Bavarian rockers POWERWORLD born by bassist Ilker Ersin's initiative after leaving Freedom Call in 2005. He wrote every song, produced the demos and searched for the right musicians to complete the project.
The band released two albums quite heavy oriented (with different line-up) which not aroused much interest to my ears, but when I read sometime ago that ex- Jaded Heart Michael Bormann was chosen as new singer, I knew I ought to investigate...
"Cybersteria" is the just unleashed new CD by PowerWorld, exploring new musical territories from Euro melodic metal to modern hard rock with a progressive touch.
What I liked in this 'new' PowerWorld is the musical atmosphere and the theme focus. Ersin's vision still shows few power metal overtones but most of the material here is inspired by classic -really melodic- metal & hard rock wrapped with a really modern approach through ever present synths & keyboards and effects.
Though, the guitars are main driving force of these mostly midtempo meaty tunes, and of course, Michael Bormann's raspy Jorn meets Coverdale tone of voice which fits like a glove.
By any means a conceptual album, the lyrics are very important on this record. The leitmotif is the impact of the gradual digitalization on society and a point of view of how social networks like Facebook or Twitter have the opposite effect of what they suggest: they make people grow lonely. Hence the album's title: 'cyber' and 'hysteria'.
So, the songs talk about the search for freedom by disconnecting or escaping from the cyber-domination, somewhat reminding George Orwell's '1984' book or the Matrix movies, and so is the cover artwork of the album.
Sonically, "Cybersteria" is modern and polished, yet structurally is truly classic.
Opener "Children Of The Universe" adequately sets the one of the album: a solid hard rocker carried by a groovy guitar riff, midpaced during the verses and then up during the chorus. There's deep bass lines, keys creating atmosphere and some huge backing vocals.
Then "Slave to the Powerworld" somehow reminds me Jaded Heart in the Bormann era, quite catchy and moving, with interesting lyrics of how powerful and at the same time merciless the world of the Internet has become.
"Back On Me" is perhaps the more classic hard rock and instant track, highly articulate and melodic, rich in keyboards and with Bormman's inflections dominating the scene. Another one in this vein is the catchy "Like A Shadow" sporting a contagious chorus.
The album's rising star, "Coast Of Tears", is an aching, hooking, slow to midtempo rumpus of emotional distress, mixing balladesque with powerful riffing, orchestrated keyboards and impressive vocals, followed by the cheerful major chords of "Black Ash", a really melodious track.
Title track "Cybersteria" is also notable for its great and unusual riff adorned with modern cyber-keys, while the darker "Not Bound to the Evil" finds inspiration in eighties European melodic metal, in the less heavy side of the spectre.
"Cybersteria" offers solid rocking melodies more eighties inspired than it seems at first sight due the modern production and sonic approach.
Basically, this material is built over classic hard rock patterns along with an expressional version of Euro melodic metal, never too heavy but melodious and powerful at places. Musicianship is strong, you have the always effective (and a pleasure listen to) Michael Bormann and a quite interesting theme, all enhanced by a crisp production.
Take PowerWorld's advice; log-out from your Facebook session, put "Cybersteria" on you CD player and enjoy.
Michael Bormann (ex- Jaded Heart, Bonfire) - Vocals
Ilker Ersin (ex- Freedom Call) - Bass
Andreas Rippelmeier - Guitar
Marco Grashoff - Keyboards, Effects
Guido Gallus - Drums
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Friday, May 31, 2013
After their sophomore release ‘Idolizer’ Swedes GRAND DESIGN are working on their 3rd album, and we have the first advanced single "Baby It's You", featuring Susi Päivärinta (from the '80s rock&pop act Lili & Susie) on guest vocals.
The wall of multi-layered guitars, huge drums and the enormous backing vocals borrowing Def Leppard with a Scandinavian touch are still there, indicating that Grand Design aren't planning to change their style anytime soon.
As bonus, there's an awesome, exclusive 'fan favorite remix' of "Rock Back To The 80s", one of the most anthemic tracks from the previous album.
I want more...
1 - Baby It's You [featuring Susi Päivärinta] (3:38)
2 - Rock Back To The '80s [CB's fan favorite remix] (4:21)
Pelle - Vocals
Janne - Guitars
Dennis - Guitars
Matte - Bass
Magnus - Drums
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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Since the mid-seventies with the The Michael Stanley Band, singer & songwriter MICHAEL STANLEY has been firmly established in the US Classic Rock field. During the eighties the group turned musically more radio friendly, close to AOR with the LP 'Inside Moves', one that I play regularly.
When the MSB broke up in 1987, its leader was far from finished with music. He just seemed to get more productive as time went on, cranking out seven studio albums in the decade between 2000 and 2009.
Now he's back with "The Ride", showing that, although he may not headline big arenas anymore like he did in the ’80s, music is just not ever going to let go of him.
"The Ride" is pure Classic (US) Rock in all its essence. You have rockin' moments, blues, Americana, soul, R&B and more, all exquisitely cooked with Stanley's pristine style.
Although going under his own moniker as solo artist since many years, his reliable cast of musicians - including two MSB veterans drummer Tom Dobeck who has been with him since 1974 and keyboardist Bob Pelander who joined in 1975 - add that familiar, comfortable warmness and color typical of his tunes. Female vocalist Jennifer Lee, whether she's singing backup or dueting with Michael has become quite integral to Stanley's sound as well.
Michael Stanley mixes all the aforementioned styles with ease (and class), with occasional smooth horn sections and often throwing in a tasty guitar solo, or two, for good measure. From beginning to end this is, plain and simply, a damn good musical experience.
Opener "Shiny Things" has a R&B sound reminiscent of his favorite songs from the past, a groovy number that comes to life with the help of Jennifer Lee’s sassy (in a good way) backing vocals and red-hot guitar work by Danny Powers and Marc Lee Shannon.
"Anything Goes" is an all out bluesy rocker and one of the highlights, "Uptown" is another example of Stanley having fun and gets your toes-a-tapping, while "Lucky Again" just rocks.
There'’s a heavy-funk copious use of organ, sax, spark guitars and soul-style backup vocals on the midtempo "Take That Ride", the pensive "Justine", "Making Beds" and on "Shining Through".
Two tracks which reveal the most about why Stanley’s music wears so well are his loving, deliberate take on the BeeGees’ classic "To Love Somebody", one of my favorites here. What begins as a stripped down version of the song with just Michael and a guitar, builds into a dramatic piece with powerful backing vocals provided by Don Dixon, resulting in an instant classic cover of…well, a classic.
The other is the album’s closing track "When the Smoke Finally Clears". While the sentiments in these tunes are routine, there’s something in his inflections and his phrasing that's pitch-perfect in terms of emotional sincerity. You feel as if he has lived what he sings.
"The Ride" is a triumphant salute to the Classic Rock bred and raised in the USA. There's a constant feel of 'letting go and letting groove' in Michael Stanley's music, the man is mining his talent here and the vein is deep.
The musical and vocal performances on the album are stellar throughout, and the songwriting emotional, sensitive. "The Ride" was mixed and co-produced by Stanley's good friend and producer extraordinaire (can you say The Who and the Eagles?) Bill Szymczyk. Suffice it to say, everything sounds great.
No matter how good the audio quality, however, it is the music that matters. And the music in "The Ride" is amazing.
Lovers of inspired, fleshy US Classic Rock, don't miss this album.
01 - Shiny Things
02 - All I Want
03 - Take That Ride
04 - To Love Somebody
05 - Uptown
06 - If Anybody Could
07 - A Fool In Love
08 - Justine
09 - Lucky Again
10 - Making Beds (In A Burning House)
11 - Shining Thru
12 - Anything Goes
13 - I Can't Wait
14 - When The Smoke It Finally Clears
Michael Stanley - Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Jennifer Lee, Don Dixon - Vocals
Danny Powers, Frankie Starr, Marc Lee Shannon - Guitar
Bob Pelander - Organ, Piano
Michael Gismondi, Eric Sosinski - Bass
Tommy Dobeck - Drums
Rodney Psyka - Percussion
Gary Jones - Keyboards
Paul Christensen - Saxophone
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
LaVALLE is a new exiting Melodic Hard Rock band made up of like-minded musicians from the USA and Europe, put together by guitarist Eddie LaValle.
Comprising very good singer Carsten 'Lizard' Schultz, drummer Ramy Ali (both from Evidence One) and Edens Curse bassist Paul Logue, the band has their debut 'Dear Sanity' ready to be released soon.
As advance we have the press/ promotional track "Fading Like The Sun", a killer rockin' song rich in harmony vocals, huge choruses, fat rhythm section and a sharp guitar work reminiscent of Vito Bratta & George Lynch.
Can't wait for the full album!
"Fading Like The Sun" (5:04)
Vocals - Carsten 'Lizard' Schultz
Guitar - Eddie LaValle
Bass - Paul Logue
Drums - Ramy Ali
Pioneers of Canadian Hard Rock, HELIX has been rocking the world for 40 years.
The band, in conjunction with Cleopatra Rec. / Deadline Music presents their just released ultimate collection "R-O-C-K! Best Of 1983-2012".
Helix have lots of hits compilations out there available, but nothing that covers this range of material.
