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Artist Title Score Label
X-Drive X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On (Review) 85 Frontiers Records
Mike Tramp MIKE TRAMP - Museum (Review) 87 Target
Dark Horse DARK HORSE - Let It Ride (Review) 87 Indie
Asia ASIA - High Voltage Live (Review) 40 Frontiers Records
Guardian GUARDIAN - Almost Home (Review) 85
7th heaven 7TH HEAVEN - Spectrum (Review) 93 NTD Records
Acacia Avenue ACACIA AVENUE - Cold (Review) 83 AOR Heaven
Seven Hard Years SEVEN HARD YEARS - No Place In Heaven (Review) 70 Lynchburg Records
Gregory Lynn Hall GREGORY LYNN HALL - Heaven To Earth (Review) 65 AOR Heaven
Richard Marx RICHARD MARX - Beautiful Goodbye (Review) 55
Niva NIVA – Incremental IV (Review) 85 AOR Heaven
Loverboy LOVERBOY - Unfinished Business (Review) 80 Loverboy Music
Night By Night NIGHT BY NIGHT - Night By Night (Review) 94 Sun Hill Productions
Chicago CHICAGO - Now (Review) 83 Frontiers Records
Outloud OUTLOUD - Let's Get Serious (Review) 87 AOR Heaven
Yes YES - Heaven & Earth (Review) 79 Frontiers Records
Ted Nugent TED NUGENT - ShutUp&Jam (Review) 65 Frontiers Records
Night Ranger NIGHT RANGER - High Road (Review) 92 Frontiers Records
Tesla TESLA - Simplicity (Review) 70 Frontiers Records
Uriah Heep URIAH HEEP - Outsider (Review) 84 Frontiers Records
Asia ASIA - Gravitas (Review) 70 Frontiers Records
L.R.S. L.R.S. - Down To The Core (Review) 94 Frontiers Records
Pretty Maids PRETTY MAIDS - Louder Than Ever (Review) 92 Frontiers Records
Gotthard GOTTHARD - Bang! (Review) 90 G Records
Dream Theater DREAM THEATER - Dream Theater (Review) 94 Roadrunner
Sebastian Bach SEBASTIAN BACH - Give Em Hell (Review) 86 Frontiers Records
Three Lions THREE LIONS - Three Lions (Review) 89 Frontiers Records
Winger WINGER - Better Days Comin' (Review) 94 Frontiers Records
HEAT H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls (Review) 100 Gain

Pages

Fri
23
Jan

ECLIPSE - Armageddonize (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
February 20
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, January 23, 2015
Categories: 
 
Perfection! I could listen to Erik Martensson sing and Magnus Henriksson play guitar all week long. Eclipse delivered one of the great melodic rock albums with Are You Ready To Rock, building on the sound their first two albums established.
Then in 2012 they turned it up a notch for Bleed & Scream, the sound heavier, the sonic impact of the production even more powerful. I rated it their best album ever and gave them a perfect 100.
If I could go to 101 I’d do so, as this album is even better. In every way.
 
There is just so much joy in listening to this album. This is everything I love about melodic hard rock. Monster production; designed to be played at stupid volumes; intricate; brilliant songs that evoke emotion and adrenaline; musical performances that blow your mind and vocals that are just perfectly crafted for this type of music.
I really have to single Erik out here for his out-of-this-world vocal performance. He’s always been a great singer, but this album has to launch him into the annals of the legends. Yeah, I know I’m hyperventilating, but they really are that good.
 
And the songs – so damn likable and so amazingly catchy.
 
Armageddonize is the perfect mix of the melodic side of Are You Ready To Rock with the power and intensity of Bleed And Scream and is undoubtedly the band’s best album to date.
 
I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry - After a brief build up, we are away with one of the catchiest hard rockers that Eclipse has delivered yet. It has all the energy and sonic impact of Bleed & Scream, but the chorus is a monster AOR anthem. The riffs run fast, the power unmistakable. Erik Martensson sounds amazing and Magnus slays on guitar. The rhythm section is just as powerful as the sonically brilliant last album.
The opening track runs straight into the even heavier Stand On Your Feet. The verse features some mighty vocals before a high impact chorus blasts through. The riffing is furious and the drumming impeccable. And it's as catchy as hell once again.
The Storm starts with an acoustic guitar before the song literally explodes with part of the chorus hook. The power is immense and Erik’s vocals are simply unbelievable. A tense verse builds to a huge chorus that just powers along. Simply glorious! Impossible to get out of your head afterwards.
Blood Enemies starts with a long slow bluesy guitar solo, the tension builds to an explosive burst of energy where the track goes full throttle, one of the heaviest Eclipse tracks yet. Once again Magnus shreds while Erik almost blows his voice with a scream. That aspect of the song is one of the album highlights, but then the awesome chorus takes it over the top. Once again, pure hard rock perfection.
Wide Open is simply one of the best songs Eclipse has ever written. Ever. It’s fricken glorious. I can’t get enough of it. A furious beat, a melodic verse, rampaging guitars and big vocals…and then that chorus. Wow. Wow. Wow.
 
Live Like I'm Dying is the album’s big ballad and what a monsterous slice of melodic moodiness this is. The slow burner builds from a restrained start, to a huge epic finish with big everything – guitars, vocals and beat. An epic power hard rock ballad. Great guitar solo! Perfection again!
The intro to Breakdown reminds me a little of Blue Murder’s brilliant Jelly Roll and the track has a certain bluesy groove. At first you think ‘oh, the chorus isn’t really there’, but then it appears and all is well with the world. Another powerful vocal and a left turn for the album in general, it provides a good change of pace.
The album returns to the script with the straight forward, double time rocker Love Bites. This is another Eclipse classic with a very melodic verse driven by a frantic beat and then a simple, but utterly infectious chorus. Killer song.
Caught Up In That Rush is another high energy, guitar heavy rocker with similar characteristics to the rest of the album – pounding rhythm, melodic, yet powerful vocals and a killer harmony filled chorus. These guys are just fecking brilliant.
One Life – My Life is somewhat less sonically bombastic, but equally as engaging. A moody verse and an angst filled heavier chorus. It’s melody and power all the way.
All Died Young closes the album, not with a ballad, but with one of the heaviest and fastest tracks of the album. Take no prisoners as the double kick drum goes into overdrive. A simple, but effective chorus and riffs galore!
 

At 42 minutes and 11 songs, this is the perfect length for an album packed with quality songs.
It begs to be played again once completed, leaving the listener wishing for more, but secretly happy that every track is a classic and at no point is there any let up in energy or quality.
Eclipse is one of several bands out of Sweden that just “get it”.
The American artists and others around the world need to sit up and pay attention to what is being done there, because albums like this are creating a legacy of music for fans that is close to unbeatable.
 
Stand up and take a bow guys. This is a classic album that demands to be purchased. It has been in high rotation (in fact, almost constant rotation) for me since early December and shows no sign of being swapped out any time soon.
 
Score: 
100
 
Thu
22
Jan

H.E.A.T - Live In London (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Heat
Running Time: 
67
Release Date: 
February 20
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Gain
Artist: 
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Categories: 
 
Pausing to soak up the success of their two studio albums with vocalist Erik Gronwall, Sweden’s mega-talented H.E.A.T release a live show from their current tour, captured in London May 2014.
The English have adopted H.E.A.T as their own, interest building via several appearances at Firefest over the years.
So you have a hugely enthusiastic crowd, a band at the absolute peak of their live power, on tour in support of their utterly essential album Tearing Down The Walls, delivering a setlist of non-stop singalong anthems.
 
