r e v i e w s i n b r i e f



Sanctuary Music06076 84503-2
Produced by: Dave Mustane

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Themselves
GENRE: Melodic Metal
This should really have received a major review, but with so many albums in need of the same, I think Megadeth are suitable to get a quick review, as they get far enough publicity on their own anyway.
Megadeth returned recently with a new album and a new guitarist, the much travelled Al Pitrelli. With them was apparently a whole new attitude, ready to rock as hard as they ever have and ready to return to their roots after their last more experimental album and another very commercial record before that.
What this album is however, is still a far cry from their heaviest days, or their speed metal roots.
This rather is a sign of band who have matured and have taken a heavy path, but cannot distance itself from the sort of high-tech production that has been apparent on their most recent 2 or 3 albums.
This rocks like it should, but it's not as heavy as the band said it would be and it is also more carefully arranged and produced.
Dave Mustane is not a great singer (never has been), but he sounds better and better as he goes on. I am not a big fan of the band, but found myself liking this and definitely think it is a solid release.
But this review is more or less after the fact and for the record, I have no doubt the majority of their fans have bought this already and made up their own mind!
If you have been curious about it - it is one of the best produced really heavy American rock albums this year, so check it out.


Sanctuary Music 06076 84506-2
Produced by: Dave Meegan

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Themselves
GENRE: Progressive AOR
Yes, Marillion are a law unto themselves and one of those cult bands that attracts a devoted, if not fanatical, following.
Their net-based fans are even more passionate, with them at one stage banding together to bring the guys out to the US for a few shows. There was even a plan afoot to make the fans pay in advance for this album, and finance the record independently.
In a moment of clarity, the good people at Sanctuary picked up the album and here it is.
Once again, die hard Marillion fans will already have this and would have made up their own mind. I am not a Marillion fan. They are an acquired taste that I have not been able to hook into, but still personally think this is a very strong album. The guys are dedicated songwriters and aren't afraid to over step the conventional bounds. What this is, is an album that once again follows what they have done on their past few albums and that is create an atmospheric album of soft progressive pop rock songs. Only the opening track Between You And Me heads anywhere near the mainstream, but that's why fans of the band love them.
There is no doubting the talent of these guys, they write quality songs. They also remain devoted to their fan base. There are no signs of them going commercial on this release!
If you have their last few releases with vocalist Steve Hogarth, you need this. If you haven't got into the band by now, this won't convince you either!


Meat Mayhem MM0013
Produced by: Various

Released: OUT / Website
Relatives: Dokken, Dee Snider
GENRE: Hard Rock
Seventh Force are on the heavier side of melodic rock. Their sound is tougher than other Metal Mayhem releases and the production sound has a darker tone to it, which is maybe not quite to the equal standard as some other Mayhem releases.
But the genre/style is popular, so these guys should easily find an audience.
Resurrection features a vocalist in the higher pitched range a more rapid fire melodic metal guitar assault.
This is not Judas Priest, but it certainly has a crunch to it that should impress fans of the heavier side of things. In fact, it reminds me a little of Dokken in full hard rocking flight, or even a little Dee Snider in his best form.
After a few listens it softens up a little, but it is still a good example of classic American 80's melodic hard rock / metal.


Metal Mayhem MM0001
Produced by: Steve Murphy

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: early Warrant
GENRE: Hard Rock
Although not benefiting from a very big recording budget, these guys have made a record of very catchy pop rockers in the American vein of 80's good time hard rock.
Passion Risk are proudly flying the classic party rock flag in an era where it's hard to get a look in.
The guys supply a healthy does of glam style good fun rock, some hair raising licks and plenty of party anthems. But they have a serious side also, with some more personal lyric writing.
Their only small problem is that they probably kick more as a live band, with the production of this record a little thin. The record does sound like a fresh and live in the studio feel, but could have a tighter rhythm section sound.
If you like American good time hard rock in a party vein similar to that of a less glam influenced Poison or early Warrant even, give it a listen.
Given a bigger recording budget and a better production sound, the guys have a shot, as they do write good songs.


