Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Joanne SHAW TAYLOR: "Wild"

Rating: RRR
Label:
Review by Martien Koolen

Taylor's The Dirty Truth, released two years ago, was a great blues rock album, produced by Jim Gaines, recorded in Memphis.

Taylor's new album called Wild, was recorded in Nashville and produced by no one less than Kevin Shirley. Wild contains 9 brand new tracks and 2 covers, being Wild Is The Wind, originally by David Bowie, and Summertime, originally by Ella Fitzgerald. Wild IS The Wind is the longest track on the album and clocks over 7 minutes and features two excellent emotional guitar solos and great vocals by Taylor. This Bowie track was also covered by Nina Simone, Randy Crawford and George Michael, but Taylor's version, altough I am not really a fan of covers, is without any doubt my favourite.

The other cover on Wild is the last track Summertime, which is also covered by Louis Arnmstrong; Taylor's version is a jazz-like piano ballad with a nice mellow guitar solo in the middle of the song.The rest of the song material on Wild is a mix of blues, blues rock, pop and sometimes even singer/song writing material. Ready To Roll is a nice funky blues-like mid tempo track with a very catchy chorus and nice guitar work.Wanna Be My Lover is a kind of Meilssa Etheridge-like song with organ passages and again some great guitar work.In fact the only "misser" on this excellent album is the song I Wish I could Wish You Back which is a rather mediocre acoustic ballad. Conlusion: Wild is a great blues rock/pop album and shows again that Taylor is a thrilling guitarist, but also a strong vocalist. Wild grows on you and proves that also women can play a mean and nasty guitar!! Looking forward to see and hear Taylor in The Netherlands during her autumn tour with Wilko Johnson.

ASTRALION: "Outlaw"

Rating: RRRR+
Label: Limb Music 2016
Review by Satu Reunanen
 
Astralion return with their second album Outlaw after two years of absence. While working on their new material the band has done some gigging in Finland and this October they will be playing the Heavy Metal Heart Festival in Helsinki with Battle Beast, Amoth, Profane Omen, Scar Symmetry, Medicated and others. Astralions persistence about pushing on is finally paying off, as the bands power metal has started to gain praises around the world and they've found their audience in Finland.  
 
Astralion continues where they left off with their debut. If you loved that, you'll also love Outlaw. The album is again full of tight, compact and fast songs to headbang to and the catchy melodies are familiar from the debut. The line-up has stayed the same; Ian E. Highhill (vocals), Hank J. Newman (guitar), Arnold Hackman (drums), Thomas Henry (keyboards) and Dr. K. Lundell (bass). The band influences are also still the same; Helloween, Blind Guardian, Edguy and the cheerier upbeat bands like Stratovarius. 
 
Outlaw is hardly a radio friendly album and not the easiest bite for the listener, unless you've trained your musical ear earlier with some epic material. The songs run close to five minutes in length and the longest one The Great Palace of the Sea runs at ten minutes! But it's not only the long songs that make this a more challenging listen, it's also the countless twists that make power metal. At the surface the genre might seem like an easily flowing powerful river, but when done well it's what lies below that makes the music a deeper experience. Astralion not only uses the power metal tricks well to add to this experience, but also draws influence from many musical genres and that's their twist. You can still hear the 80's heavy metal and neoclassical influences throughout the album too. 
 
I won't go into each song seperately, but will mention that Wastelands of Ice is the albums only mid-tempo track and the epic album closer The Great Palace of the Sea actually flows fluently through its ten minutes. The album rocks through the roof and everything is as massive as it should be in power metal. Astralion is like a well oiled machine, they've found their thing and Outlaw is a powerful follower to their debut. It's "ASTRongAsaLION", if you get my worldplay. 
 

MECCA: ”III”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Soothing. That was my initial impression of Mecca’s third album. It’s possibly the best-sounding album I have heard in years, easily comparable to the classic AOR albums of the golden years. There’s warmth and space in these songs that’s often missing in the turbo-charged contemporary melodic rock.

Musically we’re talking about soft rock with a slightly progressive vibe. This isn’t an album of instant hits or party songs and it certainly doesn’t suit every occasion, but when the mood is right, ”III” is pretty flawless.

Main songwriter and singer Joe Vana has again surrounded himself with superb musicians, including bassist David Hungate (of Toto fame), Tim Akers, Shannon Forest and David Browning. It’s Joe himself who impresses me the most though, his vocals are outstanding and very emotionally charged.

The album features only eight tracks but it’s a case of quality over quantity. Even though I said that this is not an album of instant hits, there are a couple of songs with enormous chorus hooks, namely ”Let It Go” (no, not that Frozen song!) and the opener ”Take My Hand”. The latter has the kind of a ”surprise chorus” that I love, it  just jumps at you without a warning. "Unknown" does have another massive chorus too, so make that three. Some of the other songs do have some fine melodies but maybe delivered in a bit more understated way.

Highly recommended to fans of Mr. Mister and Toto, but worth exploring to those who enjoy the softer side of rock in general. Perfect for the moments when you want the music to soothe your soul.

http://meccatheband.com
https://www.facebook.com/MeccaTheBand/

Monday, September 26, 2016

KING COMPANY: ”One For The Road”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

King Company is a new band and this is their first album, but the Kings behind the Company aren’t young princes. Vocalist Pasi Rantanen and drummer Mirka Rantanen have both played in Thunderstone, keyboard player Jari Pailamo is a former Twilight Guardian, bassist Time Schleifer has played in Jone’s Bros and guitarist Antti Wirman  has played in Warmen and Children Of Bodom. A couple of them have even been Heavy Metal dinosaurs, bringing the joyful message of Metal to the younger children.

