Thursday, October 31, 2013

SEVENTH KEY - I Will Survive (2013)

SEVENTH KEY - I Will Survive (2013) full


Melodic Hard Rock fans have been waiting a long time for this: "I Will Survive", the new CD by SEVENTH KEY, the first album of studio recordings from the band since 2004 to be released on Frontiers Records next Monday.

So why should you care about the return of Seventh Key? Well, anyone who took a passing interest in the hugely underrated act Streets (both reissues featured here not so long ago) featuring Steve Walsh of Kansas, Mike Slamer of City Boy and Billy Greer should already be well aware that Slamer & Greer are the driving forces behind Seventh Key.
Terry Brock of Strangeways fame plays a lesser role than before (he has previously been guitarist and backing vocalist), merely backing up Greer's excellent lead vocals, but at least he is still involved. Since the days of Streets, Greer too has been an ongoing member of Kansas, so it should come as no surprise that there are musical links between this band and that one.
Huge keyboard bursts abound, layers of luscious vocals ooze into the memory, while the overall vibe is melodic, with a hint of American Prog.

But Seventh Key are a weightier beast than Greer's main band, more fiery in the guitar department - after all Slamer has to be the best kept secret in Rock of any description - more thunderous in the drum area (Chet Wynd handling that aspect superbly) more bombastic through Slamer's keyboards and Greer's rangy bass work. However with David Ragsdale, also of Kansas adding violin on occasion, the similarity is more than passing.

SEVENTH KEY - I Will Survive (2013) inside

All that said, as with the previous two Seventh Key studio releases (the self titled debut hit the shelves in 2001), the obvious influences are possibly what Streets might have gone on to become had they stayed the course, a more foot to the floor AOR vibe, or exuberant Melodic Rock atmosphere being the order of the day.
Well that and strong choruses that you want to sing along with immediately, which is always a good thing. "I See You There" is a prime example, keyboards breathing life into a song packed with classy guitar touches and stunning vocals, while Slamer moves further into the spotlight on "It's Just A State Of Mind". Although only a guitar player of this class could be capable of firing through all of the flicks and tricks he does on this song without ruining or even over dominating his surroundings.
And so it goes through the surging "Love Sets You Free", the atmospheric build of "Down" or the beautiful violin, piano and voice led "What's Love Supposed To Be" which morphs into another groove-fest, making for an album that stands up superbly to repeat visits, revealing its true class and stature as it does so.

If you loved the two superb first albums from Seventh Key, you should be thrilled by this new opus "I Will Survive" as they managed to keep exactly the same flame, the same excellence in the harmony profusion and the same ultra-catchy richness in the abundance of sing-along chorus.
But here everything is exposed in the noblest way, no cheap gimmick, no easy trick, instead we have plenty of refined and sophisticated melodies with some beautiful ambiances, the whole uplifted by an absolute mastery and agility in the instrumental execution.
Mike Slamer is a superb six-string player but is even more renowned as a producer, so you can hope for an expert realization; it's exactly what its like: a masterpiece, an Art-crafted product with an unblemished sound to add with the numerous asset of this irreproachable disc.
For those who still don’t know the band, you can expect a pure load of ear orgasmic pleasure, the pure AOR class of bands like Giant with the Pomp smartness of Saga embellished by some superb vocals in the Kansas / Streets tradition.
Top Class album, one of the best of year without a doubt.

01. I Will Survive
02. Lay In On The Line
03. I See You There
04. It's Just A State Of Mind
05. Sea Of Dreams
06. Time And Time Again
07. When Love Sets You Free
08. Down
09. The Only One
10. What Love's Supposed To Be
11. I Want It All

Billy Greer (bass, vocals)
Mike Slamer (guitar, keyboards)
Chet Wynd (drums)
David Ragsdale (violin)
Billy Trudel (backing vocals)
Terry Brock (backing vocals)
Bobby Capps (backing vocals)
Barry "The Blade" Johnson (backing vocals)
David Manion (keyboards)



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THOUGHT CHAMBER - Psykerion (2013)

THOUGHT CHAMBER - Psykerion (2013) full


THOUGHT CHAMBER is a new name to me, but after listening their second, just released CD "Psykerion" I am rushed to catch their debut as well, as this is terrific piece of work close to masterpiece.
The masterminds behind this awesome combo are guitarist, keyboard player & composer Michael Harris (a '90s David T. Chastain skilled alumni), vocalist Ted Leonard (also in Enchant, Spock's Beard and Affector), Bill Jenkins (also in Enchant) on keyboards, Jeff Plant on bass and Mike Haid on drums.

"Psykerion" is a concept album drawing together elements of melodic prog metal, classic prog and acoustic rock. The concept behind "Psykerion" as described by Michael Harris, the composer and chief lyricist is; "somewhere between sci-fi and a human drama, and musically somewhere between the furious and the tranquil".
Musically, these great musicians deliver melodic, hook laden progressive metal with sizzling instrumental performances and catchy vocal harmonies. There are 16 tracks and most of them being on the shorter side, and the result as a whole is just stellar.

Opener "Inceptus" kicks off with solid drums, space flight level lead electric guitars, signpost bass and launching keyboards before the real rumble of drums, the grinding engines of the lead electrics and the soaring keys take off. Ignition and lift – off.
"Exodus" begins with a spacey zero gravity keyboard sound that will give you that effortlessly floating feeling immediately. But prepare for thundering drums, roaring guitars, soaring diamond keys, heavy bass and plenty of space atmospherics.
When you hear some great Geddy Lee level bass guitar you know you will have made it to "Psykerion: The Question". Thought Chamber waits until this third track to unleash the dynamic vocals of Ted Leonard. His singing will take you back to Steve Walsh's vocals from some of the classics of the band Kansas.

THOUGHT CHAMBER - Psykerion (2013) booklet 2

Then acoustic guitar welcomes us to "In the Words of Avakus". Despite the beauty of the acoustic guitar and soft keys, everything is not so easy. There's Rush and some Dream Theater urgency all over, but with a twist.
"Light Year Time" opens like a great Kansas/Yes match; full of those deep organ keys and deep bass you remember, and of course Leonard's Walsh-like vocals. The highs he reaches will bring back so many magic moments of Kansas' past. One of the best tracks, full of emotion and great vocals. The keyboard interlude in the middle of the song will take you back to classic Styx, but the heavy electric guitar will bring you back to the Thought Chamber.
"Kerakryps" is plenty of sci-fi synths, excellent cymbal work, deep punctuating bass and solid drums flow with the metal guitars and Fates Warning-like sounds filling the air. Michael Harris, the chief composer, whose father is a jazz musician, definitely displays his influence during "The Black Hole Lounge", a little over a minute instrumental excursion.

But the power eventually transitions back to a heavier rocker on "Circuits of O.D.D.", full of some dramatic keyboards reminiscent of Jordan Rudess and others as the bass and lead guitars build momentum.
"Behind the Eyes of Ikk" opens with flashy electronics and atmospheric effects that must be heard with headphones to appreciate their full effect, they will otherwise freak out the neighbours if played loud on good speakers. The Wakeman inspired keys will stun and amaze while the metal grinder guitars fill the air with power.
Ocean waves and soft pianos takes you to the "Isle of Bizen" accompanied by a Yes-esque acoustic guitar melody which helps lift spirits even higher. This time Leonard has you thinking Walsh singing a Yes classic. After all, this is a 'thought chamber' and why not drift a little.

THOUGHT CHAMBER - Psykerion (2013) booklet 1

"Xyrethius II" opens with those dark but grandiose eerie keys, before a soaring lead electric guitar solo rocks through the atmosphere. Next, "Recoil" opens with cool lead electric guitar and searing violin. The power drums, heavy bass return, with more excellent keyboards that will just lift your mind out of space.
"Breath of Life" is a wonderful mood altering soft guitar and deep melotronic/organ keyed track that will further relax the mind and body. Then Leonard explodes with some of his most powerful vocals on the album, and the synthesizers and keys that follow are great.