Add to that potent mix, one of the most energetic and dynamic frontmen in rock n roll today. Erik Gronwall is revelation. He’s a freak of nature, hitting every note required while commanding the stage and the audience with consummate ease.
This band is shit hot. There’s no doubt. On record, they are brilliant – on stage they are unstoppable. I’ve seen it first hand – there’s no overdubbing or trickery here – this is 67 minutes of melodic rock perfection, delivered with infectious energy and captured beautifully on this live recording.
 
The set list is mainly garnered from their two albums with Erik, throwing in just two older cuts here (and a third – Beg Beg Beg for Japan).
But that’s fine with me – I love all 4 albums, but it is the two with Erik that truly blow my mind and sum up everything I love about modern era melodic rock.
 

The setlist featured reignites the songs once again for those of us that have played them 1000 times already, on what is undoubtedly one of the best live albums of recent years.
Absolutely essential.
 
Score: 
95
 
Thu
22
Jan

SWEET & LYNCH - Only To Rise (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Michael Sweet
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
January 23
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Categories: 
 
You could spend a week discussing the musical heritage and history of Michael Sweet and George Lynch alone, but then there’s also bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Brian Tichy to consider. So in the interest of time, I’ll presume everyone reading this is well aware of the accomplishments of all these great folk. It’s actually almost unbelievable they are gathered on the one record.
 
Unlike some other cobbled together supergroups or all-star projects, when Michael Sweet was pitched this idea, he loved it so much he took over completely - asking to produce the album as well as co-writing the 12 tracks with guitarist Lynch.
And that’s what makes this album gel so well and why this works – the songs are all written in-house and therefore are a true representative mix of both artists’ attributes and influences.
It is a great mix of Sweet and Stryper’s recent melodic hard rock output with that classic Lynch Mob groove-n-sleaze.
 
The first 4 tracks are especially inspiring. The pump of The Wish and the groove and chorus of Like A Dying Rose, then the rock ballad Love Stays and the groovy free flowing Time Will Tell - all catchy tunes and all impressive representation of the talents involved.
Other highlights include the atmospheric slow burner Me Without You; the fast moving rock-n-groove of Recover; the moody September and the darker, rhythm driven Hero-Zero.
The album finishes with an old school melodic metal track Only To Rise.
 

A hard rocking album from start to finish, which I’m very impressed with. Production is well suited for the style of the music and most impressive of all is the fact all songs were co-written by Lynch and Sweet for this new partnership.
On the basis of the quality of what has been delivered here, fans enthusiastic reaction and plans to tour this mean this is one star project that looks set to go the distance.
One of my favourite releases from both main participants. 
Score: 
92
 
Mon
22
Dec

AC/DC - Rock Or Bust (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
- Rock or Bust
- Play Ball
- Baptism by Fire
- Sweet Candy
- Emission Control
Produced By: 
Brendan O'Brien
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
Sony
Artist: 
Monday, December 22, 2014
Categories: 
Review: It’s an AC/DC record.
 
Ok, so I guess I should elaborate.
AC/DC shrugs off recent bad news (Malcolm Young) and bad press (Phil Rudd) to deliver another riff heavy volume of music to their incredible catalogue of tunes.
What hasn’t changed in decades is the band’s sound, style and lyrical naffness (can that be a word please?).
But that naffness is forgiven with the first riff of Angus’ guitar, which is as essential to rock n roll life as oxygen and electricity.
 
On Rock Or Bust we are faced with a very quick fire 11 track/35 minute blast of classic rock, with the screechy vocals of Brian Johnson taking us back in time once again.
Unfortunately we aren’t propelled far enough back in time to when Brian was in better voice, but I’ll still take it.
 
I’m not sure, but maybe the theme of this album is….er….”rock”? (Rock Or Bust, Rock The Blues Away, Got Some Rock N Roll Thunder, Rock The House).
Well….not unexpectedly, it does rock. The band sounds energized and while they’ll never touch the classic material of the 70s or the stadium anthems of the 80s, they can still deliver a good tune.
It’s a pretty solid album – it would want to be for only 35 minutes – there’s a few stand outs, but also a couple of tracks that really do plod along.
On the winners list are the first 4 tracks, which all rock along at a good pace, especially Play Ball and Rock The Blues Away.
Baptism Of Fire is a good bar room rock-n-boogie; Sweet Candy is cool and Emission Control is an old-school rocker.
Missing the mark for me are the tracks where the band just plods along a little too much - Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder and Hard Times in particular.
 

A decent album. You can’t expect too much more after all these years. The band can still deliver some old school songs and some memorable guitar riffs. They might be a bit rusty and predictable, but it ain’t noise pollution, so moderate thumbs up from me.

 

Score: 
80
 
Mon
22
Dec

WHITE WIDDOW - Crossfire (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
91%
Produced By: 
Xavier Millis / Mixed By Pelle Saether
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
AOR
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Monday, December 22, 2014
Categories: 
 
Glorious! Aussie AORsters White Widdow are back with their third studio album after the untimely passing of drummer George Kristy and the departure of original bass player Trent Wilson.
A rejuvenated new line up, featuring Ben Webster on Bass and Noel Tenny on Drums fired the band back to life and the result is this stunning classic 80s AOR album that is packed with layers and layers of vocals, harmonies and lush lush keyboards.
The album packs a bigger punch than their first two. The production is tough and tight and the rhythm section is really pumping.
 
But the star of proceedings here are the brilliant songs and their massive harmonies.
I always find that White Widdow albums take a little time to grow and develop on me, but once they do, there’s no going back and their songs stay with you for days.
 
Caught In The Crossfire is a big opener with a killer bridge to chorus hook, keyboards and guitar both driving the song.
Fly Me Away is simply glorious AOR, no other way to describe. Pomp and 80s keyboards with a contemporary production.
Below The Belt is another ‘belter’ of an AOR track with a marvelous chorus.
Dreams Don’t Die is right out of 1985, those keyboards could have been lifted from either Giuffria album.
Angel is maybe the band’s heaviest number to date, it’s not metal, but it’s AOR with big attitude.
Carry The Heartache is another gem of a track, the sentimental song packing a punch…and a great chorus.
Never Again is another harmonized, multi-layered AOR anthem to finish in style.
 

Think early Harem Scarem, White Sister, Dakota, Houston and recent newcomers In Faith and you’ll have a fair idea of where this sits musically.
The album is mixed once again by Pelle Saether (Grand Design).
White Widdow are back with quite possibly their best album yet.
 
Score: 
91
 
Fri
12
Dec

FOREIGNER - The Best Of 'Foreigner 4' And More (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
68%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Jeff Pilson
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, December 12, 2014
Categories: 
 
They are legendary. No doubt…and I’m a huge fan of their music. HUGE! Especially the releases Agent Provocateur, Inside Information (very underrated), Unusual Heat (with Johnny Edwards), the monster AOR classic Mr. Moonlight (from 1994), plus of course the band’s most recent album with Kelly Hansen fronting the band, 2009’s Can't Slow Down.
So with my fan credentials established, I feel I am qualified to say “Foreigner…WTF guys?’
 
