Friday, April 29, 2011

DIAMOND LANE - World Without Heroes (2011)

DIAMOND LANE - World Without Heroes (2011)

California hard rockers Diamond Lane are gearing up for the release of "World Without Heroes".
The band's full-length debut is the long awaited follow-up to their 2008 Johnny Lima produced four-song EP 'Save This City', a damn near flawless step back in time to the late '80s.
On "World Without Heroes" Diamond Lane slightly change their focus, mixing equal amounts of hard rock with modern elements for a sound that doesn't just scream 'retro'.

One of the reasons for the 3-year long wait was the introduction of a brand new rhythm section, and drummer Jonah Nimoy proves to be a killer addition as he seems to be trying his hardest to slam his sticks right through the drum heads.
Even more impressive is guitarist Jarret Reis who has really upped the edge on this album -- his licks are both precise and varied and seem to come out of nowhere like a Mike Tyson uppercut during his prime.
Vocalist Brandon Baumann still has the perfect rock voice, and while the Mad Margritt comparisons still ring true, the Sebastian Bach sounds aren't as evident as they were three years ago.

"All Rebels Welcome" starts things off on the right foot as the song builds itself up into a fist-pumping anthem. Hot riff, gang choruses and a Les Paul solo cranked to 10.
"I Know Who You Did Last Summer" continues with that turbo-charged sound, and if Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts bounced with the ferocity of this song, her movie that influenced this track would have been the top-grossing of all time.
"City Of Sin" and "All The Pretty Things" are the type of songs that could be found on current rock-radio (you can decide for yourself if that is good or bad) and find the band at their heaviest, while "Sundress City" and "Time Bomb" have that egotistical '80s vibe that we all love.

Diamond Lane is a blender of young 20's die-hard rockers that bring a well-calibrated, dynamic approach to the beast of rock 'n' roll.
Occasionally they try too hard in an attempt to appeal to current rock trends as shown on "Endgame" but for the most part they successfully walk the line between old and new.
"World Without Heroes" is a cool, mostly late eighties / earlier nineties melodic american hard rock (think Skid Row's 'Slave To The Grind') with wailing guitars, unrelenting (controlled) screams and a backend determined to hammer the message home.
It is a great effort from a band that is trying to find their place into the hard rock scenario, and they are in the right path.

1 - All Rebels Welcome
2 - I Know Who You Did Last Summer
3 - City Of Sin
4 - Sundress City
5 - All The Pretty Things
6 - Needle Down
7 - Time Bomb
8 - Heaven's Falling
9 - Never Going Home
10 - Endgame

Brandon Baumann - Vocals
Jarret Reis - Guitars
Ray Zhang - Bass
Jonah Nimoy - Drums


SIXX A.M. - This Is Gonna Hurt (2011)

SIXX A.M. - This Is Gonna Hurt (2011)

A soundtrack is available for almost every movie you have ever seen, but have you heard of a soundtrack for a book?
Sixx : A.M. was founded because of that simple concept by Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) to promote his book 'The Heroin Diaries: A year in the Life of a Shattered Rockstar' back in 2007.
The book is a real life diary that Sixx kept in the worst year of his life, the year he was in the deepest of his heroin addiction and nearly died. It is a fantastic and terrifying ride through that moment in his life and the excellent music album complements the book in many ways that a soundtrack complements a movie.

Now in 2011, Sixx is publishing his second book "This is Gonna Hurt" also followed by a soundtrack of the same name.
This take on a different flow than 'The Heroin Diaries'. The new one is part photo-album, part journal and it is a collection of photos that show you what is going through Nikki Sixx’s head.
Considering "This is Gonna Hurt" book and record as two separate entities is difficult and unnecessary, as Sixx AM have not put the album together for it to achieve musical recognition on its own merits.
So, what do you do with a soundtrack to a book you don’t have? Imagination is the key, together with a basic knowledge of its central character.

A soundtrack cannot usually be archived into a single genre: anything goes, from pop to classical and metal, supplying the background for different moments of the same story: "This is Gonna Hurt"’ is no exception.
Try playing the guessing game and matching every song to a key moment of Sixx 'sex drugs and rock’n’roll' relentless journey.
Sonically, the album is very close to the previous 'Heroin Diaries'.
The songs follow the quiet verse/loud chorus hard rock/pop dynamic with ruthless precision; the infectious, soaring choruses are plentiful, and the few songs which eschew the formula follow the well-tested, tension-building style prevalent in theatrical rock.
The “rock n’ roll circus” idea, which has always played an important part in Motley Crue’s live shows, is brought to the fore as a musical theme on may tracks here.

Opener "This is Gonna Hurt" and the follower "Lies of The Beautiful People" are effective hard rockers with big guitar riffs and a dark, intimidating feel. Both tracks introduce you into Nikki’s rollercoaster ride; like ‘Final Destination’, where you suddenly know you’re on for a tragic ending but it’s too late to get off.
"Are You With Me" is an inoffensive but infectious radio rock brand which Daughtry and Nickelback call home. James Michael’s vocal performance is the song’s defining feature, elevating the relatively standard rock-pop arrangements with his expressive vocals.
"Live Forever" has a heavy riff and an anthemic, modern chorus. Again, a track with a darker vibe, check the lyrics: ‘close your eyes and try to count to seven, and if we die, I'll meet you up in heaven…’.

"Sure Feels Right" turns drastically the style. This is a calm tune with a 'feel good' intention. You can take the boy out of Sunset Boulevard, but you can’t take Sunset Boulevard out of the boy.
"Deadlihood" has a dense verse but the chorus is pretty commercial and radiable. A modern rocker."Smile" change the things again, it's a mellow and melancholy acoustically based tune with clearly autobiographic lyrics.
U2 inspired "Oh My God" will raise some eyebrows with the fans; back to the guessing game, this feels like the soundtrack to a train journey, a fast transition our hero wasn’t necessary up for.
"Skin" is a great, piano only, tragically sad song. Certainly it comes as a surprise from a man who was given a second chance from the Grim Reaper and did so astonishingly good with it.

"This Is Gonna Hurt", as the previous Sixx A.M. album, offers an eclectic mix of songs. The strong thematic link holds the album together despite the many shifts in style. It's intense, dramatic, and although you don't completely dig the music sound / style, worth repeated listens.
Guitarist DJ Ashba style is unique, with an extensive use of effect pedals and sonic textures. James Michael is no stranger to Nikki Sixx since Michael co-wrote several tunes on Mötley Crüe's album 'New Tattoo'. Besides being a fantastic songwriter, Michael has a distinctive voice.
Both deserves lots of credit for their important contribution to this material, which definitely gives the album extra layers.
This new Sixx : A.M. album successfully paints vivid pictures of the struggles and realizations of Nikki Sixx.

01 - This Is Gonna Hurt
02 - Lies Of The Beautiful People
03 - Are You With Me
04 - Live Forever
05 - Sure Feels Right
06 - Deadlihood
07 - Smile
08 - Help Is On The Way
09 - Oh My God
10 - Goodbye My Friends
11 - Skin

Nikki Sixx: Bass, Keys, Backing Vocals
DJ Ashba: Guitars, Effects
James Michael: Vocals


Thursday, April 28, 2011

REECE KRONLUND - Solid (2011)


David Reece (Accept, Bangalore Choir) and Martin Kronlund (Dogface, Gypsy Rose) have met the first time in 2007.
Reece was asked to join the Martin's band Gypsy Rose as the new front singer and in June 2008 the album 'Another World' was released.
Their special friendship and musical chemistry continues till this day.
In November 2010 David Reece and Martin Kronlund decided to fulfill their dream about a project under their own moniker which was planed since. "Solid" was recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by Martin Kronlund and Reece at Kronlund's 'JM Studio' Sweden.

"Solid", as the title already says, is a clean, strong piece of very powerful Melodic Hard Rock.
Martin Kronlund played most of the guitars which compliment David Reece's voice perfectly. David also reached out to lyricist Jon Wilde to share ideas and the end result is deep meaningful story lines.
The record includes a high toned companionship of musician guests playing and also co-writing songs on the album.

"My Angel Wears White" opens with great quality this album full of melodies. This fast paced european melodic rocker has a killer chorus and an excellent guitar work by swedish guru Tommy Denander together with Kronlund's hot riffing.
"Samurai" is the first single off 'Solid', and it's another winner. Commercial and catchy, this track has a pumping rhythm and a very nice keyboard line by guest keyboardist Rikard Quist (Gypsy Rose).
"Could This Be Madness" is a beautifully crafted semi-ballad with a bluesy touch, a collaboration with guitarist Brynn Arens. Great tune.
"Animals And Cannibals" is the first track co-written with German guitarist Christian Tolle, and his influence is notable. This track is a teutonic hardrocker ala Bonfire with Reece doing his best.

I was surprised with "I Remember You", another Tolle's contribution. This track is an anthemic midtempo with tons of emotion and harmonies. A kind of tune that you won't expect from a vocalist as David Reece. And he did a great job! A highlight on this album.
The hard rocking roller coaster ride returns with "Paint The Mirror Black". This song has a devastating riff fueled by a potent rhythm section. Powerful chorus too and monster guitar solo. Terrific track.
"I Would" is some kind of ballad in the best Bangalore Choir tradition. Reece shines here. What a great vocalist he is.
David's long time friend guitarist Andy Susemihl (ex-Sinner) contributes on "Edge Of Heaven". A cool track, but the chorus isn't consistent as on the previous cuts.
"Magic Puddin´" is an old style rocker with razor guitars and a live vibe, sounding very german in the chorus part. Co-written by Christian Tolle.
"The Dead Shall Walk The Earth" closes the album in a thrilling way. Good fast paced hard rocker with pounding drums and tight vocals.

"Solid" is indeed a very solid, powerful melodic hard rock CD, with very good songwriting and production.
All sounds perfectly assembled, as a real band. David Reece is in top form and sings his heart out, while Kronlund confirms that he is one of the best guitarists / arranger / producer nowadays.
REECE-KRONLUND had delivered a very classy album in the best european tradition.
Really Good.