"Transcend" is the epic track at 9:39. And by epic I do mean they pull out all the stops. The opening key and lead guitar riff will stay with you long after the track ends. This is the best song on the album; it is full of everything that has been building up so far on the CD. Leonard's vocals, the meaty bass, the powerful lead electric guitar and those pulsing drums. It's all there and with no holds barred. They add acoustic guitar only pushing this track further over the top.
"Planet Qwinkle" starts with fine atmospherics and that powerful deep bass, before the dancing lead electric guitar takes off with drums in tow. Another dramatic and full of sonic power instrumental joined by keys and some acoustic guitar as well, akin Kansas.
"Inner Peace" ends Psykerion with remnants of Rush's 2112's Overture, mixed well with some Keith Emerson-like ELP extracts. Behold the splendour.

THOUGHT CHAMBER - Psykerion (2013) back cover

As I said at the beginning, "Psykerion" is close to masterpiece, blending progressive rock & modern prog-metal with classics like Kansas, Rush, Yes and Dream Theater. In this terrific piece of art you will find uptempo numbers, exquisite melodic quiet pieces and awesome short instrumental passages / interludes.
The sound, even on the slower moments, is tight and 'rock pulsating', so do not expect a steamy prog nebula here. "Psykerion" is Rock. Of the highest quality I'd say.

Leonard is really on a roll these days with Spock's Beard and although I never liked Enchant too much, he is awesome here, without a doubt one of the best works of his career. Harris once again shows what a truly remarkable musician he is, delivering some stunning guitar work and meshing wonderfully with the blazing keyboard stylings of Jenkins. Let's not forget the top notch rhythms from Plant & Haid, with the bassist laying down some nimble bass lines.
I advise headphones for "Psykerion". After all it is a thought chamber, right? You will be better able to appreciate all the time and effort devoted to the album mastering by Tom Size (Aerosmith, Mr. Big). However, roaring down the freeway you will probably get just as much enjoyment.
A Mandatory Listening.

01 - Inceptus
02 - Exodus
03 - Psykerion: The Question
04 - In the Words of Avakus
05 - Light Year Time
06 - Kerakryps
07 - The Black Hole Lounge
08 - Circuits of O.D.D.
09 - Behind the Eyes of Ikk
10 - Isle of Bizen
11 - Xyrethius II
12 - Recoil
13 - Breath of Life
14 - Transcend
15 - Planet Qwinkle
16 - Inner Peace

Ted Leonard - Lead Vocals
Michael Harris - Guitars, Keyboards, Harmony Vocals
Jeff Plant - Bass
Bill Jenkins - Keyboards
Mike Haid - Drums
thanks to Mark Johnson



CHASE THE ACE - Are You Ready? (2013)

CHASE THE ACE - Are You Ready? (2013) full


We have already presented hard rockers CHASE THE ACE earlier this year and their indie debut EP. The quality of the recording attracted England's specialized label Z Records to release the band's full length international debut "Are You Ready?".

Originated from Israel where they have been active for more than ten years releasing 5 albums (including a live one) and played over 400 local gigs, Chase The Ace is now firmly established in Europe and touring unceasingly.
This group loves classic late '80s American Hard Rock / Glam, a style that when you do it, you got to get it right, everything from the attitude to the music. For the most part, Chase The Ace gets the vibe right on "Are You Ready?".
Your vocalist needs to capture the swagger both in sound and on stage, and Roi Vito Peleg gets it, having a natural raspy sneer in his voice. After this you need strong melodies, big hooks in lyrics & arrangements, a crushing rhythm section and ripping good guitar solos.
Well, you get this and a lot of it with 15 songs in 50 minutes on this CD.

CHASE THE ACE - Are You Ready? (2013) inside

There's kickin' fun numbers on "Rock Bottom Rock 'n' Roll", "Take Me Home", title track "Are You Ready?" and the rather humorous "Burned Me Down", all foot-tappin' and catchy.
An interesting song is "California" which starts out with some sharp guitar licks only to move into this suspiciously heavy movement. You think the entire song will be weighed down by it, but then it shifts about three quarters in with Omer Schnider tearing up the fretboard. Actually, his guitar work is one true highlight of this album.
Chase The Ace throws in nice ballads to balance the record with "Change My Ways", "Feel Like A Fool" and the bluesy "Bring You Back", and then there's a cool acoustic instrumental called "Morning Wood".

CHASE THE ACE - Are You Ready? (2013) back cover

With good production and musicianship Chase The Ace delivers a bunch of short (mostly around the 3 minute mark), Hard Rock songs which sound familiar, but extremely effective and enjoyable.
"Are You Ready?" is a solid and entertaining interpretation of Eighties melodic American glammy Hard Rock for the new millennium.

01 - Are You Ready
02 - The Cat Is On The Loose
03 - Rock Bottom Rocknroll
04 - Made Out Of Ice
05 - Change My Ways
06 - California
07 - Dear Deamon
08 - Raise Your Glass
09 - Morning Wood
10 - Tapped Out
11 - Burned Me Down
12 - Bring You Back
13 - Take Me Home
14 - We're Taking Over
15 - Feel Like A Fool

Roi Vito Peleg - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Omer Schnider - Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Yair Gadon - Bass, Backing Vocals
Yam Artzy - Drums, Back Vocals

CHASE THE ACE - Are You Ready? (2013) CD photo



Monday, October 28, 2013

TIGERTAILZ - Knives (2013)

TIGERTAILZ - Knives (2013) full


Remembered lovingly for Bezerk, their 1990 chart buster, UK mighty Glam titans TIGERTAILZ failed to sustain the momentum and didn’t see the Millenium glory. But their hairspray has been on again since 2005 and now the quartet bang with the fresh 5-track EP "Knives".

A real cult band with incessant turmoils throughout their career, a lot of line-up changes, wrong management decisions and even some dramatic moments (R.I.P. Pepsi Tate), 2013 sees Tigertailz returning in great form.
In fact, despite presenting only five tracks, "Knives" includes the band's best material since that 1990 influential (for many acts worldwide) album.
Original guitarist Jay Pepper is joined by Rob Wylde on bass, Matt Blakout on drums and new singer Jules Millis, from Australian AORsters White Widdow. Millis brings a breathe of melodic bliss to this new Tigertailz, and his tuneful vocals are in grand part responsible for the 'musicality' of this material.

TIGERTAILZ - Knives (2013) inside cover

Pepper's melting riffs and killer solos never sounded better (he is a truly great axe-slinger), Wylde provides not only pumping bass lines but also skilful songwriting, while Blakout lays down some top notch beats throughout the five tracks but nowhere more spectacularly than on the Wylde-penned "Bite The Hand".
This is a killer song with that eruptive dose of metal which has always been a key ingredient for the Tailz heavy duty glam sound and this one ticks all the boxes; dirty riffs and squealing solos, smashing rhythm section and Jules Millis rules the catchy, sing-a-long chorus.

"Shoe Collector" sock it nicely to the glitterati schlock with an a cappella start and an arena swing, "Spit It Out" has a sick melodic rock punch, crazy riffage and backing vocals galore, while the bruising bastardized grooves of "Punched In The Gutz" echoes the twisted fury of the 'Wazbones' days.
The EP includes a ballad, yes, a ballad among these on-fire rockin' numbers, and a good one. "One Life" merge catch melodic rock with acoustic guitar and synths in a reminiscent Skid Row style giving Millis a chance to show how good (and melodious) he is as the tune builds bridges of powerful harmonies between each soul searching verse.

TIGERTAILZ - Knives (2013) back cover

"Knives" is a killer 5-track EP from this refreshed Tigertailz, and leaves you hungry for more.
Jay Pepper and the guys prove here they can still teach a thing or two to a lot of actual Sleaze Metal 'wonders', showing how to write a good sing-along chorus with a tasty dose of extremely infectious, nasty & sleazy backing vocals.
Don't be fooled if 'sleaze' is a bad word in your musical tastes; "Knives" combines the catchiness of the genre without sounding silly, it adds a strong, healthy dose of Melodic Rock to it and a polished hard edge rounding an impressive - sadly too short - set of songs. Think Skid Row circa Slave To The Grind meets Shotgun Messiah's awesome debut and you get the picture.
"Knives" sees Tigertailz rise up back into the premier league of glammy melodic hard rock where they belong. We need a full length album right away.
Kick-ass stuff.

