Thursday, November 9, 2023

DOKKEN: "Heaven Comes Down"

Label: Frontiers

Rating: RRR

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The new album from Dokken is better than I expected, but then again, I didn't expect much. There are a few solid songs on it, but a certain kind of blandness or flatness stops them from rising to the next level. With Don Dokken's diminished range, the melodies can't really take off like they used to do in classic Dokken songs, but he does his best with what he's got. He's been through all kinds of trouble, so all things considered, he doesn't sound that bad.

It's strange that the opener and first single is "Fugitive", where Don's voice sounds very rough. He does much better on most of the other songs, and Mark Boals' soaring background vocals enhance the choruses. Guitarist Jon Levin has to be mentioned too, his guitar work is very much in the vein of vintage Dokken.

My favourite song is the ballad "I'll Never Give Up", the other power ballad "I Remember" is pretty good too. "Gypsy" is the strongest rocker, the likes of "Just Like A Rose" and "Over The Mountain" are decent enough, and "Lost In You" could have been a contender, it sounds like a good Dokken song played at half-speed. 

The stripped-down "Santa Fe" is a bit of a departure from the overall sound of the album, it reminds me a bit of Styx's "Boat On The River". A campfire storytelling song and quite nice actually, with a lot of warmth in Don's voice.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

ROCK BLOG #25: Nitrate, Vitalines, Midnite City, Taage and more.

Spotify, it’s a blessing and a curse. I like that I have just about all the albums in my headphones or speakers when they’re released, but I also hate that. Being somewhat obsessed, I want to check out a lot of releases, but It’s not possible for me to listen to music all the time. I always wonder how some people make social media posts about 8-9 albums and say that ”this is my playlist for today” - I couldn’t possibly listen to that many albums in a day, even on a day off work… of course people have different lives, some can play music at work and as background music all the time. 

Back in the day, the number of new, interesting album releases wasn’t nearly as high as these days. Still, I didn’t have access to all of them, and the ones I got were played over and over. Nowadays, living with an album for weeks and weeks isn’t really possible. Depending on the mood, sometimes I just want to go back to the familiar stuff and listen to the all-time favourites or revisit something that I haven’t heard in a while. Should I go back to the 80's style and just listen to one or two albums for a week? But then I'd miss out a lot of music...

Anyway, in this blog entry I’ll go through some of the new stuff I’ve checked out, and possibly some old stuff too. 

There’s been a buzz about the new NITRATE album ”Feel The Heat” (RRRRr), and it’s truly deserved. Now with the Martin Brothers Tom and James (Vega, Khymera, Ted Poley etc) firmly in the band, writing and producing, the band has leaped into the A-list of modern-day AOR bands. The band was formed a few years ago by bassist/songwriter Nick Hogg, and the band’s first album featured vocals by Joss Mennen (Zinatra, Mennen), while the second one was sung by Swedish vocalist Philip Lindstrand. The last two albums the lead singer has been another Swede, Alexander Strandell of Art Nation and Crowne fame. Strandell has a strong hold of the ”Vocalist of the Year” title, with 3 solid releases this year, one from each of his bands! 

With a big-sounding production and some synth wave vibes, this album could very well appeal to a wide audience, especially when in its’ core there are some very catchy and melodic songs. Not that many of the hits of today rely on melodies…

The songs range from pure AOR (check out ”Satellite”, which reminds me of Bad English) to slightly harder-edged, guitar-driven sounds of ”Strike Like A Hurricane” or ”Haven’t Got Time For Heartache”, which sound like songs that could be sold to Scorpions! Personal favourites include also ”Needs A Little Love”, ”All The Right Moves”, ”Wild In The City”… in fact, only the ballads ”One Kiss (To Save My Heart)” (featuring Issa) and ”Stay” haven’t really won me over, even though they are both good songs.

Out of last Friday’s releases, I’ve briefly checked out former On The Rise guy TERJE’s ”Recalibrate” (RRR), which has its moments but also some rather basic hard rock numbers. Solid enough, and harder-rocking than On The Rise. 

