Unlike so many of his contemporaries who've held on to their glory days like they’re the very lifelines keeping them alive, ROBERT PLANT has managed to stay relevant after Led Zeppelin.
Now the legendary vocalist is releasing his new solo album on September 8th, "Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar", the first with his new backing band The Sensational Space Shifters, although the name of the band is not mentioned in the front cover.
By shedding his Golden God image, and Led Zeppelin‘s mythical standing in the process, Plant has remade himself as a genuine anomaly: an authentic Americana roots artist born and bred in England.
While his old cohort Jimmy Page breathes new digital life into Zeppelin’s old catalog, Plant is half a world away, figuratively at least, exploring African beats, pan-global rhythms and the many intricacies buried deep in music that has little to do with American blues.
Not too much interested in Robert Plant's recent efforts (his collaboration with Alison Krauss was pretty boring to me), I was worried when I read 'African beats, pan-global rhythms' for "Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar".
Well, after first listen I must admit the fear is gone, the talented Robert has produced a superb record.
"Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar" expands the territorial boundaries of music while working flexibly within their confines. This is a worldwide music album, but in a sense that has influences from many cultures.
This is NOT a 'world music genre' garbage, Plant has enough good taste (and a rocking heart) to do that.
Not that those who've written off Plant as a stuffy, stodgy old man who gave up his rock ‘n’ roll past for deadly serious grownup music will be swayed to come back around. But now that he’s let the dust settle on his Americana recordings, he’s globetrotting with a musical thirst of someone a third his age.
From the stripped-down and acoustic sway of opener "Little Maggie" - the only song here not written by Plant and members of his band the Sensational Space Shifters, though they did arrange the traditional number - to "Rainbow" mix of moody atmosphere and stabbing guitars to the rolling, skittering beats that guide "Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby)", the CD finds its inspiration in places as far reaching as the Sahara desert and in the modern scene of ’90s Bristol.
Filled with the sounds of non common string instruments, clever electronic loops and various West African percussions, but of course traditional rock electric guitar, bass & keys, the 11 songs skim and drift over a landscape of rattling drums, genre - and culture -jumping melodies and an abundance of gray noise.
Plant, who produced, gives "Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar" a relentless sense of adventure; while renowned mixer Tchad Blake piles on extra layers of ambiance.
I think that is the exact word to describe this record; 'Adventurous'. And always captivating.
All of which, again, won’t convince fans expecting Plant to belt out ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for the billionth time that the singer is actually now in the most exciting period of his solo career.
"Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar" reveals more and more the more and more you listen to it. Has he ever sounded more mature vocally than he does on the spare ballad "Stolen Kiss"? By the way, it's my favorite cut on the album.
This is a deep, rewarding album, paying back the time and patience you invest. Is it better than any of Led Zeppelin’s classic albums? Of course not. But it’s probably better than the album they’d make if they were still around.
01 - Little Maggie
02 - Rainbow
03 - Pocketful Of Golden
04 - Embrace Another Fall
05 - Turn It Up
06 - A Stolen Kiss
07 - Somebody There
08 - Poor Howard
09 - House Of Love
10 - Up On The Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur)
11 - Arbaden (Maggie's Babby)
Robert Plant – vocals, production
The Sensational Space Shifters (as backing band):
Justin Adams – guitars, tehardant, bendirs, djembe, background vocals
Liam "Skin" Tyson – guitar, background vocals
John Baggott – keyboards, loops, moog bass, piano, background vocals
Juldeh Camara – kologo, ritti, Fulani vocals
Billy Fuller – bass, drum programming, omnichord, upright bass
Dave Smith – drum, percussion
Monday, September 1, 2014
Arguably one of most original efforts ever by Canadians RUSH, "Presto", originally appeared in 1989, has received a treatment from Audio Fidelity specialists and released on a sonically excellent SACD.
Rush were never a band known to play the same sort of thing for any extended period, they often pushed the boundaries of rock and their formidable list of albums helped to bring prog to a wider audience. By 1989 a change was inevitable.
