Tuesday, September 30, 2014

OVERDRIVE - The Final Nightmare (2014)

OVERDRIVE - The Final Nightmare (2014) full


Hailing from Grantham in Lincolnshire, OVERDRIVE are a band often overlooked from the early '80s British metal scene. Strange, because they have created some great rocking music since their inception.
The Final Nightmare” is their 9th release, and they truly show they know what they’re doing here; classic hard rock with a magical feeling.

I can basically tell you that there isn't a present band playing Overdrive's type of old-school hard rock / melodic metal. They've whipped together the basic foundation of melodic hard rock, added crisp guitar leads, a deeper rhythm section, and some interesting keyboards that range from piano to straight synths to old school hammond organ.
Opening up with "Invited To Hell" and its dramatic spoken word intro, this is a great start to the album, with some absolutely stunning riffs, some great classic sounding vocals and a really grooving rhythm section. There’s nice keyboard moments to spice things up a bit, bringing a bit of the '80s Deep Purple / Uriah Heep atmosphere to the proceedings.

"Twice Shy" is another with an awesome sense of style and melody to it. Plenty of nice riffs and a great pacing throughout, this is a very well written tune with plenty of cool moments to be found. "Glass Game" offers something a little different, with a very old school heavy rock sound to it, supported by quite powerful vocals and an organ background.

OVERDRIVE - The Final Nightmare (2014) cd photo

One of the best cuts comes with "Twisting My Mind", a bass pumped rocker with an almost funk (heavy) groove and a catchy chorus. The song display lots of different sections, some awesome emotive vocals and a really tight and dynamic overall sound. The fadeout here is really well executed too.
"Wasted" bumps up the tempo for some more lively and, once more, has a crafty chorus. "Lost on a Mountain" has a steady melodic metal groove, a rather sharp solo after the half way point, but then this interesting flourish of piano.
Within both "Nightwalker" and "Taken Young", Tim Hall keyboards gain more presence, the nearly classic piano in the latter, the combination of piano and symphonic synths in the latter. These two songs are easily the highlights of the album, and my favorite cuts.

"Taken Young (Ben’s Song)" is a really epic sounding and emotive song about loss that really hits you hard, with some mighty riffs and really melodic almost classical style keyboard parts too. Yo can feel real passion intensifying the performance.
"Final Nightmare"” closes up the album on another epic note, a long composition of about 8 minutes including many movements that keep the song fresh throughout. There’s some great talent on display in this one, and the fact they keep it interesting throughout is remarkable.

OVERDRIVE - The Final Nightmare (2014) back cover

Overdrive’s “The Final Nightmare” is one of the most notable old-school hard rock / melodic metal releases in the last years.
The musicianship is tight, and works well as a collective together. Sharp guitars, the bass and drums really support the whole thing and the vocals are really rightly done, well layered and recorded. The keyboards added a distinctive touch to the music, in particular the progressive sounds in the latter half of the album which it's one of its strengths.

Production is spot on for this band’s style, not too overproduced but nicely polished and clear. It’s also good to see some cracking old school artwork for the album cover.
If you love your '82-'85 Praying Mantis, Judas Priest, Rainbow, Saxon, Uriah Heep, etc, you need to check this CD now. Overdrive are very, very good at this game.
Strongly Recommended.

1. Invited To Hell
2. Twice Shy
3. Glass Game
4. Twisting My Mind
5. Wasted
6. Lost On A Mountain
7. Nightwalker
8. Taken Young (Ben's Song)
9. Final Nightmare

David Poulter – Vocals
Ian Hamilton – Bass, Vocals
Tracey Abbott – Guitars
Tim Hall – Keyboards, Vocals
Ian 'Scratch' Padgett – Drums



QUEENSRYCHE - Greatest Hits [Limited Edition Japanese SHM-CD remastered] (2014)

QUEENSRYCHE - Greatest Hits [Limited Edition Japanese SHM-CD remastered] (2014) UICY-76341 full


Universal/EMI Music Japan has just released a SHM-CD version of QUEENSRYCHE "Greatest Hits", with all tracks 24-Bit Digitally Remastered.
Why this 'compilation' needed a SHM-CD, high quality press release? Because few "Greatest Hits" represents so exactly a band's career like this one.
And why is Queensryche so great? This album explains it all just as easily as an open book.

Including material from all Queensryche studio releases up to 1997 (1999's Q2K is excluded), as well as the astonishingly beautiful 1997 B-side "Chasing Blue Sky", and an alternate, wonderful extended version of "Someone Else?" featuring the full band, "Greatest Hits" delivers one great song after another.

QUEENSRYCHE - Greatest Hits [Limited Edition Japanese SHM-CD remastered] (2014) UICY-76341 cd photo

Opener "Queen of the Reich" is the quintessence of the perfect '80s heavy metal song. A dark, fast, intense, and melodic metal beefy with epic dueling guitars fight their way into your head, leaving an inerasable mark.
"The Warning", "Walk In The Shadows", the superb "I Dream In Infrared", "Jet City Woman" or the hit "Silent Lucidity"... you can't go wrong with these classics.
All the songs off of this album have a similar effect on the listener, and that is addiction.

QUEENSRYCHE - Greatest Hits [Limited Edition Japanese SHM-CD remastered] (2014) UICY-76341 back cover

"Greatest Hits" is the perfect Queensryche album? I think so.
Of course you must have in you collection Operation:Mindcrime and Rage For Order, but this "Greatest Hits" sums up greatly 1 hour and 17 minutes of Queensryche's finest. And it's being sold for a very reasonable price at CDBanq.
A Must Have.

Universal/EMI Music Japan SHM-CD ~ UICY-76341

01. Queen Of The Reich
02. The Lady Wore Black
03. Warning
04. Take Hold Of The Flame
05. Walk In The Shadows
06. I Dream In Infrared
07. I Don't Believe In Love
08. Eyes Of A Stranger
09. Jet City Woman
10. Empire
11. Silent Lucidity
12. I Am I
13. Bridge
14. Sign Of The Times
15. Chasing Blue Sky (Bonus Track)
16. Someone Else? [with Full Band - Extended] (Bonus Track)

Geoff Tate - vocals, keyboards
Chris DeGarmo - guitars
Michael Wilton - guitars
Eddie Jackson - bass
Scott Rockenfield - drums, percussion, keyboards



Sunday, September 28, 2014

THE WAY IN - Blame It On Rock And Roll (2014)

THE WAY IN - Blame It On Rock And Roll (2014) full


THE WAY IN were founded in the late '80s by Nick 'The Quig' Clemente (bass), Danny Rose (guitar) and drummer Frank Duca from the ashes of The Zeros, a band where the guys played a lot around the New Jersey circuit.
The Way In (later known as Sinnocence) shared stages with the likes of Kix, Tuff or Enuff Z'Nuff and were very close to get a record deal, but as many good bands in the genre, the group sank in the flooded, overcrowded scene.
All the recorded material by The Way In was compiled under the title "Blame It On Rock And Roll" by the reissue label FNA Records, and I think they worth to check out.

This is your typical melodic hard rock with a Californian feel, however, The Way In imprints their festive melodic music with an East Coast - more precisely New Jersey - vibe.

THE WAY IN - Blame It On Rock And Roll (2014) inside

Journey and Kiss are cited as main influences in the CD booklet, but I hear a Bon Jovi, Firehouse, Trixter, etc. stamp into their compositions. Add to this a lead singer with the smooth vocal stylings of Rick Springfield and you have a catchy, pop metal material.