Believe it or not, the band has recorded just 9 studio albums in 37 years. Ok, I can live with that as they’ve all been notable releases.
But add to that, as of right now there are 5 live releases, at least 7 DVDs and no less than 16 compilations. Yes…16.
 
So do we need another live/compilation? Not really. But if you really insist upon it, The Best Of Foreigner 4 And More is ok.
Issues aside, taking a look at this album leaves you with the reaffirmation that Kelly Hansen is an absolute monster vocalist and this band is a really tight outfit.
 
Of course the songs are already legendary, but the whole spirit of this release is just off kilter for me. The songs are recorded over 2 nights in October, where 15 tracks were performed in a different order to what has been put together here.  Double Vision, Head Games and the legendary Dirty White Boy are omitted.
There are 7 Foreigner 4 tracks, which weren’t played in chronological order anyway, but are again re-arranged here still not in the original album’s sequence.
It may sound picky, but if you are going to do a live release based on paying tribute to one album, then play the full album in order like so many other artists have done.
Otherwise it’s just another live album – which is exactly what this is.
 
Awfully good of course…well recorded, perfectly performed and fill with classic songs, but based on the prior number of live and compilation releases, I imagine the fan base is beginning to feel as if it is being fleeced.
 

This is a great live recording, but the re-arranged order and the fade in/outs between tracks is a distraction and to be honest, the whole concept is only half-executed, so this will remain a really die-hard only purchase. I’d buy any studio album from Foreigner without any hesitation, but as a consumer, I’d pass on this, that is unless you don't have any other of the band's recent live albums. If that's the case, start here.

 

Score: 
68
 
Fri
12
Dec

ANGELS OR KINGS - Kings Of Nowhere (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Sheena Sear and Mark Stuart
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
AOR
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Friday, December 12, 2014
Categories: 
 
It appears that British AOR is alive and well. With the recent acclaim for new comers In Faith and 3 Lions as well as high praise for new albums from the more established Vega, Night By Night and Ten; it seems the Swedes don’t have a monopoly on good quality AOR and Melodic Rock. Angels Or Kings are another newcomer to the scene and on the face of things, they are set to gain the attention of fans of the aforementioned artists.
 
The British band, with origins dating back to 1988, split up over a decade ago but recent reformed to record this debut. They were voted onto the final Firefest lineup with over 3500 votes. The album is on the heavier side of classic 80s inspired AOR.
 
Baz Jackson is a memorable frontman. His passionate raspy vocals are at the forefront of each song. At times he appears to be pleading with the audience, such is the power of his emotional delivery.
There’s a veritable flood of keyboards throughout but the songs remain driven by guitar and those big vocals.
The tempo is largely uptempo and consistently delivers that classic British sound.
 
Musically the band sounds in the same territory as British legends FM, Shy and Heartland with a dash of White Widdow and HEAT.
Highlights are easy to find, the cream of the crop being Any Other Girl, A Harder Place, Same Star, Someone To Save Me and Same Old Love.
All good stuff really.
 

Yet another promising debut from a seasoned UK outfit. Traditional 80s melodic rock is alive and well. While this album may not be as groundbreaking or as unique as some others, it definitely has that charm of familiarity and is comprised of a good set of songs.

 

Score: 
85
 
Fri
12
Dec

BAILEY - Long Way Down (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
82%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
54
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, December 12, 2014
Categories: 
 
Coming off the back of the 3 Lions debut album earlier this year is the debut solo release from the band’s frontman and bassist Nigel Bailey.
Nigel sings (obviously) as well as playing Bass and Guitars, with Alessandro Del Vecchio producing/mixing and contributing keyboards, with fellow Italians Alessandro Mori on Drums and Mario Percudani on Guitars.
 
So this is a little different than the bluesier/melodic rock of 3 Lions. Long Way Down is a touch heavier and more direct in nature – earthy in nature, heavier and featuring some straight forward songs and a decent heavy guitar driven sound and a strong production.
 
There’s some heavier numbers like the 6 minute hard rock of In The Name Of The King; the title track Long Way Down; and the album closing, bluesy rocker Dirty Angel.
Horns appear on the uptempo Bad Reputation to mix things up a little.
 
More melodic tracks that could have fit 3 Lions include the best track of the album, Dirty Little Secret; the very "British" Stay and the uptempo Love Falls Down.
 
It’s a pretty long album, but remains fairly consistent. A little editing on the song lengths might have helped. I do think it tends to get stuck in a very similar tempo throughout. A few tracks drag a little (like Somewhere In Oslo) and I’m not sure that the material is as memorable as 3 Lions, plus the limited range, Gary Hughes styled vocals of Nigel Bailey can appear to lack variety.

But, those things said, this is a strong debut which makes a statement that Mr. Bailey is set to hang around for a while to come and the production of Alessandro Del Vecchio goes from strength to strength.

 

Score: 
82
 
Fri
12
Dec

BILLY IDOL - Kings & Queens Of The Underground (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
Bitter Pill
Can't Break Me Down
One Breath Away
Postcards from the Past
Kings & Queens of the Underground
Produced By: 
Trevor Horn
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
BFI Records
Artist: 
Friday, December 12, 2014
Categories: 
There’s something very satisfying about a veteran artist that releases a new album and just nails it. The planets and stars have aligned for Billy Idol on the occasion of his 7th all-new studio album. Yes, just seven since his debut back in 1982, but on Kings And Queens Of The Underground, Billy takes fans back to the sound of Rebel Yell and Whiplash Smile with long time creative partner, guitarist Steve Stevens.
This is just such a refreshing album.
 
Looking back Billy’s best material was never about being heavy, it was more about the attitude and mixing technology with hard edged guitar driven rock n roll.
That’s exactly what he does perfectly here again. Some programming, drumbeats, synth and the ever present Stevens adding precision guitar riffs, shreds and fills throughout.
Choosing high-tech producer Trevor Horn was genius as he has helped Billy re-create his past without repeating himself or sounding dated.
I will say the album slows a bit in the second half and the inclusion of the throwaway punk rocker Whiskey And Pills to close the album is a waste, but otherwise this is pretty flawless.
 
Bitter Pill (co-written with Eric Bazilian) and the pop driven Can’t Break Me Down are two of Billy’s best tunes ever in my opinion, I simply can’t shake them from my head.
Save Me Now is another moody throwback to Whiplash Smile and One Breath Away is a modernized version of the classic Idol sound.
Postcards From The Past is 'Rebel Yell' for a new generation and the autobiographical Kings & Queens Of The Underground is a joy to listen to.
 
The trio of tracks Eyes Wide Shut, Ghosts In My Guitar and Nothing To Fear all slow the tempo of the album down and kills the energy a little, but the mood and delivery are still very appealing.
Love And Glory is another mid-paced track, but the chorus is the standout for the second half of the album, not to mention a great vocal from Billy.
 

This album is an absolutely great statement from Billy, who may never make another album like this again. But at least he has now and he and Stevens really capture the energy of the past while never once sounding like they are trying to produce a carbon copy.
Very satisfying for those Idol fans left sometimes frustrated by his releases.
Score: 
93
 
Fri
28
Nov

HAREM SCAREM - Thirteen (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
99%

 

Produced By: 
Harry Hess & Pete Lesperance
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
December 5
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
It’s no secret I’m a card carrying Harem Scarem fanboy and the band can do (almost) no wrong. Every album has featured at least a few legendary songs; most albums for me have been front to back brilliant. I even go against the traditionalists and rate Voice Of Reason very highly and the two Rubber albums remain underrated.
So this is the guy’s first studio album in 6 years, following on from the awesome Mood Swings 2 release. You might expect the guys to continue in the Mood Swings style, such as the 3 new tracks from MS2 did, but this is more simply Harem Scarem just being themselves.
Naturally gifted to deliver chorus upon chorus of memorable harmonies, riffs and hooks, Thirteen features elements of Weight Of The World, Higher, Overload and Hope.
It’s a continuation of the second half of the band’s career.
 