1 - Shoe Collector
2 - One Life
3 - Bite The Hand
4 - Spit It Out
5 - Punched In The Gutz

Jules Millis - Lead and Backing Vocals
Jay Pepper - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rob Wylde - Bass, Backing Vocals
Matt Blakout - Drums



AYREON - The Theory Of Everything [Limited Edition] (2013)

AYREON - The Theory Of Everything [Limited Edition] (2013) full


Mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen is back with his grandest of all projects; the celebrated AYREON and “The Theory Of Everything”, a new terrific progressive masterpiece.
As on all Ayreon albums, this is a conceptual double-CD, but unlike the previous sci-fi storylines it's set in a more grounded, realistic world, yet fascinating as as usual.

First of all, don't be afraid by the extensive tracklist; many of these are really short interludes, intros, etc.
“The Theory Of Everything” consists of four 'Phases'; “Singularity”, “Symmetry”, “Entanglement” and “Unification”, that are further divided into segments. The complete number of segments is 42, which equals to the 'Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything' in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.
The story is really intriguing, but to put it in short, let me quote the words of Lucassen himself; 'it takes a look at the fine line between the genius and madness, focusing on the conflicting desires of the characters and the consequences of following their passions' That's just enough to know before listening to the album and do not spoil the enjoyment of discovering the storyline yourself.

AYREON - The Theory Of Everything [Limited Edition] (2013) booklet 1

Fans of Ayreon should know what to expect here. “The Theory Of Everything” features seven guest singers and each plays a part in the story. They are JB (Grand Magus) as the Teacher, Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) as the Mother, Michael Mills (Toehider) as the Father, Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) as the Prodigy, Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the Rival, John Wetton (Asia/ex-King Crimson) as the Psychiatrist, and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) as the Girl.
Of these singers, the most impressive is the relatively unknown Sara Squadrani. She performs on a large portion of the story and shines every time, especially on "Love and Envy". I was also surprised to be so enamored with the performance of Christina Scabbia. She's always had a wonderful voice, but her performance in this record might be her finest. Her harmonies with Squadrani stand out particularly on "Mirror of Dreams".
This isn't to say only the performances by the female singers are worth mentioning. Tommy Karevik's introduction in "The Prodigy's World" is one of the strongest moments on the album.

Musically, “The Theory Of Everything” should be the most diverse offering Lucassen's had a hand in, perhaps with the exception of his solo record. This isn't as heavy as previous Ayreon titles, but it has its driving moments like "Collision" and the Dream Theather-esque "Frequency Modulation".
The aforementioned "Love and Envy" is a slower introspective song, while "Diagnosis" is massive and a pompy, quite awesome indeed. "Transformation" has a Middle Eastern feel to it, and "The Eleventh Dimension" sounds like intergalactic renaissance faire music full of synths and effects.
There's an amazing instrumentals as well, like "Progressive Waves", with an featuring incredible keyboard solo by legend Keith Emerson and fantastic drum fills by Ed Warby. All over the album we hear as well great collaborations by Rick Wakeman (YES), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Steve Hackett (Genesis) and more.

AYREON - The Theory Of Everything [Limited Edition] (2013) booklet 2

“The Theory Of Everything” is another grandiose, almost perfect piece of work from the brilliant brains of Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
It's a record that does require a time commitment. I'd say listeners should treat it as a proper musical or film in a theater, so try to experience it all in one sitting for the full effect. It's absolutely worth it.
Often times there are jumps in mood, genre, etc, in the middle of a song. This is fairly typical for an Ayreon release, and grand part of its unique magic.
Highly Recommended.


Phase I: Singularity
01. Prologue: The Blackboard
02. The Theory Of Everything Part 1
03. Patterns
04. The Prodigy's World
05. The Teacher's Discovery
06. Love And Envy
07. Progressive Waves
08. The Gift
09. The Eleventh Dimension
10. Inertia
11. The Theory Of Everything Part 2

Phase II: Symmetry
12. The Consultation
13. Diagnosis
14. The Argument 1
15. The Rival's Dilemma
16. Surface Tension
17. A Reason To Live
18. Potential
19. Quantum Chaos
20. Dark Medicine
21. Alive!
22. The Prediction


Phase III: Entanglement
01. Fluctuations
02. Transformation
03. Collision
04. Side Effects
05. Frequency Modulation
06. Magnetism
07. Quid Pro Quo
08. String Theory
09. Fortune?

Phase IV: Unification
10. Mirror Of Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
12. The Argument 2
13. The Parting
14. The Visitation
15. The Breakthrough
16. The Note
17. The Uncertainty Principle
18. Dark Energy
19. The Theory Of Everything Part 3
20. The Blackboard (Reprise)

Vocalists (in order of appearance):
Janne "JB" Christoffersson (GRAND MAGUS) as The Teacher
Sara Squadrani (ANCIENT BARDS) as The Girl
Michael Mills (TOEHIDER) as The Father
Cristina Scabbia (LACUNA COIL) as The Mother
Tommy Karevik (KAMELOT, SEVENTH WONDER) as The Prodigy
Marko Hietala (NIGHTWISH) as The Rival
John Wetton (ASIA, KING CRIMSON) as The Psychiatrist

Ed Warby - drums
Rick Wakeman (YES) - keyboards
Keith Emerson (EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER) - keyboards
Jordan Rudess (DREAM THEATER) - keyboards
Steve Hackett (GENESIS) - lead guitar
Troy Donockley (BAD SHEPHERDS, NIGHTWISH) - Uilleann pipes, flute
Arjen Anthony Lucassen - electric and acoustic guitars, bass, mandolin and keyboards.

AYREON - The Theory Of Everything [Limited Edition] (2013) back cover



THE RAGGED SAINTS - The Sound Of Breaking Free (2013)

THE RAGGED SAINTS - The Sound Of Breaking Free (2013) full


Almost coming out of the blue, with discrete promotion and released by a small record company, "The Sound Of Breaking Free" is the impressive debut CD by the Helsinki, Finland based melodic hard rockers THE RAGGED SAINTS.
Fronted by talented vocalist Markku Kuikka who also sings in prog-metallers Status Minor (their very good 2nd album was presented here last year), The Ragged Saints are a completely different beast.

This is a band clearly rooted in '80s Melodic Hard Rock in the very traditional side of the genre also with a rocking AOR scent impregnated into their music with influences ranging from Whitesnake, Bad Habit and Pretty Maids to Europe.
The music in "The Sound Of Breaking Free" is timeless but the sound mix crafted by Nino Laurenne (Thunderstone) is modern and updated, however the original feeling is still here, and the playing is solid, organic and true as the guys in The Ragged Saints are a team of trained players with many years of underground rocking experience under their belt.

The Saints definitely understand the genre: strong riffs, beefy rhythm section and zippy leads wrapped in melodic hooks and strong vocal harmonies. Markku Kuikka has an amazing voice and a terrific mid-range, sustained by effective and catchy backing vocals arrangements.

We have moving melodic hard rockers like title track "The Sound Of Breaking Free" driven by a great hook in the refrain and some sharp guitar work, the catchy "A Place Where I Belong", the dynamic Whitesnake-like circa '89 numbers "I’ll Never Give Up On Love" or "New Beginnings" and the Swedish sounding "While The World Is Burning".
All are balanced by more AOR, arena anthem-feel cuts such as the soaring "Don't Let Me Go", the Denander inspired mid-tempo "We Are The Same" and the contagious "The End", songs still with punchy guitar riffs but smoothing by discreet keyboards arrangements that reveal a solid potential in easy listening, instant sing-along and catchy choruses with always a mature touch.

THE RAGGED SAINTS - The Sound Of Breaking Free (2013) inside

Coming out from nowhere - well, in fact, from Finland, so you can expect quality rock - The Ragged Saints is one of the surprises of the year. "The Sound Of Breaking Free" is just a damn fine debut with a bunch of great songs in the good, old European Melodic Hard Rock fashion way but with a modern & vibrant production.
It's that kind of releases that sadly will pass unnoticed by many rockers world wide due its limited promotion, but I assure you they are really, really good.
If you're a true Melodic Hard Rock fan you should check them out pronto.
Very Recommended.

