THESE RAVEN SKIES are a Calgary, Canada, based rocking band which were playing in the area and recording some demos, and when one of these tapes ended up in Jeff Martin’s hands, the destiny of These Raven Skies changed forever.
For starters, Martin is best known as lead vocalist for multi-platinum selling Canadian rock icons The Tea Party, as well as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, composer and in-demand music producer.
He was so impressed with These Raven Skies that not only took them under his wing and produced their self-titled debut, but also played on three tracks.
Rock / Metal music has a generic expectation as a genre of music. This expectation is to have loud, heavy instruments, shout-type singing and lyrics that are less than thoughtful. After listening to These Raven Skies, that expectation might be different.
While there is the heavy, pounding instrumentation – for most songs – that fans of the genre enjoy, the singing is not simply over the top. While it is strong, there is also a rough undertone that flexes the type of singing giving the songs a unique sound.
For the third expectation, the lyrics, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that These Raven Skies do have some that have poetic and thoughtful value. A bit more in depth – something that appeals to many isteners.
Musically, These Raven Skies comfortably mix a wide range of easily recognisable roots headfirst into a fiery brew of solid guitar riffs, Bonham-inspired skin pounding and a singer that can easily be identified as 'classic rock'.
Yes, it's hard rock with a bluesy root, but the blues factor is injected with a 'southern' vibe, and I like it.
Whether instantly drawn to the light of perfectly mastered slide-guitar courtesy of “Come Sit Next To Me” or the eerie attack of Perkins’ dead-on Rob Halford (ala 'Deliver The Goods') approach to “Are We Having Fun Yet?” the boys are making noise and it sounds pretty damn awesome.
While there are the rocking songs, there are some that slow down. "Emily and Alick" is one of these. It is still edgy (with a sick guitar solo) but overall much more melodic and one of my favourites. The track was wisely well-placed in the middle of the album and provides a nice balance.
These Raven Skies' self-titled debut CD is one of those rare avis nowadays; you can listen to the whole thing, all the way through in one sitting… and then hit repeat immediately. Believe me, these guys have something 'special'.
This is not a generic, expected, hard rocking album that has all of the same components of every other album of its genre. The songs each stand out in there own way, yet all sound like they should be together. The lyrics are uplifting and meaningful if listened to and the instrumentals have all the feel that fans of this genre will appreciate.
Jeff Martin’s is excellent for this this type of classic hard, and his musical knowledge contributes to the bright and earthy sound of the album.
01 - Magick Waters
02 - No Need to Worry (feat. Jeff Martin)
03 - The Garden (feat. Jeff Martin)
04 - Are We Having Fun? (feat. Jeff Martin)
05 - Come Sit Next to Me
06 - Emily & Alick
07 - Open Road
08 - Truth Be Told
09 - The Hooker
Perkins - vocals
Alex Whitcombe - guitar
Trevor Landmark - bass
Shand Munro - drums
Jeff Martin - guest guitar & vocals, producer
BUY IT !
Friday, August 22, 2014
BLACK STATE HIGHWAY are a five-piece female fronted new outfit formed at the Brighton Institute Of Modern Music, which their self titled debut album provide their own contemporary take on classic hard rock.
Despite forming in Brighton, UK, the band is comprised of a handful of nationalities: Latvian singer Liva Steinberga, Scottish bassist Gordon Duncan, English guitarist Olie Trethewey, Ginger drummer Harry Bland, and Swedish guitarist Yonnis Crampton.
Black State Highway's music is traditonal British hard rock with a strong bluesy vibe, twinned with metal’s amplification and attitude. Having met at music school it’s perhaps not a surprise that the playing is technically impressive, but the feel and passion evident dismisses fears of baby-faced, soulless prodigies churning out shiny but sterile facsimile’s of real rock songs.
There is no weak link in this band, everyone gets to shine, but perhaps the first member to really impress is Latvian vocalist Liva Steinberga. Her voice is not one that has the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, but it possesses something maybe rarer, the essence of herself is within it so that you believe whatever she sings.
The lyrics, even though they deal in the usual rock staples feel like they are legitimately in her own voice, not just assembled from the rhyming dictionary.