I'm really fond of the albums that Helix has made in more recent years; Vagabond Bones and The Power of Rock & Roll are both up there among the band's best work, and one of my favourite Helix albums is B-Sides. I’d recommend those recordings to anyone who enjoys rock and roll in the gritty, honest and catchy style that Helix specialize in. So it's nice to have material from those three CDs in one place.
Of course there are familiar hits here as well, including “Running Wild in the 21st Century”, the fantastic ballad “Good To the Last Drop” and “Heavy Metal Love”, but also more obscure numbers like “Give it to You" or “The Same Room".
You'll also notice other big classics: “Wild In the Streets”, “Deep Cuts the Knife” and “Rock You”. These are re-recordings, as their original label owns the primal tapes. I think an original version is always superior to a re-make, but in the other hand it shows how Helix envision these songs today, and if you're a fan surely have the previous first takes already.
Two previously unreleased tracks rounds out the album; the Brian Vollmer and Sean Kelly penned rocker called “Axe To Grind”, together with the anthemic hymn dedicated to the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs team “All I Want for Christmas in the Leafs to Win the Cup”.
"R-O-C-K! Best Of 1983-2012" is a really good and justified release, as alongside Helix biggest hits features not so common numbers, some of the good recent material and a couple of unreleased cuts.
Even for die-hard fans who have Helix's discography already, hearing a good compilation like this really highlights some recent triumphs and re-discover classic jewels.
01 - Danger Zone
02 - Running Wild in the 21st Century
03 - Give it to You
04 - Jaws of the Tiger
05 - Deep Cuts the Knife
06 - Skin in the Game
07 - You Got the Love that I Like
08 - Good to the Last Drop
09 - The Same Room
10 - Heavy Metal Love
11 - Fill Your Head With Rock
12 - Get Up!
13 - Wild in the Streets
14 - Six Feet Underground
15 - Rock You
16 - Champagne Communist
17 - Animal Inside
18 - Make 'Em Dance
19 - I'm A Live Frankenstein
Previously unreleased tracks:
20 - Axe To Grind
21 - All I Want for Christmas in the Leafs to Win the Cup
Brian Vollmer - lead vocals
Greg "Fritz" Hinz - drums
Daryl Gray - bass, keyboards
Kaleb "Duckman" Duck - guitar
Brent "The Doctor" Doerner - guitar, vocals
Paul Hackman - guitar
Brian Doerner - drums
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To celebrate the career of legendary hard rock/metal singer Ronnie James DIO (hard to believe it's already been three years since his passing) Eagle Rock Records released yesterday the full show at 'The Spectrum' in Philadelphia from June 17, 1986, recorded during the second leg of the 'Sacred Heart tour', entitled "Finding The Sacred Heart ; Live In Philly 86".
Originally issued in edited form on VHS, now for the first time the complete concert is presented in the original running order and with remastered sound. Finally, fans can hear the entire performance on a kick ass 2-CD set, and relive that tour in full sonic glory.
New to the band on this tour is guitarist Craig Goldy, and he joins drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain and keyboard player Claude Schnell alongside the mighty Dio to play a selection of songs from Sacred Heart, earlier favorites and of course a few dips into the Black Sabbath & Rainbow catalog.
With a style slightly heavier than the band's former guitarist Vivian Campbell, Goldy delivers thick meaty riffs and flashy solos on killer cuts like "King of Rock and Roll", "Like the Beat of a Heart" and the upbeat "Hungry for Heaven".
Longtime Dio fans will love how the band tears into "Don't Talk to Strangers", "Sacred Heart" and of course "Stand Up and Shout", "Rainbow in the Dark" and the classic "We Rock", each one a metal anthem and featuring Ronnie's commanding vocals, obliterating everything in its path.
Look for some awesome medleys too featuring perennial favorites "The Last in Line", "Holy Diver" and of course the classic "Children of the Sea" from Dio's time in Sabbath and "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" from Rainbow. Throw in a massive "Heaven and Hell" and you have a bombastic set of traditional metal from a legendary act.
"Finding The Sacred Heart ; Live In Philly 86" is a true '80s baby, showcasing in its purest form what it was like to be in the audience at one of these events.
This is a great slice of history to help relive Dio at the height of their powers.
We miss you Ronnie.
CD 1 :
01. Draco Ignis
02. King Of Rock And Roll
03. Like The Beat Of A Heart
04. Don't Talk To Strangers
05. Hungry For Heaven
06. Medley; The Last In Line, Children Of The Sea, Holy Diver
07. Drum Solo
08. Heaven And Hell
09. Keyboard Solo
10. Guitar Solo
CD 2 :
11. Sacred Heart
12. Medley; Rock 'N Roll Children, Long Live Rock 'N Roll, Man On The Silver Mountain
13. Time To Burn
14. Stand Up And Shout
15. Rainbow In The Dark
16. We Rock
Ronnie James dio: Vocals
Craig Goldy: Guitar
Vinny Appice: Drums, Percussion
Jimmy Bain: Bass
Claude Schnell: Keyboards
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ZENIT is a progressive band from Switzerland that has been together since 1998, published two albums (the last one in 2006) being "The Chandrasekhar Limit" their newest, third opus.
I never heard the group before, and discovered here a delightful work of melodic progressive rock marked by intriguing arrangements and skillful playing with references from the classic British Prog school and some current Neo Prog trends.
But Zenit is not as blatant about their influences as many bands operating in this arena, with the elaborated multi-part six tracks on this album being mostly more interested in setting scenes, atmospheres, melodies and telling stories with their own distinctive touch.
Before anything else, it's good to understand why such a weird name for their album. "The Chandrasekhar Limit" is a Mayan mathematical term and defines if a white dwarf star remains a star or becomes a black hole. According to the band they felt the same way, not knowing if they were above or below The Chandrasekhar Limit (as a metaphor for their music).
As expected the five musicians who make up the band are supremely talented, with the focused, yet meandering style taken on by Zenit allowing them all the space to really stretch out and work their instruments hard. To their credit, they do so, but without the need to be uber-technical or sacrifice the song for the solo.
"The Chandrasekhar Limit" is bold and mostly goes for the old glory days of Prog without falling in the usual clichés that some bands use. The album is based on long compositions (yet divided in parts) but there's no sign of getting bored with it.
Opener "Awaken" has all that the first track on any Prog release should include, and that is soaring guitar and keyboard riffs which continues to weave in and out over the length of the track. There is an amazing passage from around 4 minutes where over the dynamic drumming and bass work, the guitar lays a tremendous solo over the top, with the keyboards supporting in the background. Then it breaks into a plaintive piano passage which is joined by lovable acoustic guitars. Lorenzo Sonognini's voice is hard to get used to in the beginning, but as soon as the first verses go along, his voice suits the music very well.
After the short "Cub Lady" which serves as interlude, "PiGreco" is an instant track; a keyboard driven up-tempo proggy song with powerful vocals and superb drum/bass playing with a layered sound that envelopes the listener and takes him on the travel the song so ably describe.
"Matrimandir" has Sanskrit and English lyrics and the sound follows the lyrics with a hypnotic riff. A sitar and a very ethnic sounding background show the versatility of the band prior to the electric guitar picking up and carrying the sitar riff onwards. A curiosity is the jazzy-fusion part in the middle, and then a 'progger' part follows, three musical fields that, supposedly, have nothing to do with each other but in the hands of Zenit it really works, defining their style.
"The Daydream Suite" is the epic of the album and as title says, it's a suite divided in several parts. It's a fine musical journey that you can take with your eyes closed discovering its textures, tempo changes, arrangements and climates.
"The Chandrasekhar Limit" is a proof that Prog can still be refreshing with good musicians on the instruments. I'm not talking about technically good musicians, but intelligent musicians that work for the song and Zenit definitely has it.
Andy Thommen used to play on Clepsydra back in the ninties and it's good to hear such a good bass player that cares for the deep-end sound. Much of the bass players nowadays plays Prog with 5-string bass and forget the mid-high frequencies. Ivo Bernasconi is subtle with the keyboards, but precise and tasteful, either on classic organs or exquisite piano passages.
Gabriele Schira has a good drum sound and Luigi Biamino at a first glance doesn't appear at all with the guitars but that's where the trick lies; his riffs builds up the atmosphere and structures the band needs to fly, but when his time for soloing arrives the man shows a complete arsenal of resources and abilities.
"The Chandrasekhar Limit" is a true Prog album, in its format and feeling, revisiting and re-envisioning classic melodic prog rock with a playful delivery.
2. Cub Lady
6. The Daydream Suite
Lorenzo Sonognini - vocals, acoustic guitars
Luigi Biamino - guitars, backing vocals
Ivo Bernasconi - keyboards
Andy Thommen - bass, backing vocals
Gabriele Schira - drums, percussion
Stefano Zaccagni - saxophone
Asia Thommen, Diana Bernasconi, Maria Scandella, Ilaria Widmer - backing vocals
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Not only LOUD N' CLEAR sports a band name of one of the best melodic hard rock albums of all time, their music is also purely influenced by the sounds that ruled the Californian / US Rock scene during the late '80s.
But Loud N' Clear hails from Israel, whose debut "Playing With Thunder" easily could have been released in that era, and who knows, maybe with great success.
However, success is exactly what has been dodging to Loud N' Clear in their native land since 2004, despite one of band's first songs ("Runaway") gained considerable airplay in local radio. Ironically, the same story happened to many acts playing this genre twenty-five years ago.
