Thursday, August 25, 2016

JADED PAST: ”Believe”

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

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

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

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

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


www.jadedpast.com/

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FIRE ACTION: "Rock Brigade"

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/Fireaction/

GANDALF’S FIST - “The Clockwork Fable”


RATING: RRRRR

Label: Self Release

Reviewed By: Alan Holloway

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

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

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

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


Official Site

Sunday, August 21, 2016

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

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

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

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




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

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

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

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

http://www.emersonlakeandpalmer.com

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

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

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

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

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

http://www.emersonlakeandpalmer.com/

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

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

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

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

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

http://www.emersonlakeandpalmer.com

Sunday, August 14, 2016

FIRST SIGNAL: "One Step Over The Line"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

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

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

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


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

7HY - “STORIES WE TELL”


Rating: RRRR

Label: Lionsprides Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

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

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

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

Official facebook Page

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jace PAWLAK: "Promise"





Rating: RRRRr

Label: Kivel Records

Review By: Alan Holloway


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

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

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

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


Official Website

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

CHANGE OF HEART - “LAST TIGER”



Rating: RRRR

Label: Escape Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

A small fish in the UK melodic rock scene, Change Of Heart have gained a place in people’s hearts due to the strong talents of vocalist/founder/songwriter Alan Clark, a man who knows how to pen the sort of tracks that hit the spot for anyone into melodic rock. He’s not the most prolific, though, and it’s been a long eleven years since the last Change Of Heart album. Hopefully there’s still plenty of people around who give a damn, because “Last Tiger” is a cracking offering.

The style here reminds me of the liked of Heartland, Lion or even Strangeways, with it’s smooth, melodic base and understated vocals that are not a million miles away fro Chris Ousey in style, if not as good (not a criticism as Ousey is superb). This isn’t big, chorus led AOR a la Journey, but something a bit more crunchy, mixing up guitars and keyboards to great effect and crafting songs that aren’t just a pretty face. Worth noting is “March of The Souls”, a deliberately Dio-esque track that is at odds with the rest of the album but works well nonetheless. Opener “Rise To The Challenge” perfectly introduces the standard style for the album, with smooth vocals and some seriously cool widdly guitar and it’s a great track to listen to on YouTube. Basically, if you like it then this should be the album for you.

“Last Tiger” is a fine addition to the Change Of Heart catalogue, even if it doesn’t have the same contributors as previous work. Eleven strong songs, well produced and expertly performed, make this an album to keep most AOR fans happy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

THE DEAD DASIES - “MAKE SOME NOISE”



RATING: RRRR

LABEL: Spitfire Music

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway







There’s a part of me that thinks The Dead Dasies should change their name to “The Ex Men”, as they’re one of those bands where each member’s name has to be followed by an impressive list of former bands in brackets. In fairness, these boys have knocked around with some of the best, and on this, their third album, they flex their mighty rock muscles and proceed to knock it out of the park.

Founder and guitarist David Lowry is the only member who hasn’t played a few rounds with the big boys, but in his song writing he certainly gets the best out of his band mates. Vocalist John Corabi has never sounded better than he does here, The Dead Dasies suiting his style much better that Ratt or Motley Crue ever did, and it’s always great to hear Doug Aldrich letting loose with his signature sound yet be kept within the song structure.

The songs on the album are nothing that will garner gasps of admiration for their originality, as they’re basically heavy rock played really well. It’s the Really Well part of that sentence that makes all the difference though, as there’s not a single track that doesn’t somehow get under your skin and make the inner rock dude want to raise his fist and yell. The title track, for example, is a heavy stomper very much in the vein of Saxon’s “Denim & Leather” and Queen‘s “We Will Rock You”  that is very easy to take the piss out of. Thing is, it’s glorious, head banging fun and so what the heck! One of the best tracks has to be “Mainline”, which is a fast, streamlined track that screams quality, as is the first class heavied-up cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”.