"Presto" was the culmination of everything Rush did in the '80s; synthesizers, incredible basslines, acoustic/chorusy guitars, complex acoustic/electronic drums and mind-blowing lyrics, starting the beginning of a transition period toward more traditional 'wood' instrumentation.
The synths were toned back while the guitars were brought up to a reasonable level allowing the emphasis to return to the rhythm instruments, resurrecting the groove that Rush maintains so very well.
Alex Lifeson is upfront here, he can be heard in grand force and even pulls out the acoustic guitar. Lifeson’s leads in "Superconductor" are brilliant, Geddy Lee does great bass solo work on "Show Don’t Tell" and Peart’s percussion on "Scars" features a complex tribal rhythm drum pattern in which both acoustic and electronic drums are utilized - a synthesis of the two that's accessible without compromising.
Each of these tracks, along with "The Pass," reached the top of the Album Rock Tracks charts with "Show Don't Tell" hitting #1. The CD itself climbed to #16 on the Billboard Top album chart.
Rush made a stab at greatness with "Presto" and Rupert Hine's deft production had much to do with its success, also performing keyboards and contributing with the arrangements.
The main departure of this album is the reduction of the synths. Alex and Neil 'kidnapped' Geddy's bass and ransomed it for dropping the synths (and it is a very nice bass...), with the net result that the album becomes more guitar / bass-oriented. Ironically, by cutting back on the synths, Geddy's still playing leads, but on bass instead.
Neil's drums are about the one constant - they're pronounced, clear and driving, like always. Vocals are also very clear and easily audible.
In terms of style, I guess "Presto" it's still prog-rock, but quite commercial and easy listening. It's also easy to rock out to specific tracks.
The mastering for this SACD done by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio is top notch, a great opportunity to re-discover this very good record now wealthy in harmonics and expanded frequencies.
01 - Show Don't Tell
02 - Chain Lightning
03 - The Pass
04 - War Paint
05 - Scars
06 - Presto
07 - Superconductor
08 - Anagram (For Mongo)
09 - Red Tide
10 - Hand Over Fist
11 - Available Light
Geddy Lee: Bass, Synthesizer, Vocals
Alex Lifeson: Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Neil Peart: Drums, Electronic Percussion
Jason Sniderman: Keyboards
Rupert Hine: Producer, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Arranger
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AC/DC drummer PHIL RUDD is releasing his first ever solo album, entitled "Head Job". Though still active with AC/DC (who are soldiering on despite the ill health of guitarist Malcolm Young) Rudd has harnessed his talents as a songwriter for this first solo effort.
Phil Rudd is one of rock’s most seasoned musicians, drumming for AC/DC from 1975-1983 and again from 1994-present. When you're the drummer in AC/DC's engine room you don't hook up and play with anyone in your down time.
As such, Phil Rudd's first solo album has been two decades in the making; a labour of love he's crafted in between tours in his adopted home of New Zealand.
Long-time friends Allan Badger and Geoffrey Martin chipped in lyrically and provide the strings, while Badger and Rudd's throaty vocals come with honesty, guts, a wink and a nod.
"There are no tricks or sequencing or samples ... it's all real," Rudd said about the recording.
AC/DC-like chords? There aren't a lot of them, but you can’t deny the swagger and groove of the bluesy classic rock contained in the album's ten tracks.
While the more high profile numbers including the rocking lead single "Repo Man" and the title track are related to his main band, it’s the album’s deeper cuts like the slightly funky "No Right" and the infectiously catchy "The Other Side" that really define this record.
Rudd’s drumming is of course rock solid, and the man also does a fine job behind the boards giving "Head Job" a sound that is sleek (really clean) but doesn’t remove the raw passion of the band.
The title for Phil Rudd’s first ever solo album has nothing to do with an act of intimacy, but instead relates to a state of mind. And this isn’t meant in a pejorative way.
Just as people don’t expect extended guitar jams or prog rock epics from Rudd’s day band, the solo release from AC/DC’s drummer sounds exactly how you’d expect it to sound; "Head Job" is an exercise in straightforward classic rock played from the heart.