DAVE & THE DUDES features former Fighter V vocalist David Niederberger, but musically ”Down For The Count” (RRR) is more timeless classic rock than his previous band. Good-spirited party rock, fun to listen to but none of the songs really left a lasting impression.

VITALINES’ album ”Wheels Within Wheels” (RRRr) is a collaboration between Find Me/Blanc Faces vocalist Robbie LeBlanc and Swedish guitarist/producer Tommy Denander. AOR is the name of the game, some Totoesque moments as usual with Denander’s work and great vocals as usual when Robbie LeBlanc is behind the microphone. Mark Mangold (Touch, Drive,She Said) is also involved, co-writing the standout track ”Love And Thunder”. His old song ”You Never Know With Magic” has been re-recorded for this album, it was previously released on the Mystic Healer album. 

The latest THEOCRACY album ”Mosaic” (RRRR at this point) I’ve only heard once, but despite its’ fairly complicated music, I could easily tell that we’re talking about a very good melodic metal album. I just like Matt Smith’s sense of melody. I will surely give this more spins.

I’ve kind of overlooked MIDNITE CITY’s ”In At The Deep End” (RRRR), another solid album from the band. It was released a while ago but got lost in the shuffle or something like that. The boys have done a good job replicating the sounds of late eighties / early nineties melodic hard rock, with the closest reference being Danger Danger. This might be the most AOR-influenced album of theirs, with several mid-tempo, keyboard-heavy songs. Standout tracks include ”All Fall Down” and ”Girls Gone Wild”, which is really a tribute to Danger Danger, it could be called ”Don’t Blame It On A Shot of Bang Bang Love”! Catchy as hell though, so I’m not complaining.

Another album that really got lost in the shuffle was released back in 2021. We’re talking about a Finnish release with Finnish lyrics, the first solo album from TAAGE, ”Carpe Diem” (RRRR), the vocalist of Kilpi and Altaria. I just never got around to checking it out, although it was available for free at Bandcamp or some other place. Now it’s on Spotify, and today I finally remembered it. And whatdoyaknow, it’s good! All music is written by the mysterious RIITIS, whose name you can find on several Finnish releases, including Circus Of Rock, Transworld Identity and Tuple. He’s a prolific songwriter who writes good melodic rock songs, and he’s been around since the eighties, when his band SKÄDÄM was a rather big name here. 

”Carpe Diem” is more melodic and less metal than Taage’s other bands. You’ll hear touches of Foreigner and Rainbow in these songs. If you’re Finnish, here’s a comparison - imagine a hard rock version of YÖ with good vocals! 

Check out the album from Spotify, and check out also the great single ”Syyskuun 15. Yö”, which isn’t on the album. As far as I know, there isn’t a physical release available.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

ROCK BLOG #24: WEST ALLEY, MASAKI and STRANGERLAND reviews, a few words about PETRA too

This time the focus is on a few newer bands, who have recently released their first albums.

Let’s start with WEST ALLEY. Just like many of the ”newcomers” of recent years, they’ve actually been around the block a few times, and the roots of the band go all the way to the eighties. ”A Night To Remember” (RRRR) is the name of the album, and the title track is the opener. Frankly, it doesn’t represent the sound of the album very well, it’s lightweight west coast pop which reminds me of a cheesy advertisement from the seventies or something like that. But fear not! The band crank it up and start rocking after that, and come up with deliciously melodic songs with nice hooks, one after another. The punchy ”Miracles Can Happen” is my favourite, but ”Angels”, ”How Many Hearts” and ”Colors Of Love” are close behind. Plenty of Toto-isms can be heard, and nods to other AOR greats such as Survivor and Journey. And doesn’t vocalist Marcus Björkroth’s higher register sound quite a lot like Jean Beauvoir’s?

MASAKI might sound like a name for an asian band, but they are from Norway. Looking at their videos I’d guess that the band’s average age is few years less than that of West Alley’s. Some of the band members have been in STONEFLOWER, but for this project they’ve adopted the artist name of their lead singer JOHN MASAKI, who is a profilic performer in the Norwegian music scene. He’s been in Norwegian Idol, several big musicals and other productions. ”FEED THE FLAME” (RRRR) is their debut, and it’s a good album, classic AOR sound with modern pop and prog elements. They have some interesting lyrics too. For example, one of the album highlights ”Angel Wings” seems to take a critical stance at religious hypocrisy. Other noteworthy songs include ”Stone Cold” and ”Almost Paradise”, all three mentioned found their place on my ”Highlights of 2023” playlist. Mr. Masaki himself sounds a lot like Tracy White, the vocalist of Shotgun Symphony and Intruder.