01. The Sound Of Breaking Free
02. A Place Where I Belong
03. Don't Let Me Go
04. I'll Never Give Up On Love
05. Love Won't Fade Away
06. We Are The Same
07. While The World Is Burning
08. New Beginnings
09. Never Walk Away
10. Before Time Goes By
11. The End

Markku Kuikka (Vocals)
Tomi Julkunen (Guitars)
Toni Bite (Guitars)
Jukka Hoffrén (Bass)
Miikki Kunttu (Drums)



Sunday, October 27, 2013

LITA FORD - The Bitch Is Back... Live (2013)

LITA FORD - The Bitch Is Back... Live (2013) full


LITA FORD will release her new live album "The Bitch Is Back... Live" tomorrow via Steamhammer/SPV.
On the strength of her comeback album, last year's Living Like A Runaway, Lita Ford hit the road running to tour in support of it. "The Bitch Is Back... Live" recorded in October 2012 at Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, only will be released as single CD audio.

On her last studio record, Ford wrote of coming to the realization that she'd been living like a runaway her whole life. And, of course, the title, Living Like A Runaway, had a lot to do with the hard-luck story of the teenage punk rock girl group The Runaways she was a part of in the '70s, but there's more to it than that.
Away from the stage, Ford has endured great tumult in her personal life, especially in recent years. Getting through it requires the kind of resilience one gets from being as independent or brave enough to escape a troubled home. In other words, being a bitch is sometimes necessary for one's survival.

Making 2012’s intensely personal Living Like A Runaway was not only therapeutic for Ford, as she opened up about a lot of stuff, but it also served notice that those who'd written her off as a relic of the ‘80s were dead wrong.
The bitch was back, having penned and recorded some of the most affecting and edgy rock ‘n’ roll of her career, and the crowd who welcomed her to the Canyon Club in early October of 2012 was glad she hadn't burned out or faded away just yet.

How appropriate then that she should kick off "The Bitch Is Back... Live" with the defiant Elton John song of the same name. A ballsy rocker dripping with attitude, Ford's version is unrepentant and has a thick skin, not veering far from the raucous spirit of the original.
What follows are hits from past to present like "Hungry", "Out For Blood", "Can't Catch Me" or "Dancing On The Edge".
"Hungry" sounds even more lewd and lascivious than it did back then, as Ford and her band, featuring Mitch Perry on guitar, Bobby Rock on drums and Marty O'Brien on bass, make its hot grooves perspire and its sinful melody slither and slide in the most seductive manner possible.

Sex is not the only thing on Ford’s mind, however.
She delivers some of the best from Living Like A Runaway including the autobiographical title track, "Relentless", the heavy artillery of "Devil in My Head, and the always creepy "Hate" about a teen killer. Lita and company couch darker, more disturbing lyrical themes of temptation and violence on these tracks, with meaty, mauling riff grinds that plow these evils under as if they were sites of some horrific tragedy.
Still, this is a party, with an undeniably communal vibe, and Ford expresses her love for the roaring guitars of "Hungry" and the dueling guitar dive-bombs of the sinister and melodic "Back to the Cave". And when Lita gets to "Can’t Catch Me" - the little ball of hard rockin' fury she wrote with Motorhead hellion Lemmy Kilmister - the thunderous riffage should have shaken the Canyon Club’s foundations.

LITA FORD - The Bitch Is Back... Live (2013) inside

She saves her most popular songs for last, the Ozzy duet hit "Close My Eyes Forever" and "Kiss Me Deadly" where Lita raises hell hitting all of its confetti-strewn, melodic rock notes to close out the night.

With plenty of audience reaction captured in pristine clarity, "The Bitch Is Back... Live" sees Lita Ford playing with the reckless swagger and raw energy of a teenager who doesn't know what life's about yet.
Trading well-executed licks with Perry, Ford causes her guitar to scream its orgasms, but when she sings, she's part little girl lost in the world and part worldly madame who's seen it all and then some.
Her voice can be soft and alluring when it has to be, but when she wants it to scratch and claw like a wildcat, it's certainly capable of turning feral or moody, as it does in the hit "Close My Eyes Forever" which loses some of its original 'creepy romance' here while gaining more emotional heft.
Lita Ford is a metal queen, and as such, she demands a sound that’s thick and crushing, but also tuneful. That's what you will find in "The Bitch Is Back... Live".

01 - The Bitch is Back
02 - Hungry
03 - Relentless
04 - Living Like a Runaway
05 - Devil in My Head
06 - Back to the Cave
07 - Can't Catch Me
08 - Out for Blood
09 - Dancing on the Edge
10 - Hate
11 - Close My Eyes Forever
12 - Kiss Me Deadly

Lita Ford - Guitar, Vocals
Mitch Perry (MSG, Asia) - Guitar
Marty O'Brien (Tommy Lee) - Bass
Bobby Rock (Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Nelson) - Drums

LITA FORD - The Bitch Is Back... Live (2013) CD photo, booklet



Saturday, October 26, 2013

VENGEANCE - Piece Of Cake (2013)

VENGEANCE - Piece Of Cake (2013) full


Promoted in the '80s under the slogan 'Do You Hate Hardrock? Guess you've never seen VENGEANCE' - the band from Brabant, Netherlands, are finally having/taking the cake and hope to eat it too.
Vengeance's brand new album "Piece Of Cake" is, simply put, an awesome 'piece' of masterful classic Hard Rock.

Vengeance's 1989 album 'Arabia' (at that time featuring terrific guitarist Arjen Lucassen) is amongst my top-50 Classic Hard Rock albums of all time. Better prepare your ears, as "Piece Of Cake" blends the fantastic style of 'Arabia' with an updated sound through 11 terrific, killer, kick ass tracks.
You'll be really surprised by the high song quality all over this album, mostly akin late '80s / early '90s songwriting and plenty of catchy rhythms, tons of backing vocals, a crazy lead vocalist and the guitars, oh my, the guitars...
The late and great guitarist Jan Somers (RIP) has been replaced by his 21 year-old son Timo Somers (also in Delain) and he's simply outstanding. This guy shines all over via monster, thick rhythm riffs plus an impressive tone and style during the on-fire soloing.

VENGEANCE - Piece Of Cake (2013) photo

The CD put your ears in flames since opener "World Arena", an out and out hard rocker fueled by roaring guitars and a stomping beat. Vocally, Leon Goewie has a haunting classic quality, mad, raspy, hi-pitched and completely riding on his own cloud, yet still blending into the song which soon will have you shouting along to the lines of 'get ready for the global rush'. The chorus - full of backing vocals - is a blast.
"Tears From The Moon" is a fantastic mid-tempo song which Kal Swan and Lion would be proud of during their era of Trouble In Angel City. The wet "Raintime" is Vengeance heavy with lots of flowing guitar, double bass, a big chorus and a fast guitar solo ala Malmsteen Eclipse-era, while "Sandman" is a groovy, dark semi-midtempo with over-the-top vocals by Goewie recalling Lizzy Borden.
Then arrives a highlight; the bluesy semi-ballad "Back To Square One" in the vein of Gary Moore. This one discovered me a wonderful side of Vengeance, an emotional song with an immediate melancholy feel superbly crafted. The six-string tone is simply wonderful, there's a delicate bass line adding so much more than rhythm, with the vocals powering through the song shifting up an octave to give it a pleading quality.

"Headquake" and "Mirrors" are two completely different animals with A+ quality as their common trademark and ground. Goewie goes very classy during the latter and its Kingdom Come (the band) inspired chorus.
Title track "Piece Of Cake" is the party song for the album featuring tongue-in-cheek lyrics, fun vocals in the grand tradition of Bon Scott and some ripping Van Halen-like guitars.
"Goodbye Mother Sky" is the final song on the album and it is a very fitting one and it will definitely leave you with very good memories of the band and this CD. It's somehow an epic track that reeks of 'Arabia', almost about three-songs-in-one and all fits together perfectly. Heavy blues shifting to some very Eastern sounding riffs with a very haunting tone to them, moving to some pure blues rock before shirting back down to the arabian theme – and this is all before the vocals even consider joining in and when they do, boy, do they.