And while I rate every album highly – this is going to stand out as one of the band’s truly great records. This is right up there with the debut, Mood Swings, Weight Of The World and Higher for me.
10 songs, just under 40 minutes, no fuss, no padding ,no fillers, just pure melodic bliss from start to finish.
Production is great and the choruses really do seem to stand out even more than normal. It’s just one after another after another.
Anyone wanting to see how a catchy, memorable melodic rock album is done – learn from what Harem Scarem have done here. Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance are simply one of the finest writing pairs that have ever been part of the melodic rock scene.
 
Track By Track:
Garden of Eden is a perfect start to the album. A pop influenced melodic rocker, its only 45 seconds from start to the chorus and that is about the same for the whole album. Nothing but hooks and harmonies here. The chorus (as is usually the case for harem Scarem) is layered with harmonies and begs to be sung along to. A nice little progressive Mr. Big style guitar solo mid-song adds texture before diving right back into the chorus.
Live It turned my head initially. The outset of the song is quite different for the band and Harry’s verse vocal is certainly a refreshing burst of energy. The chorus is nothing but pure Harem anthemic goodness.
Early Warning Signs sees the sound turn darker and a little heavier, but still with that commercial feel that all Harem songs have. I’m hearing influences of the album Overload here, with a sharp twist for the bridge before a pure power pop chorus comes out of nowhere. The chorus has hints of Weight Of The World in it.
I adore The Midnight Hours. It starts with a moody slow verse and a melodic bridge before a massive layered, more urgent chorus delivers a devastatingly good hook.
Whatever It Takes is the only real slow paced ballad. This is a classic Harem Scarem ballad complete with nice guitar solo, heartfelt lyrics and of course, a monster harmony filled chorus.
Saints and Sinners is another track with a heavier Overload style feel. And it’s another absolute monster. The tracks moves at a decent pace with a moody verse rises to another catchy as hell chorus. Love it!
 
All I Need has some great guitar work from Pete underneath a song with a modern power pop heart, but with a classic old-school anthemic chorus. A great contrast once again between verse and chorus, which seems to be a highlight of this album’s song writing.
Troubled Times gives no indication of where it’s going from the start. It’s Weight Of The World and Higher meets Overload, slowly building through the verse and bridge to tempo lift and a chorus that may just never leave your head again. Ever. Classic.
Never Say Never is slower and once again pretty moody to start before yet another hook steers you into a mid-tempo harmony filled chorus. Simply put – just another great track.
Stardust is another stunning song to be honest. Featuring some great lyrics, it starts with a heavy feeling and a strong, tuned down guitar sound before lifting to a massive chorus with some terrific harmonies and a similar feel to the slower closing part of Change Comes Around from Mood Swings.
 
The Japanese release adds an acoustic version of The Midnight Hours, while the European version adds Garden Of Eden acoustic, which both work wonderfully in the stripped back format. A nice contrast to the electric versions.
 
The Japanese limited edition also adds a bonus disc featuring 8 tracks of the band live in 2013 in Japan. This is where the loyalty of the hard core fan is really stretched. I love the performance on these tracks – many Mood Swings classics in energetic form – but the quality isn’t much better than an audience recorded bootleg. Definitely for the die-hards only, but that’s me, so I’m good with it.
 

It took way too long to get here, but it was worth the wait. Simply put - another glorious album from the band that defines melodic rock for me. Superb songs, superb sound, superb performances.
Essential for all fans of this site and the music I promote.
So close to perfect I’m not sure why I’m not giving it 100!
Score: 
99
 
Fri
28
Nov

ALLEN/LANDE - The Great Divide (Review)

Produced By: 
Timo Tolkki / Mixed: Dennis Ward
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
A new Allen/Lande release without mastermind Magnus Karlsson involved? Not sure about that. Timo Tolkki to take over as chief architect? Definitely know how I feel about that.
I came into this release – the 4th overall – with very low expectations. After Timo’s recent twin Avalon releases, I expected a bad production and some bland songwriting.
But I was wrong and I’m happy to announce that.
While I don’t think the album has the same wall of sound that Karlsson delivered or the same intensity in the vocals, it is still pretty good.
 
Interestingly, 6 of the 10 tracks feature just the one vocalist. Jorn on 3 and Russell on 3. Just 4 of the songs feature both vocalists and that’s a weakness of the album and shows how well Karlsson worked with both singers on all songs and intertwined their vocals on the first 3 records.
 
Thankfully the production is far better than the Avalon releases, with Dennis Ward brought in to mix the end results.
Anything featuring Russell Allen and Jorn Lande in full attack mode is going to appeal, so I’m glad everyone involved got it right.
Timo is responsible for writing all songs – with Jorn co-writing several with him. Timo is also responsible for the guitars, bass and keyboards. So it’s an impressive performance here and I’ll now expect more from him.
 
After 3 pretty similar releases (which I all rate highly), perhaps it is nice to hear these class vocalists at it once again, but with a different sound behind them.
The strong opener Come Dream With Me and the belting impact of the fast moving Down From The Mountain (both tracks featuring duel vocals) and In The Hands Of Time (featuring Russell) get the album off to the best possible start, with both singers in full fight.
It’s not until the quality metal ballad Lady Of Winter (featuring Jorn alone) do things slow down a little.
Dream Until Tomorrow is a song featuring both singers belting it out and is followed by another duet in the intense Hymn For The Fallen.

Russell closes the album with a pair of songs – one highly quality rocker and the other a powerful metal ballad called Bittersweet.

 


As much as I like the results here, I still haven’t played the album as much as I did the first three. I think the sonic impact of Magnus Kalrsson is the obvious missing ingredient here, plus the lack of interplay between vocalists, but otherwise, Timo far exceeded my expectations and this is still an enjoyable melodic metal / hard rock album worth of the Allen/Lande name.

 

Score: 
84
 
Fri
28
Nov

VEGA - Stereo Messiah (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
John Mitchell & Vega
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
I really dig these guys. They are already 2 for 2 and now they drop a third collection of uptempo, anthemic melodic rock, delivered with an unmistakable energy, mixing the very best of classic 80s stadium rock with a distinctly modern twist.
Its band like Vega and the likes of Heat, Degreed and Work Of Art that are the future of moving this scene forward.
If it was still 1987, Stereo Messiah would be wall to wall hit singles from start to finish. Each track has its own mood, but each track has a bombastic chorus and layers of guitar, keyboards and vocals. It’s almost as if each song is in competition with the tracks either side of it, taking on a competitive persona, trying to outdo each other as the album progresses.
This is basically 52 minutes of anthems. And that could be about the only possible issue anyone could raise. There isn’t a lot of space on the album for the listener to take a breather. Its relentless harmonies and hooks from start to finish. That’s a tough situation to be in!
 
