Swiss metallers KIRK will release their second studio album "Masquerade", produced by Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) on March 7 via Mausoleum Records.
After a successful debut in 2003 and some touring, the band took a hiatus after their original drummer get ill. The other members pursued new projects in the interim, but as of 2010 the band has reformed, began writing, and then recording with uber-producer Ward.
Dubbed as 'melodic metal with progressive influences' Kirk comes at you with a big sweeping sound, wide open melodic vocals, and rhythms that give it that ‘from the heavens’ huge sound.
To my ears, on "Masquerade", Kirk's style is pretty close to Unisonic, the recent project by Ward, with a touch of Dream Theater's prog metal side and Queensryche in a minor degree.
You'll get these influences with the aptly titled "Supersonic Speed", the opening track "Devil’s Claw" with the sonic-space keyboards and the constant timing changes, or title track "Masquerade" driven by an aggressive riff work that builds to a darker crescendo, the excellent vocal work by Thomi Rauch and a deep, full chorus in the background as the song slowly takes back off into that high intensity trip yet again.
On songs like "Time" and "Face in the Crowd", Kirk mix styles even more with some keyboard presence.
Fundamentally, what's rather impressive is the depth of song composition and musicianship. Every song sounds really good and different, with a truckload of catchy melodies and strong vocal harmonies.
Thomi Rauch steals the show on many places, but the rest are no slouches either, pulling together and pulling off some terrific sounds. When all these elements come together the result is rather dramatic and entertaining.
Notable are "The End of the Universe" and "Eternity" where the smooth melody, catchy hook in chorus, soaring vocal arrangement, and crisp guitar leads of each song is quite inspiring, and simply a delight to listen to.
Almost silently, you have here the return of a great, terrific band to discover: Kirk.
"Masquerade" is a fantastic record packed with killer songs, superb playing and top notch production. You can hear Dennis Ward hands moulding their sound, but that's a positive thing, as he extract the best of this excellent combo of musicians. The sound is tight and powerful yet always melodic and polished, sometimes epic.
If you like intense melodic metal combined with progressive roots stylings but all done with style and superior musicianship, don't miss "Masquerade".
It's really, really good.
01 - Devil's Claw
02 - Supersonic Speed
03 - Masquerade
04 - Eternity
05 - Fight or Die Music
06 - Nothing Else but Lies
07 - Time
08 - Tragedy
09 - Face in the Crowd
10 - The End of the Universe
11 - Fallen Angel
Thomi Rauch - Vocals
Sammy Lasagni - Guitars
Daniel Pfister - Bass
Bruno Berger - Keyboards
Philipp Eichenberger - Drums
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Friday, March 7, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Classic Rock icons WISHBONE ASH just released their new album, "Blue Horizon" directly debuting into the German music charts at #74.
If you can set aside the bitter dispute over the trading name among original members, there is no doubt that Andy Powell has worked tirelessly to produce albums that are completely befitting the Wishbone Ash heritage. He's also regularly treading the boards to ensure that legacy is perpetuated.
"Blue Horizon" is more diverse than the last album (presented on this blog) in terms of the songwriting input, with guitarist Muddy Manninen prominent, Andy Powell’s son Aynsley contributing two songs, and there’s also one from former guitarist Roger Filgate, the excellent "Strange (How Things Come Around)".
This new album also sees the return of Pat McManus on two tracks including the co-write "All There Is To Say".
The CD starts in classic Ash fashion, with "Take It Back" setting the tone featuring those trademark attractive vocal harmonies before the inevitable guitar breakdown. The hard, driving rock of follower "Deep Blues" shows how fresh and alive the band sound, with lots of inspiration and offering no hint at all at the length of the band’s career, except, perhaps, in the depth of skill and experience displayed.
"Strange (How Things Come Around)", written by former Wishbone Ash guitarist Roger Filgate, sees the band wander gently up another stylistic avenue with a gently funky bass groove underpinning sweet, smooth guitar work that ensnares the listener in fine threads of liquid silk whilst the vocals drift slowly across the surface. It’s a lovely song and offers a perfect moment of calm before the rumbling, progressive "Being One" with its seventies feel and rich harmonies.