My favourite of these three new releases is STRANGERLAND and their album ”Echoes From The Past” (RRRRr). Strangerland is a project of Greek musician ALEX PATMAN who’s responsible for guitars, keyboards, songwriting and production I believe. The vocals are provided by US singer DAVID CAGLE, who does a fantastic job. His smooth vocals really suit these tracks, which remind me of Treat, Harlan Cage and Khymera. I especially like the melancholic mid-tempo songs ”Until My Heart”, ”Summer Nights” and ”Calling You”, while out of the uptempo ones ”Tears In My Eyes” and ”Whenever It Rains” are among my favourites too. Not to mention the magnificent ballad ”Time”. I’m surprised that this album hasn’t gotten that much attention, it’s certainly one of my top albums of this year.

Apart from new music, during the last few days I’ve been listening to a lot of PETRA albums. They really had a nice streak of three excellent albums in the late eighties, starting with ”This Means War” (1987), followed by ”On Fire” (1988) and ”Beyond Belief” (1990). They released a ”praise” album in 1989 but I’m choosing to ignore that one, it’s not really an album of original Petra songs. 

These three albums are the absolute jewels of the band’s discography, and all three feature the Elefante brothers John and Dino as producers/co-writers. The Elefantes worked on the albums before and after these three, but they’re not in the same league, although both of them do have their moments.

If you’re not familiar with Petra, they’re a Christian rock band with a strong message. They never managed to cross over to mainstream and I don’t think they really tried to, and in the CCM genre they are legends and have still sold millions of records. One can hear the influences of the era on these three albums, the success of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard certainly has had some impact on the production and songwriting.  We did a ”The Big 10” feature on the band some years ago, there you’ll find more about this band.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Rock Blog #23 - Friday Video Frenzy

It's Friday, and here's a few new videos to get you to the weekend mood! 

DRAGONFORCE have released their latest anthem called "Doomsday Party", and it's... very different to what you might expect. Catchy.

The next video was released last week, but I'll add it here anyway, who's stopping me? No-one! It's ERIK GRÖNWALL's fine cover "Livin' On A Prayer"!

BROTHER FIRETRIBE are heading to a tour of Finland this weekend, and to celebrate that, they've released a new song. I don't have an actual video (yet?), but here's the YouTube version of the song, available also on other streaming platforms I'm sure. The song is "Just Another Night", and it's brilliant as usual. 

I've liked DELTA GOODREM for a long time, but this might be the best song she's released so far! "Back To Your Heart" is very much in the AOR vein.

NITRATE has released a few albums already, and with every one of them they've taken steps towards the top of the genre. "All The Right Moves" is their latest single, and a new album is on the way. I think it's going to be a monster of a record! 

VEGA has gone through some personnel changes, with the Martin bros. leaving the band. Tom and James are nowadays a part of the band Nitrate (see above), but that hasn't hindered Vega. They've just released their latest album "Battlelines", which might just be their strongest album yet! This is the latest single "Heroes And Zeros". 

Last week I reviewed the new ECLIPSE album, a good one for sure. The latest video cut from the album is the celtic-flavoured "Anthem".

MASAKI is a new Norwegian band, with members of Stoneflower in the line-up. "Angel Wings" is a video track from their debut album, and it's very good!


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

ECLIPSE: ”Megalomanium”

Label: Frontiers
Rating: RRRR

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Swedish hard rock masters ECLIPSE have released a new album, and it’s an event in this corner of this genre of ours, worthy of a dedicated review. The band has been accused of repeating a same formula, and I can see (or hear, to be precise) where those accusations arise. Then again, the band has their own sound and that’s something to be proud of.  On ”Megalomanium” you’ll get some trademark Eclipse melodies and songwriting tricks, but mixed with plenty of new influences. 

