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Reviews

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Artist Title Score Label
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
Degreed DEGREED - Dead But Not Forgotten (Review) 100 Sun Hill
The V THE V - Now Or Never (Review) 85 Frontiers
Kelly Keeling KELLY KEELING - Mind Radio (Review) 75 Frontiers
Chaos Magic CHAOS MAGIC Featuring Caterina Nix & Timo Tolkki (Review) 78 Frontiers
Dimino DIMINO - Old Habits Die Hard (Review) 80 Frontiers
Asia ASIA - Axis XXX Live in San Francisco MMXII (Review) 82 Frontiers
Trixter TRIXTER - Human Era (Review) 95 Frontiers
Beauvoir Free BEAUVOIR FREE - American Trash (Review) 83 Frontiers
House Of Lords HOUSE OF LORDS - Indestructible (Review) 88 Frontiers
Bonfire BONFIRE - Glorious (Review) 85 Borila
Ammunition AMMUNITION - Shanghaied (Review) 95 AOR Heaven

Pages

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
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.

 

Score: 
85
 
Thu
24
Dec

LIFELINE - Scream (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
70%
Produced By: 
Paul Hume
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
Friday, October 23, 2015
Categories: 
 
 
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.
Score: 
70
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, December 4, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
94
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, December 4, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.

 

Score: 
88
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, December 4, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
92
 
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
Label: 
Electric Cheetah
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
90
Tags: 
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.
 
Score: 
93
 
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
Label: 
Inner Wound
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Categories: 
 
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!

 

Score: 
90
Tags: 
 
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
Label: 
Ulterium
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
80
 
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
Label: 
Ulterium
Release Year: 
2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
85
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
Categories: 
 
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!
Score: 
95
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.

 

Score: 
78
 
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
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.

 

Score: 
88
 
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
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Monday, May 4, 2015
Categories: 
 
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!

 

Score: 
89
 
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
Label: 
Universal
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, October 16, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
40
 
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
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, September 25, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.

 

Score: 
85
 
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
Label: 
Kivel Records
Release Year: 
2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.

 

Score: 
90
 
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
Label: 
Nuclear Blast
Release Year: 
2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
84
 
Fri
16
Oct

THUNDER - Wonder Days (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
75%
Produced By: 
Thunder
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
earMusic
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Categories: 
 
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.
Score: 
75
Tags: 
 
Fri
16
Oct

VOODOO HILL - Waterfall (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
91%
Produced By: 
Dario Mollo
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, October 16, 2015
Categories: 
 
I love, love, LOVE the guitar tone of Dario Mollo on this new Voodoo Hill album. And it’s so refreshing to hear Glenn Hughes singing straight ahead melodic hard rock, rather than a bluesy or 70s derived sound that he’s used in recent years with Black Country Communion and California Breed.
 
I pretty much enjoy and appreciate everything the great Hughes is involved in, but it was time for a change in direction and Italian guitarist Dario Mollo has offered Glenn a great platform of catchy, hard edged, commercial rock songs to shine on.
Waterfall is easily my favourite Voodoo Hill/The Cage album and is cleanly produced and mixed by Mollo with no bias towards his own guitar parts.
And it goes without saying that Glenn sounds amazing as ever. The man simply does not age!
 
All That Remains is a nice, straight forward rocker with a hard edged guitar tone and some understated vocals from Glenn. I love it when he sings this way – straight ahead rock with a commercial classic rock bent. Restrained but memorable chorus.
The Well is a slower, more groove driven rocker that is classic Glenn Hughes vocally.
Rattle Shake Bone is a bluesy hard rocker with a little more shredding and some extended higher range vocals from Glenn.
Underneath And Down Below is a twisting, moody 6 minute track with an intensity not seen yet on the album.
Waterfall is a great soulful classic Glenn Hughes/classic rock ballad that turns heavier and employs a little 70s Led Zep for good measure.
 
