Thursday, April 12, 2018

PERFECT PLAN - "ALL RISE"






RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


My catch up of Frontiers new and forthcoming releases continues with this debut offering from Sweden's Perfect Plan. Formed in 2014, the band have been working their way towards the debut with care and attention and it certainly shows in what they've come up with.

As the first chords of the ridiculously catchy and upbeat "Bad City Woman" belt out from the speakers it's clear that Perfect Plan have something special here. As a song it's nothing groundbreaking, but as a piece of AOR it sits right at the top of the pile, with melody spilling out of every pore, bouncy keyboards shining through and classic melodic rock vocals from Kent Hilli. Seriously, people, this man can wail with the best and I'm sure he's going to be a big name in AOR circles for some time. Opening with such a perfect example of your music is always a good move, and even if Perfect Plan struggle to better it (and any band would) it really sets the mood perfectly and will bring a big smile to any melodic rock fan's face.

Although the pace slows with 'In And Out of Love' it's still a great song with a nice, catchy chorus, even if it's a bit of a come down after the frenetic pace of the opener. That said, 'Stone Cold Lover' brings the energy levels straight back up. It's a track that I can see being much loved by fans of H.E.A.T when they rock out, with Hilli's vocals showing a nice tinge of Joe Lynn Turner as a bonus. Fourth track 'Gone Too Far' has a Turner-era Rainbow feel about it, with Hammond-ish keyboards and a nice funky rhythm both proving effective. It's hard to dislike, a description that fits the entire album. When Perfect Plan turn it on and allow themselves a bit of pace and bounce they are as good as any band I've ever heard, with slick guitar solos, perfect AOR vocals and an innate sense of what makes a song enjoyable. Unusually, there's no ballads to be found, and the majority of the eleven tracks are well paced. The album in no way outstays it's welcome, and is one of those that you can happily put on repeat three or four times without getting at all tired of it.

Perfect Plan are a real surprise, delivering a debut that nails the whole AOR thing perfectly. A heady mix of W.E.T, Eclipse, H.E.A.T and the likes of One Desire and Work Of Art, this album can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of them. It's not deep and it's not meaningful, but 'All Rise' will have you tapping your feet and smiling away throughout the duration, and sometimes that's all you need from an album. 

Official Facebook

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

VEGA - "ONLY HUMAN"


RATING: RRRRR

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Back in the late Nineties I was a fan of a band called Kick, featuring a pair of twins and vocalist Nick Workman, who made ridiculously enjoyable melodic rock. Fast forward to 2010, and after a few middling bands Workman finds himself hooked up with another set of twins and making ridiculously enjoyable melodic rock once more. The twins are Tom and James Martin and the band is Vega. Eight years of hard work later they're still fighting to bring high energy melodic rock to the masses, and I'm happy to reveal that album number five carries on the good work admirably. It seems maximum ratings are like buses for me. No, not that they smell of piss - I mean you wait for ages and two come along!

With most albums I get it's easy after a few spins to identify a favourite track or two and maybe pick out a weaker one that will probably end up deleted once the review is done. With 'Only Human', Vega have come up with their stroingest album yet, and if you've heard the other four you'll know that's quite a feat. The Martin twins are well known as powerful songwriters in their own right (see Issa and Ted Poley albums for evidence), but when Nick Workman joins in it's such a holy trinity Don McLean should have been singing about them at the end of 'American Pie' (google it, it's a cool reference, dammit!). Add to that live performances full of fire and fun and you get a band to be reckoned with.

'Only Human' is a real all killer no filler affair, perfectly encapsulated by the first four tracks. 'Let's Have Fun Tonight' is a traditional upbeat Vega album opener that will no doubt kick off the live shows on the upcoming tour (see you at the bar, boozers), followed by the album's advance single 'Worth Dying For'. This is a track that is like a stick of rock (sorry - ROCK!) with VEGA stamped through it, so perfectly typical is it of their sound. 'Last man Standing' follows, introduced by Planet Rock DJ Darren Reddick, and it's an upbeat, catchy song about getting rat arsed. Remember, kids, what happens in Vega stays in Vega. Lastly, we have 'Come Back Again', the album's first slower paced song. There's just something about this one that keeps me coming back (again, natch) - it's a smooth, majestic sounding tune that has a chorus that sticks in your head.

So we have an opening quartet that beautifully demonstrate the Vega sound in all it's guises. So far so good, as they say. The thing is, the quality doesn't dip at any point, so we get another eight tracks that keep the bar raised with as much passion as Eddie Hall picking up a car. There's the aggressive 'Gravity', the high melody of 'Fade Away' and the emotional ballad 'Turning Pages', where Nick Workman get to show there's more to him than a nice haircut and a deep, natural love of Joe Elliott. Seriously, though, Workman is on stellar form throughout, deserving of a place amongst the melodic rock greats for his soaring range and vocal gymnastics. When he's given a good tune to belt out he still makes me smile like he did almost twenty years ago (feeling old now, Nick?). Just when you think they must be tired by now, the album closes with the brilliant upbeat track 'Go To War', and the compulsion to just listen to the twelve tracks all over again is hard to resist.

I've always banged on about Vega in the past, and it's true that they are right up my alley as far as melodic rock is concerned. They can handle speed when needed, but also put a lot of soul into a passionate ballad too. Keyboards are mixed in very well, and whenever Marcus Thurston gets a chance to let loose on guitar he always gives it serious welly (let him do an instrumental, guys).Consistently impressive, always fun and sometimes sober, Vega are a band who should be palling around with the big boys on the big stage, but part of me still loves the fact I can see them in small venues. If you haven't discovered them yet you really need to get the album and a ticket for the tour, because to be this good takes Vega...

Officia lWebsite





JAMES CHRISTIAN - "CRAVING"


RATING: RRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Jamea Christian has a long, distinguished history in melodic rock, for his tenure with House of Lords, his songwriting and also for his three solo albums released over the last quarter century, now joined by this, the fourth to come out under his name. Whilst Christian is a known songwriter himself, on "Craving" he has been helped out by Tommy Denander, Chris Pelcer, Jimi Bell, Clif Magness, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Richard Hymas, Charlie Mason and Jeff Kent, so I was expecting a bit of a mixed bag.