As said, production is pristine and wide open, to enjoy these solid ten tracks at considerable volume.
01. Head Job
02. Sun Goes Down
03. Lonely Child
04. Lost In America
06. Bad Move
07. No Right
08. The Other Side
09. 40 Days
10. Repo Man
11. When I Get My Hands On You
Allan Badger - vocals, guitar
Jeffrey Martin - guitar, bass
Phil Rudd - drums, percussion
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Saturday, August 30, 2014
A couple years ago we presented here the debut album from SKAM, the Leicester, UK, young 3-piece classic hard rock combo as one of the most promising British emerging bands. Since their formation, Skam have played a wild ride of over 250 gigs, and supported some well renowned artists.
The time for the second album arrived in the form of "Peacemaker" – a 12 track storm of a record that can only be heralded as one of the finest albums to come from an underground UK based artist in the past 10 years. This is a record you need in your collection, and if you like classic hard rock, Skam are most definitely a band you need in your life.
The first thing that stands out about "Peacemaker" is how clean cut the production is on this record. For a band this size it is a real treat to hear such a crisp, no nonsense, professional sound; and this can be put down to the bands choice of producer on this album.
Working with the legendary Matt Elliss was a massive pay off; resulting in tracks such as lead single "Holy City", the bouncy "Fortune Favours the Brave" and the emotional "Precious Stone" sounding like they had been released by a band of arena level stature.
When a band not only puts time and effort into writing songs, but also into the production of said songs, you know they are serious – showing that with this record Skam are making a statement, and this statement is: “This is who we are, this is how we sound, and by God do we sound good”.
There may be a couple of slower tracks on here such as "The Wire" and the aforementioned "Precious Stone" but they are not ballads so if you were expecting to hear some sugary look elsewhere as this band are all about Hard Rock.
For a 3 piece band Skam have a hell of a lot of balls and power. Anyone would think when hearing tracks such as "Make You Pay", "Rivers’" and he feel good "Let’s Get Rocked" that there was at least 5 members to this band.
The songs on "Peacekeeper" were written to be played live. They are catchy, captivating, energetic and above all memorable. There isn’t a dull track on this album, and the pure heaviness and force behind each and every one of these tracks is the driving factor behind this album, making it a record that entices you from the very first chord till the final song finishes.
You must listen "Peacemaker". Skam is a band that deserves to be massive. The free flowing sounds in their songs are not forced, nor do they give the impression of trying to imitate, as the trio explore their own avenues of creativity.
There is so much going on in their music that they take bits and pieces from what can be described as the '80s scene and mash it together to form their own unique sound.
It is hard to think of an unsigned, underground rock band out there at the moment who can rival with the calibre of music that Skam have produced on "Peacemaker", and hopefully there will be many more fantastic releases like this to follow very soon.
01 - Langundo (Intro)
02 - Make You Pay
03 - Rivers
04 - Holy City
05 - Peacemaker
06 - The Wire
07 - Fortune Favours The Brave
08 - The Prince
09 - Precious Stone
10 - The Zone
11 - Let’s Get Rocked
12 - More Or Less
Steve Hill - Guitars, Vocals
Matt Gilmore - Bass, Backing Vocals
X-Ray - Drums, Backing Vocals
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Friday, August 29, 2014
For many years, MARTINA EDOFF has been a familiar name in the Swedish music business as coach and backing vocalist for many rock&pop acts.
After more than twenty years, now she had the opportunity to record his own album, and in the musical genre she loves from the heart: melodic rock.
But the road to her self-titled debut album and the music she had closest to her spirit proved longer and more crooked than Martina expected. She’s been singing all her life.
After honing her skills in a few rock bands, she secured a place at Wallman’s in Stockholm, a restaurant concept where the staff was made up of talented singers who performed during the dinner. It was there that disco-pop star Dr Alban saw her singing and immediately asked her to perform harmony vocals on his upcoming world tour.