Metal Mayhem MM0006
Produced by: Lance Sabin

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Dokken, Motley Crue
GENRE: Hard Rock
White Widow rock hard in the traditional 80's melodic metal vein of Dokken, Motley Crue and Helix.
Plenty of fast licks, high pitched raspy vocals and in your face rockers.
The production on this is good, with a solid and even mix to the sound.
There is good use of harmony and backing vocals throughout, so fans of that sound will find something to check out here.
Lots of big hard-edged screaming and a generally aggressive lead vocals are the main feature of this good American style hard rock album.
The band aren't afraid to tackle ballads, with a couple of great anthem style emotion filled monsters, like Fallin' In And Out Of Love.


Metal Mayhem Music MM00011
Produced by:

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Winger, Hardline
GENRE: Hard Rock
This is a good album for fans of the stadium variety of American hard rock. Without Love features none other than Chali Cayte on vocals.
These guys have a good sound and are easily comparable to early Winger and when they crunch those guitars a bit harder, they fit into the Hardline mold.
Lead vocalist Cayte has a voice that sounds a little like both Kip Winger and when he screams like Johnny Gioeli - hence the easy comparisons.
A good solid album of hard rocking tunes and a few softer ballads that sound great, aside from a small production budget. But that is a minor point, as the quality is still pretty good. One of Metal Mayhem's better and more rocking releases.


Metal Mayhem MM0004
Produced by: Toby Wright

Released: OUT / Website
Relatives: Poison, Trixter, Tuff
GENRE: Hard Rock
Raquel present a very likable form of melodic rock, with lots of hooks and plenty of 80's style anthem riff's and harmony vocals.
Their style alters slightly between songs, with a funky rhythm section at times running rampant thru the song, while in other places sticking to a more straight up commercial hard rock.
The opening track Pop Goes The Music was used in a MTV commercial in the early 90's and well deserved to be a hit somewhere. Classy and catchy song.
In fact, most of the tracks on this album are of equal quality. Very good American melodic hard rock with lots of great harmonies.
A light hearted sound and approach, this is feel good rock n roll.
These guys seem to fill the gap between the softer sounds of Trixter, the more glammy Tuff and Poison and the harder edge Hardline with a hint of early Extreme.
This album's production quality is much higher than some others reviewed here and makes me wonder if it wasn't a major label recording session that went to no avail. Love Don't Go is easily a prime MTV hit if it ever had a chance!
American hard rock fans check this one out, it's pretty cool.


Now & Then / FrontiersFRCD 078
Produced by: Various

Released: OUT / Website
Union 4 is about as good a compilation as you are ever going to get. In fact, in sheer terms of value and wow factor with the new songs featured, I would say this is the best label produced AOR compilation yet. Essential for purchase and it is only a mid price release and a double CD!
The most attractive aspect of this release is the dozen or so exclusive tracks previewing what is to come from the label.
New tracks from Giant, Johnny Lima, Hurricane, Stan Bush, Bourgeois Pigs, Urban Tale, Hush and a new acoustic Hardline track are about as much as anyone could take!
Huge! Add tot hat classic tracks from current releases like Billy Greer, Kelly Keagy, Ten, Mark Boals, Heaven & Earth, Terry Brock, Mitch Malloy and a classic release is made. Get it now!


MTM Music
Produced by: Various

Released: OUT / Website
MTM have passed through their 5 year anniversary and have marked it with a celebration compilation release. This release features many of the unobtainable (without great expense) Japanese bonus tracks from the label's recent releases, plus a number of very good exclusive tracks.
Plus, and the best part of all I dare say, is the one track preview of the upcoming Dare album Belief. The track Silent Thunder is as cool as they come - pure AOR.
Adding exclusive new tracks to the compilation is Guild Of Ages (in two different forms!), Doug Howard, Tommy Denander (a cool cover of the Toto track Mad About You) and House Of Shakira's much sought after version of Stone In Love.
Plus the best bonus track that never made the wide release - Kharma's Cold As Ice. Killer blues hard rock in a major Deep Purple style. One of the best AOR compilations out there - get it!


Produced by: Derek Sherinian

Released: OUT / Website
GENRE: Instrumental Rock
By the caliber of the line up of this power trio, you are basically guaranteed an excellent display of musicianship and fine song craftsmanship.
Sure enough, the blend of keyboard and piano player Derek Sherinian, drummer Simon Phillips, bass player Tony Franklin is enough to make most instrumental rock fans go wild.
Add to that Steve Lukather and Zakk Wylde alternating as guitarists on each track, and you have an instrumental rock masterpiece.
The styles vary between the odd guitar shred track, to soft 'new-age' tones, to straight instrumental jousting between the band members.
I am not a big fan of instrumental albums, but this one is one of the best I have heard.
The CD has a definite character to it, where the tracks don't repeat themselves, nor become boring for running too long. Check it out.


