Monday, January 31, 2011

M.ILL.ION - Sane And Insanity (2011)

MILLION Sane And Insanity 2011

M.ILL.ION is celebrating now 20 years in the music business.
It was their very first album entitled 'No 1' that secured M.ILL.ION’s reputation and found them justifiably labeled as ‘Sweden’s Finest’.
The Gothenburg quintet have its largest market in the country of the rising sun, where this form of European Hard Rock has always been appreciated.
The hard rocking debut album went top thirty in Japan but it was when they released their second album 'We, Ourselves and Us' in 1995 that their now familiar melodic rock sound really began to develop.

While their early work has a more classic melodic hard rock sound influenced from Whitesnake, Rainbow or DIO, since 2000 the swedes put on it a lot of toughness and heavyness.
"Sane And Insanity" however contains more tub thumping rock than its predecessors and is stronger as a result.
This album will please not only their heavy-rock fan base, but also anyone who loves straight melodic rock music.
It is hard driven yet catchingly written, well structured and extremely well produced. All in all it is M.ILL.ION at their familiar best.

After a climatic intro, the album opens with the hard hitting "Cry To Heaven" that somehow lodges itself in your mind and proves difficult to shift.
Stand out moments include “Everyday Hero”, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “I Raise My Glass”, "Hate", the awesome mid-tempo title track and the absolutely melodic winner "Fuel To My Heart", all of which possess the undeniable M.ILL.ION trademark of impossible catchy choruses and riff heavy rock.
This is a band that can write radio friendly rock for the fun of it and these tracks are exactly that - potential airplay regulars.

"Sane And Insanity" is the best M.ILL.ION album to date.
They have returned to the classic and more commercial sound and songwriting, still retaining the power and melody.
The new guitarist Andreas Grövle does an exceptional job adding a new dimension to the band playing high quality solos and excellent riffing.
Also the new keyboard player (Angelo Modafferi from Australia) brings back to the group the subtle Hammond organ sound, giving the songs a vintage feel.
Production is top notch thanks to the expert hands of the new guru in this matter: Martin Kronlund.
This is a strong and melodic M.ILL.ION fare, laden with catchy hooks and melodic choruses that should please any Melodic Hard Rock fan.

01 - Sea Of Fate (Intro)
02 - Cry To Heaven
03 - Everyday Hero
04 - Tomorrow Never Dies
05 - I Raise My Glass
06 - Sane And Insanity
07 - Hell's Gate
08 - Under Your Wings
09 - Fuel To My Heart
10 - Drama Queens
11 - Test Of Time
12 - Hate
13 - Seize The Day

Ulrich Carlsson : Vocals
Andreas Grövle : Guitars
B.J. Laneby : Bass
Angelo Modafferi : Keyboards, Synths, Hammond
Per Westergren : Drums


Saturday, January 29, 2011

MORITZ - Undivided (2011)

MORITZ Undivided

MORITZ are one in a very long line of "what could have been" bands.
Coming together as far back as 1986, Greg Hart (keyboards, guitar), Mick Neaves (drums), Ian Edwards (bass), Andy Stewart (piano, keyboards), Pete Scallan (vocals) and Mike Nolan (guitar) released a 7" single and an EP, as well as putting together some excellent demos.
Even though they produced a classy AOR sound that was more than commercially viable for the times, Moritz failed to land a record contract and only two short years after they were formed, they was no more, with some of the band going on to form IF ONLY.
Fast forward to 2008 and thanks to some journalist support, the album 'City Streets' appeared containing the four tracks from the band's EP and four other songs lifted from demos.
The response was so positive that the six men of Moritz decided to get back together again for another shot at AOR glory and the resultant album, "Undivided", is a mixture of brand new songs and some from twenty four years ago that have been re-recorded.

If you have a soft spot for the likes of Survivor, Night Ranger, FM, Journey and in places the more pompy feel of Tobruk, then you will not be able to resist what Moritz have to offer.
The title cut is one of the strongest examples of Moritz’s songcraft, as they combine a hard hitting riff with huge chorus vocals. The mid-paced stomping style shows obvious influences from Survivor, with big backing vocals lend its main hook plenty of punch.
The mid-paced power ballad "Should’ve Been Gone" is top notch, making good use of choppy guitars and very '80s keyboard sounds.
On the strength of the atmospheric keys and upbeat guitars of "Lonely Without You", the keyboard punch of "Same But Different", or the arena anthem "Power Of The Music" it would be no exaggeration to suggest that if they had gotten the breaks, Moritz could be the household names that Journey or Foreigner are today.
The twin guitar attack from Hart and Nolan adds a cutting edge to Andy Stewart's keyboard work, while in Pete Scallan Moritz have a singer that has the class of Lou Gramm, the histrionics of Steve Perry (without the glass shattering pitch) and the bluesy grit of Paul Rogers.

"Undivided" is AOR of the highest order and maybe due to the fact that the band were there when this music ruled the airwaves, it has a real heart and soul that is often lacking from a lot of the newer bands in this genre, adding a welcome air of authenticity to the Moritz sound.
Originally released last year independently, now has the proper edition by an european label.

1. Power Of The Music
2. Undivided
3. Should've Been Gone
4. Who Do You Run To
5. Can't Stop The Angels
6. Same But Different
7. Any Time At All
8. Without Love
9. Never Together
10. Lonely Without You
11. Can't Get Away
12. World Keep Turning

Pete Scallan : Vocals
Greg Hart : Guitars , keyboards , vocals
Mike Nolan : Guitar , vocals
Andy Steward : Piano , keyboards
Ian Edwards : Bass , vocals
Mick Neaves : Drums


Saturday, January 22, 2011

BONFIRE - Branded (2011)

BONFIRE - Branded 2011

Legendary German hard rockers BONFIRE celebrate this year its 25th anniversary as band.
After their contribution to the World Cup -the single "German National Anthem"- ranking seven weeks in the German charts, the five guys from Ingolstadt are back on everyone's lips with their brand new album "Branded", BONFIRE's first complete studio CD in five years.

After a few seconds you realize that this is classic BONFIRE.
With their usual crisp production, the band is ready to deliver 10 classy hard rockers & ballads, plus 2 old re-worked songs.
Singer Claus Lessmann is still in great form and his distinctive voice is the band's trademark.