01 - My Angel Wears White
02 - Samurai
03 - Could This Be Madness
04 - Animals And Cannibals
05 - I Remember You
06 - Paint The Mirror Black
07 - I Would
08 - Edge Of Heaven
09 - Magic Pudding
10 - The Dead Shall Walk The Earth

David Reece
Martin Kronlund
Tommy Denander
Andy Susemihl
Rikard Quist
Brynn Arens
Christian Tolle
Hans Zandt


SIN-ATRA - A Metal Tribute To Frank Sinatra (2011)

SIN-ATRA - A Metal Tribute To Frank Sinatra (2011)

There’s little doubt that someone at some point in time in the last couple decades probably thought it would be an interesting experiment to marry hard rock or heavy metal with something else, anything else — polka, reggae, disco, Dixieland jazz, you name it.

On the flipside, you have crooners like Pat Boone who have tried their hand at metal. But who in his right mind would ever think metal could break bread with Frank Sinatra?

After all, it was Frank Sinatra who once said that rock 'n roll was the “most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear…” This was after he first heard Elvis in the 50s.

Can you imagine what his reaction would be to Twisted Sister and Anthrax? Putting “The Impossible Dream” aside, the lead singers for these and other bands were prepared, in the face of controversy, to show their allegiance to the original rock star in a heartfelt, loving and diabolic tribute called SIN-ATRA.

To make it all happen, Bob Kulick (Kiss) and drummer Brett Chassen, two brazen musicians and producers, took on the task of assembling 12 songs, 12 singers and a supportive band to create their hard rock homage.

Once the band was ready to go, selling the idea of Sin-atra to renowned singers wasn’t all that difficult. Finding the right singer for the right song, however, was arduous and time-consuming.

Kulick and Chassen compiled lists upon lists of songs and singers, shared their ideas with the record label and executive producer Wendy Dio (Ronnie's wife), and began piecing it all together.

Chassen, Kulick, bassist Billy Sheehan and keyboardist Doug Katsaros delivered on the instrumental undertow that drives each track.

Upon hearing the album I had mixed emotions. Half of tracks works well, but the other half left me scratching my head.

There are two schools of thought about doing covers. One is to make the song ‘your own’ and change it up a little or a lot. The second school of thought is to stay true to the song and redo it note for note.

The artists on SIN-atra have for the most part taken the songs and put their own touches on them. For the most part the songs are recognizable as the originals, but the arrangements and vocals throw a new spin on old classics. Some work, some not.

First track is "New York, New York" by Strapping Young Lad's Devin Townsend. I don't like it, this song is so aggressively, over-the-top awful that it sounds like a bad Jack Black parody.

Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion) is seemingly everywhere these days, and he's here, too, adding a soulful bluesy turn on "I've Got You Under My Skin". After a couple of spins, his version grabs you.

"Summerwind" is performed by Queensryche's Geoff Tate. His soaring vocals perfectly fit the bill here, capturing the smoothness and class that defined Sinatra's music, only four registers higher. A great bass job by Billy Sheehan too.

My favorite track here is Dee Snider's version of "It Was A Very Good Year" a preening, insistent remake which shutters forth very much on a 'Kashmir' like groove. Somewhat reminiscent of Queen's 'Innuendo', Snider stretch his vocal into a dramatic, almost melancholic melody, and he comes through like you may have never heard him before.

I don't like Tim 'Ripper' Owens. So skip his take on "Witchcraft".

Cheap Trick's Robin Zander is one of my favorite singers, but his softer-edged vocals clash with the harsh foundation of the track's guitar, bass and drums on "Fly Me To The Moon".

"The Lady Is A Tramp", with an opening straight out of Van Halenetics, is an appropriate fit for Mr. Big’s Eric Martin. The man can sing anything, his ability is very well showcased on this song. I really like it.

Belladona's take on "Strangers In The Night" isn't bad at all, but the melody of the song was completely changed.

"High Hopes" and particularly "Love And Marriage" are horrible, forgettable versions.

"I've Got The World On A String" is sung by Dug Pinnick (King's X) which has such a soulful voice, but I am not convinced by the music arrangements.

Jani Lane closes out the disc with a decent remake of "That's Life," with a tasty guitar solo from Richie Kotzen. But what this track really proves is how much better David Lee Roth did it 25 years ago, with a lot more of the Sinatra swagger and showmanship that really pushes the song across the finish line.

Reworking standards is never easy, that's clear on SIN-ATRA. Some are good, some not.

You have one of the greatest songwriters of a generation, one of the most popular singers of all time supplying the material, then you have such great voices like Glenn Hughes, Geoff Tate, Eric Martin and Dee Snider to belt out the great tunes. How could this go wrong?

Well, I think the bad side of this album relies on the awful, metalized arrangements on some songs.

The melodic camp fares much better, and it's very interesting to hear many of the best melodic rock singers doin' something different.

1.) New York, New York – Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad)

2.) I’ve Got You Under My Skin – Glenn Hughes (ex Deep Purple)

3.) Summerwind – Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche)

4.) It Was A Very Good Year – Dee Snider (ex Twisted Sister)

5.) Witchcraft – Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth)

6.) Fly Me To The Moon – Robin Zander (Cheap Trick)

7.) Lady Is A Tramp – Eric Martin (Mr. Big)

8.) Strangers In The Night – Joey Belladonna (Anthrax)

9.) High Hopes – Franky Perez (Scars on Broadway)

10.) I’ve Got The World On A String – Doug Pinnick (King’s X)

11.) Love And Marriage – Elias Soriano (Nonpoint)

12.) That’s Life – Jani Lane (ex Warrant)

Bob Kulick: Guitars

Brett Chassen: Drums

Billy Sheehan: Bass

Doug Katsaros: Keyboards

Richie Kotzen: Guitar



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MINORA - Imago (2011)

MINORA - Imago (2011)

Sweden, Gothenburg-based band MINORA, after various member changes now appear to have reached a stable rate. Since the current line-up was complete in 2008, worked hard to find its own musical language and sound, which ultimately resulted in the debut album "Imago".

If I had to describe this album in just a single word, I would go with ‘atmosphere’.
Their style is non classifiable, mixing pretty heavy and melodic progressive metal lines with ethereal neo progg elements, where great importance seems to have been taken to develop melodies, arrangements, production and especially the instrumental craftsmanship.
The music sometimes is hard, dark and full of melancholy, but it definitely has a soft side when the clear keys come in giving to the songs an uncommon twist.

Opener "Mountain" in a good way reflects what we are about to hear on this album. Clean guitars during the verses that explodes into distortion in the chorus, an impressive percussive piano all over the song and a dry, compact rhythm section. Tommie Zetterlund has a very expressive and emotional vocal style that convey the band's lyrics in a very competent manner.
The next track called November has more tempo changes, but retaining the atmospheric 'aura'. The middle section is enchanting.
Same with "Disconnected" which is a little bit modern, and the riff more predominant.

"Between The Window Glasses" has an intriguing melody, a track driven by an interesting mix of clean/heavy guitars and syncopated drums. Again, the keyboard/piano adds texture and mistery.
"A New Dawn" is one of the real gems of this album, powerful, atmospheric (again), modern and commercial.
"My Goodbye" has a prog-metal pattern, but somehow it sounds sweet and melodic, with slow, increscendo passages. This is Minora trademark, expect the un-expected.
The band takes some risk covering Björk's "Joga". Yes, the Icelander. The result is a great, melodic and dark neo-progg version full of climax.
"Silence" is clean, softy, almost with a sense of flying or being suspended in the air. Fantastic keys on this one.

"Imago" is a real surprise.
Musically diverse, with tons of atmosphere all the way through. That is really the first thing you come to focus on when you listen to this band: the atmosphere in the songs.
The fisrt class production also seems focused on this atmospherical thing which is very much driven by the vocal style of Tommie Zetterlund and the sound of the fantastic piano lines.
But if we dig a bit deeper we start to find guitar driven neo-prog metal that lies as the foundation for everything.
Beautifully arranged album, with sense of melody and harmonies.
Very good debut.

01 - Mountain
02 - November
03 - Disconnected
04 - Between The Window Glasses
05 - A New Dawn
06 - My Goodbye
07 - Descending
08 - Joga
09 - The 4th Drive
10 - Silence

Tommie Zetterlund: Vocals
Kenny Jakobsson: Guitars
Claudio Oyarzo: Guitars
Fredrik Sandberg: Keyboards
Djilali Benarradj: Bass
Joseph Astorga: Drums


Monday, April 25, 2011



TOTO singer Joseph Williams and acclaimed guitarist/songwriter Peter Friestedt team up for a new remarkable AOR release.
The album combines Williams' outstanding vocal performances with Friestedt's top notch guitar work and superbly crafted arrangements.

Joseph's extraordinary vocals beautifully shine with impeccable background vocals arranged by Joseph, Bill Champlin and Lars Säfsund (Work Of Art).
The line-up includes guests such as former CHICAGO singer Bill Champlin, Tommy Denander, John "JR" Robinson, Randy Goodrum and Bill Cantos.
"Williams-Friestedt" was produced by Peter Friestedt and co-produced by Joseph Williams with executive production handled by Joey Carbone; mixed by Ronni Lahti (Talisman, Lake Of Tears) and mastered by Björn Engelmann (Rammstein, Roxette).

Williams vocals sound more rough than before, and that's a good thing, as on many of the tracks this characteristic adds power and feel.
All tracks are superb, but maybe the super-melodic "Say Goodbye", the rocking "Swear Your Love" or the smooth "Gotta Find It" are above the rest.
Peter Friestedt is a genius on the guitar parts and overall arrangements.

This collaboration between the talented guitarist and the legendary vocalist is fantastic.
"Williams-Friestedt" offers to all the classic AOR fans an album that could have easily been recorded in the '80s by Toto themselves.
The quality on all departments, specially the excellent songwriting & production, raises this disc to the stratosphere.
One of the releases of the year without a doubt.-
Highly Recommended.

1. Swear Your Love
2. Say Goodbye
3. Sometimes You Win
4. Where To Touch You
5. Going Home
6. Stay With Me
7. One More Night
8. Gotta Find It
9. Letter To God

Joseph Williams - Vocals
Peter Friestedt - Guitars, Keyboards
Personnel : Unlisted

Bill Champlin, Tommy Denander, John "JR" Robinson, Randy Goodrum, Bill Cantos.