But the band remained strong in their purpose and finally were able to release "Playing With Thunder". Who knows, if Israel wasn't open enough to give Loud N' Clear a chance in the past, maybe the world will in near future.
Loud N' Clear plays classic late eighties US hard rock with an edge propelled by catchy melodies. 'Rikki Reckless' Enav owns the right pitch for this style and the rhythm section is quite solid, but the star in this recording is the guitar duo of Amir Eldor / Tommy Foxx Darmon whose twin razor attack carry the songs with energy and great riffs & solos.
The piles of aggression and sleaziness in a Skid Row vein of the jagged "New Solution" proves to be a compelling opener for this kind of album. You'll envision flailing hair and outrageous stage antics when the crunchy guitar riffs kicks in.
Next, "Hold On" is much more commercial with a slightly first Bon Jovi feel, and although the over-the-top vocals show a couple of doubts during the higher registers, the chorus is extremely catchy begging you to sing along. Throw-in a dazzling guest guitar solo by King Lizard's Niro Knox and this track quickly becomes the band's shining moment, easily succeeding despite its occasional imperfections.
In "Rise" the guitars are stiffer, driving a midtempo groove with a Black 'N Blue vibe, followed by the power ballad "Without You", emotionally vibrant and well rounded.
"Poison Love" is the album's stronger moment in my opinion, a Dokken-esque number with a very good refrain, big
rhythm section and a killer riff. Then in the middle we have a very nice interaction between clean & razor guitars, and the solo is meaty, tasteful.
Still retaining a hard rock sound, "Breathe" is more hair metal oriented especially on the chorus, while the two guitars builds a strong melodic atmosphere akin Icon. For the end, the band has included their old track "Runaway" featuring former singer Lev Krezhner, a cool hard rocker recalling XYZ in style.
On their debut "Playing With Thunder" Loud N' Clear expresses their love for the Californian hard rock heyday with a handful set of well written and performed melodic tunes, adding to the proceedings a rough & tough touch.
The guys have learned the lesson of how-to recreate the larger than life sounds and attitude of an era, and Loud N' Clear do it well. Regardless of their current location, the musicianship and stylings comes out as if they were bred on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip in the mid '80s.
Despite its minor flaws, "Playing With Thunder" is worth to investigate, especially if you like strong guitar playing and catchy rockin' melodies from the golden decade.
01. New Solution
02. Hold On
04. Without You
05. Poison Love
07. Runaway (bonus track)
Rikki Reckless Enav - vocals
Amir Eldor - guitar
Tommy Foxx Darmon - rhythm guitar
Roman Chase - bass
Ralph Huber - drums
Niro Knox - guitar solo (2)
Lev Krezhner - vocals (7)
Mike Isaac - drums (7)
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Monday, May 27, 2013
The Swedish guys in DEGREED impressed the Melodic Rock community in 2001 with their debut CD full of melodic modern sounds injecting the genre with a vital breath of fresh air.
While touring Europe last year, Degreed completed their long awaited second album entitled "We Don't Belong", at the moment, only released in Japan through Spinning Inc Records.
With an improved bright production again handled by Erik Lidbom (who has also co-written some songs), "We Don't Belong" shows a more mature Degreed in all aspects: better songwriting, arrangements and playing, while their contagious, catchy melodies and choruses have been refined for an even greater impact.
The notable thing about Degreed is that, although the songs are catchy, you can't escape the fantastic musical talent of these five guys. It would be easy to just say they are a good band, but there's much more than that because they have big hooks and catchy choruses reminiscent of '80s AOR & Melodic Rock and yet they sound so fresh and modern.
While listening to "We Don't Belong" you can hear inspirations from Journey or Night Ranger, but also many of the good (and few) modern hard rock bands, and Degreed blends all them all into an appetizing cocktail.
They cook into the oven the good of the new with the magic of the past, as co-writing a fantastic melodic track ("In For The Ride") with legend Bill Champlin, who also sings on the song.
You can't deny the catchiness of the keyboard filled "Black Cat", the harder Harem Scarem-like "Blind Hearted" or the broken "What If".
Modern Melodic Rock pearls like "Access Denied" or the luxury midtempo "Coming Home" (my favorite) are simply irresistible... but there's more: the lights-in-the-air anthemic title track, the muscular ballad "Follow Her" and the organic, melodious "Follow Her".
The bonuses for Japan are fabulous too: "Just Another Heartache" is a killer Night Ranger-esque rocker transported to the new century (love the solo), while there's a very good version of title track "We Don't Belong" re-worked in conjuction with Japanese band Godbrother.
I'm sold. Degreed is the new blood of the modern Melodic Hard Rock genre.
Only half year has passed, but "We Don't Belong" already sits comfortably amongst my 2013 favorites.
In short: this one needs to be released worldwide immediately.
02. Black Cat
03. What If
04. In For The Ride [feat. Bill Champlin]
05. Inside Of Me
06. Follow Her
07. Blind Hearted
08. Here I Am
09. Access Denied
10. Coming Home
11. We Don't Belong
12. Just Another Heartache (Japan bonus track)
13. We Don't Belong [feat. Godbrother] (Japan bonus track)
Robin Ericsson – Lead Vocals and Bass
Daniel Johansson – Guitars and backing vocals
Jesper Adefelt – Guitars and backing vocals
Micke Jansson – Keyboards
Mats Ericsson – Drums
Bill Champlin – guest Vocals, Songwriting
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Swedish guitarist and producer ANTON JOHANSSON was part of prog-metalers Mister Kite during the nineties with whom recorded two albums and toured supporting acts like Bruce Dickinson, Dio and Saga.
But several years before the man started to concoct his own project in which he has been working all this time, then in 2007 Anton joined forces with Linus Abrahamson (Andromeda, The Codex) to shape the final touches of this conceptual work.
“Anton Johansson’s Galahad Suite” is the result, featuring an array of talented Swedish musicians including some stellar guests.
“Galahad Suite” tells the tale of a knight who was chosen by God to find the Holy Grail, but apart from the story (that may be interesting for some) the really amusing side of this recording is the music.
With a sound and style that runs across progressive rock sometimes leaning toward prog-metal (yet not too heavy), melodic rock and classic hard rock grounds with equal measure, “Galahad Suite” flows freely and naturally out of the speakers.
Anton's songwriting -as well his pristine production- recalls British acts TEN, Bob Catley, some Magnum, Gary Hughes solo works and Starbreaker in a minor degree.
Some of the material is slightly epic oriented, but quite accessible, melodic. The band assembled for the recording sounds very cohesive, conducted to play their parts with a precise attention to detail.
The album also boasts notable guest performances by Mattias IA Eklundh (Freak Kitchen), Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande), Jonas Hansson (Silver Mountain), Dennis Post (Star*Rats) and former Anton's bandmate in Mister Kite Magnus Kristensson on guitars, along with keyboards by the great Jens Johansson (ex- Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio, Stratovarius) and Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic) and additional lead vocals by Alf Wemmenlind (Mister Kite, Fifty Grand Suicide) on a couple of tracks.
Talking about the vocals, the main singer chosen by Anton & Abrahamson is a revelation to me: Carl Lindquist. The textured pipes of this young guy are responsible to a great extent of these song's appeal, carrying the melodies into a multidimensional spectre. He has released a solo EP last year that I need to check pronto.
The album opens with "Galahad ; The Hope" presenting the story, alternating uptempo and slow prog moments, but then immediately "Happy ; The Incident" goes for a pumping melodic hard rock infused with strong guitars / keys.
This song & style variation characterizes all the following tracks resulting in an interesting and varied mixture, always melodic and polished.
“Anton Johansson’s Galahad Suite” blends effectively Prog / Melodic Hard Rock / lite Prog Metal through its 10-track story which can be perfectly enjoyed as individual songs.
What I liked most about this recording is the pristine sound, the clean playing & arrangements and some excellent vocal performances, resulting in a melodious musical treat. Production is top notch, aurally perfect I'd say.
Very recommended to all audiences.
01. Galahad ; The Hope
02. Somewhere ; The Quest
03. Happy ; The Incident
04. Hunted ; The Decision
05. Morning Sun ; The Battle
06. Loneliness ; The Peace
07. Never Alone ; The Victory
08. Coming Home ; The Reward
09. Vision Divine ; The End
10. Galahad ; The Man
Anton Johansson – Production, add. Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Linus Abrahamson – Guitar, Bass
Carl Lindquist – Vocals
Mats Bergentz – Drums
Sebastian Berglund – Keyboards
Anna Forsvall Lundmark – Cello
Evelina Andersson – Backing vocals
Ellen Abrahamson – Backing vocals
Mikael Cederhag – Backing vocals
Mattias IA Eklundh (Freak Kitchen) – Guitar
Magnus Karlsson (Allen/Lande, Starbreaker) – Guitar
Jens Johansson (ex- Malmsteen) - Keyboards
Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic) - Keyboards
Alf Wemmenlind (Mister Kite) - Vocals
Jonas Hansson (Silver Mountain) – Guitar
Dennis Post (Star Rats) – Guitar
Magnus Kristensson (Mister Kite) – Guitar
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Sunday, May 26, 2013
DDRIVE was founded by guitarist Don Mancuso (Lou Gramm Band, Black Sheep, Cheater) and Canadian singer Phil Naro (Talas, Peter Criss & 24K) ten years ago with 3 albums under their belt (the really good '3D' from 2010 already presented on this blog).