Lion Music LMC 2102 2
Produced by: James Byrd

Released: OUT / Website
Relatives: Yngwie, Queen, Styx
GENRE: Guitar Shred
Another very well produced, written and executed album from guitarist James Byrd.
James wrote, produced, played guitar and sung on this album, which is really going to hit the spot with fans of progressive and symphonic music.
The album title is subtitled "Symphonic metal for the new age" and that's certainly true. Although I think the use of the word metal could have been substituted for rock, as while this is definitely a rocking guitar driven album, it's not metal by any stretch.
This is a European hard rock album, in the bombastic symphonic/progressive style of such luminaries as Styx, Queen and Dream Theater, with a certain heavy guitar fest style a la Yngwie Malmsteen.
Progressive and European hard rock fans will get the most out of this CD. It's a fine example of the genre and a great example of complex song writing and guitar orchestration.
One of the better releases of the guitar shred genre.


Point Music CD20459
Produced by: Hotwire

Released: OUT / Website
Hotwire's new album for Point Music features an unusual bonus CD.
The album has been recorded initially with their old vocalist and then with their new one. A sort of Danger Danger / Cockroach situation I guess.
Unfortunately I only have one version of the album in front of me and I cannot distinguish what version/vocalist it is.
So in regards to the music at hand, that I can say is very pleasant middle of the road keyboard driven European AOR.
The guitars come out to play on a couple of harder edged tracks, but for the most part it is very smooth AOR that occasionally borders on Westcoast.
Generally of high quality, although it doesn't break any new ground or standout above a few other examples of the same thing this year.
Their ballad version of AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long is pretty cool though.


Dreamscape MusicDMGP-2012-2
Produced by: Picture Perfect

Released: OUT
Picture Perfect are one of the debut releases from new US label Dreamscape Music.
The guys have a 6 track EP up first and will next record a full length album.
Not sure how much pulling power EPs have these days, in this modern era melodic rock environment. I guess it all depends on the status of the band and the quality of the songs contained within.
In this case we have some pretty catchy little rock tunes with likeable hooks and a definite American appeal.
It's all uptempo apart from the ballad Walk Away.
The only problem is the lack of big production. Nice tunes, but the sound is a little hollow and the AOR labels in Europe have mostly past releasing product like this, in favor of bigger and better sound.
I am also having some trouble finding an act to compare them to. It's just straight ahead American soft melodic rock, so that will have to do!


Good Life Records PV 456
Produced by: Nik Herb

Released: OUT / Website
Relatives: Kingdom, Fate, Shakra
GENRE: Euro Hard Rock
Dark Sky are a German hard rock outfit that have a good following in Japan. This is their new/current release that has been released in both countries.
These guys rock pretty hard - very much in that German hard rock style.
The vocals are in that European higher pitch style that classic rockers like Fate used to use. And that is a good comparison to the whole musical style of this release. This is good solid melodic heavy rock in a very European style. There's a wave of keyboard and synthesizers in each track, plus your lead guitar riffs all supporting strong harmonies and the lead vocal. That as I said, is in the upper range of pitches.
Some of the tunes are even sung in their native German, but the vast majority is in English. If you recall such bands are Fate and Kingdom, this is the general style that we have here. Not quite as pomp as Kingdom, but the keyboard comparison is accurate.
The production and sound quality is excellent.


Song Haus55014-2
Produced by: Phil Vincent

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Winger
Phil Vincent has quite a resume to his name now and Tragic will only add to it.
His last album was a great slice of independently produced pop rock in the smooth AOR vein of solo Kip Winger, but with a harder edge.
On Tragic, things get a little tougher again, especially on the opening track Stand Or Fall and My Life.
But the keyboards and additional textures that made Thunder In The East cool are still there, as is the radio friendly 80's sound.
So to are the occasional deep haunting song, like Illusion and So Sad, that show great depth and the development of Phil's songwriting.
All he needs to make him an AOR household name is a bigger budget and some decent promotion.
On major factor in Phil's favor is the fact that he plays every instrument and vocal heard on this album! Brilliance for sure...and importantly, it is well enough mixed to sound like a band project.
As it is, his increasing fan base should be more than impressed with this new effort and it should go towards making more people sit up and take notice.
Did I add that there is some subtle, but great guitar shredding on several tracks?


