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  • B (11)
  • C (13)
  • D (15)
  • E (5)
  • F (4)
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  • H (7)
  • I (5)
  • J (5)
  • K (4)
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  • Q (1)
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Artist Title Score Label
Station STATION - Station (Review) 90 Electric Cheetah
Find Me FIND ME - Dark Angel (Review) 93 Frontiers
Pyramaze PYRAMAZE - Disciples of the Sun (Review) 90 Inner Wound
Worldview WORLDVIEW - The Chosen Few (Review) 80 Ulterium
Within Silence WITHIN SILENCE - Gallery Of Life (Review) 85 Ulterium
Magnus Karlsson's Freefall MAGNUS KARLSSON'S FREEFALL - Kingdom Of Rock (Review) 95 Frontiers
Billy Sherwood BILLY SHERWOOD - Citizen (Review) 78 Frontiers
Vanden Plas VANDEN PLAS - Chronicles Of The Mortals: Netherworld II (Review) 88 Frontiers
Serpentine SERPENTINE - Circle Of Knives (Review) 89 AOR Heaven
Bryan Adams BRYAN ADAMS - Get Up (Review) 40 Universal
Ozone OZONE - Self Defense (Review) 85 Escape
Maxx Explosion MAXX EXPLOSION - Dirty Angels (Review) 90 Kivel Records
Black Star Riders BLACK STAR RIDERS - The Killer Instinct (Review) 84 Nuclear Blast
Thunder THUNDER - Wonder Days (Review) 75 earMusic
Voodoo Hill VOODOO HILL - Waterfall (Review) 92 Frontiers
Joel Hoekstra's 13 JOEL HOEKSTRA's 13 - Dying To Live (Review) 93 Frontiers
Stryper STRYPER - Fallen (Review) 94 Frontiers
Def Leppard DEF LEPPARD - Def Leppard (Review) 95 earMusic
Blackmore's Night BLACKMORE'S NIGHT - All Our Yesterdays (Review) 80 Frontiers
Operation Mindcrime OPERATION MINDCRIME - The Key (Review) 45 Frontiers
Def Leppard DEF LEPPARD - Let's Go (Single Review)
Bon Jovi BON JOVI - Burning Bridges (Review) 10 Mercury
Lynch Mob LYNCH MOB - Rebel (Review) 87 Frontiers
Praying Mantis PRAYING MANTIS - Legacy (Review) 92 Frontiers
Royal Hunt ROYAL HUNT - Devil's Dozen (Review) 90 Frontiers
The Murder Of My Sweet THE MURDER OF MY SWEET - Beth Out Of Hell (Review) 89 Frontiers
Skintrade SKINTRADE - Scarred For Life (Review) 86 AOR Heaven
Newman NEWMAN - The Elegance Machine (Review) 91 AOR Heaven
Michael Bormann MICHAEL BORMANN - Closer (Review) 86 AOR Heaven
Scorpions SCORPIONS - Return To Forever (Review) 85 Sony

Pages

Tue
02
Feb

NORDIC UNION - Nordic Union (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
41
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Ever get an album that does exactly what you expect it to do, with the added bonus of blowing your mind with the quality of the songs? Nordic Union (the pairing of Swedish legend in the making Erik Martensson and Pretty Maids’ frontman Ronnie Atkins) is everything you’d expect if familiar with the output of both individuals.
 
Erik of course is the frontman for Eclipse, whose albums are an absolutely essential requirement for fans of classic melodic hard rock. He’s also the man behind the just as essential and critically acclaimed albums from Jimi Jamison, Toby Hitchcock and W.E.T.
So this is precisely the best of Erik (recent Eclipse, WET and Adrenalin Rush) meets a more melodic Pretty Maids (think My Soul To Take). Raspy vocals meets the highly polished and articulately mixed, bombastic hard rock style of Erik Martensson.
Exactly what you’d expect, but boy does this baby have a monster sound and a vacuum of energy that just sucks you in. It’s catchy, it’s powerful and it’s a marvellous pairing.
 
The War Has Begun is a strong opener, starting slow and building intensity, featuring a good chorus and some great guitar work. It’s a foundation song that the album builds upon.
Hypocrisy has a typically Eclipse feel to it, not to mention part W.E.T also. The songs stays within itself until the monster chorus bursts to life and builds the pace. Then it never lets go.
Wide Awake is nothing to do with the Eclipse tune, apart from a similar thumping beat and a very melodic vocal from Ronnie. It’s a catchy commercial rocker with layers of music to get through.
 
Every Heartbeat is another track with a strong Eclipse feel. The classy ballad builds from a moody intro to an intense full band second half. Possibly the best vocal I’ve ever heard from Ronnie, he really stretches here for a great result.
When Death Is Calling is probably the stand out commercial hard rocker of the album and is an instant like. It’s the fastest track thus far and features a huge crashing beat, a great chorus and a monster sound.
21 Guns is another instant classic for me. Some keyboards join in the mix for a very melodic and moody track. A terrific melodic, heavy chorus that delivers a perfect lyric and hook.
Falling is a breezy melodic rocker with a faster pace and a commercial feel. Definitely some Pretty Maids sounds here.
The Other Side rocks hard and fast. A simpler track than some others, but equally as enjoyable and a cool fired up rocker that adds tempo to the album.
 
Point Of No Return rolls along at a good pace and has a new twist for followers of Erik’s work. A great chorus again, if not immediate, it’s a grower.
True Love Awaits You is another quality big rock ballad that features harmonies, layers and a lighters in the air vibe. I can imagine Erik singing this and it’s another showcase of Ronnie’s more melodic side.
Go is simply a flat out rocker with a good hook and a big fat sound. Great energetic way to close the album. A big fat hard rock sound.

All in all, a wonderful album that delivers on the hype and promise that such a pairing brings. It doesn’t quite match Eclipse or W.E.T for me, as I’m drawn to those releases more by the vocal style - here Ronnie’s rasp isn’t as smooth as Erik’s other projects. But it’s still every bit an essential release and showcases both guys in a really high quality, world class release.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
25
Dec

MIKE TRAMP - Nomad (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
88
Label: 
Target
Artist: 
 
Mike Tramp goes back to a full band set up for his latest album Nomad, but remains in the style and the tempo of his last couple of studio releases. This is another earthy, laid back collection of poignant songs of life, love and loss, told in a way only Mike Tramp can deliver.
 
Of course this isn’t for all fans of White Lion, Mike has long since moved on, but those like myself that have followed Mike throughout his career will as usual find a lot to like here.
Yes, it’s sparse and relatively laid back, sprinkled with as much acoustic guitar as there is electric, but it is nice to hear the type of songs Mike writes delivered with a bit more oomph.
 
The tempo stays relaxed for most of the record, so it’s not one to get fired up from, but rather a reflective lyrically deep set of songs that give an insight into how Mike sees the world at large and his own personal place in it.
Highlights from the consistent record include the classic Tramp opener Give It All You Got; the organ drenched Counting The Hours; the angst filled acoustic driven Bow And Obey; the dark yet musically breezy No More and the last two tracks which are very personal and open – Live To Tell and Moving On.

If you liked the last two Tramp albums, you’ll like this. Others will have to investigate first.
 

 

Categories: 
Tags: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
25
Dec

TEN - The Dragon And Saint George EP (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Score: 
90
Label: 
Rocktopia
Artist: 
 
The new EP from Ten isn’t just a single track excuse to promote the current album – it’s a definite companion piece to the Isla De Muerta opus.
Featuring exclusive artwork from Gaetano Di Falco, the EP has three previously unreleased tracks. And what good tracks they are too.
 
The excellent album track The Dragon And Saint George is followed by an epic sounding Muskateers: Soldiers of the King - classic ‘pomp a-la-Ten’, while The Prodigal Saviour is an uptempo melodic rock ride as is the early AOR Ten sounding Is There Anyone With Sense.
 
