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Reviews

Mon
21
Jul

CHICAGO - Now (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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The album walks a thin line between uptempo Westcoast pop and sultry jazz-infused ballads, all delivered with the sickly sweet harmony vocals expected from a band with 6 or 7 vocalists at work.
 
Good for fans of the band's earlier incarntions, beyond fluffy for those looking for the more recently used style.
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SCORE
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83%
Produced By: 
Chcago
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Westcoast/Pop
Score: 
83
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Chicago is the second iconic group to have a new release out in the same month of the same year (Yes being the other) from the same label. Much like the Yes album, appeal will squarely lay with longtime established fans over curious newcomers or part-time fans.
 
I count myself as a part-timer when it comes to Chicago. I loved the band’s edgier moments like the last studio album in 2006 (XXX) and the fabulous long kept under wraps Stone Of Sisyphus album, plus their more commercial moments such as the 80s friendly Chicago 16 through 21 albums. Some great AOR material on offer there.
 
When the band revert to their core 70s style, bring out the jazzy Westcoast sound and push their legendary brass section into a more prominent role, I find my finger reaching for the skip button.
Chicago 36, or “Now” as it is dually titled, offers some moments of melodic rock brilliance and some snappy arrangements and impeccable playing without question.
It’s also beautifully produced by the band. But at times it speeds down Pink & Fluffy Boulevard and heads Southbound on the Middle Of The Road Freeway.
 
So be warned those seeking the more guitar driven sound of XXX – this ain’t it!
 
That said, if you like classic Chicago, you aren’t going to get a more authentic experience than “Now”. The jazzy pop material is as catchy as it is breezy and the sound is straight out of 1978.
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Mon
21
Jul

OUTLOUD - Let's Get Serious (Review)

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The formula of the band’s first two albums is continued here. You’ve got the more relaxed easy flow of the second album and the song quality of the tougher sounding debut.
It makes for a nice balance and all in all, a very catchy, enjoyable melodic hard rock album. If you have yet to pick this album up and have the band’s other releases, do not hesitate at all.
Well done guys.
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SCORE
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87%

 

Produced By: 
Outloud
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Greek/American rockers Outloud are back with album number three, good to see the guys keeping momentum flowing with short gaps between albums.
And I’m pleased to say they help keep momentum going by delivering consistently good records that are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. I wasn’t a fan of their last EP release, but the studio albums to date have all been excellent.
This is no exception.
 
The almost Spinal Tap-influenced opening hard rocker Death Rock! would be laughable delivered by any other band, but when it’s from these guys, it just works. The double kick drum flurry and catchy chorus “we’re gonna rock you to death” is pure hard rock heaven.
The album flows beautifully into the more melodic I Was So Blind, and back to the more urgent One More Time – both songs delving choruses that can’t be ignored.
The moody Bury The Knife offers another side of the band, the passive aggressive track turning outwardly aggressive towards the end, very cool.
 
And so it continues. Most of the album presents as uptempo melodic rock mixing with hard rock, but always there’s a melody, a guitar solo and a chorus.
Things only slow down for the acoustic ballad It Really Doesn’t Matter, but then it’s straight back into the uptempo anthemic (and quite awesome) Another Kind of Angel.
Other highlights include the fast moving A While To Go and the furious but melodic Toy Soldiers (featuring guitar god Mike Orlando of Adrenaline Mob).
And to close, the band throws in a rocked up and stylized cover of OMD’s Enola Gay. It suits the band and it fits the album. Nicely done.
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Fri
18
Jul

YES - Heaven & Earth (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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The core sound is there and the songs are memorable and the additional orchestration and super sharp production are all big positives to ensure that fans of Yes receive this album favorably.

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79%
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TRACK LISTING
Produced By: 
Roy Thomas Baker
Running Time: 
51
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive Rock
Score: 
79
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
I don’t mind myself some falsetto vocals, but when there’s no light and shade – that is, the vocals are all falsetto all of the time, and the album goes some 50 minutes, well, my ears begin to rebel.
 
Iconic prog-pop-rock band Yes are back with their first album in many moons, with stalwarts Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and Geoff Downes with new vocalist Jon Davison in for the departed icon that was Jon Anderson.
As expected Davison is an Anderson soundalike and does his job keeping the traditional Yes sound intact.
 
The album is beautifully produced by the legendary Grammy Award winner, Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, The Cars, Guns N’ Roses, Foreigner, Alice Cooper and more), ensuring that fans of the band get exactly what they hoped for.
The songs are long and complex, but don’t forget the necessary hooks to hold it all together – the first three: Believe Again, The Game and Step Beyond impressing in particular.
The rest of the albums takes a little more concentration to appreciate, but those vocals are a hindrance for the likes of me.
 