A quick peruse of the tracklisting reveals a distinctly, um, Christian slant, and by that I mean the religion rather than the man. I mean, obviously there's a Christian (the man) slant, as it's his bleedin' album! 'Heaven Is A Place In Hell', 'Jesus Wept', 'If There's A God' and 'Pray' make me double check this isn't the new Stryper album, but when the music starts it's definitely of a wimpier nature so everything is OK. 'Heaven Is A Place In Hell' kicks things off in a nice, lively manner, aggressively melodic and making good use of Chritian's raspy, tuneful vocals. Follow up 'Wild Boys' is a bouncy affair that's pretty good but really loses out by leaving the guitars at the back of the mix, whilst the title track is an acoustic affair that is a pretty nice tune. A mixed bag? Definitely. 'Jesus Wept' is a mid paced melodic track that really hits the spot with a smooth refrain, 'World of Possibility' is a rather stale acoustic number, whilst 'Sidewinder' is another upbeat guitar fuelled aggressive melodic number and it certainly looks like a pattern has formed, and it contunues til the end, where the album limps home with the dull as ditchwater 'Pray'. Before that, however, we do get possibly the best track, the in your face 'Black Wan't Black', featuring some sweet guitar widdling from Jimi Bell.

So with 'Cracing' James Christian has delivered a package that mixes acoustic tracks, mid range smoothies and hard hitting melodic rockers in equal measure. The heavier tracks all work very well, as do the mid paced ones for the most part, but a couple of the acousticnumbers are so damn syrupy and devoid of charm that they totally disrupt the flow of the album. Despite this, there's a lot of good music here, and Christian's vocals are as good as ever, but too mahy cooks make this broth less sweet than it could have been.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

WHITECROSS & GUARDIAN - "REVIVAL"


RATING: N/A

LABEL: INDEPENDANT

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


Some of you may be aware of Whitecross and Guardian, two Christian rock bands from a while back. What we have here is a merging of members from both bands to form a new unit playing songs from the collective back catalogue. It's not a terrible idea and I can see them going down well on the live circuit. Neither bands have split, by the way, it's just that these guys are the ones who want to tour more than the others.

So we get Jamie Rowe (vocals) and David Bach (bass) from Guardian, paired with Michael Feighan (drums) and Rex Carroll (guitars) from Whitecross, and as they are lovely, cuddly Christain pals they go very well together. The 'Revival' EP is really a taster for their prospective audience to show that the whole thing works, and unsurprisingly it has a decent selection of tracks, given the back catalogue they had to choose from. 'Enough Is Enough' from Whitecross is a jaunty, crunchy opener, nicely matched by Guardian's 'The Rain'. There are also two versiions of Guardian's powerful ballad 'Never Say Goodbye' in English and Spanish (I assume because they have fans south of the border) and a cover of Hendix's 'Spanish Castle Magic'. Whitecross tracks 'In The Kingdom' and 'Top Of The World' flesh out the playlist nicely, and the end result is a tidy collection of God-centric rock tunes. Jamie Rowe does a fine job with the Whitecross material, and all four members come accross as tight.

There's only 1000 CDs and 300 red vinyl records available of this EP, so it you like the idea then pick one up fast. Good songs well played is always a nice draw, and even this old Atheist enjoyed it so those blessed with faith keep your eyes peeled for this holy team up.

Official Website

ROMEO RIOT - "SING IT LOUD"



RATING: RRRRR

LABEL: KIVEL RECORDS

REVIEW BY:ALAN HOLLOWAY

Romeo Riot are a sort of supergroup, mainly if you're a big fan of Kivel records. For me, the real draw was the inclusion in the band of one Jace Pawlak, noted songwriter and keyboard player (as well as a nifty vocalist in his own right), and I've been waiting to get my ears wrapped round a copy. As you can see from the rating I was not disaapointed, and if you like quality AOR neither will you be.

What you have  here are ten knock-it-out-of-the-park upbeat melodic rock winners, and whilst I don't have an inlay or album credits the songs are very comparable to those on Pawlak's last solo album but with lower register vocals. Those vocals belong to Mark Giovi, late of Farcry, and he has one of those voices that is hugely melodic but with a slight edge to it that works beautifully. One of Pawlak's songs 'Every Now & Then' appears on both albums, with the different vocalist turning it into quite a different experience, despite the very similar arrangement. It's one of two ballads unwisely both on the latter half of the album (makes it unbalanced), but with that said they both, along with every single other track, hit the aural sweet spot. It's so hard to pick out favourites as they all qualify - there's more fun and bounce here than a trampoline factory. You've got the high enegry opening duo of 'Room To Run'and 'Streets Of  Babylon', or the more crunchy 'Same' and finish off with the upbeat glory of album closer 'Twist of Fate' (very Night Ranger), and there's still six other tracks to choose from, all with their own claims to being the best one. Well bugger it I really can't decide so I guess I'll just have to listen to 'em all again.... and again.

'Sing It Loud' is one of those AOR records that makes you remember why you got into this type of music in the first place. It's so hard to fault that I've given up trying, and can't reccommend it highly enough. It's very rare that I give a full five out of five to an album, but I can't see any reason to drop any marks here. Melodic rock perfectoon can be yours, so go out and get some.

band facebook page

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

ISSA - "RUN WITH THE PACK"


RATING: RRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

It's hard to believe that Issa released her first albumway back in 2010, pushed as the new femme fatale of the melodic rock world, with sexy photo shoots taking prominence over the music. Of course, it helped that the music was solid as you like, and it's been great to see her contiunue to release high quality albums. 'Run With The Pack' is album number five, and although not as good as 2015s 'Crossfire' it still keeps Issa's name at the higher end of any connoisseurs' lists.

As usual, Issa's vocal skills are prominent from the beginning as she breathes life into every song here, aided on 'Sacrifice Me' by Deen Castronovo. the two main differences from 'Crossfire' are the songwriters and the main guitarist. Gone are James and Tom Martin (of VEGA fame) as songwriters and band members, and in comes a smorgasbord of new writers, including Bob Mitchell, Glenn Ballard and the ever present Alessandro Del Vecchio. The guitars have been handed to Simon Mularoni, and to be fair his widdling is a constant standout throughout the album. The songs themselves are all prefectly acceptable, but if I'm honest they just aren't as exciting as the ones on 'Crossfire'. That said, none of them could be described as poor in any way, it's just that I'm nodding my head and tapping my feet rather than punching the air. Unusually for me my favourite track is a slow(ish) one, 'The Sound Of Yesterday', where Issa gets to show real passion and strength. She's one of those vocalists who is a ballad writer's dream, and soars when allowed to get her teeth into a tune.