On the harder tracks like "Black Sheep" or "All American Washout" they sound like Kix, while title track "Blame It On Rock And Roll" has a Ratt style in the guitar riffs.
"Sinnocence", a song from where the guys' would take the name for the next incarnation of the band, has some Kiss 'Hot In The Shade' on it, then "Refugee Heart" reminds early Cinderella.

Other cuts are much more Melodic Rock oriented like the extremely melodic "Power Of Five" and "Passion Zone". Some tracks such as "Love On The Western Front" or "Tears For My Radio" are pretty interesting too, but suffer from a poor demo tape sound.

Another nice band rescued from oblivion, "Blame It On Rock And Roll" showcases what The Way In could have been with better luck and proper management.
Cool Stuff

01 - All American Washout
02 - Angel Walk
03 - Power Of Five
04 - Sinnocence
05 - Blame It On Rock And Roll
06 - Passion Zone
07 - Love On The Western Front
08 - Refugee Heart
09 - Black Sheep
10 - Tears For My Radio
11 - Fantasia Girl
12 - Hostile Heart

Louis Michael – Lead Vocals
Danny Rose – Lead Guitars, Vocals
Rob Mason – Rhythm Guitars, Vocals
Nick "The Quig" Clemente – Bass, Vocals
Frank Duca - Drums, Vocals



Saturday, September 27, 2014

220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (2014)

220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (2014) front


I still remember clearly in the very early '80s, I was in my school time when I have just discovered the Scandinavian HM movement with illustrious bands such as 220 VOLT, Pretty Maids, Fate, TNT and later Europe or Treat and obviously the mighty Yngwie's Rising Force.
Since the beginning I was hooked by this sound, their unique and incomparable melodic specifity was a revelation, this Nordic wave was everything to me as a young Headbanger it quite rapidly changed my life forever…
Well my friends, the legendary 220 VOLT are back in fine shape with a new album, the rocking "Walking In Starlight", to be released via AOR Heaven.

With the one and only, the great frontman Anders Engberg the band still play superbly and their Swedish singularity is still prominent and addictive. But their versatility is exacerbated, and it’s really impressive how they manage to preserve their Melodic personality even while switching from Classic Hard Rock to Modern Metal (like the Epic “Through The Wastelands”) with a great constancy in an obvious finesse.

The title track and album opener is a real burning slice of Scandinavian Melodic Hard Rock with a fierce attitude and a superb construction in a highly bombastic method, at the same time majestic and attractive, something like House of Lords meets Rainbow, yep believe me, it’s this kind of noble anthemic song.
“Get Me Out” or “Blind” contains a serious dose of convincing riffage under a contemporary rumbling mania, indeed not far from Lions Share style, the energetic “System Overload” sounds like the best of Europe‘s equivalence in their mid '90’s Prisoners In Paradise era.

Perhaps with “Alive” they add to this recipe a slight Saxon overtone, still magnificent on the softer side: “Stranded”, “One Good Reason” or “Take A Good Look”, it’s pure classic hard rock with a Whitesnake / Thunder feeling.
The only reminiscence of the old AOR colors are founded in the title “Burning Heart” and also in the chorus of the keyboard driven “Broken Promises” even if the band provides a darkest tint to this cut.
The closing orchestrated number “Guiding Light” with it’s amazing string quartet arrangement is once again in obvious concordance with Tempest & Co. in their most acoustic moments.

220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (2014) back cover

Seventeen years after their last album, 220 VOLT returns with another great album.
All the lights are set on green to predict a triumph, all the ingredients are improved in their best perfection, they even succeed in outmatching themselves and their glorious past by reaching an unexpected level of excellency under an hyper catchy songwriting method.
The main feature of "Walking In The Starlight" is the surprising variety of styles and genres the band draws from, be it melodic hard rock similar to their early efforts, contemporary straight-in-your-face hard rock or some light shades of blues.
Absolutely Recommended.

1. Walking In Starlight
2. System Overload
3. Broken Promises
4. Alive
5. Blind
6. Stranded
7. Get Me Out
8. The Waiting
9. Through The Wastelands
10. Burning Heart
11. Take A Good Look
12. One Good Reason
13. Guiding Light

Anders Engberg – vocals
Thomas Drevin – guitars
Mats Karlsson – guitars
Peter Hermansson – drums



Friday, September 26, 2014

SIXX:A.M. - Modern Vintage [Deluxe Edition] (2014)

SIXX:A.M. - Modern Vintage [Deluxe Edition] (2014) full


"Modern Vintage", the long-awaited third release from SIXX:A.M., the band comprised of Motley Crue's founder Nikki Sixx, James Michael (vocals) and DJ Ashba (guitar), will be released next October 7th.
If you liked the previous albums from the band, you will fall on your knees with this new offering, as it's even better.

"Modern Vintage" is the third chapter in the dark sordid tale that is ‘The Heroin Diaries’; a white knuckle ride through the demon days of notorious L.A. bad boy, the personification of a wrecking ball, Motley Crue's bass player Nikki Sixx.
From the opening track (and one of my favorites) "Stars", the music comes fast, heavy, providing the perfect soundtrack to subject matter that includes abuse, addiction, life, death, and paranoia.

The songs are all varied in style, genre, and tempo, but compliment the powerful and emotionality moving lyrics exceptionally well.
Other stand out tracks include "Relief", "Let’s Go", the melting hard rocker "Give Me a Love" and "Hyperventilate". There’s even a great cover of The Cars' classic "Drive", reworked in trashy, broken and sick version.
The bonus tracks on this Deluxe Edition of the album are a handful of stripped down versions of various main album tracks, which really serve to prove, how different, yet intense songs can sound stripped bare.

"Modern Vintage" is nothing short than impressive.
As the previous Sixx:A.M. albums, offers an eclectic mix of songs. It's intense, dramatic, combining as the title says, modern sounds with timeless vintage rock.

SIXX:A.M. - Modern Vintage [Deluxe Edition] (2014) back cover

Guitarist DJ Ashba style is unique, with an extensive use of effect pedals and sonic textures. James Michael, besides being a fantastic songwriter, has a distinctive voice. Both deserves lots of credit for their important contribution to this material, which definitely gives the album extra layers.
This new Sixx:A.M. album successfully paints vivid pictures of the struggles and realizations of Nikki Sixx, a talented cat that never stops to surprise with fresh music and ideas.

01 - Stars
02 - Gotta Get It Right
03 - Relief
04 - Get Ya Some
05 - Let's Go
06 - Drive
07 - Give Me a Love
08 - Hyperventilate
09 - High On the Music
10 - Miracle
11 - Before It's Over
12 - Before It's Over (Piano Ballad) [bonus track]
13 - Stars (Cinematic) [bonus track]
14 - Gotta Get It Right (Acoustic) [bonus track]
15 - Let It Haunt You (So Beautiful) [bonus track]

DJ Ashba - guitars
James Michael - vocals
Nikki Sixx - bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals



GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (2014)

GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (2014) full


I love GRAND DESIGN. That's it. Accused of being a Def Leppard clone, truth is this Swedish combo are pure Melodic Hard Rock. "Thrill Of The Night", to be released soon by AOR Heaven, proves that.
And if you are fan of the genre, you can't resist its terrific melodies.

Early 2014 Grand Design started working on this third album, which has definitely taken the band to a whole new level, musically, song wise and regarding production. The album is packed with anthemic hits and choruses that you will wake up in the middle of the night singing. Sorry about that, but that’s how it is.
Of course, there are certain Leppard-ish elements to this album and it doesn’t really take a longtime fan’s well-trained ear to notice them. But even though the melody line of feisty melodic rocker “Rawk N Roll Heart Attack” may remind you a bit of 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', not even to mention the “wall of sound” vocal harmonies in every single track – it’s still more of an inspiration than emulation.
And still, not only Def Leppard but the entire ‘80s melodic rock / hair metal scene was about big choruses led by powerful group chants, the Sheffield-based quintet being just the confirmation of the general rule.

GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (2014) inside

These strong vocal harmonies, which are perhaps the strongest point also to the Grand Design’s now trademark style, are especially perspicuous in dramatized mid-tempo “The Rush Is Gone” or Erik Mårtensson co-penned party anthem “Who’s Gonna Rawk You Tonite.”

And the band, it seems, aren't eager to look back too much anyway, as alongside modern production also the guitar riffs on the album are far from sounding dated, as in “U Got Me Good” or “10 Outta Ten.”
Squeezed between straightforward rock up-tempos, “When The Greatest Love Of All Kicks In” is a wonderful power ballad crafted with the intention of tugging at listener’s heartstrings.
And although there is much to be said about the blistering lead guitar work that enriches the track, it’s not the sole highlight of the entire record, as every melodic rock fan will surely find themselves reveling also in killer hook of “Rip Iddup” or the deliberate infectiousness of the eponymous song’s choruses.

GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (2014) back cover

Grand Design is a name to be reckoned with in modern-day melodic rock scene, and their reputation is certainly a well-earned one. "Thrill Of The Night" portrays the Swedes’ return in great form, again following the formula perhaps predictable, but nevertheless mastered by them to the point of perfection.
The songwriting is better than never this time with the outside help of talented Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T) on a couple of tracks. Production, again by singer Pelle Saether, is big, ballsy, anthemic enough to probably make even John 'Mutt' Lange proud.
"Thrill Of The Night" is damn catchy record, and if you love the genre, it's a mandatory addition to your melodic rock album collection.

01 - U Got Me Good
02 - Rawk n Roll Heart Attack
03 - The Rush Is Gone
04 - 10 Outta 10
05 - When The Greatest Love Of All Kicks In
06 - Rip Iddup
07 - Get Up N Love Someone
08 - You're The Only One
09 - Who's Gonna Rawk You Tonite
10 - Thrill Of The Nite

Pelle Saether - Vocals
Janne Stark - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Dennis Vestman - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mats Vassfjord - Bass
Magnus Ulvstedt - Drums, Backing Vocals



THE RENAISSANCE ROCK ORCHESTRA - The White Gate Trilogy (2014)

THE RENAISSANCE ROCK ORCHESTRA - The White Gate Trilogy (2014) full


Being what in the music industry is called 'gun for hire', keyboardist Gregg Fox has made a name for himself sharing stages and recording in the albums - mostly uncredited - of major names like Heart, Asia, Bad Company, Billy Idol, Slash, Queensryche, Quiet Riot, Alice Cooper, Michael Schenker Group and many more.
And though his many, many mercenary meanderings have allowed him to make a 30-year life-long career for himself after achieving a prestigious music degree, he realized it was time to for the wizard to come out from behind the curtain.
Now, today, with his own project, THE RENAISSANCE ROCK ORCHESTRA and their debut "The White Gate Trilogy", he is shining his own light and sharing the sky, though it's taken him a while to get here.

The Renaissance Rock Orchestra includes well known Las Vegas musicians bassist Michael 'Bones' Gerbino who has toured with Cher, Vince Neil and Rob Halford, guitarist Elvis Lederer from the Chris Angel Show 'Believe' and The Blue Man Group, and guitarist Steve Conley from Flotsam & Jetsam.

THE RENAISSANCE ROCK ORCHESTRA - The White Gate Trilogy (2014) photo

But "The White Gate Trilogy" feature as well world class talent including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist from Heart, Howard Leese, the wondrous vocals of Robin McAuley (MSG / Survivor), powerhouse drummers Brent Fitz (Slash / Alice Cooper), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake / Foreigner) and Queensryche founder Scott Rockenfield. Also master guitarist George Lynch (Dokken / Lynch Mob) drops a fiery six-string solo.

The album blends neo-classical, symphonic and progressive elements into hard rock and traditional metal. The masterful keyboard arrangements of Gregg Fox are surrounded and supported by layers of heavy rock guitars, drums and vocals, by also real strings.
The 'Trilogy' from the album's name refers to the first 3 songs on the EP, which together encompass and create "The White Gate Trilogy". These are epic uptempo compositions with a dynamic progressive feel, featuring, as you imagine, all types of keyboards, including grand pianos.
The other two songs are more 'regular' hard rock songs, with the always effective Robin McAuley on lead vocals.

THE RENAISSANCE ROCK ORCHESTRA - The White Gate Trilogy (2014) inside

"The White Gate Trilogy" is a very nice first effort from Fox and his Renaissance Rock Orchestra - there's more in the making - offering really well composed and arranged pieces (all around the 5 minute mark) superbly recorded / produced and featuring some great guest appearances from the aforementioned Rock luminaries.
Quite Recommended.

01 - J.S. Rock
02 - First Light
03 - Alexander's Symphony
04 - The Author of Mystery
05 - Galadriel

Gregg Fox: keyboards, piano, synths
Robin McAuley: vocals
Elvis Lederer, Ryan McKay, Howard Leese, George Lynch - guitars
Michael Gerbino, Francesco DiCosmo: bass
Scott Rockenfield, Vinnie Castaldo, Brian Tichy, Brent Fitz: drums
Laraine Kaizer-Viazovtsev: strings



EVERGREY - Hymns For The Broken [Ltd. Digipak 2CD] (2014)

EVERGREY - Hymns For The Broken [Ltd. Digipak 2CD] (2014) full


Unparalleled and nonstandard band hailing from Göteborg in Sweden, EVERGREY went to prominence as soon as 1998 with the release of their excellent first effort. Their career, as well as their success on international level, never failed to grow. "Hymns For The Broken", their new fantastic record, could have nonetheless never seen the light of day.
In fact, according to their frontman Tom S. Englund, the band was on the verge of splitting after the last album three years ago. However, just as phoenix rising from its ashes, Evergrey comes back with an insolent class.

Evergrey has always been a band of emotion, darkness, and relation to their listeners. Though dark, there is always hope. Though emotional, they are always profound. Relating to their listeners, then, is immensely important to them, and they have certainly done it again.
"Hymns for the Broken" is an ode to all those fallen, imperfect humans out there that are tossed to by the waves of insecurity, sorrow, and fear. Yet, we are never alone, are we? We all experience the pain of not being who we want to be, but we can be strong knowing that we are not alone. Evergrey had definitely made an album with a positive arc lyrically.

Evergrey has a wide fan base. Though labeled as "dark, melodic metal", the band enjoys support not only from the metal crowd, but also from the progressive community, mainly due to some of their older work. I find it interesting that "Hymns for the Broken" is basically right in the middle of the two genres.
It's far more progressive than their last few albums, especially on the tracks "Black Undertow", "The Grand Collapse", and "The Aftermath", but the focus on melody and metal is still there, too.
This is really smart, and the results are spectacular.

Of note here is the fact that the core group of Tom Englund on vocals/guitars, Rikard Zander on keys, and Johan Nieman on bass have been rejoined by Evergrey-alumni Henrik Danhage on guitars and Jonas Ekdahl on drums.
What this means, then, is that the band has regained some of their older sound, especially with Henrik's signature solos and Jonas' strangely technical-but-not style of playing drums.

Ultimately, though, the band sounds amazing. They've regained a fervor that I didn't think possible again, and they've tried some new things, even though the foundation of this album is certainly the Evergrey I love so well.
Indeed, there are plenty of Evergrey-isms, especially in Tom's vocal melodies, but there are definitely some new ideas at play. Speaking of Tom, there's a reason he's one of my favorite vocalists. He really outdoes himself here with immense range, even the amazing lows of "Black Undertow". His signature emotional style is intact, and he simply sounds great. I'm seriously impressed.