The album is all quite likable and I expect longtime fans to be happy, but those vocals…they are enough to turn me off any long term loyalty to this record and I expect will encourage other fence sitters to do likewise.
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Fri
18
Jul

TED NUGENT - ShutUp&Jam (Review)

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I like Ted, he’s an interesting guy (even when you don’t agree at all), and I think a majority of his fans will enjoy the album for what it is, but it is a die-hards only affair I think.
Not enough substance for casual fans to rate any higher.
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SCORE
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65%
Produced By: 
Michael Lutz & Ted Nugent
Running Time: 
46
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
65
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
I expect some Ted Nugent fans would like the legendary guitarist and outspoken politico to take some of his own advice and “Shut Up & Jam”.
It’s hard to separate the man from the opinions sometimes and I know he has alienated some with his views, but on his first new studio album in 7 years Ted does what he does best – wail and shred. Unfortunately – I don’t think the majority of songs featured here are that good, or worthy of the 7 year wait between records.
 
There’s the throwaway opening title track ShutUp&Jam, the gritty Fear Itself and the bluesier Everything Matters (curiously the only song featuring Derek St Holmes on vocals) that all combine to make you wonder how Ted came up with so many legendary tracks in the past.
I know Ted Nugent won’t ever be known as a Shakespeare of rock lyrics, but even with that in mind, She's Gone featuring guest lead vocals from Sammy Hagar features a mere 6 lines of repetitive lyrics and sees the guest spot totally wasted.
Thankfully there are some redeeming moments on the album, one of which is the free flowing rocker Never Stop Believing – better lyrics, some great guitar moments and a chorus that demands repeating.
I Still Believe is pretty simplistic, but a lot more likable than some other tracks and saves the album before the silly I Love My BBQ kicks in.
The guitar-shred instrumental Throttledown is another highlight for me, surprisingly, as I’m not huge on instrumentals, but it’s a slammin track.
 
The album is dominated by two and a half to three minute songs – you know the type – get in, get to the point and get going type stuff, most of which don’t hang around long enough to be annoying, but don’t make a real lasting impression either.
Interestingly the best song of the album (Never Stop Believing) is reprised as a slow blues version to close the album. A good song works in any format and this is a completely different interpretation of the song.
 
I’m probably being too hard on Ted here, but this is a long way from his 70s best and not something that I will spend a lot of time listening to after this review.
 
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Thu
26
Jun

NIGHT RANGER - High Road (Review)

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In my book, this is yet another winner from Night Ranger. It’s different than Somewhere In California, but at the same time, it’s not too far from that sound – just a little heavier and a little more diverse. So for that reason I think it makes a great companion to the last album, just as 7 Wishes is the perfect match for Midnight Madness.
More classic Night Ranger harmonies and a really strong production make this a great album.
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92%
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
Produced By: 
Night Ranger
Running Time: 
46 + Bonus
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Night Ranger are quite possibly my favourite band around. They are just so consistently good and feature several times already in my all-time Top 30 with such classic albums as Big Life, Midnight Madness, 7 Wishes, Dawn Patrol, Neverland (still underrated!) and Man In Motion of course. Even the Night Ranger album we can’t mention (Feeding Off The Mojo…oops!) was great!
Some fans had a hard time with the band’s modernized and sometimes inconsistent Hole In The Sun album, but how can you go pass such great tracks as Whatever Happened, There Is Life and Rockstar? Every album sees the band deliver some great new tracks.
Anyway…I digress. The band’s “return to form” Somewhere In California was a bonafide new era classic, with hit chorus after chorus making the album a perfect 100 for me and many others.
 
Not a band to repeat themselves or make the same album twice, I was curious as to what High Road was going to deliver. And I was surprised at the results. Mainly because on first reflection I felt this was the most diverse album the band had ever delivered.
I think there are parts of both Jack and Kelly’s solo sound in here as well as a dose of Damn Yankees style rock n roll and Shaw/Blades also.
Of course the more I listen the more is just sounds like Night Ranger, but I do hear and understand some criticism from a few fans over a few of the tracks included.
After the chorus driven brilliance of the last album, it was always going to be near impossible for High Road to match it. But I think the band came close.
So High Road is a very diverse collection of new songs where choruses play a less prominent role on several songs. It’s also a heavier and harder rocking album and if you go with the flow I think there’s a lot to love here once again. It’s just different.
 