Whilst The Dead Dasies are an unapologetic classic rock band with all the clichés that come with that, this sort of band stands or falls on the quality of their output, as there’s a million other bands trying the same sort of thing. “Make Some Noise”  can be too cheesy at times (“All The Same” being a good example) but it’s never less than entertaining. Heavy and expertly put together, it’s an album that can be played over and over without getting stale, just like all the best classic rock records.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Monday, July 11, 2016

CRANSTON - S/T



RATING: RRRr

LABEL: Rock Company

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


Cranston sees the intriguing pairing of rock legend Paul Sabu with perennial workhorse Phil Vincent. Apart from when he was with Legion, Vincent tends to work alone, so I was interested to see what would happen to his sound when co writing with Sabu. The thing is, Sabu’s other recent release, (a pairing with Vince O’Reagan), was pretty poor, so fingers were crossed, especially as Vincent’s solo work has been getting better and better.

The good news here is that Paul Sabu is not the main vocalist here. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but the O’Reagan album showed that his voice is really not what it was. Phil Vincent, however, has always had a decent voice and leads the way with Sabu providing backing as well as all the instruments except drums.

So we come to the music itself, which is the whole point. Although written by the two guys this does come across very much as a Phil Vincent album, no doubt helped by his vocals. The thing is, it doesn’t come across as one of his best, and feels like a step back to the days when he was good rather that very good. The songs are melodic yet guitar heavy, and whilst they’re never bad there’s something missing that would turn this from a good album to a great one. It falls down a little at the end, with the last three tracks seeming to last twice as much as they do. Seriously, as ‘Sea Of Madness’ fell into a repetitive end sequence I had to check it wasn’t a seven minute epic. It isn’t. It’s a bit of a shame, as up to then there’s some pretty decent tracks, notably opener ‘Long Long Way To Go’, ‘See You One The Other Side’ and ‘Fallen’.

‘Cranston’ contains enough cool rock tracks to satisfy a fan of Phil Vincent, but they may be disappointed that there’s not a few more. I would have liked to hear some of the more punch tracks (such as ‘Let It Go’) sung by an in for Paul Sabu, so here’s hoping that the Vince O’reagan album was a one off. Maybe for Cranston II  they can switch roles.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

TILT: "Hinterland"

Rating: RRRR
Label: BurningShed 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

FISH friends feeling frisky? TILT is a brand new (Prog) band and project featuring Robin Boult (guitars), David Stewart (drums) and Steve Vantsis (bass), all probably better known for recording, writing and touring with prog legend Fish (Marillion) over the years. Steve Vantsis was in fact responsible for most of the writing of the last two well received Fish albums, 13th Star and Feast of Consequences. The three are joined by excellent singer PJ Dourley and guitarist/keyboardist Paul Humphreys.

Strictly not just Prog-Rock though as "Hinterland" is the leap into the unknown. Their debut album is to a certain extent the mixture of Prog with a more grungy and modern texture. Needless to say. I'm especially fond of the sophisticated, atmospheric, Prog-Rock approach of a track such as the opening number, Assembly. The chanting and trading of lyrical content is very memorizing and nearly hypnotical. Great stuff that quickly becomes your soundtrack of the summer and lazy afternoons in the sun.

The title track is up next and it's frankly just another great song which include bits and pieces of everything from Prog and the Pearl Jam...ehh, Jam, to the Neil Young and REM beat and structure. "Against The Rain", slow things down a bit and Dourley gets to shine in the spotlight. Vocally, the superb performance while lyrically it's the language of delusions and suspended truth. "No Superman", clearly not "prog" according to this particular listener as it's Seattle and no rather than Yes (pun intended).

The five are joined on this release by keyboard player John Beck (It Bites) and guitarist John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/Kino/Arena/It Bites) with Mitchell also responsible for the final mix. Final verdict: Very solid and accomplished record with a couple of not-so-great moments in between the goodies.
tiltband.co.uk

PREACHER: "Aftermath"

Rating: RRR
Label: Nineteen73 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Preacher are an eight (8!) piece Progressive Rock band from Scotland who have been making a name for themselves thanks to their regular touring schedule and festival appearances. Just as ordinary as deep fried mars-bars, black pudding, and haggis to the common people of Scotland? Well... Aftermath, the follow-up to their 2014 debut 'Signals' take its inspiration from the likes of Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Uriah Heep, Dire Straits, Moody Blues. etc.