”One For The Road” is an album of traditional melodic heavy rock in the vein of Whitesnake, Rainbow and Europe. Some of the songs have a bit of a seventies’ vibe, while others harken back to the hairy days of the eighties. My personal favorites include ”In Wheels Of No Return”, ”Wings Of Love” and ”Holding On”, all more 80’ies styled songs I guess… Big choruses and atmospheric keyboards galore!

As mentioned before, everyone in the band is a seasoned pro so they obviously deliver great performances. I’m especially impressed by Antti Wirman’s guitar work which is at times really fast and furious yet it never sounds like he’s showing off. I also enjoy the colourful keyboard work by Jari Pailamo.

Extra points for the artwork - this doesn't look like every other modern day melodic rock album...

ww.kingcompanyband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kingcompanyofficial/

Thursday, September 22, 2016

WOLVERINE: "Machina Viva"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Sensory Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Fifteen years ago I reviewed the first full length album of Wolverine for the notorious Aardschok magazine and maybe due to my review The Window Purpose was awarded Album Of The Month in Aardschok December magazine's issue of 2001. Wolverine's last album, released in 2011, was called Communication Lost, and it was an absolute master piece. Now 5 years later the Swedish prog rockers bring out their next studio album called Machina Viva. THis new amazing album contains 8 brand new songs and the focus in the tracks on Machina Viva clearly lies on melody and atmosphere. Just listen to the wonderful 14 minute epic opening track The Bedlam Overture and you will hear exactly what I mean. The Bedlam Overture is a magical musical prog rock ride with lots of melody, variety, beautiful vocal performance by Stefan Zell and breathtaking guitarmelodies and solos by Jonas Jonsson. Machina is a kind of experimental song, however with a great melody and Pile Of Ash is the quietest song of the album, featuring acoustic guitars and the "soft"voice of Zell. Our Long Goodbye is another highliight of this album, filled with amazing hooks and melodies, but if you also like the metal side of Wolverine you should check out Pledge, which is without any doubt the heaviest song of the entire album; love it! Nemesis, kicks off as a piano ballad but evolves into a great progressive rock track and here you can enjoy the best guitar solo of the album. This great album, which you should listen to a couple of times to really appreciate, ends with the "weakest" track called Sheds, a song which only features vocals and keyboards. But all in all, I would like to say that Wolverine, a very underestimated rock band by the way, did it again. If you are a fan of very melodic, diverse prog rock with amazing vocals and subtle guitar work then Machina Viva is your album. Their new album is the next step in the band's explorations in the progressive field; highlights The Bedlam Overture and Nemesis.

ODDLAND: "Origin"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Sensory Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Oddland is a progressive metal bamd from Finland, founded in 2001 and they released their full length debut album called The Treachery Of Senses in 2012. Four years later, Oddland signed a deal with Sensory Records and their new album is called Origin. The brand new album contains 9 songs and the music of Oddland is a blend of prog metal influences from bands as Primus, Tool, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah and even grunge bands like Soundgarden or Alice In Chains. The opening track Esotericism is filled with heavy distorted guitar riffs and raw vocals and here singer Sukari Ojanen reminds me of the lead singer of Candlemass. Follow up Thanatos features a jazzy-like intro and here I define obvious Primus influences. Penumbra is another great track, featuring an excellent vocal performance by Ojanen and an extremely catchy guitar riff played by Poikonen. Hidden kicks off with a soft piano intro before it evolves into a rather mysterious prog metal "monster". Fortunately singer Ojanen only sings and the grunts are almost completely disappeared; only in the song Faraway he still grunts a little; sad but true... My favourite track is called Unknown and I really think that Oddland has improved a lot since their debut album. The sound of Origin is low and heavy, but there is also a lot of melody and great variety, but most of all I would call the sound Of Oddland on this album aggressive and really powerful. So, if you enjoy your prog metal really heavy and you like the bands I mentioned earlier in this review, then you should really check out this new album by Oddland. Play it loud, guys!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

THE DARKER MY HORIZON: ”No Superhero”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Broken Road Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”No Superhero” The Darker My Horizon’s second album and again the band has taken another step towards the premier league of hard rock. I say ”again” because I kind of see the band as a continuation of Sacred Heart, the main writer/singer/guitarist Paul Stead previous band. With every release I’ve heard from him and his band, there’s been steady improvement.

TDMH combines modern commercial rock sounds with eighties’ influences, kind of like Nickelback shaking hands with Warrant. Downtuned guitars and gritty riffs meet melodic choruses and power ballads… it’s a concept that works for me, and I have no doubt that it could work for most of our readers as well.

Most of the songs are instantly familiar-sounding and likeable. ”No Superhero Part One”, ”Functional Dysfunctional” and ”Top Of The Class” are such songs. Some of them have taken a little longer to grow on me, ”Dear Olivia” being a good example of that: I first didn’t think much of it, yet I caught myself humming its’ hook. There’s only a couple of songs that really don’t do much for me - ”Diablo” might be the album’s heaviest (most Nickelbackish?) track but it’s also the most monotonous and only a killer chorus could have saved the plodding ”We Are, We’re One”. Otherwise this is a good album and now I can give it the four capital R’s it deserves, no brackets needed this time!

https://www.facebook.com/darkerhorizonuk/
https://soundcloud.com/darkerhorizonuk

URIAH HEEP: “…Very ‘eavy, …Very ‘umble”

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

This is a DeLuxe Edition of the debut album of English hard rockers Uriah Heep, called …very ‘eavy,… very ‘umble. CD 1 features the original (remastered 2016) album as it was released in 1970; CD 2 is an alternate version of very ‘eavy and all tracks on that edition are previously unreleased. Uriah Heep was not a band that was very popular by the press, in fact some of the music critics actually “hated” the band. But the fans were and are still very enthusiastic about Uriah Heep and so the band is still going strong even after 46 years!!