Opener "Deadly Contradiction" is classic Bonfire, one of these tunes that you can sing along for days.
"Just Follow The Rainbow" is an awesome big stadium anthem, one of the highlights of the disc.
"Save Me" is another trademark Bonfire-style track, featuring an unforgettable monster hook, a future classic in their catalogue.
"Let It Grow" is the first ballad much in the vein of the Lessman-Ziller album. A real 'grower'.

"Do Or Die" is a fast tempo hard rock remembering the earlier days of the band. Great guitars!
The mid-tempo "Close To The Edge" has a persistent riff and a very good guitar solo.
"Crazy" is simple but catchy and melodic, one of these tunes that makes your feet tap.
Last track, the extremely melodic ballad "Hold Me Now" is one of the best slow songs ever written by the band.
The bonus tracks are re-makes of the band's past works, both receiving an acoustic treatment. Very cool.

"Branded" is a great comeback from this eternal band, very well produced and performed.
They're still capable to deliver a first class '80-'90's hard rock record and not sound dated or tired.
As always and true to their motto ; " Keep the BONFIRE burning! "

01 - Deadly Contradiction
02 - Just Follow The Rainbow
03 - Save Me
04 - Let It Grow
05 - Better Days
06 - Do Or Die
07 - Close To The Edge
08 - Crazy
09 - Loser's Lane
10 - Hold Me Now
11 - I Need You (2011 version - bonus track)
12 - Rivers Of Glory (2011 version - bonus track)

Claus Lessman - vocals, guitar
Hans Ziller - guitar
Chris Limburg - guitar
Uwe Köhler - bass
Jurgen Wiehler - drums



HURTSMILE 2011 Cherone

Extreme and one-time Van Halen front-man, Gary Cherone, is finally on the verge of getting HURTSMILE (his side-project with his brother that began in 2007) off the ground with the release of their debut album next month.
Hurtsmile consists of Gary’s younger brother, Mark, on guitar (once a member of the band Flesh with Nuno Bettencourt’s brother Paul), the Boston fellas Joe Pessia on bass (once a member of Nuno’s Dramagods as well as the guitar player for Tantric), and student of Mike Mangini (former Extreme drummer) Dana Spellman on drums.
Cherone; “Hurtsmile was about returning to my roots, writing a record in my basement, a straight up rock ‘n’ roll record… but it turned out to be more diverse and ambitious than I expected.”

Is it classic Extreme? Van Halen III? Something new entirely?
All and even more.
Although it is filled with a diverse variety of musical styles, it is first and foremost a groovy hard rock record, complete with Gary’s impressive soaring vocals (even though at times he sounds like a completely different person).

The album opens with one of the hardest tracks on the disk; "Just War Theory". It’s a very good, heavy-guitar song and is lyrically reminiscent of the classic Extreme tune 'Rest In Peace', pondering the virtues of war. There is great bass work throughout and a nice lead solo in the middle. This is an extremely high energy, up-tempo rocker and a killer way to kick off the CD.
Interestingly, towards the end of the disk the band reprises this song, choosing a reggae style. Not exactly what you’d expect on a hard rock record, but somehow it works.
"Stillborn", a modern, mid-tempo rocker with heavy guitar tones, evokes mid '90s sounds like Stone Temple Pilots or Alice in Chains but with a glossy color.
"Love Thy Neighbor" starts with a cappella singing (can you say 'More Than Words' ?) before kicking into a cool guitar rhythm.
"Kaffur (Infidel)" is an Extreme III style song but with a serious twist, including processed vocals and an excellent guitar work. The song was inspired by the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl. It questions what it takes to be a martyr and whether or not you would be willing to die for your beliefs. Lyrically, it’s quite disturbing since it is told from the point of view of the murderers.

"Painter Paint" is a little, friendly tender tune. A lovely acoustic piece.
"Tolerance Song" opens with Gary screaming the classic Rodney King quote “Why can’t we all just get along”. It has a heavy guitar riff and, once again, effects on the vocals. It’s an extremely up-tempo song with grungy guitars throughout.
The guitar lead-in that starts "Set Me Free" presumes a hard rocker but then goes mellow before picking back up again towards the end and features the mantra “Save me from myself”. Interesting guitar work here as well.
"Jesus Would You Meet Me" is a very cool church revival song. It’s certainly not hard rock but it’s a great showcase for Gary’s voice. Features an acoustic guitar, complete with hand claps and good vibe.
"Slave" is a typical Extreme song with a strong chorus but then develops into a calm middle section with ambient keyboards. 2 songs in 1. Think 'Extreme III Sides'-part III song.
There’s more than a hint of Zeppelin in "Beyond The Garden", a laid back, relaxed acoustic tune.
The the final cut "The Murder of Daniel Faulkner (4699)" is a fine, acoustic tune with Gary this time channeling Bob Dylan. It’s about the true-life story of a police officer killed in the line of duty, complete with bagpipes at the end. Gary is no stranger to taking on harsh topics, and Hurtsmile is no exception.

Overall, "Hurtsmile" is a very intense and diverse album. Musically, there are definitely parallels with Extreme but less 'funkier'.
The first half of the record is a group of loosely knit songs, while the 2nd half is more conceptually cohesive; an introspective look at the nature of man and the condition of the human heart.
The album is lyrically thought-provoking but not exhausting.
It’s obvious that there is strong chemistry between bothers Mark and Gary. Mark sounds like a guitarist with something to prove. He often eschews guitar flash in favor of creating solid foundations for songs, and when needed, his soloing is intense, with a retro feel.
Fans of Extreme will definitely like it as well as all hard rock fans who have an open mind to different musical tastes and non-traditional arrangements.
Certainly a nice debut album, something different to enjoy.

