalty in their previous football match. 25 Yard Screamer?? Whatever. "Natural Satellite" is nevertheless their latest offering to the ancient Gods of Prog and various spectacles and flower-power nonsense.

The opening track of "Storyteller" and especially its intro may sound like circus macabre at first before turning into the very melodic rock tune. Not nearly as much Progressive Rock as expected and it's rather more Tomorrow's Child than Pink Floyd. I seriously doubt that people may still recall and remember the early/mid 90's group of Tomorrow's Child though? The following track, "Devastate", Styx meets Tommy Shaw goes solo and Nick James (vocals/guitars) may have been listening to quite a lot of Shaw material in the past? Add to this PORCUPINE TREE and you're even closer to home.

The start losing the plot around "The Silent Rising" and it's 15 minutes of proto gaga and lyrical moments that tell the strange tale about people that hides in the plain sight of all people, as they silently walks with the fearful. It sadly got worse and slightly more disturbing when "While We Are" are trying to convince us and I quote, 'while we drink, we are fun'. Gee... that's deep. The rest of its lyrical content, hardly worth the trouble and you really shouldn't be drinking and smoking all that stuff while putting down your message on record.

Although it's interesting to begin with, Natural Satellite just doesn't do it for me. In fact. By the end of it I have grown quite tired of what becomes a lot of detours and off-the-road driving. "It's an album that has had a varied and unexpected journey" say bassist Matt Clarke. Fair enough. It's just not my kind of Journey. No pun intended. But hey... don't stop believin'

Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARDOURS: "Last Place On Earth"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Ardours, a nu alternative gothic metal band featuring lead vocalist Mariangela Demurtas (Tristania) together with multi-instrumentalist and producer Kris Laurent. Originally formed in 2015, Ardours was the product of Mariangela and Kris' longstanding friendship from both of their involvements in the Sardinian (Italian) metal scene. In 2006, Mariangela moved from Italy and joined the Norwegian band Tristania, but she and Kris always kept in touch. They'll no doubt be accused of ripping off the likes of The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation's gothic approach as well as the vocal phrasing, and clearly shares their ability to dramatise their vivid point of reality. For instance, the title track speak of sad and depressive moments where "No matter how bright you shine. Your glitter will never be gold".

According to Mariangela, "Ardours has more rock and 80s influences compared to Tristania, including a bit of new wave sound which is something that me and Kris love. When I chose to be part of this project, I knew I wanted to sound very expressive without being technical so that I could give a more nostalgic sound to the words", end quote. Since Mariangela wanted Ardours to be a melting pot of different personalities to add to the unique flavour of the songwriting, she decided to ask Tristania's drummer/lyricist Tarald Lie to write the lyrics and record the drums for the album. The mix of these three elements has resulted in a style, straddling the lines between rock, metal and goth.

They certainly don't shun sentiment and sadness rather than embraces it, where the moving stories of missing you, goodbye, this is the end on "Last Moment" and "The Mist" are prime examples of old skool 80s Goth meet modern ditto. The keyboards/synths are very much upfront on many of the tracks and are at the same time very bombastic and utterly dark. More to be found of the catchy and direct 'No One Is Listening'? I certainly have and I find their messages and stories about melanchoy and sadness to be rather... ehh... uplifting?? Last Place On Earth is a good place with the right kind of atmosphere... if you're into female fronted nu/alt/goth. facebook.com/ardoursband

Thursday, September 5, 2019

ROBERT RANDOLPH & The Family Band: "Brighter Days"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

New Jeresy? Orange, baby! and it's proper old skool Roadhouse material from the word go. Robert Randolph grew up playing sacred steel music – gospel played on pedal steel guitar – on the House of God church and began taking his joyous, gospel-infused music out to clubs and into the world. The Grammy-nominated musician and his band consisting of various family members (minus the dodgy uncle down the basement) are going back to Randolph's gospel roots, mixing it up with blues, R&B, soul, funk, and the unmistaken sound of the pedal steel guitar.

I've been playing this non-stop for weeks now (release date was delayed) and I can safely say that "Brighter Days" speak of quality and there's hardly a poor track in sight and certainly no dodgy musicianship. The massive sideburns and groovy 70's vibe is set perfectly by the great production by Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Brandi Carlile) and by Robert Randolph's gravelly voice cutting through the hordes of wailing keys and steel guitars. Sister Lenesha Randolph is a little ripper on vocals and cousins Danyel Morgan on bass and Marcus Randolph on drums are rock steady throughout the platter.