The EP also includes the European bonus track 'We Can Be As One' in case you don’t have that. Well worth it of course. Simply put, more classic Ten.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
24
Dec

MelodicRock REVIEWS IN BRIEF December 2015

 
90% CATS IN SPACE – Too Many Gods (Harmony Factory/Cargo Records)
What a fun album. The whole album could have been released anytime in the mid-late 70s and you wouldn’t have known any different. Listening to this is like walking into a drive-in diner in 1978 and hitting random selections on the jukebox.
The album is consistently strong, but quite varied also.
There’s ELO (Too Many Gods, Mr Heartache); Queen (Stop); Styx/ELO/Queen (Last Man Standing – easily the most memorable song); Elton John meets The Who meets Queen (Unfinished Symphony) and even 70s Meatloaf (Only In Vegas); The Who (Five Minute Celebrity).
It is really quite an impressive and very accomplished piece of work - especially for a debut album. I can’t imagine 70s rock fans hearing anything better than this in 2015.
 
 
87% C.O.P – State Of Rock (AOR Heaven)
This has the obvious musical comparisons to Grand Illusion and the glorious, over the top, high pitched pomp that band delivered. Why? Vocalist Peter Sundell is front and center here along with his brother Christian Sundell. For those missing the pomp/AOR of Grand Illusion and Peter’s unbelievably high vocals, then jump on this!
It’s like Grand Illusion, but it also has its own personality and delivers some outstanding Scandi-AOR material, while the production is top notch (thanks to Ola af Trampe).
Another memorable, high quality release.
 
 
93% ANBERLIN – Never Take A Friendship Personal & Cities – Live In New York City (Tooth & Nail)
I absolute love these two Anberlin albums – easily the best of their career and here they are, faithfully reproduced in their entirety in a farewell live performance. Both albums are stacked with great tunes, but these versions are even more electric, as the atmosphere captured here is truly compelling. Great recordings – live, raw and honest, and overflowing with emotion and energy.
 
 
90% MR. BIG – Raw Like Suchi 113 – Sendai Japan 2014 (Wowow Entertainment)
Another month, another Mr. Big release! Cashing in on their legendary status in Japan and their anniversary year, this new live album is every bit as essential as any of the band’s other live releases. Packed with songs from the last two studio albums and various other classics, the recording is overdub free and live as on the night – which is the usual engaging, high energy excellence these great musicians deliver every time they hit the stage.
Definitely recommended for Mr. Big fans.
 
 
88% DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES – Live In Dublin (Eagle Rock)
The unquestionable brilliance of Hall & Oates is captured on this double live concert, recorded in July 2014. As expected it is a hits rich set that covers many of the bands’ hit singles, but at 15 tracks over 2 discs, it feels a little underdone and I have heard so many great live sets from these guys that this one just doesn’t have the same wow factor for me as other have. It may be down to the actual set list – there’s at least 4 tracks I’d sub out in favor of others (Do What You Want, Las Vegas Turnaround, Back Together Again & It’s Uncanny). It makes for a pretty laid back mid-concert run of tracks. But the rest – magnificent as always.
Thankfully the glorious Out Of Touch, plus mega-hits Family Man, Maneater, Say It Isn’t So, Kiss On My List and Private Eyes are all included. And what can you say about a 15 minute version of I Can’t Go For That?!
The DVD is certainly more engaging and I’ve always loved the way the guys interact with the crowd (who are very enthusiastic on this occasion). And the band is incredible of course, as are the harmonies.
And man…it has to be said – Daryl Hall’s voice is beyond unbelievable. He hasn’t lost anything over the years, he sounds freeking crazy good. What a voice!
 
 
85% NEAL SCHON – Vertex (Mascot)
Not to be restricted by any conventions over how much music one should record or be limited by any one style, guitar legend Neal Schon delivers 90 minutes of whatever he wants…in this case, inspired and diverse instrumental music. 18 songs over two discs, with tracks ranging from 2 to 7 minutes in length, Vortex is Neal in his favourite setting – just letting go.
And what’s even better – he’s backed by Steve Smith on drums, providing the intelligent, musically complex drum and percussion needed for such a bold musical statement such as this.
There’s fast, slow, rock, jazz, electric, acoustic….you name it. Guitar instrumental fans will love, no question about it.
 
 
75% GUN – Frantic (Caroline)
Gun seem to have made the transition from the angst driven melodic rock/hard rock of their past with original vocalist Mark Rankin, to the new lineup with Dante Gizzi now up front. The sound change is vast – the guys are now a power/pop outfit with a feel-good uptempo vibe. This is the second album in this format. The songs are pretty consistently good once again, but the style is hard to accept after such brilliance previously.
There are some very catchy tunes here, some more guitar driven than others, but overall not as many highlights as the last album for me. I miss the old days but don’t see Mark returning to singing. What a waste.
 
 
90% PAT BENATAR & NEIL GERALDO – 35th Anniversary Tour Live (Indie)
Now this is a ‘greatest hits’ set I can live with. The talented duo of Pat and Neil shred through some of their most iconic hits in a (all) fired up, live raw setting.
The rocked up set includes the brilliant Shadows of the Night, Invincible, Sex As A Weapon, Promises in The Dark, We Belong, Love is A Battlefield (8 minutes in length) and an even longer Heartbreaker to close the set.
The only thing that bugs me is Pat’s slightly tweaked chorus vocal in the mega-anthem All Fired Up. Doesn’t work. Whatever though….the rest is brilliant and a great tribute to the songs included. Boy can that Neil guy play guitar…
 
 
84% ELEMENTS OF FRICTIONS – Pride Music Sampler
Great way to introduce your new label to the world – gather some of the best melodic rock artists around and compile a bunch of unreleased tracks. Kicking off with one of the best rock anthems you’ll ever hear – a new Marcello Vestry track When You Grow Up. Elsewhere it’s a little hit and miss, but the highlights are Area 51 (Matti Alfozetti), Don’t Leave Me Lonely (Matti again), Make You Mine (Larry Baud, written by, yes…Matti), Without Your Love from Snakes In Paradise, the Matti written Only My Heart (sung by Mats Levin), Another Me (Paul Laine) and Somebody Up There (Tommy LaVerdi), which rocks pretty hard.
 
 
86% MARK SLAUGHTER – Reflections In A Rear View Mirror (Thunder Spirit Records)
Slaughter frontman Mark delivers his debut solo album here – which rocks seriously and surprisingly hard. Not sure what I was expecting, but it’s heavier than I figured. It’s also more diverse. Some of the songs are screaming rockers (Away I Go, Miss Elainious); some are more reflective (Carry Me Back Home, Baby Wants).
Others are closer to the anthemic rock of Slaughter (Never Giving Up, The Real Thing, Somewhere Isn’t Here) and some are just something new altogether (Don’t Turn Away, In Circle Flight, Velcro Jesus).
Some of it works – some of it doesn’t. I’ll let the listener decide, but this is an interesting journey and does what a solo album does – offer the artist and excuse to try different things.
 
 
85% CAGE – Ancient Evil (The Metal Masses)
Traditional American metal at its loudest, fastest, intensest (no, that’s not a word…). San Diego based Cage have been doing the metal circuit for a long while now and they don’t let up with age. This is the heaviest thing I’ve reviewed here in a long while. You know what to expect. Fast, furious, screaming high pitch vocals and some of the most brutal double kick drumming this side of thrash metal. Did I mention the ear blasting guitar demotion?
All you need to know is that it’s well produced, features a balanced mix and sounds huge.
 