The somewhat soft rocker "Way Down South" is reprieved by the superior guitar coda and the band are not averse to some contemporary critique on "Tally Ho!" which features some of the best guitar interplay on the album.
Aynsley Powell’s "American Century" introduces the band’s prog tendencies that have been present since their early years and is a nice nod in that direction.
The title track, one of four tracks written by Muddy, returns to the strong bluesy feel evident on track two, albeit offset with a richly progressive vein on the beautiful chorus that sends shivers down the spine, while Andy’s warm tones do perfect justice to the elegant lyrics and the stunning harmonies.
The final track, the lengthy "All There Is To Say", has a strong folk feel that dances brightly over the various themes of the album and draws the whole together leaving you bereft that the music has come to an end.
"Blue Horizon" is an album to treasure, not just Classic Rock or Wishbone Ash fans, but for all music fans. Covering a wide variety of styles, the album is a beautifully coherent artistic statement that stands tall both as a musicians’ album, thanks to the devastating prowess of the members, but also as an album that demonstrates the power of the song.
Wishbone Ash conjure up memories of the last 40 years in rock, and you’re left once again stunned that a band that has seen so many years’ service can sound so utterly vital, so brilliantly beautiful and inspired that you’re left with the feeling that "Blue Horizon" should be played as a blueprint to all aspiring bands, as a demonstration of what a deep-seated passion for music can allow you to achieve.
01 - Take It Back
02 - Deep Blues
03 - Strange (How Things Come Around)
04 - Being One
05 - Way down South
06 - Tally Ho!
07 - Mary Jane
08 - American Century
09 - Blue Horizon
10 - All There Is To Say
Andy Powell - guitar, lead vocals
Muddy Manninen - guitar, vocals
Bob Skeat - bass, vocals
Joseph Crabtree - drums & percussion
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014
RATT exploded into the American Hard Rock charts with their triple Platinum debut Out Of The Cellar and later Invasion Of Your Privacy, but my favorite from them is the third, "Dancing Undercover", just 'Remastered & Reloaded by Rock Candy Records.
"Dancing Undercover" is my favorite as contains the typical commercial melodies from the previous records but with the addition of a the straight-ahead, sharp edge from the band's origins.
Robbin Crosby's lead guitar duties were minimized in favor of the awesome Warren DeMartini resulting in a much more updated hard rockin' attack. In an effort to be taken more seriously, Ratt broke from the tradition of featuring a girl on the cover. They instead opted for gritty black-and-white photos of each of the five band members.
Likewise, the album does not contain a single power ballad amongst its ten tracks and even features experimental forays like the song "Body Talk", which was featured on the soundtrack for the 1986 Eddie Murphy film The Golden Child.
Other great tracks generated by the album included "Dance", "Enough Is Enough" and "Slip of the Lip".
"Dancing Undercover" was a testing time for Ratt, relationships were strained and cracks began to show. They had barely taken their foot of the gas pedal since recording their debut album and those close to the situation were concerned that such fast paced activity was having a detrimental effect.
It's a minor miracle then that this album maintained such impressive quality. Produced, to pin point accuracy by long time associate Beau Hill (Winger, Kix, Warrant), the album kept Ratt's string of consecutive Platinum albums alive.
After its release, Ratt embarked on a U.S. tour with newcomers Poison, and played in Europe as a part of the Monsters Of Rock Tour (widely bootlegged). Their tour with Poison was the 6th highest grossing tour of 1987. Ratt also played Madison Square Garden.
"Dancing Undercover" Remastered & Reloaded by Rock Candy Records sounds bright and crisp, with a more prominent bass guitar and tom-toms output not heard in the original CD transfer.
The upgrade is Very Recommended.