Lead out track "Conclusion" is a fine example of this, a tale of a girl dumping her rubbish bloke with the kiss off of – 'Sorry love, you’re just not worth it' – it just feels real. It’s not the best song here but showcases her sass and the bands fabulously fluid bluesy rock chops, with excellently supple bass by Gordon Duncan, leading from the front and holding the whole thing together.
Musically, Black State Highway tip their hat to hard rock heroes such as AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and inevitably Zeppelin but they ultimately rely on their own songs and some powerhouse rocking to unveil a melodic hard rock style best evidenced by the third track "Broken".
This is also the track on which Steinberga really hits her range, as she extends her phrasing to fulfil the promise shown on the opening track. It’s a heavy bluesy piece built on a familiar quiet-to-loud dynamic, full of booming riffs and an up-in-the-mix drums.
The band mines Sabbath riffs on the following track "Free", as Lisa explores a vocal drone that would surely make Ozzy smile, before some Purple influenced riffs on the outro.
"Sacrifice" is powerful if more trad in form and possesses a great chugging rhythmic energy. Within it’s squalling guitars and punishing drums there’s a hint of Soundgarden‘s twisted '70s metal classicism gone weird.
Now "Tekkers" is funky blast of horny girl power that gives a tingle on every play. There are dazzling guitar solos towards the close and this track seals my belief that Trethaway and Crampton are one the best new guitar duo I’ve heard this year.
They might teach you the rudiments of theory, technique and even business at the Brighton Institute Of Modern Music where the band learnt their craft, but they don’t necessarily bless you with an intuitive feel for hard rock, let alone some of the great guitar tones to be found on this album.
The unashamedly yet great Deep Purple influenced "Trouble" rounds things off in a suitably intense, hard edged blues-rock mode. It’s the perfect finish to 8 big reasons why HNE Records have snapped one of the most exciting young hard rock bands of the last few years.
So here we have eight tracks, absolutely no fat, every moment a grin-inducing triumph for the forces of classic hard rock. Black State Highway are a credit to their school, a credit to the European Union and a credit to real rock n’roll.
They have the attitude, the well written songs, and the skills. Key to the band’s confident ball busting style is the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Gordon Duncan and drummer Harry Bland, who push the twin-barrel incendiary riffs of guitarists Olie Trethewey and Yonnis Crampton all the way, together with the very personal vocals of Liva Steinberga (no accent at all).
1 - Conclusion
2 - Ain't Got No
3 - Broken
4 - Free
5 - Sacrifice
6 - Tekkers
7 - Common Man
8 - Trouble
Liva Steinberga - Vocals
Olie Trethewey - Guitar
Yonnis Crampton - Guitar
Gordon Duncan - Bass
Harry Bland - Drums
BUY IT !
Formed in 2008, Polish band XANADU has been cultivating a very strong worldwide fan base amongst heavy progressive rock aficionados since their debut album years ago.
Now Xanadu has finally come around with their sophomore album entitled “Follow The Instinct”. While the first record was an emotional piece of art that focused much on atmosphere and darkness often invoking Riverside, with this fresh effort Xanadu shrug off much of that influence, and they start off on a path all their own.
“Follow The Instinct” progressiveness is quite dark and mysterious. With musical focus as a foundation, the band head down a path of excellent guitars, an incredible rhythm section and background keyboards that set a mood.
The guitar tone has been tweaked to an interesting snarl, and they are used in solos and the like, but also in interesting atmospheric exercises. The drums and bass come fluid, articulate, and are a highlight of this album for me. Hubert Murawski is especially good with his stumbling bass beats and his ability to create fills that feel satisfying.
Adam Biskup on bass seems to be playing in a higher key, and it shows in how incredibly detailed and audible his bass lines are.
Xanadu also presents new singer in Krzysztof Borek, a vocalist with a sometimes mellow phrasing, then more grounded that is somewhat rough at times.
“Follow The Instinct” has a great set of tracks, though I think the second half is better. With seven tracks framed by an intro and an outro, the record has a great flow and connection.
Amongst the highlights are the excellent “Escape”, the soaring “More”, and the wonderfully paced “Transistor Night”. However, perhaps the most brilliant composition is the instrumental “Violent Dream, Part 2”. It pulls you in immediately with an impressive technique and its complexity and bleakness.