The family band flawlessly construct each track, injecting joy and hope of brighter days, avoiding the often similar structure of the genre and put themselves up there alongside R&B finest. Opening track "Baptize Me" provides slide and gravelly voice of highest order. According to Randoplh the song is "a love story, about an all-round love: for each other, for our audience", end quote. "Don't Fight It" takes the gospel to the people with a driving mood and big beat drums alongside excellent slide guitar work. "Simple Man" is a smashing cover of the old Staple Singers composition and I'm sure Pops would nod and smile along to RR's version (Mavis too for that matter). Highly Recommended.

KENTISH SPIRES: "Sprezzatura"

Rating: RRRr
Label: bandcamp/1973 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

In a dodgy music culture and time when plastic and pace seem to be the new order, The Kentish Spires' approach to musicianship and recording is certainly worthy of some praise. They haven't gone apes**t over the compositions and there's plenty of space between all instruments, allowing all the band members to shine like radioactive cats in the dark. Everything is so friggin' clean and crystal clear that I couldn't help but think about the sterile landscape of atomic winter when I first heard it.

More than this? there's nothing? Oi! We're not talking about Roxy Music. It's the Canterbury-style Prog at full swing. However, the choice of sound and structure favours the quirky arrangements and that is clearly first noticed on the opening tracks of "Overture (instumental)" and "A Sea Shanty". They are both part of the trilogy of Knots. The experienced musician of Danny Chang (guitars, keyboards, producer), no doubt the Captain of the ship and he's taking his merry crew on a journey across the seven seas where you're not supposed to shoot the Albatross?

It's definitely also worth pointing out the Spires effective use of light and shade vs. the moody keyboards and woodwind. The cinematic "Horsa From Beyond The Grave" seems to be a cross or the bridge between the ancient year of 1970 and today, while "The Long Goodbye" goes through several different changes of Prog and Spacey Rock with an infectious melody. Vocalist Lucie is a shining star in the making and as the sound travels through the different years´of rock (even though it's mostly 70s styled prog), the album seem to have the confuse/intrigue thy listener as its official agenda of the day. Atmospheric Prog-Rock and moody fragmented musical arrangements constantly collide with experimental pieces and you can feel the force of all of them at once. Final verdict: Perhaps not quite as great as their debut. Still recommended if you're into Canterbury and old skool Prog though. thekentishspires.bandcamp.com/a> facebook.com/TheKentishSpires/a>

SPREAD EAGLE: "Subway To The Stars"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Switchblade Serenade", one of the cool songs from MTV past that you might still find on... ehh... youtube?? Spread Eagle is however the name and position and punky sleaze is the game. They actually reformed already back in 2006 under the direction of original members Ray West (vocals) and bassist Rob DeLuca (who has also worked with UFO and Sebastian Bach) along with two new members, Ziv Shalev (guitar) and Rik De Luca (drums). The New York band has been together ever since and finally decided to record the comeback album aka "Subway To The Stars".

What to expect from the band? A slightly updated sound and vision, but still rather true to their roots. West is not quite as high-pitched nowadays and the dirty, gritty sound of something like "Grand Scam" may not always fly under the wings of the original Eagle. I like it though. It's rough stuff, straight-in-your face, and very much energic. According to the lyrics, "We've been sleeping where the eagle lies under evil skies that never fail to monetize the plan". Yeah? History repeating? It's the Sex Pistols' story all over again.

Recording took place at Studio E in Brooklyn, NY with Grammy Award winning engineer Tom Camuso. There's a punky and dark groove to the material with many tracks shining as potential head smashing faves. It's ever so melancholy and anti-social though. In fact. It's borderline grungy on several tracks and always snotty punky without the usual happy ending. Do not expect eighties AOR or hair metal from the Eagles and you might just do fine. You'll probably end up in the pit, madly dancing along to their vicious melodies. Try it if you enjoyed the latest album from LA Guns also at Frontiers. facebook.com/spreadeaglenyc/

UNRULY CHILD: "Big Blue World"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The unruly children have always been driven by the power of melodic melodies and soft rock. Let's face it. Music can by something as direct as one chord hitting just the right nerve at the right moment or as simple as a group of people coming together to create the rather sophisticated rock album. Uber glossy and simply filled with great vocal harmonies, "Big Blue World", takes its listener on a ride throughout the poppy melodic scene and car cruising moments under the cover of the bright neon lights.

So.. is it all good, all GTA Vice City, all bright lights, AOR music to move your feets? This time around we'll be Breaking The Chains? Are these words enough? Well... let's see if she floats. It's really not about the one-hit-song rather than a decent and safe pop/rock album effort with plenty of layers and clever arrangements. Perhaps a tad too clever at times? Something like, "All Over The World", tend to get on your nerves with its "hey-look-at-me-stuck-in-second-gear-going-nowhere" kind of beat. "Beneath A Steady Rain", again, uber slick and the harmonies are straight out of AOR heaven. It's just a wee bit too pretencious and this particular piano ballad goes straight to the recycling bin. It's second rate Michael Jackson meets Celine Dion music and not even the great legend that is Marcie Free (King Kobra, Signal) can save it in the end. On the other hand... the following track, The Harder They Will Fall", featuring the classic Winston Churchill speech as also used by Iron Maiden, rawks nicely along the road.