Martina traveled the world in subsquent years, and while Dr Alban recharged the batteries between tours, she spent a lot of time at the Cheiron studio in Stockholm, where producer and songwriter Denniz Pop was busy building the pop empire that soon would make Sweden famous as a driving creative force.
Ace Of Base and numerous other Cheiron productions soon had Martina’s backing vocals on hit after hit.
In 1999 started to perform backing vocals with Swedish techno star E-Type, which again took her out on major international stages. At around the same time she persuaded her - then boyfriend - to start a cover band specializing in '80s poodle rock. They called themselves The Poodles, which would become the excellent melodic hard rock act.
Martina toured a lot with The Poodles, but as fun it was, it didn’t take her closer to a solo career based on her own music. She participated in the Swedish TV reality/talent show 'Fame Factory' during 2003-2004, but despite offering some interesting insights in how modern TV is produced, it didn’t advance her musical career.
After becoming a mother in 2005, Martina decided to take a break from music. She studied to become a coach, and basically had decided to quit the music business.
But a friend she met during her studies sensed that her real passion still was in singing, and thought it was a shame to throw away such talent.
The executive of MRM Production gave her an offer to record a solo album completely on Martina's own terms, which of course was impossible to resist. So they chose renowned producer, engineer and mixer Robert Wellerfors (The Poodles, Lion's Share) and some of Stockholm’s best musicians, and then recorded this, her self-titled debut album.
"Martina Edoff" can be summarized in one word: heart. Or “Heart” with a capital H, rather - we’re talking about the American group that under creative leadership from sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson were female rock pioneers.
Back in the day, seventeen-year old Martina was totally mesmerized by Heart’s powerful impact – a fascination that continues to this day.
And you can say that listening this impressive collection of classic melodic hard rock songs.
Martina's vocals reminds you Ann Wilson, but also Scandal's Patty Smyth. The songs sound a lot like the '80s productions, but with a modern touch akin Norwegian singer Issa (Isabell Oversveen).
The session musicians are truly professional, including guitarists Martin Hedström, Benny Jansson and virtuoso Johan Randén, drummer Per Lindvall (ABBA), and the very tight, tasteful, great tone and solid groove of bassist Thomas Lindberg.
With songs written by Martina in various songwriting partnerships, the very nice cover of "Just Take My Heart" by Mr. Big is the only non-original track.
There's not much space for true mid-80s female melodic rock these days, and "Martina Edoff" is a really welcomed album for the genre.
It's well produced and arranged, the songs are hooky and authentic, and Martina's pipes trained to obtain colorful expressions and warm harmonies. A genuinely entertaining record.
01 - On The Top
02 - Back Home
03 - Who You Are
04 - Hero
05 - Heartland
06 - Just Take My Heart [Mr. Big cover]
07 - Seeds Of Love (Mother Nature Song)
08 - Seduce Your Mind
09 - My Moment
10 - Before I Die
11 - Tear Apart [hidden track]
Martina Edoff - lead and backing vocals
Martin Hedström, Benny Jansson, Johan Randén - guitars
Per Lindvall - drums, percussion
Thomas Lindberg - bass
Robert Wellerfors - keyboards, backing vocals
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Since he started as a young guitar virtuoso, when RICHIE KOTZEN plays his guitar, you know it’s him. Then he rocked us in Poison, Mr. Big and now The Winery Dogs, but the man build a strong solo career as well.
Accomplished singer and songwriter as well, Kotzen possesses an inimitable style that’s both instantly recognizable and immediately striking. This unique style courses through THE ESSENTIAL RICHIE KOTZEN, a career retrospective collection set for release in Europe on September 2 on earMmusic / Loud & Proud Records.
The album encompasses this iconic talent’s entire career of his most essential work and includes two CDs of classic material, acoustic performances, bootleg material and two brand new songs; “War Paint” and “Walk With Me”.
“War Paint” builds from an opening bluesy riff into a bombastic chorus punctuated by Kotzen’s gravelly delivery and impeccable lead playing. At the same time, “Walk With Me” sees him evolving once more and incorporating a Theremin, an antique electronic instrument, into an emotive and engaging anthem.