Being a big keyboard fan and also of Rikard's style, I quickly noticed that "Hymns for the Broken" has a great deal more keys on it. Either that, or the mix is just way better. The mix is certainly way more professional and crisper than their last couple albums, but I think that Rickard has really gone out on a limb here with wild keys on such tracks as "Barricades" and "A New Dawn", and he is simply more present from beginning to end.
Yet, the dual guitars sound as great as ever. Tom and Henrik lay down some incredibly heavy riffs on a few tracks, such as "A New Age", "Black Undertow", and especially the middle of "The Fire".
All the riffs are really, really clean, and Jonas' drumming around them is sensational. Johan's bass, too, is utilized in new, atmospheric ways, and I also noticed an electronic element showing itself now and then. Overall, the Evergrey sound is here for sure, but there are some new variations that keep it completely fresh.

EVERGREY - Hymns For The Broken [Ltd. Digipak 2CD] (2014) back cover

So, what more can be said about this album? It's Evergrey at their best, really. Easily among the top three best albums they've made.
"Hymns for the Broken" has something for everyone. Whether it's the melodic metal of "King of Errors", the addictive nature of "A New Dawn" (second best track), the dark yet hopeful "Black Undertow", the emotional ballad "Missing You", the incredible instrumentals of "The Grand Collapse" (my favorite), or the funky sound of "The Aftermath", Evergrey hasn't missed a beat or made a bad track on this album.
I'm sure glad they are back. This will be one of my most played albums of the year, and I don't see that changing any time soon. "Hymns for the Broken" is simply outstanding.

01. The Awakening
02. King Of Errors
03. A New Dawn
04. Wake A Change
05. Archaic Rage
06. Barricades
07. Black Undertow
08. The Fire
09. Hymns For The Broken
10. Missing You
11. A Grand Collapse
12. The Aftermath

Bonus CD:
01. Hymns for the Broken (piano version)
02. Barricades (piano version)
03. These Scars (piano version)

Tom Englund - vocals/guitars
Rikard Zander - keys
Johan Nieman - bass
Henrik Danhage - guitars
Jonas Ekdahl - drums



Thursday, September 25, 2014

MR. BIG - ... The Stories We Could Tell [digipak] (2014)

MR. BIG - ... The Stories We Could Tell [digipak] (2014)


Melodic Hard Rock supergroup MR. BIG are back with a vengeance with their eighth studio album “...The Stories We Could Tell”. The original line-up of Eric Martin on vocals, Paul Gilbert on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and Pat Torpey on drums are returns with some of their most powerful material to date.
This album seriously rocks in a classic, groovin’, rockin' way, where Mr.Big lives up to the name.

Opener ‘Gotta Love The Ride’ is a loud great tempo rocking track with a bluesy feel to it, however there is a groove that runs throughout this track that drives this song along, a killer tune that gets and better with each listen. ‘I Forget To Breathe’ is up next, and follows the same bluesy route. A simple, yet effective chorus keeps this track motorin', while a monster guitar solo flashes.
‘Fragile’ seems to start off as a ballad, but then the sharp guitar riff kicks in and it heads of in a different direction. Eric’s voice is magical on this, delivering the song with real passion, while Gilbert’s playing is immense.
‘Satisfied’ is straight hard rock track with a complex bass playing of Billy Sheehan underpinning the song. The production on this new record is very different than on ‘What If’, Billy’s bass is more 'bass guitar' oriented.

‘The Man Who Has Everything’ is the first of two ballads on here. An acoustic guitar intro gives way to a big soulful vocal from Eric, his voice still sounding as good on this as it did on the debut Mr. Big album 25 years ago, the orchestral strings add a gentler yet fuller sound to the song, however just when we think it can’t get any better, Mr Gilbert comes in with a perfectly timed, short and sweet solo. The man is a genius.
‘The Monster In Me’ opens with a Billy bass run, the track is heavy, dirty, raw. This track belongs to Billy, everybody follows his funky chugging riffs, until finally Gilbert manages to break away into a ridiculously good solo.
‘What If I Were New’ is a different track altogether with the chorus being the fastest part of the track, however that is Mr Big’s style, to keep evolving, trying something new, and to the most part they have succeeded with the choppy guitar work breathing life into this song.

MR. BIG - ... The Stories We Could Tell [digipak] (2014) inside

‘East/West’ features a great blend of acoustic and electric guitar underpinned once more by Billy's sophisticated bass playing on the rocking song. ‘The Light Of Day’ and stays on the hard rock route with a big groove, big guitars, fast bass work and Eric's killer voice all add up to a great track, however it is the latter part of the song that will make you sit up and listen even more as Gilbert and Sheehan do one of their famous dual solos. Just brilliant.
‘Just Let Your Heart Decide’ is the 2nd ballad and far better than ‘The Man Who Has Everything’ Eric sings this one deep, almost sultry in a way, before a glorious chorus washes over the entire song, you’ll be singing this one for weeks. A classic Mr. Big ballad.
‘It’s Always About That Girl’ sticks to the big arena sound, and finally I get a chance to praise drummer Pat Torpey. With Sheehan and Gilbert about poor Pat never really gets a look in, but if you strip back the layers, you will find him there, pounding away. And what an impressive job he does.

This record could be Pat’s swansong however as it has recently been announced that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While he did finish the drum tracks for this album, he will be unable to play (mostly) on the upcoming tour.
Mr. Big intends to announce a drummer in the near future who will handle most of Mr. Big’s drumming duties on the tour and hopes that Pat Torpey will jump on the drums on suitable live songs as well as participating in the group’s acoustic set.
‘Cinderella Smile’ is a mid-tempo melodic rock song. With its simple chorus line it does grow on you, the groove gets to you.
The disc ends with title track ‘The Stories We Could Tell’. Though not the strongest track on here, despite it carrying the album’s title, but like a lot of the songs on here, has a groove running through it that drags you in, and makes you listen to it again.
There's a bonus on this digipak version, a melting live take on the classic ‘Addicted to That Rush’.

MR. BIG - ... The Stories We Could Tell [digipak] (2014) back cover

“...The Stories We Could Tell” is another monster album from Mr. Big, rounding off what will certainly be in my top 10 albums of the year.
Eric’s singing has never been better, Pat’s drumming is tight and regimented, allowing Billy and Paul free reign to run riot over this great recording with, quite frankly, some stunning playing, both feeding off each other yet never losing sight of the songs direction and structure.
An amazing record - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

01. Gotta Love The Ride
02. I Forget To Breathe
03. Fragile
04. Satisfied
05. The Man Who Has Everything
06. The Monster In Me
07. What If We Were New?
08. East/West
09. The Light Of Day
10. Just Let Your Heart Decide
11. It’s Always About That Girl
12. Cinderella Smile
13. The Stories We Could Tell
14. Addicted To That Rush (live; exclusive bonus track)

Eric Martin – vocals
Paul Gilbert – guitars
Billy Sheehan – bass
Pat Torpey – drums



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DEVIL CITY ANGELS - The Devil EP (2014)

DEVIL CITY ANGELS - The Devil EP (2014) full


A new super-group has born: DEVIL CITY ANGELS, which line-up includes guitarist Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns), drummer Rikki Rockett (Poison), bassist Eric Brittingham (Cinderella), and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Brandon Gibbs (Cheap Thrill).
The band formed in June, 2014, with the idea to tour all across the USA during the summer performing songs from all member's famous bands, but also compose new original material.