Karma Go is a grooving mid-tempo rocker with some vocal menace from Hughes.
Evil Thing is a mid-tempo rock n roller with a commercial chorus and a straight forward appealing vocal.
Eldorado is a faster moving track with a crunchy riff and a very commercial and memorable chorus.
White Feather is a moody, twisting track that takes a few turns and a few spins to get to know. Cool track that’s a little different to mix up the album.
Sunflower is a harder hitting track with some tasty guitar tricks and another nod to 70s classic rock.
Last Door is a longer, catchy, expertly sung, mid-paced rocker with some more nice crisp guitar work.

There’s groove, there’s attitude, but above all else, there are some terrific guitar driven rock songs, sung with an authority only Hughes can muster.
Waterfall features one of the cleanest mixes I’ve heard in a while and reminds me in part of another favourite album from the past – John Norum’s Face The Truth (also featuring Hughes).
Definitely one to check out by all.

 

Score: 
92
 
Fri
16
Oct

JOEL HOEKSTRA's 13 - Dying To Live (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%
Produced By: 
Joel Hoekstra
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, October 16, 2015
Categories: 
 
 
Guitarist, songwriter and all-round good guy Joel Hoekstra is a man on the rise. From Rock Of Ages, to Night Ranger, the occasional Foreigner fill-in role and now in Whitesnake, Joel Hoekstra is become a name guitarist in an era where few new guitar heroes have emerged.
 
His debut solo album is where he’s allowed to shine – from the impeccable guitar soloing and master class in memorable riff writing – to the challenging job of taking control of production – Joel nails it.
And in a nice added bonus, Joel has written every track on this album. Himself! (there’s one co-write with Russell Allen).
It’s nice to hear such an accomplished album from the pen of the star rather than hired gun writers.
 
This is a diverse album that ranges from melodic metal to commercial melodic rock, without losing the common thread and consistency an album needs.
Interestingly, with the two vocalists involved it is often a reversal of the expected, with metal man Russell Allen delivering a couple of fine melodic numbers and the voice of melodic rock Jeff Scott Soto handing in a couple of aggressive in your face numbers.
Of course both singers do what they do best on the other tracks, giving the album a clear balance of styles, despite the sometimes distracting tactic of alternating vocalists.
 
Say Goodbye to the Sun is a fierce tour de force with Russell bellowing at full volume. A Dio-esque metal intensity with this fine song.
Anymore sees Russell delivering a really catchy hard rock track with a fast beat and a free flowing high energy chorus.
Until I Left You is nothing short of a classic JSS sung melodic rock anthem. Great tune for fans of Night Ranger and Jeff as Joel turns ultra-commercial here.
Long For the Days is an epic sounding classic rock ballad. There’s some 70s and 80s influences there and more Dio, but ultra-melodic. Classy slow guitar solo too.
Scream is Jeff’s turn to go metal, with a tough but melodic sounding stadium metal track.
Never Say Never is Russell getting to sing at his most commercial. This is an instantly memorable melodic rocker with a stand out chorus.
 
Changes is Russell again, signing a moody hard rock track with a good heart.
The Only Way to Go is a uptempo hard rock song with a swagger and JSS in his darker heavier tone and Joel slashing his way through the song.
Dying to Live is a fast and fabulous melodic metal track which suits Russell to a tee.
Start Again is another JSS delivered monster melodic rock anthem. Huge chorus.
What We Believe is a bit of an epic mid-tempo album closer – the perfect tempo and tone to end one epic album.
 

 
Two thumbs up for Joel. Another very strong album – even more so give that it’s his debut solo album. A must for anyone that’s enjoyed his output in Night Ranger, Whitesnake and elsewhere.
And a cracking good set of songs for fans of JSS and Russell Allen to enjoy. The two singers really deliver here.
Melodic hard rock at its best!
 
Score: 
93
 
Fri
16
Oct

STRYPER - Fallen (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
Michael Sweet
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Categories: 
 
What I want to know is who lit a fuse under Michael Sweet to inspire such a creative flourish? In the last few years we’ve had a Stryper covers album, a re-recordings set, a live album, Sweet’s own solo album, the Sweet & Lynch epic and now we are on to the latest studio album, which comes after the band’s acclaimed No More Hell To Pay.
Fallen takes up where that album left off and continues the evolution of Stryper, surely now one of the most credible hard rock outfits in the world, not just of the Christian rock scene.
It’s hard, it’s fast, it’s energetic and it’s also enthusiastic in spirit.
From the opening chords, the album (produced by Sweet himself) defines the Stryper sound as melodic, yet in your face and fueled by a guitar driven energy.
The positive lyrics and Christian themes don’t overshadow a strong musical performance and a rawer, heavier production style.
 