Track By Track:
High Road – you’ll be hard pressed to find a more brilliant hands-in-the-air anthem than this beauty. Absolute melodic bliss and one of my favorite recent era NR tracks. It has a modern sound, but a huge classic chorus.
 
Knock Knock Never Stop – at first I thought it a little bit silly and the lyrics aren’t anything spectacular. I thought the chorus was underdone, but in the flow of the album the song has great energy– it’s this album’s answer to Lay It On Me from Somewhere In California and I’ve come to like it a lot.
 
Rollin' On – I didn’t warm to this song at all for quite a few plays. And it’s not the best song to be rolling out at track 3 I think. The heavy blues rocker with a short chorus is something different, but it really does rock even if it sounds more like Damn Yankees than Night Ranger!
 
Don't Live Here Anymore – I loved this from the first listen and even more so now. Kelly Keagy sings his ass off here, on a song that has a haunting message and a moody heart, until it explodes out of the gate with some blistering guitar work mid-song. It has a very similar vibe to the wonderful rain Comes Crashing down from Big Life.
 
I'm Coming Home – I was so excited first time I heard the riff to this song and as it built I just knew the chorus would blow me away. Except it didn’t. I felt as if the chorus was underdone for a while, like it could have gone even higher and bigger. But that thought soon faded and it remains one of my favorite songs on the album. While I think it feels a little like it could have come from either of Kelly’s solo albums, it is also a song that sounds closest to the style of the last album.
 
X Generation – this is another all-out rocker with a pretty short chorus. It’s not a mind blowing chorus, but I love the pace of the song and the pounding drums (all the drums on this album sound fantastic). It’s a good fun hard rocker that suits the overall album.
 
Only For You Only – ballad time again and this time it’s a traditional Night Ranger ballad with gorgeous vocals and a nice sentimental message. Can’t go wrong with tracks like these and is another winner.
 
Hang On – this is a moody rocker with a Mojo style vibe to it. Or a Kelly solo track perhaps, but with those trademark NR backing vocals and the twin guitar attack, it is another cool song for me. Once again the chorus is understated, but with the flow of the album it’s perfectly placed.
 
St. Bartholomew – this is another big hard rocking track that sounds more AC/DC than it does Night Ranger, but those guitars are so classic in sound it couldn’t be anyone but NR right? The chorus is a grower and more traditional sounding, so I give it two thumbs up.
 
Brothers – is akin to something off Jack’s solo album or Shaw/Blades. Together with the instrumental LA No Name, I think that the album ends on a weak note after the high energy of the rest of the album as a whole. The track, with its Beatles-esque acoustic harmonies is a classic piece of music, but would have been better used as one if the bonus tracks on offer I think.
 
Bonus Tracks:
 
Mountain Song is one of the bonus tracks on offer and a fine hard rocking one at that. It fits in with the style of this album used by X Generation and Knock Knock and is well worth hunting down.
 
Don’t Even Know Your Name should have been on the main album release. This track is a great uptempo melodic rocker with a strong chorus and could have helped even out the album more for those that missed the commercial chorus driven sound of Somewhere In California. 
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Thu
26
Jun

TESLA - Simplicity (Review)

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A few classic Tesla tracks, and a few great ballads also, but too few rockers that deliver and way too many tracks overall – and slow ones at that.
Coupled with the stripped back production, Simplicity isn’t good enough to match what is otherwise a very consistent and impressive catalogue of albums over the years.
I remain a huge Tesla fan, but won’t be coming back to this album too often. Just a few individual tracks.
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SCORE
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70%
Produced By: 
Tesla
Running Time: 
65
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
As a longtime fan of this band – since the very beginning actually – I feel that I’m more than qualified to call this new album the band’s weakest to date.
The essential quadrilogy of Mechanical Resonance (one of the best debut albums in history), The Great Radio Controversy, Psychotic Supper (again, utterly essential) and Bust a Nut are four of the best American hard rock albums I own.
I’ve not rushed into this review hoping the album would grow on me more than it has. But I’m still stuck in a middle ground of appreciating some of the tracks on here as classic Tesla brilliance, but overall, there are several tracks that fall flat and simply drag.
 
Simplicity is a case of what could and should have been rather than what is.
Style wise the band has stripped the sound right back. This is a pretty raw affair, with a live in the studio feel.
That in itself is ok, but the album is way too bloated at 15 tracks. An 11 track album would have flowed better and maintained a better tempo. As it is, the album drags through too many slower tracks and a couple of true fillers.
 
