Thursday, March 24, 2022

BATTLE BEAST: "Circus Of Doom"

 


Rating: RRRR

Label: Nuclear Blast

Review: Kimmo Toivonen

The third album since the rebirth of the band sees Battle Beast going for an ever more grandiose, bombastic sound. Orchestration and big choirs galore, and vocalist Noora Louhimo belting it out... this is massive music indeed. 

The first half of the album contains most  of the bombastic material, while on the second half the band lighten the mood a little with the likes of "Russian Roulette" and "The Road To Avalon", both blessed with irrestistable pop-metal hooks. They're among my favourites, as is the similary catchy "Eye Of The Storm".   "Wings Of Light" and "Armageddon" are hook-laden tracks too, but somehow they remind me a lot of Anette-era Nightwish. Not that it's a bad thing.

The straight-forward power metal of the first Battle Beast albums is pretty much a thing of the past, but I for one don't miss it. 

https://battlebeast.fi


ZADRA: "Guiding Star"

 


Review: RRRr

Label: Frontiers

Review: Kimmo Toivonen

Guitarist/vocalist August Zadra has worked with Dennis De Young and Waiting For Monday, but now he has stepped into the limelight as the frontman of ZADRA, a project named after him. People involved include Jeff Scott Soto, Alessandro Del Vecchio and many more, even Dennis De Young plays a keyboard solo on one of the songs. 

For what it's worth, this doesn't sound like a typical Frontiers project. This is a rather varied one, with some songs harking back to the seventies, when Kansas, Journey and Styx ruled the airwaves. "Take My Hand" for example - very much in the Kansas mould. The same goes for the short, oddball intro song "Come Together". Then again, "Nothing More To Say" skips the next decade and fall into the early nineties' AOR mood, when bands like Tall Stories were adding a bit of an alternative vibe to their sound.

My favourite tracks fall somewhere between the 80's sound and contemporary AOR: "Ship Of Fools", "Escape The Rain" and "I'll Meet You In Heaven". I guess they're some of the more traditional melodic rock songs, but I can't help it, I'm a sucker for big choruses and certain familiarity!

Talking about familiarity, "Come Back To Me" goes beyond that. It took me a minute to figure it out, but then it hit me: the song wants desperately to be Tommy Shaw's "Dangerous Game"! It isn't, but it's disturbingly close... 

https://www.facebook.com/augustzadramusic


TEN: "Here Be Monsters"

 


Rating: RRRRr

Label: Frontiers

Review: Kimmo Toivonen

Apparently the first of two albums put together at the same time, "Here Be Monsters" is what Gary Hughes and co. did during the downtime of Covid years. The sequel will see the light of day later this year I guess, much like the double shot of first two TEN albums back in 1996. 

I have to say that the last couple of Ten albums haven't really done much for me, but I'm glad to say that on this album Gary Hughes seems to have found his knack for great melodies again. It's not like he's changed the sound or style of the band dramatically, but somehow many of these songs represent the essence of Ten quite brilliantly - poetic, intelligent lyrics, melancholic melodies and catchy hooks, not to mention stellar musicianship and of course Gary's deep voice.

I like just about all the songs on the album, but from track 2 to track 7 the band showcase 5 songs all worthy of a placement on a "Best Of Ten" playlist, future Ten classics such as "Hurricane", "The Dream That Fell To Earth" and "Chapter And Psalm", to name a few. 

One minor complaint though - a few of the songs start quite similary, with the chorus melody sung by Gary on top of sparse instrumentation. But that's about it, "Here Be Monsters" goes straight to the top 5 of Ten albums for sure!

www.tenoffcial.com

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

FM: "Thirteen"

 

LABEL: Frontiers

RATING: RRRRr 

 Review By: Alan Holloway 

Not to be confused with Black Sabbath's identically titled album from 2013 (hey – it could happen), '13' is, unsurprisingly, UK melodic rock stalwarts FM's thirteenth album, as long as we all agree that 'Rockville' I & II were two albums, which they were. Playing on the traditionally spooky 'Friday The 13th' thing, the cover has a haunted house on it, though knowing FM it's full of kittens and unicorns, because they ain't no scary band!

In what seems to be a deliberate move these days, the album starts with a more chugging track rather than smooth AOR. You can file 'Shaking The Tree' with such openers as 'Black Magic' or 'Digging Up The Dirt' and, like those tracks, it's a serviceable opener that amused me when it used the hoary old line 'Seen it in the paper, heard it on the news'. Things pick up with 'Waiting On Love', the catchy, energetic and AOR-tastic first single, whilst 'Talk Is Cheap' is another heavier track with a good melody and cracking chorus. Last in the opening salvo is the best track on the album (for me, anyway), and that's 'Turn This Car Around'. Currently available as the second promo single, this is FM at their absolute melodic rock peak, with a really energetic pace, a great chorus and the chance for Steve Overland to demonstrate exactly why he's regarded as a master of the melodic singing arts.