It's very much the seventies generation, its music and musicians... and to merely add more confusion to the subject, singer, main song writer, and guitarist Martin Murphy has a voice and singing style reminiscent of David Bowie and Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits). Not quite as great though, quite gritty, and it's like if you're listening to the slightly daft, reletive of the two legends. Not too shabby though. Not too shabby at all.

The opening title track, taking its lead as the music dips into the sea on the dark side of the moon (pun intended) only to come back for air on the surface and "Welcome To The Fray". The latter track sounding like if the Dire Straits tribute act decided to record their own version and new arrangements to 'Welcome To The Machine'. A little too often the compositions are similar to well-known songs and while "Vinyl", for example, does allow their own trademark and sound to come through, it's still very much the Pink Floyd structure at play.

Hardly everything on here is Floyd-ish though and the grittier tracks such as "War", might not please the ones waiting for another shot of Pink. The musical elements that make the Prog legends so unique and engaging are only present on every other track here, and it's a shame considering that The Preacher's are at their best as Floyd wannabees. Neat!
preacherrock.co.uk

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

STRATOVARIUS: ”Best Of”

Rating: -  (compilation)
Label: EAR Music
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Stratovarius. Well they have been around since the dark ages, haven’t they? The band has gone through several line-up changes, weird publicity stunts but most importantly, they’ve released a lot of good albums and played thousands of gigs. This 3-CD box contains their most popular songs throughout the years. One of the CD’s is a live one, ”Live At Wacken 2015”.

My personal relationship with Stratovarius hasn’t been a particularly stable. When I first heard their material back in the eighties, I thought they sounded like a poor man’s Helloween. I liked their late nineties’ albums such as ”Visions” and ”Infinite” a lot, but wasn’t too fond of the albums that followed. The self-titled 2005 album was definitely the band’s low point.

When main songwriter Timo Tolkki broke up the band and eventually handed out the rights to the name to the rest of the guys, the band went through a re-birth of sorts. ”Polaris”, the first album from the ”new” Stratovarius was a bit of departure from the original sound, but with the later albums the band has fine-tuned their style towards the melodic and catchy sound they’re known for.

The album contains one brand new song (and rather excellent) ”Until The End Of Days” and 26 more or less classic Strato-tracks. The latter-day tracks sit nicely along the older hits. The oldest songs such as ”Break The Ice” show why it took a few years for the band to breakthrough, they’re basically rather ”meat’n potatoes metal”. As for the rest, the band's Melodic Metal gems like "Eagleheart" "Black Diamond" or "Hunting High And Low" still sound very good.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable compilation, and at least for me it has somewhat renewed my interest in the band. I think I’ll check out the band’s latest few albums again - they haven’t gotten the required attention from me.

www.stratovarius.com/
https://www.facebook.com/stratovarius/

MIKE MILAN DEDIC - S/T EP



Rating: N/A

Label: Self Release

Review By: Alan Holloway

So, officially coming out of nowhere (Totonto, actually) is Mike Milan Dedic, a Canadian guitarist who has been plucking away since he was twelve yet only has a couple of releases to his name from twenty and thirty years ago. Let's be honest, though, a five track instrumental release is hard to muck up, unless you're The Great Kat or some other egomaniac.

Dedic doesn't seem that way inclined, thankfully, bringing to the table five pleasant, well played pieces that feature calm, collected solo work and fine melody throughout.The solo work veers into shredding at times, but not overtly so, and it's a good thing that he doesn't just play as fast as he can throughout.It's a compliment that you could tell someone that final track 'Shall We Dance?' is an unreleased Joe Satriani track from the 'Surfing With The Alien' era and they might well believe you, as it's got that cool, understated rhythm livened up with a nifty middle solo.