RLS Records CD52001
Produced by: Various / Stevie Rachelle

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Trixter, Poison
GENRE: Glam Rock
The great survivors of glam - Tuff are halfway towards a hit single with radio in the US all over their American Hair Band track. Well done guys, for cracking some airplay and also not taking themselves too seriously with a track that takes the mickey out of modern rockers and trends and backs themselves all the way.
This is one heavy ass track and a new side of the band, proving their adaptability, but it all is really in the name of tacking the piss. Love it!!
This album is another compilation of such, with a few new songs, including the one just mentioned here.
The old tracks are compiled nicely, but will already be familiar to fans. The few new track see the guys in good form. The selection reaches into the band's back catalogue and Stevie's solo career.
For those unfamiliar with the band, but for one reason or another are just catching on, there would be no better place to start checking the band out than this compilation.
To get American Hair Band, this is worth the price alone!


Cordoozle Music
Produced by: Penny Black

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Killer Dwarfs
GENRE: Hard Rock
Penny Black is the new project for ex-Killer Dwarf's vocalist Russ Graham.
Given that fact, Penny Black aren't that far removed from that classic old Canadian band in places, but generally is a more mature acoustic driven pop rock outfit. Russ' vocals are as gruff as ever, that raspy hard living tone that only good rockers seem to have.
The CD opens with the uptempo pub rocker Come On and then Strange Dreams.
But these guys have definitely matured somewhat and track 3 Everything showcases that. It is more a Beatles influenced commercial pop song driven by an acoustic guitar.
Never Tell follows that in as a mature mid-tempo rock ballad. The record is easily more diverse than Killer Dwarfs and certainly more laid back and pop influenced.
The production is fairly raw and stripped back, but nevertheless high quality, with a lot of layered acoustic work going on. Desperate Hour - track 5 - is a prime example.
Not essential for every Killer Dwarfs fan, but certainly for those that have aged and matured like Russ has. One for the acoustic driven straight ahead pop/rock fans.


Starry Eyes SE001-2
Produced by: Stevie Jaimz

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Tigertailz
GENRE: Glam Rock
Steevi Jaimz is one from the lost generation of glam rockers, and is one of the few UK based glamsters. He started out in Tigertailz, but later was a solo artist.
This CD takes tracks from his band projects, his demo days and his cult EP released many years back.
For glam fans this compilation makes up an important historical audio-document.
For those not into the sleaze rock fraternity, this CD is not for you!
But those that are will find Steevi's own blend of darker, harder edge glam quite to your liking. The odd rocking anthem track mirror's Poison in their heyday, but generally he has a style of his own.
A strong compilation and a good tribute to the glamsters talents.


Produced by: Ian McDonald

Released: OUT / Website
The opening two numbers are slow and relaxed, one an instrumental and the other features a soft vocal from McDonald himself.
The first real redeeming AOR feature appears with track 3 - featuring the great John Waite. You Are Part Of Me isn't even one of John's finer moments, but the soft, sweet mid-tempo pop track is listenable thanks to John.
Another horrible instrumental follows and then it's John Wetton featured on vocals on another slow, atmospheric track that has little or no hook.
You then have to skip to track 8 for the next really repeatable track. Straight Back To You features Lou Gramm on vocals.
The style is the same - soft, laid back atmospheric pop, but again, who would turn down any Gramm featured track? At least this song has a good chorus - thanks again to the energy and charisma of Gramm.
That's it for me - another couple of instrumentals and McDonald vocal tracks and my head is done in. Not even a Peter Frampton guest guitar spot does anything for me.
This release is just far too slow and lacks any energy. Maybe I am missing the point, but I fear most readers of the site would get the same vibe.


Kivel Records
Produced by: Radar

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Fiona, Lita Ford
GENRE: Melodic Rock
Radar are a band that features two female rockers - one being Pamela Moore, who appears on Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime album.
It was recorded in a time where the guys have even better and bigger hair than the females. Damn, I miss those years.
Regardless of the amount of hair spray used between the five members, this is a great lost gem of the era - female lead power AOR with lots of hooks, keyboards, guitar flurries and above all else, great melodies.
The production is of good quality for sure, but as it's a lost gem, it's got even more going for it.
Pamela knows how to sing and she is backed by a chorus of male harmony singers, adding texture and layers to each track. She can rock and she can croon, with a couple of great power ballads on offer.
The best news is that the guys are planning a new album, and that will certainly be one to look forward to. If you are a fan of American style FM rock / AOR and love female vocals, check this out. Even if the review comes a little late, get this CD if you are a fan of any female fronted hard rock / AOR. This is a class release. Apologies for the overdue review - it's not too late!