TWISTER SISTER - Love Is For Suckers [Remastered] (2011)

TWISTER SISTER Love Is For Suckers Remastered 2011 bonus track

No album divides Twisted Sister's fan base (or even the band itself) more than its final album of all-new material "Love Is For Suckers".
First released in 1987, this CD was intended to be a Dee Snider solo project. The record label refused to release it unless it was branded as a Twisted Sister release though and the album and tour were a failure, with Snider leaving the band shortly after the tour's completion.

The truth is: this a great commercial hair / pop-metal album, with very good songs, excellent polished production by Beau Hill and great musicianship.
In fact, none of TS members play here except Dee Snider.
Guitars are handled by the brilliant Reb Beach,bass & harmony vocals by Kip Winger, Joey Franco on drums and Beau Hill and some session men on everything else.

The first half of the album follows the classic TS tradition, and it is incomprehensible why some fans and critics blame on this recording.
The album kicks off with the powerful "Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)", that recalls past glories with it's driving rhythm and powerhouse vocals.
The single for this disc was the cool toe-tapper, harmonious commercial rocker "Hot Love", a statement of what american hair metal is.
The title track "Love Is For Suckers" is another highly catchy tune, a barburner hard rocker where Reb Beach shines.
"I'm So Hot For You" is more melodic but typically TS, while "Tonight" returns to the band's earlier heavier, anthemic sound.

The second half is pure melodic, commercial pop-metal, and here is where some people feel some harsh. Well, not my case. This is top stuff in this genre.
Snider bucket loads of eighties feel on the Warrant-like instant track "Me And The Boys" and the cheesy brotherly catchy anthem "One Bad Habit".
On the melodic "I Want This Night (To Last Forever)" and the power ballad "You Are All That I Need" is where Beau Hill's hands are more evident. Both crafted in the Winger mould, these tracks are very melodic and ear-candy.
"Yeah Right" is a beat fueled anthem with gang vocals and a driving bass line. Again, Winger comes to mind.
This remastered reissue features four great bonus tracks that for whatever reason didn't make the final cut for 'Love Is For Suckers', ranging from the straight-ahead rocker "Feel Appeal", the crass but catchy "Statutory Date", the hot "If That's What You Want", to the classy "I Will Win".

I don't care if this is a 'real' Twisted Sister album or not, it surely delivers good, solid and enjoyable typical '80s melodic american hard rock with a polished production.
Beach's guitar sound is all over this album with his arpeggiated licks and two-handed tapping, and that's great for me.
If you love the real feel of commercial, melodic american rock from the eighties, this is a must have recording.

01. Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)
02. Hot Love
03. Love Is For Suckers
04. I'm So Hot For You
05. Tonight
06. Me And The Boys
07. One Bad Habit
08. I Want This Night (To Last Forever)
09. You Are All That I Need
10. Yeah Right!
11. Feel Appeal [Bonus Track]
12. Statutory Date [Bonus Track]
13. If That's What You Want [Bonus Track]
14. I Will Win [Bonus Track]

Dee Snider - Vocals, Guitar
Reb Beach - Guitars
Kip Winger - Bass, Background Vocals
Beau Hill - Keyboards, Programming, Background Vocals
Joey "Seven" Franco - Drums
The New West Horns - Horns
Steve Whiteman, Jimmy Chalfant (KIX, Funny Money) - Background Vocals

Produced by Beau Hill



Thursday, April 21, 2011

AMAZE ME - Ultimate Collection (2011)

AMAZE ME Ultimate Collection (2011)

In the mid 90’s, just when the whole Melodic Rock scene was almost devastated, the Swedish band AMAZE ME released three excellent albums.
That band was actually a pair, consisting of lead vocalist Conny Lind (ex-Great King Rat, Talk of the Town and Vision) and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Peter Broman.
Between 1995 and 1998 they released three brilliant Melodic Rock / AOR albums: 'Amaze Me', 'Dream On' and 'Wonderland'.
As all three are now hard to find, it was a brilliant idea to release this compilation that gathers the best tracks from the aforementioned three albums, completely remastered by Chris Lyne (Soul Doctor, Paul Laine, Bai Bang).

The first five tracks are taken from the first self-titled album 'Amaze Me'.
"God's Gift To Woman", "You Say You Never Cry" and "Help Me" are great melodic rockers with lots of harmonies and sugar-coated choruses.
"Next Train Back" features one of the band's most perfectly crafted choruses.
The following seven songs come from 'Dream On'. This was a more melodic album, including two of my favorite Amaze Me tracks ever.
One of them is the fantastic AOR gem "Danger" and the killer midtempo "That Night".
"I'm Never Coming Back" was once a bonus track for Japan and it's included here to add even more interest to this fantastic compilation.
The final six tracks all come from 'Wonderland'.
Title track "Wonderland", after a small intro goes to a hard riffing melodic barrage of guitars and a killer chorus.
"Without Your Love" is another winner. Another great chorus and some very cool power riff's and a stack of hooks.
"Shadows From The Past" remains hard, but moves into proper power ballad mode, slow to mid paced and moody throughout.
"Red Lips" starts with a thumping hard guitar and drum beat. The verse rises a notch again in pace and is a little lighter than the rest of the tune.

"Ultimate Collection" is a pot gold for every serious melodic rock fan.
Whatever track you'll pick, it's quality you'll get. With 18 tracks in total, the buyer/listener is spoilt.
What strikes me the most of this band is how often I forget that they are not a 'real' band, just a (great) vocalist and a terrific multi-instrumentalist. The sound is so tight and incredibly compact that it is just impossible to remember only one guy is keeping this sound together!
If you have never heard Amaze Me, don't miss this brilliant collection.
And let me end with some brilliant news: you may expect a brand-new Amaze Me album later this year!

01 - Gods Gift To Women
02 - You Say You Never Cry
03 - Help Me
04 - Next Train Back
05 - You Can't Hide
06 - Dream On
07 - It's All Over
08 - Danger
09 - That Night
10 - Hold On To Love
11 - I Am Waiting
12 - I'm Never Coming Back ('Dream On' Japan bonus)
13 - Wonderland
14 - Without Your Love
15 - Thousand Miles Away
16 - Shadows From The Past
17 - Red Lips
18 - Good Day To Die

Peter Broman - All instruments, vocals
Conny Lind - Lead Vocals


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BABY JANE - Are You Listening (2011)

BABY JANE Are You Listening (2011)

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the US was the mecca of hair metal groups that could bring the goods along with the image. Bands like TRIXTER, KEEL and FIREHOUSE were just a few, but now of all places, Australia is popping with a band that has that very same flare.
Sweden by far is leading the charge with this movement, but the Aussie’s are making some noise and BABYJANE is one of them.

Their debut "Are You Listening" is classic Hard Rock heavily influenced by the golden years of the L.A. scene; guitar driven, groovin' rockers.
Mixed in the USA by legendary producer Michael Wagener (Motley Crue, Metallica, Skid Row) and mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound in New York (Kiss, Aerosmith, Dokken), you get the picture how this CD sounds.

Opener and first single, the title track "Are You Listening", will smack you down and will draw your attention with some hard rockin’ power. Listen to the riff that binds the entire song, the fat bass, along with the very anthem-ish chorus, it's clear that this is more than a smoky barroom band. Guitarist John Gerasolo will draw comparisons to Mr. Ace Frehley in a sense yet also has his own personality and Andy Smith’s vocals have great power and style.
With songs like "Give It All Up" and "Li'l Gutters", Babyjane demonstrates what Australia stands for rock-wise, but "Quicksand" is all theirs... much more inspired by their American peers, they move away from that typical Australian sound without losing touch with it.

"Town Called Sinner Stone" has a dense tempo and guitar riff and turns the song's feel to another level. What follows is a floaty, hypnotic groove monster with a primal chorus.
"Can You Keep A Secret?" is a textbook example of an everlasting hard rock single. Ticking every box in the 'how do I make a classic hard rock song' list, this is one that will never pop up as people's favorite song, but it's so damn solid and right on the note that it's a great landmark of their artistry still.
"Twenty Too Many" kicks into another rock n' roll story that stands on groove and good riffs. The tension that's created throughout this track is another example of Baby Jane's strength.

"Miss Scorpio" is probably the most commercial, dance-able song of the album, with some great interaction between lead and backing vocals and a clear showcase of the band's bass player's capacities.
"Four Rusted Egos" is one of the most American-sounding tracks on the disc. It misses some of the punch heard in previous tracks, nevertheless, on a riff-by-riff basis, it's still a good effort.
"Demontonic" is a cheap, blues based street-feel rocker, but in the middle turns into somehow of a NWOHM tribute. Strange mix, but interesting.
"Tell Me (What I Need To Know)" ends the album with a fast riff rocker that sounds pretty dirt. This track seems taken from a previous session recording, a bit unpolished, and why not, unfinished.

"Are You Listening" certainly brings some full-throttle tracks with an adrenaline rush, packed with cool guitar riffs, quality vocals and good songs.
Baby Jane needs to work a bit more on the choruses, which often are one-liners repeated. Otherwise this group is a serious contender to becoming future rock stars that certainly do well outside Australia.
I think these guys have good potential to be a quality band for years to come.
Check them out.

01 - Are You Listening
02 - Give It All Up
03 - Li'l Gutters
04 - Quicksand
05 - Town Called Sinner Stone
06 - Can You Keep A Secret?
07 - Twenty Too Many
08 - Miss Scorpio
09 - Four Rusted Egos
10 - Demontonic
11 - Tell Me (What I Need To Know)

Andy Smith – Lead Vocals / Rhythm Guitar
John Gerasolo – Lead Guitar
Paul Judge – Bass Guitar / Vocals
Nik Kats – Drums


Sunday, April 17, 2011

NAZARETH - Big Dogz (2011)

NAZARETH Big Dogz deluxe 2 cd 2011

Scottish rockers NAZARETH have been around since 1968, their impressively prolific discography is now counting a new album: "Big Dogz".
Original vocalist Dan McCafferty still has that distinctive raspy Highlands howl that has made the band so recognizable.
NAZARETH also boasts original bassist Pete Agnew, who has songwriting credits on every song. They are joined by Agnew’s son Lee, who joined on drums in 1999 and Jimmy Murrison, who’s been in the band since 1994.