'Run With The Pack' slots nicely into Issa's repertoire, but treads water rather than breaking new ground. It's well produced (by Del Vecchio) and will certainly be welcomed by fans, but the feeling that there's something missing, however small, still haunts me every time I listen to it. If you like fun melodic rock with great vocals then you really can't go wrong here, so give Issa a try if you haven't already.

Issa's Official facebook



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

FM - 'ATOMIC GENERATION'



RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of FM (old and new), so it stands to reason I'd like their new album. The things is, I hope those people would also realise that I wouldn't ever give them a free pass just because of who they are. After the excellent 'Heroes & Villains' from a couple of years ago, though, I'll admit I didn't have too many concerns over the quality that was likely to emerge.

Straight off,  it's clear 'Atomic Generation' will appeal to those who enjoyed the previous album, with opener 'Blac Magic' coming off not a million miles away from that album's 'Digging Up The Dirt' opener. Solid, punchy and catchy, it's a good opening statement though. Second track 'Too much Of  A Good Thing' is oddly placed, as it's a slower track that, whilst catchy, is possibly the weakes on the album. Fortunately it all comes to life again with the standout track 'Killed By Love', a ridculously catchy melodic rock gem, the crunchy 'In It For The Money' and the smooth melody of 'Golden Days', a nostalgic tune that stays with the listener. there's been a bit of divided opinion over 'Playing Tricks On Me', which has been released as an advance track, mainly because it really sounds like it should be on a Carlos Santana album, and this is pretty accurate if Carlos had Steve Overland's golden tonsils. Either way, it's a REALLY catchy song that can be enjoyed by rockers and Radio 2 fans alike, and I can see why it was included here. The second half of the album is as strong as the first, rocking out with the likes of 'Make The Best of What You've Got' and 'Follow Your Heart' and closing with the really beautiful 6 minute ballad 'Love Is A Lie', a track that will either move you toi tears or bore the arse off you. Me, I liked it.

'Atomic Generation' is a perfect representation of where FM are in 2018, with straightforward AOR mixed with more creative styles, all held together by a band that are tighter than Scrooge McDuck's purse strings. There's plenty here for those who like to sing along, with nothing to offend anybody in any way whatsoever. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and enjoy an album of melodic rock growers, and that time is now. Defininitely my sort of generation.

Official Site


NO HOT ASHES - S/T


RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Whilst Jurassic Park was an adventre 65 million years (give or take) in the making, the debut album from Ireland's No Not Ashes has been brewing for just 35 years, since the band's formation way back in 1983. Although they were singned in 1988 and recorded an album it was never released. This, however, is not that album, as after reforming in 2013 and finding out people still liked AOR they've recorded a fresh new album for our listening pleasure, and a pleasure it is.

Whilst nine of the ten tracks here are fresh as a daisy (although one is a cracking cover of Rick Springfield's 'Souls'), I guess we should start with 'I'm Back', the sole survivor from the band's original days. It says a lot that if pressed to pick the older song without any othert information I wouldn't have had a clue, as 'I'm Back' slips into the middle of the album without any surface ripples at all. All ten tracks here are of a similar quality, and that quality is high. Laid back, melodic AOR with a blues edge, No Hot Ashes show a real understanding of what makes a good song. Straight off the bat, opener 'Come Alive' showcases this with a solid rhythm, a sweet riff, nifty guitar solo and fine melodic vocals from Eamon Nancarrow. 'Good To Look Back' ups the ante with an even catchier refrain coupled with a nice inclusion of a strong keyboard presence, and it's clear that the album is going to be a keeper. Sure enough, there's not a duffer in sight, with melody piled upon melody throughout, mixed with a little funk and blues when approriate.

No Hot Ashes may not have got their shot back in the day, but against the odds they've come back to become a genuine melodic rock prospect. Seriously, this will be one of the best purchases you make this year if you like quality AOR played with a genuine passion. Me, I'm looking forward to seeing them on tour and singing along with each excellent track .Hot stuff indeed, just don't confuse them with the other No Hot Ashes band because you will certainly come off with the concolation prize.

official facebook page


Saturday, March 24, 2018

BONFIRE - "TEMPLE OF LIES"


RATING: RRRR

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Fifteen albums and about twice as many line up changes have caused some to wonder if this is even Bonfire any more, but guitarist Hans Ziller owns the name and as long as he's in charge then Bonfire will be the name of the band, except when it's EZ Livin', Charade etc etc. Of course, when you get down to it, it's all about how good the music is, and Ziller certainly doesn't tend to put put crap if he can help it, si maybe don't light those torches just yet.

"Temple Of Lies" kicks off with the now standard wanky intro piece that tells of the legend of the Temple Of Lies like it's a frickin' concept album (it's not). At least it's improved by some serious guitar widdling as it goes into the title track. This is where things get interesting, as it's really pretty darned good, with a serious crunch, power and melody that works well, bolstered by the powerful vocals of Alexx Stahl, on his second album with the band. After this things continue to be interesting, with "Wings Of An Angel" and "Feed The Fire" giving way to the fist-in-the-air catchy "Stand Or Fall". this may not be the Bonfire of old, but this new Bonfire can seriously rock, with Ziller's guitarwork underpinning everything rather brilliantly. Seriously, the man can work a fretboard with the best of them. The most AOR track is the melodic "Fly Away", probably my favourite on the labum, with the sole ballad, "Comin Home" being the only track that I will end up deleting as it's a bit shite.

With thsi album, Bonfire come accross as a band determined to show the naysayers that they still have what it takes, and I'm convinced that they do. Ziller shines throughout and Stahl suits the music nicely, and whilst plenty of it is by the book melodic hard rock it's so well done it's a pleasure to listen to. Definitely the surprise of the month for me, "Temple Of Lies" is proof that the 'fire is still burning brightly.

Official Site

Thursday, March 15, 2018

GREYBEARDS - 'FOR THE WILDER MINDS'






RATING: RRRr

LABEL: Attitude

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Greybeards may sound like some prog rock outfir comprised of septuagenarian musos, but in reality they are a bunch of young, hip Swedes who like to belt out uncompromising hard rock not a million miles away from Foo Fighters at their most fluid and aggressive.

'For The Wilder Minds' is the second effort from the band, following on nicely from their debut 'Learning To Fly'. They've been flying round the world on the back of that for two years now, and although the new album isn't a leap forward musically it delights in following it's predecessor's footsteps. This will certainly be good news to those who liked Greybeards style of straightforward rock with good melody and a galloping pace. There's no guitar heroics, no super silky vocals, just head down music that will either energise or bore you. Personally, I found myself somewhere inbetween, as I certainly like listening the likes of 'Fast Asleep', (the new single) or humming along to the catchy 'One In A Billion', but whilst the album is a snappy ten tracks long the lack of variety can mean full playthroughs are not as enticing as quick listens to certain tracks.