Many of the albums we rave about on our pages are either from the eighties or have a distinctively 80’s sound, but I think Eclipse have pretty escaped the retro-thing successfully. Their sound is contemporary, but still accessible for those of us who are maybe somewhat ”stuck in the past”. Yes, I confess I am one of those.

Erik Mårtensson and co. aren’t only spinning their old eighties vinyls for inspiration, they are obviously listening to modern rock bands as well, and adding some elements here and there. The Eclipse sound evolves naturally, although the foundation is the same. I heard touches of Ghost, The Foo Fighters, Green Day and My Chemical Romance, yet all of these songs sound like Eclipse first and foremost.

When it comes to songs, I don’t think this album is as ”hit-packed” as their previous ones, I’d go as far as to say that there are a few fillers among these songs... although Eclipse’s fillers are still better than an average rock song. Interestingly, the three singles ”The Hardest Part Is Losing You”, ”Got It!” and ”Hearts Collide”) that were released before the album didn’t blow me away initially, but in the context of this album they get a new a life and are now my favourite songs from this one. Granted, I didn’t give them too much airtime among the flood of new releases.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

ROCK BLOG #22 - recent releases round-up

 In this entry, I’ll take a long overdue look at some of the recent releases, in no particular order.

One of last week’s releases was SKAGARACK’s comeback album ”Heart And Soul”. The band has stayed somewhat true to their original sound, but if you’re expecting hook-filled, glossy AOR in the vein of their ”Hungry For A Game” album, you might be bitterly disappointed. In fact, this album reminds me more of Brian Howe-era Bad Company than 80’s Skagarack: I hadn’t realized before that Torben Schmidt has a rather similar sound to that of Howe, and the slightly bluesier edge of the new songs points towards Bad Co’s ”Dangerous Age” and ”Holy Water” albums. The songs are not on the same level though, there are no massive hits among these 12 songs. RRR

DAVID FORBES is the vocalist of Canadian AOR band BOULEVARD, and ”Tales Of The Past” is his first solo album. With Steve Newman of the band NEWMAN heavily involved, this album is more in the vein of European AOR/Melodic hard rock, with a harder edge than BLVD. I had high hopes for this album, thanks to some pre-release hype from trusted sources, but in the end I was slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid album and the songs are good, but I was hoping them to be great! RRRr

FIFTH ANGEL’s fourth album ”When Angels Kill” is their second after the band’s reformation a few years ago. The previous one didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but I loved their two eighties’ albums. ”When Angels Kill” is slightly better than its’ predecessor, but the hooks of their classic material are mostly missing. And to be honest, I don’t really care for the rough vocal style of their new vocalist Steve Carlson. RRR

STREETLIGHT are a new Swedish band, but you’d be forgiven to think that their debut ”Ignition” was an unearthed gem from 1981! When I saw the artwork, I thought that for sure this is a reissue or something, it’s such a flashback to the early eighties. And when I heard the album, my thoughts didn’t change that much. Some of the songs are more in the vein of modern Swedish AOR, but some of them are very vintage sounding, retro-AOR. For example, listen to ”Caught Up In A Dream” - early Toto maybe? Or ”Overjoyed”…this jumps a few years to 1986 and Survivor’s ”When Seconds Count” sound. And the list goes on, you’ll find subtle traces of Kansas, Chicago, Elton John, Journey… you name it. But everything’s done with style. RRRR

When it comes to songs, ”STEEL BARS - A ROCK TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL BOLTON” is quite close to perfection - 11 songs from Michael Bolton’s classic 80’s AOR solo albums! This album was put together by Frontiers records, and naturally it features vocalists from their roster covering songs from Bolton’s rock years: there’s Ronnie Romero, Girish Pradhan, Robbie LeBlanc, Steve Overland and a few lesser known names too, like Dave Mikulskis and Santiago Ramonda. It’s an interesting concept and you can’t really go wrong with these songs, but then again, you can’t really improve them either. Every singer does a decent job and the arrangements are quite faithful, so there’s nothing to complain about, but… none of the artists really make these songs their own, they’re just good cover versions. The biggest deviation from the original is ”Wait On Love”, which features female vocals from the Big Thrill ladies Ana Nikolic and Nevena Brankovic. ”Desperate Heart” is given a heavier treatment than the original, which is something that I have been hoping for, and this version, sung by Robledo, is one of the highlights of this album. Others include Santiago Ramodna’s ”Save Our Love” and ”Fool’s Game” by Steve Overland. RRRR