Despite the advances in technology, the band has a no-frills approach to making a new record. There are no gimmicks here, just the sound of a band doing what it does best – making classic rock and roll.
“We played the songs live in the studio,” says Pete Agnew, “and there were hardly any overdubs.”

"Big Dogz" contains 11 tracks of various styles, from classic hard rockers as the title track "Big Dog's Gonna Howl", "Claimed" or "The Toast" to lovely wee ballads as "Butterfly".
"When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again" is a wonderful 'spacial' rock with a bluesy scent, while the catchy "Radio" is most commercial song on the album.

Pete Agnew says; “They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but having recorded the new album, I don’t agree. We’ve got some tasty bones here!
We’re straining at the leash to tour this puppy. So get ready, because in 2011 the Big Dogz gonna howl!!”

"Big Dogz" sounds more energetic and possesses more dynamic verve than the music they played say, in the ‘70s-'80s. The comparison to wine comes good here - the passing of time has only made them better.
The songs have good contrasts of tempos; have enough interesting points in each of them to make all worthy of being there.
The new Nazareth album is what the band really is: four men who live rock music, recording together in the same room at the same time, showing what they really are, and what they really want.
This is Classic Rock at its best.
Very Good.

01 - Big Dog's Gonna Howl
02 - Claimed
03 - No Mean Monster
04 - When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again
05 - Radio
06 - Time And Tide
07 - Lifeboat
08 - The Toast
09 - Watch Your Back
10 - Butterfly
11 - Sleeptalker

Bonus CD unplugged;
01 - Big Boy
02 - Simple Solution
03 - My White Bicycle
04 - Love Hurts
05 - Open Up Woman

Dan McCafferty - Vocals
Pete Agnew - Bass, Backing Vocals
Jimmy Murrison - Guitar, Piano, Backing Vocals
Lee Agnew - Drums, Backing Vocals


Saturday, April 16, 2011

DUFF McKAGAN's LOADED - The Taking (2011)

DUFF McKAGAN's LOADED - The Taking (2011)

Former Guns N' Roses / Velvet Revolver bass legend Duff McKagan is back with his own project Duff McKagan’s Loaded.
The follow-up to 2009 release 'Sick', new album "The Taking" continue the band’s trademark of personal, somehow nasty hard rock with a bit of sleaze. It’s raw yet polished, with a little bit of edge.

The very first track "Lords Of Abbadon" immediately grabs your attention. This song is super riff-driven and powerful as hell, especially when cranked up.
The blistering punch of "Executioner’s Song" call to mind the sludge-ridden tone of several '90s bands. McKagan displays a surprising yet welcome combative and confrontational mood here, telling us that ‘democracy is such a whore’ and that listeners should ‘know your history’.
"Dead Skin" has straight guitars and a melodic-dark style that reminds me The Cult. One of the best tracks of the album.
The ill-advised "We Win" has a sleazy-punky vibe much in the vein of the latter Shotgun Messiah with ambiguous lyrics.
I don't like "Easier Lying", specially the vocals. It's a moody, drifting track, with an abandon style.

"She’s An Anchor" is dark and somehow captivating, with lyrical anger and raw emotion in McKagan’s vocals as he shouts 'you only need me when you’re drunk and dirty / you only use me when you feel alone'.
"Indian Summer" is an easy listening hard rocker, very radiable, with a nice chorus. Cool track.
The ponderous "Wrecking Ball" swings freely but then hits a destructive climax on the chorus, while the furious follower "King Of The World" harks back to his own roots in punk rock, but the sound is overall clean.
"Cocaine" is a bit boring and predictable, "Your Name" has a good riff but again I am not completely convinced by Duff's vocals.
Last track "Follow Me To Hell" is rage-sleaze, yelling punky with dirty lyrics and a live feel.

This is a curious album. Many tracks are really solid in their style, almost radio-friendly, but some songs have a darker, abandoned feel.
"The Taking" is the sound of a man with no corporate or musical responsibility, simply doing what sounds and feels right. And that's isn't exactly my cup of tea.
In my opinion, a hit and miss recording, but this may change depending on your mood when you listen to it.

01 - Lords Of Abbadon
02 - Executioner's Song
03 - Dead Skin
04 - We Win
05 - Easier Lying
06 - She's An Anchor
07 - Indian Summer
08 - Wrecking Ball
09 - King Of The World
10 - Cocaine
11 - Your Name
12 - Follow Me To Hell

Duff McKagan - Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Mike Squires - Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jeff Rouse - Bass, Backing Vocals
Isaac Carpenter - Drums


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

STARGAZERY - Eye On The Sky (2011)

TOD HOWARTH Opposite Gods

STARGAZERY is the new Finnish hard rock band fronted by the ex-Michael Schenker Group vocalist Jari Tiura, formed with several ex-members of Burning Point (another Fin band).
Their debut "Eye On The Sky" is a solid european melodic hard rock album with a strong '80s influence.
Picture this: eighties Rainbow, without Ronnie James, and then peppered with classic Whitesnake, less bluesy but just as bombastic. A good reference too is Tony Martin's Black Sabbath era.

Stargazery works all the angles of hard rock with aplomb.
The friendliness of melody merged with the power of heaviness marks songs such as the opener "Dying", "Judah (the Lion)" and "Jester Of Kings", the shortest song here.
This is a remarkable aspect of this album; concise and effective songs, wasting little time and no notes, delivering forceful but catchy hard rock.
Surprisingly, the second track is a ballad. And what a great one. Not a syruped lullaby song, this is a classic metalized power ballad with extremely melodic vocal arrangements and potent guitars.

The title track "Eye On The Sky" has definitely a Rainbow bouquet, but the pace is more frenetic and modern sounding, on some places very close to the first melodic Masterplan.
Next, two great numbers in a row; the anthemic "How Many Miles" (very Whitesnake-esque) and "I Am the Night" featuring a catchy chorus and great keyboards.
"Puppet On A String" has a slightly metal edge but very melodic, with vintage, parping keyboard lines (including solo).
Additionally, in a nod to their roots, Stargazery covers Black Sabbath's "Headless Cross", from the Tony Martin era, with predictable success. Very good version.

Some may suggest predictability to Stargazery's debut and they're likely right.
But, who cares? You can't find bands like this anymore.
This is Classic '80s European Melodic Hard Rock with an edge done with class, perfect musicianship, very melodic, massively accessible and entertaining.
"Eye On The Sky" smokes, crank it to 10 and enjoy.

01 - Dying
02 - Everytime I Dream Of You
03 - Eye On The Sky
04 - How Many Miles
05 - I Am The Night
06 - Jester Of Kings
07 - Judah (The Lion)
08 - Puppet On A String
09 - S.O.S.
10 - Headless Cross [Black Sabbath cover]

Jari Tiura - Vocals (MSG, Snakegod)
Pete Ahonen - Guitars & Backing Vocals (Burning Point)
Jukka Jokikokko - Bass & Backing Vocals (Burning Point)
Marco Sneck - Keyboards (Charon, Pekka Tapani band)
Jussi Ontero - Drums (Burning Point, Wildcard)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

MIKE + THE MECHANICS - The Road (2011)

MIKE + THE MECHANICS - The Road (2011)

Multi-million selling Mike + The Mechanics surprisingly returns with a brand new album titled “The Road”.
Following a six-year hiatus and a massive reunion world tour with Genesis, Mike Rutherford has joined forces with new vocalists in the form of Andrew Roachford and Canadian born actor and singer Tim Howar for a new generation of The Mechanics.
The band's classic, trademark sound is here, but Mike has added to some tracks a style that updates his music to the new millenium.

The album starts with the title song, an up-beat sweet poppy tune with a background organ and tiny drums, however, once the distortion kicks in for the guitar solo, dedicated fans will instantly be reminded of the elements of classic Mechanics. "The Road" introduces Andrew Roachford as a singer, a groovy vocalist.
"Reach Out (Touch The Sun)" is the first single of the album. The measured verse trudge through a song that explodes in the chorus. The song has hit potential – and you realize with a start that you didn’t really realize that the Mechanics have new singers. Andrew Roachford does a stellar job with the song, and he occasionally sounds more like Paul Young than Paul Carrack.
"Try To Save Me" follows the style of many '90s Mechanics song – in fact, it could be the second single because it is perfectly suited to the radio. A catchy track again with Andrew Roachford on vocals.

The first example of the 'new' Mechanics is on "Background Noise". A ballad based on acoustic guitar and lives off the catchy chorus. The singer on this number is guest Arno Carstens, a South African that is not part of the current Mechanics line-up. His soft vocal textures sounds relaxed, almost sloppy – a bit like Mark Knopfler. A very good track.
"I Don’t Do Love" is a typical Mechanics ballad with the potential to become a classic. This is the only song on the album that is a co-production of Mike Rutherford, Christopher Neil, Tim Howar and Andrew Roachford – these four are the core Mechanics. It is a song that had to be sung by Roachford. His voice fits the emotional dilemma that is described in the song.

When there is a choir on a Mechanics song you automatically think of 'The Living Years'. "Heaven Doesn’t Care" it is one of the showpieces for the album. For the first time (and only on the sixth song!) we hear the second singer Tim Howar on lead vocals. He almost outdoes himself and roars out the song. Lots of depth, a great melody – a great song.
After a string of excellent, classy songs, "It Only Hurts For A While" is the quintessential interval piece. The song runs its course without anything special, not bad either, it is simply very middle-of-the-road. Sung by Arno Carstens.

"Walking On Water" is catchy song where the programmed rhythm part reminds you the band's earlier works.
"Hunt You Down" is an easy up-tempo with a keyboard/organ line that sounds like of one of those you would have had as a child or a teen, but it sticks in one’s ears and proves just how strong a songwriter Mike Rutherford is.
On "Oh No" you can clearly hear the band's updated style, looking towards modern sounds and contemporary production.
The album finale is a typical Mechanics track. It seems Mike has a special talent for 'final songs'. A calm, organic melody with great instrument orchestration and a very good guitar work.