It’s a complex album, so I’m going track by track:
 
Title track Stereo Messiah kicks off this 52 minute ride with a tempo and mood that builds, with plenty of programming and vocal effects giving the song a modern edge.
All Or Nothing is simply a perfect, bombastic, pomptastic, rocking AOR anthem. Driving keyboards, big vocals and some classy guitar soloing all are driven along by a pounding beat.
Whenever We Are has the same melodic base and fast moving tempo, but features an even more massive vocal through the chorus with Nick Workman wailing away.
Ballad Of The Broken Hearted is actually anything but a ballad – it’s a fast moving, very moody and dark rocker with another big (but moody) chorus.
Gonna Need Some Love Tonight is less intense and once it gets through the mellow melodic verse, it bursts to life with another huge anthemic chorus.
The Fall is another slick, dark, modern, moody melodic rocker with an instantly likable vocal and yes, another big melodic, full force chorus.
Neon Heart is a fast moving melodic rocker with a dramatic, emotional heart.
With Both Hands is another one of the band’s classic hands in the air stadium anthems, with layers and layers of keyboards and vocals and a moody, harmony filled choruses.
10x Bigger Than Love was a Def Leppard Bonus Track from the X album for some territories and covered here by the lads with Joe Elliott guesting on backing vocals and lead during the verse. It’s a change of pace for the album, noticeably more lighthearted than the rest of the material. It stands out for that reason, but is still a fun track.
My Anarchy is similar to a couple of other tunes on the album – a driving beat, a moody, punchy chorus and great vocals.
The Wild, The Weird, The Wonderful is a less intense, upbeat melodic rocker with a strong catchy chorus.
Tears Never Dry is a 6 minute slow, very intense ballad to close the album. Another left turn from the album in general, but a classy bit of songwriting with a great high impact chorus.
 

Huge vocals, layers and layers of guitars, keyboards and vocals and a relentless pace of anthemic modern melodic rock. That’s what awaits fans on Stereo Messiah.
Different people are going to compare it to the other 2 albums in different ways, each one having good reason to be declared the band’s best effort. I can’t separate them; I just think they are all great.

 

Score: 
94
 
Fri
28
Nov

DALTON - Pit Stop (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
What’s 25 years between friends? Swedish AOR legends return with an album that sounds like it was recorded as the natural follow up to 1989’s Injection album.
This is one for loyal Dalton fans who have waited all these years. Straight out of the Scandi 80s AOR playbook, Pit Stop is like a time capsule of glorious keyboards, fluffy AOR songs and big vocals.
Production is really impressive – what else would Erik Martensson deliver? The mix is beautiful and clear and gives keyboard, vocals and guitars the same 80s balance without sounding dated.
 
 
Ready Or Not might be a heavier album opener, but it’s the glorious hands in the air anthem Hey You that throws the listener back to 1985.
Don’t Tell Me Lies is keyboard heaven with a punchy mid-tempo rock ballad chorus with Follow Your Dreams equally as sentimental.
Up & Down fires up the guitars and the punchy rhythm section once again for a blast of high energy melodic rock, seamlessly followed by Bad Love.
One Voice is another slide of glorious 80s AOR with keyboards and vocals in full flight. Erik Martensson joins in the writing credits for this one.
Here We Are has to be one of the best AOR anthems of 2014. Melodic bliss here as vocals and harmonies and a rousing chorus all defy gravity.
Something For The Pain is equally as anthemic but a little more guitar driven and a faster tempo.
TGIF is a rousing, jazzy, rocked up closer.
 

Some albums have that 80s feel, updated with a contemporary production; this album sounds as if it was written and recorded in the late 80s. And that’s a positive comment. It’s a real throw back to where the band left off and an album to be enjoyed by fans of the pure 80s Scandi-AOR sound.
Score: 
88
 
Tue
25
Nov

DENNIS DEYOUNG & The Music Of Styx - Live In Los Angeles (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Dennis DeYoung
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Dennis De Young heads to the Westcoast for a rare live appearance and while he was there, he filmed this event for a 2CD/DVD release. It’s raining live releases right now, and Dennis is the cream of the crop.
Singing the hits of Styx with a dynamic 6 piece band accompanying him, Dennis happily plays away on his famous piano, those iconic lead vocals pure ear candy.
 
The songs are of course, long since proven as classics, with the audience familiar with every word, every line.
Highlights? Well, all of it of course.  Dennis sounds amazing; his backing band is fabulous and the material is unquestionable.
 
It could be seen as a little unusual for the Tommy Shaw sung classics to be included in the set, featuring August Zadra on lead vocals for those. But I guess when presenting an evening of ‘The Music Of Styx’, you include all of Styx. I think that’s a credit to DeYoung’s overview of the legacy of the band. He's not just delivering the songs he wrote and sung himself.
 
In the end, this is a highly enjoyable romp through the best of Styx over an hour or two, with flawless performances and the biting wit of DeYoung in-between those songs. The guy really could try a career in stand-up.
 

Beautifully recorded and filmed, this is a very high quality live release that I recommend to all.
Score: 
90
 
Tue
25
Nov

STRYPER - Live At The Whisky (Review)

Produced By: 
Stryper
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Yet another live CD/DVD release on the market here, with Stryper the next cab off the rank.
The 16-track collection documents the band’s first show in support of No More Hell To Pay, the band’s most recent (and well received) release.
The show is set in the intimate setting of LA’s famous Whiskey club, meaning the crowd, the stage, the cameras and the amps are all packed in. There’s not much room to move up there on stage, but the band lets the music do the talking.
 
The audio capture is ok – not the best I have ever heard, but far from the worst also. At least the band is truly live up there and not relying on overdubs.
 
Material comes from across the band’s catalogue and the new album, plus that blazing cover of Jesus Is Just Alright complete with some tasteful shredding by Michael Sweet – the guy is an underrated guitarist!
The DVD of Live At The Whisky also contains the music video for “No More Hell To Pay” and “Sympathy” from their latest album No More Hell To Pay plus an interview segment.
 
 

A disc and a DVD for a fair price is good value for fans and I have no doubt most Stryper fans will have already run out and scored a copy of this. If not – it’s a safe bet folks.

 

Score: 
86
 
Tue
25
Nov

HEART & FRIENDS - Home For The Holidays (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
50%
Produced By: 
Heart
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Christmas; Live
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Ah, tis the season for live cash-ins, tralalalala….
Ok, so let’s just state the unchallengeable facts right up front – Nancy Wilson is an amazing guitarist, Ann Wilson has the voice of an angel, untouched by the years and Heart have recorded some truly iconic music over the years. Most of which I love!
They really are a force to be reckoned with and credit to them for still kicking in 2014.
 
But, to be frank, there isn’t a number low enough to rate my interest in a Heart Christmas release. Even one with “friends”…
 
After their last couple of albums have failed to interest me, this is like a nail through the head.
So if I haven’t offended those last remaining Heart fans out there enough, I will go on and state that the festive songs included here are dreadfully dull unless you are really in the mood for a mellow early Christmas celebration.
 
This ultra-laid back event can’t even be rescued by the normally reliable Richard Marx or the always likeable Sammy Hagar. Hagar’s Santa's Going South is hokey hillbilly at its worst.
What I can say positively about this release is that it is beautifully filmed and recorded – the audio and video are exquisitely captured, it sounds and looks a million bucks. Just a shame about the songs.
 