The band is working on the follow up disc but they never have been one to rush a project as they believe quality of their recordings is more important than the quantity of releases.
In the midterm DDrive assembled the just released compilation “Critical Mass” to introduce a whole new generation of fans to their brand of hard / classic rock, while giving their loyal and steady followers an album of their best cuts -some remixed- and a taste of what’s to come.
“Critical Mass” consists of music recorded between 2004 and 2013 and features 2 bonus tracks, a newly re-recorded acoustic version of “I’m A Little Outside” plus a brand new song called “Ten Things I Hate the Most”.
With a four octave range and powerful delivery, Naro is certainly the ideal vocalist for DDrive's melodic rock/hard/classic rock style, while Mancuso is known for his melodic riffs and tasteful solos.
Really enjoyable release.
01 - Dig Down
02 - Down Rotten Dirty
03 - Diamond Star Halo
04 - Next Train
05 - You're Never Alone
06 - Pray For Tomorrow
07 - Always Done
08 - Can't Dig Your Way Out
09 - Welcome To My World
10 - Build My Castle
11 - A Little Bitta Sunshine
12 - Down Deep
13 - Missing
14 - Chains On You
15 - Lock Lips
16 - Never Had A Chance
17 - I'm A Little Outside (New Version) Acoustic
18 - Ten Things I Hate The Most (New Original) Acoustic
Phil Naro - Vocals, Guitars & Harmonica
Don Mancuso - Guitars, Bass & Mandolin
J.T. Taylor - Bass
Bobby Bond - Drums & Percussion
Jeff Cosco, Lou Gramm - Backing Vocals
Billy Sheehan - Bass, Backing Vocals
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Friday, May 24, 2013
In the humble opinion of this reviewer, ALICE IN CHAINS were one of the few salvageable acts of the grunge movement. I still spin from time to time their landmark album 'Facelift', and while not all their songs are right up my alley, what I really like is Jerry Cantrell's guitar playing and sound.
After listening the group's new CD "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" to be released next week, I think many followers of this blog will dig it as I did.
"The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" still offers some of the powerful, seasickness-inducing riffs that the band is known for, but the good thing is that Alice In Chains have updated their sound and musical delivery. This means the somber tuned-down scales are gone and the songs are more uplifting & melodic.
This is helped by a bright production, with the rhythm section sounding earthy, the guitars organic and the vocals have been arranged to obtain a more classic rock style.
This new approach works in the favor of this collection of songs, giving both William DuVall (in his 2nd recording with the band) and Cantrell's melancholic vocals room to breathe and provide hair-raising contrast against the music - especially on the tracks "Hollow", "Lab Monkey" and "Stone".
Cantrell also supplies here some of the most masterful guitar work of his career, with his carefully crafted leads during "Scalpel" and the title track highlighting his criminally underrated, almost Gilmour-like restraint.
If you never liked Alice In Chains or have lost their trace during the last fifteen years or so, give "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" a chance. You could be greatly surprised.
This 'new' AIC approach is quite melodious, retaining the band's style but with a completely fresh delivery. The songs are more defined, precisely as 'songs' in the classic rock format & stylings. This has been achieved mostly by the bright production which gives the album an expansive feel, so the patented churn doesn't seem quite so claustrophobic as before.
Perhaps that expansiveness is just a sign of age: Alice in Chains are now firmly entrenched in their middle age and settling into what they do best: retaining their signature without pandering and, tellingly, without succumbing to the darkness that otherwise defines them.
I liked "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" a lot.
01 - Hollow
02 - Pretty Done
03 - Stone
04 - Voices
05 - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
06 - Lab Monkey
07 - Low Ceiling
08 - Breath On A Window
09 - Scalpel
10 - Phantom Limb
11 - Hung On A Hook
12 - Choke
Jerry Cantrell – guitars, lead and backing vocals
Sean Kinney – drums, percussion, keyboards
Mike Inez – bass
William DuVall – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar
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Thursday, May 23, 2013
With Italian origins but born & raised in Thessaloniki, Greece (same city as Wild Rose) guitar player ANASTASIO FARINI was nominated with only 16 years old as best upcoming talent by Greek Metal Hammer Magazine.
Farini is releasing his debut "Lil' Angel" featuring several vocalists from the European Hard Rock scene singing his melodious rockin' songs.
As guitar player, Farini's style is strongly influenced by John Norum, Richie Sambora, Yngwie Malmsteen and this is clearly showcased through the clean and polished solos spreaded on this recording. But the man's musical heart & soul is flooded by late '80s / early '90s Melodic Hard Rock spiced with elements of the Hair Metal era.
All the tracks (even the two instrumental) on this CD are a trip back to those years both in sound and style, and although Farini shreds -and very well- during the solos, we're talking about catchy commercial songs here.
When you have such diverse cast of guest vocalists there's a risk to lose homogeneity, however all work fine for the most part on "Lil' Angel".
The title track opens the album, a contagious and extremely melodic rocker featuring Greek singer Dean Mess from the band W.A.N.T.E.D. Perhaps due Dean's timbre recalling Ted Poley, but also from the main melody, the tune is highly influenced by Danger Danger.
Follower "Sweet Lovin' Girl" is another ear-candy melodic number this time with a Scandinavian touch, more vocal layered harmonies and strong leads by Rob Mancini. The guitar solo is quite Norum-Europe with a restrained Farini focused in sweetness than speed.
Swede Pelle Saether (Grand Design) sings the cool rocker "Anytime All The Time" which somehow reminds me a Slaughter song, and then Reuben Archer from British cult band Stampede adds his raspy throat to "Brother To Brother", the more traditional hard rock song on the disc.
There's two instrumental tracks on the album; the accomplished "The Phantom Of The Opera" with an uptempo first part alá Impelliteri and a melodic Yngwie-like second section. The other is "Prelude", a neoclassical affair with concerto acoustic guitars, hot electrics and background keys.
"I Will Be Loving You Forever" is the ballad, build by very nice pianos, synths and sustained guitar work, featuring Australian singer Darren Grant who recorded a solid disc with Eruption some years ago. Grant sings as well on the foot-tapping hair metal tune "Like My Way Of Love".
The only downside here is the cover of Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" going hard rock. It's not bad, but wasting a good singer like George Gakis (who does not reach the arrangement, too high for him) in other's people song instead of an original it's a pity.
Armed with a catchy pack of songs and his guitar skills (which are many) Anastasio Farini's "Lil' Angel" is an enjoyable listening: melodic, good songwriting inspired in the late eighties, strong vocalists and solid session musicians.
1. Lil' Angel (feat. Dean Mess of W.A.N.T.E.D.)
2. Sweet Lovin' Girl (feat. Rob Mancini)
3. Anytime All The Time (feat. Pelle Saether of Grand Design)
4. Brother To Brother (feat. Reuben Archer of Stampede)
5. I Will Be Loving You (feat. Darren Grant of Eruption)
6. The Phantom Of The Opera (instrumental)
7. Wild Boys [Duran Duran cover] (feat. George Gakis)
8. Like My Way Of Love (feat. Darren Grant of Eruption)
9. Prelude (instrumental)
Anastasio Farini: all guitars
Nikos Antoniadis: drums, backing vocals
Sakis Kipouros, Domenikiotis Kostas: bass
Yannis Giouras, Christos Gougoumas: keyboards
Manos Kagias, Iraklis Zotos: backing vocals
BUY IT !
If there's an intriguing album in Rock history, both lyrically as musically, "Imaginos" by BLUE OYSTER CULT should be in the top ten. Very hard to find on CD for years, there was limited editions in recent years, and now it's being remastered (note: this is not the Columbia BOC box set remaster).
The reissue label assures that it has been freshly re-mixed too, but this is debatable.
I mean; I own the '88 blue vinyl (remember the days?) and in this CD version (and the previous as far I know) some of the tracks significantly differ to their originals. Not just remixed with a slightly different balance in the overall sound, but with, for instance, different guitar solos in some places.
Anyway, this is a minor point because the important thing here is the medulla of the work - the songwriting & the concept - as the musical performances are excellent in both versions.
"Imaginos" took nearly eight years to complete and was originally intended to be the first in a trilogy of solo albums by ex- Blue Öyster Cult drummer & songwriter Albert Bouchard (he was fired in 1981).
In fact, the concept was conceived 20 years before by Sandy Pearlman, the band's original producer and lyricist. It's a story about an alien conspiracy theory that is brought to fruition during the late 19th and early 20th century through the actions of Imaginos, an agent of evil. The tale combines elements of gothic literature and science fiction and is strongly inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft.
Subtitled 'a bedtime story for the children of the damned', it has an intricate storyline whose often-obscure lyrics contain many historical references, and is still an object of speculation by fans and critics.
Thus, "Imaginos" is often considered more as a project of producer Pearlman and ex- drummer Al Bouchard. But the record company forced it to be released under the Blue Öyster Cult moniker.
Consequently, apart from real BOC members as Bouchard or Eric Bloom, there was many musicians involved in the recording sessions, including Joe Satriani, Aldo Nova, Robbie Krieger (The Doors) to name a few, whose brought together new musical inspiration.