"The Road" is definitely a Mike Rutherford project, even more so than previous Mechanics albums.
The new voices and the time between this and the previous record have been good for the disc. There are three or four spots of brilliant songs, and the mixture of ballads and faster songs is just right.
Fans of eighties / nineties Genesis and Rutherford numerous solo projects, certainly will enjoy this soft rock CD. If you compare it with previous Mechanics offerings the album has touches of 'Beggar on a Beach of Gold', the classic debut album and (less so) of 'M6'.
Good one.

01 - The Road
02 - Reach Out (Touch The Sun)
03 - Try To Save Me
04 - Background Noise
05 - I Don't Do Love
06 - Heaven Doesn't Care
07 - It Only Hurts For A While
08 - Walking On Water
09 - Hunt You Down
10 - Oh No
11 - You Can Be The Rock

Lead Vocals: Andrew Roachford, Arno Carstens, Tim Howar
Guitars: Mike Rutherford, Anthony Drennan, Martin Sutton
Bass: Mike Rutherford
Keyboards: Andrew Roachford, Luke Juby, Toby Chapman
Drums: Gary Wallis, Harry Rutherford (Mike's son)
Hammond: Peter Adams
Programming: Mike Rutherford, Martin Sutton, Harry Rutherford
Background Vocals: Tim Howar, Christopher Neil, Hazel Fernandez, Beverly Brown Mary Pearce


LEGEND - Cardinal Points (2011)

LEGEND - Cardinal Points (2011)

LEGEND is a great neo-prog band from UK that has been together since 1988, releasing 3 acclaimed albums during the nineties.
Now, after almost a 15 year hiatus, they're back with a few line-up changes.
"Cardinal Points" is billed as a concept album exploring the 4 points of the compass and their relationships to the elements of western mysticism; Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
The four epic tracks are linked together by the sounds of wind and thunder, and the album is designed to be listened to as a complete entity rather than the collection of individual songs which made up the band's previous works.

"Carved In Stone" opens with a snatch of birdsong, before the drums, new vocalist Kerry Parker, and finally the rest of the band join in. The track builds slowly, alternating between the stripped back sound we heard at the start, and the band in full flight.
The new female vocalist Kerry Parker has a very deep range, somehow mysterious and intriguing.
Each track is written around one of the four elements, track two is called "Whisper On The Wind" and starts with just the sound of the bass (and the wind).
It is quite an up-tempo track for the first 2 and a half minutes, then it slows right down into an atmospheric instrumental section with a slightly Eastern flavour to it until Dave Foster gives his guitar a bit of a workout and the tempo picks right up again.

"Spark To A Flame" is probably the most complex track on the album, certainly regarding its ever-shifting time signatures, and it contains a beautiful ethereal mid-section where drums are absent altogether.
We are treated to some wonderful organ sounds here before some brief chanting lead us back into a repeat of the song's main lyric, and finally to an amazing, brillant full-on instrumental ending.
"Drop In The Ocean" is another track with ever changing moods and nuances, this one above all others gives Kerry the chance to show what a fine voice she has. The vocal parts are slow and deliberate, and she sings them beautifully.
There is a quiet acoustic interlude with just a guitar and a synthesized flute, and a full symphonic ending.

Legend Mark1 were regarded as a neo prog band, but their new sound to me is something much more than this.
The Tony Banks-ish keyboard leads and the driving guitars are still present, but also some pagan-folk and symph elements are thrown into the mix, many changes in tempo within the songs, some magnificent purely instrumental sections in each of the four tracks, and Kerry's appealing, excellent vocals.
"Cardinal Points" is pure prog, but not boring at all. It is the wonderful variety within each song which helps maintain interest throughout, and allows these quite long compositions to work so well.
This album deserves to be listened, and I hope the band enjoy some long-overdue success in the progressive world.

01 - Carved In Stone (Earth)
02 - Whisper On The Wind (Air)
03 - Spark To A Flame (Fire)
04 - Drop In The Ocean (Water)

Kerry Parker: Vocals
Steve Paine: Keyboards
Dave Foster: Guitars
Dan Nelson: Bass
John Macklin: Drums


Friday, April 8, 2011

JAN HOLBERG PROJECT (feat. JLTurner) - Sense Of Time (2011)

JAN HOLBERG PROJECT feat. Joe Lynn Turner)Sense Of Time (2011)

Allow me to introduce you to Jan Holberg. He's hailing from Trondheim (Norway) and is mainly known as a session bass player.
After years of writing instrumental songs, he found that the time was ripe to write songs with lyrics.
Work for his debut album started in 2008 and from the beginning, it was his aim to blend many styles, such as classic rock, rock&pop & instrumentals.

In the summer of 2009 he went into the studio to record demos with some local musicians from Trondheim.
After listening to the result, he got the idea to contact some of the musicians who had a major influence on him.
A year later everything was arranged and the album was recorded in places like Reykjavik (Iceland), Trondheim (Norway) and New Jersey (USA).
When the album was finally mixed in Reykjavik, it was sent to Germany for the mastering.

After having listened to the album a first time, I was knocked down by the perfect sound, something that is absolutely necessary for this kind of soft rock albums.
Says Jan: "The idea behind the album is that music should be free, so there are no musical borders on this album. You can hear ballads, rock&pop songs, instrumentals and a bit of funk.
This is what I am all about as a musician."

But what makes this release so special is that all songs are performed by no one else than the great Joe Lynn Turner, a vocalist with an immense career so far.
Joe Lynn Turner adds: "I had a great time stretching out the vocal style on Jan's songs. I'm always interested in something different with quality."

And quality is indeed what we get here with this album full of variety.
All tracks are stunning.
The opener and title song "Sense Of Time" is a terrific classic rocker with great guitars and fat bass, "Mesmerized" has catchy rhythm, and "Vision Of Lust" features some classy, raspy vocals from Turner.

The rather poppy "Heart Of Summer" has an awesome feeling (Joe, you're great!), "Sorry" is a brilliant, high class ballad, while the vintage "Invincible" reminds you the best '83 Rainbow.
Remarkable from the lot is the memorable, excellent midtempo "Come Rain Come Shine". What a great tune.

There's a couple of tasteful instrumentals, "The Meadow" with a sax as main instrument and some jazzy overtones (a perfectly crafted tune), and last track "Mother Nature", a calm, relaxing melody with tons of sensibility.

On "Sense Of Time", Mr. Holberg proves that he can write good songs, with a head and a tail.
It's a real pleasure listen JLT singing different material than the usual expected from him. He could be a bit wasted onstage, but the man still is a beast into the studio. Joe's performance is outstanding, with passion and a lot of feeling. This is his best recording in years.
As said, production is top notch, and all the muscians involved, superb.
The music was recorded on several places of Europe, while Joe Lynn Turner did all the vocals at a New Jersey studio.
Refreshing, fantastic album, only released in Norway.
A must have.

01. Sense Of Time
02. Mesmerized
03. Sorry
04. Heart Of Summer
05. Wild Eyes (instrumental interlude)
06. The Meadow (instrumental)
07. Invincible
08. Vision Of Lust
09. Come Rain Come Shine
10. Mother Nature (instrumental)

Jan E. Holberg - Bass
Joe Lynn Turner (RAINBOW, DEEP PURPLE) - Vocals
Eythor Gunnarsson (MEZZOFORTE) - Keyboards
Skalg Mikaelson Raaen (SAMBANDET, ESPEN LIND) - Guitar
Bente Smaavik (BLONDE ON BLONDE, PERFECT CRIME) - Backing Vocals
Therese Ulvan, Vegar Nesset - add. Vocals


Thursday, April 7, 2011

BUCKET and Co - Guitars, Beers & Tears (2010-11)

BUCKET & Co Guitars, Beers & Tears

Following years of providing stellar fretwork for iconic groups such as Humble Pie, Bad Company (beginning in 1990 with their blockbuster comeback, 'Holy Water'), as well in ASAP (Adrian Smith And Project), Dave "Bucket" Colwell has stepped out to showcase his talents as a world class writer/guitarist with a rock solid, debut solo disc “Guitars, Beers & Tears”.

Bucket has surrounded himself with good company over the years, and many of his friends are featured guests on his record.
We have ex Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith lending vocals and lead guitar to “Make Up Your Mind” and vocals on “Reach Out” . He sounds a lot like Sammy Hagar circa 1984 on the latter, an adorable melodic rockin' tune.
Edwin McCain has a very classy voice similar to Night Ranger's Kelly Keagy. On the melodic rocker “Why You Call” the man is great with an emotional performance, while on the bluesy “Survive” his style is more rough. Cool track by the way, with a hot guitar.

Steve Conte from The New York Dolls sings “If You Need Me At All”, a simple but beautiful 'on the road' midtempo.
The Quireboys' vocalist Spike was the right choice for "“Girl Of My Dreams”, a great rhythm semi-ballad with tons of feeling. He sings too on “I’d Lie To You” a rocker with a potent riff and hammond organ.
Robert Hart shines on “Somebody To Love”, a lovely ballad with calm pace filled with acoustic instruments.
“Life” is performed by Danny Bowes from Thunder. His presence in the disc enhances this album to a higher level.
All songs are excellent, but my favorite is the title track “Guitars, Beers & Tears”, not only it's a wonderful retro-tune, it features one of the best melodic rock vocalists ever: Chris Ousey (Heartland, Virginia Wolf). Awesome rockin' track!

Bucket has a long and storied career in the music business and has appeared with many artists including Bon Jovi, Slash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and ZZ Top to name a few, and you’ll hear bits and pieces of their influence and others throughout “Guitars, Beers, and Tears”.
There are lots of excellent tunes that blend classic rock with those sweet AOR melodies from '80s rock. Colwell is a terrific songwriter bringing fun, memorable melodies back into rock.
Now properly distributed, “Guitars, Beers, and Tears” is one of the most pleasant melodic rock surprises recently.
This is Dave 'Bucket' Colwell’s self-proclaimed labor of love, and it is a record that demands to be on everyone’s bucket list.