I don’t think they do themselves any favors leading off with the plodding MP3 as an opening track. It’s an ok song, but it is a mid-album track I think. The faster and more classic sounding Ricochet would have made a much better opening track.
Rise And Fall is another pretty decent track and is reminiscent of the classic Tesla sound, but I’m not sure about the sequencing at all as this track also has that mid-tempo pace.
So Divine is a uptempo rocker. Better for rocking, but let down by not being one of the band’s better tracks.
The slow bar room boogie of the acoustic driven Cross My Heart again affects the flow of the album.
The heartfelt rock ballad Honestly is a great track, but this album really has no flow.
 
Flip Side is another bar room boogie track that highlights the back and forth nature of the style and tempo within the album.
Other Than Me is another ballad and a pretty decent track in many ways, but as a die-hard Tesla fan, I’m hanging out for a classic rocker at this stage.
Break Of Dawn delivers the tempo, but perhaps not the song quality. It’s pretty raw and does grow on you and might have fared better in a revised shuffle of the running order.
Burnout To Fade is yet another slower track – another acoustic ballad which is one of my preferred slower tracks on the album, but I’m really suffering from lack of tempo.
And what do we get now, yes, another slow ballad. Life Is A River is once again, a decent enough track, but to many slow tracks are killing this album.
Sympathy picks up the pace with a heavy, but it’s a modern rocker with little redeeming value.
Time Bomb is almost there – the twin guitar attack and frantic pace is great and long overdue on the album.
Closing out the 14 new studio tracks is yet another acoustic driven ballad. Fortunately for the band it is the album’s best ballad. Classic Tesla all the way.
 
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Thu
26
Jun

URIAH HEEP - Outsider (Review)

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Another very consistent traditional Uriah Heep release. Nothing unexpected – which is as it should be for a band so late into their career.
Heep fans will soak it up and await their next live release!
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SCORE
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84%
Produced By: 
Mike Paxman
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Classic Rock
Score: 
84
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
You don’t get any better example of classic rock than Uriah Heep. The 70s stalwarts prove that rock n roll is the only genre that lasts a lifetime by continuing on their merry way, touring and recording unabated.
Outsider is the band’s latest opus, following up from 2011’s Into The Wild. And as expected we get another slice of pretty consistent blues based rock n roll, where that lush Hammond organ has the same profile as the guitars and rhythm section.
 
For the most part I’m really enjoying what’s on offer here. There are no surprises and no left turns, just straight ahead classic 70s style rock n roll a la traditional Heep.
Highlights within the album include the free flowing Speed Of Sound and the more dramatic One Minute that both get the album off to a strong start.
The double time boogie of The Outsider is fun too; and Rock The Foundation is straight out of the Heep playbook.
Is Anybody Going To Help Me doesn’t quite reach the same heights as earlier tracks, but the up tempo Looking At You is better.
There one track that stands out as a real clunker though and that is The Law. At track 3 I skip it every time and feel that it kills the momentum of the album. Once passed that though, it’s all good.
 
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Mon
16
Jun

ASIA - Gravitas (Review)

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This is a really painfully slow album to get through. I spoke of the occasional joys of a nice mellow album, but in this case, the songs are simply frightfully dull and lacking any enthusiasm by those performing them. The production and style of the album is as close to classic 80s Asia as you could imagine, but it's wasted on some tepid pacing and dull songs. 

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SCORE
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70%

 

Produced By: 
Asia
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR, Classic Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Asia delivers another new album in pretty quick time following their acclaimed XXX album in 2012. Gone is guitarist Steve Howe and in his place is young gun Sam Coulson.
The band has stuck to its mantra of slick, polished AOR, staying true to their original early 80s style.
Unfortunately the band seems to have slipped back into the slow to mid-tempo slumber that has been an issue in recent albums. The brief sojourn into a more uptempo realm on XXX is once again abandoned in favor of a moped in first gear here.
The production of course is super smooth and multi-layered, but the songs….dull I'm afraid.
Kicking off with what is possible the most annoying chorus in at least a decade, Valkyrie has a nice laid back verse reminiscent of the band's debut album, but that chorus makes you want to stick cacti in your ear.
Then comes 8 minute title track, where there's no sign of life until near the 3 minute mark. Followed of course by an ultra-slow ballad, a painfully slow song followed by the mid-tempo quirk of Nyctophobia which is kind of annoying also.
Russian Dolls is then another slow song before Heaven Help Me Now finally hits second gear.
That's followed by the album's best track – the slightly anthemic (in a mellow way) I Would Die For You.
That's followed by the horribly slow and dull Joe Di Maggio's Glove and the slightly more dramatic Till We Meet Again to close the album.
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Mon
16
Jun

L.R.S. - Down To The Core (Review)

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I would class Down To The Core as a very safe album and one that very much stays true to the traditional definition of the genre it represents. But it is also one of the better examples of such, so I have no trouble embracing this. Yes, it could have been a little more adventurous, but what it delivers is super slick, super classy AOR and those vocals are just perfect! 