VENGEANCE - Piece Of Cake (2013) inside

"Piece Of Cake" presents Vengeance not only in a highly topical and dynamic style, it also sees the band pay tribute to their own long tradition, as the programmatic album title proves: “Piece Of Cake is a kind of ironic title,” explains Somers, who penned five of the ten new songs.
“This year is Vengeance’s 30th anniversary and it has been quite a rough ride. Line-up changes, the passing away of band members, etc. So we called the album Piece Of Cake because even though Vengeance have been through all this shit, we’ve still come up with a kick-ass album. It was a piece of cake, so to speak.”

I can't recommend you Vengeance's "Piece Of Cake" enough. It's a brilliant Classic Hard Rock album in the best tradition of the genre plenty of killer songs and top-notch musicianship, all baked with a very classy sound & production.

01. World Arena
02. Tears From The Moon
03. Raintime Preload
04. Raintime
05. Sandman
06. Back To Square One
07. Headquake
08. Train
09. Mirrors
10. Piece Of Cake
11. Goodbye Mother Sky

Leon Goewie - Vocals
Timo Somers - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Barend Courbois - Bass, Backing Vocals
John Emmen - Drums



MAD MAX - Interceptor (2013)

MAD MAX - Interceptor (2013) full


"Interceptor" is the 11th album of Germans MAD MAX in this band's 30+ year history and with same line-up as when they become famous commanded by Michael Voss.
Voss is a really busy musician, a self-made man that stands as one of the most hard-working characters in the European scene, and one of the most prolific as songwriter. A guitar / bass player, singer, producer that is known as the leader of many legendary Melodic Hard Rock bands such as Casanova, Demon Drive or more recently Wolfpakk and fronting nothing less than MSG.

Mad Max and "Interceptor" is the vehicle (pun intended) for Michael Voss to focus his songwriting and love to his more hard rocking side. The album is driven by edgy vibes, full-throttle from start to finish with no ballads, just a trio of melodic rockers to balance the whole thing.
Opening track "Save Me" is a good example of how the sing-along melody and pure energy can melt in a perfect amalgam fusion of rockin' dynamics. There is something for everyone; sharp riffing, mid-tempo groove and an anthemic chorus from the great Hair Metal book.
"Godzilla" (inspired by mammoth skyscrapers in Japan wrecked by the legendary monster), the over the top vocals of "Sons Of Anarchy" and "Bring On The Night" have a raw zest in the riffage. They definitely beef up "Show No Mercy", a bonus track from 1987's Night Of Passion, making it truly blistering hard 'n heavy.

MAD MAX - Interceptor (2013) inside cover

Then we have melodic numbers like "Rock All Your Life" even with an AORish feel, and the slow "Five Minute Warning", a song about environmental destruction penned with American country songwriter Van Preston where Mad Max reveals a little anthem.
Another turn to Japan comes with the highlight "Streets Of Tokyo", written by Herman Rarebell (ex- Scorpions) about his experience when touring there, which also definitely delivers a melodic hard rock bounce. It could have been a Scorpions song in another life.
For fun, and as Mad Max usually do on most their albums the band throws in a cover of The Sweet, this time a catchy version of their hit "Turn It Down". A very good habit if you ask me, as I am also a big fan of this legendary outfit from England.

"Interceptor" is pretty darn good, solid release with all the basic ingredients to rock your night away.
Mad Max is a band that does not pretend to break any ground, they just deliver well crafted, fun rockin' songs and a positive attitude in order to make you roll.
The faultless production and the vocal arrangements / harmonies are exemplary, technically both are the strongest assets of this release. Let yourself carry by these melodic hard rocking tunes and enjoy.
Quite Recommended.

01. Save Me
02. Godzilla
03. Sons Of Anarchy
04. Rock All Your Life
05. Five Minute Warning
06. Bring On The Night
07. Streets Of Tokyo
08. Show No Mercy
09. Revolution
10. Turn It Down

Michael Voss - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Roland Bergmann - Bass, Backing Vocals
Jürgen Breforth - Guitar
Axel Kruse - Drums, Backing Vocals



SIDEBURN - Electrify (2013)

SIDEBURN - Electrify (2013) full bonus tracks


Swiss hard rockers SIDEBURN have been putting out solid albums for quite a while now. With the arrival of three young and talented new members last year in Mike Riffart & Lawrence Lina on guitar and the imported Aussie bass player Nick Thornton, Sideburn have gained energy and freshness to compose the new album "Electrify" released today via AOR Heaven Records.

Sideburn must be doing something right as one of their songs was used on the red band trailer of the movie 'Hit & Run', and other has been chosen by 20th Century Fox as part of the soundtrack from the summer blockbuster 'The Wolverine'.
The music in "Electrify" is simple yet efficient hard rock with powerful riffs, smart & catchy chorus lines and generally has an old-fashioned air that makes the overall effect quite enjoyable from start to finish.

SIDEBURN - Electrify (2013) inside

The album opens with furious "Bite The Bullet", "Bad Boys, Bad Girls, Rock'n'Roll" (title says all) and continues in the same manner till "Black Powder" that tone it down for a bit with slower rhythm, then "Mr. Clean" rises the kick back again. The CD is a good mixture of faster, energetic tracks and slower but still rocking tracks.
"Travellin' Man" and "Never Get Down" add some bluesier touches, "Shady Katy" is a bit cheesy but catchy as hell, and although you may hear the influences of AC/DC or countryman Krokus all over the album and Rose Tattoo (especially on "Destination Nowhere"), even Angel City on "Devil May Care" and "Bad Reputation", Sideburn brings all those influences nicely packed and arranged with a personal flavor.

"Electrify" really justifies the name, all tracks are quite energetic and filled with life. Guitar solos only add to the electricity and they are bursting with feelings and heart.
This CD version of "Electrify" includes the bonus tracks "Lazy Daisy (live)", "Never Kill The Chicken (live)" and "Rockstar", the latter wrote and recorded as special theme song for the German Adidas Rockstar event where Sideburn was chosen as 'band of the evening'.

SIDEBURN - Electrify (2013) back cover

In "Electrify" we find the guys of Sideburn performing rockin' songs crafted on the Hard Rock distillery of the simple but passionately played riffs which along with the some catchy choruses make it very pleasant to listen to, especially if you are a fan of this type of Rock 'N' Roll.
Everyone in Sideburn is an excellent musician so there is no musical note getting wasted and, after being combined with the shiny and at the same time 'edgy' production (the whole thing was mixed by afamed Beau Hill), becomes appealing to wider audiences.

01. Bite The Bullet
02. Devil May Care
03. Bad Boys, Bad Girls, Rock'n'Roll
04. Black Powder
05. Frontline
06. Never Get Down
07. Mr. Clean
08. Shady Katy
09. Travellin' Man
10. Bad Reputation
11. Destination Nowhere
Bonus Tracks:
12. Lazy Daisy (Live)
13. Never Kill The Chicken (Live)
14. Rockstar

Rolland Pierrehumbert – Vocals
Lawrence Lina – Guitar
Mike Riffart – Guitar
Nick Thornton – Bass
Lionel White – Drums



Friday, October 25, 2013

DAVID REECE - Compromise (2013)

DAVID REECE - Compromise (2013) full


Talented American singer DAVID REECE is releasing today his second solo album "Compromise" on AOR Heaven Records.
Reece really shouldn't need any introduction, but for those of you who haven’t heard that name before, the man has an impressive discography through the years.

Having been more recognized thanks to his work with Accept in their late '80s album, and since making his reappearance in the Melodic Hard Rock world with the acclaimed 2008 Gypsy Rose album, one time Sircle Of Silence frontman David Reece has made up for his more than decade long absence from the scene.
Two Bangalore Choir albums, a Tango Down release, a CD as Reece-Kronlund and a solo record, all confirming him as a singer of great muscular voice, huge presence and one with a keen eye for a killer tune.
Keeping that ball and impressive workload rolling comes "Compromise", the second solo Reece album and again if you are looking for someone to sing their heart out in stunning style, then David's your man.