Full on, ferociuos and fun, 'For The Wilder Minds' is a solid follow up for Greaybeards and will appeal to anyone who liked the debut or looks back wistfully at the time when Foo Fighters still had big balls of steel.

Official Website

Monday, March 12, 2018

CRAZY CULT ROADSHOW: "Crazy Cult Roadshow"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Self- release
Review by Martien Koolen

Crazy Cult Roadshow is a Dutch hard rock/metal band from the beautiful south of The Netherlands. After two impressive Eps, the four piece band, consisting of Roel Peijs (vocals), Steven van der Vegt (bass, keys, vocals), Krit Verbeek (guitars) and Kiki Beemer (drums and vocals), now release their full length debut album on vinyl. The self-titled album contains 10 songs and these tracks form an apocalyptic roller coaster ride of rock, metal, rock and roll, grunge and stoner music; so get ready to bang your head!! Opener "Luring Lights" sets the tone for the rest of the record: mean heavy guitar riffs, "brutal", rough vocals, pounding drums and more than excellent guitar solos. "Closure", which is already a well-known cult song in Limburg, features a very catchy opening, extremely raw vocals from Peijs and a ferocious guitar solo at the three minute mark! Other tracks like "Fistful Of Boomstick" with a more than excellent bass guitar riff or the experimental, almost instrumental "That Thing From Another Planet" kind of remind me of bands like Monster Magnet and Hawkwind; so really awesome. Suitable for a single would be the song "Ride The Fuzz", as that one really has an addictive chorus. This excellent album ends with a song called "Risky Business", which again features a nasty guitar hook and a splendid howling guitar solo. Crazy Cult Roadshow can be very proud of this album, so check it out, buy it, and play it f... LOUD and keep on banging your head and screaming along till your voice stops making noise!!! This is already one of the great surprises of this rock year, so do not miss this release!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BURN - 'ICE AGE'



RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: MeloidicRock Records

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


British rockers Burn have certainly trodden a troubled path on the way to 'Ice Age', their fourth album in 25 years. Founding members Marc and Barney Stackhouse have kept the fire burning over the years on and off, resurrecting the band in 2007 for the very highly rated 'Global Warning' album, but even a triumphant appearence at Firefest in 2008 didn't end up being the glue that kept the band together for good. As we all know, though, you can't keep good musicians down, and Burn are back once more with a new secret weapon or two in their armoury.

So what do you do if you want a lead singer who can handle the material, has a ridiculous amount of experience and a built in fan base? Simple - you call Steve Newman. As you should be well aware, Newman in a bit of a veteran at this melodic rock thing, and apparently was very happy to be part of a band without his name on it, especially one with the quality of songs Burn were offering. The other secret weapon is guitarist Chris Green (Furyon, Tyketto and more), who brings a very high standard with the benefit of being used to botgh AOR and metal. What could go wrong?

the simple answer is 'nothing'. Seriously, there is nothing at all wrong with 'Ice Age', which really grinds my gears as I can't take the piss. Okay, so it's got a wanky intro at the beginning, but that's just a personal annoyance and I can always skip it. As for the rest, the only accurate thing to say is 'wow'. Straight away things get chunky and melodic with 'Irontown', a song that I guarantee you'll be singing along with during the first listen. As it's the lead track you can go listen to it now on YouTube, and trust me it's a VERY hard song to dislike. One thing that's apparent is Steve Newman is really on fine voice here, raising his register slightly at times to fit in perfectly with the songs. The songs themselves, meanwhile, are some of the best I've heard for a while now. The songwriting is a real band effort, with guitarist Phil Hammond collaborating with Barney, Chris and Steve on most of the songs, and they seem like they've been hammered into shape by people who really care about what they're doing and won't let a song out of it's cage until it's ready.

'Ice Age' is a triumph, full of meaty rock tracks with a ton of melody, beautifully mixed by Tobias Lindell. There's a few songs where it slows down, like the soulful 'Wasreland', but it doesn't adversely affect the album as a whole, simply because every song is a winner in it's own way. There's a proper bluesy vibe to it, but with big handfuls of AOR as well, like Hand Of Dimes or Whitesnake of old. the cover, although fitting the title, is a bit shite but don't let it put you off in any way. 'Ice Age' is an absolute stonker of a melodic rock album that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in well crafted, catchy rock music. Never before have I been so happy to be Burned...

Official Website

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Black Stone Cherry: "Family Tree"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Family Tree is the sixth album by (blues) rockers Black Stone Cherry and in my humble opinion it belongs to one of their best so far as on this album their sound is really unique. Their music being a mix of Cream, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, rock and roll, blues and rock really comes to life on Family Tree; just listen to the amazing opening track Bad Habit and you will be hooked.

This new album contains 13 tracks and the musical highlights are numerous, take for example Carry Me On Down The Road (heavy rock and roll with great wah-wah guitar solos), Get Me Over You (funky Lynyrd Skynyrd-like southern rock), Bad Habit (heavy, up tempo with a bluesy guitar solo) and the title track, a mid tempo blues rock stomper with a melodic slide guitar solo. However the very best song is without any doubt Dancing In The Rain, a mid tempo blues rocker where the guitars dominate, featuring guitar legend Warren Haynes. Family Tree was sell-produced and Chris Robertson (guitars/vocals) mixed the album and this resulted into an excellent up to date blues-based rock album of the highest quality. Highly recommended, so be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Magnum: "Lost On The Road To Eternity"

RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: SPV/STEAMHAMMER

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

So it's album number... um... about ninety three I reckon. Either way, it's always good to see Magnum back, and always a pleasure to digest yet another stunning cover from Rodney Matthews before you even get to the music. Drenched in fantasy imagery, it perfectly illustrates the album title, and suits the music beautifully, and when Rod and Magnum are in sync like this you know you're in for a treat.