Kotzen personally curated THE ESSENTIAL RICHIE KOTZEN from his 18 solo albums in order to give listeners the most comprehensive, cohesive and concise introduction to his extensive body of work.
And there's some interesting previously unreleased stuff.
We have new recorded versions of "High", "What Is", "Change", a really nice acoustic take on his contribution for Poison's Native Tongue "Until You Suffer Some [Fire And Ice]", original demo versions for The Winery Dogs, and more.
The album was released some months ago in Japan, but this time at the other side of the globe we take revenge, this edition includes an additional track.
Very, Very Recommended.
1. War Paint (new song)
2. Walk With Me (new song)
3. Love Is Blind
4. Go Faster
5. Fooled Again
6. OMG (What's Your Name?)
7. Help Me
8. Bad Situation
9. Lie To Me
11. You Can’t Save Me
12. Doing What The Devil Says To Do
13. Remember (Reprise) [re-recorded]
1. What Is (2014 version)
2. High (2014 version)
3. Change (2014 version)
4. Special (2014 version)
5. Paint It On (Acoustic Version)
6. Holding On (Acoustic Version)
7. Until You Suffer Some [Fire And Ice] (Acoustic Version) *
8. The Road (Acoustic Version)
9. Regret (Original Demo Version) +
10. Damaged (Original Demo Version) +
* Original: "Native Tongue" by Poison (1993)
+ Original: "The Winery Dogs" by The Winery Dogs (2013)
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For a band that’s garnered any success at all in the Hard Rock / Heavy Metal genre, the next album is always the most important one. Continuing to grow musically and put out quality material is what separates a band from being classified a 'flash in the pan or becoming one that has a long and storied career, usually resulting in a greatest hits collection somewhere along the way.
Building on a successful career and living up to the expectations of putting out another quality album is the challenge facing any and all headlining bands, and with the release of “Notes From The Shadows”, ASTRAL DOORS have met the challenge head on.
Hailing from Sweden, ASTRAL DOORS are comprised of Patrik Johansson on vocals, Joachim Nordlund on guitar, Ulf Lagerstroem on bass, Johan Lindstedt on drums, and Joakim Roberg on keybords. Anyone who is familiar with this talented Metal outfit, have experienced the pure strength of Johansson’s vocal range and have undoubtedly heard the comparisons to the late, great Ronnie James Dio.
And though the comparisons are justified, this guy is way more than just a Dio sound-alike; he has a style of his own to go along with the prideful similarity to one of the greatest vocalists in heavy metal history. He is well on his way to becoming a legend for the genre, and as great as he is, the band behind him is equally as talented.
Nordlund is an amazing axe wielder that delivers rock 'n' roll wizardry with every lick, and to me, his style is reminiscent of a modern day power-metal version of Jake E. Lee or Randy Rhoads.
Lagerstroem and Lindstedt flex their muscle on the bottom end and bring the heaviness that is sometimes overlooked in a great metal band, and with Roberg putting just the right amount of keys over the top, this band is the real deal.
“Notes From The Shadows”, the phenomenal seventh offering from ASTRAL DOORS, contains some of the best-written songs in their discography. The music is melodically powerful and has no weak moments anywhere on this 11-track release (with this Bonus Track Version including a digital extra), solidifying the fact that bands like Rainbow, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and of course, DIO, have heavily influenced their souls over the years.
All of these influences shine through on “The Last Temptation of Christ”, a really catchy, up-tempo song that will be extremely pleasing to classic Judas Priest fans everywhere and there couldn’t have been a better selection to start this album off on the right foot.
“Shadowchaser” is a blues infused, pure classic melodic metal track that is hauntingly DIO-esqe to the core and may very well be my favorite Astral Doors song of all time. The rest of the tracks are equally as heavy, punchy and haunting and sound better the louder they get.
Playing Metal like it was meant to be played, “Notes From The Shadows” is a collection of songs that will hit the old school Metalhead in the heart and bring back memories of some of the great headliners of the '80s.