Yahweh is an absolute belter to open the account. Big riffs, bigger vocals and a stomping heavy beat driving this soaring semi-progressive hard rocker. Without being overly commercial, it’s a catchy tune. One of Stryper’s heaviest ever songs.
Fallen seems to take the foot off the pedal after a ferocious intro. But the mid-tempo groove gives way to another big catchy chorus with Michael Sweet singing like man possessed (in the good sense!)
Pride is another thumping rock track with a solid groove and a screaming chorus.
Big Screen Lies is the catchiest chorus of the album thus far. It rolls along nicely, a little less intense than the opening metal salvo.
Heaven has a slow to mid-tempo beat, but a very melodic guitar hook and chorus. A good mid-album circuit breaker.
Love You Like I Do is a cool melodic mid-tempo commercial rocker with a great hook and a tasty guitar solo that takes me back to the golden era of melodic hard rock.
All Over Again is the first ballad of the album and sees the acoustic guitars dusted off to help create a stirring commercial rock ballad.
The Black Sabbath cover After Forever rocks hard and fast and thumps along at a great rate before slotting into a bluesy groove and back again. This is heavy, aggressive, raw rock n roll with a really cool vocal.
Till I Get What I Need follows a similar path – fast, free flowing and rocking hard, and again with that heavy groove! Great little chorus with some harmony vocals making even better.
Let There Be Light is a slow, moody hard rocker that launches into a faster, harmony filled chorus that makes the track another album highlight.
The Calling is simply put – a short, sharp, commercial hard rocker with definite appeal.
King Of Kings closes the album with another hard edged thumping rock track. The chorus is one of the best of the album, ending this 50 minute sonic blast with a bang.

This is really a very well balanced album. Power to melody; rockers to moodier numbers and lead vocals to harmonies; all in balance.
Another very accomplished piece of work from main man Michael Sweet and band. As primary songwriter and producer, Sweet’s vision has come together perfectly and Stryper fans will simply love this latest addition to the band’s now considerable catalogue.

 

Score: 
94
 
Thu
15
Oct

DEF LEPPARD - Def Leppard (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Def Leppard
Running Time: 
54
Release Date: 
October 30
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
earMusic
Artist: 
Release Year: 
2015
Categories: 
 
It’s quite fitting the new DEF LEPPARD album has been dubbed “Def Leppard” as the contents can only be described as sounding like, well, Def Leppard.
In keeping with recent Leppard history, this is again a pretty diverse album, but perhaps not quite as diverse as Songs From The Sparkle Lounge.
I’m likening the flow of the album to that of X; that is – more melodic in the front and heavier, more experiential in the back end.
 
Song wise we have a very strong set of tunes. Far superior to those on Sparkle and amongst the most consistent for what fans want since Hysteria/Adrenalize.
However, I can’t say the best album since Hysteria, as I’m one of a minority that continue to rate X very highly indeed.
 
The first half of the album is very traditional Leppard. It also carries a unique moody feel that is played out with some very melodic choruses.
The second half is a little more experimental and varied, featuring some stuff I haven’t heard before from the band and a mix of 70s, 80s and today’s sounds.
What we have here is an album that is classic Leppard without actually honing in on any one album or era. There’s parts of Hysteria, Adrenalize, Euphoria, Slang, X and even Sparkle on here. In other words, its “Def Leppard”.
 
Fans can get excited though, no matter what era of the band you favor. Because at the heart of it, this is the most authentic Def Leppard album in two decades and features a monster production and beautiful mix, where harmonies and guitars rule the day, but the rhythm section and vocalist Joe Elliott are all equally showcased.
 
Track By Track:
 
1. Let's Go is quite simply, classic Leppard. Yes, it’s Pour Some Sugar Mk2, but it’s produced to the nines, features a catchy chorus and layers of Leppard harmonies. It gets better with age, which is something some of the tracks from Sparkle didn’t do.
 