The first five albums are probably the best Heep albums and their spectacular live album called Uriah Heep Live 1973 is still one of the best live double albums ever! Uriah Heep’s debut album …very ‘eavy, … very ‘umble is an underrated Heep album as it contains two classic Heep tracks that belong to their best songs in their long spanning career. Gypsy, the opener of this album, is of course one the best known Heep songs ever and the opening organ and guitar riff are so familiar and spectacular that Gypsy has been on Heep’s set list right from the start in the seventies until now. Another classic great Heep song on their debut album is the last track called Wake Up (set your sights) which shines because of the wonderful melody and the great vocal performance by David Byron, the first and best singer of Heep ever.

CD2 features the “same” eight songs of the original album but then in a slightly alternative way and four bonus tracks. Born In A Trunk, a rather dark prog rock song, Magic Lantern, an almost 8 minute up tempo prog rock song composed by Box and Byron, Bird Of Prey (an US alternate nix) and an instrumental version of Born In A Trunk..

URIAH HEEP “ Your Turn To Remember - The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990”

Rating: - (compilation)
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

This 2 CD anthology features 33 Uriah Heep songs starting in 1970 and ending in 1989. The 33 songs are taken from the albums: Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble (1970), Salisbury (1971), Look At Yourself (1971), Demons And Wizards (1972), The Magican’s Birthday (1972), Sweet Freedom (1973), Wonderworld (1974), Return To Fantasy (1975), High And Mighty (1976), Firefly (1977), Innocent Victim (1977), Fallen Angel (1978), Conquest (1980), Abominog (1982), Head First (1983), Equator (1985) and Raging Silence (1989).

During the 33 tracks you can hear five different singers being David Byron (the best Heep vocalist ever), John Lawton, John Sloman, Peter Goalby and last but not least the current Uriah Heep singer Bernie Shaw. I still believe that the first five Uriah Heep albums (with Byron as a singer) are the best they ever made, although Return To Fantasy is also an excellent album. My favorite tracks are: Gypsy, Look At Yourself, The Wizard, July Morning (although I prefer the longer version of course), Sunrise, Sweet Lorraine and Return To Fantasy. From the songs with other singers than Byron I like No Return, Poor Little Rich Girl and Voice On My TV. A very decent collection of classic Heep songs with many highlights from their most creatively fertile rock era, but I still “hate” their ultimate boring rock ballad Lady In Black.

DUSTERLUST: "Duster Lust"

Rating: RR
Label: FemMeropa
Review by Martien Koolen

The German symphonic metal band Duster Lust, which was founded in 2010 as Unveil The Beauty, release their first album and in fact it is a re-release of their album called Unveil The Beaty. But due a naming conflict the band had to withdraw their album and they re-started under the new  name Duster Lust. The band consists of Regina Rumpel (vocals), Philip Seibert (drums, grunting), Michel Greul (guitar) and Heiko Seibert (guitar, bass guitar) and the sound of the band could best be described as female fronted symphonic metal with occasional grunts and screaming vocals. Most of the ten compositions are rather chaotic and show no real clear musical structure and the high vocals of soprano Rumpel are not always that good, but I think that this band has some musical potential.

What I really do not like about Duster Lust are the grunting vocals and the rather hysterical screaming vocals of Seibert and Greul. Sometimes the music on this album is a cacaphony of weird metal combined with classical music, prog metal, electronic sounds, death metal and symphonic metal and I think it might be better for this band to concentrate on one kind of music. This re-released album also contains three bonus tracks, being: Virus, Bloodmoon and Refugee. As the competition is very keen and hard in the music busniess, especially in this sort of music, think Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation, I think that Duster Lust will have a tough time and they really should try to explore and create their own sound.

EVERGREY: “The Storm Within”

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Inside Out Music
Review by Martien Koolen

Evergrey’s previous album Hymns For The Broken was one of my favorite albums of 2014 and maybe my favorite Evergrey album so far…. Now, two years later the best Swedish prog metal band release the strongest album of their 20 year career called The Storm Within. The album contains 11 brand new tracks and it is their most progressive record so far, filled with dark, melancholic and progressive elements that make this album a must for lovers of melodic prog metal.

The Storm Within opens with one of my favorite tracks of the album, namely Distance, also the first single and video of the album. The intro of Distance is an awesome keys melody, followed by massive guitar riffs and a really addictive and very melodic chorus; in the middle we are treated to an unbelievable guitar solo and the song ends with a children’s choir singing the catchy chorus. Follow up Passing Through is the next highlight, an up tempo heavy song with a ferocious guitar solo and excellent lyrics. If you like the heavy side of Evergrey you should check out My Allied Ocean, as it is one of the most aggressive songs from Englund and Co. Another highlight is without any doubt the almost power ballad called In Orbit, which features a wonderful duet between Tom Englund and  “our” Floor Jansen.

The Storm Within ends with the title track, which is a perfect closer for this amazing album, as that track is really complex, innovative, diverse and kind of reminds me of my favorite band of all time Rush…. The Storm Within is Evergrey’s masterpiece, a massive album filled with excellent tracks (absolutely NO fillers), which should be listened to at maximum volume, over and over again….. Cannot wait to hear some of the new songs on stage, especially Distance, Disconnect and The Storm Within; magical!!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CORNERSTONE: "Reflections"




RATING: RRRR

LABEL: Atom

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


It’s been five years since we heard anything from Austrian pop rockers Cornerstone, and it was nice to receive an extensive promo pack (complete with signed poster!) telling me everything about the band but their inside leg measurements. Five years is a long time to rest a band, and it’s good to hear that Cornerstone haven’t lost any of their allure over this period.