As this is an FM album, we get a ballad, which comes in half way through the album. 'Long Road Home'; is a beautifully soulful track with a spoonful of blues heaped on top. Perhaps the catchiest chorus award has to go to 'Be Lucky', and it's a stronger reviewer than me who isn't humming 'If you can't be good, be lucky' for the rest of the day after hearing it just once. Saying that, it's followed by the punchy and bluesy 'Every Man Needs A Woman', which has a proper “whoah whoah” in the chorus that does it's best to kick the previous track out of your earworm cavity. FM are bastards for this, and 'Thirteen' has plenty of moments that come back to haunt you as you're trying to get off to sleep.

'Thirteen' is, for me, a real shot in the arm for FM after 2020s 'Synchronized', which was an enjoyable album but not a killer. This one is a blast from start to finish, the usual eleven tracks (should have been thirteen, really...) with no experimentation, no heroics in sight. A great FM album is made by the songs, and this one has an excess of quality tracks, flitting between chunkier, bluesy stuff and pure AOR without missing a beat. It's a given that the band don't miss a track musically, as they're one of the tightest units in the game, and whilst Steve Overland gets deserved praise for the vocals, never forget the efforts of Jupp, Goldsworthy, Davis and Kirkpatrick, now entering their fourteenth year as a full band.

Fucking Marvellous... 

Official Website 

Monday, February 21, 2022

WOLVESPIRIT: "Change The World"


LABEL: Spirit Stone

RATING: RRRr

Review by Martien Koolen

"Change The World" is Wolvespirit's 6th studio album and again it is an album with energetic classic rock songs, produced in the Southern Ground Studios in Nashville. In this legendary studio bands like The Foo Fighters, Eric Clapton, The Rival Sons and The Allman Brothers band recorded some of their albums, so this is almost holy ground indeed! 

Wolvespirit is a German band, hailing from Wurzburg, with an American singer Debbie Craft and as I said before this is authentic classic rock in the veins of Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, and Iron Butterfly. Opening track "Don't You Know" is indeed a fine and great introduction to this new album, featuring a very heavy riff and a subtle Hammond organ melody. "Thunder And Lightning" is a bluesy song, while "Over The Rainbow" is rather calm and easy. "Strong Against The Wind" is a true rock anthem, "Time Is Running" a groovy track, while "Hells Bells Are Ringing" is truly up tempo and reminds me of ZZ Top. Highlights are "Strong Against The Wind", a rocking anthem and "Time Is Running", a very groovy song with an addictive chorus. 

Conclusion: a great album indeed featuring melodic classic hard rock galore, certainly Wolvespirit's best effort so far!

https://www.wolvespirit.com

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

GIANT: "Shifting Time"


Rating: RRRR

Label: Frontiers 2022

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

It's the third coming of GIANT! The legendary AOR band released two classics of the genre back in 1989 and 1992. The "second coming" took place in 2010 with Terry Brock on vocals. While some didn't consider a real Giant album because of the absence of original vocalist/guitars Dann Huff, it didn't meet as much resistance as this third attempt. Granted, Dann Huff was more involved in that one. Many of the songs were co-written by him, and he played two solos on the album. 

Dann Huff gave his blessing to original members David Huff and Mike Brignardello to continue as Giant, but apart from one solo, he's not involved in creating "Shifting Time". Instead the album has been written by Frontiers' in-house team led by Alessandro Del Vecchio and band's current vocalist Kent Hilli. 

Knowing the number of songs Del Vecchio's songwriting team has released during the last year or so, I was quite worried. Thankfully, these songs are mostly first class stuff. There are obvious nods to the Giant legacy here and there, but most songs stand as their own and not as replicas of old classics.

Kent Hilli is one of my favourite "new" vocalists, and he does a good job here. I like the overall sound and instrumentation as well, so while this may not be the original Giant, it's far from being something that ruins the legacy.

The first single and opening track "Let Our Love Win" didn't exactly raise my expectations, as it sounds like a half-hearted attempt to write a "typical Giant rocker". However, the next three songs "Never Die Young", "Don't Say A Word" and "My Breath Away" are very good AOR tracks, you can hear a Giant influence but they are not carbon copies of old songs. "Highway Of Love" and the ballad "It's Not Over" are less interesting, but "The Price Of Love" ranks as one of the highlights. The first bars of the verses are stolen from "It Takes Two", but the chorus is pure AOR magic which more than makes up for this little theft. Or "tribute", whatever you call it.

"Standing Tall" doesn't work for me at all, but do I like the ballad "Anna Lee" and "Don't Wanna Lose You". The closing number "I Walk Alone" is possibly the album's best song, a massive semi-ballad that can proudly stand alongside Giant classics such as "I'll See You In My Dreams" and "Save Me Tonight". Del Vecchio and Hilli have captured the essence of Giant, added some European flavour and the result is massive.