01 Guitars, Beers & Tears (Colwell)
Vocals - Chris Ousey (Heartland)

02 Girl of My Dreams (Colwell)
Vocals - Spike (The Quireboys) Keyboards - Mark Read

03 Make Up Your Mind (Colwell/Adrian Smith)
Guitarist/Vocals - Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)

04 Somebody To Love (Colwell/Tommy Lee James)
Vocals - Robert Hart (Bad Company)

05 Why You Call (Colwell)
Vocals - Edwin McCain, Keyboards - Mark Read

06 If You Need Me (Colwell)
Guitarist/Vocals - Steve Conte (NY Dolls)

07 Reach Out (Cowell)
Vocals - Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)

08 I’d Lie To You (Frankie Miller)
Vocals - Spike (The Quireboys), Backing Vocals - Bekka Bramlett

09 Survive (Colwell)
Vocals - Edwin McCain, Harmonica - Judd Lander

10 Life (Colwell/J. Leo)
Vocals - Danny Bowes (Thunder), Keyboards - Mark Read

11 Why Can’t It Be (Colwell)
Vocals - Seth Romano

12 Mr. Nobody (Colwell)
Vocals - Dave Colwell, Backing Vocals - Lauren Harris

Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell : Guitars, Vocals
Jaz Lochrie : Bass, Backing Vocals
Gary ‘Harry’ James : Drums


CEM KOKSAL (feat. Mats Leven) - Vigilante Episode One (2011)

CEM KOKSAL feat. Mats Leven  Vigilante Episode One (2011)

Guitar virtuoso Cem Köksal hails from an atypical land for Rock 'n Roll; Turkey.
He is a well and respected name between musicians and geetar aficionados, and since the last decade Cem has been trying to break his country boundaries hiring occidental vocalists to sing on his albums.
In 2006, a successful tour with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals was shot through 11 province-wide concerts and subsequently published on DVD and CD; 'Cem Köksal Live feat. JLT'.

His new conceptual project -four years in the making- "Vigilante", consists of 3 separate five-song EP to be released at short intervals, featuring international and local vocalists.
For "Vigilante Episode One", monster pipes swede (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen / Treat / Swedish Erotica) Mats Levén was chosen.

"Awakened One" is a melodic neo-classical track with good harmonies. Unusual thing with this song is that the guitars isn't all over the instruments shredding all the time. There's a fire solo of course, but also room for the keyboards and especially the harmony vocals. Mats Levén proves he can sing anything, from ballads to furious metal. But this is a very melodious track.
"Don Quixote" ups the tempo a little. This is a much better arranged track where the vocal part is the star. Great backing vocals / chorus too.
"Stalkers In The Night" is a more ahead, direct hard rocker with a commercial, infectious chorus where Levén feels at home. The riff has a little eastern vibe and the solo is pretty intrincate yet melodic.

Supposedly, "Vigilante" will be released later as a full-album including only the tracks from the 3 EP sung in english.
So, the remaining two tracks on "Episode One" seems to be exclusive, bonus tracks.
Despite of being performed in turkish, this does not affect the essence of both.
"Askina Elveda" is a slow paced epic ballad that ups the tempo during the melodic chorus. This song features a mix of calm, clean guitars with an intense soloing at the end. Mehmet Kaya has a deep vocal register, with a nice color.
On "Var Olmazsan" the vocals are shared between a female vocalist (which has a warm voice), and a male. This is a neo-classical ballad in the Yngwie style. The track has a very nice intro and we can hear an atypical chord instrument (similar to violin). The guitar solo is very classy with tons of sustain.

"Vigilante Episode One" is a very interesting work featuring a slightly different approach than the usual western style.
Koksal is a good guitar player, very classic and vintage. As said, Levén can sing anything and he's still in top form.
The only problem with this recording is the tech department. Koksal himself has produced & mixed all the tunes. Production is good, but the mix fails in a couple of tracks to bring on front all these songs' potential.
Anyway, "Vigilante Episode One" has an attractive concept, good songs and a monster vocalist.
This should appeal to any early Yngwie / Rainbow fan and electric guitar aficionados.

01 - Awakened One
02 - Don Quixote
03 - Stalkers In The Night
04 - Askina Elveda (bonus track)
05 - Var Olmazsan (bonus track)

Cem Köksal - Guitars
Mats Levén - Vocals
Cagatay Ates - Bass
Bulent Guven - Keyboards, Guitar
Mert Alkaya - Drums

Mehmet Kaya - Vocals (4)
Misafir Sanatcilar - Vocals (5)
Zeynep Casalini - Vocals (5)
Nurhat Sensesli - Bass (5)


KINGDOM COME - Rendered Waters (2011)

KINGDOM COME Rendered Waters (2011)

When you think to back in the day and remember bands that made an impact right from the start with kick-ass music and stunning vocals, one band comes to mind and that is KINGDOM COME.
Yes, you heard the claims they are Led Zeppelin clones but people found out differently as time went by. Ever since that self-titled debut in 1988 fans still to this day go back to that release and reminisce.

With many releases under their belt since then KINGDOM COME return in 2011 with their new offering “Rendered Waters” which includes eight older and three newly-recorded songs.
All eleven tracks were cut at Lenny's Two Square Noise Factory Studio in Hamburg, Germany.
At first thought you would think this is just a compilation album but to the contrary, the eight past tracks are newly recorded with an updated feel of today’s music.
One thing for sure if you only listened to the first couple releases by the band and thought their time has past, you’re completely wrong.

“Rendered Waters” completely smokes and what I like most is that lead vocalist and founder Lenny Wolf did not cherry-pick hit songs but he went to the well and rejuvenated tunes that could have been forgotten by past by fans. That gives you the fact this isn't a cash-in release.

The CD opens with “Can't Deny” and captures the atmospheric vibe that many artists look for. Wolf is so amazing that chills run down your neck. It’s hard to believe that some fans lost track of a phenomenal vocalist like Wolf. The guitars by Eric Förster shreds with astounding presence.
Once music lovers hear the newly record material, new and old fans will flock with enjoyment and bring new excitement to KINGDOM COME. I’m going to tell you I am one who was a fan of that first release and moved on after that but to tell you the truth these tracks to me are fresh and the sound and production blows me away.

Next up is “The Wind” another track that’s off the hook and truly shines. If you like classic rock with a bit of spice “Rendered Waters” will set fire to your ears. Track after track explodes with exciting guitar work and vocally, Wolf is stunning.

You want a brand new track? Well here it comes in the form of “Blue Trees”. Now if you think there is a change in direction or thought this could have been a track from the past how can you differ the past tracks on “Rendered Waters” to the brand new tracks? That’s what happens when you have top-notch musicians and writers in a band. New or old the songs kick ass and have a fresh sound.
Check out “Should I”, it's amazing! You’ve got to sit back and enjoy these tracks and think; ' man I miss those past days when music like this was King '.
So many bands wish they could scratch the surface of a release like “Rendered Waters”.

With a heavier tone “Pushing Hard” takes the band to another level and the astounding vocals by Wolf once again tear it up. Check out the guitar work and bass lines, which are sultry yet powerful. I just love it!
“Is It Fair Enough” is another brand new track that moves away from the typical KINGDOM COME style. The song meshes different guitar techniques and has a softer tone at times yet jams to a classical guitar vibe and I liked the changing style.
The third brand new track “Don`t Remember” is my favorite because it really shows Wolf's vocals at his best and once again KINGDOM COME as a unit will shine.
Wolf even selected a song such as “Break Down The Wall” from his pre-KC days back in 1985 when he played with L.A.-based band STONE FURY, which just goes to show how timeless the material is. This re-worked version is one of the highlights of the album.

Honestly, I don't remember much of Kingdom Come after 1993. But Lenny Wolf has kept the band alive and recording albums to this day.
Kingdom Come's current recognition seems to be in Wolf's native Germany and surrounding European continent.
However, with this year's "Rendered Waters", Wolf does not want to dwell upon the past. He wants you to hear what Kingdom Come is all about in the current day.
And they sound terrific.

01. Can't Deny (newly recorded version)
02. The Wind (newly recorded version)
03. Blue Trees (brand new song 2011)
04. Should I (newly recorded version)
05. I've Been Trying (newly recorded version)
06. Pushing Hard (newly recorded version)
07. Seventeen (newly recorded version)
08. Is It Fair Enough (brand new song 2011)
09. Living Out Of Touch (newly recorded version)
10. Don't Remember (brand new song 2011)
11. Break Down The Wall (newly recorded version)

Lenny Wolf – Vocals
Eric Foerster – Guitar
Frank Binke – Bass
Nada Rahy – Drums and Percussion


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WITHIN TEMPTATION - The Unforgiving [Special Edition] (2011)

WITHIN TEMPTATION The Unforgiving [Special Edition] (2011)
3 bonus tracks

For a band that forged a major international reputation on the basis of sweeping gothic melodrama – all drop-tuned guitar riffs, massive orchestral/choral backgrounds and vocalist Sharon den Adel's pure, angelic soprano – Within Temptation's new album "The Unforgiving" is a major step in their departure from that sound.
Some slight changes were already underway in their album 'The Silent Force', their first tentative steps from so-called 'ethereal metal' to more mainstream rock, and continued into their 2007 release 'The Heart of Everything'... but they hadn't made a truly daring creative leap until now.

"The Unforgiving" is their first-ever concept record and the strict comic commitment of the plot with a movie campaign -all the way down to the music itself… which is, to say the least, far different from everything we’ve heard.
Casting aside the refined sound of its predecessors, "The Unforgiving" preserves the bombastic side from 'Black Symphony' thanks to musicians from the same Metropole Orchestra. Despite being blurred at times, the symphonic parts score many effective points and allow the album to finally get to that 'guitar–driven opus' status we’ve all been waiting for.
This can also be said for the rhythm section, which is new for Within Temptation‘s sound, thanks to a session Swedish musician who took responsibility filling in for the ex-drummer Stephen van Haestregt.

Co-founder/guitarist Robert Westerholt has explained how the band was interested in tapping into the more straight-forward rock styles of the '80s for inspiration, since that was also the period when their love of music and comics began to intertwine; much of this new stylistic shift is probably based on that musical nostalgia.
It's also interesting that the band would incorporate more pop-rock rhythms and song structures for this particular album, since the concept spans such an epic supernatural tale of revenge and a centuries-old team of evil-fighters, but weirdly enough it actually works in the story's favor.