The lead track, 'Peaches & Cream', really sets the mood as it's a bouncy track that will bring back happy memories for long time fans of the band who feel that they have been missing some of the smooth flow since they entered the 'part 2' phase of their career. This contunues into 'Show Me Your hands', but is interrupted by 'Storm Baby', in itself a ballad with big riffs stuffed into it that works really well. No song is short here, with everthing trundling it at five minutes or more. Whilst there's also no ten minute plus epics (something we could do with, to be honest) the longest track is the wonderfully titled 'Welcome To The Cosmic Cabaret', which clocks in at just over 8 minutes. It's one of those tracks, though, that doesn't seem half as long as it is. There's a slow, thoughtful ending with some nice guitar from Tony Clarkin, and to be fair it's a great way to end a great track. Track five is by far my favourite, and it's the title track. Not only does it have a superbly catchy chorus but also features a duet between Bob Catley and Tobias Sammet. New lad Rick Benton provides the sort of keyboards that Mark Stanway would have been proud of, and the whold thing is drenched with genuine strings from the Wolf Kerscheck orchestra. Seriously, this may just be my favourite Magnum track of the 21st Century.

The track that's being used to promote the album is 'Without Love', and it's a nice track with grit and bounce in equal measure. I think 'Peaches & Cream' would have done the job better, but the two share a core mechanic and both will no doubt be well received live. It kicks off the album's second half, a second half that doesn't quite manage to meet the very high standards set by the first. 'Tell me What You've Got', for example, just doesn't stick in the mind regardless of the amount of plays, whilst closer 'King Of The World' treads a similar path, although it finishes in fine style. On the other hand there's still a few belters in the shape of upbeat rockers 'Forbidden Masquerade' and thae catchy 'Ya Wanna Be Someone', whilst 'Glory To Ashes' is a bit of a riff heavy mid paced effort but makes up for it with a great refrain and a cool atmosphere.

Considering this is the 20th studio album (thanks Google) by the band, it is a commendable acheivement. The sound is fresh and invigorating for the most part, unmistakenly Magnum and a delight to get to grips with. Bob Catley sounds amazing throughout, and songwriter Clarkin has cobbled together some memorable tunes. I never get tired of Magnum, and am so glad to see such a quality release this far down their career path. This is indeed rock art, so take a look.

OFFICIAL SITE

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Saxon: "A Decade Of The Eagle"

RATING: N/A

LABEL: UNION SQUARE

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

So where were you in '79? Were you wearing denim and leather, or were you like me and still a wee bit young for all that heavy metal malarkey? I soon caught up, however, with Saxon having the honour of being my first gig headliners on the 'Crusader' tour. Sinnve discovering the band I've never fallen out of love with them, and this compilation from their first decade as recording artists really brings back happy memories.

Whoever put this 34 track double album together has definitely hedged their bets, producing a solid 'Best Of' that befits the title. With the extreme quality of some of the albums covered within it's inevitable that some favourites will be missing, although the singles are here along with quality album tracks. It all kicks off with early faves 'Stallions Of The Hiughway' and 'Big Teaser', followed by 'Backs To the Wall' and 'Militia Guard'. Although from the band's fledgling period, they still entertain, with funky, heavy rythms all held together by the unmiustakable vocals of Biff Byford. From then onwards it's wall to wall quality, starting with the legendary 'Wheels Of Steel' and going right through to 'Red Alert' from 1988's 'Destiny' album. Not once did I think 'why is this track on here', which is a bit of a rarity for a best of compiliation.

'Decade Of The Eagle' does exactly what it says on the tin, delivering a pretty perfect collection from one of metal's most constantly entertaining bands who, judging by their latest single, are still on top form all these years later. It's one of those that may not be needed by fans with all the albums already a couple of live tracks aside) but it's nonetheless a sweet package that will bring a smile to the face of any metalhead to unwrap it on Christmas day.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Skyclad: "The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea"

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea is Skyclad's fifth studio album, released in 1995 and it was their last one for Noise Records. The outstanding and maybe weird album title is a homophonic (= having the same sound) pun (= the lowest form of humour) when said aloud in British or Australian accents, as it sounds identical to "The silent wails of Lunacy".

The song writing is stripped down and more simplistic and the great songs just keep on coming on this album, Just What Nobody Wanted, Art-Nazi, Another Fine Mess, Halo Of Flies, all excellent tracks. The lyrics of Walkyier are again top of the bill, sometimes sarcastic (Just What Nobody Wanted) and sometimes bittersweet, like in Another Fine Mess. No fillers on this album and my personal favourite is still Halo Of Flies and that is not an Alice Cooper cover. This fifth Skyclad album is again a must for lovers of true folk metal; people who like In Extremo or Finntroll should definitely check Skyclad out!!

Skyclad: "Prince Of The Poverty Line"

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

Prince of The Poverty Line is Skyclad's fourth studio album and it is a concept album about urban decay in post Thatcherite Britain. This album is a benchmark album in folk metal, the magnum opus of Skyclad and it elevated the band to the status of the ultimate pagan/folk metal band ever!

Prince of The Poverty Line is the perfect mix of the catchy rhythms of folk music and the aggression and heaviness of metal music. A Dog In The Manger (featuring a great guitar solo) is THE highlight of this courageous album and maybe that one might even be called the ultimate Skyclad track! Other songs which belong to the best of Skyclad ever are: Cardboard City (great lyrics), Sins Of Emission (catchy) and A Bellyful Of Emptiness, a heavy song which almost takes you back to their debut album.

This re-release also offers three bonus tracks, being: Brothers Beneath The Skin, Widdershins Jig (live version) and Cradle Will Fall (live). Especially the two live songs are excellently played, power driven folk metal  at its best; play it loud. Thirteen years later Prince Of The Poverty Line is still an awesome album, a must have album for every rock/metal fan!!

Skyclad: "Jonah's Ark"

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

The third album of Skyclad is really the first one where the band clearly reduced the trash elements and it may also be their first true folk metal album. Maybe that came as a shock for the fans who really liked the trashy musical elements in the music of Skyclad, but it also gave the band new fans.

Jonah's Ark is a rather diverse album as songs like A Near Life Experience (percussion all over) , The Wickedest Man In The World (guitar driven) or Earth Mother, The Sun And The Furious Host (with a nice fiddle-backed melody) are almost completely different. Highlight for me on this album is the longest track called A Word To The Wise, folk metal at its best! This new released edition contains 6 bonus tracks of which Emerald and live versions of Spinning Jenny and Skyclad are worth mentioning.