Still very much a band who embrace the pop sensibilities of the 1980s, Cornerstone’s songwriters Michael and Steve Wachelhofer are dab hands with a good melody and catchy chorus, with hints of more famous pop hits emerging throughout the album, though with no blatant thievery. Opener ‘Nothing To Lose’ embraces the pop rock of Belinda Carlisle with a hint of Jane Weidlin, featuring a sharp chorus line and a neat guitar solo. New vocalist Alina Peter has a decent voice, although does come over a bit nasal sounding throughout. Next track ‘Last Night’ throws in a little sax and feels like a great 80s movie soundtrack song, whilst ‘Heart On Fire’ embraces the spirit of 80s AOR, sounding a little like Fiona Flanagan. Over the ten tracks Cornerstone give us punchy rock, mid paced pop and a couple of nice ballads, and it’s quite hard not to get into what they are doing.

‘Reflections’ is a very good collection of songs for anyone who likes 80s style pop that’s infused with rock traits, rather then rock that has pop overtones. Harry Hess gives the whole thing a decent sound, with some great touches in the individual instrument sounds. Whilst not a giant leap forward in any way, this is an album that will certainly be returned to many more times.

Official Site

Friday, September 9, 2016

TEMPT: ”Runaway”

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Rock Candy Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The strange phenomenon of young dudes picking up guitars and starting bands with a vintage 80’ies sound is spreading all over the world! TEMPT are a band from New York, and although they weren’t even born in 1989, their debut album sounds like it could have been released back then. The press bio mentions Foo Fighters, Audioslave and Alterbridge but doesn’t claim that Tempt sound like those bands, which is good because they don’t. Their music is pure eighties melodic hard rock, with Van Halen, Baton Rouge, Bon Jovi and White Lion as better references.

The band has collaborated with some giants of 80’ies hard rock scene on this album, namely Michael Wagener who mixed this album and songwriter Jack Ponti, whose signature writing style is easy to notice on some of the songs. My promo files do not carry the songwriter info, but I’m pretty sure that Ponti had a hand in writing at least ”Love Terminator”.

The songs on ”Runaway” range from pretty straight-forward hard rock songs like ”Comin’ On To You” and ”Dirty One” to more melodic material such as ”Aamina”, ”The Fight” and the title track. Both sides of the band work well, and when the hard rocking is combined to the melodic, hook-driven side the results are particularly outstanding. Just check out ”Under My Skin” or the furious ”Sapphire” for example.

Vocalist Zach Allen has a good voice for this kind of material. He reminds me of Olli Herman (Reckless Love) and White Lion’s Mike Tramp at times. The backing vocals are rather good too, and did I mention that guitarist Harrison Marcello is a bit of an axe wizard? Yeah, some of the guitar work has a Vito Bratta’ish vibe to it, and in my books that is a very good thing.

I usually don’t use halves in the rating, but for special occasions I have a few ”minor r’s” in stock… and this album is pretty special. Debut album of the year?

http://www.temptband.com


Thursday, September 8, 2016

HEY! HELLO!: Hey! Hello Too!”

Rating: RRRRr

Label: Round Records

Review By: Alan Holloway

You can’t keep a good man down, and as far as catchy pop rock is concerned Ginger (he of The Wildhearts) surpassed ‘good’ many years ago. Hey! Hello! Made some great songs but circumstances stopped them getting started properly, and it’s great that this has emerged as the first full length offering from the group.

Straight off it’s clear that this is the sort of album that fans of the Wildhearts’ more energetic output will adore. It’s a seething mass of guitars and attitude, all wrapped up in sugar sweet melodies and singalong choruses. Delve deeper than the surface melodies and you get sublimely seditious lyrics, with the seeming innocuous ‘Kids’ telling you that ‘Kids are gonna screw you up’, whilst the perfect cover of Sailor’s ’Glass Of Champagne’ replaces the titular tipple with a line of cocaine. Of course, if you want something that’s subtle as a half brick to the face just try ‘Loud & Fucking Clear’ which sounds exactly as you’d expect. Later in the album comes ‘Body Parts’  which is in Japanses (with 6 words in English as the chorus) yet still manages to be a a singalong song. Ginger’s vocals are great as ever, and he is joined by Ai (who also provides drums) who is a perfect female counterpoint (and lead), giving the album an extra dimension and fresh life.

“Hey! Helllo! Too!” is never less that thoroughly entertaining, stuffed to the gills with catchy tracks that manage to be heavy as fuck yet accessible to more delicate ears. It’s one of those albums that demands to be played more than once, and aural high that will leave you exhausted but happy. This is certainly one of the best albums Ginger has had his mucky paws in, and if you’re a fan you will know this is high praise indeed. A must listen for all that are wild at heart.

Official Site

SMOKEY FINGERS : "Promised Land"

Rating: RRRr

Label: Tanzan Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

There’s a lot of blues bands around, and Smokey Fingers are eager to be part of the scene despite waiting five years to follow up their well received debut. Despite sounding as American as apple pie and police brutality, the band hail from Italy, claiming to have crafted their sound when travelling round the U.S.A. Whatever the truth, it’s the music that does the talking, and Smokey Fingers certainly talk a good game.

The ‘Smokey’ in the band’s name could certainly refer to the vocals of Luke Paterniti, who sounds like he just crawled out of  a Louisiana swamp after wrestling an alligator. His native accent is undetectable, and the vocals slip in around the riffs and slide guitar like hot cocoa. The music itself is upbeat in the main, decidedly Southern in style with a bar room feel that will set most people’s feet to tapping. The themes are typical of the style, with songs about rattlesnake trails, thunderstorms and being proud to be a rebel. It’s probably the least Italian sounding album you will ever hear, but the Smokey Fingers have taken to their adoptive sound like ducks to water.

Steeped in bands like Lynyrd Skynyrs and Molly Hatchet, Smokey Fingers can hold their heads high in Southern rock circles, “Promised Land” unsurprisingly doesn’t offer anything too radical, but it’s an incredibly solid album that will give a lot of fun to fans of  sawdust floors, whiskey and marrying your sister. Yeeehaaaawww!