 
84% 7TH HEAVEN – Next (NTD Records)
The hardest working band in Chicago America never fails to deliver quality music. On their new album Next they introduce new vocalist Adam Heisler after Keith Semple left to chase bigger dreams. Adam changes the tone a little bit – his vocal is a little deeper than the very AOR-friendly Semple.
Song wise the band continue to pursue the modern pop direction set up by the last album, moving further away from AOR/melodic rock into dance/pop with a commercial power pop base.
Some hugely catchy tunes here, but a few others that I don’t feel have the spark of the last 2-3 albums. Not sure if it’s the songs or the singer to be honest. Maybe a little of both.
Still, you won’t find a better example of the genre should modern pop be of appeal. These guys are an industry unto themselves and if you don’t like this album (or any other), then you know they’ll always be back next year with more!
 
 
86% HUNGRYHEART – Dirty Italian Job (Tanzan Music)
Italian rockers Hungryheart deliver their third studio album and continue to grow as songwriters and performers, not to mention also in the production stakes.
Each album has improved upon the last, which is all you can ask of any band. This album features some catchy melodic hard rock songs with a strong European flavor. There are some hard rockers and a nice variety of moodier melodic tunes too and just the one ballad – Nothing But You.
Tracks like You Can Run, There Is A Reason For Everything and Time For Letting Go show real promise and give hope that the guys might be able to cut through the plethora of releases out there to find some new fans. Well worth checking out.
 
 
89% DENNIS DRIES – I (AOR Heaven)
White Sister’s Dennis Dries finally delivers a long awaited solo album and it doesn’t disappoint. He’s joined by the great Paul Sabu to create a very likable pomptastic classic rock release that’s quite diverse, yet very focused at the same time.
Diversity comes in the shape of the pomptastic Heard It On The Radio; to the sentimental AOR of “I”; to the acoustic lead Home; and back to the melodic hard rock of Unbroken.
Focus comes in the form of the precision and thought put into the music and the production. A lot of time and energy has gone into this record, no doubt.
This may not be for everyone, but White Sister and classic pomp/rock fans will surely delight in Dennis’ unique vocals and writing style.
Best thing about this album is how it stands out from the pack by being different than most other titles out there, yet familiar at the same time.
 
 
50% LIPSTICK – Lipstick (Indie)
At lot of great releases about this year, this is not one of them. Unless you are into really average mid-80s glam, cowbell and all. There’s 16 tracks and 65 minutes of music to get through here, all featuring the unremarkable vocals of Greg Troyan.
These tunes are apparently “Super Demos”. I’d agree with the ‘demos’ part if not the ‘super’, but otherwise I’d use the old analogy, some albums/songs remain unreleased for a reason.
It will take a very dedicated glam rock/Poison groupie to appreciate the contents of this disc.
 
 
80% KICKIN VALENTINA – Super Atomic (Target Records)
American sleaze/hard rockers Kickin Valentina released their debut album earlier this year. You’ve got a strong Guns N Roses/LA Guns/Ratt type vibe going on here, with heavy, dirty blues riffs, a driving rhythm and raspy, gravelly vocals all combining to form a pretty credible, high energy rock outfit.
Musically this is all in your face hard rock with bar room swagger and some impressive guitar soloing to match the screams of vocalist Joe. Not an album for fans of big hooks or big harmonies, this one is better suited for fans of the bands mentioned and the whole LA late 80s LA sleaze scene.
 
 
92% ROMEOS DAUGHTER – Spin (RD Records)
A long overdue review here for this new gem from one of the UK’s premiere female fronted AOR bands.
Once again Leigh Matty delivers a silky smooth vocal over a very tight performance form the band and guitarist/producer Craig Joiner.
Anyone who picked up and enjoyed the band’s comeback album Rapture will be able to slide this album right alongside.
Perhaps a little lighter/more laid back than the 2012 album and moving a little more into modern pop style, it doesn’t matter in the end. It’s just filled with beautiful songs and warm, inviting melodies such as the born for radio Already Gone and Love Will Come To Those That Wait, plus the moody Enemy and the haunting acoustic beauty of Didn’t See You Coming.
The driving All Because Of You and the closing Tall Buildings add a little fire at the end of the album.
 
 
77% POWERPLAY – All Those Years (Target Records)
The debut album from Danish pop/rockers Powerplay ranges from Alien style Euro-AOR through to Chicago/State Cows styled Westcoast pop.
I definitely prefer the AOR flavored tunes, of which there are several fine examples (City Of Love, Climb A Mountain, All Those Years). There’s a little Work Of Art/Toto in the mix also, but to be honest, I’m not entirely sold on the vocalist and sometimes the album crosses over into ‘too pink and fluffy’ territory. Worth a listen, but more work needed to bring themselves into the wider fan base this music has.
 
 
69% ST. PROSTITUTE – Glorified (Target Records)
Another big sleazy hard rocking album on show here – this time from Denmark’s answer to Hanoi Rocks. Well maybe not, but you get the idea. It’s all guitars and all gravelly, sleaze drenched vocals. This one isn’t as memorable as a couple of other reviewed, but it probably packs a more powerful guitar punch and there’s certainly isn’t any issue with the monster sound.
 
 
90% DIEMONDS – Never Wanna Die (Napalm Records)
These guys are being compared to Halestorm and the immediate reaction to the female lead vocalist and the classic-meets-modern hard rock approach seems to match.
But this is a different type of album to Halestorm. More traditional hard rock and definitely a step heavier than Halestorm. Vocals are great, riffs are fast, furious and frequent and the production is huge.
This deserves a longer review, but time is of the essence. It’s a really strong album that gets better and better. Highly recommended for fans of powerful female fronted hard rock and metal.
 
 
78% PRETTY WILD – Pretty Wild (Dead End Exit)
Pretty Wild are, well…pretty decent! Take the old school melodic hard rock approach, add in some Scandi sleaze, mix it up with Bon Jovi, Johnny Lima and Reckless Love and you will get a pretty fair idea of the sound of this album. Not quite as immediate or as essential as those named, but still pretty worthwhile.
 
 
85% REACH – Reach Out To Rock (Sunhill Productions)
Reach are… yes! Swedish! And they produce solid, high quality melodic rock. Who would’ve thought? These guys lag behind the front runners of the genre though. They feature a more guitar heavy sound with less keyboards. Plus the vocalist isn’t quite as engaging as some of the others in the Swedish melodic rock gang.
There’s a moody feel to this album, a darker undertone than the likes of BFT, Art Nation or Wigelius. Not bad by any means and one for fans of guitar driven melodic hard rock with a Scandi-accent. Well produced and packing a decent punch – just not as immediate or as hook driven as their compatriots.
Still some good choruses here though – especially You Called My Name, We Are and Fortune & Fame.
 
 
55% ROB MORATTI – Tribute To Journey (Escape Music)
I’m a big Rob Moratti fan. I’ve featured him here many times across the years and his various projects and he’s a terrific guy. Which is why this is hard to say – but I simply don’t see any point to this release at all. In fairness, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and no one is expecting it to match the impact of an original studio album. Rob has a fantastic high pitch voice well suited for paying tribute to the great band Journey and vocalist Steve Perry. Nothing wrong with that!
However, I just don’t see any point in compiling 12 very very over-played, over-covered, over-done Journey classics and doing absolutely nothing different to them. This is a note for note tribute, which is always going to come off second best to the originals.
That’s a brave move by Rob as he’s only going to draw comparisons with Steve MF Perry afterall!
Perhaps there would have been some greater point to doing this if the songs were deep cuts or less recognizable hits. Or perhaps changed them up a little; make them heavier or acoustic in places….anything! Sorry Rob – I’ll hang out for the all-new studio album mate.
 
 
83% SHADES & PETERS – Let The Record Spin (Indie)
This album came out late in 2014 and has a similar musical play to the recent Tom Cochrane album.
Two rockers – you know them well – Rene Shades and Martie Peters, changing things up and creating something new – an acoustic driven, fairly laid back album touching on country, pop, blues as well as a little rock for good measure.
Despite my not so favourable verdict on the Cochrane album, Shades & Peters come out better off for delivering better quality songs.
Not everyone that has followed Push or MPG is going to be into this. And some that weren’t into those groups might indeed prefer this. It’s different that’s for sure.
 