The tour, with an overhelming response from the public, is still rolling with Devil City Angels adding new dates and venues everyday. So the guys decided to record the already written original material.
There's 4 tracks on this "Devil EP", but the band is so happy, that there's a plan for full album when the tour ends.

"No Angels" will remind you Cinderella's more melodic side, "Bad Decision" has a Poison / Baton Rouge vibe, the catchy "I'm Livin`" bring to mind Ritchie Kotzen solo works, while "All My People" is a fun rocker in the Billy Squier vein.

DEVIL CITY ANGELS - The Devil EP (2014) band photo

All this stuff has been carefully recorded with great production, with all instruments coming out clear.
It's a pleasure listening these guys rocking again, especially Tracii ripping killer solos again.
The EP is not officially for sale, but you can make a donation to Fender Music Foundation and get the tracks digitally.
Can't wait the full album - Very Recommended!

01 - No Angels
02 - Bad Decision
03 - I'm Livin'
04 - All My People

Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) - guitars
Rikki Rockett (Poison) - drums, percussion
Eric Brittingham (Cinderella) - bass
Brandon Gibbs (Cheap Thrill) - vocals, guitar



SARACEN - Redemption (2014)

SARACEN - Redemption (2014) full


Although their genesis happened in the Seventies and original success occurred during the early Eighties, England's SARACEN has had their their greatest output over the last ten years, with their last CD featured here 3 years ago hitting a high score.
The just released "Redemption" is the fourth album in this period, and finds the band working their symphonic prog and melodic rock from familiar strengths.

With creative song composition as a foundation, those strengths revolve around Rob Bendelow's sharp riffs and dramatic leads and Paul Bradder's keyboards, which offer everything accent to pompy atmosphere to bright solos. It's a formula that has worked well for the band, and works great on "Redemption" too.
This new CD is not a concept album like the previous two albums. However, though not thematic, the song "Reacher" is based upon Lee Child's vagabond ex-military police officer Jack Reacher (made kind of wish I had the lyrics for this song, even the entire album).
Another thing that struck me is that there's some rather rockier material here. The aforementioned "Reacher", "Swords of Damascus", "Ready to Fly", some of title track "Redemption", but definitely "Crusader" venture into melodic metal.

SARACEN - Redemption (2014) inside

"Crusader" takes a few minutes to build, but comes on hard and heavy at the midpoint. "Ready to Fly" and "Crusader" are entirely new arrangements of the songs from 1981's Heroes, Saints and Fools. Generally, then, the majority of the album turns on more melodic hard rock.
But there are a few more relaxed, toned down, melodic rock songs like "Catch The Wave", "Road To Yesterday", and "More Than Missing You". Yet even these have strong sparks of rock and groove.
There's one ballad, "You & I", a duet between Steve Bettney and Karensa Kerr.

As usual, Saracen delivers top class music in "Redemption", a greatly structured, musically varied and cleverly written album.
What I love from this band is their ability to blend sympho with pomp with melodic rock resulting in a wonderful, epic piece of music build around a super polished sound.
A bit heavier this time, the rockin' approach for this record is more than welcomed, creating another milestone in the fruitful career of this awesome band.

01 - Rocamadour
02 - Reacher
03 - Give Me a Sign
04 - Geraldine
05 - Swords of Damascus
06 - Road to Yesterday
07 - Crusader
08 - Catch the Wave
09 - More Than Missing You
10 - Redemption (On the 6th Day)
11 - You & I
12 - Let Me See Your Hands
13 - Ready to Fly

Steve Bettney – Vocals
Paul Bradder – Keyboards
Rob Bendelow – Guitar
Simon Roberts – Guitar
Paul Highfield – Bass
Tris Alsbury – Drums



OCEANS OF NIGHT - Midnight Rising (2014)

OCEANS OF NIGHT - Midnight Rising (2014) full


OCEANS OF NIGHT is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Scott Mosher who started as solo artist in the mid-Nineties with 4 albums under his belt, then in 2005 founded Oceans Of Night together with Scott Oliva (vocals) with Alan Smithee on drums.
"Midnight Rising" is their just released third effort, described by themselves as 'bridges the worlds of progressive metal, melodic hard rock and atmospheric, ambient music'. I agree, and resulted in a quite fantastic blend if you ask me.

Oceans Of Night / "Midnight Rising" are pretty unique and that is no mean feat in this time. In fact, I can't stop listening to it. They’ve created something that kept me away from many other discs. Heck! I have to say that whenever I wanted to start writing, their music made my mind drift someplace and wander there for hours at a time.
To introduce the conspirators - we have Scott Mosher on guitar, bass and keyboards (composed, arranged, performed and recorded), Scott Oliva on vocals, and Alan Smithee on drums and percussion.
If I had to mention some names to point you in a direction of what kind of music we deal with here, I would have to say that if you combine guitar work and atmosphere of '80s Pink Floyd, progressive technicality of Porcupine Tree with guitar power of Dream Theater, you would have some of the ingredients. But Oceans Of Night, as said, are unique.

OCEANS OF NIGHT - Midnight Rising (2014) inside

Scott Mosher found a perfect way to take all the right elements from those bands and balance it all with the addition of his own progressive twist on modern prog metal. All of the bands mentioned above got us used to recording being sharp, innovative and clear, Oceans Of Night is no different.
The guitar sound on this record is awesome and futuristic; bass rhythmically hammering melodies, drumming is a heartbeat of an adventure, vocal spellbinding and narrating the venture, and keyboards being in the spotlight, leading the way or complimenting the guitars.

The keyboard plays a humongous role on this album, and combined with the other instruments and vocals they create an unbelievable atmosphere and an emotion that just takes you away into someplace in your mind. You can say the guitar is the engine, keys is the fuel and combined together they are the vehicle that can take you away on the ride.
It feels like hypnotizing voice of Scott Oliva (which at places reminds me a bit of Zak Stevens from Savatage and Circle II Circle, so rest assured that is a voice to love) is being a catalyst that gets you going on a long trip with drums and bass creating a rumble of machinery that takes you there.
Every time I listened to this album I felt like I’m going someplace, like I’m leaving my place to experience something new and unexpected. Every time I said to myself to stay put, I had an idea of how to write about it but as soon as the album starts and before I had a chance to start writing - I was already on a journey.

OCEANS OF NIGHT - Midnight Rising (2014) cd photo

Perhaps the word that better describes "Midnight Rising" is hypnotizing.
Even with the notes I’ve made there isn’t much more I can say to introduce or interest you in this superb piece of music by Oceans Of Night.
Get the album and give it a try, but understand that there are two things that can happen. If you can turn your imagination off the album will be full of gripping guitar work, dazzling solos, captivating vocals, exciting bass lines and genuine drumming.
But if you can keep it on, if you can sit down and let it, it will be inspiring, fascinating, and stimulating and will grab you from the start. I feel like I’ve traveled many places, discovered great many things, seen past or future, journeyed universes and beyond many times over, and here is what I have to say: it is time for you to experience it.
Super, Highly Recommended.