Official facebook

Saturday, September 3, 2016

PALACE: ”Master Of The Universe”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Palace is a new Swedish AOR band. The band’s leader is vocalist/guitarist Michael Palace, who might be a familiar name to those who witnessed Find Me live at Frontiers Festival, and he’s been involved in a few other AOR projects as well. He and producer Daniel Flores played almost all of the instruments on this album, but Palace is definitely a band now. Rick Digorio is the guitarist and he played a few solos on the album too, Marcus Johansson of Reach/Adrenaline Rush is the drummer and on bass there’s Stockholm’s busiest bass player Soufian Ma'Aoui.

Just like the title of the album suggests, ”Master Of The Universe” is a throwback to the eighties, yet it sounds rather fresh. Even though there’s no keyboard player in the band, the music is very keyboard-dominated, reminding me a lot of Brother Firetribe. Palace’s vocals bring up another comparison - Steve Newman of Newman. Of course I should drop a few eighties’ band names here too - well, how about Whitesnake’s most AOR moments, Toto, Survivor…

The production is flawless and I’m especially impressed by the layered backing vocals and the overall smoothness of it all. If there’s one thing missing it’s that one special ”hit” that would stand out and shout ”you won’t hear a better song anytime soon!”. Then again, almost all of the songs are very enjoyable, with ”Cool Runnin’” and ”Rules Of The Game” being my favorites. Other noteworthy tracks include ”She Said it’s Over”, the bouncy ”Young/Wild/Free” and the title track with its’ two pretty cool pre-choruses. I can’t say I’m too crazy about its’ actual chorus though, the vocal melody goes very high and Mr. Palace wails like Axl Rose on it. If this becomes the band’s signature song, Michael is going to curse himself for writing it - he can hit those notes now, but what about 20 years from now…

https://www.facebook.com/palacesweden/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

JADED PAST: ”Believe”

Rating: RRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Jaded Past is a New Jersey-based band and ”Believe” is their second album. The self-titled debut was released independently and is currently available from the band’s website and several digital outlets.

The man behind Jaded Past is singer, songwriter and guitarist George Becker. On ”Believe”, I believe he didn’t have a band as such, he enlisted the help of drummer Dennis Zimmer and Trixter guitarist Steve Brown for the recordings. Brown also produced the album.

”Believe” is a decent album with a down-to-earth hard rock sound. Bret Michaels of Poison must be one of Becker’s main influences, as he’s adopted his singing style to some of the songs. Especially the ballads are pure poison… He’s much better when he rocks out and lets his own sound shine through. The album’s highlights for me are among the more uptempo tracks, namely ”Tattered”, ”Taken”, ”Don’t Judge” and ”Hurt”.

I can recommend this album to the fans of Poison, Tyketto, Tim Karr’s ”Rubbin’ Me The Right Way” album. I think those of you who are into the ”Bro-country” style might like it too… Glam-country anyone?


www.jadedpast.com/

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FIRE ACTION: "Rock Brigade"

Rating: RR
Label: Self release
Review by: Satu Reunanen

 Here's a very traditional hard rock/heavy metal release from the Finnish band Fire Action. Fire Action is still a newbie in the hard rock scene, they formed in 2013 and the members are Leo Barzola (vocals), Juri Vuortama (guitar), Samuli Häkkilä (drums) and Jani Hongisto (bass). Runaways kicks off the three song EP with Leo's original sounding vocals soaring high, with a little bit of Ron Keel twist in them. The EP has a real 80's touch to it, the band keeps everything in a compact, simple package, resembling the first releases from hard rock bands such as Ratt, Keel, Dokken and Kix to mention a few. The EP's sound is very raw and Leo's vocals match that. This unpolished sound might not attract every hard rock fan, but the songs are true to the 80's.

All of the songs have a catchy chorus and run with similar mid-tempo. There are no ballads. The band mixes hard rock and heavy metal and the line between the two is very thin. What makes it more metal is the occasional raging attitude and high screams from Leo and Juri plays some flashy, traditional 80's style guitar parts. The second track Lady In The Dark was released as a video and the last song Rock Rock Brigade continues in traditional metal style, now with Leatherwolf feel to it, especially from Juri's part. This EP has party feel to it and you might find yourself drumming along to the songs. It creates emotional trips to the 80's early days of hard rock, so if you need that trip, here's one to take.

https://www.facebook.com/Fireaction/

GANDALF’S FIST - “The Clockwork Fable”


RATING: RRRRR

Label: Self Release

Reviewed By: Alan Holloway

I have an odd relationship with prog music, as it seems to either bore me to death or excite me enormously. I love It Bites, Flying Colours, Frost and the like, and as a younger man enjoyed IQ and Pallas, as well as Fish era Marillion. I’m telling you all this so you can see I like prog that has a bit of rock in it, not just meandering 15 minute yawn-fests that are atmospheric rather than fun. Much has been said about this, the 6th Gandalf’s Fist album, and I just had to have a listen for myself. That was a month ago, and I’m finally able to give it a proper review.

The reason it’s taken so long is that “The Clockwork Fable” is a three disc concept album that really has to be listened to as a whole to appreciate what the band have done, and finding a spare three hours these days is a tricky thing! Mind you, it’s well worth rearranging your schedule for this little beauty. Telling the story of a future civilisation forced to live underground after the sun fizzles out, this is a tale of good, evil, daftness and badgers. It’s all tied to a realization that the sun has returned and the desperation of those in power to make sure no one is able to leave the city and clarify this.