Skyclad: "Burnt Offering For The Bone"

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

The second album of the folk metal band Skyclad saw the band pushing their boundaries and they actually started experimenting a lot with blending the metal and folk musical styles. A Burnt Offering is therefore more melodic and definitely less trashy than their debut album which was released only six months earlier. New member Fritha Jenkins plays the fiddle and keyboards but the guitars still dominate their sophomore album. The song Spinning Jenny is a Skyclad classic mixing the metal and folk almost perfectly, while The Declaration Of Indifference is also a great song to listen to. But the absolute highlight of this album is without any doubt the last song Alone In Death's Shadow. Walkyier's vocals are almost brilliant here and the melodies are awesome; still A Burnt Offering For The Bone is definitely not their best album, but again a must for the fans of the band.

Skyclad: "The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth"

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

The first five abums of the British heavy metal folk band Skyclad are now re-released and all the albums are 2 panel digipacks with informative booklets. The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth is the debut album of Skyclad, who are the pioneers of folk metal. The band was founded in 1990 by singer Martin Walkyier (ex-Sabbat) and Steve Ramsey and it was their goal to create the first ultimate pagan metal band.

This debut contains 10 songs which are very close to the trash roots of Walkyier's former band Sabbat. The best songs on this dazzling debut are: Terminus and the stand out song The Widdershins Jig filled with violins and keyboards creating something unique in metal music. Moongleam And Meadowsweet (great title by the way) is an outstanding ballad with beautiful vocals and an excellent guitar solo by Ramsey. Still highly recommended even if this album is already 26 years old.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

BRUCE FOXTON/RUSSELL HASTINGS - "FROM THE JAM LIVE"


RATING: N/A

LABEL: BASSTONE

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

So when is a tribute band not a tribute band? It's a tricky question sometimes, as the longer life goes on the more members of a band will leave, rejoin, split up, reform and go off to form rival iterations of the same band. I mean, we all know that John Coglan's Quo isn't Status Quo because there's no Rossi or Ross, similarly Oliver/Dawson Saxon.  There would be no Iron Maiden without Steve Harris, so I guess it really boils down to key personnel, and in the case of The Jam that's Paul Weller.

From The Jam have been delighting peiople on the live circuit for some years now, and although they have 'From The' tacked on to the band name they at least feature original Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, which for me lends them plenty of legitimacy. Having seen them myself, it also helps that they are a bloody good live band.

'From The Jam Live' doesn't throw any surprises at the listener, comprising of a robust 12 tracks, most of which will be familiar to even casual Jam fans. For newcomers to the band the most pleasant surprise will be Russell hastings, who may well be the perfect fit for the music in lieu of Weller himself. He's got the attitude, the accent, the intonation.... everything you want, really, To hear him belt out 'Down In A Tube Station At Midnight' with Foxton twiddling away on the bass behind is a real joy. the sound quality is beautifully clear, and whilst the songs sound very like they did in the studio, there's still a live rawness that retains a nice edge, emphasized on a six and a half minute version of 'The Eton Rifles' that closes the gig.

From well known classics like 'Going Underground' and 'A Town Called Malice' through to lesser know but still classics like 'The Butterfly Collector' and 'Smithers Jones' this is a fine collection of Jam songs perfromed by guys with talent and passion. I thouroughly reccommend that if you liek The Jam you pick this up and then go and see them on tour.

Official Website

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Spock-s Beard: "Snow Live"

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Metal Blade Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Spockís Beard fifth studio album Snow, released in 2002, was one of their best albums so far; unfortunately it was also the last Beard album featuring Neal Morse, as he left the band to become a musical "preacher".. Now, 15 years later you can enjoy a unique, once in a lifetime live version of the fabulous concept album Snow, featuring Neal Morse and all the past and present Beard members, being: Alan Morse (guitar), Ted Leonard (vocals, guitars), Jimmy Keegan (drums), Nick D'Virgilio (drums), Ryo Okumoto (keyboards) and Dave Meros (bass guitar).

This album was recorded at Morsefest 2016 and it really sounds great from the first track Made Alive/Overture till the final track Made Alive Again/Wind At My Back. In fact the album is over before you know it as the band really plays awesome and very tight indeed. Highlights are: Devil's Got My Throat, Open Wide The Flood Gates, Solitary Soul and I Will Go. The band also plays two encores, being: June, the utterly boring acoustic track from the album The Kindness Of Strangers (1998) and a astonishing 27 minutes version of the epic Falling For Forever, which can be found on the compilation album:  Spock's Beard, the first twenty years.

Snow Live will be released on 2 DVD/2CD digi-pack, 3 LP vinyl (available in 4 different colours), 2 disc Blu-ray and as a 2DVD/2CD/2Blu-ray pack complete with a 48-page artbook. The first 200 artbooks will be signed by Neal Morse.

Snow Live is a must for Beard fans!!

Friday, November 3, 2017

THE DARK ELEMENT: "s/t"

RATING - RRRRr

LABEL: FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


The Dark Element sees the return to rocking of former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon, now teamed with Sonata Artica/Stratovarius songwriter/guitarist Jani Liimatainen. If that sounds like a mouthwatering proposal to you then you're going to freak out at the album, which successfully combines symphonic and power styles to great efect.

Personally, I loved it when Anette joined Nightwish, preferring her melodic style to the operatic overtures of her predecessor. In fairness her own replacement has proved to be a perfect fit for the band, but I still hold a torch for her as the person who got me into the band and helped produce some memorable songs. One of those songs was 'Amoranth', and if you're fan of that bouncy style then you should get a real kick out of 'The Dark Element'. Whilst there's no orchestras present, they use keyboards to great effect and bombast, whilct Olzon provides beautiful melodic vocals with the hint of an edge to them.

Liimatainen has brought to the table a fantastic ear for what works with Olzon's vocals, providing songs that are powerful, emotional and melodic, each one as catchy as the last. A good example of the use of keyboards is 'Halo', a bloody catchy tune that blends melody and power as well as brooding drama, featuring superb vocals from Olzon. If you search the web you can listen to the opening two killer tracks 'The Dark Element' and 'My Sweet Mystery', and these give a perfecr introduction to what is a killer album.

For those who miss Olzon's Nightwish days, 'The Dark Element' is a perfect reminder of what she brought to that band. The only problem is that it's so close to Nightwish's bouncier tracks in style that you wish the budget had stretched to some proper orchestration which surely would have made it an album deserving of that rare as hen's teeth 'RRRRR' rating. For now, I've taken half a mark off, but don't let that stop you checking out this excellent, upbeat and engergising album.