This is an EP that isn't likely to cross too many people's paths, but if you like instrumental guitar pieces it's a really nice little package to check out. You get the feeling Mike plays for the sheer enjoyment of it, the crisp, clear notes floating around the room like butterflies. Mike Milan Dedic isn't setting the world on fire with this, but he is at least making it a little warmer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The AMORETTES: "White Hot Heat"

Rating: RRRR
Label: OffYerRocka 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oi! Oi! Hey! Hey! Gabba Gabba? The opening track entitled "Batter Up" reminded me of CBGB and the sort of artistic endeavor best associated with working class and beer throwing punks. It's the sheer and utter attitude of 'turn your amps up to ten and never turn it down again' while trying to look as cool as possible on stage, but, in reality you're probably too pissed to notice what the hell is going on.

Nothing too fancy, neat or complicated, and definitely no more than four chords. I'm not going to lie to you. You've heard if all before and you're probably going to pick up yet another record the following next week that fall somewhere between the punk and sleazy rock as played by The Amorettes. "White Hot Heat", the sophomore release by the female power-trio promenade or rather stroll up and down the street outside the original CBGB and it's merely a shame it's been closed for ages now. They'd be at full swing at the club, screaming at the top of their lungs to "Come n Get It" and "Let The Neighbours Call The Cops", since they don't give a damn about society rules or laws.

Ehhh... kinda. It's nonetheless the very competent and professionally crafted record and ten tracks that oozes of lipstick and leather? Black and red? Beer, sweat, and smoke, the more correct description as the walk it like they talk it. It's the fun, up all night, sleep all day, sort of record with more balls than all of the footballers at the current Euro Cup [Zlatan! Rör på dig!].

Final verdict: Sleazy Hard Rock Punks goes amok in the studio and end up recording the perfect summer album? Well. I'm taking my pants off while listening and... Oi! Pervert Alert!
theamorettes.co.uk
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ATTICA RAGE: "Warheads Ltd"

Rating: RR
Label: OffYerRocka 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Original yet vintage sounding metal or if you prefer hard rock songs with their own distinctive mark and though you can pick up influences, Attica Rage's vision and storytelling shine on through. Their Glaswegian and Scottish heritage shines through as well and lyrically it's everything from voting on leaving or stay (oh yes, it's politic) and (anti) war propaganda to the pure nonsense of el chupacabra. The latter a major surprise considering that it's your Mexican monster and these guys aren't exactly Latino. Ginger and pale as death for fecks' sake.

Musically drifting between the boring modern Ozzy arrangements as well as all that crap coming from Zakk Wylde nowadays to pure melodic rock and it's like if they're not sure which leg to stand upon? Definitely not to their advantage nor benefit in the long run, since it gives their record a rather schizophrenic impression. I'll go for the melodic stuff any day of the week and the likes of "Lost In Memory" that licenses long pauses and thought worthy notes about the child of years ago and the whole 'if I could turn back time' moment.

Almighty and Thin Lizzy are sure influences, but never really as good as any of them. Scottish heroes Attica Rage have come up with decent to below average stuff on their fourth release and I'm not too keen on finding out more about their previous releases. Meh.

Monday, June 20, 2016

DUFF MCKAGAN - IT'S SO EASY AND OTHER LIES - DVD REVIEW



Label: Entertainment One

Review By: Alan Holloway

Duff McKagan should be dead. It's not the most insightful observation, I know, but after watching this new documentary/performance it's a fact that is pretty much rammed home. At one point it's noted that he has more lives than a cat, and it's not an exaggeration. 'It's So easy & Other Lies' is a mixture of interviews and spoken word performance, and gives an interesting if not too revealing insight into one of rock's most famous bassists.

The spoken word sections come from a tour Duff did to promote the book of the same name. which consisted of him reading passages from the book whilst an acoustic band (with string section) played atmospheric music plus GnR tunes. It's a neat little idea that works well (the audience seem to love it) but to some may seem a little lazy. It's more helpful if you see this as a 'film of the book' sort of thing.

Much more interesting are the many interview snippets, from old friends, family and band members. Only Slash turns up to represent GnR, but then again he's always seemed to be the nicest of a mad bunch and has the bonus of being with Duff in Velvet Revolver as well. So we go through Duff's early band days through his various addictions, recoveries, more addictions, more recovery and so on. All the interviewees do their bit and you get a well rounded and interesting picture as a result.