The meat of the story is contained in full cast excerpts, generally between each musical track. All kudos must be thrown at the band here, as not only have they got decent actors in, but they’ve also written a compelling narrative with a script that never sounds clunky. Background noise and music add a tremendous atmosphere to these parts, and an intrinsic sense of humour staves off any potential boredom as you catch all sorts of gems hidden in the conversations. Elsewhere, of course, is the music, and this takes the challenge set by the story parts and runs with it. If you want to imagine ELP, Marillion, Jon Mitchell and Iron Maiden getting together to write an opera you wouldn’t be far out. Guest artists like Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Blaze Bayley make a definite impression, and relative unknown Melissa Hollick fills out the sung parts of Eve (the main female character) beautifully. Bayley himself is in fine voice here, shining through the twelve minute “The Sign Of The Aperture” like a metal beacon.

So why has the UK concept album got full marks? To be honest, it’s probably second only to Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds” in terms of carefully plotted, musically diverse storytelling. This makes Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” look like a child’s poem scrawled on a post-it note. Masterful in every way and a real joy to experience, this is simply the best prog album that has ever been released, raising the bar for every concept album that will follow. When it rocks, it rocks hard, and when it progs it progs with passion, Just remember - beware of the badgers…


Official Site

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : "The Anthology" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 The Anthology, a three disc album, accompanies the first three DeLuxe ELP albums, being ELP, Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition. This great career spanning album features 39 songs from the years 1970 up to 1998. The Anthology is presented in a special case bound book packaging with detailed, informative sleeve notes by Chris Welch.

The 39 tracks are selected from the first three ELP albums, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, The Welcome Back triple live album, Works Volume 1 and 2, Works Live, Love Beach, Live At Nassau Coliseum, Black Moon, In The Hot Seat, Live At The Royal Albert Hall 1993 and last but not least the Then & Now album. The definite highlights of this album are: Peter Gunn, Brain Salad Surgery, Fanfare For The Common Man (play at maximum volume,please), Tarkus and Toccata. ELP's version of Copland?s Hoedown is also unique, as well as Greg Lake?s solo hit I Believe In Father Christmas (1975). Further remarkable tracks are Honky Tonk Train Blues and the trio?s interpretation of Jerusalem a song by Blake and Parry. The Anthology is a must for die hard ELP fans!!




Emerson, Lake & Palmer : "Pictures At An Exhibition" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 ELP's third amazing album called Pictures At An Exhibition has been credited with inspiring many young musicians to embrace and learn classical music. Pictures At An Exhibition is a concept album, based on the interpretation of the famous work by the Russian composer Mussorgsky. The album was recorded live in Newcastle and it is ELP's first live release and the entire album rocks!

 The songs on this amazing album are powerful and unique and ELP take on classical music as no other band ever did; so this album is a must for every prog rock addict! Pictures At An Exhibition was a huge commercial success and reached number 3 in the UK and number 10 in the USA album charts. On the first CD you can also enjoy a medley of Pictures At An Exhibtion recorded live in Puerto Rico. On the second CD you will hear another live performance of the album, recorded in London, complemented by live cuts of ELP favs like The Barbarian, Knife Edge, Rondo and Nut Rocker. Highly recommended!!

http://www.emersonlakeandpalmer.com

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : "Tarkus" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 The second album of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, which was released in 1971, saw the trio take a new direction with more complex keyboard sounds. The fantastic title track, an epic prog rock monster of more than 20 minutes, took up the whole side of side A and is a masterpiece of ELP music. On Tarkus, which lots of people still consider to be the best ELP album ever, the sound of the band is a blend of Yes, Genesis and even a little bit of Rush?

The technical performances on Tarkus are absolutely top notch, although the atmosphere of the album is rather dark and melancholic. ELP fans truly believe that Tarkus is ELP?s magnum opus and a must have for hard core prog fans and classic rock or neo classic rock fans. Tarkus was a very successful album as it peaked at number 1 in the UK and also charted at place 9 in the USA. On the second CD you can enjoy bonus tracks like Oh, My Father, Unknown Ballad and an alternate take of Mass, the fourth part of Tarkus.

This 2CD DeLuxe Edition includes a nice booklet with 2016 band interviews!

http://www.emersonlakeandpalmer.com/

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" (Deluxe Edition)

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

 The debut album of prog giants Emerson, Lake & Palmer will be released as a 2 CD set, containing the original remastered 1970 album and an alternate album with bonus tracks. The debut album is filled with only 6 songs which are of course all examples of classical style of progressive rock.

The sound of ELP is strongly dominated by the Hammond organ and Moog synthesizers of Keith Emerson and the compositions are mainly influenced by classical music. Their debut, way back in 1970, features strong compositions and amazing musicianship although lots of music journalists always criticized the strong domination of Emerson, claiming that Lake and Palmer deserved a more prominent spot. Highlights of this debut are the three part suite The Three Fates, the epic Take A Pebble and of course their successful first single Lucky Man.

The second CD features 12 songs with lots of bonus tracks, like e.g. Rave Up, a rather superfluous drum solo and alternate versions of Lucky Man, Take A Pebble and Knife Edge. After 46 years, ELP's debut is still a great album to listen to; however only for die-hard progressive rock fans who enjoy organ, piano and classical music. Enjoy.

http://www.emersonlakeandpalmer.com

Sunday, August 14, 2016

FIRST SIGNAL: "One Step Over The Line"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

This is the second FIRST SIGNAL project album, centered around the voice of Harem Scarem singer Harry Hess. Whereas the debut was produced by Dennis Ward, this time the production duties were taken care of by Daniel Flores. The Find Me/Murder Of My Sweet -producer is fast becoming one of my favourite producers, his works sound excellent and I like the fact that he's bringing contemporary ideas to the table.