ROBIN BECK :"Love Is Coming"

RATING - RRRR

LABEL - FRONTIERS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

There's plenty of fond memories of Robin Beck out there amongst Rock United readers, I'm sure.  Whilst it's been a while since I've been that interested in her myself, the new she was partnering with Cliff Magness, who writes for Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson among others, made he hope for a rocking album that would roll back the years as well as keeping in tune with current tastes. You know what? That's exactly what I got.

'Love Is Coming is a bit of a powerhouse of a pop rock album, if truth be told. The songs are bold and catchy, and Beck's vocals are strong and clear. Even when the tracks slow down a little there's still plenty of balls on show, and there's no 'First Time' on here, as it just wouldn't fit. Melodic power is the name of the game, as evidenced by the exciting one two of openers 'Island' and 'The Bright Side', whilst 'Me Just Being Me' is a blusey blast that brings to mind Sass Jordan or Melissa Etheridge. Alternately, if there's anyone out there with happy memories of Chrissy Steele, you'll adore late album stomper 'Girl Like Me', a rollicking rocket of a rocker that's probably my favourite track. Beck shows throughout that she can easily handle all the rock you can throw at her as well as sensetive ballads like album closer 'Warrior', which finishes off the listening experience nicely.

I have to say that taken as a whole 'Love Is Coming' hits all the right spots. Robin Beck has made a good move by teaming up with Cliff Magness, and the partnershipo has produced one of the better albums of the year. There's no new ground broken, and not really any 'wow' moments as such, but there's such a constant stream of quality tracks that it's almost impossible not to have a good time with this.

Official Website

STYX: "The Mission"

RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: UNIVERSAL: MUSIC

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Well this could have gone so, so wrong. Styx decide to do their first studio album for a dozen years or so, and not only that it's a concept album that makes zero attempt to modernise the band's sound. I have to say I was a little appprehensive when I first played it, as I'm not the greatest fan of the band and also not the greatest fan of meandering prog. So what went right?

The simple answer is 'everything', because 'The Mission' does everything it set out to do and more. It's an unapologetic concept album, concerning a manned mission to Mars, and no one could deny that it sounds like classic Styx. the thing is that at the same time it's a catchy, modern record with great songs that would still be great even without the theme running through them. The band have very wisely resisted the urge (and you can bet it was there) to intersperse the record with spoken word drama, sound effects and short mood pieces everywhere. Whilst there are a few short pieces within the 14 tracks here, they don't feel forced, don't get in the way and don't make your hand dart for the skip button. For example, short opener 'Overture' segues nicely into 'Gone Gone Gone' whiuch itself is a fantastic way to kick off the enjoyment as it gallops about with lively harmonies, a great refrain and a cool guitar solo, all in just over two minutes. Serously, between them it's one of the sweetest three and a half minutes to open any album.

Styles are mixed up throughout the album, and naturally with such things comes some foot tapping as you wait for a track you like more, but in truth there isn't  a bad song on the album, even if some shine more than others. listening to it you get a the strong feeling that this is a piece that was crafted rather than merely written. It's unmistakably 100% Styx, yet accessable to a pretty wide audience. There's a beautiful mix, bringing all instruments and vocals equally to the fore, and everyone gets their chance to shine, notably the great Larry Gowan on keyboards/vocals and there's plenty of first class guitar from Tommy Shaw throughout.

As I said, I've never been a massive Styx fan but have always appreciated what I've heard. Heck, I like to do 'Come Sail Away' on karaoke at times, so make of that what you will. My appetite for prog tends to go towards prog with a bit of life and bounce in it, and 'The Mission' satisfies that taste perfectly, both complicated in structure, mixed in styles yet catchy and full of life at the same time. Certainly a contender for album of the year, 'The Mission' is also one of the best albums Styx have ever produced.

Styx facebook


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Moonkings: "MK2"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Three years ago Moonkings, aka Vandenberg's Moonkings released their debut album filled with bluesy hard rock tracks in the veins of Whitesnake, Vandenberg en Manic Eden. Now, Ad Vandenberg (guitars), Sem Christoffel (bass guitar), Mart Nijen Es (drums) and vocalist Jan Hoving bring out their follow up album simply called MK2. And guess what, it is another great hard rock album filled with 12 songs, featuring gripping melodies, no nonsense lyrics, excellent hooks and riffs, amazing vocals and lots of very addictive singalong choruses.

New Day and Hard Way have very "familiar" riffs and they even sound like the notorious well-known riffs from a certain hard rock band from down underÖ..Musically speaking the most interesting (best) songs are The Fire, featuring a ballad-like intro followed by a heavy, groovy Led Zeppelin-like melody and If You Can't Handle The Heat, a mid tempo rather heavy rocker. Both songs have great endings as The Fire ends with a spectacular "jam" between bass player Sem and drummer Mart, while the "master" himself ends the last song of the album with an astonishing guitar solo. Lyric wise most of the tracks are genuine rock and roll, no bullshit lyrics with the exception of the song What Doesn't Kill You, which deals with the contemporary madness that surrounds us  nowadays.

There are really no fillers on this album, although Ready For The Taking reminds me perhaps too much of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Walk Away is maybe a bit too "poppy", but there is always something that you can nag about, right? No, I can truly say that Ad Vandenberg did it again; MK2 is a great hyper melodic hard rock album that will certainly end up in my top 10 list of 2017. Play it extremely loud, please!!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

HEAVEN & EARTH: "Hard To Kill"

RATING: RRRRr

LABEL: QUARTO VALLEY RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY


I can't believe it's been four long years since I was rocking out to Heaven & Earth's 'Dig' album, where they basically delivered the sort of music we all wish Ritchie Blackmore could still churn out. Head honcho Stuart Smith has once again put together a roster of musicians who just kick ass in all the right ways, and thankfully he's also realized that as nothing is broke musically there's no need for any fixing.

Opening track 'Hard To Kill' certainly sets the scene well, with blistering keyboards from Ty Baillie bringing to mind the great John Lord in his heyday, and vocalist Joe Retta managing to channel both Ian Gillan and Joe Lyn Turner at the same time. Seriously, this is one of the best single tracks of the year as it just blows your balls off. Smith himself continues to provide some excellent guitar without trying to overshadow the rest of the band, and his riffs seriously echo classic Purple and Rainbow in the best possible way, whilst the keyboards add Uriah Heep into the mix as well. Behind the kit at the back is the ever reliable Kenny Arnoff, a master of rhythm without unecessary flair, and it's obvious from the off that this is a band that play well together.