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
24
Dec

ART NATION - Revolution (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Jakob Herrmann
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
95
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
Art Nation is an absolutely superb slice of glorious Scandi-AOR. Yes, another Swedish masterpiece is upon us. Anyone who purchased or heard the very highly rated Diamond Dawn debut album needs to sit up and pay attention here.
The band features former vocalist of that band Alexander Strandell and all of that band’s best qualities – big keyboards, big guitars, big hooks, big harmonies and big attitude.
The album rocks pretty hard in places (for an AOR release at least), with a couple of tracks going into double kick drum territory.
 
The bulk of the songs however are just perfect, sweet, anthemic melodic rockers, with the tempo and feel good factors both “up”.
There’s a little Brother Firetribe and a little H.E.A.T sound to these guys, which I’m sure will bother absolutely no one reading this.
It’s song after song; chorus after chorus here. The record doesn’t let up for a minute.

At this time of year I have to push out too many reviews that deserve more space and time, but don’t let the brevity of this one stop you from checking out one of the year’s best pure AOR, 80s influenced releases.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
24
Dec

RADIO EXILE - Radio Exile (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
Produced By: 
Steve DeAcutis
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
You’ve got to hand it to Charlie Calv. Every project he comes up with has a remarkable similarity. That is – he delivers classic melodic rock records with a strong 80s background and that US East Coast musical touch, except no record ever sounds like anything else around at the time and nothing else, period. Shotgun Symphony and Skin Tag for example are both stand out bands with an original, left of center sound.
And so it is again with Radio Exile, featuring some of the most mature compositions of Charlie’s career to date.
 
Vocalist Chandler Mogul is someone who’s fronted some projects I love, but others I couldn’t stand. Thankfully in Charlie he has a great partner and his voice fits in perfectly.
You’ve got action from track one on this album – the no nonsense High Road, High Price and choppy No Pity On The Highway – bit for me the class of this album jumped a mile upon the arrival of the semi-acoustic earthy Feels Like Home. It’s a real gem.
The treats don’t stop there, as the guys channel Queen 1975 with the layered-pomp-harmony of Higher Than The Sun and still delivers with the moody melodic class of Hang On and the organ/synth soulfulness of Starting Over.
 
A Cross The Stone has to be one of the most soulful AOR songs in recent memories. Super slick, super smooth.
Road To Exile closes the album with a return to the choppy riff driven opening, delivering another memorable chorus.

Better once it gets going and once there, an unstoppable tour de melodic force. A terrific debut album from the guys, with a major production and some very memorable songs.
 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
24
Dec

CWF (Champlin, Williams, Friedstedt) - CWF (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
Produced By: 
CWF
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR / Westcoast
Score: 
85
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
This is nice little must have for Joseph Williams, Bill Champlin and Peter Friestedt. Peter has of course teamed with Williams before, but most recently the duo became a trio with the addition of Chicago’s Bill Champlin for the Live In Concert release.
This album of all original material is everything the names on the box would suggest.
Fans of Toto’s Seventh One album will love four of the five opening tracks – they are classic Toto AOR with Williams in fine voice.
 
Champlin fans get a taste throughout those songs, but Bill takes lead on Still Around and then again on Nightfly, which is also lush in harmonies and has that strong Toto influence.
Hearts At War is as smooth a ballad as you’ll hear this side of Air Supply’s Greatest Hits.
 
The last three tracks lose it a bit for me, heading out of AOR territory into Westcoast 101 and into a tempo more reserved for those considering their retirement plans.
Still, there’s nothing but class throughout. The 10 tracks are explicably produced and arranged, not to mention the near perfect instrumentation.
 
Some will find the tempo a little slow and mellow and some will find like I did, that the end is just a little too fluffy, but the opening 4-5 songs are just perfect soft AOR.

The new album also includes contributions from Steve Porcaro, Randy Goodrum, Will and Tamara Champlin. This must be a purchase for all card carrying members of the Westcoast Toto fanclub.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
24
Dec

LIFELINE - Scream (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
70%
Produced By: 
Paul Hume
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
 
 
Interesting album this. Another duel-vocalist project from Escape, much like Ozone. This debut project puts vocalists Nigel Bailey (Three Lions, Bailey) together with fellow Brit vocalist Lee Small (Shy, Phenomena).
The band is rounded out by guitarist/producer Paul Hume (Demon, Lawless), drummer Steve Clarkson and keyboards from Andy Bailey (Three Lions, Bailey).
 
I’m not sure it works to be honest. There’s nothing wrong with the performances, both vocalists are great on their own and mix together here pretty well. The production is solid too.
But I’ve struggled with this from day one. I think the songs just aren’t strong enough. The classic rock vibe is also fairly common and done better on both Nigel Bailey’s other two bands.
 
The album struggles in that it’s not really hard rock, not really melodic rock, not really classic rock and not really AOR. It’s just an undefined mixture of all.
That’s not to say there aren’t some sweet spots. The groovy opener Fear No More rocks; the mid-album melodic gem Feels Like Love is probably the best of all and No His Angel’s Gone is a solid moody ballad.

Not too bad, but not enough spark for me personally. The names involved don’t match the quality of the songwriting or overall output. But fans of Bailey and Small in particular will feel a lot more positive about this.
Categories: 
 
Mon
07
Dec

KHYMERA - The Grand Design (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
Dennis Ward
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Like an overblown Jim Steinman Masterpiece, the new rougher, tougher Khymera explodes with the glorious symphony of 80s keyboards and Euro-AOR guitars that is the feisty rocker Never Give Up On You.
This is a slightly different Khymera than we last heard. Dennis Ward is the only constant through all the 4 releases, joined on this occasion by Eric Ragno on keyboards (an inspired choice); Michael Klein on guitars; Felix Bohnke on drums.
Dennis Ward has the prominent writer’s role here – involved in all twelve, with half co-written with Paul Logue (Eden’s Curse).
 
It’s a slightly heavier Khymera here, and slightly rawer, with Dennis’ vocals definitely turning up the rasp. But other than that, it’s classic Khymera all the way – that is, European, commercial melodic Rock and 80s AOR.
One big chorus after another – all bathed in layers of keyboards, guitars and harmonies.
At this point in time I’m leaning towards this being the best of the Khymera albums to date.
 
The quality of the songs simply demand it.
 
Never Give Up On You is one of the catchiest anthems of the year; Say What You Want is a classic old-meets-new rock ballad; I Believe is fast and free flowing AOR; A Night To Remember is straight out of the White Sister playbook, with 80s synth dominating.
Land Of Golden Dreams has a strong, dramatic Gary Hughes/Ten mood to it; The Grand Design goes into overdrive and Streetlight is one of the more lush, emotional ballads of the year.
Who’s Fooling Who is another highlight – perfect moody, uptempo AOR here.
Closing the album is the big piano ballad Where Is The Love, featuring a very soulful vocal.

 
What can one say? Three very strong AOR releases in one month by the same label – Frontiers. And all pretty much essential.
But if there’s going to be a pecking order, this just comes out on top.
Terrific old school AOR without sounding dated or repetitive.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Mon
07
Dec

BLOOD RED SAINTS - Speedway (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Pete Newdeck
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
88
Label: 
Frontiers
 
British AOR newcomers Blood Red Saints was formed at the end of 2014 by singer Pete Godfrey and bassist Rob Naylor (Angels Or Kings). Fresh from his debut in the band In Faith, Pete walked away from that band, taking drummer Pete Newdeck with him as well as the Harem Scarem similarities.
The In Faith album was a very fine album and this also impresses with its classic British AOR sound, mixed with the melodic tone of Harem’s debut album.
Harry in fact takes care of the mastering of the album, with Pete Newdeck producing.
Lee Revill supplies the guitars in the best tradition of Vinny Burns and Dare.
 