2. Dangerous has been compared by the band to Photograph. I agree the chorus is a similar, fast flowing hands in the air singalong anthem, but the verse has its own identity. The rhythm guitars are quite meaty and have a modern sound while the lead guitar is more traditionally Leppard. Whatever the comparisons, it’s classic fast moving Def Leppard anthem and will be the most favoured song on the album by many I’m sure.
 
3. Man Enough is this album’s most left of center tune. It’s a cool tune – think Slang meets Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. It’s bass heavy and very sparse apart from the short chorus where lead guitar delivers a cool riff. It is probably the track traditional DL fans will have the most trouble with, but it does have its charms. However, I do think it’s a tempo killer after the awesome Dangerous and a little too experimental for its position at track 3.
 
4. We Belong is something quite wonderful. This is one of the most genuinely heartfelt songs I’ve heard from Leppard since the song Hysteria and features what sounds like everyone joining in on lead vocals through the song. It’s a moody mid-tempo tune with a simply awesome layered chorus that I can’t get enough of. One of those tracks where the verse is every bit as good as the chorus.
 
5. Invincible kicks off with a heavy bass line and then a uptempo snare before a very melodic guitar riff kicks in. The first thing I thought of was Charlie Sexton. It really sounds like something from his 1989 Charlie Sexton album. This is another moody rocker that rolls along at a mid-to-up-tempo range with yet another stunning chorus – albeit one that holds restraint and keeps in pace with the mood of the rest of the song. The background guitar work is melodic bliss that emphasizes Joe’s warm raspy vocal.
 
6. Sea Of Love picks up the tempo a little and sounds like it could have come from any Leppard album post-Hysteria. The chorus is another catchy layered refrain, again feeling somewhat restrained and certainly smoother than the heavier verse. The guitar solo is a nice extended piece before the chorus again takes control. A bit of a party tune this one.
 
7. Energized sounds like it could be fast and furious, but it’s actually quite laid back and in keeping with this mid-album run of moody melodic rock tracks. The verse has a modern programmed feel with a soft JE vocal, before a very catchy, but restrained, chorus takes over. There’s a hint of X and Slang about the production here, but the chorus fits the style of the preceding songs.
 
8. All Time High kicks things back into full overdrive at about the time when you started wondering if this was going to be a mildly mellow album. Fear not – this is a high energy, thumping beat driven rocker where the chorus bursts through for high impact. Fun, fast and fabulous. The guitar solo in particular packs a real punch. Classic Def Leppard. Awesome.
 
9. Battle Of My Own is an interesting track. This semi-acoustic track is the band’s tip of the hat to Led Zeppelin and their quirky 70s acoustic/vocal driven sound. It also reminds me of the sound and style on the Coverdale Page album (think the intro stages of Shake My Tree). The song clocks in under 3 minutes, but still finds a minute or so to rock out at the end, further embellishing on the Zeppelinesque sound. They fit a whole hell of a lot into 2 minutes 45!
 
10. Broke 'N' Brokenhearted is a breezy, classic commercial upbeat Def Leppard rocker. Picking up the pace again, this is a simple guitar fueled enjoyable singalong song that will work well live – especially with the layered harmony chorus.
 
11. Forever Young features a more modern sound, the guitar especially. The drums kick in to lead the song into a jarring verse that’s contrasted with a short simple chorus that’s only defined by the change in vocal delivery and the extra harmonies. Otherwise it’s a pretty fast moving guitar dominated track. An interesting and musically challenging track.
 
12. Last Dance is another classic rock ballad featuring a very commercial chorus and a dominant acoustic driven sound. The track could almost be a Rod Stewart cover from the late 70s. Short, but cool.
 
13. Wings Of An Angel is the albums last big rocker. It builds from a restrained intro into a big modern rocker with a darker sounding vocal from Joe and some contemporary guitar parts that wouldn’t sound out of place on the latter half of X. However it still feels right at home amongst these songs.
 