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SCORE
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94%
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 

This is one of the smoothest records I have heard in a long time. It's a very fine slice of mature, well-written and executed traditional AOR, featuring some of the finest people the genre has to offer. First it's a huge pleasure to hear the ear candy vocals of Tommy La Verdi back in the melodic game finally – it's been way too long for a guy with a voice born for this.

And Josh Ramos – one guitarist with an absolute natural affinity for this style of music – has also been underutilized in recent years. Drummer Mike Shotton is an inspired choice to drive the band's sound and his playing style gives the album a thumping beat and slightly progressive twist in several tunes.
The architect of the album is Alessandro Del Vecchio – layering the songs with keyboards as well as writing the bulk of the album's material (Shotton delivers two tracks on his own and Tommy co-writes on a few) – and delivering a stellar production of world class standard.
I was initially surprised at the pace of the album overall – it's a very ballad heavy selection of songs and quite mellow over what I expected. But the more I listened, the more the class of the songs took over and pace/style wasn't an issue.
In fact, looking back, quite a few of my favourite albums over the years have been very mellow and I'm now adding this one to the list. When the mood calls for it, some glossy, traditional AOR with perfect vocals and a laid back vibe is just what is called for.
Think Dare Out Of The Silence, Von Groove Test Of Faith, Magnum Sleepwalking – all very fine, albeit laid back, classy records.

What LRS deliver is a group of songs that everyone reading this is going to feel familiar with. There's the anthemic Journey styled feel good tracks such as the opening Our Love To Stay (which is equal to the tracks that opened the last two Journey albums), Never Surrender and Waiting For Love; then there are the slow wistful polished AOR of I Can Take You There, Almost Over You and the super smooth and ultra-classy Universal Cry; there is a couple of more upbeat and progressive AOR numbers in the brilliant Livin' 4 A Dream and the heavier Down To The Core.
Rounding out the record is the massive power ballads To Be Your Man and Not One Way To Give.
All throughout we get dramatic backing vocals, plenty of guitar fills and some tasteful solo and always those brilliant La Verdi vocals.

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Mon
16
Jun

PRETTY MAIDS - Louder Than Ever (Review)

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Pretty Maids fans will need no convincing – but those still unfamiliar with the band would do well to check this out – it's an excellent quality album, with terrific songs and a high energy burst of European melodic hard rock. 

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SCORE
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92%
Produced By: 
Pretty Maids
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 

Danish melodic metallers Pretty Maids seem to be on a pretty good run in recent years. I have enjoyed their last few albums that have come via Frontiers and this is no exception. This is not a completely new album but consists of seven re-recorded classic songs from the 1995 - 2006 era plus four brand new songs specially written for this record. There are some minor tweaks to those old songs, not to mention all of them taking advantage of a better production quality and technology.

This is yet another barnstorming, high energy, melodic metal release that blows the speakers apart. The four new songs are indication that all continues to go well within the band as they continue to age with maturity without ever looking like getting soft.
Deranged is a hard edge moody rocker with a great guitar sound and raspy powerful vocal and chorus that steps up the pace another notch or two.
My Soul To Take is one of the band's most melodic tracks ever – a brilliant little feel-good melodic rock anthem.
Nuclear Boomerang on the other hand, is one of the band's heaviest – a double kick drum driven hard rocker with a menacing edge.
A Heart Without A Home is another cracking melodic rock tune – a beautiful ballad with one of Ronnie Atkins' best vocals to date.

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Mon
16
Jun

GOTTHARD - Bang! (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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Bang! is another album that suffers from being too long for its own good – especially with added bonus tracks in some editions, but it's a big step back in the right direction for the band and an album that carries the classic Gotthard sound more closely than Firebirth. This puts my interest in the band fully back into focus after losing it following the last album.
A classic is now expected next time lads! 

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SCORE
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90%
Produced By: 
Gotthard
Running Time: 
63
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
G Records
Artist: 

 

Gotthard overcame the tragic death of charismatic frontman Steve Lee by taking a couple of years off and recruiting Aussie import Nic Maeder as their new singer. Nic's job was an unenvious one, but he's handled it will class and style.
The band was at the top of their game when Steve died and their comeback album Firebirth carried massive expectations. It was however was pretty average to these ears and only featured a few really strong tunes. Some disagreed of course and loved the rawer, under produced style, but the overall fan reaction was tepid. The songs just weren't there.