In related news… MICHAEL BOLTON released a new album ”Spark Of Light” recently. There’s nothing that could be called ”rock” on it, but that doesn’t come as a surprise, does it? This is adult contemporary pop album with the emphasis on ballads. It’s sounds less over-produced that Bolton’s previous studio album of original material (”One World One Love” 2009), but that one had a few rather good songs. ”Spark Of Light” has a few nice tracks, but that’s about it. Still a great voice, but unremarkable songs. RRr

TANNA released their previous album ”Storm In Paradise” in 2020. Now the band is back with a new album called ”Kohtalon Tuulet”, and they’ve changed the language back to Finnish. As you might know, they started with Finnish-language songs in 1985, became quite successful and released 3 studio albums and one live album before disbanding in 1993. The band’s main man Tapani ”Tanna” Tikkanen put together PRAYER who released three albums between 2005 and 2018. I don’t know whether Tikkanen is hoping to reconnect with his 80’s fans with these new songs or maybe he’s just grown tired of writing in English, but some of his international listeners might have a hard time getting into these songs. Still, some of the songs ”Kohtalon Tuulet” are among the best ones Tanna has written, so it’s worth the effort to check them out. The musical style hasn’t really changed from that of ”Storm…” or Prayer’s albums, it’s still catchy AOR. Maybe he’s got English versions hidden in his drawer. RRRR

Thursday, August 17, 2023

ROCK BLOG #21 - Goodbye Summer?

It's August and the holidays are over, so I'll get back to writing these blog entries too. I haven't been totally idle during the holidays, we did visit Smugglerrok festival and there's a big report of that on the website. 

The flood of new releases didn't really slow down during summer, and I haven't been able to check out all of them. I've also bought quite a few albums, old and new. I'm going through them as I write this, so I thought I'll share my thoughts about them with you.

LINMAN - Heaven Calls: Here's a cult album, a bit of a Holy Grail when it comes to Finnish AOR. No, I haven't found a copy of the original 1992 release, in fact I have never even seen one, and I live in Finland! MelodicRockClassics label have re-issued the album, and it's a good value-for-money package: the album remastered and a another disc of bonustracks. But who is Linman, you ask? Well, he's a Finnish singer/songwriter, father of Andre Linman (One Desire/Sturm Und Drang singer/guitarist) and a former member of the pop-rock duo Place-2-Go. In 1992 he was playing a kind of a mixture of Scandi-AOR and more American sounding classic rock. "Heaven Calls" might not be a classic as such, but it's a good album. The bonustracks are all co-written and produced by Mats "MP" Persson (of Roxette fame), less rock-oriented mostly, but not too bad. RRRR

GOLDEN FARM - Angel's Tears: there are reviews of this in our archives, but I am not sure whether I have heard this album entirely before now. This Spanish band has one of the worst names I've heard, but at least I remembered it when I saw the CD in Disco Loco, a fine record store in Palma De Mallorca. It's strange, I forget a lot of important things yet I remember a review from 2001?!!! Anyway, Golden Farm played AOR/Melodic Hard Rock, nothing revolutionary and they borrowed a lot of ideas from here and there, but somehow they had a fresh approach. I could describe them as combination of Survivor, Van Hagar and 80's Scandi-AOR, lots of keys and excellent vocals. RRRR

SILENT FORCE - Infatuator: another one I picked from Disco Loco. Bought it because of vocalist D.C. Cooper, the mighty voice of Royal Hunt. This is the band's second album from 2001, they've got five in total. First four feature Cooper, Michael Bormann sings on the last one, released in 2013. I am not sure whether this is a keeper, because as much as I like Cooper's singing, the songs are a bit average, standard power metal stuff, Judas Priest meets Helloween but not as good. RRR

