Monday, September 27, 2021

MINI-REVIEWS, Summer of 2021, part two: Eurodance The Metal Way, The Brave, Circus Of Rock, Proud, Alirio, Winding Road, Powerwolf, Tim, Angeline, Laurenne/Louhimo

Album round-up / Summer of 2021 (Part Two)

Mini-reviews by Kimmo Toivonen

Just like last summer, I’ve decided to put together a couple of ”round-ups”, short reviews of recent album releases. Here’s the second batch. 

”EURODANCE, THE METAL WAY” (rating: ???) by various artists is just what it says, metal covers of 90’s eurodance hits. The artists are underground bands, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of most of them before. Then again, I can’t claim to be an expert of the underground extreme metal scene. Anyway, some of the covers are pretty funny, some strange and some totally hideous. I like well-done metal covers of pop songs, but these go mostly way beyond that. Some of the strangest ones include Scuriu’s doomy instrumental version of Corona’s ”Rhythm Of The Night”, Vadge Fang’s oddball System Of A Down-influenced ”Falling For A Witch” (originally by E-rotic) and Everlust’s Ace Of Base-cover ”Happy Nation”, which doesn’t sound happy at all. DevilsBridge’s version of Ace Of Base’s ”The Sign” is probably most ”faithful” to the original, there are no growled vocals and the melody of the song is left pretty much as it is. A couple of the songs don’t really fit the theme,  Jamiroquai and Depeche Mode…hardly what is considered Eurodance? 

THE BRAVE are back with ”Evie’s Little Garden” (RRRR)!  The Christian rockers’ debut album ”Battle Cries” from 1992 is a bit of a cult classic: produced by the Elefante brothers, it was full of hookladen songs. The band released another album a couple of years later, but it was a disappointment. After a 20-year hiatus the band was reformed with a female singer, and released an album of remakes and some new stuff in 2014. Now the band has released their third full album of new material, with original guitarist Stayce Roberts stepping up to the lead vocalist position. He does a good job, and the some of new songs are like natural progression from ”Battle Cries”. Sure, they’ve picked a few new influences along the way, but the hooks of the debut have made a welcome return. Just listen to the title track, ”And We All Fall Down” or the hauntingly beautiful ”Come To Me”. 

CIRCUS OF ROCK is an all-star project put together by drummer Mirka Rantanen (King Company, ex-Hevisaurus). The album ”Come One, Come All” (RRRr) is strangely enough a little bit less than the sum of its’ parts. Rantanen has enlisted some of the best singers around and most of the songs are good.  Still, I haven’t gone back to this album as much as I thought I would. There’s maybe a couple of songs too many on the album and the standout hits are missing. ”Desperate Cry” (sung by Johnny Gioeli), ”Never” (Kimmo Blom), ”Plywood Covered Windows And Crappy Shoes” (Antti Railio) and No Reason (Marc Quee) are very close  though. Fans of former Nightwish bassist/singer Marco Hietala might want to know that he does a comeback of sorts on this album, singing ”Sheriff Of Ghost Town”. 

Swedish band PROUD released their first album in 1984, and now in 2021 they’re releasing their ”Second Act” (RRRr). That’s a fairly long break they took… I haven’t heard the first one, but the second album sounds almost like it could have been recorded in 1984 too. There are very few ”modern” elements, this is timeless melodic heavy rock in the vein of 80ies Rainbow, Europe and Whitesnake. Solid stuff from start to finish, but no song rises above the rest, and therefore the fourth ”r” is just a small one.

Frontiers Records seem to have taken interest in South America’s talent lately. One of the latest signings from that part of the world is Brazilian singer ALIRIO. He’s a well-known name in his native country, famous for his work in several musicals and from the bands Khallice, Age Of Artemis and  Shaman. ”All Things Must Pass” (RRR) is his first international solo album. Alirio is definitely a good and versatile singer, and he gets to showcase that on this album. The songs are mostly what I’d call ”modern mainstream pop/rock”, think Nickelback, Daughtry, Hinder… even Robbie Williams. At times I feel like listening to a covers album, because some of the songs sound very familiar, yet aren’t. My favourite songs: ”Let It All Burn” and ”Grey”.

WINDING ROAD is another Swedish AOR group, which is probably enough information for some people to hand out their money.  Sure enough, their self-titled first album is a RRRr-worthy effort of pleasant melodic rockin’. Maybe even slightly too pleasant and predictable, because the edges have been pretty much polished away. Then again, I can’t deny that most of the songs are very good and have all the ingredients that I like. It’s just that some spices are missing to make them really memorable! Recommended for fans of Work Of Art, Bad Habit and the likes.

POWERWOLF. Basically Sabaton with corpsepaint, with songs about vampires instead of war? Well, I don’t know if that’s fair, but both bands do play bombastic power metal and have found themselves a certain identity that separates them from countless other power metal bands. ”Call Of The Wild” (RRRR) is the first Powerwolf album I’ve given a lot of spins, and I like it. They have a handful of extremely catchy songs on it, including ”Beast Of Gevaudan”, ”Dancing With The Dead” and the title track. Granted, there are times when the pompousness goes a bit overboard, ”Blood for Blood (Faoladh)” borders on being ridiculous. And isn’t ”Varcolac” something you take for diarrhea?

Now here’s one from the archives: TIM is the band’s name and the album is self-titled (rating RRRr). These songs were recorded these in 1983, and miraculously remained unreleased. Featuring notable Chicago area studio musicians, the band were aiming to be ”Chicago’s Toto”, according to guitarist Bruce Gaitch. Sure enough, had these songs seen the light of day back in 1983 and given a major label boost, Tim might have stolen some of Toto’s thunder. Thom Griffin of Trillion provides edgy lead vocals which remind me of Fergie Frederiksen (Toto’s ”Isolation” lead vocalist). Does this album have songs as classic as ”Hold The Line” or ”Africa”? No, but certainly enough good material to please a Toto fan. 

ANGELINE. Guess where they’re from? Yep, Sweden. The band has more or less active for over 30 years, but they have a really fresh, yet classic sound. Their new album ”We Were Raised On Radio” (RRRr) doesn’t sound like old geezers going through motions. They’re not trying to hide that they’re ”old geezers” though, the title track says it all. The album gets a good start with a few really nice, melodic rock songs, but after the fourth song the band seem to lose their focus and try to cover too many bases. The 60’s sounding ”Baby Come Back” sticks out like a sore thumb for example. ”Halfway To Anywhere” is the clear winner from the second half of the album. 

LAURENNE/LOUHIMO is a Finnish project with two strong vocalists, Netta Laurenne of Smackbound and Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo. Netta has written and produced the songs of The Reckoning (RRR) with his husband Nino Laurenne (Thunderstone, Hevisaurus), and they’re solid traditional heavy metal. Think Priest, Dio, Maiden, Doro… great vocals, excellent production and good songs, but none of them really stood out. I was hoping for more.