1. Just War Theory
2. Stillborn
3. Love Thy Neighbor
4. Kaffur (Infidel)
5. Painter Paint
6. Tolerance Song
7. Set Me Free
8. Jesus Would You Meet Me
9. Slave
10. Beyond The Garden/ Kicking Against The Goads
11. Just War Reprise
12. The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)

Gary Cherone - Vocals
Mark Cherone - Guitars
Joe Pessia - Bass, Mandolin
Dana Spellman - Drums, Percussion


Thursday, January 20, 2011

DANGER ZONE - Line Of Fire (2011)

DANGER ZONE - Line Of Fire

Signing a deal after impressing whilst supporting the mighty Saxon in Italy in 1988, italians DANGER ZONE headed off to Los Angeles to play some well-received gigs and begin work on their second album (a first, 'Victim Of Time', had been released in their home country in 1984) with some of the knob-twiddling heavyweights responsible for albums by the likes of Stryper, Meat Loaf, Loudness, EZO.
But protracted label negotiations and the illegitimate birth of the grunge beast meant that Danger Zone, like so many of their bouffant brethren, walked the short path to obscurity at the dawn of the Nineties.

That second album, 'Line Of Fire', recorded back in 1989 has become something of a lost treasure to melodic rock fans who have continuously demanded the album finally see release.
After more than twenty years, leader and guitarist Roberto Priori -which remains firmly in command of that dream called Danger Zone- with the help of a german label, bring us their sophomore album.

Opening track, title song "Line Of Fire" begins with a bout of guitar widdling in the style of Eddie Van Halen before turning into a 100% american melodic rocker. A great song with an awesome chorus.
The second track is the first of 3 covers included on this ten track affair; 1972 T. Rex's classic "Children Of The Revolution". A very good version, heavier than what you'd be used to hearing, with a blistering fretwork over it but the chorus brings it all home.
"Walk Away" is a syruped ballad that confirms the leading role of singer Gigantelli, with his slightly hoarse voice can lift any song to the next level.
The interesting "Fingers" is a mid-paced, sexier rocker that features the guest backing vocals of none other than the infamous Grace Jones on what turns out to be the album's stand out track.

"State Of The Heart" is another first class melodic rock tune with a contagious chorus, sounding a lot like Ratt circa 1988.
"Hardline" is also absolutely american, a Dokken-esque track with a fat bass line and catchy rhythm. The chorus arrangements reminds me Warrant too.
The straightforward "The Hunger" with its frenetic pace is simple but effective.
Next is the cover of Chequered Past (Michael Des Barres' band) "Let Me Rock", more chant-along than the original, with a Def Leppard arena-anthem vibe.
"That's Why I Fell In Love With You" is the last cover featured here, an Eddie Rabbitt's original (a country-rock artist), and certainly has a southern rock/AOR feel, very cool mid-tempo ballad a la Van Zant.
"Love Dies Hard" wraps the disc in a very good form, this track is killer rocker in the Dokken style featuring a great guitar solo.

"Line Of Fire" is a very good slice of classic americanized melodic rock, played and recorded at professional standards.
Singer Giacomo Gigantelli showed real talent when his pipes were fully warmed and lead guitarist Roberto Priori certainly had major guitar hero potential in his blurred fingers.
Danger Zone are back together and working on new material, meanwhile, enjoy this tasty collection of songs definitely recommended for classy american melodic rock lovers.
Note: this is the promo version, not the remastered special limited edition with an individually numbered slipcase.

01 - Line Of Fire
02 - Children Of The Revolution
03 - Walk Away
04 - Fingers
05 - State Of The Heart
06 - Hardline
07 - The Hunger
08 - Let Me Rock
09 - That's Why I Fell In Love With You
10 - Love Dies Hard

Giacomo Gigantelli - vocals
Roberto Priori - lead guitar
Stefano Peresson - guitars, keyboards
Stefano Gregori - bass guitar
Paolo Palmieri - drums

Mark Cobrin - background vocals
Stephan Galfas - background vocals
James Palace - background vocals
Michael Palace - background vocals
Noah Baron - background vocals
Grace Jones - background vocals on "Fingers"
Jody Gray - additional keyboards & guitar, background vocals


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

JOINED FORCES - Joined Forces (2010/11)

JOINED FORCES 2010 Jimi Bell

Born in 1984, JOINED FORCES paved the way for all the other original rock acts in Connecticut to follow.
Lifelong friend guitarist Jimi Bell and bassist Mark Franco felt it was time to do their own music. So along with vocalist Marc Diamond and drummer Michael Karpiak, they started to tour local the club circuit

Sometime in band's first year, original drummer Karpiak was replaced by Joey Aparo at which point Joined Forces exploded on to the scene.... they became CT’s "must see band".
In ‘86 the group was featured in the movie 'The Light of Day' starring Michael J Fox and Joan Jett. The band already had a working relationship with Joan having toured with her.

By ‘88 the band had its first break up ... loss of management played a big role in the bands breakup.
Bell went to England, Franco moved to LA and Aparo moved to New York.
Sometime in 1989 Bell and Franco started talking about doing another band. With drummer Joe Aparo back on board they brought vocalist Livio into the mix.
The only thing missing from this great band was once again that illusive record deal. Coming close but never achieving its goal of a major label record deal, the band called it quits again in 1992.

But now, all their unreleased recordings from the '86 / '89 period - some of them produced by Paul Sabu, Jeff Cannata and James Christian (House Of Lords) - are published for the first time.
This is a first class '80s Hair Metal / Classic Hard Rock act, and all the tracks are professionally produced & recorded.
The earlier songs featuring original vocalist Mark Diamond are pure classic hair metal tunes sounding like While Lion or Rough Cutt, while the ones from 2nd era are more classic hard rock with a bluesier edge, remind me Badlands and Whitesnake.
Both singers are more than competent, but the real star of "Joined Forces" is guitar wizard Jimi Bell who has lately recorded with House Of Lords, Rob Rock, Robin Beck to name a few.
His style is hot, melting, on par with the ones like Vitto Bratta (White Lion) or Jake E. Lee.

"Joined Forces" is a wonderful trip back to the glory days of the golden decade, featuring amazing songs and a classic sound.