Not sure who to recommend this too. No doubt it will sell more than most cult releases I review on here, but that thought just makes me sad.
The score is more reflective of a need to recognize the audio and visual quality of the release rather than the actual content.
Score: 
50
 
Tue
25
Nov

SAMMY HAGAR - Lite Roast (Review)

information persons: 
content: 

 

33%
Produced By: 
Sammy Hagar & Vic Johnson
Running Time: 
39
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Acoustic
Label: 
Independent
Artist: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Sammy Hagar remains one of my favourite songwriters and vocalists, but he is really beginning to test my patience with his solo releases.
The Jimmy Buffet of rock has followed up a dreadful duets album, which itself was preceded by an atrocious bits-and-pieces release Cosmic Universal Fashion, with a fully acoustic ‘best of’ featuring some solo tunes and some reworked Van Hagar cuts.
As was the case with the last two albums, I’m again not sure who this is aimed at. Die-hards only I would suggest, as the production and performance within seems pretty rushed.
 
 
Some of the tracks translate to acoustic very well and have a semblance of quality to them – such as Finish What Ya Started and Eagles Fly.
Other tracks just grate on my ears – Red Voodoo, One Sip; and Sailin’ and Halfway To Memphis are just too hokey in this setting and Van Halen’s Dreams just sounds horrible.
 
I have nothing but praise for Sammy in Van Halen, Chickenfoot and his earlier solo material. But post 2000 his efforts have been very hit and miss.
 

This is obviously a quickly assembled, quickly produced fill-in release, but it marks another miss for the Red (used to be a…) Rocker.
Score: 
33
 
Fri
21
Nov

TEN - Albion (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%

 

Produced By: 
Gary Hughes
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
UK
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Rocktopia Records
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
Ten get a lot of shit thrown at them for just being Ten. It’s not justified, as their track record for delivering is just as impressive as any other bands out there. I’ve been a fan of these guys since their 1996 debut.
Even the less acclaimed The Twilight Chronicles (2006) and Stormwarning (2011) held up ok in my mind. It’s only with Gary Hughes’ re-recording of the band’s earlier material The Essential Collection that I had to call them out for unacceptable quality.
There are enough studio albums now that everyone has their favourite era and style that Gary Hughes has taken on, but it seems without question the most popular is the early years.
 
 
And that is why Albion is so rewarding. Gary manages to do something many artists aspire to, but fall short with. He’s taken the band back to the sound of their most melodic and most powerful albums. The self-titled debut, Name Of The Rose, Spellbound and Babylon are probably the band’s best records and all are represented here.
 
If the melodic rock of Alone In The Dark Tonight represents the debut, then the heavier Battlefield takes on The Name Of The Rose.
It's Alive is classic Ten with a modern twist and the heavy bombastic Celtic pomp of Albion Born is pure Gary Hughes brilliance.
The rock ballad Sometimes Love Takes The Long Way Home is once again classic Ten doing everything they do best. A track Whitesnake would be proud to call their own.
A Smuggler's Tale is the heavier side of the band’s sound, while the 7 and a half minute Die For Me is heavy again, but pretty commercial with a catchy chorus.
It Ends This Day concludes a trio of heavier songs.
The moody piano ballad Gioco D'Amore is sung in English and Italian and is something very special. Once again, a classic Ten ballad.
The 6 minute Wild Horses builds from a gentle start to a pomp friendly, hard rocking finish.
 

Can’t find fault with this album. A terrific return to the sound of the early (and best) years and a step up in songwriting quality over the last few albums.
Fans of British melodic hard rock and the pomp and grandiose arrangements Gary Hughes is famous for are going to love this. A perfect step into the past without moving backwards.
Score: 
93
 
Fri
21
Nov

WHITESNAKE - Live In '84 - Back To The Bone (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
68%

 

Produced By: 
David Coverdale & Michael McIntyre
Running Time: 
70
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
The world does not need another Whitesnake live album. I love the band and I don’t need one either. But if we HAVE to have one, then I guess, this is a pretty cool addition to the collections of diehard Snake fans.
 
 
The 1984 recorded show is featured on CD as well as DVD. The visual aspect of this release for me is far more appealing as you get to witness a tight 4-piece band in prime form, with the legendary Cozy Powell, John Sykes and Neil Murray delivering a hits-packed set including the classics Crying In the Rain, Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, Slow & Easy, Soldier Of Fortune and Guilty Of Love.
 
Then you can add a 4 track addendum featuring Jon Lord’s last performance with the band and the songs Gambler, Guilty of Love, Love Ain't No Stranger and ​Ready an' Willing.
 

Audio wise the sound is a bit dated and really not the kind of quality you’d normally like to put out as an official live album. It is too muddy for a crisp HD release in the year 2014, but like I said, the visual aspect of the package make up a little.
 
Still, this is an archival diehards only release.
Score: 
68
 
Fri
21
Nov

IN FAITH - There's A Storm Coming (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

90%
Produced By: 
Pete Newdeck & Tony Marshall
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
UK
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Rocktopia Records
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
Now where did these guys come from? Dropping without a lot of warning comes the debut album from new UK outfit In Faith – featuring the talents of vocalist Pete Godfrey and guitarist Tony Marshall along with drummer Pete Newdeck.
The debut was recorded over the space of a year and was just released via Rocktopia Records.
This is an impressive slice of classic British AOR, following in the traditions of Dare, Ten and Newman.
 
 
It has a distinct 80s feel, without being dated and delivers a mix of feel good rockers, heartfelt ballads and those all-important AOR anthems.
The first thing I thought when listening to this album is that it sounded like a lost Harem Scarem album. Pete Godfrey has a huge vocal resemblance to Harry Hess and what I’m hearing here is an album that I think would fit perfectly between the debut Harem Scarem album and the classic follow-up Mood Swings.
In the same way as the debut Harem album saw a band finding their direction and musical path, so too are In Faith finding theirs and I can only imagine that their second album will be something potentially out of this world.
 
But back in the present, there is already something very special right here.
There are some straight forward melodic rockers in the form of the opener Radio and Church Of Rock N Roll, plus All Or Nothing and In Flames.
There are a couple of outstanding ballads with the heartbreaking Where I Want To Be leading the pack and the stripped back Leave Me Now.
Then there’s those anthems! Does It Feel Like Love is a hit single in another decade; Addicted is Harem Scarem at their old-school best and If That What Love Means is right up there for Song Of The Year – just perfect melodic goodness.
 

If you like your British melodic rock, have a soft spot for the Harem Scarem debut and like your music to represent a bygone era, then In Faith have delivered a very impressive debut that should be right up there on end of year best of lists. Can’t wait for more!
Score: 
90
 
Fri
21
Nov

RATED X - "Rated X" (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
60
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
Any project featuring Joe Lynn Turner on vocals is going to get my attention. Add in Joe’s Mother’s Army partner Carmine Appice on drums; Carmine’s Blue Murder partner Tony Franklin on bass and star guitarist Karl Cochran and you have me standing to attention, ready to salute whoever’s idea this was.
But, what looks good on paper must deliver in reality. Rated X thankfully does just that. Under the direction of producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (who also adds writing credits, all keyboards, organ and backing vocals to his list of credits), the band delivers a knock out blues driven classic hard rock album.
 
 
Not unexpectedly, the style here is a mix of Joe Lynn Turner solo, classic Rainbow as well as adding parts of the Mother’s Army and Blue Murder sound.
The band overcame Karl’s recent health scare by bringing in Nikolo Koyzev and Daniel Palmqvist to complete guitar parts on several tracks, but Karl remains the driving force behind the album’s power.
 