01. The Haunted Mind
02. Midnight Rising
03. Critical Mass / The Breathless Sleep
04. The Burning Sky
05. Crashing Down
06. Gone Forever
07. Is This Who We Are
08. A World Born of Fire
09. Where You Are
10. Reach Me

Scott Mosher - Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Scott Oliva - Vocals
Alan Smithee - Drums, Percussion
Vivien Lalu - Keyboard solos
Chris Rifkin - Guitar solo on 'The Burning Sky'
Stephanie Warren - Vocals on 'Reach Me'



SHAMAN'S HARVEST - Smokin' Hearts & Broken Guns [Best Buy exclusive version +2] (2014)

SHAMAN'S HARVEST - Smokin' Hearts & Broken Guns [Best Buy exclusive version +3] (2014) full


Finally, another US modern rock band has caught my attention. In most cases, when I hear rock bands of today, it is like they are spit out of the same cookie-cutter with all the songs sound the same. Then build four or five decent looking guys to dress alike and call themselves a band. Oh, and do not forget to overuse AutoTune...
SHAMAN'S HARVEST are trying something different (and quite enjoyable) on their fifth studio album "Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns".

Shaman’s Harvest is a quartet based out of Jefferson City, Missouri. Their sound is a potent blend of their Southern rock influences, the region for which they come from, Midwestern humor & work ethic and a dash of 'heavy country' and blues.
The thing that helps set them apart is their lyrics and diversity of material. And their sound; not over-washed at all and pretty hard rockin'.

Kicking off this twelve song offering is "Dangerous", a song featuring a riff heavy groove as thick as the muddy Mississippi with a swagger that sounds like a cowboy swinging the loosely hinged door of a saloon, looking for trouble. Lyrically, it’s a song about being down & fighting back. Fans of killer solos will dig the wicked wah-wah solo contained within.
Check the 'clean radio edit' below for reference, although the album version is better, more raw.

"Here It Comes" opens with a ‘Detroit Rock City’ influenced riff over some toe-tappin’ drumming in the verses before kicking in slightly during the choruses. Nice group harmonies too. "Ten Million Voices" is a showcase for Nathan Hunt's vocal range accented in places by a subtle tribal drum pattern and a walking bass groove.
"Blood In The Water" is one of the more Southern rock songs on the record, and one of the best. It add variation and it's nicely driven by some fuzzy guitars. A little over a minute into it we get some beautiful slide guitar taking over alongside finger snapping which adds to the ambience of the song.

Shaman’s Harvest shows their sense of humor & Midwestern roots on "Country As Fuck", a country blues romp bravado. The rhymes are easy and the lyrics perhaps just a touch sophomoric, but that’s a gleeful revelation in a song meant to be easy and free while possessed of a punchy riff.

Up next is a ballsy choice of a cover tune. The band tackles the Michael Jackson classic "Dirty Diana". Shaman’s Harvest keeps the spirit of the original while adding their flavor to it. There's a cool vocal approach, a nice guitar tone and a blistering solo that ends the song.
Another interesting cut is "In Chains,” the second-to-last song on the album is one of the two most clearly southern-rock influenced songs, beginning with twang-y acoustic guitars that carry throughout the main melody. Support is provided by a variety of percussion instruments (including additional guitars being played more percussively than as stringed instruments).
"Silent Voice" is a piano based ballad that kicks into another dimension with a Slash-esque solo over a haunting chant vocal before mellowing back out with a fine piano coda.
The Best Buy exclusive bonus are good acoustic tunes, a territory that Shaman’s Harvest dominates with ease.

SHAMAN'S HARVEST - Smokin' Hearts & Broken Guns [Best Buy exclusive version +3] (2014) inside

Shaman’s Harvest are much, much more than you typical boring song-by-numbers US modern rock. "Smokin' Hearts & Broken Guns" is a cohesive record yet have different vibes and textures. No two songs sound the same but they fit together really well as a whole.
They have the musicianship and songwriting chops to go far, appealing a wide range of audiences.
I liked this one a lot - Very Recommended.

01 - Dangerous
02 - Here It Comes
03 - Ten Million Voices
04 - Blood In The Water
05 - The End Of Me
06 - Country As Fuck
07 - Hero
08 - Dirty Diana
09 - In The End
10 - In Chains
11 - Silent Voice
12 - Dragonfly (Extended Unplugged Version)
13 - Country As Fuck (Acoustic Version) *
14 - Here It Comes (Acoustic Version) *
* Exclusive Best Buy Bonus Tracks

Nathan Hunt - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Josh Hamler - Guitar, Vocals
Matt Fisher - Bass
Joe Harrington - Drums, Vocals
Derrick Shipp - Lead Guitar, Vocals



ZODIAC - Sonic Child [Deluxe Boxset 2CD] (2014)

ZODIAC - Sonic Child [Deluxe Boxset 2CD] (2014) full


I had never heard of anything from Munster, Germany quartet ZODIAC before this, their 3rd album "Sonic Child", just released in various formats. I can't say enough nice things about this lovable record. If you're a fan of old-school classic rock with hints of seminal bluesy hard rock, this is right up your alley.

The band admits they love new acts in the genre like Rival Sons just as much as digging back into the past of legendary bands, such as Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy. You can feel 'that groove' into their music, crafted with their own personal touch.
These gentlemen just know how to keep things moving along and their musical chemistry makes for great, awe inspiring magic that you just want to hear again and again.
Zodiac opens with a wonderful, charming instrumental, before developing their blend of hard hitting, bluesy, and at times funky riffs, rock solid rhythms, memorable hooks, and the powerful vocals of Nick van Delft.

ZODIAC - Sonic Child [Deluxe Boxset 2CD] (2014) inside

Plenty of meaty hard rock tunes with a blues edge to be found here, such as "Out of the City", "Swinging on the Run" and the title track, each one complete with tasty guitar licks from van Delft & Stephan Gall, but even the slower blues tracks, like "Sad Song" or the smoldering "A Penny And A Dead Horse" really hit the mark, the latter containing some ripping slide guitar work, haunting organ, and intricate rhythms.
"Good Times" is a perfect example of those funky riffs coming into play, as this uptempo track features grooves galore and some really tasty guitar licks. In a perfect world this song should be blasting through speakers & headphones across the globe.

Screaming guitar solos permeate the ZZ Top influenced "Rock Bottom Blues", a blistering slow blues number, and their cover of Bachman–Turner Overdrive's "Not Fragile" is a hell of a lot of fun, as they capture the heavy nature of this classic from the Canadian powerhouse legends perfectly, even throwing in some smokey organ to add a new dimension to the song.
For pure hard rocking fury, check out the vibrant bonus track "Shine On", a really great tune with some effective riffing and strong vocals from van Delft.
This Deluxe Boxset offers a juicy bonus disc with a terrific live performance at Rock Hard Festival and a couple of unreleased tracks.

ZODIAC - Sonic Child [Deluxe Boxset 2CD] (2014) cd photo

With all of the excellent young bands out on the scene now doing the whole retro classic rock / hard rock thing (Rival Sons, Scorpion Child, The Temperance Movement), it can be challenging to keep track of them all, not to mention making sure you don't miss the cream of the crop.
Zodiac are easily in the upper echelon of this revitalized movement, and this latest release from them is proof of just why they deserve your attention.
Very Recommended.

01. Intro: Who I Am
02. Swinging On The Run
03. Sonic Child
04. Holding On
05. Sad Song
06. Out Of The City
07. A Penny And A Dead Horse
08. Good Times
09. Rock Bottom Blues
10. Just Music
11. Not Fragile (Bonus Track)
12. Shine On (Bonus Track)

Bonus CD:
1. Free (Live At Rock Hard Festival 2014)
2. Cortez The Killer (Live At Rock Hard Festival 2014)
3. Upon The Stone (From the Demo 2011)
4. Failure (From the Demo 2011)

Nick Van Delft - Vocals, Guitar
Stephan Gall - Rhythm Guitar
Ruben Claro - Bass, Organ
Janosch Rathmer - Drums, Percussion



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

JADED HEART - Fight The System (2014)

VJADED HEART - Fight The System (2014) full


JADED HEART represent top class melodic hard rock and have become a German rock institution since the band came into existence 22 years ago. Based in North Rhine-Westphalia, Jaded Heart have turned into a German-Swedish formation since 2005 with singer Johan Fahlberg and 2006 with guitarist Östros emphasizing the band’s international standing.
Hot on the heels of the excellent ‘Live in Cologne’ CD/DVD set, Jaded Heart are back with a new album, “Fight The System”, to be released at the end of this week.