1 - Love Reaction
2 - Alone Tonight
3 - When The Lovin's Good
4 - Don't Get Me Started
5 - Sad Boy Blues
6 - Johnny's On The Bad Side
7 - Angel (I Wanna Fly)
8 - Taste My Honey
9 - One More Time
10 - The Wild Side

Jimi Bell - Guitar
Mark Diamond - Vocals
Livio Gravini - Vocals
Mark Franco - Bass
Joe Aparo - Drums



Monday, January 17, 2011

HARDCORE CIRCUS - Wake Up Call (2010)


With the word 'hardcore' right there in the band’s name, it’s only natural to wonder if that’s the style of metal on tap, but those who 'abhor the core' in their music can relax and wipe the look of disgust off their face, because this Swedish super-group actually have their feet firmly planted in Melodic Hard Rock territory, albeit with a heavier, more metallic approach than is typically found in the genre.

While HARDCORE CIRCUS is being hailed as a 'super-group' project, you are forgiven if most —maybe all— of the players’ names are unfamiliar to you, though most melodic rock fans have probably unknowingly crossed paths with at least some of these guys on other albums.
With the exception of Mats Leven, who unleashes his stellar voice in the harmony vocal department, the members have slaved in other bands without gaining any real notoriety.

But lack of notoriety does not necessarily mean a lack of talent and all the players have significant ties to some legends in the melodic hard rock community.
Drummer Joakim Bloohm worked with Chris Laney on Animal’s Violent New Breed CD.
Lead singer Jorgen Bolmstad worked with Thomas Vikstrom in the Swedish melodic rock band Surround. Bassist Nalley Pahisson has plied his trade with the likes of Treat, Last Autumn’s Dream, and Therion.
Rounding out the roster is guitarist Carl-Johan Grimmark who has showcased his fiery neoclassical licks with Narnia, Rob Rock, Savior Machine, and Divinefire.

Speaking of guitars, while Grimmark may be best known for his sizzling neoclassical shredding, there is none of that on display here; instead, the guitars are of the take-no-prisoners variety, thundering with heavy grooves and muscular as a raging rhino.
If you’re looking for mean, powerful, in-your-face riffs that really pack a primal punch, then this album is probably right up your proverbial alley.

"Wake Up Call" could best be described as melodic hard rock with a strong metal edge.
Songs like "She Goes On", the Skid Row-esque "Tattooed Junkie", and the title track are convincing numbers melding the heavy with the melodic.
"Under My Skin", behind the wall of guitars, is extremely melodic and infectious.
"Who I Am" and the groovy "Queen Of Dirt" draw you in with some friendly catchiness, while the rather rude but deeply catchy-chorused "Life" is one of the best songs here.
The final track, the milder "Miracle" is another highlight which has a hint of Michael Bormann about it.

"Wake Up Call" is a solid melodic hard rock album with a tough, biting edge to this style of music, and in terms of pure attitude, they have succeeded.
The performances are energetic and fun across the board.
Jorgen "Jojje" Bolmstad's voice is a characterful entity, taking a few parts Jon Bon Jovi, a nod to Tommy Heart of Fair Warning, then putting some other inflections in for good measure. He gives the album a bright spunky vibe, a feeling backed up by the excellent guitar playing, blasting rhythm section and cool backing voices.
The production is clear and punchy, sometimes on the raw side and drenched in a thick, beefy bottom end sound.
This is a really enjoyable release, dynamic and entertaining.

1. She Goes Down
2. Queen of Dirt
3. Under My Skin
4. Who I Am
5. Life
6. Hardcore Circus
7. Wake Up Call
8. Pain
9. Tattooed Junkie
10. Miracle

Jorgen Bolmstad : Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Carl-Johan Grimmark : Guitars
Nalley Pahlsson : Bass
Joakim Bloohm : Drums

Guest musician:
Mats Leven : Harmony Vocals


DIRTY PASSION - Different Tomorrow (2010)

DIRTY PASSION - Different Tomorrow


DIRTY PASSION is a Swedish Malmö based rock band formed in 2006 by members Emil Ekbladh (vocals), Christopher Olsson (guitar), Bjorn Wilander (bass), and Markus Winberg (drums).
The group released a couple of promo singles and toured with - and played support act to - bands like Saxon, YT and Towers of London and in early 2010 they supported Faster Pussycat and Enuff Z'Nuff for a month long European tour, playing 22 concerts in seven different countries.
In October 2010 the band signed a record deal with an independent label to release their debut album "Different Tomorrow".

Emil Ekbladh: "Most of the songs from 'Different Tomorrow' were written just before we got signed and recorded right afterwards.
We spent three weeks recording the disc in Malmö’s Berno Studio; a studio that has produced a great number of well-known rock and metal acts.
The album was mixed and processed using a lot of analogue equipment, which gives the recordings a great warmth and presence. Each instrument feels more alive.
No one does this anymore, now that almost everything is digital.
We’re really proud of the result and I’m sure fans of classic hard rock will love the album"

Dirty Passion describe their music as classic melodic hard rock, heavily influenced by the old school bands from the 1980's.
I must agree the sound of Dirty Passion is in this range, musically they have pointers towards bands as Y & T, Europe, April Wine and the like.
But also a contemporary scandi influence is evident as they remind me bands like Amaze Me or Dreamhunter.

Emil Ekbladh is a good vocalist with a very nice tone, and his delivery suits the music very well. He really sounds like Joey Tempest.
Guitarist Christopher Olsson is a splendid player; check out guitar solo on "A Trip To Paradise".
There are some instant songs on the album, like "1.000.000 Voices" and "Liar" that stick from point one. After a few spins I find myself singing along, and this obviously means they have done something right.
This is the kind of music we grew up with and it still holds up.
The 80's was about having a good time. Dirty Passion brings back the fun and also reintroduces great hard rock melodic rock songs. Just listen to the 80's slam dunk rocker "Rockin' In The Night" with that cow bells.

"Different Tomorrow" doesn't disappoint.
Bear in mind that this is an indie debut and of course the band sounds a bit green at times. The production could be better also.
However, Dirty Passion has so many great things going for them.
First and foremost the band has penned some really strong songs for this debut.
It has become a solid album full of hard rockin' riffing and melodic solos, cool hooks and positive attitude.
The '80s are back and Dirty Passion is a much welcomed band to the scene.