The majority of the tracks are just too "middle of the road" and we really do expect more and better from the otherwise great Guy Allison and Bruce Gowdy. Me thinks the band should do what others (sorta') did in the past and put a disclaimer sticker on their product saying, "This album in no way endores a disbelief in the sophisticated and safe". Because that's the final verdict of the album -a wee bit  too sophisticated and safe.

ROXY BLUE: "Roxy Blue"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Want Some? Sure... but the cheesy introduction might just do the trick? Seriously, I did not see this coming and I doubt that many or any folks did? Originally signed to Geffen Records and brought to this world on a rocket ship full of hairspray and party hardy songs, it's a completely different trip and space walk in the year of 2019. In fact. Simply forget about everything you might recall on the subject of Roxy Blue or songs such as Too Hot To Handle. They now look, sound, and play their vicious US of A music as if they were crazy post-WWIII bikers on speed?

No doubt vocalist Todd Poole is mad and angry at the world? He screams, spits, and howls like a man possesed. Poole says: "I think the new record is definitely a different sound than the 1992 version of ROXY BLUE, but not unrecognizable. The new record is much heavier, but still has some cool ballads and hints of early ROXY in there. I feel that it's a well-balanced record". Well... let's just say that the aggressive biker sleaze vs. Hinder rock have absolutely nothing in common with the Warrant vs. Bulletboys debut of the past. Surely they tried to be Van Halen, but they sounded more like Bulletboys, and that's never really a good sign in my books.

The self titled release in 2019, the new start and also the new sound. The opening tracks, "Silver Lining", "Rockstar Junkie", "Scream" are all modern sleaze numbers. Hardly any harmonies or singing guitars, merely blunt and aggressive stuff lacking both finess and hooks. Why the comeback and new music as Roxy Blue when it has very little or nothing to do with what the 92 version of the band brought us? Let's face it, it's mostly about nostalgia and old fans anyhow. Then again, perhaps the truth is rather... they were never really that great in the first place??? facebook.com/OfficialRoxyBlue

VISIONATICA: "Enigma Fire"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Wait... what? yet another Glasya album? (see review elsewhere). Nah. It's merely just another symphonic metal album with crystal clear female soprano vocals combined with powerful melodic guitars and orchestral elements. It's once again the whole darn package including the classically trained vocalist (Tamara Avodem) and the rather mad, but rather excellent, over-the-top guitarist (Manuel Buhl). And like forementioned Glasya, the strenght of the band, no doubt the vocalist and not nearly as much the song material.

Not as diverse nor original as you'd wish to tell you the truth. There's not much here in terms of style and arrangements that you haven't heard many times before. You'd wish for a few better stonkers and a few more chances wouldn't have gone a miss either to be honest. Kudos for the production and the simply desperate fan of acts such as Within Temptation, Nightwish, Delain, Xandria, etc. might just still get a kick out of these tracks until the next big album of the genre arrives. Personally, I couldn't remember a lot from this album as I woke up the following day and week for that matter. Conclusion and final verdict: Tamara is a star and has a wicked voice but the material is anything but memorable. facebook.com/visionatica

GLASYA: "Heaven's Demise"

Rating: Rr
Label: Pride&Joy 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Glasya was founded by Hugo Esteves in 2016 with one main purpose: to become the new Ronaldo? or to create a musical project that would join full orchestral arrangements with metal. Esteves was already familiar with symphonic metal, but wanted to do it in a more dramatic and cinematographic way. Add to this, Bruno Ramos, former drummer of My Deception, Davon Van Dave, a Dutch-Portuguese keyboard player (Urban Tales and Shadowsphere), Bruno Prates and Manuel Pinto, former members of Enchantya. All have many different influences, from classic to progressive, creating a very stylish and distinctive sound which offers symphonic, ethnic, slow emotional songs and powerful metal riffs.

The leading star is however, Eduarda Soeiro, the front-woman of the band and clearly something out of the ordinary. The high-pitch vocals are high as a thousand kites and in the long run, the singing tend to get on your poor reviewers nerves. The former singer of the Portuguese Nightwish tribute band, Nightdream, and being a classical performer and trained singer, you should perhaps only try this at home if you fancy the mix of classical performances and the Nightwish-ish outbursts. Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy the odd high-pitch stuff... if they're as great (and quirky) as say, Kate Bush. Heaven's Demise on the other hand? Nah. It must be the accent and daytime TV drama that doesn't work on this particular platter? The songmaterial is darn right annoying and very much, been there, done that. Back to the drawing board and let's hope for better on their next recording.