14. Blind Faith is something new and different for the band. Featuring a strong raspy vocal from Joe and some slow electric soling behind him, the song builds with the addition of an orchestral section before another soft verse. Then the song turns slightly psychedelic while remaining slow in tempo before a guitar solo and the rest of the band up the stakes. Then it’s back to an acoustic vocal before everything finally bursts to life for the last minute of the song. At 5.30 the song is the longest of the album and easily the most epic of any recent Leppard song.

 
Without the benefit of another month of high-rotation absorption of this album, I still think I can safely say that the band have delivered a home run here and will have fans united in their praise.
A very “Def Leppard” style album which is all the fans want in this day and age.
Fresh and innovative without sounding like someone else and classic and retroactive (pardon the pun) without being stale or repetitive.
There’s life in the old dog yet and I give credit to the band for pushing aside modern industry concerns to still deliver a ripping full length album of this quality.
For the record, I gave X a 98; Songs From The Sparkle Lounge 85 and Yeah 68 and Euphoria 93. Of course Pyromania and Hysteria are perfect 100s.
For me, Def Leppard slips into the gap between X and Euphoria.
 

 

Score: 
95
 
Wed
23
Sep

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT - All Our Yesterdays (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
Produced By: 
Richie Blackmore
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Renaissance/Folk/Acoustic
Label: 
Frontiers
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, September 18, 2015
Categories: 
 
Richie Blackmore needs no introduction and now after 10 Blackmore’s Night releases, nor does his better half, the very talented Candice Night.
Together the pair has formed a union more stable than Deep Purple or Rainbow ever was and Richie seems more than content rolling out an album every year of this specialized blend of medieval/folk/acoustic/renaissance music.
 
This is one of those occasions where you must remove any personal bias in order to deliver a fair review. Because that musical description rules me out as a listener. Naturally I’ve spun this a couple of times for review purposes, but you’d have to lock me in a dungeon, tied to a Rank if you wanted me to listen to it again. It’s just not on my musical radar. At all.
 
However – it’s very good! Of course it is. Richie is a savant of the genre. A prodigy of anything musical. So of course it’s immaculately produced and mixed and filled with an equal mix of instrumental passages and sweetly sung lullabies.
I must admit to being quite partial to the cover of Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow; but on the other hand, I Got You Babe is cringeworthy.
The rest are thoughtfully composed originals.

So it all comes down to taste really. You really, really have to be into this stuff to appreciate it. The acoustic dexterity of Blackmore is as exquisite as always and Candice has a soothing vocal.
Rockers avoid! Lovers of ye olde kingdom of fantasy and followers of past albums will find this another tasteful addition to the Blackmore catalogue.

 

Score: 
80
 
Wed
23
Sep

OPERATION MINDCRIME - The Key (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
45%
Produced By: 
Geoff Tate
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive Alt-Metal
Label: 
Frontiers
Release Year: 
2015
Friday, September 18, 2015
Categories: 
 
You’ll have to indulge Geoff Tate just a little longer before he realizes fans don’t want what he’s selling. After forcing myself to listen to this a dozen times, you can see where the former prog-metal hero wants to go musically. Sadly it’s not where 90% of his fans want.
 
I get where he’s coming from. This 50 minute expressive, experimental, alt-metal album does attempt to make a statement, but in the end it’s just really hard to listen to.
There is no cohesiveness that binds the album together and while he comes close to former glories on the impressive Re-Inventing The Future and maybe Life Or Death; elsewhere he delivers utter dreck like The Stranger and Hearing Voices that I struggle to think who it might appeal to.
Tracks like Burn and Ready To Fly just drag and the mood building intro track Choices is largely pointless.
Its 2015 – the market place is selective. Fans want what they want. There isn’t much room for epic concept pieces unless they are very very good.
 
The production here is ok, but I find that it’s hard to get a grip on everything happening within the mix, it’s a bit of a blur really. There's a lot going on and it's complex enough, but it just doesn't flow for me.

Listening to music should be easy, whatever the mood may call for – escapism, aggression, adrenaline, relaxing or challenging. But it should be easy. This album is a real chore to get through. There’s just too many left turns on this album. Basically Tate keeps turning left and ends up going around in circles.

 

Score: 
45
 

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