I’m not particularly into the opening two tracks, which is odd, but for me they don’t hold the class that shows further into the album – starting with the Foreigner-esque commercial ballad Best Of Me, which is instantly catchy and an obvious first pick to showcase the album.
Dangerous, which follows, is even better though – the sound really is old-school AOR and the way Pete channels Harry Hess’ vocals is another selling point.
A triple play of AOR class is completed with Love Set Me Up Again.
 
The melodies and the sentimental choruses keep coming with Wrapped Up In These Arms, The Best Thing, Feels A Like Like Love and the big sparse vocal and piano driven ballad Faith.
 
In the best tradition of fellow British AOR names such as Dare, Ten, FM, Newman and of course the one-off In Faith album sits Blood Red Saints. Definitely hoping the band goes beyond this debut to develop further as I think there’s a lot to look forward to.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Mon
07
Dec

HAREM SCAREM - Live At The Phoenix (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
Produced By: 
Harem Scarem
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
The mighty Canadian legends Harem Scarem mark time between studio releases with this career spanning double live CD/DVD. Supporting their brilliant second comeback album Thirteen, the band rip through 20 tracks that take in nearly every album of their 25 year career.
This is an absolute must have for all fans of the band.
 
Do yourself a favor and start the playback at 1.10 so as to avoid the awful stage introduction.
The recording starts a bit rough with the new track Garden of Eden, but the mix improves as the band launches into some of their most memorable tracks.
The debut is represented by spirited versions of Hard To Love, Distant Memory and Slowly Slipping Away.
The classic Mood Swings has Saviors Never Cry, Change Comes Around, No Justice, Sentimental Blvd and Mandy.
The brilliant new album shines via Garden Of Eden, Troubled Times, Midnight Hours, All I Need and Saints And Sinners.
Turn Around and So Blind appear from Big Bang Theory as well as the anthem Killing Me from Weight Of The World.
The title track from Voice Of Reason gets a run as does the hard riffing Dagger from the underrated Overload album.
 
I actually find myself skipping some of the earlier tracks to enjoy the more recent and modern tracks as I feel Harem is on band that just nailed the crossover from old-to-new with their constantly evolving sound.
I’d love to comment on the DVD, but I’ve been sent 2 Disc 1’s instead of the actual DVD disc, so I guess I’ll have to sort that out.

No matter your preference for albums by these guys, there is no understating what gifted songwriters the guys are. The Hess/Leperance team has delivered to me more all-time favorite songs than just about any other artist I enjoy listening to.
This disc features 20 of them, but there’s so many more. This is a great testament to the band’s longevity and creative brilliance.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Mon
07
Dec

STATION - Station (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Anthony Lopardo, Ray Marte & Station
Running Time: 
71
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
Electric Cheetah
Artist: 
 
Finally proof that not all new artists playing classic 80s hard rock come from Sweden! The USA used to be the hotbed of the genre, delivering platinum selling band after band. Then it all dried up and the great Scandi take-over began.
But New York rockers Station won’t be denied their place in history!
This high energy outfit deliver their debut album in 2015, boasting a sound born out of 80s American rock – think Sunset Strip.
In fact, this album could be one of those gems, previously lost in a vault somewhere for 20 years, but no, it’s all new and sounds great.
Better even that the guys nail some really catchy tunes.
 
I Don’t Want To Know Your Name is a perfect anthemic Winger/Slaughter screamer to open the album; Everything is deep in harmonies and a catchy chorus and big riffs; Dressed To Kill actually has a Kiss vibe to it despite no direct connection to the title; its high energy, face paced, hard rocking fun.
The tempo stops briefly for one of the great anthemic ballads of recent years. Are You Sleeping Alone is a masterpiece for fans of the high-sentiment 80s rock genre.
The brilliant, very melodic and somewhat moody True Believer kicks the pace into the highest gear yet; With Me Tonight is another mid-tempo moody number; More Than Enough reminds me of the Bulletboys; Waiting For You is another solid ballad; Never Say Never takes the high notes over the top and I Can’t Live Without You is the most circumspect numbers included here.

There are 15 tracks included – great value for money – but this is also the one downside to the album. It’s pretty long already with most tracks in the 4 and 5 minute range, so to have 15 included for 71 minutes of music is probably 3 tracks too many. I’d have preferred this to be a 55 minute album and be left wanting more.
But, you can always skip or edit a playlist to your liking and the basic fact is there are at least 10 cracking hard rock tunes on here that warrant high praise and have been on high rotation with me for some time now.
Categories: 
Tags: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Tue
01
Dec

FIND ME - Dark Angel (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%
Produced By: 
Daniel Flores
Running Time: 
53
Release Date: 
December 5
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
93
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Robbie LaBlanc just has one of those voices. He would have been a star had he been part of the era of 80s vocal royalty such as Mike Reno, Lou Gramm, Eric Martin and James Christian.
Robbie has a really likeable voice that hovers between Glass Tiger’s Alan Frew and Mike Reno.
Thankfully we get him all to ourselves now though. With 2 great Blanc Faces albums and now a second Find Me release – the project arranged, mixed, mastered and recorded by the band’s drummer/keyboardist Daniel Flores.
Philip Lindstrand provides some world class guitar parts and Soren Kronqvist provides more keyboards.
 
And yes, there’s keyboards everywhere on this album, but at the same time, it’s a pretty tough batch of AOR tunes thanks to the guitar’s equally important role.
And Flores’ production gives the whole package a really thumping sound.
Songs come courtesy of Alessandro Del Vecchio (of course!), Niclas Olsson (of Alyson Avenue fame), plus Tom & James Martin.
 
The intro leaves no doubt that keyboards will play a prominent role on the album. The punch that follows says guitars won’t be left behind!
 
Nowhere To Hide is an uptempo melodic rocker that has the required urgency that an opener requires and a purposeful chorus that mixed guitars and keyboards perfectly.
Let Love Rule is even better. It’s a beautifully sung AOR anthem with a sentimental twist. Moving fast with a thumping beat and strong guitars, but also layered in keyboards, the chorus is particularly catchy.
Forever is a big piano ballad with a soulful vocal. A big 80s ballad that Loverboy or Glass Tiger could have easily released in their prime and scored a hit from it.
Another Day gets the tempo back to rollicking and turns the keyboards up to 11. I love the verse – the melody is pure ear candy. The chorus of course is just as good.
Dark Angel might sound moody, but it’s anything but. It’s one of the album most upbeat and pompous tracks – a glorious slice of classic AOR with big keyboards and a monster chorus.
Bleed In The Rain is 80s keyboard and guitar heaven without sounding dated thanks to Daniel’s excellent production and mix. A nice moody mid-tempo track with a great chorus.
 
Face To Face follows suit. More 80s FM radio friendly melodic rock with Robbie’s brilliant vocals and an easy going chorus.
Where Do I Go is the kind of moody track I love. It builds from a slow start to a big 80s chorus. Definitely some more Glass Tiger comparisons here.
Midnight Memories is a relatively restrained track until the chorus comes and Robbie goes into full power and blows up the speakers.
Don't Slip Away From Me could have been straight off the debut Glass Tiger album, both in sound and commercial appeal. The catchy chorus is pure Euro-AOR.
Did You Feel Any Love is another 80s gem – something like Signal could have included on their debut album. It’s a cool free flowing, fast moving AOR anthem with keyboards everywhere.
I'm Free is a terrific faithful rendition of the Kenny Loggins soundtrack classic. Robbie sounds fabulous and the fact this sits very comfortably amongst the rest of the material should give fans an indication of the style used throughout.