It’s a joy to hear Appice and Franklin as a rhythm section again. The two really pack a punch on this record, with Tony’s bass groove rolling through the album and Carmine is simply all over these songs. Why add one drum fill when you can add three? I love it; the powerful rhythm section just adds so much power. And Joe Lynn Turner has seldom sounded better, his authorative rasp in full control.
 
Get Back My Crown is a ripping opener that throws me back to the debut Mother’s Army album.
This Is Who I Am is one of two tracks taken from the unreleased JLT/Chris Antblad collaboration. The song here is beefed up from its original form, with some shredding guitar and a ton of extra drum fills.
Fire And Ice is an organ drenched classic Zeppelinesque 70s rocker with drums again belting through the speakers through the chorus while Tony Franklin’s bass glides over the verse.
I Don’t Cry Anymore is another great JLT driven rocker, with the singer sounding in classic form.
The very cool and moody Lhasa has to be inspired by the Blue Murder track Valley Of The Kings. This seven minute epic has a very similar vibe, especially with Franklin and Appice involved.
Devil In Disguise is a pretty simple rocker after the complex preceding track.
You Are The Music is a quality slower track with a nice melodic edge.
Peace Of Mind is another quality untempo melodic rocker.
Maybe Tonight is a classic AOR track – the second from the JLT/Antblad sessions. Here it has been rocked up a little and expanded musically and is another highlight.
On The Way To Paradise picks up the tempo and the rock attitude once again for a straight ahead tour de force. Great guitar solo too!
Our Love Is Not Over is the big sentimental ballad of the album. Classic JLT here.
Stranger In Us All closes the album by firing us up again with crashing guitars and pounding bass and lots of organ once again.
 

 
A very fine debut collaboration from the folks that form Rated X. I hope this can continue as an ongoing touring and recording band.
The only point I would raise overall would be that the production could be described as a bit muddy in places and the drum and bass sound does vary a little from track to track.
But great energy in the performances, despite the challenges of getting the record recorded and mixed.
You wouldn’t want the album any longer than the 60 minutes delivered, but that said, there’s no filler here.

 

Score: 
89
 
Wed
19
Nov

ADRIANGALE - 'Defiance' (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

93%
Produced By: 
Vic Rivera
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Kivel Records
Artist: 
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Categories: 
 
Adriangale are another band back in quick time with another new studio opus after firing back to life in 2013.
Defiance is a fitting title for a band that has overcome the odds and continues to deliver.
There’s nothing better than a band that learns and keeps getting better and better with each album. And as enjoyable as each album from these guys has been, they have continued to get better and I’m pleased to say that Defiance is in my eyes, their best and most accomplished album to date. I’m being tougher with scores since the new site launch, so the 93% here is truly well deserved.
 
 
Taking the best anthemic AOR qualities of their past and toughening up the sound a little, upping the production value and delivering a crystal clear mix is what this album is all about.
Jamie Rowe sounds as comfortable singing here as I have ever heard him and the quality of Vic Rivera’s guitar playing on this album is world class.
I’ve always told him he needs to continue showing the world what he can do, as far back as his blazing work on the Rick Springfield tribute cover of Souls.
 
There’s not a weak or filler track on this album. Just 10 really enjoyable songs. No padding – just straight to the point.
 
The opening (and title) track Defiance sets up this album beautifully. Darker, a little heavier and a killer moody chorus.
Back To You is similar – a brooding moody verse that leads to an anthemic layered chorus. Love it. Adriangale at their best.
What About Love is a gritty guitar fueled rocker with lots of vocal harmonies once again.
Sometimes has a heavier than usual guitar riff which I love, added to with a blindingly good anthemic chorus.
The only big ballad of the album is the perfect moody Last Of My Heart. It has a great sentimental feel and lots of harmonies.
The closing track demonstrates that if Billy Idol is ever looking for someone to stand in for him, he should give Jamie Rowe a call and Vic Rivera can stand in for Steve Stevens.
Speed replicates the original Idol tune in pretty faithful fashion. It’s a cool addition to the original material.
 

Another album, another winner. Arguably the band’s best effort yet – at least in my eyes. There is no doubt that all fans of melodic rock should find something very tasty about this album, the songs and the layers within.
Score: 
93
 
Wed
19
Nov

TANGO DOWN - 'Charming Devil' (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 
87%
Produced By: 
Ty Sims
Running Time: 
40
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Kivel Records
Artist: 
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Categories: 
 
US rockers Tango Down follow up their acclaimed ass-kicking Identity Crisis record in quick fashion with the new album Charming Devil, featuring the same lineup, fronted by vocalist David Reece and riff man Scott Miller.
It’s a case of more of the same from the band here – ass kicking, high energy, American melodic hard rock, with harmonies throughout and plenty of riffing for the guitar-heads out there.
 
 
David Reece sounds in great voice here – it’s another polished performance from the veteran vocalist.
Plenty of highlights here with songs penned mostly by friend to the Kivel label, Jace Pawlak, either writing on his own or with guitarist Miller. Production is by Ty Sims, and one can hear the Bombay Black style harmonies throughout the album, with the band’s frontman Erik Johnson lending a hand there.
I will say though, the one detrimental aspect of the album is the bass heavy mix. Overall it’s bearable, but there are a couple of songs where it is truly overbearing and not easy on the ears to listen to without adjusting audio settings.
 
Song highlights include the opening track Bad Reputation, a solid, attitude filled track to push off in style.
The title track Charming Devil is a cool rocker, but the pounding bass heavy mix really takes away from my enjoyment of it.
Too Many Roads is one of the best rock power ballads of this or any year. Reece sounds amazing and the added piano adds texture to the already impressive song. The huge chorus knocks it out of the park.
Change My World is another catchy tune while the ultra-catchy, anthemic Tomorrow Never Comes is as impressive as it gets on Charming Devil.
Closing the album is the second ballad of the album, even if it’s sentimental with a kick. Another classy tune.
 

I favor Identity Crisis over this new album, but songwise it’s a very close call. Both albums feature some real gems and fully deliver on expectations. But the mix here has definitely impacted on my overall enjoyment of it.
American melodic hard rock is alive and well with Tango Down and long may it continue.
Score: 
87
 
Fri
31
Oct

MR. BIG - The Stories We Could Tell (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
- Gotta Love The Ride
- I Forget To Breathe
- Fragile
- Satisfied
- The Man Who Has Everything
- The Monster In Me
- What If We Were New
- East / West
- The Light Of Day
- Just Let Your Heart Decide
- It's Always About That Girl
- Cinderella Smile
- The Stories We Could Tell
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

94%
Produced By: 
Pat Regan
Running Time: 
61
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
It is an emotional time for Mr. Big as drummer Pat Torpey recently announced he was dealing with the onset of Parkinson’s disease as the band regrouped for their second post-reformation studio album.
But they managed to do it, adding another chapter to the Mr. Big story, and delivering a different beast to the last album What If…
 
There’s a different vibe to this album, most likely down to the change of producer, from Kevin Shirley (who likes recording live in the studio) to Pat Regan, who takes the more traditional route.
A couple of interesting facts from the recording sessions explain the vibe of this album – one was that the guys were all individually busy, so many parts were recorded without the others present as schedules permitted time to record, and the other was the revelation from Billy Sheehan that drummer Pat doesn’t actually play live drums on the album. Instead, the two Pat’s worked together on programming drum parts to match Torpey’s style and energy.
In fact, that part of the process held up the release of the album, forcing a slight reschedule and some last minute deliveries of the master.
But I’m impressed with the job done here. Both from Pat Regan for the overall sharp, traditional Mr. Big style production (he also worked with the guys on ‘Get Over It’ and the side project ‘Influences & Connections’); and also from Pat Torpey, who delivers perhaps the best programmed drums ever.
Eric Martin sounds fabulous as always as does Paul Gilbert with his flawless master class of riffing and soloing that continues throughout.
I don’t think Billy Sheehan’s bass is as prominent in the mix as last time around. The technical flair and authority is there, just not as promiinent in the mix as on What If.
 