Xanadu’s “Follow The Instinct” is a highly elaborated album with some terrific musicianship and arrangements to explore. It's heavy, prog metal at places, mellower and reflexive at others.
With a starker vibe and passive attitude that is punctuated by technical punches, “Follow The Instinct” is one of the better progressive albums I’ve heard this year, and it won’t be forgotten quickly.
01 - In
02 - Shape Of Lies
03 - Escape
04 - Soil Of Life
05 - More
06 - Violent Dream pt. 2
07 - Chaos
08 - Transistor Night
09 - Out
Hubert Murawski - drums
Adam Biskup - bass
Janusz Glon - guitar
Przemek Betański - guitar
Krzysztof Borek - vocals
BUY IT !
Thursday, August 21, 2014
I'm shocked. Knock me off my seat, and pick me back up again. Here's X-DRIVE, from Los Angeles of all places, delivering some melodious rocking vibes that doesn't sound like all the heavy and harsh down-tuned modern rock dribble.
No Sir. X-Drive and their debut "Get Your Rock On" deliver classic American Melodic Hard Rock in its finest purist form. Shut the front door, children, and prepare to groove.
Hailing from LA, by way of Oregon, X-Drive is the creation of guitarist Jeremy Brunner. Yeah, you never heard of him. Listen up. This guy can write cool songs, deliver sharp riffs and slick guitar solos.
And Brunner managed not only to find superb musicians for his band, he also has come out of nowhere to sign a worldwide deal with Frontiers Records and release "Get Your Rock On" in a few days.
He's surrounded himself with some major talent including including bassist James Lomenzo from White Lion and drummer Fred Fischer from Midline. The album was produced by the late Led Zeppelin engineer legend Andy Johns.
You need more? Brunner got veteran vocalist Keith St. John from Montrose and Burning Rain fame. St. John is easily one of the most undernoticed and underrated vocalist. He's got the stage presence of a young Robert Plant, and his voice has the hard rock grit melded with soulful blues wrapped in melody. You might hear Plant, Rodgers and, maybe, some Ronnie James Dio, if you can imagine him doing straight rock.
X-Drive's music is BIG on rocking riffs, melodies and groove. This is definitely toe-tapping music. It's also big on catchy choruses and often four part vocal harmonies.
Then Brunner takes off on his guitar offering melodic versatile lines. Brunner is less a shredder and more a classic rocker in his delivery. Most every song involves these things, but several simply stand out like hard rockin' "Love's A Bitch", the rowdy keg tapping "Turn the Noize Down", or the simply catchy and intriguing "Lay Me Down".
For that latter number, every player, instrument and note blend with entertaining ease for ear candy ecsaty.
Even when X-Drive back off, moderates a bit, the groove remains as does the infectious hooks like with "Rattlesnake Eyes" or the steady movement of "Love Breaks the Fool".
They can also turn towards more AOR / Melodic Rock. "California" has breezy accessible feel that makes for a radio-friendly single. In fact, on many songs, X-Drive reminds me Feriehouse.
What would classic American Hard Rock be without a ballad or two. "Baby Bye Bye" finds St. John soulful and Brunner soaring; "Change of Heart" moves upon that aforementioned terrific vocal harmony, combined with acoustic guitar and lighter drums, with no guitar solo necessary. More ear candy.
If it seems that I'm more than a little impressed with X-Drive, you got that right. This band has the talent, the chops, the presence, and the music to be huge.
The irony, however, is that this American band was discovered by an European label rather than one from their homeland. A pity.
X-Drive's debut demonstrates that classic '80s American Melodic Hard Rock is alive in the US, and in its purest form.
01 - Love's a Bitch
02 - Get Your Rock On
03 - Steppin' on the Rock
04 - Baby Bye Bye
05 - California
06 - Lay Me Down
07 - Turn the Noize Down
08 - Beyond the Angels
09 - Rattlesnake Eyes
10 - Just Can't Stay
11 - Change of Heart
12 - Love Breaks the Fool
13 - California (Alternate Mix) [Digital Bonus Track]
Keith St. John (Lynch Mob, Burning Rain) - Vocals
Jeremy Brunner - Guitar
James Lomenzo (White Lion, David Lee Roth, Ozzy) - Bass
Fred Fischer (Midline) - Drums
BUY IT !