But all the above are just details. "Imaginos" is simply an incredible piece of art.
There isn't a duff track here, the disc can be enjoyed as whole following the story (not easy, believe me, as it isn't chronological) or as individual songs. The music speaks for itself and you can take or leave the storyline.
Musically is immense, elaborated progressive hard rock that clearly relates the feel of BOC origins. It's difficult to pull out highlights as all are captivating and different from the usual 'rock record'.
"Astronomy" is one of the songs written by Pearlman many years ago and already recorded by BOC before, but here is delivered in a completely different but excellent form, stripped of atmosphere, mystery and poetic beauty.
The other is entitled as the band; "Blue Öyster Cult", a very much evolved version of 'The Subhuman' from the same album. Both are superb and shows how were originally conceived as part of the story, finally, completely developed here in "Imaginos".
You'll be moved by the ferocious hard rocking lust of "I Am The One You Warned Me Of", the deftness of "Les Invisibles" is impressive, and "Del Rio's Song" is catchy & uplifting.
"The Siege And Investiture Of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle At Weisseria" is an absolute barnstormer that reminds one and all just how powerful this band can be - some classy keyboards emerge from the brutality at the end and the choral repetition of the 'world without end' refrain is very effective.
There's an enchanting clime on "In The Presence Of Another World", and the glorious title track "Imaginos" brings outstanding performances by a guitarists pleiad for a grand finale.
"Imaginos" is considered one of the heaviest albums released by Blue Öyster Cult, and one of their best.
I love the melodic and commercial hard rock of their two previous works (which first-time fans hate) but "Imaginos" is a completely different beast. And a great one to tame.
When I heard it the first time, didn't like it. But when you get right down to it, this is an album of brilliant, entrancing, intriguing, mind-stompingly wonderful songs.
Absolutely essential listening.
1 - I Am The One You Warned Me Of
2 - Les Invisibles
3 - In The Presence Of Another World
4 - Del Rio's Song
5 - The Siege And Investiture Of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle At Weisseria
6 - Astronomy
7 - Magna Of Illusion
8 - Blue Oyster Cult
9 - Imaginos
Eric Bloom - lead vocals
Albert Bouchard - guitars, percussion, lead vocals
Joe Bouchard - keyboards, vocals
Allen Lanier - keyboards
Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser - guitars, lead vocals
Joe Satriani - guitars, solo on (5)
Aldo Nova - guitars
Marc Biederman - guitars
Kevin Carlson - guitars
Robby Krieger - guitar solos on (7,8)
Daniel Levitin - guitars
Tommy Moringiello - guitars
Jack Rigg - guitars
Kenny Aaronson - bass
Thommy Price - drums
Tommy Zvoncheck - keyboards
Joey Cerisano - additional lead vocal (5)
Jon Rogers - additional lead vocal (9)
Daniel Levitin - additional backing vocals
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
UK hard rockers VOODOO SIX were presented in this blog two years ago with their very good 2011's EP but the group have been rocking the scene for more than a decade highly praised by the press and recognized members of the rock and metal elite like Steve Harris or Mike Portnoy.
V6 (as they like to be called) will be releasing their eagerly awaited 3rd full length CD "Songs To Invade Countries To" next June 3, just in time to embark on an impressive European tour supporting Iron Maiden.
The music of Voodoo Six is indeed like a V6 engine in all cylinders inspired by classic British traditional bluesy Hard Rock boasting the raw energy of '70s / '80s bands with modern stylings thrown in.
"Songs To Invade Countries To" is firmly planted into a category of earthy hard rock with an updated sound driven by potent riffs which meld with groovy hooks and strong melodies, always moving forward without becoming repetitive.
On all these tracks, the scales and solos along with the riffage are impressive, the drums sustain the foundation with every hit and the bass is never forgotten as it plays throughout, sometimes along with the other instruments, sometimes seemingly solo. Vocally, singer Luke Purdie isn't afraid to bare his soul via rough tones giving the opus an attitude that transpires denim 'n leather.
The CD opens up with the hard rocking stomper "Fallen Knives" driven by a catchy groove and distinctive bass line. Then the guitar that joins in drags you into the album as soon as it starts, you have no choice but to continue to listen.
There seems to be a lot of depth and thought involved within the song structures in this album, and you can hear the band trying to expand their traditional territories giving you pleasant surprises throughout.
This is evident on third track "Lead Me On" which is a quite elaborated ballad / midtempo tune complete with strings subtly meandering away in the background. Lots of sweet guitar sounds coming from both guitarists with a simple, catchy chorus and nice phrasing from Purdie. The song ends with a nice cello on pair with clean guitars.
"Sink Or Swim" rocks again in a traditional way, but then in "You Don't Know" V6 go for a more heavy funky groove which is very catchy and surely a future live favorite. The intro of "Your Way" starts with a slightly southern feel but soon changes into a different kind of animal. This one has a lot of angry gravely vocals, nice flowing heavy riffs, thunderous drumming and a meaty guitar solo to boot.
"Sharp Sand" is another clattering mini-anthem that gallops into the room on the twin guitar attack of Matt Pearce and Chris Jones, and in Joe Lazarus the band clearly have a warhorse of a drummer whose style perfectly suits this bruising style of hard rock.
"Stop" is one of the more interesting tracks in this recording. It starts with a lot of heavy bass and funky groove (Tony Newton is a noteworthy bass player who adds extra weight to the album) mixed with classic rocking riffs which almost seem a bit jazzy in places. The bridge had gentle backing ooooh vocals which to me was a nice little element to throw in. There is bits and pieces mixed into this album that shows V6's intentions to evolve musically.
The song immediately after, titled "Brick Wall", is another highlight. A classic bluesy hard rocker where all the musicians get carried away through a really live vibe. Another muscular rocker featuring driving guitars and solid drums with a strong seventies feel to the proceedings.
The album finishes in a pedal-to-the-metal fashion with "Higher Ground", a simple yet huge hard rock stomper sporting a smokin' solo. Purdie mesmerises with his raucous vocals and although he does make it seem effortless, it's clear a lot of effort was put in creating this recording and it does show.
In "Songs To Invade Countries To" Voodoo Six have become a mature Hard Rock monster delivering a bunch of groovy, punchy, unstoppable rockin' tunes with a traditional feeling whilst still manages to obtain a modern sound which allows it to fit in with the 21st century's rock and metal scene.
There's plenty of hard and heavy rocking numbers to thrill and satisfy, yet it's full of creativity, structure and wonderful melodies. It has songs which divert you elsewhere and throw you off guard that really makes you smile.
A well oiled V6 engine with a fully-charged-turbo sonic attack.
01. Falling Knives
02. All That Glitters
03. Lead Me On
04. Sink Or Swim
05. You Don't Know
06. Your Way
07. Sharp Sand
09. Brick Wall
10. Waiting In Line
11. Higher Ground
Luke Purdie – Vocals
Tony Newton – Bass
Matt Pearce – Guitars
Chris Jones – Guitars
Joe Lazarus – Drums
ANGEL, one of the most representative acts from the early American pomp AOR scene, for their last album "Sinful" changed the musical focus to a more commercial FM-friendly style.
For years a cult recording and quite hard to find on CD, it's being released digitally remastered for the first time outside Japan by the British specialized label BGO.
"Sinful" is just filled to the brim with great poppy/rockin' songs. In fact, with this album Angel predated the hair metal movement by 4/5 years spicing the melodic & catchy melodies with late seventies hard rock undertones.
With the exception of the pompy "Wild And Hot" in the style of the band's early period, the rest of the songs are balanced between rockers and radio oriented melodic tunes. Part of the songwriting secret was the fact that Gregg Giuffria, vocalist Frank Dimino, guitarist Punky Meadows and drummer Barry Brandt this time all contributed, in various combinations.
The feel of each song differed slightly depending on the writers who created it.
Opener "Don't Take Your Love" is a sheer AOR track with crisp lead vocals, tin tight drumming and a commercial chorus layered with harmonies. Sturdier but eminently tuneful tracks like "L.A. Lady" and the proto hair metal numbers "Bad Time" and "Lovers Live On" bully their way into your face and mind with emphatic arrangements bringing up the guitars and using the keyboards as punctuation – carry these songs over the line with energy to spare.
The dynamic duo of "Just Can't Take It" and "You Can't Buy Love" are really melodic and with a clear adult FM orientation adding acoustic guitars, moog and even an electronic clapping machine.
Giuffria’s self-penned, embryonic symphonic ballad "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" is also worth mentioning, but my favorite on the album is without a doubt the pure AOR of "Waited A Long Time" whose style would be imitated by many in a near future.
A departure from their pomp origins, "Sinful" is the more accessible and radio friendly album by Angel, ironically their less popular and a commercial failure mostly due the scarce label support.
A shame, because despite its 'easy listening' this recording was ahead of its time showcasing the rock style to come in the US combining poppy melodies with hard rock = the pop metal / hair metal germ.
Excellent digital remaster, clear and pristine.