The hour long album touches on a few aspects of the band’s sound and career to date. There’s definitely some of the bluesy ‘Get Over It’ influences here, despite that album not featuring guitarist Paul Gilbert; there is also some touches of the debut from way back in ’89 as well as Bump Ahead and of course the most recent release What If.
There is also a strong influence of 70s rock n roll throughout, a loose bluesy vibe that blends into the band’s sound.
All in all, it’s Mr. Big and its good!
 
I think the album runs a little long as there’s a couple of tracks in the back half of the album that more or less repeat what’s come before, if the album had been cut to 11 tracks it might have been a little more concise.
 
Gotta Love The Ride is a bombastic bluesy rocker. A solid groove, nice guitar solo and a chorus that seems restrained but gets better each listen. A cool track!
I Forget To Breathe is another up-tempo blues based rocker with a big groove. Billy's bass not nearly as prominent in mix as last album. Another pretty simple chorus....but it rocks and I like it. I'm hearing some 'Get Over It' here. Great guitar solo.
The wonderfully melodic Fragile was my pick of the album from day 1 and continues to be. A real Mr. Big sounding track with the same type of vibe as the equally brilliant "Undertow".
Satisfied took some time to grow on me. Back to the 70s blues rock again and I'm a 80s guy, so I wasn’t sure, but it has grown into a fine track. A very melodic vocal bridge that hints at a big chorus that doesn't arrive.
Its ballad time. The Man Who Has Everything is a familiar Mr. Big acoustic driven ballad. Still carrying that 70s feel though. Big soulful vocal by Eric Martin - another possible single here I'd expect. Some orchestral backing makes it fuller in sound.
The Monster In Me still has that bluesy 70s sound going through it. The mid-tempo, heavy rocker was another track that grew on me and it’s jerky, abrupt chorus is cool.
What If I Were New sees the band is sounding like The Rolling Stones. A different vibe for sure and perhaps one of the lesser quality tracks on the album. Interesting chorus. I wouldn't call it catchy, but it's original and the choppy Paul Gilbert guitar work is cool.
East/West features acoustic intro and first 30 seconds before band comes to life. Acoustic base, but electric also. A feel good song this and a traditional Mr. Big commercial pop/rocker.
The Light Of Day is a fast rocker with a big groove, big guitars and bass, fast moving vocal and chorus, with Eric in fine voice as ever.
Just Let Your Heart Decide - ballad time again. Deep sultry vocal from Eric and an extremely good chorus. Just like 'What If', the second big ballad on the album is the better one. No Mr. Big fan is going to dislike this one.
It's Always About That Girl - this is another mi-tempo 70s groover. Not as into this as earlier tracks and sees the band repeating themselves a little here.
As is the case with the slow/mid-tempo groove based track Cinderella Smile. Simple chorus, stop/start slow groove and a track that brings a slow tempo to the closing part of the album.
The Stories We Could Tell is unfortunately another slow-mid-tempo 70s groover.
Interesting track, but not the most instant or catchy tune out there and similar to a couple of others on the album. A good chorus, some nice bass fills from Billy and more classy playing from Paul. But three slowish 70s groove tracks in a row to close the album is too many.
I would have cut Cinderella Smile and It’s Always About That Girl.
 
For the European release there is the bonus track Addicted To That Rush (Live)Now, being the musical snob I am, I just can’t endorse live tracks tacked onto the end of studio albums. It just doesn’t sit right with me that an all-new studio album closes with an old live track.
Add to that the fact the quality of this live track is horrible. The instrumentation is clear enough, but the vocals sound as if they were piped in from the lavatory backstage. Very hollow and low in volume. It’s a real shame as the sheer energy of Pat Torpey and world class guitar soloing from Paul and Billy throughout is otherwise stunning.
The Japanese release adds the bonus track 30 Days In The Hole (Live). Again, the playing is nothing short of exquisite, but next to studio material it just doesn’t sound right or match the production values.
 
The Japanese Special Edition sees the band add a bonus disc of 10 re-recorded classics. The Japanese are becoming increasingly generous with their extra features to entice a shrinking market into buying and it worked for me!
The tracks covered include the fan favorites Addicted To That Rush, Colorado Bulldog, Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy, Green Tinted Sixties Mind and Take Cover.
There’s not a dramatic overhaul of these tracks in any way. More or less, they are just an updated sound, consistent with the production of the new material and the odd tweak here and there with vocals, backing vocals and guitar and bass riffs. Long time Mr. Big fans will hear the differences, casual fans won’t. But it’s well worth getting.
 
The Stories We Could Tell is a big, groovy, rocking album, but not the chorus heavy style of Mr. Big's most commercial tracks.
It is also not an instant album, but it has the same Mr. Big appeal as always for me and has been on high rotation now for many weeks. I’m still loving the tracks I love and still not warming to the last few.
The guys’ individual performances are as special as we always expect from these phenomenal musicians.
Be prepared for a different sound and a more retro groove based style.
 
Another great Mr. Big album, but it's going to have to appeal to people's individual tastes a little more than past albums.
Score: 
94
 
Fri
31
Oct

220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

75%
Produced By: 
22o Volt
Running Time: 
60
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
Sweden delivers yet another rock band in the form of 220 Volt. But these guys aren’t new – they’re back from the 80s, with their first proper studio album since 1997.
It doesn’t happen often, but this is one band that skipped past me in the heyday, so more or less, despite reported changes to their sound, I’m taking them on as a new listener.
Anders Engberg (ex-Therion ex-Lions Share), who joined this group on late 2012, is the new voice of the band, so with a fresh voice it really is a new start for the band.
Founding members Thomas Drevin and Mats Karlsson handle the guitars and drummer Peter Hermansson complete the line-up.
 
What I’m hearing is pretty typical Scandi-styled melodic hard rock. I’ve spun it several times and I’m liking the vocals, which sound a little like the great Matti Alfonzetti or Goran Edman, but otherwise I’m struggling with the songs somewhat.
 
Production is ok, it’s not a sharp or as crisp as it should be and compared to some other recent releases. The drum and cymbal sound in particular is weak.
Coupled with some songs that don’t quite do it for me and a sound I’ve heard before, I rate this as a decent release that fans of the band should enjoy, but I’m not seeing huge crossover potential.
This is a pretty hard rocking release though. There are times where the band takes it up a notch and that’s when I think they sound at their best – tracks like Alive, Through The Wastelands and System Overload.
Plus the more melodic Take A Good Look and Stranded.
 
Overall, not bad, but not a stand out for me in this always crowded market. I expect longtime fans will enjoy and newcomers to the European hard rock scene might also find something worthy here.
 
Score: 
75
 

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