GABRIELLE DE VAL - Kiss In A Dragon Night: This one's a rather new release which I picked up from Pride And Joy's sale. Released by Escape Music, this is a bit of an all-star affair, featuring some noteworthy quests sharing vocals with Gabrielle De Val: Mark Boals, Robin McAuley, Mick Devine, Steve Overland and Terry Brock. The tracklisting includes a few covers (Mike Oldfield, Magnum, James Christian), some re-worked versions of Gabrielle's own band The Val's songs and a few songs penned by Steve Overland and Tommy Denander for this project. Solid stuff, definitely a keeper. RRRR

SINOPOLI - The Eyes Never Lie: a Disco Loco pick again, for 3 euros I took a gamble. Another early 2000's release, but actually a compilation of late eighties' stuff. I remembered that they had something to do with songwriter/producer Jack Ponti, and indeed I found his name as producer on one of the tracks. No songwriting credits though, even though some of the songs sound a bit like poor man's Baton Rouge or Surgin'. Then again, some songs have a bit of a 70's glam rock vibe, and there's even one Bowie cover here. All in all, a bit of a mishmash, some of the songs are of demo quality...the midtempo or semi-ballad tracks "It's Too Late" and "Be My Lover" are the best ones. RRR

BILLY HARVEY - Moonlight Theatre: a 1997 release from the MTM label. They released quite a few brilliant AOR and melodic hard rock albums in their time, but this one isn't one of those. This is singer/songwriter stuff along the likes of Danny Wilde, John Mellencamp or the latest Bon Jovi album. Harvey writes good stories but the music side of these songs is just downright boring. RR

To be continued...


Saturday, July 1, 2023

PHAETON: “Between Two Worlds”

Rating: RRRRr 
Label: INB Music 
Review by Martien Koolen

Phaeton was formed in Kimberley, BC in March 2017 by Kevin Thiessen (guitars), Daniel Airth (guitars), Ferdy Belland (bass guitars) and Colin Righton (drums) and these guys play instrumental progressive metal as you have almost never heard before as ‘Between Two Worlds” is the ultimate instrumental epic progressive metal listening of this year! 

If you, like yours truly, are into guitar pickers such as Steve Vai or Joe Satriani and bands like Rush, Symphony X, Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment then “Between Two Worlds” is a MUST have album as Phaeton really shines right from the opening track “Predestination”, featuring amazing double lead guitars, till the last song, being the title track. All the eight instrumental songs feature killer guitar riffs, hooks, melodies, and solos galore and drummer Righton really plays his ass off, while bass guitarist Belland proves he is second to none here, his formidable bass playing reminding me of John Myung indeed.

“Oceans Of Time” has a pure classic heavy metal inro and even features some Black Sabbath characteristics, while “Refraction” even has a heavy reggae passage. “Monsoon,” one of my favourites of the album, stands out due to the very melodic guitar solos which give me goosebumps every time I listen to that track. But the absolute highlight and metal gem of this album is without a shadow of a doubt the extraordinary title track. “Between Two Worlds,’ the song, is the magnum opus of Phaeton: a progressive instrumental metal rollercoaster, almost second to none. This impressive track is filled with power chords galore, outstanding melodies, neck breaking riffs, almost inimitable solos and lots of tempo changes and variety; in other words, you never get bored here, even as the song clocks in over the nine minutes mark! 

Well, there you have it, a killer album indeed, wonderfully arranged and produced; a superb prog metal opus where the music almost makes you dizzy, but most of all longing for more indeed. “Between Two Worlds” to me is one of the absolute highlights of this year, a unique twist and rollercoaster of progressive, instrumental metal, highly recommended indeed: especially suitable for fans of Rush, Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment. Play it LOUD and you will be hooked, listening tip: “Monsoon.”

Saturday, June 24, 2023

ROCK BLOG #20 - Midsummer Video Stream

 Here's a selection of new cool videos I've checked out today!

Hell's Addiction - Scream Your Name

Rebelstar - Hold On To The Night

Rian - Carry My Wings

Stardust - Heroes

Jimbo's Garage - Living The Hard Way

Thursday, June 15, 2023


 Hello there!