With vocals recorded at KMan studios in Blaine Minnesota and a slick production by Kelly Peterson, "Compromise" houses a nice range of styles from Melodic Hard Rock, Hard 'n Heavy and power ballads, allowing Reece to really stretch out vocally while a stellar backing band featuring Ronnie Parkes (7 Witches), Jack Frost (Savatage), Paul Morris (Rainbow, Doro, Jurgen Blackmore) plus special guests Andy Susemihl (UDO) and the skilled Christian Tolle on guitars, ensure the tracks are performed superbly.
Add to that the mix & mastering by Martin Kronlund & Joey Vera (Armored Saint) providing 'the sound' and we should be in for another unquestionable success from start to finish.

And so it proves with a punchy selection of tracks such as "Evil Never Dies" which has a sizzling guitar presence, "Treasure Hunter", where the beat and riff swagger with intent, a stomping rocker on "Where My Heart Belongs" and the spiky hard 'n heavy opener "Disaster" very solid with plenty of power, attitude and a killer chorus (which reminds of a weightier solo David Lee Roth) marking this album out as a must listen for Melodic Hard Rock aficionados, especially if the slightly harder hitting side of the genre is your thing.
You have more melodic oriented, commercial numbers on "Along For The Ride" and the bouncy, catchy keyboard / guitar / vocal trade off "Coast To Coast", then soulful ballads like the sublime "Someone Beautiful" which was written by Tom & James Martin from VEGA, and "Everything to Everyone" where David’s bluesy vocal tones shine like a polished diamond.
There's a straight rocked up cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" being good, if unessential among the rest of the originals.

DAVID REECE - Compromise (2013) back cover

"Compromise" is another exciting Melodic Hard Rock release by Reece, and a proof of his quality timeless, bluesy range and powerhouse control. The songs are solid, catchy and David loves tackling a variety of styles and one listen will tell you he has the voice to pull it off.
With musicians the calibre of those here and lyrics boasting a darn sight more intelligence than your standard clichéd rock fair, Reece has the firepower to back him up all the way into classic album territory. The guitar work on this record is high in the mix providing an extra punch and edge, but all is really polished and sounds clear.
"Compromise" easily gets a slot between the better Melodic Hard Rock albums of recent months and let's be honest, forty minutes or so in the company of Mr. Reece's voice never feels like any sort of compromise.
Very Recommended.

01. Disaster
02. End of it All
03. Fortunate Son
04. Someone Beautiful
05. Along For the Ride
06. Coast to Coast
07. All Roads Leave to War
08. Where My Heart Belongs
09. Everything to Everyone
10. Evil Never Dies
11. Treasure Hunter

David Reece – Vocals
Ronnie Parkes - Bass
Jack Frost – Guitar
Kelly Peterson – Guitar
Paul Morris – Keyboards
Andy Susemihl - guitars
Christian Tolle - guitars



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ABSOLON - Darkness Rising; The Tale Of Derek Blackheart (2013)

ABSOLON - Darkness Rising; The Tale Of Derek Blackheart (2013) full


"Darkness Rising ; The Tale Of Derek Blackheart" is the ambitious debut album from the Florida, US based outfit ABSOLON, a band/ project that has been in founder Ken Pike's mind for almost twenty five years.
Singer Ken Pike is a name well remembered fronting CCM hard rockers Malachia and underground cult AOR band Vital Signs back in the mid '80s.

After listening Queensryche's 'Operation : Mindcrime' Pike knew he had found his musical calling, and this is exactly what he has created in "Darkness Rising", a concept album inspired by that ground-breaking masterpiece.
Another interesting thing about Absolon and their music is the presence of Dave Mikeal, guitarist of early '80s Radio AOR oriented act MPG, who produces and also play keyboards here.
Despite both musicians previous musical background, Absolon and "Darkness Rising", as said, are influenced by Queensryche, Crimson Glory, Siam and alikes.
Most definitely Operation:Mindcrime-era Queensryche.

So musically, Absolon delivers an album that has a feel very close to Mindcrime, but less glossy and not quite as high-tech, more towards 'The Warning' Queenryche. The sound is quite traditional eighties metal but not overly heavy as only half of the tracks are really 'uptempo', interspersed with short pieces rich in keyboards, pianos and synths creating a great atmosphere while telling the story.
Yes, the story, as "Darkness Rising" is concept piece of work subtitled "The Tale of Derek Blackheart", based on the story of Derek Blackheart, a kid who dreams of being a heavy metal guitar legend. He sells his soul for the purpose and seals a deal with the Dark Master that would convert the masses to the 'dark side'.
But at the height of his fame, Blackheart realises this is all wrong, and ultimately takes his own life in order to escape the deal only to discover that even in death there is no escape. No rest for the wicked...

The songs are split between traditional rockers with melodic hooks, atmospheric calmer tracks with keys and clean sharp guitars, and three short instrumentals.
Songs like "Nail Head" and "The Escape" are striking and infectious in sound mixing strong riffs and melodic keyboards, while title track "Darkness Rising" recalls to some Euro eighties melodic metal with interesting progressive twists.
These more rockin' numbers are contrasted with midtempos such as "Pretender" and the highlight "Even Heros Fall", the latter built around a clean electric guitar and piano, a bit dark and purposely introspective. It's a fantastic song, like falling into a time warp in terms of comparing Absolon with Queensryche as an impeccable piece of elaborated progressive hard rock / metal.
There's instrumental interludes including "The Master Calls" and "The Master Calls Reprise" both of which are fairly heavy in approach, as well as the acoustic based "State Of Mind".

ABSOLON - Darkness Rising; The Tale Of Derek Blackheart (2013) inside cover

"Darkness Rising ; The Tale Of Derek Blackheart" is a real surprise. Absolon decided to debut with a concept album, which always assumes a risk. But these talented musicians have created a more than a solid piece of work here.
An interesting story, varied songs and wonderful atmospheres in the 'old skool' style including a crunchy guitar work by the respectable Ed Dumas, marvelous keyboards & orchestration by David Mikeal and a trustworthy rhythm section.
Ken Pike is not a sky-high shouter 'ala Geoff Tate in his heydays as he sings in a clean lower mid-range mode, however, he's a top notch performer and vocalist as he manage to take the music to the next level.

In fact, I found the entire thing to be quite mesmerizing. The storyline, the musicianship, the vocals and the arrangements work really well together making for a fantastic listen. For an indie recording, and considering the magnitude of this type of conceptual albums, there's a very good production & mix.
Some could argue that "Darkness Rising ; The Tale Of Derek Blackheart" is like a second hand Operation:Mindcrime. Well, if someone would consider my disc as a second hand to a masterpiece, I'll take it as a compliment.
Are we impressed? Very much so as this could have been a top-selling album if released in 1987 and it's certainly a highlight amongst the 2013 debuts.
Very Recommended.

01. What Have I Done / The Beginning (2:19)
02. The Master Calls [instrumental] (1:59)
03. Nail Head (5:39)
04. Darkness Rising Interlude (2:02)
05. Darkness Rising (5:47)
06. Pretender (6:38)
07. Even Heroes Fall (3:29)
08. Devastation Suffocation (3:42)
09. The Escape Pt. I (2:45)
10. The Escape Pt. II (4:57)
11. Eulogy (2:50)
12. Breaking News (:42)
13. Screaming In The Dark (3:50)
14. State Of Mind [instrumental] (1:31)
15. The Master Calls Reprise [instrumental] (2:38)
16. Deaths Frozen Sting (5:56)

Ken Pike - vocals, guitar
Ed Dumas - guitar
Will Cochran - bass, backing vocals
Axel - drums, backing vocals
Dave Mikeal - keyboards



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

STAGE DOLLS - Highway Of Life (2013)

STAGE DOLLS - Highway Of Life (2013) +2 full


Norwegian melodic rockers STAGE DOLLS are preparing a new album and meanwhile presenting some singles such as the fresh released "Highway Of Life" and "5 Minutes Of Fame", both driven by classic Dolls' signature riffs and harmony vocals.
Additionally we have the single "Drive For Life" composed & recorded for the Scandinavian organization working with children and adolescents with a common interest for motorsports. The song won't be available on any future album.
Classic, new Stage Dolls stuff.