'It's So Easy & Other Lies' is not the sort of DVD I'd calla 'must' for fans, but if you like a good rock doc you should certainly give it a try. As I have said there's nothing anyone who has read his books won't already know, and the biggest attraction is hearing it from the mouths of those who knew him before and after fame swallowed him up and shit him out again.

COMEDY OF ERRORS: "Spirit"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Nineteen73 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"You're God and you let me down. You're supposed to help. What the hell are you thinking? Can't you let us be what we should be?". Are you there yet? Believe me, one of these days you'll all be there. Shaking your angry little fist to the sky and screaming out to someone who may or may not exist. The Scottish Symphonic Prog-Rock band Comedy of Errors are dealing with themes of grief, loss, and ultimately hope (I thought of it as utter doom and gloom at first though). The grande concept where the cornerstone of the album is a 45 minute unbroken piece taking the form of an emotional journey at once personal and universal, despairing and uplifting.

It's a spiritual and sort of uber religious musical journey where choral and orchestral textures meet symphonic and progressive rock. It's quite obvious that keyboardist and songwriter Jim Johnston are referring at some point to personal experiences. You simply can not write these kind of lyrics without going through the pain of grief and loss. It's in fact the proper meltdown and the language of despair as and I quote, 'you took away the world. everything I had, everything that was dear to me', end quote.

Holy Smoke. The first six of the ten part long "Spirit" (45 minute) - doom, gloom, and random acts of change, darkness, denial, anger, tears, suffering and all those other human emotions of sorrow. "Why take the innocent? Why punish the good? and why make us suffer as only you could". It's not getting any better or more cheerful as the bashing continues: "How can you ever, ever hope to reason why? Why so indestructible? You even let your own son to die". Indeed. Johnston are making his listener stare into the darkness and just when you thought it's all black, the ray of hope appear in the distant. A light shines from heaven from the love is your eyes. Rise again. Oh rise again in everlasting love. To touch you, to hold you, to see you again. Forever you're part of us, still in our lives and your Spirit shines.

It's one of those albums you're not going to forget easily. Wrapped in keyboards and lovely arrangements, it sounds like if Lawrence GOWAN (Styx) did a solo album in the vein of YES. That's the easiest way to describe this grand concept. YES vs. GOWAN - and dare I say it's a nearly a masterpiece? Highly Recommended.
comedyoferrors.org

WITHEM: "The Unforgiving Road"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Withem from Norway and their sophomore release 'The Unforgiving Road' at Frontiers records. The softer side to Circus Maximus? From opening 'Exit', there's a feeling of the rockier elements drifting into the modern Prog laden sound, the staccato percussion as easily fitting into the metal as it would a vivid cinematic song. Thinking into the concept and composition, there are moments when the modern, prog sound prevails, such as the opening of 'In The Hands of a God', but not THE God? where it would be easy to make comparisons to the likes of Seventh Wonder and the Swedish tapestry of arrangements.

It's layers upon layers of keyboards and guitars and the typical interaction between the two. Something that obviously started out with the Swedes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Jens Johansson in the eighties and has since become a trademark of sophisticated and professional rock. Especially weird considering they don't have a proper keyboardist in the band? The Norwegians of Withem are probably not going to agree and thinking I'm taking the piss. However, you couldn't find a more Swedish sounding track at the moment than 'In The Hands of a God'. It's a rather clean and close to sterile sonic landscape for the listener to explore.

Direct and more emo, 'Riven' manages to strike up a middle ground between soft melodic rock and cinematic Prog-Rock music, drifting between the two as the song unwinds, The Robby Valentine vs. Seventh Wonder rock shows how much they're capable of as they create a storm of emotion, the music ebbing and allowing the listener to come up for air if only for a short moment.