There's a new hot melodic rock band coming from Sweden: ADRENALINE RUSH, with their self-titled debut to be released by Frontiers Records tomorrow, and produced by no-other than Erik Martensson (ECLIPSE, W.E.T.).
Adrenaline Rush features the blonde bombshell Tave Wanning, who was part of the teen-pop duo Peaches, but don't be fooled, she’s got the power &punch in the voice to rock you hard.
And let’s face it, this is good business, you put a hot chick in the band the guys are gonna show up, the girls will too because they look at her as an role-model.
She sounds pretty feisty in the opening “Black N’ Blue”, a melodic hard rock piece driven by an aggressive, modern guitar riff. Next are the single “Change” and “Generation Left Behind”, both straightforward contemporary rock illustrated with rebellious lyrics belted out by Miss Wanning.
A sleaze-infused party anthem “Girls Gone Wild” follows, leaving no doubt that this particular song can – and should – become a hit. It gets a bit slower – and a bit more serious, for a change – in “When We’re Gone,” a somber mid-tempo featuring some outstanding guitar licks.
The echoes of ‘80s melodic rock resonate in the keyboard laden “Want It All,”, with its well-crafted chorus – tailored for throat-ripping and fist-pumping purposes – being one of the album’s highlights.
Music-wise, the next track “Too Young To Die” may remind one of bands such as Blue Tears, Brighton Rock or Hot Boy as it has Adrenaline Rush gravitating towards ‘80s melodic hard rock / AOR again. Driven by a tinkly keyboard line illustrating the main melody, this is my personal favorite.
With “Oh Yeah,” one gets a tad of blues and a solid dose of hard rock, the influence of Aerosmith being apparent if not obvious, but with a lot of swagger.
Next is “No No No” with its rebellious lyrics against the background of raw guitar riffs, culminating in a breakneck solo. Both the stellar lead guitar work and the structure of the chorus in “Playin’ To Win” bring to mind Gary Moore’s mid-‘80s Irish music-infused endeavors – and certainly, it’s another of the brightest spots of the entire record.
The final “Hit You Like A Rock” is again straightforward and noisy hard rock with some modern touches, perhaps generic but nevertheless enjoyable.
It’s true that Adrenaline Rush seem to have clear influences from a lot of melodic hard rock bands before them, it still feels like they have created something original in a fairly crowded genre.
The vocals from Tave are well polished but still serve up a good helping of grit akin to Joan Jett at times, and Vixen’s Janet Gardner on the more AORish numbers. Guitar work comes across as classy and with big stadium worthy riffs and intricate hooks shining through.
Erik Martensson's production is pure gold, taking the best of Adrenaline Rush in a punchy and bright output.
Appearing out of seemingly nowhere, Adrenaline Rush have released a top notch melodic rock album that has taken me by completely surprise.
01. Black n' Blue
03. Generation Left Behind
04. Girls Gone Wild
05. When We're Gone
06. Want it All
07. Too Young to Die
08. Oh Yeah!
09. No No No
10. Playin' to Win
11. Hit You Like A Rock
Tave Wanning - lead vocals
Ludvig Turner - lead guitar, vocals
Alexander Hagman - guitar, vocals
Soufian Ma'Aoui - bass, vocals
Marcus Johansson - drums
produced by Erik Martensson (ECLIPSE, W.E.T.)
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
When some time ago at 0dayrox we presented exclusively STATE OF SALAZAR and their indie first recording, we knew they were destined for big things. The time has coming.
"All The Way" is the full length debut album from the Swedish quintet to be released on Frontiers Records next week, just appeared in Asia through Marquee / Avalon.
"All The Way" is pure AOR / Melodic Rock gold.
That should be enough, and finalize the review here.
Oh, and to tell you this is a mandatory purchase if you are fan of classic Toto, Styx, Journey, Survivor and new wonders from the genre like Lionville, Work Of Art, etc.
Singer and songwriter Marcus Nygren sounds much like original Toto singer Bobby Kimball, and musically, the rest of the guys in State Of Slaazar have all the skills that made these genres so great; large melodies and vocal harmonies, vibrant guitar solos and a proper amount of keyboards for atmosphere and accent.