Highway Of Life (3:17)
5 Minutes Of Fame (4:08)
Drive For Life (3:00)

Torstein Flakne - vocals, guitar
Terje Storli - bass
Morten Skogstad - drums



Monday, October 21, 2013

ZEBRA - Live [Japan remaster SHM-CD] (2013)

ZEBRA - Live [Japan remaster SHM-CD] (2013) full


Final of the all-4 first Zebra albums just released in Japan on a high quality SHM-CD format; the almost unknown "Zebra Live".
After the third studio album 3.V, despite Atlantic Records lack of support promoting it, Zebra successfully continued touring US & Canada as main act or with the likes of REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick and more.
However, the band's concert prowess - Zebra always had a strong, loyal fan base - did not go unnoticed by their recording label. In 1989, after many fan requests, Atlantic asked if they'd like to release a live album.
A couple of shows were recorded on Long Island in November 1989, and the excellent "Zebra Live" album resulted.

This is a special recording and quite different from your typical 'live' album, because showcases a band doing more than just 'greatest hits'. In first place, except the couple of singles emanate from the self-titled debut, Zebra does not have 'hits', they were an 'integral album' band.
So they were not pressed to play the songs alive as a carbon-copy from the studio versions. We have 6 cuts from the first album, two from the 2nd and three from 3.V, all in a different delivery, some quite re-arranged and with a style and sound that was the result of more than 15 years playing together.
At this point of their career, Zebra developed a tight, dynamic musicianship plenty of musicality, melody and energy recalling - at places - Dokken, Night Ranger, Winger and alikes.

And we have more: a wonderful cover of Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" - a concert favorite for many years, and two new previously unreleased songs only available on this album; "She's Waiting For You" and "Last Time", both very good rocking tracks.
On stage, Randy Jackson's vocals remind me of Angel's Frank DiMino, his guitar is vibrant according to the late '80s hard rock style, and his bandmates Felix Hanemann & Guy Gelso sound like a 4-back up musicians more than just 2, playing everything from drums, bass, keys, synths, percussion.

RICHIE KOTZEN - I'm Coming Out (2011)tracks

This fresh remaster is perfect; I own the 1990 release and everything has been enhanced and clarified to the maximum. All sounds pristine yet edgy, and the unnecessarily high crowd noise of the original has been reduced to obtain a balanced live feel.
If you don't like live albums, or nor even Zebra itself, do yourself a favor and give it a try to "Zebra Live". You'll be more than pleasantly surprised. It shows an almost different band, vital, dynamic and of course, awesomely hard rockin'.

01 - Said Before
02 - She's Waiting For You *
03 - Last Time *
04 - Wait Until The Summer's Gone
05 - One More Chance
06 - Take Your Fingers From My Hair
07 - Bears
08 - Better Not Call
09 - The La La Song
10 - Time
11 - Who's Behind The Door?
12 - Making You The Fool
13 - Tell Me What You Want
14 - The Ocean

* New Tracks Previously Unreleased

Randy Jackson - vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards
Felix Hanemann - bass, keyboards, vocals
Guy Gelso - drums, percussion, vocals



Saturday, October 19, 2013

ZEBRA - No Tellin' Lies [Japan remaster SHM-CD] (2013)

ZEBRA - No Tellin' Lies [Japan remaster SHM-CD] (2013) full


Although listed as available at various stores, Rock Candy's remastered release of ZEBRA's second album "No Tellin' Lies" has been delayed, at least, in its distribution. A fellow reader of these pages noticed us that all-4 first Zebra albums just has been issued in Japan on a high quality SHM-CD format by a specialized label, remastered in conjunction with Zebra's mastermind Randy Jackson.
Thanks to Mitzu for the contributions!

This 'Arcangelo Records : American Rock Series' SHM-CD not only sounds awesome, it also reproduces the full original artwork (mini LP format) in a glossy package. Even includes the original protector sleeves of the original LP.
By the way, this album was issued on Compact Disc in 1984 made in West Germany for US Market, one of the first ever pressed on this format. Incredibly, it never was officially re-released, becoming one of the most rarest compact discs ever made.
"No Tellin' Lies" remained out-of-print on single disc form for over 25+ years, only reissued in 2007 as a 2 on 1 CD - along with '3.V' another Zebra album which has been deleted as well - and the sound left much to be desired.

Coming out of the speakers, on this SHM-CD Zebra's "No Tellin' Lies" never sounded better. This remaster is bringing out things I never heard on the original vinyl LP or cd, perfectly balanced with a superb dynamic range.

ZEBRA - No Tellin' Lies [Japan remaster SHM-CD] (2013) back cover

Talking about "No Tellin' Lies" itself, this is a quality slab of Melodic Hard Rock.
Zebra's debut rapidly achieved Gold status and set the scene for this follow up album promptly recorded and issued in 1984. Produced, once again, to exacting standards by Jack ‘Aerosmith’ Douglas, the band took up the challenge by showcasing a concise collection of tracks that easily outgunned their previous work.
Refining their powerful sound, the songs are both muscular and melodic, more catchy-chorus focused in a Melodic Hard Rock style & sound that started to emerge in the American scene and soon conquered the world.
We have awesome airwavers in the ripping "Wait Until the Summer's Gone" and the unique, AORish "Bears", while "I Don't Like It" and "Takin' a Stance" ring true and rock mightily. The mid-tempo ballad "But No More" simply stands as one of the trio's best songs.

As said, this Japanese remaster SHM-CD of ZEBRA's second album "No Tellin' Lies" sounds million bucks. It's not cheap, but worth every cent.
'3.V' and the highly underrated "Zebra Live' coming up...

01 - Wait Until The Summer's Gone
02 - I Don't Like It
03 - Bears
04 - I Don't Care
05 - Lullaby
06 - No Tellin' Lies
07 - Takin' A Stance
08 - But No More
09 - Little Things
10 - Drive Me Crazy

Randy Jackson - Guitar, lead vocals
Felix Hanemann - Bass, keyboards, vocals
Guy Gelso - Drums, vocals
Stan Bronstein - Sax, Synthesizers
Michael Finlayson - Programming
George Small - Piano

ZEBRA - No Tellin' Lies [Japan remaster SHM-CD] (2013) cd photo



Friday, October 18, 2013

ZEBRA - Zebra [Rock Candy remaster] (2013)

ZEBRA - Zebra [Rock Candy remaster] (2013) full


The first, self-titled album by ZEBRA is being reissued by Rock Candy in their usual "Special Deluxe Collector's Edition" form, in a fully remastered sound shaped from 24 BIT digital technology.

Zebra had been together since forming in the mid-seventies in New Orleans. Led by guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter Randy Jackson, the group started to gain notoriety when they migrated to Long Island, NY and furiously played in that area’s club and college scene.
Their music impressed Atlantic Records, who signed the group to a five album deal right out of the gate in late 1982.

This seemed like a wise business deal for the suits as "Zebra" became the fastest selling debut record in Atlantic Records history when it sold over 75,000 copies in its first week and spent eight months on the Billboard charts, peaking at number 29 (Gold certified).
Among the strong nine tracks, the album spawned the successful singles - now classics - "Tell Me What You Want" and "Who's Behind The Door", skilfully produced by veteran Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick) obtaining a clear and polished sound.

ZEBRA - Zebra [Rock Candy remaster] (2013) inside photo

I always loved the melodic dynamics of leader Randy Jackson, as he fused some of the best arena rock of the '70s with the melodic rock, hard and rock&pop sensibilities of the '80s.
With the exception of the out-of-place, boogie-rock cover song ("Slow Down"), all the tracks on Zebra's debut are winners.
Zebra followed up their this one with the more commercially oriented 1984 album No Tellin’ Lies - recently remastered by Rock Candy too and to be featured here soon.