Final verdict: Solid as a rock. Atmospheric keyboards and overall well executed cinematic melodic prog. Definitely not super-proggy and perhaps a tad too short to the proper fanatic?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

JORN: "Heavy Rock Radio"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

No! No! NO! Oh God... please no. Make it go away. Make it stop. Oh, the horror, the horror. For the love of music and all the things you keep sacred. Why did you have to test our strength and devotion by giving us yet another cover record by Jorn and yet another cover version of "Don't Stop Believin"? It's not like we hate that song enough already? Christ oh mighty. I'd rather have 40 days and nights of rain or any other divine intervention or suffering for that matter. Hold on to that feeling? Street light? People? Sheer and utter agony. It's not a Journey, it's a trip to hell and back in which your poor soul will never recover.

Oh, the terror, the terror. Add to this. The darn right butchering of "Hotel California" (I know someone must be spinning in his grave). The pointless recording of "Rainbow In The Dark". Yet another Dio cover by Jorn? When recording this song and I quote, "we stayed very true to the original, it felt natural and was the right thing to do". Really? What's the point in recording your version then? Do something differently with the arrangements and people could enjoy it more. The same goes for Black Sabbath's "Die Young" and no, it doesn't sound fresh nor does it rock hard. "Killer Queen"? More like Killed The Queen.

I do enjoy the fact that he's managed to dig up a couple of 'outside the box' moments though. Thinking about "I Know There's Something Going On" originally recorded by Frida from ABBA in 1982 and not 1985 as Jorn suggest in the booklet. "Running Up That Hill" - another decent attempt at something differently and I kind of like it. Mostly due to the fact that it's one of the all-time best songs out there. I totally agree with Jorn as he writes in the booklet and I quote again, "Kate Bush is without a doubt one of the most unique and special artists the world has ever known". Amen brother. Amen.

Final verdict: You shouldn't have to pay to play Heavy Rock Radio. It could most definitely work as second bonus disc on a 2CD release featuring a completely new Jorn studio album. By the way. The same goes for all you artists/bands out there. If you ever feel like recording the tribute and cover songs of the past. Stick it as bonus disc on your brand new original songs album. What's next? Well to get the bad taste out, yours truly definitely need to play the originals starting with the mighty Kate Bush and "Running Up That Hill". Now, she's a genius if ever...

DAN REED NETWORK: "Fight Another Day"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I've been looking forward to this for a long time. Massive fan of Dan Reed Network and their first couple of albums with killer beat and groove. The FUNK, the wicked guitar work by Brion James, the tribal drumming, the bass right up in your face. Bloody 'ell. The song "Ritual" always send a shiver to the spine and it's THE perfect party starter. Not to mention that Max Martin borrowed and stole every thing he could get his naughty little hands on to launch his songwriting career. He simply turned the likes of "I'm So Sorry" to Pop stuff and "Hit Me Baby One More Time". And yes, he started out playing in a funk hard rock band in Sweden in the late 80's.

First of all. Slightly disappointed at first spin and let me tell you why. Not enough of funk and definitely not enough of hard rock and guitars to be classic Dan Reed Network. Brion James playing in the background of the production and several tracks are rather Pop/Rock than funk/hardrock. Do not expect this to explode like popcorn in the micro, it's overall sophisticated Pop/Funk with the occasional loud guitar. I really don't see the point in releasing this as Network? It's their first album in 25 years and people sort of expect the traditional beat and sound? I mean. C'mon... that's the whole point in doing the comeback tour and album?? Yeah? No? Release the six-string beast!!

Secondly. Don't get me wrong. It's still a good borderline great album. Even though the spacey/trip-dance keyboards and several tracks are provided 'ala SEAL and "Crazy" rather than DRN and 'Get To You'. Class. Class. Can I get your attention? The first couple of tracks, "Divided", and its follower, "The Brave", are fun and groovy DRN tracks though. "Infected", the Prince wannabee. "Champion", here's where the SEAL sound kicks in and the likes of "Heaven" and "Sharp Turn", could not be more 'scarface' even if they invited Al Pacino to the studio. It sounds very commercial and deliberately like Top 40 stuff of the popular Seal years. The instrumental track, "Ignition", the only tribal drumming on display.