Just like the first album, the songs on "One Step Over The Line" are provided by various songwriters. I don't know who wrote exactly what though...my personal favourites include "Love Run Free", "Minute Of Your Time", "She's Getting Away", "December Rain" and "Broken". There's a nice amount of variety in these songs, yet they all sound like they belong to this album. The songs range from anthemic euro-AOR ("Love Run Free") to modern melodic rock of "Broken", which reminds me a lot of Skillet. "December Rain" is probably the most "early Harem Scarem"-sounding track here, although I think the whole album should appeal to the fans of the Harem Scarem debut. 

There are a lot of cool little details that add their magic to the material - fantastic backing vocal arrangements, neat keyboards, fine guitarwork, not to mention Harry's great vocals... yeah, this is a fine album indeed. If it wasn't for the somewhat less impressive ballads and a couple of too predictable tracks with too many recycled parts I would have given this the full 5R rating. "One Step Over The Line" is definitely one of the better albums of 2016.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

7HY - “STORIES WE TELL”


Rating: RRRR

Label: Lionsprides Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

First up, let’s get the name out of the way. 7HY is Seven Hard Years (they of the quite special ‘No Place In Heaven‘ a couple of years ago), and if you think the logo on the cover looks a little familiar that’s because you use to like British rockers Shy. Former drummer Alan Kelly, who is also in the band Edge Of The Blade (also recommended), wrote the songs here as well as playing most of the instruments (along with various guests). Vocals, however, are left to the highly competent Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire), who brings a touch of extra class to proceedings.

Anyway, now we’re all up to the same page we have to talk about the music. One thing this shouldn’t be dismissed as is a ‘drummer album’. Kelly’s days as a drum stool warmer are behind him, and he’s now very comfortable in his main role as songwriter . ‘Stories We Tell’ certainly gets off to a good, aggressive start with ‘I’ll Survive’, which worships the twin gods of power and melody with equal devotion. I just love a fast, melodic opener and this doesn’t disappoint, with Shawn Pelata really nailing his vocals as well. Pelata has a high register that may no sit well with everyone (just like a certain Tony Mills back in the day) but suits the music here down to the ground. There's plenty of very nice guitarwork throughout (with 6 lead guitarists contributing I would hope so, too!) and keyboards are used very effectively and allowed to shine only when appropriate. A solid production helps everything come together, and you're never far away from choosing a new favourite track.

‘Stories We Tell’ is certainly stuffed with quality rockers, with a good mix of mid and fast paced tunes. It’s honestly hard work to pick out favourites, as the enjoyment level is pretty high throughout. The only track that doesn’t excite me is the mid paced ‘Broken Man’, which sort of meanders it’s way through nearly four minutes, but it’s a rare dip. In honesty, it’s the slower tracks that stop the album being a classic, mainly because the ones with more oomph  leave more of an impact on your brain. Even so, there’s plenty to enjoy here, especially if you enjoyed the last album or Kelly’s Edge Of The Blade work. I have to say that ‘Stories We Tell’ is an album that should keep you coming back for more, and that’s really all you can ask for.

Official facebook Page

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jace PAWLAK: "Promise"





Rating: RRRRr

Label: Kivel Records

Review By: Alan Holloway


If you haven’t heard of Jason “Jace” Pawlak, then you can join the club, as until last week I hadn’t a clue either. Through the miracle of face book, however, a musician friend shared the lead track from this, his fourth solo album, and suddenly I was very aware of Jace Pawlack, because “Tonight Is Everything” pushed all of the buttons in my head reserved for only the highest quality AOR.

As both singer and songwriter, what Jace Pawlak has done here is produce a quintessential melodic rock album that could easily be used a a template for new bands wanting to get it right, a sort of “AOR For Dummies” if you will. Don’t get me wrong - this is not any sort of insult. Hey - those Dummies books are freakin’ awesome, and so is “Promise”. It’s a straight up melodic rock instant classic, adhering to the rules and regulations set down in fluffy pink stone back in the early eighties. Ten tracks? Check. Ballad at positions 3 and 7? Check. Songs about love, love and more love? Check. Hugely infectious choruses? Neat guitar solos? Good, high vocals? Check, check and check! You get the idea…

“Promise” is an album that’s stuffed to the gills with catchy tracks, each one benefiting from a crisp production. The more upbeat tracks, such as the aforementioned “Tonight Is Everything” (which there is a link for on our facebook feed) “late On Loving You” and “Too Late” are instant monsters, ready to take up residence in your subconscious. Then you have the more mid paced tracks, none of which are any less catchy, and a couple of ballads to complete the experience, with the whole package topped off the closing track “Nothing But Rain”, a song that is best described as a hard edged ballad with balls, and just has something about it that makes it stand out as a quality song amongst quality songs.

So there you have it. If you have never heard of Jace Pawlak this is the time to rectify the situation with an album full of AOR gems. The only track that leaves me a bit ‘meh’ is the ballad “Every Now & Then”, but that’s just me. This is one of those albums that you play over and over again, simply because you just want to hear the songs one more time. Buy or die…


Official Website

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

CHANGE OF HEART - “LAST TIGER”



Rating: RRRR

Label: Escape Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

A small fish in the UK melodic rock scene, Change Of Heart have gained a place in people’s hearts due to the strong talents of vocalist/founder/songwriter Alan Clark, a man who knows how to pen the sort of tracks that hit the spot for anyone into melodic rock. He’s not the most prolific, though, and it’s been a long eleven years since the last Change Of Heart album. Hopefully there’s still plenty of people around who give a damn, because “Last Tiger” is a cracking offering.

The style here reminds me of the liked of Heartland, Lion or even Strangeways, with it’s smooth, melodic base and understated vocals that are not a million miles away fro Chris Ousey in style, if not as good (not a criticism as Ousey is superb). This isn’t big, chorus led AOR a la Journey, but something a bit more crunchy, mixing up guitars and keyboards to great effect and crafting songs that aren’t just a pretty face. Worth noting is “March of The Souls”, a deliberately Dio-esque track that is at odds with the rest of the album but works well nonetheless. Opener “Rise To The Challenge” perfectly introduces the standard style for the album, with smooth vocals and some seriously cool widdly guitar and it’s a great track to listen to on YouTube. Basically, if you like it then this should be the album for you.