Bang! is a much better Gotthard album in all respects. The production is much better – crisper and smoother and more commercial than Firebirth. This is a more traditional sounding Gotthard album and picks up where Steve Lee left off. The band could still use a little help on the choruses – but the songs here are far stronger than the last album – even if there are still maybe 2 or 3 fillers.

Bang! is a strong rocker to open the album. Initially I thought the chorus was simply daft, but as simple (and silly) as it is, it's catchy and has grown on me quite nicely over the weeks.
Get Up 'n' Move picks up the tempo even further. It's a frantic, organ drenched rocker with a hard edge riff and a thumping beat. I like it.
Feel What I Feel is another cracking Gotthard tune – an instant classic I think – with a memorable, commercial friendly, feel good chorus that you just can't help but sing along to.
I guess it is time for a ballad and C'est La Vie is just that. An acoustic driven piece, with a nice pleasant feel about it and a soft, raspy vocal from Nic. It has a very “French provincial” feel. It is a bit of a pace killer though, I might have waited another track or two to drop this in.
Jump the Gun is a groove heavy hard rocker with a darker tone. The chorus isn't a stand out, but the groove is what drives the track – that and the heavy guitar and strong vocals. Some nice organ in there too.
Spread Your Wings has a classic Deep Purple 70s rock vibe to it. Drenched in organ, the song has a definite style of its own, but it's a filler to these ears.
I Won't Look Down is another 70s influenced track, this time it has a Led Zeppelin feel to it. Sadly another filler as far as I'm concerned. It simply doesn't go anywhere.
My Belief is a much better track. A moody track again, but a more free flowing song and one that carries with it the feel of classic Gotthard. And while the chorus isn't massive, it does stand on its own, mainly due to the comforting familiarity in the style.
Time to break the tempo a little and the next ballad Maybe is a duet with unknown American Melody Tibbits, who has a very pleasant voice. Good song, if not a little strange to hear a female lead on a Gotthard record!
Red On a Sleeve is a fierce, hard rocking song with maximum impact. The tough exterior and a good fit for this part of the album, but not the best chorus ever.
What You is less intense as its predecessor, but rocks just as hard. I like this track a lot. Good chorus too.
Mr. Ticket Man is another uptempo rocker with an ok chorus and some prominent organ. A decent album track, but not a highlight.
Thank You is perhaps the most 'out of skin' Gotthard tune ever. This epic track runs 11 minutes in length and combines a full orchestral intro before launching into a heartfelt piano ballad that builds in intensity with the orchestral backing come back into it. The song continue on to a powerful guitar drive climax with orchestra in full flight. Marvelous stuff!

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Wed
07
May

DREAM THEATER - Dream Theater (Review)

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section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

94%
Produced By: 
Dream Theater
Release Date: 
2013
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Progressive Metal
Score: 
94
Label: 
Roadrunner
Artist: 

 

Dream Theater's cracking new (from 2013 at least) self-titled album really is a return to songs playing the most prominent role in the album.

I really can't stand the needless prog-wank that takes up most 10 minute plus songs, yet even the 22 minute epic Illumination Theory on here is constructed from melodies that last the distance. It's quite an exquisite piece of music.

And when the guys hammer out some metal, there's a definite structure in place, more so than in recent albums I feel. Above all – this album features great songs and some beautiful melodies, especially with Enemy Inside, The Looking Glass and Bigger Picture.

I love Rush and I feel as if this is as close to Rush as the band has come before. Right up there with Images And Words and Falling Into Infinity for me.

Categories: 
 
Wed
07
May

SEBASTIAN BACH - Give Em Hell (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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This remains a very good album for what it is, but I've really struggled to maintain interest while playing back for review and I probably won't go back to it after this. But - the score reflects the quality of the album s always, my tastes aside. So those that know my taste, for better or worse, could use these comments as a gauge of how it will appeal to you.

Those that loved Kicking And Screaming will have no problem jumping right into this and lapping up "modern" Seb in all his screaming glory.

section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

86%
Produced By: 
Bob Marlette
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
86
Label: 
Frontiers Records

 

It seems the older Sebastian gets, the higher his vocals go. On Give Em Hell he hits a few new record highs that dogs will appreciate, not only with the screams. It's an interesting album this – producer Bob Marlette collaborates even more so, credited within for writing music and “melody” on many tracks, while also playing bass.
Guests seem to make up the majority of the album – Duff McKagan plays bass on several tracks and even guitars on another; Steve Stevens plays on a few others and gets writing credits on those songs – not that I could really pick his usual tone out here – most of the album is down tuned, modernized metal.