Not that the band completely abandoned the colossal sound that their fans have come to expect: some of the tracks on "The Unforgiving" are as hugely cinematic as anything they've turned out in their career – they're just built more on a traditional hard rock/pop core, all the way down to arena-friendly guitar solos, ballads and danceable beats.
This approach "reflects one of the many musical roots we have," Westerholt said. "Combined with the modern influences on our new album, it's like the past and future created the present."

The storytelling aspect of the album is set up immediately with the brief opening track "Why Not Me," a dialogue excerpt from the title character of Mother Maiden – the first short film in the series – establishing the connection between the music and the comic book storyline.
The first clear sign of their new sound comes straight-away in the first song "Shot In The Dark," the first time the band relies on keyboards for rhythm lines and not just sweeping orchestral passages. This song sounds like Roxette on steroids. Weird? No, it actually works.
Not that they don't hang onto the symphonic elements: in fact, they incorporate a real orchestra on this record, which plays a key role in the massive, high-energy cut "In The Middle Of The Night". Believe it or not, this is a Heart-like (yes, the Wilson sisters) song, specially in the vocal part.

But when the single "Faster" steps up, the band's '80s-era influences really come into play, marking the biggest split from their early sound. This track blatantly rips off Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’ (but ends up bearing more resemblance to HIM’s abhorrent cover than the original). I don't like this one.
But the moodier ballad "Fire And Ice" and the mighty guitar riffs & higher-range vocals of "Iron" (great track) still remind you of their roots, and they're also shining examples of how the band expertly handles epic-scale arrangements.
The mid-tempo "Where Is The Edge?" packs a solid hook and the chorus is nice and melodic.
"Sinéad" is the theme song of the album & comic's title character – as well as the second single – is significantly different in style and tone with its clubby dance beat, but it's actually a lot more fun than "Faster." It also shares a title with the grim & creepy second film in the series – which doesn't contain the song, but sets up more of the character's backstory.

"Lost" is an emotionally powerful ballad that showcases Sharon's vocal range, before the band ventures down a much more sinister path for "Murder" – a dark and complex song with goose-bumpy harmonies and a vast cinematic feel.
"A Demon's Fate" is a 50/50 split of the band's older and newer styles, with all the grand-sounding instrumentation & backing vocals of their earlier efforts, plus some of lead guitarist Ruud Jolie's most interesting work (check the 'Phantom of the Opera' tribute chords that close the song).
The melancholy "Stairway To The Skies" ends the album on a dreamlike note, with simple but climactic instrumentation forming the perfect accompaniment to Sharon's otherworldly voice.
Three bonuses in this 'special edition': "I Don't Wanna" has a very '80s feel with a poppy aura, "Empty Eyes" is cool and melodious but lacks some punch, while in "The Last Dance" the band experiments with celtic sounds and arrangements.

For a band that helped push female-fronted light symphonic metal into the mainstream (along with Nightwish, Tristania, The Gathering, Epica and dozens more), it's a daring but ultimately savvy move for Within Temptation to bust free from that model... it took them a little while to get there, but they finally achieved the transition with "The Unforgiving".
In a way, they're not only re-defining themselves, but the whole genre as well.

01 - Why Not Me
02 - Shot In The Dark
03 - In The Middle Of The Night
04 - Faster
05 - Fire and Ice
06 - Iron
07 - Where Is The Edge?
08 - Sinead
09 - Lost
10 - Murder
11 - A Demon’s Fate
12 - Stairway To The Skies
13 - I Don't Wanna (Bonus Track)
14 - Empty Eyes (Bonus Track)
15 - The Last Dance (Bonus Track)

Sharon den Adel (vocals)
Stefan Helleblad (guitar)
Ruud Jolie (acoustic guitar, electric guitar)
Robert Westerholt (electric guitar)
Martijn Spierenburg (keyboards, programming)
Jeroen Van Veen (bass guitar)
Nicka Hellenberg (drums)


Monday, April 4, 2011

TIGERTAILZ - Bezerk; Live… Burnin' Fuel (2011)

TIGERTAILZ Bezerk Live Burnin’ Fuel

UK, Welsh rabble rousers TIGERTAILZ are back with their first new album in three years.
2010 saw the band touring and revisiting the crazy days of 1990 -celebrating the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough album 'Bezerk'- playing the entire album in sequence, plus two surprises for the faithful.
The resulting live CD, recorded in Cardiff, Newcastle and Stockholm, is a two-pronged return, something that will both cement Tigertailz' place in glam metal history, and act as a springboard for the band's future.
It celebrates both the old - classics such as 'Love Bomb Baby', 'Heaven', 'Noise Level Critical' and 'Sick Sex' - along with the new, heavier twist that the more musically evolved band of today inevitably bring to the music.

This 12-song live set also gets to the flaming heart of how Tigertailz originally envisaged the songs on 'Bezerk' before studios and record companies took their pound of flesh.
That said, the birth of "Bezerk; Live...Burnin´" Fuel wasn't always straightforward, as frontman Kim Hooker explains:
"We wanted to do something for the 20th anniversary of Bezerk, but in our infinite ignorance we thought we could record a gig and just put it out.
Our longtime friend and producer Tim Lewis reminded us that any live album must stand up to repeated listening - no one ever puts out such an album without spit and polish. So, we've worked extra hard on getting this band's live sound to shine through."

Capturing their unique brand of intensity - the clash of melody and mayhem that defines any Tigertailz show - is a tall order. That's why Lewis and Tigertailz took their time to get things right, ensuring that the live vibe, the spark, and the rage for perfection shone through in every track.
They wanted, as Kim says, to 'bring you the best possible live headbanging experience.'
"The album sounds fantastic," he enthuses. "The songs leap out at you, just like we always wanted them to. You'll be amazed at how exciting these songs sound in 2010.
We were inspired by albums like 'Kiss - Alive' and 'Judas Priest - Unleashed In The East'. What we've created is the nearest thing you can get to a Tigertailz concert in your front room"

"Bezerk; Live...Burnin´" features all ten songs from the Bezerk album, performed in order, culled from three European shows in 2010.
Additionally, the band adds on an encore of two killer cover tunes, a ripping version of The Osmonds 1972 hit "Crazy Horses" as well as Motorhead's classic anthem "Ace Of Spades".
These twelve songs sound stunning, and the band is as sharp as ever.

This live album is not only proof positive that Tigertailz is still viable and relevant today, but also that yes, the Bezerk album was a dazzling release for this genre back in the day and all these songs have stood the test of time.
The recording quality is just amazing.
All the instruments and vocal harmonies are perfectly balanced, production is crisp and neat, polished and glossy, but retaining the raw 'live' feel.
All this, of course, supported by a brillant set of songs featuring huge choruses and catchy melodies.
"Bezerk; Live...Burnin´" is one of the best live rock 'n roll recordings of all time.
Trust me.
Highly Recommended

01. Sick Sex
02. Love Bomb Baby
03. I Can Fight Dirty Too
04. Noise Level Critical
05. Heaven
06. Love Overload
07. Action City
08. Twist & Shake
09. Squeeze It Dry
10. Call Of The Wild
11. Crazy Horses
12. Ace Of Spades

Kim Hooker - vocals
Jay Pepper - guitars
Sarah Firebrand - bass
Robin Guy - drums
Produced by Tim Lewis and Tigertailz


Saturday, April 2, 2011

LEGION (Phil Vincent) - ST (2010)

LEGION  Phil Vincent ST  2010

This band seems to have come out of nowhere, with their debut album published at the end of October and they are already causing enough of a stir to get a five album deal with an european label.
The principal songwriters are Wolverhampton based guitarist Vince O’Regan (Bob Catley / Eden / Pulse) and American vocalist Phil Vincent (Solo / D’ercole). Joining them to fill the band are Dianno rhythm section Gavin Cooper (Lionsheart) on bass and Steve Hopgood (Jagged Edge) on drums.
Vince O’Regan can write and perform various styles from the softest AOR to the heaviest metal, a very versatile and talented guitarist. Phil Vincent is prolific a singer / guitarist with many solo albums and sIde projects.

Legion are a Melodic Hard Rock band who are at the heavier end of the scale but still hugely melodic, they put me in mind of some of the harder Hair Metal bands from back in the day like most noticeably Dokken but they will also appeal to fans of the likes of Pretty Maids and the more edged melodic bands.
Phil Vincent’s vocal style has grown and he delivers a powerhouse performance throughout the album.
Vince has created a big full guitar sound plenty of big hard rocking riffs full of energy and head banging groove. This is a real return to form for Vince and he has delivered probably his best performances since Bob Catley’s excellent 'When Empire’s Burn' album.
The pounding and hard hitting rhythm section backbone provided by Cooper & Hopgood is perfect for this genre.

“Leave Me Alone” has a killer riff from Vince which will embed itself on your eardrums; the song has lots of power and energy. It has a big chorus with great lyric’s from Phil.
“Trouble” has another monster in your face guitar riff with a real rockin' groove. A big memorable chorus which really puts me in mind of Dokken and will definitely get you head banging.
“Caught In The Madness” is a dark and brooding hard rocker with Phil’s vocal style blending effortlessly with Vince’s guitar work to form a really notable song.
“Coming For You” has a thumping rhythm section which gives the song some real bite. This probably has one of Phil’s finest vocal performances on the album and it has a killer chorus

Slow burning ballad “Someday” is very dark and some great intricate guitar playing from Vince makes the song shine.
“Never Be The Same” is instant and catchy as hell, if there was going to be a single this would be it. It has a fantastic riff and the song really grabs you with a great energy and flow which lead you to a big melodic chorus.
“Where Were You” has a big driving riff which surrounds some excellent guitar playing, most notably in the verses. That hook filled keyboard riff is unshakeable and delicious, coupled with a big shout it out loud chorus makes it a real winner.

“Too Late” has a great head banging riff, a full force rocker with another fantastic guitar performance from Vince.
“Deceiver” is a mid-tempo rocker which is very moody and atmospheric and Phil’s vocal’s fit perfectly with the vibe of the song.
“All The Way” has a strong catchy instant guitar riff. A big and melodic song which is very commercial. An absolutely fantastic song with great lyrics, hook filled guitars and killer melodic vocals.
Bonus track “Damage Done” is a mid-tempo rocker which see’s Phil’s vocals coming to the forefront again especially on the strong chorus.