Final verdict: Good. Solid stuff. It's obvious that some of these tracks are going to work better as well as rock harder when performed live on stage. And they were always the great live act. "Are we born to be divided or born to be one".
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Thursday, June 9, 2016

CIRCLE OF REASON: "Faith Or Theory"

Rating: EP
Label: Freefall Records 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"As seen on Kerrang and Scuzz TV". That's surely not the best way to promote your debut EP? Let's not dwell on the quality of former great magazines as the Southampton quartet Circle of Reason are coming up with intriguing compositions and quirky arrangements on their brand new album. Musically we are drowning in sub paranoiac kind of rock that can't help but resonate on a personal level. Vivid pictures and soundscapes of emotive and melancholic stuff drawing upon a wide range of influences from the likes of Deftones, Funeral For a Friend, Biffy Clyro, and Mastodon. Never quite as heavy and blunt as the latter though and more towards the work of Coheed and Cambria in my personal opinion.

Artistic endeavor and rhythmic sensibilities make heart-felt metal in which the listener take center stage throughout the record. You're invited to a sonic journey through time and space, faith or theory, and a theme of always feeling as though you're not quite what someone wants. "You always said I could be so much better", sings Simon Osman on the opening track of "Never Enough", and what better way to lure teenagers into checking out your band's music then gloom, doom, and depression? However, there's a positive side to the story and the realization that in the long run you are better off being yourself and doing things your own way. Easier said than done when you're 14 and trying to be cool.

To really get the hang of Faith or Theory, you need to spin this over a long period of time. There's constantly something new and quirky to discover and a message of never judge a book by its cover. Lyrically it's about being more than what people see on the surface and trying to think outside the box for a change. Play this when you're in the mood for some excellent alt-rock versatility and craftsmanship.
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NO SINNER: "Old Habits Die Hard"

Rating: RRr
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

... And the best artwork of the year award goes to... nah.... just kidding. They simply decided to grab a pic from their recent Tequila party and use it as the album cover? Blimey. Old Habits DO Die Hard!? I haven't been listening to any No Sinner in the past so this is a first experience and the very first thing that hits you, right between the eyes, the howling and haunting vocals.

Colleen Rennison. The former actor and sci-fi nerd. She's done stuff with the likes of Bruce Willis, Ray Liotta, and Michelle Pfeiffer. She's also a proper belter and powerhouse singer that oozes of blues and attitude. Clearly not one of them Britney Spears wannabees (Thank Lord!) and according to Colleen and I quote, "it's easy to compare me with the likes of Janis Joplin, Etta James, or even Robert Plant", end quote. Blimey. They do have thoughts. Actually. Yours truly compare himself to the likes of Albert Einstein and The Boogeyman. Cause I'm the genius as well as the urban legend. Let's just say that Rennison is a darn good in fact sort of great singer, but no legend and definitely no Etta or Joplin. Sass Jordan, a more correct comparison.

The album is more or less a roller coaster ride with too many ups and downs. Unfortunately. To each superb track, such as one of my favorite songs of the year "When The Bell Rings", there's a couple of dodgy ones. Well let's just say that "Old Habits Die Hard" is slow Blues death at first then picks up, but losing some of its impetus during the middle section as well as towards the end. I'm still not sure what "One More Time" and "Mandy Lyn" are supposed to be all about? It's got that acid meet flower-power trippy blues that goes nowhere and eventually dies in the corner. Final verdict: Great vocals. Some truly great songs. But, overall, just a tad too weak material.

MOB RULES: "Tales From Beyond"

Rating: RR
Label: SPV 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Mob Rules and Tales From Beyond. It barely just exists and plods through the motion. Never nearly as great as their moniker (that's Birmingham and Black Sabbath, folks). Never really outgoing or progressive, but continuing to hack out the same old bump and grind kind of stuff until you get bored and lose focus entirely. It's difficult to point out any highlights whatsoever and it comes across to me that Mob Rules are just playing the metal cliches for the sake of it.