With the death of Ronnie James Dio a few years ago, it has become more important than ever for bands like Astral Doors, as well as others like Jorn, to carry on the sound that has become increasingly void with his passing.
01. The Last Temptation of Christ
02. Disciples of the Dragon Lord
03. Wailing Wall
05. Die Alone
06. Hoodoo Ceremony
07. Southern Conjuration
08. Walker the Stalker
09. Desert Nights
10. In The Name of Rock
12. Shadow Prelude in E Minor (Digital Bonus Track)
Nils Patrik Johansson - Vocals
Joachim Nordlund - Guitars
Ulf Lagerström - Bass
Jocke Roberg - Keyboards
Johan Lindstedt - Drums
thanks to Jeff Legg
Thursday, August 28, 2014
"(r)Evolution" is the ninth studio album by Swedish metallers HAMMERFALL due to be released on August 27, 2014 in Sweden, August 29 in mainland Europe and September 2 in North America.
When it comes to power metal, it seems there are three tiers of fans: the haters, the lovers, and the indifferent. When it comes to HammerFall, there are two tiers of fans: the dripping admirers and the loathers. Each side alternates, especially if the band decides to recapture some of its original mojo from their first album.
I always liked HammerFall's early records and their 'polished power metal', but with subsequent releases things turned a bit boring. "(r)Evolution", despite its title, is a returning to the roots, but with the experience and skills of 20 years as a band. And I like what I hear.
Besides, there's the awesome Anders Johansson on drums, and since 2008, HammerFall has another ace under the sleeve: terrific guitarist Pontus Norgren.
So what can you expect? The HammerFall of old – complete with epic vocals, muscular riffs and catchy 'pride of the warrior' choruses.
"(r)Evolution" is an 'easy listening' power metal record, melodic, polished and really well produced. If you never heard them, the band turned more prog metal lately. On this album, the music is less intricate, direct. Think old school European melodic metal.
And it's good.
With "(r)Evolution", HammerFall takes things back to the roots in many ways, as the band once again worked with producer Fredrik Nordström (first album), who played a major part in the development of the band.
Also, HammerFall hired again cover artist Andreas Marschall, the 'father' of the band's mascot Hector to design the cover for the new CD. I think this is the only mistake on this release; this artwork is very poor and outadted.
Anyway, Hector is tributed on the opening track "Hector’s Hymn", which musically brings back the 'old' with a refreshed perspective. Within the first 3 seconds after the short intro, the speed hits you hard and suddenly you 'remember yesterday'.
Next the title track will bring back some of that old charm glory with its building intro that dives into a catchy little riff and big bolstering chorus. Its strength is its simplicity of style.
There's speedier numbers to come, like the epic "We Won’t Back Down" and one of the album’s best track "Origins", but never too much heavy, but as said, Euro melodic metal.
As for the performances and production, it's top notch and extremely polished, and will charm more traditional listeners from the classic hard rock field.
Singer Joacim Cans has thankfully cleared out his sinuses that clogged on recent releases, recapturing some of his older and much cleaner glory days. Norgren spits some fiery solos and 'drumming machine' Anders Johansson rocks.
Yeah, lyrically, a return to kings, glory, metal and warriors it's a bit outdated, but who cares? It fits the traditional metal of the music, and more than a nostalgic trip it's a fun and entertaining listen.
“(r)Evolution” is an uprising of old Euro melodic metal, refreshed and catchy without being overdone and drab. The band’s decision to stick to what it is good at and what made the group famous was a sound decision. At least for this classic melodic metal fan.
01 - Hector’s Hymn
02 - (r)Evolution
03 - Bushido
04 - Live Life Loud
05 - Ex Inferis
06 - We Won’t Back Down
07 - Winter Is Coming
08 - Origins
09 - Tainted Metal
10 - Evil Incarnate
11 - Wildfire
Joacim Cans - lead and backing vocals
Oscar Dronjak - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Pontus Norgren - guitars, backing vocals
Fredrik Larsson - bass, backing vocals
Anders Johansson - drums
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