01 - Don't Take Your Love
02 - L.A. Lady
03 - Just Can't Take It
04 - You Can't Buy Love
05 - Bad Time
06 - Waited A Long Time
07 - I'll Bring The World To Your Door
08 - I'll Never Fall In Love Again
09 - Wild And Hot
10 - Lovers Live On
Frank Dimino - vocals, background vocals
Punky Meadows - guitars, acoustic guitar
Gregg Giuffria - keyboards, programming
Felix Robinson - 6-string bass, background vocals
Barry Brandt - drums, percussion, background vocals
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
TAKAYOSHI OHMURA is perhaps the most talented guitar hero coming out of Japan since Akira Takasaki (Loudness). At least for this humble reviewer after listening his awesome CD as solo artist entitled "Devils In The Dark".
Ohmura, 30 years - and male in case of doubt if you see one of his androgyny pics on the www - is a graduated musician from the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) in 2002 and since then does not stop to work in the Asian music business. As session musician with several rock&pop artists (the big-in-Japan act Liv Moon to name one) and with international renowned musicians such as Vitalij Kuprij, Richie Kotzen, Mark Boals and Doogie White.
Precisely, for "Devils In The Dark" he has called top class vocalists to sing his rocking tunes: Russell Allen (Allen/Lande), Titta Tani (ex-DGM, Phoenix Rising, Ashent), Cris Powers (Razer) and Doogie White, while in the instrumentation we have Marty Friedman, monstrous 8-string guitar player Francesco Fareri and drummer Louis Sesto (Soul Doctor, Blindman) alongside other Japanese talents.
"Devils In The Dark" is a polished, bright sounding classic Hard Rock album featuring, of course a killer six-string work, but also terrific vocal performances, strong musicianship and... very good songs!
Ohmura is a clean, super-fast guitar slinger, but never, never in this recording shreds out of place. In fact, his exquisite legato-built solos are short and to fit the songs, all around the four minute mark. Some cuts are really Melodic Hard Rock oriented with massive keyboard presence, and the varied vocal contributions help as well to balance the album from its harder moments.
The enormous "Never Surrender" opens the disc with stabbing keyboards which never disappear during the song, then a mammoth rhythm section enters together with the sharp guitar riff and the highly melodic vocals of Titta Tani (who released a very good Melodic Rock album with Phoenix Rising presented here), and the track literally explodes. The chorus catch your ears with its power and precision, and during the solo section Marty Friedman duets with Ohmura in a memorable battle. Awesome track. Check the video below...
What follows is a collection of really well cafted hard (melodic) rockers mostly co-written with the vocalists involved so expect a quite Euro/American style, with harder moments in "Wanna Get A Good Love", "The Night Of U.S.A." and "Shadows Of Eternity". The melodic equilibrium is provided by the harmony layered "Under One Flag", "Solitary Universe" and the short instrumental "Trust". There's also some variation in the song skeleton with the interesting "Poison Eyes" where female singer Akane Liv (Liv Moon) plants her particular vocals.
Another highlight is without a doubt the shining "Delusional Dreams" showcasing the always great throat of Russell Allen, a melodic yet fast paced hard rocker with tons of keys, pumping bass, multi-track layers of guitars and a razor solo.
"Devils In The Dark" is an ec-stat-ic album by - to me - the new guitar hero the world needed: Takayoshi Ohmura.
Conducted by this brilliant young six-string master, all these talented musicians have recorded a thrilling, exciting CD that never decay in quality and rock your socks off.
Sadly only released in Japan at the moment, "Devils In The Dark" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by this blog.
You've seen it first here, at 0dayrox
01. Never Surrender (feat. Titta Tani & Marty Friedman)
02. Wanna Get A Good Love (feat. Chris Powers)
03. Delusional Dreams (feat. Russell Allen & Francesco Fareri)
04. Poison Eyes (feat. Akane Liv)
05. Trust ~ instrumental
06. The Night Of U.S.A. (feat. Chris Powers)
07. Solitary Universe (feat. TOKI & Tatsuya Nishiwaki)
08. Shadows Of Eternity (feat. Chris Powers)
09. Under One Flag (feat. Titta Tani)
10. A Little Song (feat. Tatsuya Nishiwaki)
11. The Night Of U.S.A. [single version feat. Doogie White] (bonus track)
Takayoshi Ohmura - Guitars, Bass
Russell Allen (Allen/Lande) - Vocals
Akane Liv (Liv Moon) - Vocals
Cris Powers (Razer) - Vocals
Titta Tani (ex-DGM, Phoenix Rising, Ashent) - Vocals
Toki (C4, Stealth) - Vocals
Doogie White - Vocals
Marty Friedman - Guitar
Francesco Fareri - 8-string Guitar
Tatsuya Nishiwaki (Liv Moon) - Keyboards
Louis Sesto (Soul Doctor, Blindman) - Drums
BUY IT !
Friday, May 17, 2013
The guys from Gottenburg, Sweden based band SAFFIRE used to play commercial rock and covers at their home town during the last decade when they decided to reach back their roots of '70s and '80s influences.
After many years developing a style they were ready to debut on CD with "From Ashes To Fire".
Saffire's musical delivery is quite interesting, blending classic Hard Rock and Progressive with a modern approach. The music is built over strong guitar riffs mixed with old-school influenced vocals, shrilling guitar solos and some occasional '80s Scandi-sounding keyboards.
The songs are well-crafted and varied depending upon a solid rock groove, melodies, and hooks in both lyrics and arrangements to propel them. Several good examples of this come with "Magnolia", "Freedom Call" and "The Betrayer's Fate". The latter two also shows the fine keyboard placement occurring in all the songs.
While the Hard Rock vibe is ever present, Saffire offers a lot more than that. Sure there is the occasional cowbell, the too-present tambourine, straight riffs, Hammond organ at places, but there is also a sense of something more.
For instance, the group easily blurs the line between hard rock and metal with heavier numbers like "Kingdom of the Blind" and "Paralyzed". But their edge is never oppressive or too heavy, always relying on good melodies to move them.
The first time I heard "A Symphony Unheard" immediately thought it sounded a lot like early Styx, especially the verses. This, though, is where the Progressive side of the band seems to emerge, as well with "Modus Vivendi", more late seventies oriented. "End Of The World" then mix Hard with a bluesy vibe and some Savatage attitude. The guys are not afraid to experiment with styles and this is a good thing.
The two ballads are quite solid; "What If" in a very modern style featuring a melodious solo, while the midtempo "She Remains a Mystery" is the opposite, a Rainbow inspired tune, calm and with and open instrumentation.
Saffire presents themselves to the hard rock community with a strong debut combining many types of genres.
This does not meaning they jump between them from song to song, they blend all together and the result is cohesive and interesting for the most part. During some tracks the pace changes several times with clever switching between keyboards and guitars supported by a groovy rhythm section. Singer Tobbe Jansson provides smooth vocals in the classic way which mid-range fits well all the material on offer.
Despite the varied influences, the music in "From Ashes To Fire" sounds really homogeneous altogether, well produced and always interesting.
Very good debut.
02. Kingdom of the Blind
03. Freedom Call
04. End of the World
05. What If
06. A Symphony Unheard
08. Modus Vivendi
09. The Betrayer's Fate
10. She Remains a Mystery
11. Say Goodbye
12. The Redemption
13. Stormy Waters
Tobbe Jansson - Vocals
Victor Olsson - Guitars
Dino Zuzic - Keyboards
Magnus Carlsson - Bass
Anton Roos - Drums
BUY IT !
Thursday, May 16, 2013
FAIR WARNING was always a band that delivered high quality Melodic Hard Rock stuff. These Germans combine perfect melodies, tight performances and excellent songwriting and have produced superb plates like their self-titled debut, 'Rainmaker' and 'Go!', all classics in my book.
After four years since their last studio album (there was a live disc in between) the wait is over and Fair Warning is back again with their brand new opus which is titled "Sundancer", just released in Japan and to be out in Europe at the end of May.
Looking at the front cover art but, also, from the title, you will realize this one is a deliberate nod to 'Rainmaker', the successful album of 1995 that gave to Fair Warning their international breakthrough. The band still comprises the original line up: toneful singer Tommy Heart, Helge Engelke on guitars & keyboards, Ule Ritgen on bass and CC Behrens hitting the drums.
From the first spin of "Sundancer" you'll be blown away by these Germans; all the things we love from Fair Warning are here stronger than ever. I would described it as the perfect mix between the melodic 'Rainmaker', the anthemic 'Go!' and the harder 'Brother's Keeper'.
There are some excellent uptempo rockers such as the fantastic keyboard-filled opener "Troubled Love", the glorious "Keep It In The Dark", the ear candy US AOR feel of "Pride" or the contagious "Get Real", all moving rockers with catchy choruses, hooks galore and powerful performances.
"Hit And Run" is an '80s styled hard rock gem while "Send Me A Dream" features a bluesier side of the band with an awesome guitar work.
"Real Love" is one of these kinda of tracks that you expect from these guys; it's a huge mid-tempo with a moody vibe in it (in a classic 'Go!' fashion) and a breathtaking melody. Brilliant European Melodic Hard Rock stuff.
If I had to sum up "Sundancer" in one word - rather the sometimes redundant use of superfluous adjectives quite characteristic of my reviews - it'd be "Classy". Fair Warning has produced their best album from the last fifteen years, offering a quality songwriting on par with their finest recordings which made them a staple in the Melodic Hard Rock genre.
Polished, catchy as hell, embellished by a rather crisp six-string tone, a sheer crystal clear riffage package, a set of delicate multi layered keys and the always reliable soulful vocals of Tommy Heart (in his best delivery since Go!), "Sundancer" is a winner.