“Last Tiger” is a fine addition to the Change Of Heart catalogue, even if it doesn’t have the same contributors as previous work. Eleven strong songs, well produced and expertly performed, make this an album to keep most AOR fans happy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

THE DEAD DASIES - “MAKE SOME NOISE”



RATING: RRRR

LABEL: Spitfire Music

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway







There’s a part of me that thinks The Dead Dasies should change their name to “The Ex Men”, as they’re one of those bands where each member’s name has to be followed by an impressive list of former bands in brackets. In fairness, these boys have knocked around with some of the best, and on this, their third album, they flex their mighty rock muscles and proceed to knock it out of the park.

Founder and guitarist David Lowry is the only member who hasn’t played a few rounds with the big boys, but in his song writing he certainly gets the best out of his band mates. Vocalist John Corabi has never sounded better than he does here, The Dead Dasies suiting his style much better that Ratt or Motley Crue ever did, and it’s always great to hear Doug Aldrich letting loose with his signature sound yet be kept within the song structure.

The songs on the album are nothing that will garner gasps of admiration for their originality, as they’re basically heavy rock played really well. It’s the Really Well part of that sentence that makes all the difference though, as there’s not a single track that doesn’t somehow get under your skin and make the inner rock dude want to raise his fist and yell. The title track, for example, is a heavy stomper very much in the vein of Saxon’s “Denim & Leather” and Queen‘s “We Will Rock You”  that is very easy to take the piss out of. Thing is, it’s glorious, head banging fun and so what the heck! One of the best tracks has to be “Mainline”, which is a fast, streamlined track that screams quality, as is the first class heavied-up cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”.

Whilst The Dead Dasies are an unapologetic classic rock band with all the clichés that come with that, this sort of band stands or falls on the quality of their output, as there’s a million other bands trying the same sort of thing. “Make Some Noise”  can be too cheesy at times (“All The Same” being a good example) but it’s never less than entertaining. Heavy and expertly put together, it’s an album that can be played over and over without getting stale, just like all the best classic rock records.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Monday, July 11, 2016

CRANSTON - S/T



RATING: RRRr

LABEL: Rock Company

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


Cranston sees the intriguing pairing of rock legend Paul Sabu with perennial workhorse Phil Vincent. Apart from when he was with Legion, Vincent tends to work alone, so I was interested to see what would happen to his sound when co writing with Sabu. The thing is, Sabu’s other recent release, (a pairing with Vince O’Reagan), was pretty poor, so fingers were crossed, especially as Vincent’s solo work has been getting better and better.

The good news here is that Paul Sabu is not the main vocalist here. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but the O’Reagan album showed that his voice is really not what it was. Phil Vincent, however, has always had a decent voice and leads the way with Sabu providing backing as well as all the instruments except drums.

So we come to the music itself, which is the whole point. Although written by the two guys this does come across very much as a Phil Vincent album, no doubt helped by his vocals. The thing is, it doesn’t come across as one of his best, and feels like a step back to the days when he was good rather that very good. The songs are melodic yet guitar heavy, and whilst they’re never bad there’s something missing that would turn this from a good album to a great one. It falls down a little at the end, with the last three tracks seeming to last twice as much as they do. Seriously, as ‘Sea Of Madness’ fell into a repetitive end sequence I had to check it wasn’t a seven minute epic. It isn’t. It’s a bit of a shame, as up to then there’s some pretty decent tracks, notably opener ‘Long Long Way To Go’, ‘See You One The Other Side’ and ‘Fallen’.

‘Cranston’ contains enough cool rock tracks to satisfy a fan of Phil Vincent, but they may be disappointed that there’s not a few more. I would have liked to hear some of the more punch tracks (such as ‘Let It Go’) sung by an in for Paul Sabu, so here’s hoping that the Vince O’reagan album was a one off. Maybe for Cranston II  they can switch roles.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

TILT: "Hinterland"

Rating: RRRR
Label: BurningShed 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

FISH friends feeling frisky? TILT is a brand new (Prog) band and project featuring Robin Boult (guitars), David Stewart (drums) and Steve Vantsis (bass), all probably better known for recording, writing and touring with prog legend Fish (Marillion) over the years. Steve Vantsis was in fact responsible for most of the writing of the last two well received Fish albums, 13th Star and Feast of Consequences. The three are joined by excellent singer PJ Dourley and guitarist/keyboardist Paul Humphreys.

Strictly not just Prog-Rock though as "Hinterland" is the leap into the unknown. Their debut album is to a certain extent the mixture of Prog with a more grungy and modern texture. Needless to say. I'm especially fond of the sophisticated, atmospheric, Prog-Rock approach of a track such as the opening number, Assembly. The chanting and trading of lyrical content is very memorizing and nearly hypnotical. Great stuff that quickly becomes your soundtrack of the summer and lazy afternoons in the sun.

The title track is up next and it's frankly just another great song which include bits and pieces of everything from Prog and the Pearl Jam...ehh, Jam, to the Neil Young and REM beat and structure. "Against The Rain", slow things down a bit and Dourley gets to shine in the spotlight. Vocally, the superb performance while lyrically it's the language of delusions and suspended truth. "No Superman", clearly not "prog" according to this particular listener as it's Seattle and no rather than Yes (pun intended).

The five are joined on this release by keyboard player John Beck (It Bites) and guitarist John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/Kino/Arena/It Bites) with Mitchell also responsible for the final mix. Final verdict: Very solid and accomplished record with a couple of not-so-great moments in between the goodies.
tiltband.co.uk