Sure enough. They throw the occasional tantrum as well as burst into several ticks and seizures, and it's definitely not a case of metal in which flair, skill, and all those other imponderables are simply not required. Make no mistake. Mob Rules are good musicians. The song material? It's just so been there, done that, and bought the book in which all these arrangements are clearly described. It sounds like they're trying to do something original and no doubt they'll get there one of these days. I could go on with the battering, but there's no point really. Let's just call it a day as the tracks lack the ability to intrigue the listener. Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

MOTÖRHEAD: "Clean Your Clock"

Label: UDR
Rating: Live
Review by Martien Koolen

 This superb "new" live album was recorded at the Zenith Hall in Munich (Germany) during the winter of the previous year and it is a worthy legacy for Lemmy. These songs were recorded only weeks before his sad death and as Lemmy would say: "Turn the volume up, because the only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud..."

The fifteen songs on this live album are almost all Motorhead classics and the CD kicks off with one of the best metal songs ever being Bomber and it ends with another classic Lemmy track Overkill. Other headbanging highlights are Stay Clean, Metropolis, Orgasmatron, No Class and of course Ace Of Spades. Kilmister, Campbell and Dee play their socks off as usual and the musical energy can be felt in every played note and chord.

The only thing which I find rather superflouos is the guitar solo just after the song Over The Top. The rest of the material on the set list is spot on and shows Motorhead at its peak; so sad that Lemmy ('we are Motorhead and we are going to kick your ass") will not be performing anymore, he will be truly missed!

https://www.imotorhead.com/
https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead/


TREMONTI: "Dust"

Label: FRET 12
Rating: RRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Of course hard rock guitar lovers know Mark Tremonti from notorious bands like Creed and Altar Bridge, but Dust is also already his third solo release under the band name Tremonti. Founded in 2012, Mark Tremonti teamed up with Eric Friedman (guitar) and Garret Whitlock (drums) and released his debut solo album All I Was. Later Wolfgang van Halen joined the band and in 2015 Tremonti released Cauterize which took on the number 1 spot on the I-tunes rock charts for a week.

Dust is Tremonti's third album and it is one of the best hard rock albums of the year 2016 already. Dust contains 10 brand new songs and they are all brilliant and very, very addictive. Take for example a song called The Cage, an arena rock track of the first order, with an extremely excedllent guitar solo. Other musical highlights are: Betray Me (heavy), Catching Fire (the slowest track) and Never See, which is a brutal guitar driven monster of the highest quality. The last song of the album Unable To See opens with a nice, melodic acoustic driven "intro", but then changes into a typical Tremonti guitar track.

Dust is a marvellous metal/hard rock CD, combining speed, heaviness and lost of breathtaking melodies and it is good from start to finish; absolutely no fillers!! My personal favourite of this smashing album is probably Never Wrong, but I could listen to the entire album everyday and not be bored; this is guitar driven rock at its best. Needless to say that you have to play this album at maximum volume, do NOT mind the neighbours; bring out your air guitar and watch out that you do not wring your neck....

https://fret12.com/mark-tremonti

IRON SAVIOR: "Titancraft"

Label: Suburban Records
Rating: RRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Iron Savior have been around for 20 years now and if you buy a new album of these German hard rockers you know exactly what you can expect, namely decent "ordinary" German power metal.

Titancraft is Iron Savior's 9th album containing 10 new songs, filled with very recognisable guitar riffs, blazing solos, anthem-like choruses and up beat, driving drums. The production of this album is as crystal clear as ever and the signature vocals of the only original member Piet Sielck are classic in the true sense of the word.

Favourite songs would be Gunsmoke due to the very addictive chorus, which actually sounds like Ratt and the very MElodic rocker Beyond The Horizon. Other excellent songs are the up tempo Strike Down The Tyranny and the also very fast Rebellious. Of course you can also "enjoy" a power ballad, being the maybe somewhat superfluous I Surrender. But in the end you can say that Iron Saviour did it again, as they have created another good power metal album with great songs and if you are a fan of the genre, you already have bought Titancraft or not. Turn up the volume for maximum enjoyment!!

site.iron-savior.com/