01 - Dance
02 - One Good Lover
03 - Drive Me Crazy
04 - Slip of the Lip
05 - Body Talk
06 - Looking for Love
07 - 7th Avenue
08 - It Doesn't Matter
09 - Take a Chance
10 - Enough Is Enough
Stephen Pearcy - lead vocals
Warren DeMartini - lead & rhythm guitars
Robbin Crosby - lead & rhythm guitars
Juan Croucier - bass guitar
Bobby Blotzer - drums, percussion
Beau Hill - producer, engineer
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Thanks to an abundance of requests by their loyal fan-base, Swedes SKINTRADE, fronted by great singer Matti Alfonzetti have regrouped two years ago, and after a compilation (presented here) the band has released yesterday their brand new 2014 CD "Refueled" through AOR Heaven Records.
A busy duration with a debut in 1993 and follow up in 1995 saw these Melodic Hard Rockers tear up their native country and further afield touring all over Europe, until the band split up the following year with the members going their separate ways.
Matti Alfonzetti in particular has been very visible in the intervening years having pursued a career with the likes of Jagged Edge (with Myke Gray), Boxer, Tommy Denander's Impera and reuniting with Myke Gray again for the band Red White And Blues.
Alfonzetti is clearly a hard worker. Juggling his time with so many bands in recent years and as solo artist, you would be right to wonder if he has spread his talent a little too thinly and perhaps the output will suffer.
However, fear not, as opening track "Monster" gets things off to an excellent start. Reminiscent of ‘Trash’ era Alice Cooper, "Monster" has a huge bass driven rhythm section pumping the track whilst Alfonzetti and Co. chant 'I’m a Monster' over the top of it all.
"Liar" with its excellent hook and chorus show Alfonzetti stretching the vocals chords and extend his range proving why so many bands of late want him to front them. Stefan Bergström gets to flex his skills with some intricate solos too making you wonder why the gap between releases given the positive start they had has gone on for so long.
It's refreshing to hear bands that are comfortable with ‘real’ guitar solos again and "Refueled" is plenty of them. Listen to "Hardcore MF Heartattack" and it’s guaranteed to generate a grin as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge as vocals and guitar trade blows.
Even on "Close My Eyes", the first ballad of the album, the style still retains the crunchy rhythm which stops it from being just another ‘lighters in the air’ song.
The groovy "Getting Away With Murder", the really upbeat "Mountain", and the melodic "Worse Than Wasted" all maintain the style of the first half of the album and it's fair to say there is no filler on here at all.
"Been to the Bottom" is a whiskey fueled mid-tempo moment of despair and you can almost picture the video being set in a darkly lit dive with Alfonzetti sat at the bar looking back on life…
The 12 track album bows out with more rockers in "Dying in Your Arms", "Wild One’" and the razor riffage of "Look Me in The Eye".
"Wild One" is the natural follow up to ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and one Jon Bon Jovi would have loved to have written himself. "Look Me in The Eye’ would be the perfect show closer and it's easy to imagine the audience bouncing to the crunchy riff.
Matti Alfonzetti has returned with his Skintrade bandmates delivering a real corker in "Refueled". The sound of the band has matured, still fierce and intense but much more dynamic and enhanced by the acquired experience of those talented veterans.
The songs flow neatly and given the lengthy break the band have had, they've done a very, very good job of making the album sound relevant to the modern music scene. It's a very crunchy production from Swedish co-Producer / Engineer Oscar Ammer and should see the CD being picked up by a wide audience.
For lovers of sharp, riff-driven Swedish hard rock, strong top vocals, hooks that you can hang a shark off, and choruses that stick in your head for days to come, you need look no further, "Refueled" is that album.
01 - Monster
02 - Liar
03 - Pay In Blood
04 - Hardcore MF Heartattack
05 - Close My Eyes
06 - Getting Away With Murder
07 - Mountain
08 - Been To The Bottom
09 - Worse Than Wasted
10 - Dying In Your Arms
11 - Wild One
12 - Look Me In The Eye
Matti Alfonzetti – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Stefan Bergström – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Hakan Masen Persson – Drums, Vocals
Håkan Calmroth – Bass
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"Tattooed Woman" is the debut album from MIRACLE MASTER, the new hard rock outfit formed out of the ashes of the great and underrated Danish band Pump. Marcel Bernhardt & Axel 'Aki' Reissmann (guitars), Michael Vetter (bass) and Andreas Minich (drums) were the core force in Pump, while the vocal duties are in charge of German Oliver Weers, who started his solo career in Denmark as well several years ago.