The usual suspects of catchy hooks in lyrics and arrangements abound, especially in the choruses. The result is a large and lush sound that could fill those Eighties stadiums.
From superb AOR gems like "I Believe In You", "Filed Of Dreams" and "Eat Your Heart Out" to Melodic Rock diamonds such as "All The Way", "Marie", "Let Me Love" and "Catastrophe", this is the type of music to make your mood soar.
Every song has that pure, unadultered AOR / arena rock feel, and every aspect from the songwriting to the musicianship to the vocals to the production is absolutely top notch.
State Of Salazar have down that polished, radio-friendly melodic rock sound perfectly, and they match it with a modern production and that distinctly Swedish sense of melody.
Rarely does a new band so completely capture the old school AOR / Melodic Rock sound like State Of Salazar has achieved on "All The Way".
You NEED this album. One of THE albums of the year.
Marquee/Avalon MICP ~ 11167
01. I Believe In You
02. Field Of Dreams
03. All The Way
04. Love Of My Life
06. Time To Say Goodbye
08. Let Me Love
12. End Of Time
13. I Believe In You - Acoustic (Bonus track for Japan)
Marcus Nygren - vocals
Johan Thuresson - guitars
Johannes Hansson - bass
Kristian Brun - drums
Stefan Mårtenson - keyboards
BUY IT !
UPDATED August 22, 2014
There is few artists in Prog or any genre that produces as much music as NEAL MORSE does. With Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Flying Colors or as solo, with every coming cd, comes the question: How can he top himself this time?.
Earlier this year, Neal was a part of the spectacular Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope cd and now comes his latest solo album “Songs From November”. But as it has been described in earlier press releases, this was to be a singer/songwriter album.
Indeed, “Songs From November” it is precisely that; songs.
A collection of eleven 4-minute rock&pop songs with some progressive moments, but light and at the service of the composition and with a strong classic rock feel in terms of sound. However, despite the lack of intricate prog craziness, this album is every bit Neal Morse.
The record starts with the commercial rocker "Whatever Days", a groovy opener with a feel-good vibe. It sets up the album nicely and lets you know right off the bat this is not going to be your normal Neal Morse album.
"Heaven Smiled" is the album’s first single, and more of a traditional Neal ballad. With some songs on the CD like this one, you can picture Transatlantic doing it and making it into a 7-8 minute opus.
What follows is the acoustic rack "Flowers In A Vase". This is a different style than you get on Neal Morse's albums, but it is one of the more beautiful numbers on the record. The piano ballad "Love Shot An Arrow" is a powerful moment on the CD and sounds like it could have been on Spock's Beard's Snow.
One of the best tracks on the album is the upbeat "Song for the Free". It kicks off with an acoustic guitar but evolves into a full on rocker with strings and harmonies. It really builds nicely and should make for a killer live song.
That song fades right into "Tell Me Annabelle", a dark tune which atmosphere juxtaposes with the previous.
The surprise track is the very personal "Daddy’s Daughter" which might be overly sentimental for some, but is just a great song and melodically brilliant.
The album closes with the driving popping rocker "The Way of Love". It’s a great inspirational way to close the album. It has that big ending that Morse is known for.
Neal Morse has been at the forefront of the resurgence of Prog in the last fifteen years. His music has influenced many and his songwriting has changed the way Prog music is written and perceived all around. But at the core of his music are simple, accessible melodies, and earnest, heartfelt lyrics.
That is what has always set him apart. The incredible musicianship is just another added element. It has always been about the songs and the stories in those songs, and never so evident like in this “Songs From November”.
This time just without the added solos and extravagant instrumental moments, Neal Morse proves here he doesn’t need a million notes to write a great song.
“Songs From November” is a collection of Neal Morse songs at his purest and most sincere. And it is a welcome addition to his enormous catalog.
01. Whatever Days
02. Heaven Smiled
03. Flowers In A Vase
04. Love Shot An Arrow
05. Song For The Free
06. Tell Me Annabelle
07. My Time Of Dying
08. When Things Slow Down
09. Daddy's Daughter
10. Wear The Chains
11. The Way Of Love
Neal Morse - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Chris Carmichael - Violin, Viola and Cello
Jim Hoke - Horns
The McCrary Sisters - Vocals
Gabe Klein - Drums
BUY IT !