Sebastian writes all lyrics and “melody” and attributes “music” to others. Make of that what you will, to me it says this is a collaborative effort, spread across several different people. This is a typically dark, heavy and modern record that is seriously heavy for the most part and continues where Sebastian left off with his last album.
If that appealed to you – then this is probably more consistent again and certainly benefits from a big Marlette production.

But overall, I'm just not a big fan of this style of modern metal albums. I much prefer Sebastian in Skid Row, although we all know that ship sailed long ago. Since then he really hasn't used the same vocal approach and I miss it. He's a monster vocalist.

Categories: 
 
Wed
07
May

THREE LIONS - Three Lions (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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The style mixes that of early Ten and perhaps a more 70s sounding British rock approach. The album sounds great and has a nice sound of its own. I do think that the tempo – especially mid to late album – drags a little and it could have used a couple of more tracks like the best track of the album, the opening Trouble In A Red Dress in place of a few fillers.

A very good start to a new chapter for the lads and I expect bigger and even better things from album number 2 in due course.

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SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
89
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 

 

It's a career full-circle for guitarist Vinny Burns who returns to the melodic rock of his early days in Ten, as Three Lions makes their debut album available. Formed by Burns with fellow Ten alumni Greg Morgan and newcomer bassist/vocalist Nigel Bailey, the trio is set to make a mark.

Produced and assisted musically by Alessandro Del Vecchio, the album has a tight, crisp feel that is simply British melodic rock through and through. Vocalist Bailey is similar to Ten's Gary Hughes in that he doesn't have a big vocal range, but has a warm, likable tone that suits the style and the delivery here.

It's great to hear Vinny wailing again and the trio plays as if they have been a band unit for several years already. At 13 tracks and nearly an hour in length, it's a very long album that could have used a little editing, with a 2 or 3 fillers in play, but there's some superb melodic rock on offer too.

Highlights for the album are the obvious opener Trouble In A Red Dress; the organ driven anthem Just A Man; and the uptempo AOR of Holy Water.
There is also a few classy ballads - Winter Sun is a great starter and Two Hearts Beat As One is classic British AOR; Don't Let Me Fall and Made For One Another are also very good – the only downfall is the tracks come in a mid-album pace vacuum.
Magdalene finally picks up the tempo again and delivers another strong melodic rock tune. And Hellfire Highway is a fast rocker that could have been used a few tracks earlier.
Sicilian Kiss is a guitar instrumental to close the album with Vinny in full flight.
I'm not that sold on the fast moving Twisted Soul and Kathmandu is one too many mid-tempo tracks and I think the second half of the album suffers from too many slower paced songs.

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Tue
06
May

WINGER - Better Days Comin' (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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Another cracking Winger album. I'm probably favoring Karma narrowly ahead of this, but either way it's all class. It's a musically diverse album that if done by any other band probably wouldn't work. You need something special for the style changes between songs to work and that special something is Winger. 

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SCORE
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94%
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
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1. Midnight Driver of a Love Machine
2. Queen Babylon
3. Rat Race
4. Better Days Comin
5. Tin Soldier
6. Ever Wonder
7. So Long China
8. Storm In Me
9. Be Who You Are, Now
10. Another Beautiful Day (Deluxe Edition Bonus Track)
11. Out Of This World
 
Produced By: 
Winger
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
April 18
Released: 
World
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 

 

It still baffles me why the credibility challenged MTV decided to use Winger as the genre's whipping boy back in the 90s. The collective musical talent of these 4 guys was and remains beyond the grasp of 99% of the bands elevated to hero status during the 90s on that network. And as if to prove the point, Winger remain actively kicking ass in their 26th year.

Better Days Comin' is the new album, the band's 6th studio album and one that fits snuggly between the darker vibe of IV and the looser, old-school sounding Karma record.
In fact, Better Days Comin' almost sounds like a greatest hits album for the band.
Of the 11 tracks on the special edition, there's something touching each facet of the band's styles over the years. It is a compelling record that boasts musical intelligence, awareness of what the fans want and a touch of adventure.
Within the record you get the best of early Winger - the hard rocking party boys that seemed a step ahead of the pack musically - with the anthemic driving trio of ass-whipping tunes Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine, Queen Babylon and Rat Race (possibly the most furious Winger tune yet). Better Days Comin' is something new and fresh with its quirky chorus and breezy pace.

Winger IV gets a nod with the dark, progressive and technical rocker Tin Soldier and Ever Wonder reminds me of the mature and atmospheric ballads from Karma.

So Long China has a hard edged verse, yet a breezy melodic chorus – the contradiction of the two aspects and the layered instrumentation making the song a highlight.