So, basically this is Pump with a new shouter in Oliver Weers. It appears founding member of Pump and lead singer Marcus Jürgens left the band and, wanting a fresh start, the rest of the guys changed their name to Miracle Master.
"Tattooed Woman" blends the melodic, clean classic hard rock of Pump updated with a modern production and a blazing touch of melodic metal. This new edge was brought in grand part by Weers via his strong, sometimes, raspy, but always melodic style, good for both styles.
Simply put, this CD Rocks. And Rocks bigtime.
Tracks like "Come Alive", "Forgive Yourself", "Why Religion" or "Will To Survive" just make you want to crank up the volume of your stereo and party on. Thick and chunky riffs, on fire and urgent drums patterns and killer vocals are the motto on these energetic rockers played with passion.
"We All Touch Evil" is groovier, while "Highway To Heaven" adds a twist of melodic metal, offering a clear blues angle at the start.
Things turning more towards the harder side of melodic hard rock on "Forgive Yourself" and title track "Tattooed Woman", yet they more likely blur the line once more. What you don't have here is a single ballad which, I gather, is by choice, the band wanting stick to kick you in the ass with no breath.
"Tattooed Woman" rocks in great style with a powerful bunch of catchy rockers inspired by the classic hard rock mould. Nothing ground-breaking in style, but this is not just another ordinary 'hard rock / metal record'.
There's something special in these guys delivery, vital, sharp and truly honest. Besides, despite the really heavy approach at times, everything sounds polished and crystal clear, benefited by the crisp, shiny production.
Oliver Weers was a great find for the ex-Pump lot: this is the singer's best recording in his career with a varied register going from Coverdale, Jorn or Russell Allen stylings with ease and precision. Such passion and depth can be argued as rare in the music industry, yet the only thing that I can think of when heeding Weers' voice is truthfulness, an artist in action, holding up this band's music like the talented veteran that he is.
Name change or not, Pump or Miracle Master, this band has not skipped a beat in this transition. "Tattooed Woman" is truly awesome.
01. Come Alive
02. Fly Away
03. Stay With Me
04. Forgive Yourself
05. Miracle Master
06. Will To Survive
07. Why Religion
08. Tattooed Woman
09. Highway To Heaven
10. Tear Down The Walls
11. We All Touch Evil
Oliver Weers – Vocals
Marcel 'Selly' Bernhardt – Guitars
Michael Vetter – Bass
Axel 'Aki' Reissmann – Guitars
Andreas Minich – Drums
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Monday, March 3, 2014
Finally one of the most engaging bands from the UK Melodic Hard Rock scene, NIGHT BY NIGHT, has the opportunity to release their full length debut album, entitled "NxN".
It had to be Swedish label, Sun Hill Productions, who picked up this talented lot, and the physical CD will be available soon.
Night By Night already released two EP (presented here on this blog), indeed, all the tracks included on "NxN" were recorded between 2011-12. It feels like ages ago, but it's never too late to see the whole thing released at last. It worth the wait, believe me.
Production by Roman Dodangoda (Funeral For My Friend, Bullet For My Valentine) is crisp, carefully elaborated enhancing Night By Night's sharpness and melody. The weight is where it is needed and the mix comes out vivid and clear.
This is classic Melodic Hard Rock firmly steeped in the '80s but with an updated feeling, sometimes we get a little tougher riffage, sometimes an AOR chorus, and even Def Leppard vibes are clearly represented especially in songs like "Everywhere Tonight" that could have been written for 'Hysteria'.
We have high quality arrangements and playing on "Time To Escape", "The Moment" or "If Only", where also you'll hear Harem Scarem and some Bon Jovi influences, but there's plenty of unexpected (yet awe-inspiring) twists.