The tracks here range from fluid to stompy, from melody to blues, from paced to ballad, with the main common denominator being they all rock like crazy. Catchy refrains, foot tapping choruses and above all great playing, all held together by Retta's powerful vocals which perfectly compliment the band's style. Foot stompers like 'Anthem' and 'Monster' are designed to get fists pumping in the air, whilst 'L.A Blues' does what it says on the tin, followed by the awesome 'Hellfire', which belts along and throws harmonica into the mix for good measure. Elevn tracks simply fly by, and the temptation to listen to them is so great it puts the snake in Eden to shame.

'Hard To Kill' is definitely one of the most impressive releases this year, and Stuart Smith and co should be justifiably proud. It's definitely retro in sound and feel, but it's the sort of retro that never, ever feels old, just classic. If you like the more heavy, fun aspects of Deep Purple or Uriah Heep mixed with Rainbow's class and melody then this is must buy. Seriously - move heaven and earth if you have to, just get it.

OFFICAL SITE




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

INNUENDO: "The Road Not Taken"



RATING: RRR

LABEL: XLR8 RECORDS

REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY

Innuendo have been around since 1994, and although this is their seventh album it's the first since 'Half Empty' in 2004. Comprising of multi instrumentalist Brett Richey and Vocalist Pat Laferty, Innuendo have received plenty of admiration for their laid back melodic rock efforts, and it's nice to see then again after a long period of rest and relaxation.

To be fair 'Rest & Relaxation' wouldn't have been a bad title for this album, as Innuendo rarely put their collective foot down, content to cruise along the old West Coast enjoying the scenery rather than trying to break the speed limit. Opener 'the Other Side Of Town (Jeusu)' is a very nice mid paced track, catchy and endowed with a sweet chorus that immediately gets in your head. It's followed by the keyboard led, very meandering ballad 'The Road Not Taken', which despite a nice guitar solo is rather a drag. 'Waiting For You' rescues the pace a bit, but again suffer s from not really going anywhere, ending up as a pleasant but unremarkable song. The pattern of these three songs is constant throughout, with some nice, upbeat songs mixing with the average and the rather dull. 'Digital Ocean (1974)' is a lovely, funky track, whilst 'Playing My Guitar' flirts with psychedelia quite nicely. Pat Laferty provides decent if unspectacular vocals throughout, with Richey coming in with plenty of cool guitar when the songs allow for it. The production could be better although it's certainly not a deal breaker.

'The Road Not Taken' is definitely an album of many parts. There's a nailed on West Coast vibe, with AOR and Prog both rearing their heads in certain songs. Personally, I found too many of the songs to be average and not creative or catchy enough to warrant going back to after this write up. Then again, the songs I did like I liked a lot. Innuendo may be for you if you want something that's not too exciting but is well made nonetheless, but if hard hitting AOR is your bag you may not find enough here to keep you amused.

Official Site





Thursday, October 5, 2017

Myke GRAY: “Shades Of Gray”

Rating RRRR
Label  www.mykegray.rocks
Reviewed by the Bailey Brothers

Myke Gray finally sheds his skin and unleashes a brand new solo album titled “Shades Of Gray”!

Always liked Myke Gray from his days in Jagged Edge and Skin but this is an instrumental album so there’s nowhere to hide - it’s walking a high wire with no safety net. This album is a drive through guitar city with the windows open, all Gray’s favourite guitar heroes hanging on every corner. The influences are clearly evident but the common thread throughout this release is melody, layered guitars, a varied array of guitar techniques and clever use of temp change.

The album’s opening song “Infinite Power” is so in your face it could shave your beard, it’s got more energy than the national grid.  “Maverick” is a really catchy tune I like, there’s also a darker side such as “Diablo” a killer opening riff that is right up Ozzy Osbourne’s street but before his wife Sharon sets the dogs on us there’s still time to drive down Nuno Boulevard and “Grab Life By The Balls” .This is something we were not expecting it seems very Nuno Bettencourt inspired and just shows how cool a guitar player and writer Gray is. The album finishes with a vocal track “Take Me Home” featuring Lorraine Crosby.  I don’t think it belongs on here but the Jules Holland show definitely.

There’s not one Malmsteen rip off song in sight, what a refreshing change for an instrumental disc. Gray has always been a true Brit, he’s done himself proud on this self financed and produced released. Love the album design, Myke Gray’s image and the whole concept. He’s approached this album with the same intensity and enthusiasm has one of his flying Vegan nutritional home cooked meals he serves up on social media and has served up a very tasty album indeed.

Look, don’t mess around just crank this sucker up and enjoy, Myke Gray said “I wanna leave a legacy”. He’s well on his way, excellent release and like the man said “I Love Guitars”!

"Shades Of Gray" available from www.mykegray.com

STUD: "Circle of Lies"

Rating: RRr
Label: Cranksonic
Review by Satu Reunanen
 
Finnish hard rock group Stud released their third album Circle of Lies this September. The band is still relatively unknown in Finland and elsewhere, although their history goes way back to the eighties when they toured a lot and even appeared on TV, back then performing in Finnish language. The band had a break and came back to the scene in 2011, now singing in English and released all of their albums after that. The line-up today is Ari Toivanen (vocals), Mika Kansikas (guitar, keyboards), Jyrki Partanen (bass) and Stenda Kukkonen (drums).
 
The third album offers similar songs and feelings as before to those familiar with Studs music. The album kicks off in a mighty way with Hey You, the guitar opening the song and a high scream to follow. It's one of the heaviest songs on the album with a mix to match. No fear though, the band still plays hard rock in a traditional fashion. The title track takes a faster turn with stylish guitar parts, which are present throughout the album. The band stays in 
their comfort zone through the album though, they play it all safe which is fine, they get their point across. Toivanen has a recognizable, echoing vocal sound, which he can also use in a powerful manner and is backed up with other vocals.
 
The traditional eighties feel is very deep with Stud. With keyboards playing in the background quite unnoticed, Stud could as well be a part of the Peer Günt camp, another eighties Finnish band which plays with a garage sound and a more straightforward approach. A certain Günt style occasionally haunts the Stud album, especially the guitar beginning at Real Man, and makes it a somewhat raw listen. The style might be a calculated one and even if it's not, it will surely wake the interest of fans of this style. But with the unsufficient amount of keyboards the album can't offer much diversity and layers. Some of their songs would've worked better with/more keyboards in them. The album needs a few spins before the songs and the atmosphere sink in. Circle of Lies is for fans of traditional, simple hard rock, with roots heavily in the eighties and music played with a garage feel.

www.stud.fi/
https://fi-fi.facebook.com/STUDofficial/