There's changes in Jaded Heart. Co-founder and drummer Axel Kruse has departed, replaced by Bodo Stricker (Callejon) whilst live guitarist Masa Eto has also been bought into the fold to thicken up the band’s sound.
Also, as you may know, Jaded Heart's style is more 'metallic' than twenty years ago, still retaining the melodies and anthemic choruses.
“Fight The System” is a full-on blast of melodic and heavy hitting CD. For classic metal fans but eager for a modern, updated sound, there is no doubt that this should be high on your list of albums to check out.
Opening song "Schizophrenic" sweeps into view with a synth hook, an unconventional move which bodes ill until a monstrous riff comes scything in and you realise we’re in Queensryche (‘Empire’) territory, the band indulging in epic riffs, soaring melodies and huge choruses that work their way deep into the consciousness.

"Control" is liable to be of great interest to the unconvinced as it features Masterplan vocalist Rick Altzi who does a grand job of unleashing his metallic roar over the harmonised guitar lines and full-tilt percussion. It’s grand, melodramatic stuff and it’s quite impossible not to be drawn into its wonderful ludicrousness, as massed harmonies, wild solos and metal clichés all pile up to create a gloriously over-the-top blast that is endlessly entertaining.
With a rippling, synth-led intro, "Not in a Million Years" indulges in staccato riffs, incongruously baroque keyboard lines and grinding riffs highlighting just how little Jaded Heart care about convention. Long may they remain so incongruous, because the truth is you’ll hear few songs in this genre that manage to combine such familiar choruses with such crazy sonic manoeuvres on the verse

"I lost my Faith", as you might imagine, is a crunchy, heavy number that delights in heavily muted riffs and glorious solos. Even stripped back, as it is on the verse, the synths keep the pace taut whilst Johan’s vocal performance is top notch, as it remains throughout.
"Nightmare’s over" is a throwback to the Eighties when such songs would regularly make the charts around the world – a huge chorus, a melody that seems custom built to close the latest entry in some ridiculous slasher movie (Friday 13th). Really fun.

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

"Never Free" is one of my favorites, a midtempo killer tune driven by a great guitar riff and crowned by a melodic hard rock chorus. This is classic Jaded Heart and worth the CD alone.
Another riff-tastic beast, "Till Death do us Part" kicks off in style, with a bass guitar that does its best to approximate a revving engine and the band play it fast and loose, bringing to mind Motly Crue at their down ‘n’ dirtiest. But also Danish rockers Fate at its best.
Maintaining the pace "Terror in Me" is a chugging rocker riven through with stuttering synth lines and a vocal performance that is surely the best on the album. Proving they can pack a mighty punch, "Haunted" has a kick ass riff and a potent attitude whilst the weakly titled "Crying" is anything but, the band clearly delighting in flattening the listener with the sort of flame-powered riffs that make you want to leap to your feet in ecstasy.
The album draws to its close with "In the Shadows", the sort of stadium-levelling anthem that you can imagine being sung with gusto by a legion of fans.

Jaded Heart have no intention of reinventing the wheel. They offer little that is new (although they frequently amuse themselves by playing with convention and form), but then that is not the point of the band.
Jaded Heart are here to turn up the volume and bang some heads and in that they are ludicrously successful. There is not a cliché they’re unafraid to use, not a moment that they consider too over-the-top and that is the joy of the band.
Jaded Heart exist out of time and fashion and they sound all the better for it. If you love real, unapologetic, unrestrained Melodic Hard Rock with an edgy, metallic sound, then “Fight The System” is a must.
Highly Recommended.

01. Schizophrenic
02. Control
03. Not In A Million Years
04. I Lost My Faith
05. Nightmare's Over
06. Never Free
07. Till Death Do Us Part
08. Terror In Me
09. Haunted
10. Crying
11. In The Shadows

Johan Fahlberg - vocals
Peter Östros - guitar
Masa Eto - guitar
Michael "Muelli" Müller - bass
Bodo Stricker - drums
Rick Altzi (Masterplan, At Vance) - guest vocals



REFURBISHED - Only Want The Best (2014)

REFURBISHED - Only Want The Best (2014) full


Swedish born producer / artist called 'Big Swede' has an impressive catalog of works during the last 20 years, not only with major pop and electronic acts, but also rock musicians. He has been working in a Hard Rock project entitled REFURBISHED featuring an awesome group of guests, which debut "Only Want The Best" is being released today, September 23.

Big Swede is a multi-instrumentalist, but on Refurbished he basically plays the drums, leaving the other instruments in the hands of 'some cats'.
We have killer guitarists Howie Simon (Jeff Scott Soto, Alcatrazz, Talisman) and Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, Tin Machine), bass players Johnny Griparic (Slash's Snakepit, Richie Kotzen) and Michael Devin (Whitesnake, Lynch Mob, Bonham) and awesome vocalists like Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth), Rod Jackson (Slash's Snakepit), Goran Edman, Mats Leven or Jeff Scott Soto just to name a few.

Refurbished is classic Hard Rock / Classic Rock akin Michael Schenker Group, Slash's Snakepit, Lynch's Mob, etc. You know what I mean.
Some cuts are more modern in the vein of Scandinavian sound of the moment, but always focused in a classic stylings of the genre.
Just check the promo video for "Show Up For The Showdown" featuring Rod Jackson, Howie Simon and Johnny Griparic:

One of my favorites is the razor hard rocker "Digging Your Own Grave" in the best Lynch's Mob tradition, a track with powerful verses, ripping guitar work and a groovy early Nineties feel.
It's always a pleasure listening to Mark Boals (singing leads in two songs, one of them the title track "Only Want The Best"), Goran Edman on the only slow tune here ("Go On and Live Your Life") and the other really solid musicians - the underrated Reeves Gabrels rocks with a terrific six-string work on "The Most Wanted".

However, in my opinion, the songwriting is not always remarkable. These are all good songs, but ultimately not great. Don't get me wrong, "Only Want The Best" is a really fun, entertaining hard rock album, really well produced of course, just not all the songs are impactful.
Anyway, Refurbished is a cool project and if you like the musicians involved (who does not?) you have a plenty to enjoy here.

REFURBISHED - Only Want The Best (2014) back cover

01 - It's Been A Long Time Coming To Rock You
02 - Only Want The Best
03 - Show Up For The Showdown
04 - Convicted Of Loving You
05 - Nothing Feels Better
06 - Good Good Bad Woman
07 - Refurbished
08 - Case Closed
09 - Telepathic Phenomenon
10 - Digging Your Own Grave
11 - Out of Control
12 - The Most Wanted
13 - Go On and Live Your Life

Big Swede - drums, guitar, vocals

Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, Tin Machine) - guitar
Howie Simon (Jeff scott Soto, Alcatrazz, Talisman) - guitar
Laura V Bustillos (LA Velvet) - guitar
Chris Hollywood (The Paramedic, Black Veil Brides) - guitar

Johnny Griparic (Slash's Snakepit, Richie Kotzen) - bass
Michael Devin (Whitesnake, Lynch Mob, Bonham) - bass
Paul Ill (Pink, James Blunt, Christina Aguilera) - bass
Bjorn Englen (Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony MacAlpine) - bass

Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth) - vocals
Rod Jackson (Slash's Snakepit) - vocals
Goran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, John Norum) - vocals
Greg Hampton (Alice Cooper, Lita Ford, Ron Wood) - vocals
Mats Leven (Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion) - vocals
David Keckhut (Made N America) - vocals
Gus Monsanto (Adagio, Revolution Renaissance) - vocals
Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Talisman, Yngwie) - vocals
Natalia Borowsky - vocals



CHARM CITY DEVILS - Battles (2014)

CHARM CITY DEVILS - Battles (2014) full


Baltimore-based hard rockers CHARM CITY DEVILS were one of the first bands signed onto Nikki Sixx’s former record label Eleven Seven Music in 2009, which released the band’s first album. Three years later, they presented the second and supported the one and only Mötley Crüe on the Cruefest 2 Tour that same summer. The band recently opened for The Winery Dogs on the last leg of the U.S. tour. And though they were technically the opening act, Charm City Devils owned the stage like a headliner.
Those major events created high expectations in the Hard rock community about Charm City Devils' new record "Battles", to be released on September 23rd.