01 - This Is The Way
02 - 1,000,000 Voices
03 - Rockin' In The Night
04 - Different Tomorrow
05 - A Trip To Paradise
06 - Self-Destructive
07 - Liar
08 - We're All Gonna Fall
09 - Selling Your Soul
10 - Without You

Emil Ekbladh - Vocals
Christopher Olsson - Guitar
Björn Wilander - Bass
Markus Winberg - Drums & Percussion



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MAGNUM - The Visitation (2011)

MAGNUM - The Visitation 2011

Album after album, MAGNUM have just been getting better and better in recent years.
As good as their last outing – 2009’s ‘In The Valley Of The Moonking’ – was, "The Visitation" ups the stakes once more and shows that in their fourth decade the band are still hungry, and still keen to push themselves to deliver truly great material.

Magnum, once again, merges classic Melodic Rock with a touch of progressive into a fine package, always interesting and provocative.
"The Visitation" is a masterful CD with some truly wonderful songs that could go on a 'Best Of Magnum' album.
The ten tracks keeps a high standard especially on the mid-tempo ones.
In front of the mix are the powerful vocals of singer Bob Catley, a musician whose charisma and warm tone seem to have only grown and fermented with time.

One of undeniable highlights of the album is the dynamic opener, "Black Skies", a track that has every great thing about Magnum rolled into one; strong melodies, contrast, and powerful delivery.
On "Doors To Nowhere" the band look back at their own childhood. It would hardly be possible for a track to be more typical of Magnum than this number with its vigorous guitar parts, gritty arrangements and charismatic vocals.
Title track "The Visitation" starts off as a pretty standard melodic rock number, but develops into something very different and interesting a couple of minutes in. The middle section is awesome.

"Wild Angles" demonstrates and displays Magnum's expertise to craft memorable songs. The chorus is fantastic, commercial and sticky. This is without doubt a future Magnum classic.
"Spin Like a Wheel" echoes classic melodic rock, a mid-paced rocker with both a glorious feel and an one of those unexpected twists that the band excel at. I love this track.
"The Last Frontier" slows down the pace, this is an epic track that develops into an orchestral blow-out. Awesome.
The utterly majestic "Freedom Day" has thought-provoking lyrics about human rights. An increscendo tune featuring another epic chorus.

"Spin Like a Wheel" is classy melodic rock but with diversity and intrigue, again with more than interesting lyrics.
"Midnight Kings" is a typical Magnum track, that remembers the earlier work by this versatile band.
The mid-tempo ballad "Tonight's The Night" closes the album with enchanting background synths and a well crafted chorus.

"The Visitation" sounds and feels like pure Magnum; classy melodic rock blended with the intrigue of progressive rock.
The trademarks and roots remains the same, they sound like they have always done, but they have never ever repeated themselves.
This new album features 10 classic Magnum songs that will go down like milk and honey among the band's fans world-wide.

Magnum is doing what they do best, at a very high level and with continuity that leaves nothing to be desired for.
Another stellar album from the British masters.

1. Black Skies
2. Doors To Nowhere
3. The Visitation
4. Wild Angels
5. Spin Like A Wheel
6. The Last Frontier
7. Freedom Day
8. Mother Nature's Final Dance
9. Midnight Kings
10. Tonight's The Night

Bob Catley - vocals
Tony Clarkin - guitars
Mark Stanway - keyboards
Al Barrow - bass
Harry James - drums


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MISS BEHAVIOUR - Last Woman Standing (2011)

MISS BEHAVIOUR - Last Woman Standing 2011

Swedes MISS BEHAVIOUR released their critically acclaimed debut "Heart Of Midwinter" in 2006.
Now five years later they are back with a new line up and an outstanding album : "Last Woman Standing".
Left from the debut album are guitarist Erik Heikne and keyboard player Henrik Sproge and the two newcomers are from the swedish band Shineth: singer/bass player Sebastian Roos and drummer Anders Berlin.
These two guys have given MISS BEHAVIOUR new life and this new album is more AOR mixed with melodic rock than the debut.

The disc opens up with a brilliant bombastic keyboard/guitar intro before the song "1988" screams out from the speaker and what an opener. This is an awesome AOR-rocker with a fantastic chorus that leads the way for this album.
Next up is another winner called "Cynthia". This is pure magic with fantastic harmonies, huge hooklines and the chorus is stunning, an AOR anthem.
"Give Her A Sign" is an outstanding melodic rocker with fantastic riffs and catchy rhythm.
The more harder-edged track of the CD comes with "Perfect War" that reminds the sound of the debut album. Roland Grapow (Masterplan, Ex-Helloween) plays a blistering guest guitar solo.
If you like the swedish band Eclipse, then you will love "Average Hero", a strong melodic rock / AOR song with wonderful melodies and a great chorus.

"Till We Meet Again" is the only ballad on the album and what a song then. This is a ballad that brings back memories of Treat back in the '80s with its classic scandi style. Great tune.
The anthemic mid-tempo AOR "Emergency" is like a heaven for scandi-AOR fans, featuring a catchy chorus filled with strong harmony vocals. Another belter.
"Living The Dream" is AOR by numbers with layers of melodies, fluffy keyboards and a chorus to die for.
The epic title track "Last Woman Standing" gives the album other color, in part thanks to the vocal duet of Roos with the female singer Kajsa Berg.
Last track "11th Hour" is a bit different too, with cool keyboards/guitar and an infinite chorus.

MISS BEHAVIOUR has managed to create one helluva CD with a first class mix of keyboards and guitars and stunning arrangements.
"Last Woman Standing" is a Rock album of the highest order based in the classic Eighties sound, ranging from classy '80s styled AOR anthems to extremely well crafted Melodic Rock tunes with an excellent crystal clear production by Thomas Eberger at Stockholm Mastering.
If you are into bands such as H.E.A.T, Eclipse, Treat, Talisman and W.E.T, then check out now this new Swedish sensation.
An album that will be on many 2011 Top-Lists for sure.