01 - Tell Me What You Want
02 - One More Chance
03 - Slow Down
04 - As I Said Before
05 - Who's Behind The Door?
06 - When You Get There
07 - Take Your Fingers From My Hair
08 - Don't Walk Away
09 - The La La Song

Randy Jackson - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Felix Hanemann - bass, keyboards, vocals
Guy Gelso - drums, vocals

Felix Hanemann - synths, strings, vocals
Eric Troyer - synths
Karen Atta - percussion
Michael Grossman - piano



SAGA - Spin It Again! Live In Munich [2CD] (2013)

SAGA - Spin It Again! Live In Munich [2CD] (2013) full


"Spin It Again - Live in Munich!" is the new live 2CD and Blu-ray that captures the final night of the 2012 sold-out tour by Canadians SAGA in Germany, where the band have always had a large and loyal following so it makes sense to record their live album there.

'Five years ago I stood on this stage and I said goodbye. Five years later and I'm standing on this stage and I say hello' says lead singer Michael Sadler, as this tour marked the return of the legendary original Saga vocalist. "Spin It Again - Live in Munich!" also features the on stage debut of new drummer Mike Thorne replacing Brian Doerner due his health problems.
It's a varied set list; three songs from their most recent album ‘20/20’ including "Spin It Again" and "Six Feet Under", two of the highlights from the already very strong album. Ian Crichton’s guitar playing is always a delight to listen to and the band have a good feeling with the audience.

Saga’s commercial era from the early '80s is covered by the live staples of "Scratching The Surface" and the darn catchy "The Flyer" from the ‘Heads Or Tales’ album (one of my favorites from this band), and "On The Loose" and "Wind Him Up" from ‘Worlds Apart’, showing Saga at their very best.
There are other fan favourites too, such as a sterling version of "The Cross" and "Careful Where You Step", the latter a real keys to the fore song.

SAGA - Spin It Again! Live In Munich [2CD] (2013) back cover

Some people love live albums, some others not. In the case of Saga, this type of recordings showcase an almost completely new face from the band, as these Canadians really feel 'hot' on stage.
There's a much more energetic, vivacious takes on these classic songs and of course, tons of huge, awesome keyboards & synths. If you are a fan of ivory-galore (like me) "Spin It Again - Live in Munich!" is a blast.
A must have for Saga's fans, but also for those who think this group sounds a bit restrained in the studio. Besides, Saga is one of the few acts to successfully appeal to both lovers of Melodic Rock / AOR and Prog Rock, and this double CD serves as a good best of to highlight the various musical sides of this talented band.
Very Recommended.

01 - Anywhere You Wanna Go
02 - Mouse In A Maze
03 - Careful Where You Step
04 - The Perfectionist
05 - You're Not Alone
06 - Spin It Again
07 - Corkentellis
08 - The Flyer
09 - Fish Beat

01 - Six Feet Under
02 - The Cross
03 - Time's Up
04 - Scratching The Surface
05 - Tired World (Chapter 6)
06 - Humble Stance
07 - On the Loose
08 - Wind Him Up
09 - Framed
10 - Don't Be Late (Chapter 2)

Michael Sadler - lead vocals, keyboards, bass
Ian Crichton - guitars
Jim Gilmour - main keyboards, vocals
Jim Crichton - bass, keyboards
Mike Thorne - drums, vocals



Thursday, October 17, 2013

LANESLIDE - Change Your Mind EP (2013)

LANESLIDE - Change Your Mind EP (2013) full bonus


LANESLIDE amazed us earlier this year with their classic '80s Melodic Rock AOR flavoured debut. Now the combo fronted by Frank Vestry and Bruno Kraler are releasing a new EP entitled "Change Your Mind" featuring 2 brand new tracks.

Laneslide are working on the Japan release of their debut album 'Flying High', and for the occasion the band recently recorded two new songs to be featured as the usual Japanese bonus tracks.
Fortunately - and on the contrary as record labels & bands usually come, both tracks are being released (digitally) for the pleasure of all fans world wide.

The first one is an all new song called "Change Your Mind", a very melodic track with Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart) singing background vocals. A great tune, and a crime that didn't make it into the regular CD release.
The second song is an acoustic version of "Understand". Laneslide recorded the track from scratch and features the amazing, legendary Bruce Gaitsch (Chicago, Richard Marx) as guest playing acoustic guitars.
It's a fantastic new version, not your 'typical acoustic', as the band hired a real Orchestra in L.A. to play some great strings to gracefully embellish this excellent new take on this already wonderful song.
A must have stuff if you ask me.

You've seen it first here, at 0dayrox

01 - Change Your Mind [New Song] (4:53)
02 - Understand [Acoustic Version] (3:23)

Frank Vestry - Lead Vocals
Bruno Kraler - Lead and Rhythm Guitars
John Billings - Bass
Alessandro Del Vecchio - Keyboards, Grand Piano
Dominik Hülshorst - Drums

Bruce Gaitsch - guest Guitars
Michael Bormann - guest Backing Vocals



MAXX EXPLOSION - Forever (2013)

MAXX EXPLOSION - Forever (2013) full


Released through Kivel Records, "Forever" is the debut album from MAXX EXPLOSION, a new Melodic Hard Rock band founded by Chris McCarvill.
And who is McCarvill? He is the bass player in House Of Lords since their last 3 CDs, having previously recorded various albums with Michael Vescera's bands MVP & Obsession, Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister) and toured as live member in Dokken, Jeff Scott Soto Band and more.

Apart from his energetic and technical virtuosity on the bass, occurs that Chris McCarvill is also an accomplished songwriter and a heartfelt vocalist. He has been recording demos of his original music written over the past few years, and recently Don Dokken encouraged him to give shape to a new, own band.
And who McCarvill convened for that matter? No other than his House Of Lords band mates, six-string wizard Jimi Bell and monster drummer BJ Zampa.
So basically, Maxx Explosion is House Of Lords minus lead singer and mastermind James Christian.
Vocally, McCarvill is not Christian (who can match the man's pipes?) but certainly he is a well trained singer with a quite melodic register, and wisely arranges the harmony vocals here - there's lots of melodic background vocals in "Forever" - with class and effectiveness.

MAXX EXPLOSION - Forever (2013) inside photo

Musically, Maxx Explosion plays the kind of Melodic Hard Rock we love: late '80s / early '90s inspired rockers with a chorus galore, sharp guitar riffs (plus hot solos), and a big rhythm section.
When I say big, it means BIG; the bass work & sound is monolithic, fat, groovy in a Billy Sheehan way, while BJ Zampa has much more room to blast the skins than on any other band he was involved. This does not means Maxx Explosion is a 'jammin' band. Not at all.
"Forever" is a disc plenty of tunes in the classic Melodic Hard Rock 'song format' full of melodies and catchy choruses akin Mr. Big, Waysted, Dokken, Whitesnake and of course House Of Lords.
But if I have to make a more accurate comparison, Maxx Explosion reminds me John Sykes (ex- Whitesnake) solo works and his Blue Murder's 'Nothin' But Trouble' era.

I can't find a weak track on Maxx Explosion's debut "Forever". Seriously.
The songs are meaty, polished and with soul. McCarvill sings with style and his bass lines are terrific (he also plays some tasteful keyboard backgrounds to embellish the tunes), Jimi Bell unleashes killer riffs & sweeping solos, and BJ Zampa simply rock your socks off.
The co-production of Don Dokken - also collaborating at the 'stylings & sound shape' ala John Kalodner - has enhanced this album resulting in "Forever" sounding a like late '80s / early '90s record. It has that 'vibe & magic', and I love it.
If you like classic Melodic Hard Rock in the vein of the aforementioned acts (again: Mr. Big, Blue Murder, Waysted, Dokken, House Of Lords), do yourself a favor and don't miss Maxx Explosion's "Forever".
Highly Recommended.

01. Devil's Locomotive
02. Falling Away
03. Cross Your Heart
04. Don't Wanna Break
05. Love Is A Nightmare
06. Rise
07. End Of The Line
08. Demon Wheel
09. Can't Stop Falling
10. Beat Around The Bush
11. Famous
12. Suicide Door
13. Forever

Chris McCarvill - Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Jimi Bell - Guitar, Backing Vocals
BJ Zampa - Drums, Backing Vocals



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