 
It’s gold for AOR/melodic rock fans. Well produced, solid choice of songs that sounds very consistent despite the different writers and brilliant, brilliant vocals from Robbie LaBlanc.
Another winner for all involved.
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
26
Nov

PYRAMAZE - Disciples of the Sun (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Jacob Hansen
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
90
Label: 
Inner Wound
Artist: 
 
Pyramaze for me, started with a bang (with vocalist Lance King) and failed to capitalize on a strong start, losing Lance after their second album and going thru another vocalist on their third before taking a break to regroup.
In 2013 new vocalist Terje Harøy joined and the band set their sights on making their best effort yet. And I think they have. New vocalist Terje is a great find. His voice is
 
The album’s production is world class thanks to producer and guitarist Jacob Hansen (who joined in 2011) and the songwriting lifts these guys from the sidelines to the frontline.
 
At 52 minutes, the album keeps to the point. Plenty of riffing and subtle tempo changes, plus enough double kick drum to keep metal fans screaming, but no overly long songs or filling the airtime with needless instrumental wandering.
This has more in common with Masterplan musically, mixing classic and contemporary effortlessly.
 
Stand outs for me include the title track Disciples Of The Sun (hard hitting and big vocal); the Masterplan influenced commercial metal of Back For More; the brilliant hook of Fearless and the crunch of Unveil.
The swirling keyboards and double time crunch of When Black Turns To White, which leads into a short atmospheric ballad, is a great way to close out the album.

One of the better melodic metal albums of 2015 and a sure fire way to get these guys back on the map. A consistent and memorable set of songs and a big fat metal production. Check it out!

 

Categories: 
Tags: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
26
Nov

WORLDVIEW - The Chosen Few (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
Produced By: 
George Rene Ochoa
Running Time: 
51
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
80
Label: 
Ulterium
Artist: 
 
The American melodic metal, semi-progressive band Worldview features members from bands like Sacred Warrior, Deliverance and Recon.
Then there’s a few guest spots that will show up on metal fans’ radars - Oz Fox (Stryper); Les Carlsen (Bloodgood) laying down a dramatic guest vocal, Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance) and Armand Meinbardis (Rob Rock) dropping in some violin and piano.
 
There’s a lot of musical texture here – some Indian percussion and acoustic string instruments; to dark and heavy guitars; a few vocal growls and some fine old school soloing too.
Vocalist Rey Parra has a strong presence for metal and at times gives me a Jamie LaBrie vibe. The higher register an obvious pointer.
 
What I like most is the variation within the album. There’s a nice mix of faster, slower, dark and heavy and more melodic tunes across the 50 minutes/10 tracks.
Highlights for me include the commercial Back In Time and Walk Through Fire; the more high-powered metallers Illusions Of Love and Prisoner Of Pain.
The Chosen Few is the album’s big epic track and the only time things slow down for a ballad.

A solid album in a crowded genre. Well worth investigating for fans of melodic metal and vocalists with a higher range.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
26
Nov

WITHIN SILENCE - Gallery Of Life (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
Produced By: 
Jan Cvercko
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
85
Label: 
Ulterium
 
Ulterium Records have been quietly releasing some quality metal in recent times and 2015 has seen the label reach new highs. Partially due to titles like this, the debut from Slovakian metal outfit Within Silence album.
I really like this album. I think the music is a nice heavy mix of power and melody, with an added dramatic flair.
The production is quite superb and the musicianship is excellent.
 
What’s most of appeal though – to these ears – is the band’s emphasis on melodies, harmonies and some very good chorus hooks.
There will be a few that have an issue with the sometimes heavy accent of vocalist Martin Klein. It’s not constant though…and his high notes and harmonies are quite wonderful.
 
After another one of those seemingly essential daft 1-minute instru-intro, the hard hitting but melodic metal of Silent Desire makes an immediate impact. Especially with the chorus.
Emptiness Of Night is almost as good, delivering a fierce beat.
Double kick drums get another heavy work out on Love Is Blind, with its progressive elements shining through.
The accent is back in play for Judgement Day, but the song has enough charisma for it not to be an issue.
The near 8 minute long Road to the Paradise is only the second lengthy track of the album and the band use the time well to showcase their prog-metal credientials.

 
A very decent debut. Strong material and excellent production, I think these guys will be around for a while to come. A little more work on the vocal delivery is about all that is needed for the band to continue expanding their fanbase.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Wed
11
Nov

MAGNUS KARLSSON'S FREEFALL - Kingdom Of Rock (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Magnus Karlsson
Running Time: 
54
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock / Melodic Metal
Score: 
95
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Swedish guitarist Magnus Karlsson (the man behind Allen/Lande, Starbreaker and more) returns with his second “Freefall” album, featuring another cast of all-star guests and powerhouse melodic metal/hard rock songs.
Following the acclaim of his solo debut, Magnus had a lot to live up to here. In my opinion, he does so with ease, even if this time the emphasis is slightly different than the first opus.
 
Kingdom Of Rock is just as powerful and as perfectly produced and mixed as the debut, but this is a more commercial record with a hard rock heart – even some powerful ‘melodic rock’. The metal edge has definitely been toned down.
Some of that has to do with the guest vocalists involved. All music and lyrics as well as everything but the drums (added by Jaime Salazar), plus all the production is from the hand of Magnus. That’s really quite extraordinary for an album of this caliber.
 
Kingdom Of Rock (Jorn Lande, vocals) is classic Magnus/Allen Lande and the perfect opener. Also my favourite track on the album just for Jorn’s killer vocal and the melodic hook in the chorus.
Out Of The Dark (Jakob Samuel, vocals) is something resembling The Poodles but all metal baby! Jakob’s voice stretches that bit further to hammer out a great hard rock song here.
No Control (Joe Lynn Turner, vocals) is JLT at his best also. The track is essentially a heavy melodic rock track with a great catchy chours.
When The Sky Falls (Tony Martin, vocals) is a slower, moodier and heavier track and Tony sounds brilliant. A nice melodic metal track that has a hint of Dio to it.
 
Angel Of The Night (David Readman, vocals) is another chunky hard rocker, this time with PC69’s David Readman controlling the sound. And as with the other tracks, Magnus let’s David’s personality shine through.
I Am Coming For You is another fairly commercial hard rock track, with Magnus himself on vocals. He really does have a good voice, he could easily carry this project by himself.
Another Life features current Masterplan vocalist Rick Altzi and swiftly manages to sound better than anything off the last Masterplan album.
 
Never Look Away is brilliant. Another fast moving melodic hard rocker, with the brilliant Tony Harnell delivering a Starbreaker friendly track. His voice and Magnus’ sound are just wonderful to hear each time. A great chorus takes it over the top.
A Heart So Cold could be one of the surprise tracks. Harem Scarem’s Harry Hess goes metal for this all-in rocker with a big chorus and even bigger vocals. Harry adapts brilliantly to the heavier sound and rips through this.
The Right Moment (Rebecca De La Motte, vocals) is a big symphonic ballad that could easily be on a Within Temptation or Nightwish album. Love it!
The album closes with Magnus on vocals again. I’m really enjoying the tone of his voice and Walk This Road Alone is a heavy, slightly progressive metal track that takes the album out on a heavy (and classy) note.

 
This is an easy one. If you have any Starbreaker/Allen Lande/MK produced album in your collection, then this is a buy or die release.
If you like melodic metal or hard rock with a heavy but melodic edge and can appreciate some of the best vocalists in the business doing their thing, this also demands buying.
A thoroughly enjoyable album that is consistently strong throughout, despite the use of different vocalists which can sometimes bring a project unhinged. Not on this occasion!
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Wed
11
Nov

BILLY SHERWOOD - Citizen (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
78%
Produced By: 
Billy Sherwood
Running Time: 
69
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive/Pop-Rock
Score: 
78
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Progster Billy Sherwood has a decades long resume longer as a producer than a recording artist, but on this self-penned new concept album, he well and truly takes center stage.
As the current bass player in Yes (handpicked by original founding member Chris Squire before his untimely death), he is obviously operating in an environment favorable to experimentation and complex musicianship.
Not to mention calling up a long list of high profile friends such as Chris Squire (his final bass performance), Tony Kaye, Steve Hackett, Geoff Downes, Colin Moulding, Steve Morse, Jerry Goodman, Alan Parsons, Rick Wakeman, Patrick Moraz, Jon Davison, Jordan Rudess and John Wesley.
Despite all the guests, Billy is front and center for most of this album, taking over all instrumental duties several times. He also handles vocals on all but three tracks.
 