1. 1988
2. Cynthia
3. Give Her A Sign
4. Perfect War *
5. Average Hero
6. Till We Meet Again
7. Taking Hostage
8. Emergency
9. Living The Dream
10. Last Woman Standing +
11. 11th Hour

Sebastian Roos : Vocals, Bass
Erik Heikne : Lead & Rythm Guitar
Henrik Sproge : Keyboards
Anders Berlin : Drums
Roland Grapow : guest Guitar solo *
Kajsa Berg : duet on +


Sunday, January 9, 2011

BAD HABIT - Atmosphere (2011)

BAD HABIT Atmosphere 2011

After last year's 'Best Of' titled "Timeless", BAD HABIT returns with their 10th full studio album "Atmosphere".
This easily may be the best album from this band ever… and I think one of the best 2011 releases already. What a great start of the year.

Bax Fehling : " It’s all about ‘striking a chord...’ both musically and emotionally. It’s about connecting with listener at more than one level. It’s about delivering powerful melodic rock that inspires people, and that triggers positive feelings, thoughts and actions...
This has been the Bad Habit approach for many years and continues to be so with our new album Atmosphere "

"Atmosphere" opens with "In The Heat Of The Night", a song which is for Bad Habit standards quite heavy guitar orientated and gives you a glimpse of the great songs that will tickle your ears for the almost next 48 minutes.
Highlights come thick and fast with the bright guitars and thumping beat of "Words Are Not Enough", or the sultry melodies of "Angel Of Mine" illustrating the breadth of styles that Bad Habit can bring under the same umbrella with a slick, and skilled ease.

Fehling is a great vocalist whose voice emits emotion with every note and the gritty edge that he has found over the last few Bad Habit releases adds to his voice's appeal.
His best work is found on the wonderful mix of tempos that is "Fantasy", while the band are in top form on power ballad "Save Me".
"I Wanna Be The One" is the best track from the band working as a whole, and on "I'll Die For You" the riff and song structure shows the group's modern side.

"Atmosphere" is a perfectly balanced album.
From the counting down intro of "In The Heat Of The Night" till the very last note of the last song "Without You" the CD is from an unbelievable high level.
It has just enough crunchy guitar in the songs and just enough keyboards without making them soft or poppy.
Singer Bax Fehling has done an outstanding job on the vocals but I think that the most credits must go to the other founding member of Bad Habit: mister do-it-all Hal Marabel. He has produced the album, wrote or co-wrote the songs, played the guitar and filled-in the keyboard parts.
Jonas Reingold mix job is excellent and the group of a few outside songwriters invited to join the creative process turned out to be a fruitful collaboration adding a new dimension to this disc.
BAD HABIT proved with "Atmosphere" that now they really belong into the big melodic rock league.

01 - In The Heat Of The Night
02 - Words Are Not Enough
03 - Every Time You Cry
04 - I Wanna Be The One
05 - I’ll Die For You
06 - Angel Of Mine
07 - Fantasy
08 - We Are One
09 - Only Time Will Tell
10 - Break The Sillence
11 - Save Me
12 - Catch Me When I Fall
13 - Without You

Bax Fehling : vocals
Hal Marabel : guitars, keyboards
Partik Sodergren : bass
Jaime Salazar : drums
Sven Cirnski : lead guitars


Saturday, January 8, 2011

OLIVER WEERS - Evil's Back (2011)

OLIVER WEERS - Evil's Back

For those not familiar with OLIVER WEER here is a brief little introduction to 'The Man With The Voice', as he is known in Denmark.
Oliver is a German / English singer who came to Denmark in 2000 when he was headhunted by an IT company.
Before then he had released CDs in Norway, Germany and Japan (though not as a solo artist).
In Denmark he was a singer in the hard rock band RIPE but chose to stand in the biggest talent show in the world; 'The X-Factor', where he impressed the judges singing Queen's classic 'The Show Must Go On', and went on to the penultimate round.

Then he was approached by producer and musician Soren Andersen (Mike Tramp Band /Artillery), who was shocked with Oliver's big voice.
The two began a collaboration which resulted in Oliver's first solo CD 'Get Ready' which was internationally released in Europe and Japan.
Not many debuts can boast performances with musicians like drummer Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne/Whitesnake) and bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake/ Thin Lizzy).
'Get Ready' achieved super reviews and established himself as one of the leading hard rock artists in Scandinavia.
Through impressive live performances at some of the biggest festivals in Denmark and support slots for giants such as Motley Crue and Whitesnake his fan base is rapidly growing.

For his new album "Evil's Back", Oliver has collaborated with an international and mixed generation team of artists; with young and vibrant bassist and producer Anders Borre and guitarist Anders Bo (who was also a part of Oliver's live band), both from Denmark, and talented guitarist Laki Ragazas, from Greece.
This is a team for great composing and songwriting, completed by Kristian Thomsen who has mixed the album.

"Evil's Back" is a contemporary hard rock album but imprinted with Oliver's passion for classic rock bands like Dio, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, etc.
Weer is of the best voices of the new Danish rock scene, with a powerful attack and a deep tone. Some times he sounds like '80s Ozzy or R.J. Dio or the modern Coverdale.
On the tiltle track "Evil's Back" the band mix a classic hard rock style with modern vibes like Masterplan last album.
"All My Life" is vibrant and commercial, then "Without You" has a heavy bluesy groove sounding very americanized.
On "Hero" the prescence of a female vocalist (Rebecca Armstrong from Stella Black Rose, a danish band) adds extra textures to the disc.

"Need It Bad" is influenced by european 80's hard rock, while "Beautiful Rain" slows the pace with some acoustic guitars, an interesting and atypical ballad.
"Much Too Much" rocks the album again, an uptempo rocker with a sizzling guitar arrangement and powerhouse vocals.
"Fighting The Mountains" is one of the best tracks, with lyrics about the stupidity of war. Oliver sounds like Ozzy Osbourne here.
"Demolition Man" was the bonus track on the Japanese release of his previous album 'Get Ready'. Nice addition.
Last track "Rainbow Star" is a tribute to one of Oliver's great inspirations: Ronnie James Dio. A very good song with emotion and affection.

"Evil's Back" is a very solid european hard rock album with some american influences.
The production is tight and cohesive. One of the highest points in this department is the drum sound, powerful and pounding.
Weers delivers a stellar performance perfecting his expression and growing as an artist on this new album.
Oliver Weer is ready to prove to the critics and audiences that he is here to stay.