"Legion" is a guitar lead melodic hard rock album with flavours of the past but with a firm ear to the future.
Strong vocals, a thunderous rhythm section, big riffs and choruses makes this album a winner with me and should impress and be enjoyed by everyone who likes good guitar driven melodic rock.
It’s an album full of power and energy, a thrill ride from beginning to end, a real hard rockin’ goodie.
I’m really looking forward to how this band progresses especially with album number two soon to be released.
Very Good.

01 - Leave Me Alone
02 - Trouble
03 - Caught In The Madness
04 - Coming For You
05 - Someday
06 - Do You Remember
07 - Where Were You
08 - Too Late
09 - Deceiver
10 - All The Way
11 - Damage Done (bonus track)

Guitars – Vince O’Regan (Bob Catley / Eden / Pulse)
Vocals, Keyboards – Phil Vincent
Bass – Gavin Cooper (Lionsheart)
Drums – Steve Hopgood (Jagged Edge)


HALESTORM - ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP (2011)

HALESTORM ReAniMate The CoVeRs eP (2011)

Halstorm burst onto the hard-rock scene with their 2009 self-titled debut, featuring the smash hit 'I Get Off'. Since then, frontwoman Lzzy Hale has been featured on several magazines as one of the 'Hottest Chicks in Metal'.
Now, as a stop-gap until the band’s highly anticipated second studio album, Halestorm drop this covers EP.

With songs by Guns N’ Roses, Lady Gaga and the Beatles, ReAniMate is like a perfect mix tape, except as seen through the lenses of Hale and her bandmates.
Beginning with Skid Row’s ’80s classic “Slave to the Grind,” Lzzy’s screams and harmonies make this a breath of fresh air, a perfect balance between old and new, all the while proving that Sebastian Bach & Co. were ahead of their time.
Things then take a turn when Halestorm take on a song that’s from this century: Lady Gaga’s ubiquitous “Bad Romance”. Hard-rock loyalists, fear not, the band performs it stripped raw. The thing is, Halestorm still manage to keep the song’s original pop format, it just has more edge.

Original Guns 'N Roses “Out Ta Get Me” and now Heart's classic “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” re both excellent versions, but the real triumph here, however, is Halestorm’s rendition of the Beatles’ “I Want You/She’s So Heavy.”
If you have ever wondered what it would have sounded like if John, Paul, George, and Ringo met up with Black Sabbath and Janis Joplin for a late-night jam session, Halestorm have the answer. Lzzy’s caterwauls and sultry vocals deliver the message of raw passion and sensuality, with an absolute ' I don’t give a fuck ' attitude that many female vocalists could stand to channel more often.

Taken in full, "ReAniMate" is a treasure trove of top-notch hard rock, regardless of the performers’ genders.
Cover albums in general run the risk of being either off-putting to fans of the all the bands involved or, worse yet, boring. But Halestorm managed here to make these songs their own while giving the artists they’ve covered their due.
In fact, the release’s only failing is that it’s an EP: six songs just aren’t enough.
Great EP. Recommended.

1 - Slave To The Grind (Skid Row cover)
2 - Bad Romance (Lady Gaga cover)
3 - Hunger Strike (Temple Of The Dog cover)
4 - Out Ta Get Me (Guns 'N Roses cover)
5 - All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You (Heart cover)
6 - I Want You [She's So Heavy] (The Beatles cover)

Lzzy Hale - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Arejay Hale - drums, percussion, backing vocals
Joe Hottinger - guitar, backing vocals
Josh Smith - bass, backing vocals


Friday, April 1, 2011

WICKED JESTER - Royalty Sux (2011)

WICKED JESTER Royalty Sux (2011)

Wicked Jester born in 1987. Three guys from Illinois (Shane, D.D., and Rob) that relocated to Biloxi, Mississippi to join the native Kenny Kweens and became big fish in a little pond.
The stage performances were incredible for a band of their indie level: pyro, lightshows and big sound systems. The band sold their self-financed recordings on tape after the shows with great success.

In 1991 they headed West to Los Angeles to make a noise but it was a little too late. Even though they sold out shows and were critically acclaimed by the local rags, the band called it quits in 1993.
An independent label resurrected these tapes a couple years ago and offered the band to release their first official CD ever.
Shane and the boys have gone back in the studio and re-cut the entire record from start to finish.

The result is "Royalty Sux", a trip back to the Sunset Strip years.
I don't know how the band used to sound 20 years ago, but I can assure you that Wicked Jester 2011 really rocks!
Compact, tight and perfectly oiled musicianship, and better than that, the artistic production on this album is first rate.

Obviously, Wicked Jester is a glam 'n sleaze band, but they aren't limited to this genre.
On the kick-ass "Shot To The Head" their style is more close to Skid Row's 'Slave To The Grind' than anything else. This is a melting hard rocker with terrific guitar work and big drums.
Or in "In Need Of Love" the guys are very melodic yet powerful, reminding me L.A. Guns. Again, guitars are the stars here. Very commercial and catchy song. Twenty-five years back in time this track would be a hit.

Lynch Mob's influence is present on the ferocious "Glitter In The Gutter", a song with a great hook and a monster riff.
"Champagne In The Rain" is a radio-ready power ballad, very well arranged and performed. This song is great, seriously, one of these tunes that stuck in you forever.
Of course, Wicked Jester is sleaze too: "Ways To Be Wicked", "Screamin´" and specially the filthy "Get Back M.F." (what a great rocker!) are clear examples that this band has learned the lesson perfectly.

Maybe you are not into sleaze, a genre many times considered (wrongly) inferior.
Well, if you dismiss this album 'cos the title or the band image, you'll be committing a big mistake.
"Royalty Sux" is one of best old school American Hard Rock discs in recent years. It's fresh, raw (but polished), with lots of attitude.
There's many points that makes an album a winner; good (I mean, good) songs plenty of hooks and melodies, great vocals, killer guitars and first rate production / mix.
"Royalty Sux" has it all. A really explosive Rock 'N Roll cocktail.
Crank it to 10 and enjoy.

01 - Ways To Be Wicked
02 - Shot To The Head
03 - Screamin
04 - In Need Of Love
05 - Glitter In The Gutter
06 - Champagne In The Rain
07 - Hollywood Slide
08 - Web Of Desire
09 - Get Back M.F.

Shane Tassart: Vocals
D.D. Ehrlich: Guitars
Rob Wood: Drums
Dev Gilmore: Bass


SILVER LAKE - Silver Lake (2011)

SILVER LAKE Silver Lake 2011 LUPPI

Rimini, Italy – the seaside resort known as the “Miami of Europe” and home of filmmaker Federico Fellini – is now also home to some American-style melodic progressive hard rock courtesy of the five-piece called SILVER LAKE.
Originally formed in 2003 as a cover band called Exodiain and playing tunes by Dream Theater, Deep Purple, Skid Row and others, Silver Lake grew through numerous personnel changes and decided to start writing their own material.

Having settled on a lineup, the band went to work and produced one of the stronger indie debut albums in recent memory, nicely recorded and well performed.
Davide Bertozzi fronts the band. He has a high range voice and uses it well whether singing lead or adding backing tracks. He stays within his range and is always clear and understandable despite a touch of Italian accent.
Guitarist Giovanni Matichecchia can blast out rapid-fire intense solos and classically inspired heavy riffs, but has a fine feel for the music and can deftly turn down his intensity to match the mood.
Riccardo Fabbri keyboards are a great counterpoint to Matichecchia’s guitar work and he seems equally comfortable whether playing background or taking the lead. Guest shredder Simone Mularoni (Empyrios) makes a fine teammate throughout. The one-two punch provided by Luigi Rignanese (bass) and Andrea Urbinati (drums) blend nicely into the background while anchoring the music, but both also step into the spotlight on numerous occasions – nice to hear some good bass soloing!

“Before The Storm” opens with some subtle keyboards and quickly switches to big guitars, bass and drums and features numerous tempo changes. This track shows what Silver Lake has to offer – good songwriting, solid vocals, catchy rhythms and outstanding musicianship.
“Help Me To Fight The Rain” brings much more speed and aggression to the front, along with a very kicky groove, big chorus and some impressive use of the spoken word in the introduction.
The instrumental track “Break” dials it down while opening with some awesome bass and keyboard riffs before layering in some choppy guitars. This one definitely has a Dream Theater feel to it but is not a copy-cat, and it gives all the band members a chance to show their abilities.

Big drums and a melodic rock groove dominate “Life”. This is a vocal showpiece featuring guest singer Michele Luppi (Vision Divine, Los Angeles). The best track of the album, a melodic rocker full of energy and melodies.
Reaching back to their cover band roots, Silver Lake has retooled Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” and given it some unique twists (double bass, keyboard solo), and it works very, very well. Somehow they’ve managed to increase the intensity of an all time classic.
“Holy Affinity” has a very european sound to it, filled with rich vocal harmonies, massive drums and many tempo changes.
Fine piano work is the high point of the mellow and poignant ballad “Meet You Again”, very calm and classy.
Great pianos again open the band’s eponymous track “Silver Lake”. This song combines the best of two worlds; vintage Rush meets Dream Theater, and the band seems to go all out. Great drums, massive guitar solos, big bass, fine vocals – progressive hard rock at it finest.

“Silver Lake” is a very good debut album, and Silver Lake is a very good band. They work together like a veteran group and obviously have put much effort and care into all aspects of the album.
The band takes production and arrangement credits and has worked closely with Michele Luppi, Simone Mularoni and Gabriele Ravaglia at Italy’s famed Fear Studio.
Solid musical talent, good songwriting and fine engineering make this one a contender for any of 2011's 'best indie' lists despite its January release (the prints were ready at the end of last year, that's why the back cover states 2010).
Interesting and Good.

01 - Before The Storm
02 - Help Me To Fight The Rain
03 - Break
04 - Life (feat. Michele Luppi)
05 - Slave To The Grind (Skid Row cover)
06 - Holy Affinity
07 - Meet You Again
08 - Silver Lake

Davide Bertozzi - Vocals
Giovanni Matichecchia - Guitars
Luigi Rignanese - Bass
Riccardo Fabbri - Keyboards
Andrea Urbinati - Drums
Guest musicians:
Michele Luppi (songwriting and Vocals on “Life”)
Simone Mularoni - Guitars


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