This is a very specific album. It has headline appeal to progressive/synth pop fans, but only byline appeal to others. The premise is just as complex as the music – the songs describe “the individual experiences through his own eyes: a conscript legionnaire in the Roman Army at the end of the Empire. A trench runner in WW1. A friend to Galileo, as he discovers the Earth is not flat. A distraught Wall Street man stepping out onto the ledge... a casualty of the great depression. Assistant to Charles Darwin as he discovers his Theory. A member of the tribe during the trail of tears. Reborn as Nostradamus... written in the Centuries.”
Interesting.
 
When the opening track is an orchestrated 6 minute mostly instrumental number, you know immediately what kind of record is happening here.
There are some almost AOR moments such as the catchy Man & The Machine; the Colin Moulding sung Just Galileo And Me; A Theory All Its Own has a certain Neal Schon solo guitar feel to it and Yes’ Jon Davison sings the faster moving closing track Written In The CenturiesIn around those tracks it’s pretty slow going and definitely not for anyone with ADD. 70 minutes of mostly slow moving, long panoramic songs in the vein of Peter Gabriel and Marillion, with hints of Yes and Alan Parsons Project.

I’m convinced the album has been remixed before getting pressed, as my original promo audio was a sonic mess. I’m pleased to say this sounds a lot better and while it is still somewhat treble-heavy, it suits the ambience of the material.
Not a record for the majority I would think, but for the prog fans out there (of which there are many), this album certainly is creative and intelligent enough to warrant thorough investigation.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Tue
10
Nov

VANDEN PLAS - Chronicles Of The Mortals: Netherworld II (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Vanden Plas
Running Time: 
66
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive Melodic Metal
Score: 
88
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Following on from their early 2014 release – Part 1 of this 2 part progressive rock opera monster – Vanden Plas deliver the second half of the story over another 9 tracks and 66 minutes of complex and demanding, melodic progressive metal.
If I take both albums track for track, I’m finding myself favoring the first, but in reading my review of the first part, I could almost word for word repeat it here. So I will!
 
“This is one heavy album. Heavy concept, heavy lyrical content and heavy instrumentation. This progressive metal concept album is an adaption of a theatrical show the band put on, which itself was an adaption of a series of books by author Wolfgang Hohlbein. This is heavy going folks – not for the feint hearted by any means!
Of course it is extremely well done – but it requires a concerted effort on the art of the listener to get to know it. For that reason alone, it's more likely this is going to appeal to the band's already substantial fan base.
Dream Theater fans are going to appreciate the effort involved in writing and executing such a complex piece of music and there's enough here for all fans of progressive metal to appreciate.”
 
So with that said (again), I will add that this is an even longer piece of work with the shortest song clocking in at 5 minutes and the longest over 13 minutes!
These are not easy albums to get into – they are highly complex and require a lot of time and attention to fully appreciated.
 
If you are not progressively inclined, I would not recommend this. But as far as a symphonic melodic metal album with a range of emotions and a massive production effort goes, this is about as grand a vision as one could imagine and every bit as epic as expected.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Mon
19
Oct

SERPENTINE - Circle Of Knives (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Gary Hughes
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
89
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
In continuing on with catching up with some of 2015’s highest profile releases, British melodic rockers Serpentine returned some months ago with their third album and first to feature new vocalist Adam Payne.
Payne’s a terrific find – his voice is perfectly suited to Serpentine’s musical adjustment for this album. Payne has a deeper, more natural voice for the style of music, which is now heavily under the influence of enlisted producer and co-writer for this album – Ten’s Gary Hughes.
Hughes’ influence is evident from the get go.
 
Serpentine have always been classic British melodic rock, but now they have a strong connection to the popular sound Ten had in their early days as well as the Hughes produced and written Bob Catley solo albums.
In the vein of the much loved Ten debut, Serpentine have delivered a 10 track monster of a record. There’s 50 minutes of inspired guitar/keyboard driven AOR here, infused with that uptempo moody Ten sound.
 
Season of the Witch rocks harder than the band has done to date; while La Tragedienne moves as quickly as the swathe of keyboards directs, along with a great chorus; the hard edged, but the moody Forever is a 6 minute epic that is straight out of Bob Catley’s The Tower.
The Hardest Fall features one of the best choruses as it moves swiftly, delivering some brilliant British AOR bathed in keyboards and a strong guitar lead; Bleed is another ultra-moody track I could hear Gary Hughes singing; and Where Does Your Heart Beat Now is a cool more laid back track.
The faster and more urgent Bound By The Strings of Discord sees the band fired up and rocking, with Payne delivering a particularly good vocal; the 6 minute Circle Of Knives is another track that is pure Gary Hughes and again doesn’t forget to deliver a good chorus.
Such A Long Way Down builds vocal intensity throughout the song to good effect and the last track Suicide Days closes out a very consistent and enjoyable record.

If there was an album I’d recommend fans of Gary Hughes purchase, it would be this hands down. Classic Ten and the best of the first two Serpentine records combine to take the band in a brand new direction.
If you haven’t checked this out and the description appeals, then do so as a matter of importance!

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
16
Oct

BRYAN ADAMS - Get Up (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
40%
Produced By: 
Jeff Lynne
Running Time: 
25
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Wilburys
Score: 
40
Label: 
Universal
Artist: 
 
Canadian rock legend Bryan Adams claimed recently that this new album of his was so classic in style that he could play the entire album in concert and his fans would think he was actually playing tracks from one of his earlier masterpieces.
I counter that ridiculous claim by suggesting his fans (that’s me included), would instead be struggling to stay awake, wondering who this hillbilly Jeff Lynne wannabe is and wishing he’d hurry up and get off so the real Bryan Adams could take the stage.
 
The gap between Adams the rockstar, the working class hero, the monster live performer and the man who wrote some of the best anthems in rock history and the guy who releases records under the Bryan Adams name these days is more pronounced than ever.
His latest album Get Up is produced by ELO and Travelling WilburysJeff Lynne. The result is not a classic BA album as promised, but rather a hybrid of Adams’ recent era forgettable solo material and Lynne’s own laid back acoustic driven Midwestern rockabilly.
 
Yet again, we’re fooled into thinking Adams might return to his roots that delivered such classic albums as You Want It You Got It, Cuts Like A Knife, Reckless and the underrated perfection of Into The Fire.
No such luck. Instead the snoozefest of Room Service, 11 and last year’s horrible covers album continues.
If I wanted to listen to the Travelling Wilburys, I’d play that. If I wanted Lynne’s Armchair Theater, I have the recent re-issue to get out.
I don’t need Bryan Adams channeling that sound with so little of his own personality shining through.
What’s worse is that the album was almost entirely co-written by the great Jim Vallance.
I can’t understand what went wrong.
Thankfully the new tracks number just 9 and the album lasts all of 25 minutes. That’s just a little longer than one new Iron Maiden tune!
 
The opening track You Belong To Me may be impossibly catchy, but when its used to kick off an album, you know rocking isn’t a priority here.
Go Down Rocking and That’s Rock N Roll have traces of Adams of old, but the clichés sadly distract as does the hokey production style.
We Did It and Don’t Even Try are jangly, boring ballads that go nowhere.
Do What You Gotta Do is one of the few decent tracks with a wonderful chorus, but so removed from Adams’ sound, I kept waiting for Roy Orbison and Tom Petty to have their turn on vocals.
The attempted rocker Thunderbolt is just atrocious. How can an album of only 9 tracks have room for such a lemon as this?
That’s followed by another forgettable slow ballad and the best track of the album, the current single Brand New Day, which even then sounds like a B-Side at best from the glory days.
 