A Mandatory purchase.
01. Troubled Love
02. Keep It In The Dark
03. Real Love
04. Hit And Run
05. Man In The Mirror
06. Natural High
07. Jealous Heart
08. Touch My Soul
09. Send Me A Dream
11. Get Real
12. How Does It Feel
13. Living On The Street
Tommy Heart (Vocals)
Helge Engelke (Guitar, Keyboards)
Ule W. Ritgen (Bass)
C.C. Behrens (Drums, Percussion)
BUY IT !
GORDON GILTRAP is a British guitarist with more than fourty years of experience and although he has ventured into Prog music at times - working with Rick Wakeman to name one - is mostly known for his folk music.
So it's quite surprising that he has joined keyboardist OLIVER WAKEMAN (Rick's son) for a Rock oriented album, most precisely Neo Prog infused with a modern sound and melodies titled "Ravens & Lullabies".
"Ravens & Lullabies" is dynamic and eclectic piece of work from two talented musicians helped by a cleverly chosen crew to provide this recording with a modern sound, melodic accessible arrangements and updated production.
First of all, Gordon and Oliver enlisted Karl Groom as producer. Groom (apart from being a founding member of progressive metal band Threshold and Neo-Prog act Shadowland and several others) has previously produced albums by John Wetton, Pendragon, Galahad, Landmarq and many others. Expect a bright sound and mix plenty of nuances.
Then take a look to the supporting band; Paul Manzi of Arena on lead vocals, Johanne James of Threshold play the drums, and Steve Amadeo (Ian Parker band) the bass. Benoit David of Mystery and with whom Oliver has recently played in YES contributes a guest vocal on a track. All these musicians are in top Prog bands of the actual scene and add to this project a truly current playing and vibrance.
So "Ravens & Lullabies" is a contemporary Neo Prog album with Giltrap playing some excellent passages both on acoustic and electric guitar, Oliver similarly alternating between piano and various other keyboards in his characteristic style (which is strongly reminiscent of his father) and the rest of the musicians providing a modern day dynamism to the music.
Uptempo, full band numbers as the great opener "Moneyfacturing" are interspersed with more intimate, lighter acoustic pieces like the reflective following track "Fiona's Smile". The contrasts continue all the way through the CD, which reflects the "Ravens & Lullabies" theme.
Amongst these short tracks emphasizing the song format we find some exquisite cuts like the jaunty piano led "A Perfect Day" and "Wherever There Was Beauty", both blending the two gentleman rock and classical roots touchingly, and the extremely melodic and commercial ballad "Ravens Will Fly Away".
"From The Turn Of A Card" turns out superbly as Oliver brings in his former Yes compatriot Benoit David. On this performance Benoit pulls off a neat song which is a unique demonstration of his abilities.
The truly Neo Proggy "Credit Carnival" is one of my favorites, with a scent of Barclay James Harvest and early Alan Parsons but with blazing keys that clearly set it apart, and surprisingly heavy guitars.
There's also one and only long composition in the form of "Is This the Last Song I Write?". It's an absorbing, captivating song within a song with wonderful musical pictures, emotive vocals and interesting lyrical content talking about the artist's insecurities; you are only as good as your last concert, your last album, your last autograph, and you cannot know your legacy during your lifetime.
Perhaps the most triumphant aspect of this relatively complex and gratifying piece is how it avoids sounding self important or melodramatic. From a well arranged gentle song it transforms into a more enigmatic rocker and back again. The only constant is attention to detail and emphasis on inducing receptivity to the album's title theme through the melody and arrangements.
Gordon Giltrap & Oliver Wakeman's "Ravens & Lullabies" is an impressive piece of work, a musical fest from start to finish.
The songwriting from both is amazing and the arrangements are stunning. Giltrap is a very classic guitarist, with a warm tone on the electric and showcasing a tasteful hand pickin' with the acoustics, perfectly complemented by lots of fat, squelchy synths from Wakeman alongside his fluid enchanting piano parts.
The full band approach to the tracks is fantastic, with all really enhancing the sound. Special mention must go to Johanne James (Threshold) on drums and percussion whose playing is always very robust and yet precise, delicate, and contributes much to every track he plays on. Also remarkable is Karl Groom's crystal clear production, avoiding saturation and boosting the melodies.
This album will appeal not only to fans of Neo Prog but should find a following of anyone who just likes superbly written and soulfully performed electric / acoustic rock. It worked equally great for me as background music at work as well when I enjoyed every detail sitting in my preferred couch with a glass of scotch in my hand.
01 - Moneyfacturing
02 - Fiona's Smile
03 - From the Turn of a Card
04 - LJW
05 - Maybe Tomorrow
06 - Wherever There Was Beauty
07 - Is This the Last Song I Write?
08 - The Forgotten King
09 - A Mayfair Kiss
10 - Anyone Can Fly
11 - A Perfect Day
12 - Credit Carnival
13 - One for Billie
14 - Ravens Will Fly Away
15 - Roots (bonus track)
Gordon Giltrap - guitars
Oliver Wakeman - keyboards
Paul Manzi (Arena) - vocals
Steve Amadeo - bass
Johanne James (Threshold) - drums, percussion
Special vocal appearance by Benoit David on 3
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The first time the major public heard about PAMELA MOORE was when Queensrÿche recruited the lady from her own band to be the voice of Sister Mary on 'Operation: Mindcrime'. This album, a milestone in Rock music history, allowed us to discover her incredible voice and alluring beauty that went note for note with a young Geoff Tate.
Now, Pamela Moore has a new solo album out on Rat Pak Records titled "Resurrect Me" which took four years to complete.
"Resurrect Me" is a metal album conceived in a timeless fashion, this meaning with the spirit of the classy stylings of the genre wrapped by a modern sound. Pamela vocals are the star here, strong as ever with a solid personality shining throughout, accompanied by a sharp instrumental work by several outstanding musicians.
But the album is basically a collaboration between Moore and Michael Posch, a terrific guitar player (who also handles bass and keyboards) a musician who made noise as a founding member of Century Media artists Radakka, and was hand-picked by Moore while living in Chicago.
All start with the heavy hitter "Acquiescent" and sets the tone with Moore proving she has a voice to stun. Then "Melt Into You" quickly hits the speakers next with perfectly timed up in your grill riffs from the very talented guitar of Michael Posch. Moore's voice takes a backseat to no one in rock nor does Poschs' solo work.
Song three "Paranoia" slows the pace a little. It's a groovy, dark rocker with some electronics throwed-in with a clear '80s Queensrÿche influence, just listen the chorus. Sharp riff and dense rhythm section in a haunting melody makes this one a personal favorite.
"We Are Damaged" is a playful, teasing tune built around a steamy, sultry bass riff and has again Posch building the track over another powerful riff. Pam sounds more melodious here, somehow epic, singing very good lyrics talking about the false seduction of large goverments and corporations.
Title track "Resurrect Me" is one of the highlights. The first half of the song is like a lullaby, with Moore's bright vocalizations over clean guitars and keys in the background. Then gets heavier and catchy via more layered vocals, razor guitars and synth-strings. This song gives you chills right down the spine… think 'the real' Queensrÿche blended with Savatage. Outstanding track.
"The Sky Is Falling" rocks strongly but in a different way than before, it's almost catchy yet dark at the same time. I swear I thought that might have been Geoff Tate dueting on this song but I had to remember it is Ralf Scheppers of Primal Fear.
We have Jeff Loomis (Nevermore) adding his skills to the guitar solo on "Awakening", with Moore unleashing her force in this mid-tempo, strong tune again recalling Queensrÿche's best era in a slightly Earstern feel. The end with Pamela wailing in her full three and half octaves is simply killer.
"Breaking Down" is another highlight, one of the songs of the year. This ballad?, no, call it slow rocker, is full of emotion, top class vocals and a supreme melody
painted by clean guitars, minimal percussion and the excellent keyboard contribution by acclaimed keyboardist Brooke Lizotte. The solo is top notch, this guy Michael Posch is second to none!
"Desperate By Design" up things again with a titan riff and a fierce rhythm. It smacks you in the face kind of like how 'The Needle Lies' was for Pamela and Geoff after they sung on 'Suite Sister Mary'. Short and effective song.
Last track "Wide Awake (Phoenix Rising)" is the epic ending to a great CD from start to finish. Posch shreds while blending with Pamela's acrobatic vocals. She combines here melody and aggression with equal mastery.
This is one of the best metal albums fronted by a female singer I heard in a long time. Of course, we are talking about a terrific singer, teacher, a complete musician in her game.
"Resurrect Me" shows off Moore's range and she shines throughout, the emotion the lady can display on a recording is quite unique. The entire CD flows along perfectly with its softer songs placed nicely amongst the corrosive rockers resulting in a dynamic showcase of her talented pipes. If Pamela isn't in your top voices in rock right now, she will be after listening to this album.
Also she's unearthed a gem in guitarist Michael Posch, a superb six-string slinger plenty of good taste, able to liquify your brains with monster riffs & soaring solos and then surprise you with extraordinarily melodious parts.
Don't be scared by the 'metal' tag, this is indeed a metal album but will appeal all rock aficionados. It's pushing, aggressive at times but extremely melodic. All is cleverly arranged, played and produced with detail and precision.