There's a heatwave in this part of Finland, it's 27 celsius degrees in the shade (that's around 84 in Fahrenheit degrees). I'm sitting in the backyard with the laptop, enjoying the weather. Gotta make the best of these days since soon it'll be the Midsummer, and traditionally it rains then!

Most of the spare time I've had this week I've spent on writing the ROCKFEST review. It's now done and partly online already, check it out here.

I haven't had much time to check out new albums, but there's one I want to mention - "Drive" from THE DEFIANTS. I've only played it a couple of times but it's surely one of the better albums of 2023. I just can't seem to get past the video song "Go Big Or Go Home" - this is the kind of a song that should be played at arenas, festivals, sporting events... but small miracles should happen for this to become reality. Just listen yourself:

Thursday, June 1, 2023


It’s the first of June! It’s summer! And what goes hand in hand with summer - festivals of course! Next week we’ll visit ROCKFEST in Hyvinkää on Friday, when the headliners are MÖTLEY CRUE and DEF LEPPARD. Also in the line-up there’s The 69 Eyes, Crashdiet, Stratovarius and Nestor. Many others too, but we can’t be in many places at the same time. (Photo by Julius Konttinen) 

Now, back to the normal programming - the new music. And old music. 

I’m not a vinyl addict but I do have a mission to collect my favourite albums in that format too. Last week I was able to cross off one from my list - the debut HAREM SCAREM album. It was reissued in the MUSIC ON VINYL series, a limited clear vinyl edition of 666 pieces. Mine is number 51.

Now  scrolling through my playlist of 2023 albums… hey, have I mentioned ”Paragon” by FLOOR JANSEN? It’s definitely worth mentioning, my rating for it is RRRR. If you’re thinking it’s going to be symphonic metal you’re off the mark, it’s melodic pop rock with good hooks and refreshingly airy arrangements. Some of the songs even made me think of musicals, and not in a bad way.

The latest REVOLUTION SAINTS has gotten mixed reviews, but I like it. It gets the RRRR rating, maybe the songs aren’t totally worth of that but the magical voice of DEEN CASTRONOVO elevates them. ”Eagle Flight”, ”Kids Will Be Kids” and Treat main man Anders Wickström’s ”Crime Of The Century” are my favourites. 

Italian hard rockers PERFECT VIEW have released 4 albums so far, and as I recall, I’ve heard the first two but they didn’t really leave an impression. Now with their fourth one ”Bushido”, I think they’ve created their strongest album so far, and this should raise their status to the next level. It’s sophisticated AOR with clever arrangements and excellent production, comparable to Tall Stories, 21 Guns and Winger. Strangely enough, the most immediate songs are on the second half of the album, but it’s quality stuff from start to finish. RRRR. 

Even though I liked the first single from the new IMPERIUM album, it seems I really can’t get into their stuff. ”Never Surrender” album has two fantastic singers (Michael Bormann and Robbie LaBlanc) and the music is just the kind of stuff I have filled my CD shelves with, but something doesn’t click. Nice songs, but maybe a bit too nice and generic. RRR.

That’s it for now, I’ll be back next week with more… 

Friday, May 19, 2023

ROCK BLOG #17 - Friday Night Video Frenzy

This time I want to introduce a few new videos! First up, we've got the new one from MIDNITE CITY. It's called "Girls Gone Wild" and what seems like a standard performance video has a bit of a twist... awesome song by the way!

Then we have a metal ballad from PYRAMAZE. It's a duet featuring Melissa Bonny. A nice, dramatic song. 

IMPERIUM from Finland have released 3 albums so far, and "Together Forever" is from the forthcoming fourth album. Could be the project's best one, we'll see. I like this Michael Bormann-song a lot! 

CIRCUS OF ROCK just released their second album, and after just one spin, I can already say that it's better than the first one. Which wasn't too bad either. This is the latest video "Nine Lives", featuring Mr. Lordi on vocals.

The next album from ART NATION sounds like a killer, judging by the songs they've released so far. Here's the latest one, "1001". 

I actually haven't heard anything by MAMMOTH WVH before this one, but I have to check them (or him...) out, because "Another Celebration At The End Of The World" rocks. The video is a long one, but a good one. 