Adams then attempts to pad out the album with 4 shitty solo acoustic versions of songs already featured. Pointless and boring as bat shit.
 
Adams has willfully allowed Jeff Lynne’s production and writing style to infiltrate his thinking, the production style and the whole energy of this record.
How can the minds that crafted songs like Native Son, Into The Fire and one of the greatest melodic rock songs of all time - One Night Love Affair – all be a part of this mess?
Please explain Mr. Adams, Mr. Vallance and Mr. Scott!

I hate what Adams has become. He is suffering old man syndrome and along with John Mellencamp, Bob Seger and Tom Cochrane, has forgotten what to do in the studio to capture the energy of their live shows.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
16
Oct

OZONE - Self Defense (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
Produced By: 
Mike Slamer
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
 
The pairing of the great Mike Slamer and Heartland/Virginia Wolf vocalist Chris Ousey produced one of 2011’s best albums in Rhyme And Reason.
Why it has taken 4 years for the pair to work together again I’m not sure, but Ozone is the result.
The “O” zone of course is “O”usey working alongside Steve “O”verlandFM vocalist and fellow British AOR crooner.
 
This album is everything I expected – super slick Slamer production and guitar playing, pristine mix and the “O’s” absolutely killing it on vocals. And you know the sound already – fans of Production-by-Slamer will get another dose of his production magic and layers upon layers of harmony vocals – even bigger here given the vocalists involved.
 
So as expected I played this album to death in the first couple of weeks. But something I did not expect – a certain disconnect with a few songs that have failed to draw me in for the long haul.
Ousey’s album I still play today – it’s just superb.
But I think the songwriting here is a little safe, a little predictable and for that reason there are patches in the album that haven’t ignited my passion such as albums like Seventh Key, Steelhouse Lane and Terry Brock/Slamer had.
 
In the superb category come the opener Tiger By The Tail; the big ballad So Blind (positioned too early in the album though); the fast moving Save My Soul and Evolve and the equally fast moving but even better Self Defence and Smile Before You Lie and perhaps the best track of all, the anthemic rocker Practice What You Preach.
In the “oddly not that compelling” category are the tunes Let The Good Will Out, Destiny and Lifeline (all a bit one-paced); Shadow On The Sun (annoying chorus) and Visionary Man which rocks, but just doesn’t blow me away.
 
Interestingly, while this is credited to both vocalists, it is Chris Ousey who has the most dominant role throughout the album.
I’m hoping the songwriting isn’t spread too thin for is long awaited follow-up solo album due in the next several months.

Another great sounding album for all involved and another production winner for Slamer, but not quite the musical home run I was expecting as far as songwriting goes. Still a lot to like though.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
16
Oct

MAXX EXPLOSION - Dirty Angels (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Maxx Explosion
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
Kivel Records
 
Maxx Explosion of course are the max-trio from House Of Lords – drummer BJ Zampa, guitarist Jimi Bell and the singing bassman himself Chris McCarvil.
The album has been out months now, so this is one of a few reviews I’m adding with the caveat that “if you haven’t yet purchased, check this out now!”
 
That sentiment couldn’t be more apt for the band’s second album Dirty Angels. The debut featured some solid songwriting and something a little different to House of Lords, but the production was terrible and I’ve not listened to it since reviewing. A real shame that.
But Dirty Angels fixes that problem and goes another step forward in the songwriting department.
This album helps establish the band’s identity – there’s more character and individual expression here than the debut and the production and mix are a huge step forward. It sounds killer.
 
Harmonies, big grooves, hard edged riffs and catchy songs are the order of the day here.
 
Doctor Saturday is a thumping hard rocker with Chris’ raspy vocal in top form.
I’m not always a fan of rock n’ groove tracks, but the swagger and catchiness of Crazy Hot is inescapable.
The moody AOR of Nothing’s Easy could be one of my favorite ballads for 2015 while the fast moving aggression of Ordinary Life is the band’s most attacking song yet.
All For You is another high quality anthemic ballad while Impossible is another brilliant anthemic harmony filled melodic rocker.
Ok, so their cover of Dream Weaver is also pretty impressive, even if I hate the song!
On The Rise just kicks ass and Dirty Angels is the closing contractually obligated semi-acoustic ballad (just kidding). It’s a great song with a great hook that rocks out at the end.

Buy it. It’s long overdue for a review, but not overdue to be purchased. Melodic rock fans need this, it’s just such a well-rounded and enjoyable record.
House of Lords fans should all have this already, now it’s time for the rest of you.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
16
Oct

BLACK STAR RIDERS - The Killer Instinct (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
84%
Produced By: 
Nick Raskulinecz
Running Time: 
46
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
84
Label: 
Nuclear Blast
 
Catch Up Review / Black Star Riders (featuring Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham) have worked hard over several years to carve out their own identity from using the Thin Lizzy name, releasing two fine albums of original material.
 
Their second album The Killer Instinct sees the band (fronted by Phil Lynott soundalike Ricky Warwick and also featuring Damon Johnson – guitar; Robbie Crane - bass and Jimmy DeGrasso – drums) pick up exactly where the debut left off.
There’s no change in style/direction or sound here – just more of the same easy going, likeable 70s rock with that unmistakable bluesy Thin Lizzy sound.
 
Most of the regular album’s 10 tracks are written by Warwick and Johnson. The pair really captures the raw, rock n roll essence of what Thin Lizzy was all about.
This is a solid album. At 10 tracks, there’s no room for filler, but the highlights include the title track The Killer Instinct, the upbeat opener sounding like it comes straight out of 1979; Finest Hour is a very commercial slice of classic rock; Soldierstown features Gorham co-writing and is as Lizzy as it gets with some great guitar work throughout.
There’s a few take-or-leave tracks in the middle passage before the heavier Gorham co-write Sex, Guns & Gasoline livens things up.
You Little Liar is a 7 minute blues romp featuring Gorham and Johnson in full flight.

A no brainer for fans of Thin Lizzy, 70s rock and the guys involved. Good stuff, if not quite as compelling as the debut.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
16
Oct

THUNDER - Wonder Days (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
75%
Produced By: 
Thunder
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
75
Label: 
earMusic
Artist: 
 
Catch Up Review / As a fan of British classic hard rock group Thunder since their debut album way back in 1990, this for me has to be the least played album of their catalogue since 1999’s Giving the Game Away.
But is that because of the quality of this record or the sheer girth of releases consumers have been flooded with this year?
I think a little of both. True enough that I hadn’t given this the time it deserved due to so many other releases demanding my time, but I also failed to connect with the album on the first few listens, so it got pushed aside at the time of its release.
 
Now revisiting it over the last few weeks I can see the good and not so good of it pretty clearly.
Basically I’m still not connecting with some of the tunes and find myself skipping to my favourites.
 
I’m not convinced the guys have got the flow of the album right either. I find the storming second track The Thing I Want superior to the mid-tempo beat of the title track and then the mainly acoustic The Rain kills the momentum completely.
It’s not until the bluesy The Prophet and the semi-acoustic Resurrection Day that I get truly interested again, but that’s lost the minute the plodding Chasing Shadows kicks in.
Broken is a pretty good Thunder ballad.

Too much emphasis on bluesy mid-tempo tunes, which is pretty much my least favourite style when it comes to bands like Thunder. Overall I think the songs that just aren’t strong enough this time around. But that’s me comparing this to the band’s overall classic catalogue – a raft of albums any band would be proud of.
I’ll hope for another album in the not too distant future.
Categories: 
Tags: 
Release Year: 
2015
 

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