01 - Acquiescent
02 - Melt Into You
03 - Paranoia
04 - We Are Damaged
05 - Resurrect Me
06 - The Sky Is Falling
07 - Awakening
08 - Breaking Down
09 - Desperate By Design
10 - Wide Awake (Phoenix Rising)
Pamela Moore - Vocals
Michael Posch - Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) - guest Vocals
Jeff Loomis (Nevermore) - guest Guitar
Brooke Lizotte - guest Keyboards
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Monday, May 13, 2013
Dutch band DELAIN was founded by ex- Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and frontwoman Charlotte Wessels, which previous album 'We Are The Others' was already presented in this blog last year (look in 'Labels').
Their style fluctuates between a commercial and accessible 'metallized' rock&pop and melodic symphonic progressive sounds with few operatic twists, and why not, with some modern AOR touches. If you’re into acts like Halestorm then Delain are definitely the right band for you, featuring soaring and incredibly powerful vocals by Wessels.
The group describe their new album entitled "Interlude" as the perfect introduction to the world of Delain. In fact, it is.
First of all, the word "Interlude" actually means a musical composition inserted between the parts of a longer one, or an interruptive period of time.
And has rightly been chosen for this new disc as much talks about the Delain's recent issues with their previous label and the delayed release of 'We Are The Others', originally intended for 2011.
So the band decided to search for a new record company with which they would cooperate in a better way. This is the story so far and finally, in 2013 Delain signed with Napalm Rec. and "Interlude" is the first fruit of this association.
"Interlude" includes some brand new songs as "Breathe On Me" and "Collars And Suits", that according to Delain's frontlady was written for their previous label, talking about the frustration concerning the managers and the way the executives are treating the bands.
We have as well fresh versions of two of Delain's more popular tracks: "Are You Done With Me" (new single mix) and a re-worked "We Are The Others" in a totally heartbreaking ballad version.
They play fun and cool covers of well-known hits like "Such a Shame" (Talk Talk), "Cordell" (The Cranberries) and the catchy "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat in a rocking version. The album is completed with very guitar oriented live versions of tracks from their catalogue which were captured last year at Metal Female Voices Festival 10.
Some of the new cuts were actually recorded during the sessions of the previous album at Atlantis Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, produced by Jacob Hellner (Apocalyptica, Clawfinger).
Featuring solid songs with a strong melodic focus, "Interlude" serves as introduction if you're new to the band, and a worthwhile addition to your collection if you already like them.
01 - Breathe On Me
02 - Collars & Suits
03 - Are You Done With Me (New Single Mix)
04 - Such A Shame
05 - Cordell
06 - Smalltown Boy
07 - We Are The Others (New Ballad Version)
08 - Mother Machine (Live)
09 - Get The Devil Out Of Me (Live)
10 - Milk And Honey (Live)
11 - Invidia (Live)
12 - Electricity (Live)
13 - Not Enough (Live)
Charlotte Wessels (vocals)
Martijn Westerholt (keys, synths)
Timo Somers (guitar, backing vocals)
Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bass, backing vocals)
Sander Zoer (drums)
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British quintet TESSERACT began as the studio project of guitarist Acle Kahney but slightly he transformed the event into a full band. The group soon garnered the attention of Century Media Records, publishing the first album in 2011.
Soon after they lost several singers in fairly quick succession, but pushing on, TesseracT picked up the Best New Band award from the 2012 Progressive Music Awards, and recruited new vocalist Ashe O’Hara in the same year.
"Altered State", to be released next May 27, is an album which proves TesseracT's worthiness to win that trophy, showing they have something quite different to offer from the contemporary UK prog related scene in general.
TesseracT is named as one of the leading and defining bands of the 'djent movement', described as featuring heavily distorted, palm-muted guitar chords alongside virtuoso soloing and characterized by its progressive, rhythmic and technical complexity.
Beyond the taglines, TesseracT aren't preoccupied with this, instead focusing on what is important in the context of songwriting, and for "Altered State" this means mostly clean guitar tones and ambiance in a traditional progressive metal context but rhythmically different. Even stripping back all the melody and reverb, TesseracT still operate with abstruse templates and time signatures as confidently as most bands would with 4/4.
The music in this disc can be summed up in a few words: Beautiful. Majestic. Emotional.
Although many folks wouldn't consider it to be metal, I see it as the opposite side of the spectrum that metal has been placed, but still contained within it. This album is all about atmosphere, progression, and a different kind of heaviness you don't find in many other bands.
It is everything else that makes this particular band shine though. In Ashe O’Hara, for example, they have found an absolute gem. His varied, passionate delivery suits perfectly the progressive needs of TesseracT, then when the music starts getting heavier and faster, his voice gets a kick of aggression as well. Even on long, unpredictable tracks like "Of Mind ; Exile" he steals the show here with his presence.
The guitar combo of Kahney and Monteith prove to be a tasteful symbiotic six-string force, able to go from sharp riffs during the polyrhythmic moments to relaxed passages of clean tone.
Much of the clever complexity within TesseracT's music is thanks to Jay Postones’ (drums) and Amos Williams’ (bass) mastery of their instruments. The facile intricacy that these two men display may well make them one of the better rhythmic duos in modern rock music and tilts the sound of this band to a new level. Just check "Of Energy ; Singularity".
Talking about the songs, "Altered State" can be described as a 'one song album'; it's a concept work with four stages: Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality and Of Energy, reflecting the scientific law of the conservation of energy. It's hard to pin down exactly what's different between these sections – but there's definitely some kind of ordering going on here, with shifts in style as they move through towards the end.
TesseracT is not your typical band, and they surprise us all the time. There's a couple of compositions featuring saxophone providing even more texture and originality to this fascinating piece of music. While the guitars are thus a shortcoming of the record, every other instrument is perfectly in its uncalculated place.
When the music feels as if it should have just happened this way, "Altered State" does reach spaces not many acts are able to achieve.
"Of Matter" is the first section to start off the album, beginning with “Proxy” in a very quiet and gentle way, introducing Ashe and his serene yet fragile vocal style. You will be confronted with electronic ambience combined with dynamic instrumental insertions which come and go as the album progresses, but not annoyingly so.
This is continued into “Retrospect” where the aforementioned frail emotions continue. Heavy grooves enter and do a great job keeping the pace fresh and interesting. This is one of my favorite tracks, as Ashe demonstrates his classic influences which creates a mesmerizing experience. There is a vocal passage that really caught my ears and it combines with the astounding vibe from the rest of the band, you can't help but be amazed at the work put into it.
“Resist” rounds out this first part, acting as a sort of closing although there is the continuation of the sound from before that comes in later on.
Second section "Of Mind" contains the almost commercial “Nocturne”, which wields a fantastic fusion of synths and driving rhythms once more. It moves from a crunching aggressive start to an atmospheric, bass-driven midsection, before it punches you back into turmoil. Ashe somehow is able to increase his range which may be the result of the addition of more emotion and energy. This shows that the album was turned into four sections for a reason.
“Exile” is another instant favorite, being one of the more heavier tracks and longest onf the album. The band is able to keep it interesting especially at the end with strong riffs layered with some enlightening lead guitar.
"Of Reality" opens with “Eclipse” which does somewhat of a 180 turn creating a track that differentiates itself with a darker tone. I’m not sure if there are electronic layers put on top of the guitar work in this track or if it could possibly be a guitar with a similar tone to what has been used before in the background. Either way, it sounds great.
“Palingenesis” comes off as very unique, even for a short track, as it has layered, contrasting vocals (which may be heard earlier in the album, it is just more apparent here) and provides that feeling of 'elevation'. “Calabi-Yau” is another track that feeds off of the previous and provides the listener with an amazing saxophone solo by guest Chris Barretto.
To round off the album, "Of Energy" shows off two tracks that end it all perfectly. Spanning eight minutes, in “Singularity” you’ll come across a song that loves to change pace and add in all the ingredients that have already transpired from previous tunes.
“Embers” ends everything on a good note, providing another saxophone appearance but much more restrained than before helping in installing a calm, beautiful ending.
At first glance, I should say that "Altered State" isn't for everyone. Wrong. You must listen this CD. This album provides a whole new view, whether it is about music genres, composition, playing, etc.
"Altered State" is a fascinating work of art and is set in redefining progressive music. Forget about time signatures or different sounds, TesseracT is going for something much more with this recording.
In fact, all the description above only gives you a minimal idea about the music to be discovered here. It needs to be experienced, it's almost impossible to put it into words.
In the tech department, production & mix is excellent, the craftsmanship and attention to detail is overwhelmingly good, as is the delivery.
"Altered State" is unequivocally worth your time, intriguing, unpredictable, entertaining, delivering moments of brilliance and genuine musical achievement.
01 - Of Matter ; Proxy
02 - Of Matter ; Retrospect
03 - Of Matter ; Resist
04 - Of Mind ; Nocturne
05 - Of Mind ; Exile
06 - Of Reality ; Eclipse
07 - Of Reality ; Palingenesis
08 - Of Reality ; Calabi-Yau
09 - Of Energy ; Singularity
10 - Of Energy ; Embers
Ashe O'Hara - Vocals
Acle Kahney - Guitar, Keyboards, Programming
James Monteith - Guitar
Amos Williams - Bass, Backing Vocals
Jay Postones - Drums
Chris Barretto - guest Sax