The extremely catchy "Holding Onto Holding On" is a highlight, with a chorus that Journey / Steve Perry could have crafted in 1986, while the moving "Can't Walk Away" is built around a pristine guitar loop, going in between the tempo and the chorus in a humming form.
"Sirens" is the album's harder track adding muscle, then comes the upbeat "A Thousand Lies" that possesses another beautiful chorus, followed by the soaring, Canadian sounding "It's Not Faith".
Closer and longest track "Never Die Again" sums up this great record starting as a ballad with a mysterious atmosphere, but at 1:16 explodes into a bombastic melodic hard rocker in the classy path, energetic and melodious. Another highlight.
Kudos to Swedish Sun Hill Productions (which is mostly engaged in concert bookings) for the sign up of Night By Night. "NxN" is not available yet on any format, but it will be released soon in Sweden first, then the rest of Europe.
It is so stimulating and joyful to discover new bands like Night By Night, bands that also are not in need of significant development for the future because already on their debut they deliver a flawless product.
"NxN" is classic Melodic Hard Rock, the really good one. When out, pick up a copy without hesitation.
01 - Time To Escape
02 - Holding Onto Holding On
03 - Can't Walk Away
04 - Everywhere Tonight
05 - Siren
06 - A Thousand Lies
07 - It's Not Faith
08 - The Moment
09 - If Only
10 - Never Die Again
Henry Rundell: Vocals
Ben Christo: Guitars, Backing Vocals
Tom Daniel: Guitars
Jonny Thornton: Bass
Damian Diablo: Drums
Release Date TBA:
Founded in 1991 by Bonfire guitarist Hans Ziller as a side project, EZ LIVIN' released one album at the time before disappearing in the night. Last year however, Ziller called some musicians to get the band on its feet again and one of them was American singer David Reece, ex-Accept but currently mainly known as frontman of Bangalore Choir.
The result is the new effort from EZ LIVIN' after more than twenty years, entitled "Firestorm".
Mixed and mastered by Alessandro Del Vecchio, apart from Ziller & Reece, the new incarnation of Ez Livin' includes drummer Harry Reischmann (Bonfire), Ronnie Parkes (Tango Down) on bass, Paul Morris (Rainbow) on keyboards, piano & organ, and the now renowned producer Chris Lyne (ex- Soul Doctor) serves as guest on guitars.
So expect seasoned musicianship on "Firestorm".
The musical theme here is traditional European melodic hard rock in the old fashioned way with several classic rock / traditional hard rock leanings, featuring Ziller tearing up the fret board and Reece moving like a fish in the water with the material put on the table.
There's kickin' tracks like "That's How He Rocks", "Loaded Gun" - which could have been a Kiss song and not only for its title, as Reece sounds like Paul Stanley on it - and "Into the Night", although this one ventures more towards hard 'n heavy.
You have a bluesy / hard touch on "White Lightning", then the keyboard opening sequence to the good cover of Uriah Heep's classic "Easy Living" makes one wonder if Jon Lord actually passed away or not.
"The Damage Is Done" sports a catchy melodic chorus and a great guitar solo, while the groovy "Too Late" reminds you of late period Rainbow, but that might be a stretch.
The huge ballad "Let's Fly Away" begs the question – is it actually still 2014 or 1984?
"Firestorm" is a fun, entertaining release that feels composed, played and recorded during the Eighties. That's what Ziller wanted for this EZ LIVIN' second effort and Alessandro Del Vecchio did a perfect work behind the desk to capture the essence of those years.
It's that kind of album, one where Uriah Heep, Rainbow and the first Whitesnake still rule and hard rock is King.
1. That's How He Rocks
2. Loaded Gun
3. White Lightning
4. Let's Fly Away
5. Easy Living (Uriah Heep Cover)
6. The Damage Is Done
7. Too Late
8. Into The Night
9. Let's Fly Away (Director's Cut) [bonus track / CD only]
David Reece - Vocals
Hans Ziller - Guitars
Harry Reischmann - Drums
Ronnie Parks - Bass
Paul Morris - Keyboards
Chris Lyne - guest Guitars
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