Latter day Winger gets another nod with the distorted, effects heavy modern rocker Storm In Me which contrasts starkly with the orchestral influenced moody ballad Be Who You Are, Now.

The bonus track Another Beautiful Day is another dirty modern rocker which leads into the also dark, but optimistic Out Of This World – a soaring ballad that oozes class and instant appeal.

Categories: 
 
Sun
13
Apr

H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
content: 

 

The production on this album is simply breathtaking as is the mix – it's just so easy on the ears, no matter what volume it's played at – the majority of occasions obviously being ear splittingly loud.

H.E.A.T deserve to be where they are – which is on an upward trajectory – but they deserve to be worldwide sensations, not just European or Swedish stars. This album, coupled with their growing legacy as a killer live act, will hopefully prove to be another step towards world domination.

Based on how long I listened to Address The Nation after its release and how fresh this sounds each time I put it on, I have no hesitation in delivering the first 100 score at MelodicRock.com in 2 years! 

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SCORE
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100%
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
1. Point Of No Return
2. A Shot Of Redemption
3. Inferno
4. The Wreckoning (Instrumental)
5. Tearing Down The Walls
6. Mannequin Show
7. We Will Never Die
8. Emergency
9. All The Nights
10. Eye For An Eye
11. Enemy In Me
12. Laughing At Tomorrow
Produced By: 
Tobias Lindell
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
EU
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
100
Label: 
Gain
Artist: 

 

Swedish melodic rock heroes H.E.A.T return with an album that evens the ledger as far as the fan base goes. It's now 2 albums with the original vocalist Kenny Leckremo and this makes two with new recruit Erik Gronwall.
The band's debut was utterly sensational and put the band on the map instantly. Freedom Rock let the foot off the pedal a little I felt, but with Erik's addition to the band, Address The Nation in 2012 well and truly put the band back into high gear, even if the direction changed ever so slightly.
So on the back of 2 years of touring, the guys return tighter than ever (minus second guitarist Dave Dalone). Dave's departure hasn't affected the band at all – strangely, the use of the one guitarist and song choices here have toughened up the band's sound.

Tearing Down The Walls sees the band continue the winning formula of Address The Nation, albeit with a slightly heavier approach on the songs and a more straight ahead, take no prisoners attitude.
Let's no beat around the bush here - this is a monster album. It is the sort of album that comes around only once every year or two that firmly stamps it's authority on the rock scene and through its brilliance, defines just why we are all fans of this music and of tis band in particular.
If they could bottle up the energy on this record, it could power a small nation of metal heads for a decade.

Point Of No Return is everything you could wish an opening track to be. It builds, it explodes, it delivers a knockout chorus, and it delivers all the guitars and big harmonies you would die for.

I didn't expect the style of A Shot At Redemption at all. It snuck up on me and is something fresh and original for the band. But as with everything H.E.A.T – it latches on and doesn't let go. Ever!

Inferno is simply a monster, barnstorming rocker with a screw you attitude, a few edgy lyrics and a head pounding beat.

The Wreckoning is a short intro into the big anthem ballad for the album. Not too often does a title track lend itself to being a big chart topping, hands in the air ballad, but Tearing Down The Walls is just that. And what a soaring chorus it is!

Too much has already been made of the similarities between the track Mannequin Show and that of a chart topping bimbo and to those comparisons I say, screw it! This is a deliciously quirky melodic rocker with another great chorus that really digs in. It grooves, it rocks and it's as catchy as hell.

We Will Never Die is one of the album's more straight forward tracks – but that said – the mid-tempo rocker still contains all the energy of the other songs and delivers another great chorus.

Another classic comes immediately with the driving, fast beat of the 'urgent' track Emergency. It rocks and it rolls and the chorus goes right over the top, with harmonies and guitars to the rafters.

All The Nights is the album's quietest moment. The classy and emotional, sentimental piano ballad is a great change in pace and beautifully produced.

Eye For An Eye has to be one of the standout hard rockers of recent years. This hard hitting, powerful rock track is another classic on an album of classics and one I still look forward to hearing even after 100 spins of this album. Another killer chorus.

Enemy In Me lifts the intensity just slightly, but not the pace. Fast and furious and full on. Another great hard rock track with immaculate production.

Laughing At Tomorrow is yet another highlight and yet another H.E.A.T classic for me. As if all the other tracks aren't anyway…but there's something special about this one especially. The mellower verse that leads to the big harmony filled chorus is a lesson in great songwriting for most. After the rollicking ride that this album delivers, it's simply a perfect way to close out proceedings.

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