01 - Intro
02 - Evils Back
03 - All My Life
04 - Without You
05 - Hero (duet with Rebecca Armstrong from Stella Black Rose)
06 - Need It Bad
07 - Beautiful Rain
08 - Much Too Much
09 - Fighting The Mountains
10 - Devils Chain
11 - Demolition Man
12 - Rainbow Star

Oliver Weer : Vocals
Anders Bo : Guitars
Laki Ragazas : Lead Guitar
Anders Borre : Bass, Production
Morten Hell Born : Drums


Thursday, January 6, 2011

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES - Die For Diamonds (2010)


BILLION DOLLAR BABIES, based in the middle of Sweden took shape in 2005, with a self-released EP they managed to gain a strong fan base in Europe.
In 2008 the band were among a small number of unsigned artists who were selected to perform at Sweden Rock Festival and recieved fantastic reviews.

With "Die For Diamonds" Billion Dollar Babies has captured the zeitgeist of 80's hair-metal in 38 minutes of pure rock 'n' roll glee.
You'd guess the members of Billion Dollar Babies were raised on a regular diet of Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Journey, Loverboy, Scorpions and perhaps a bit of Ratt from the flamboyant flair and more than competent rock 'n' roll they espouse.

Opener "Boy's Night Out" features a purely 1980's approach to hard rock complete with a horn section. A very catchy and commercial song.
"Highest Mountain" is a big rock tune that's deeply melodic but has enough of an edge to it to feel modern. Here the band sounds contemporary like their compatriots and colleagues H.E.A.T and alikes.
This transitions into the big open arrangement and vocal triads of "Restless Minds", a great tune that soars. Vocalist Frankie Rich sounds like something of a cross between Steve Perry and Klaus Meine here. A track obviously influenced by Journey.

Billy Squier fans will love "Lose It", which sounds like it might have been an outtake from one of his mid-1980's recording sessions. The song has an animalistic, urgent feel, and a melody so catchy you'll be humming it for days.
"Key To My Heart" is pure power rock love song, and would have made Billion Dollar Babies the kings of MTV at one time. Again, sounding a lot like H.E.A.T, this is my favorite track of the album.
"Second Time Around" is a very melodic midtempo with a scandi-AOR flavor featuring superb backing layered vocals.

"Right On Time" is all about the virtues of Friday night out with the perfect girl. There's some classic honky tonk piano work buried in the middle of this song that's worth checking out. This a very catchy party tune, although I'm not completely convinced with the lead vocals, the guitar shines.
Billion Dollar Babies show a bit harder edge on "Stand Your Ground" and "Nineteen Ninety Four". The former is a solid album cut that would play great in a big stadium, while "Nineteen Ninety Four" is a catchy beast with one thing on its mind. The song isn't much on subtlety but certainly is entertaining, rocking in the Motley Crue style.
The album closes with "We Don't Live Forever", an energetic rocker reminding listeners that life is short and admonishing them to make the most of every moment. The drums are big and bombastic and the chorus contagious.

Billion Dollar Babies may date themselves with their sound, but the songwriting is fresh, sharp and fun, and the production is excellent.
This is a band that's having fun making music, and it shows on "Die For Diamonds".
If you crave 1980's hard rock / hair metal mixing american style with scandi melodies then Billion Dollar Babies will be right up your alley.
Just sit back and take "Die For Diamonds" in; you could imagine most any of these songs rolling out of the radio or showing up on MTV circa 1985.

01 - Boys Night Out
02 - Highest Mountain
03 - Restless Minds
04 - Lose It
05 - Key To My Heart
06 - Second Time Around
07 - Right On Time
08 - Stand Your Ground
09 - Nineteen Ninety Four
10 - We Don't Live Forever

Frankie Rich : Vocals
Jon Silver : Guitars, Backing Vocals
Nic Lester : Bass, Backing Vocals
Pat Kramer : Guitars, Backing Vocals
Robban XII : Drums, Backing Vocals


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

BELIEVE - World Is Round (2011)

BELIEVE World Is Round 2011

Mirek Gil and the other BELIEVE members are certainly obsessed with mesmerizing melodies.
Since 2006, this band from Poland have refined this trademark, over the course of four studio albums in the meanwhile.
And with "World Is Round"' they basically remain faithful to their principles and have recorded a fine album once more.

Classified as Lite-Prog or Neo-Prog, BELIEVE is in fact more than that, sounding very close to Satellite, Marillion and some british bands in this style, with many Rock&Pop passages with a melodic, melancholy vibe.

In order to offer contrasting moments some songs are also provided with a rather heavy attitude, mainly caused by Mirek Gil's guitar riffs and solo excursions.
I would point out "Guru" and "Cut Me Paste Me" here, where Karol Wróblewski (male) proves that his voice is a big affair, not only silky exclusively.
"No Time Inside" features a stomping rhythm, the drum playing is minimalistic, very effective anyhow - everything is focused on the main melody and vocals, keyboards, some violin and even guitar are used with caution here.
Now speaking of charming moments the title track "World Is Round" deserves the pole position - keyboard strings and a celestial violin are backing.

Showing a more sophisticated arrangement I would count "Lay Down Forever" and "Bored" as really typical for the whole Satellite / Collage family.
Furthermore with "New Hands" you won't miss an exemplary ballad featuring acoustic guitar, piano, marching drums ... plus wonderful organ and mellotron add-on towards the end. This one and "So Well" (featuring some of Gil's finest guitar work) has a Marillion feel, sounding particularly Hogarth-esque.
The album's last double-song "Poor King Of Sun / Return" is decorated with an oriental flavor based on violin and sitar with a Led Zeppelin's Kashmir atmosphere - starting somewhat innocent but evolving to a top-notch neo prog classic just as the complete band starts to intervene.

"World Is Round" is full of fine arrangements and heart-wrenching melodies, drifiting into popular territories while retaining some Lite-Prog elements.
Obviously the band is trying to conquer a wider audience, most of the tracks here are relatively short and accessible.
The album is perfectly produced and mixed, and the addition of non traditional instruments offers some magnificent additional colours to the final product.
Something different to taste.