H.E.A.T. have released a couple of new tracks, which will be a part of their special "Extra Force" release later this year. "Extra Force" will include the 2 new tracks, two Kenny-sung versions of older songs and 4 live tracks. Anyway, here's "Will You Be".

One more addition - the new WITHIN TEMPTATION video/visualizer "Wireless":

Friday, May 12, 2023


 The endless flood of new releases keeps me busy, because there’s only so much time I can devote to listening to music. Yet I want to check out everything. And there’s the old stuff I want to revisit or discover… I know, I’m a rockaholic, a music addict. Even when I’m not listening to anything, the radio inside my head won’t stop playing. Some of you may be able to relate…

BAI BANG. They’ve been around since the mid-eighties. Despite never reaching more than a cult band level, they keep on rocking, and this year they’ve released their 9th album ”Sha Na Na Na” (RRRr). I’m not sure whether they can reach the next level with this one, but I applaud their persistence. The only remaining original member, vocalist Diddi Kastenholt has been steering this ship on five decades now! Anyway, on ”Sha Na Na Na” he’s written some rather catchy tunes in the vein of Wig Wam or Sha-Boom. My favourites include ”I Don’t Really Know”, ”It’s Enough”, ”I Know All The Hits” and the title track. There are a few throwaway tracks and  a dull Abba cover which lower my rating a bit, but this isn’t half bad. 

LORDI have released about 100 songs during the last three years! That must be some kind of a record? ”Screem Writers Guild” (RRRR) is their latest effort, with some kind of a movie theme. On ”Killection” and the 7-album ”Lordiversity” box they explored some new territories, but this one is ”classic” Lordi, 80’s influenced hard rock with big choruses and Mr. Lordi’s trademark rough vocals. He does showcase his softer side on ”The Bride”, a ballad that reminds me of 70’s Alice Cooper. The song most likely to become a Lordi classic? ”The Thing In The Cage”. 

MARTIN MILLER has been getting rave reviews for his ”Maze Of My Mind” album. I won’t join the queue, and for me it’s only an RRR album. It’s well executed smooth prog/AOR hybrid but I don’t find it very memorable. Superb musicianship and somewhat LaBrie-like vocals, but the songs are maybe a bit too complicated for my taste.

“Better Days Comin’” was the title of the last WINGER album back in 2014. Well, it wasn’t the best prediction I guess… but better days are finally here, at least when it comes to Winger. Their new album “Seven” has just been released and it’s a good one! RRRR good for sure! 

“Seven” is a little darker and heavier than the band’s classic material, but still melodic. Somewhere between “Pull” and the more serious songs of “In The Heart Of The Young”, but then again, something quite different. 

“Proud Desperado” (co-written by Desmond Child), “Tears Of Blood” and “Stick The Knife In And Twist” are among my favourite tracks. 

After watching the JOHN WAITE movie “The Hard Way” I’ve revisited his solo albums, selecting tracks for a “Best Of” playlist. The first draft of the list seems to concentrate on “Rover’s Return”, “Temple Bar” and “Figure In A Landscape”. Still… my favourite John Waite-sung tracks are on the two Bad English albums. 

Another old band whose material I have also revisited recently is FIFTH ANGEL. The Seattle-based melodic metal band released two fine albums in the eighties, then called it a day. They reformed for a couple of successful shows in Europe a few years ago, and released their third album “The Third Secret” in 2018. That didn’t really do anything for me, the songs are okay but mostly not on the same level as the vintage material. However, a new one is to be released in June, and the title track “When Angels Kill” has already been released. It’s pretty good so I have high hopes for the album.

Tomorrow (Saturday 1th of May 2023) it’s the day of the Eurovision Song Contest Final, and I have a feeling that Finland will win. KÄÄRIJÄ’s “Cha Cha Cha” is a goofy, catchy track and it’s already a hit, despite being sung in Finnish. Never mind the fact that Käärijä isn’t really a singer, the competition isn’t about that anymore. I guess it says something that one of his rivals, LORD OF THE LOST from Germany have already released a cover version of the song. I actually prefer their metalized version and it’s somehow endearing when Germans sing in Finnish!