Perris Records PER 0022-2
Produced by: EMN

Released: OUT / Website
GENRE: Modern Rock
It's not that this album isn't full of solid hard crunching rock n roll, it's quite good music - but this is not what the average fan is going to expect or likely want from a band that have traditionally delivered in the past and are known for having their own sound.
On their new album, released several months ago now, the guys shred their past to become a dark, moody and modern rock outfit, heading down a path that too many bands have already trodden and failed at.
EMN will be no different. What traditional fans that will buy this will largely be disappointed and will not buy their next album. It's a trend that is proven time and again. After a band album, sales drop on the next record, regardless of how good it is. The band are punished into their future.
At times vocalist Rick Ruhl sounds like a demonic Phil Lewis, which is actually pretty cool.
The music is tough, aggressive and biased towards the alternative attitude.
If you are a fan of darker melodic metal, or albums with a modern / grunge rock tone, then this might appeal, as some of the tracks have real bite. But several others don't and it certainly isn't in the established style of the band.


Indie / TYRANTULA 7007-02-CD
Produced by: Tyrant

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Rose Tattoo / AC/DC
GENRE: Hard Rock
Tyrant are originally from Hobart, Tasmania. Yes, a local band and the first I have been able to feature on this site. Great stuff. They became local pub rock legends and then headed for the big smoke, where they gigged successfully for years before breaking up. But they are back and this album is a tribute to their years on the road and their dedication to the rock n roll cause.
Recorded independently, this is Aussie pub rock at it's best in the fine tradition of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and the Choirboys.
The production is very good for an indie release, with a fairly good mix that favors this being played at maximum volume.
Raise your glass to the working class and the pub rock traditions that have bought some classic bands to light.


RLS RecordsCD40100
Produced by: Tuff

Released: OUT / Website
GENRE: Glam Rock
This CD has also been out for a for while, but it's well worthy of mentioning, given that it is another fine archive release from the Tuff vaults.
Put together as a fan targeted released by Stevie Rachelle, the CD features a massive 19 tracks all unreleased.
It comprises of 8 studio demo's from 1988 to 1993, 4 live tracks from 1995 and 7 rehearsal demo's, all from 1990.
A solid archive release, for fans only, but those fans will be pleased.


Spitfire RecordsSPT 15112-2
Produced by: Zakk Wylde

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Black Sabbath
GENRE: Hard Rock
I am a fan of Zakk's guitar work, without doubt. But I haven't warmed to his two solo albums under the Black Label Society banner.
Basically, my thoughts are that the guitar work and sheer power of the albums are superb.
But I hate the vocals!! No melody at all. Still, he has his fans and both albums have sold really well.
Now in between records, Zakk has this handy little release ready for the fans to lap up. The 13 track live album is joined by the added bonus of a second CD containing 5 new studio tracks. First up the live record - raw, brutal, loud, in your face, ultra heavy and totally over the top. What else would you expect? You'll love it!!
And for the record - what do I think of the 5 new studio tracks? Actually, they ain't bad. The 5 tracks are stripped down acoustic numbers, again with Zakk drawling all over them, but they still kick for unplugged numbers. It's a new side of the man we haven't seen. Still don't like the vocals, but hey - sorry!
So, my opinion aside, if you are a fan of Zakk you will adore this release. If heavy ass, dark, melodic metal with Sabbath type influences is your thing, you can't go wrong.


Escape Music ESM062
Produced by: Andrew C Bell

Released: OUT / Website
GENRE: Hard Rock
Ashes To Ashes don't really fit into any category. They are a US band that play a blend of modern alternative hard rock, with gothic overtones and a penchant for a more dramatic delivery of their songs.
The CD has a definite darker and occasionally funky vibe, with a definite groove. Everything is tuned down, including guitars, the drum sound and the vocals.
Track titles like Bury Me, Death Groove & Darkside should give you some idea where the band are coming from lyrically.
But is it all any good? Well, no, not really. For those that like a dark, experimental, heavy groove to their tastes, then take a listen, otherwise - melodic fans avoid!