01 - Intro: World Is Round (part 1)
02 - No Time Inside
03 - World Is Round (part 2)
04 - Cut Me Paste Me
05 - Lay Down Forever
06 - So Well
07 - Bored
08 - Guru
09 - New Hands
10 - Poor King Of Sun / Return

Karol Wróblewski : Vocals
Mirek Gil : Guitar, Sitar
Przemas Zawadzki : Bass
Vlodi Tafel : Drums, Percussion
Satomi : Violin
Konrad Wantrych : Keyboards, Mellotron



Monday, January 3, 2011

KEEL - Streets Of Rock & Roll [Japan] (2010)

KEEL Streets Of Rock & Roll Japan
Retail - includes bonus track

It has been a long time since KEEL has given us a new album.
Their last album 'VI: BACK IN ACTION' was released in ’98 without much fanfare. That album was just a bunch of unreleased material, outtakes and demos that the band got together to finish off and release…..not what I call a full reunion.
You have to go all the way back to 1989 to the 'LARGER THAN LIVE' album to find new studio material and that was 21 years ago.
How does their new reunion effort "Streets Of Rock & Roll" stack up?
A lot better than you might expect. In fact, this is the best album they've recorded ever.

First off, almost the entire band is back together, the only member not participating is original bassist Kenny Chaisson, replaced by Geno Arce who has played consistently with Ron Keel in Iron Horse.
You’ve got the double guitar attack of Marc Ferrari and Brian Jay back together in top form and drummer Dwain Miller back on the skins.
Of course, the man himself, Ron Keel is back on the mic and he sounds better than ever.
That’s no surprise because Ron has been busy and trained with his own career post-Keel with bands like Fair Game, Iron Horse and his solo band.
As far as the new album goes, the band has said that they would create an album that didn’t stray too far from their '80s Hard Rock roots and retain all the classic Keel elements…..that’s the formula that helped them sell over 2 million records.

Opening the album is the title track and it's a clear sign that Keel is following the big sound that they had back in the ’80s, "Streets Of Rock & Roll" is a Melodic Hard Rock song with a catchy chorus and big background harmonies. Add the guitar solos in and this throwback starts the record off in style.
"Hit The Ground Runnin’ " has more of a Californian Metal guitar sound from Ferrari and Jay, but the song as a whole is another Melodic Hard Rock affair with a nice set of lush harmonies around the chorus.
The lighting fast riffs in "Come Hell Or Highwater" turns the page wonderfully as the twin guitar duo once again gear jam things up nicely to make this track one of the heaviest songs on the record. Ron sings his heart out on this one.

Moving back into the ’80s style is the AOR/Melodic Rock of "Push & Pull", one of my favorites of the album. Very catchy song, great melodic riff with a solid hook.
Every rock album needs a ballad and Keel doesn’t disappoint with the beautiful "Does Anybody Believe", a track that will be a concert fave because it's made for the crowd's lighters…..or maybe cell phones now that we're in the 2000s! The song has an acoustic base but the guitars come in and really add some power to it while Ron Keel lays down a solid vocal. This is another favorite for me, a nod to power ballads of 20-25 years ago for sure.

The band races back with more solid Melodic Hard Rock with "No More Lonely Nights". This song has some serious guitar work that slices right threw the speakers and the song builds right into the powerful harmonized chorus, Ron really shines vocally as this is one of his best performances. A killer track, another favorite.
"The Devil May Care" has a great guitar job and a monster riff with Ron choosing to go a little higher in his delivery, that just shows the guy’s singing voice has only gotten stronger and more versatile as the years have gone by.

"Gimme That" has that '80s raise-your-hands feel, what a great tune this would be live. This is the kind of stuff that is the heartbeat of the arena rock.
"Hold Steady" it’s a good solid track, melodic and intense, a very cool midtempo with a fat rhythm section and a great solo by Ferreira.
Another standout ’80s arena rocker is "Live". A melodic anthem plenty of guitars, harmonies and even some cowbell! You put this on Bon Jovi’s last record and you have a hit, maybe Jon & Ritchie should get Ron Keel to write a few tunes for them? This one has 'hit single' written all over it.
"Brothers In Blood" returns again to that typical '80s californian style. What amazes me on this song, and the album in general, is how easily Ron can move his singing voice from style to style. Here he goes from melodic, to the higher notes, to a grittier/deeper sound and he really puts in a memorable performance. That’s how the entire album is vocally and on the guitar.
Japanese bonus track "Reason To Rock", as title says, is a catchy melodic rocker with an awesome chorus, fantastic backing vocals and a rippin' guitar solo. Another highlight.

With this new CD, KEEL didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, or change their style / sound. And that's what the true fans of the eighties want.
"Streets Of Rock & Roll" is a -made in heaven- comeback for KEEL. That is mainly because Ron seems not to be looking for modernity, instead he draws inspiration from his four '80s classic albums and writes the most amazing follow up to the self-titled 1987 album.
Better than that, I think this is the best KEEL album to date.
It's diverse, powerful and melodic all in one. I like every song and there really isn't a weak link of filler track.

This a true band performance that fires on all cylinders.
Ron Keel's voice sounds better than ever, surprisingly with the years, he has improved his modulation, fitting his pipes to each song style.
Big props goes out to the twin guitar duo of Marc Ferrari and Brian Jay, they do an excellent job here hooking your brain around some fiery yet melodic guitar solos and killer riffs all throughout the record.
Overall, the quality of the songwriting, musicianship, and production on KEEL’s “Streets Of Rock & Roll” is second to none.

A lot of times you get these ’80s bands reuniting and they say they want to record a great album so their reunion is not a nostalgia trip, KEEL has gone a step further and crafted an album so good that it’s like they’ve never been away.

01 - Streets Of Rock & Roll
02 - Hit The Ground Running
03 - Come Hell Or High Water
04 - Push & Pull
05 - Does Anybody Believe
06 - No More Lonely Nights
07 - The Devil May Care
08 - Looking For A Good Time
09 - Gimme That
10 - Hold Steady
11 - Live
12 - Brothers In Blood
13 - Reason To Rock [Japan bonus track]

Ron Keel – Vocals
Marc Ferrari – Guitar
Bryan Jay – Guitar
Geno Arce – Bass
Dwain Miller – Drums



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