On "Battles", Charm City Devils deliver that great classic hard rock style that draws from Aerosmith, Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses and bring it into the 21st Century. All is mixed with a modern production and a quite dirty attitude - on purpose - if you ask me.
Blasting out of the blocks with the anthemic "Tear It Apart", they follow with "Crucify", a much more melodic cut where the group sounds just like 2000's Bon Jovi, especially when it comes to frontman John Allen’s vocals.

The first single that Charm City Devils released from this album is the third track, "Shots". This one is an incredibly rocking tune, and to a new listener of the band, the song can easily be mistaken as a party, ‘throwing-a-few-drinks-back’ song, but listening to the lyrics deeply and carefully reveals that it really is a song with a strong message. For those who know anyone battling addictions or demons, that is the real truth behind "Shots".

"God’s Gonna Cut You Down" not only has the kickin' sound that Charm City Devils is so well known for, but also has that fist-pumping energy and a smoke-filled blues bar vibe that makes the listener want to dance.
One of my favorite tracks is the final offering "Let it Go" where everything is completely stripped down. A very peaceful track, it is just Allen singing passionately and a light string section, clapping to a beat in the background and very minimal on the drums.
It may reminds listeners of 'Love Is on the Way', Saigon Kick's hit from the '90s.

"Battles" Rocks really well; is the sort of album you can throw on in the background when some friends come over to party or crank it up when you are rocking down the highway. Musically everything is louder than everything else, the percussive attack is strong and everything is bright and shiny with plenty of melodies and hooks to have you shamelessly nodding your head to.
The powerful vocals of John Allen standout, it's the old story of the difference between a great singer and a great frontman. On the evidence of this release he is probably in the latter category. You wouldn't know it from the inane stuff that gets played on mainstream rock radio, but this is a great time to be a rock n' roll fan.

Charm City Devils are flying the US Hard Rock flag that was dropped when grunge took over, and they're doing it with great swagger and energy. If you like your Rock music loaded with attitude and just sounds better the louder you turn up the volume, you'll want to get your hands on "Battles" by Charm City Devils, five All American rockers serving up rock music that will not only fill your ears or the room, but an arena.
Strongly Recommended.

01 - Tear It Apart
02 - Crucify
03 - Shots
04 - Everyday
05 - Want
06 - God's Gonna Cut You Down
07 - Destiny
08 - Lying To Yourself
09 - Rich N Famous
10 - Karma
11 - Let It Go
12 - Shots (Radio Version) [digital bonus]

John Allen - Vocals
Vic Karrera - Guitar
Nick Kay - Guitar
Anthony Arambula - Bass
Jason Heiser - Drums



Sunday, September 21, 2014

GARY MOORE - Live At Bush Hall 2007 (2014)

GARY MOORE - Live At Bush Hall 2007 (2014) full


Eagle Records has announced the release of the "Live At Bush Hall 2007" album from the late great GARY MOORE on September 23. This is the first-ever release of this incredible show which contains several tracks that are not available in live versions anywhere else.

This Bush Hall gig is unique in that it was limited to only 400 punters courtesy of radio station Planet Rock who have previously broadcast the whole show. Moore was promoting then new album ‘Close As You Get’ and 7 of its 11 tracks are included.
But with Brian Downey on drums there was a throwback to his earlier incarnation with Thin Lizzy and "Don’t Believe A Word" cuts through with a heavy, hard rocking performance.
In fact, although the bluesy set, all tracks come energetic and rockin'.

From the start, on "If The Devil Made Whiskey" Gary Moore catches a ferocious groove, exploring a suitably dangerous theme on the Almighty’s creation of all things — both good and assuredly bad. It’s a dichotomy not uncommon in the blues, but still one in which the troubled late guitarist finds new depths of meaning, as evidenced within his skin-crawlingly angry solo.
Moore, to be sure, had his demons, and this scalding take on this song explores them, it seems, definitively — not with its lyrical content so much as the way he attacks his instrument.

Also included are three tracks from Gary's landmark album 'Still Got The Blues'("Too Tired", "Walking By Myself" and the monster title track) whilst "The Blues Is Alright" recalls the follow-up ‘After Hours’.

GARY MOORE - Live At Bush Hall 2007 (2014) back cover

"Live At Bush Hall 2007" offers an excellent performance, guitar playing and stunning rich tone of the late and very great Gary Moore.
Very well recorded, this recording is a true statement of his immortal talent that will keep rocking our souls forever.
Easily Recommended.

01. If The Devil Made Whiskey
02. Thirty Days
03. Trouble At Home
04. Hard Times
05. Eyesight To The Blind
06. I Had A Dream
07. Too Tired
08. Gary's Blues 1
09. Don't Believe A Word
10. Still Got The Blues
11. Walking By Myself
12. The Blues Is Alright
13. Sundown

Vocals, Guitars - Gary Moore
Bass - Pete Rees
Keyboards - Vic Martin
Drums - Brian Downey



THOMSEN - Unbroken (2014)

THOMSEN - Unbroken (2014) full


German guitarist Rene THOMSEN released in 2009 his own band debut which featured a wide range of renowned metal stars but the CD was mostly distributed only in Germany.
After five years composing and polishing a new batch of songs, THOMSEN is back with vengeance with his new offering "Unbroken", this time released by the prestigious SoulFood company.

Thomsen is 'old school metal', particularly what it's called Hard 'n Heavy, combining the melody of traditional Hard Rock with '80s Euro metal. There's no better bands in the world for playing this style than the Germans. Well, perhaps the Danish too.
Anyway, Thomsen's "Unbroken" is pure teutonic Hard 'n Heavy somewhere between Accept, Victory and Fair Warning. The latter band is mentioned for the melodic infusions on some tracks.
Occurs that the songs for this album were written by Rene Thomsen together with Fair Warning / Dreamtide guitarist Helge Engelke, who also produced "Unbroken". Fair Warning is known for its anthemic choruses and melodious guitar work, and this is what you will find on "Unbroken" too.

Thomsen secured an impressive array of metal greats to contribute; ex Accept singer Udo Dirkschneider, drummers Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio), Andre Hilgers (Rage, Sinner) and Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Fates Warning, Sebastian Bach, Riot), bassist David Vincent (Morbid Angel), Sinner guitarist Mathias Don Dieth, vocalist Robert Soeterboek (Ayreon, Star One) and more.
Of course, apart from co-writing most of the music, Helge Engelke also drops a couple of melodic solos and produces the record. This is important to note, as like Fair Warning, the sound of "Unbroken" is incredibly clear and crisp.

Ranging from fast hard rockers to mid-paced, fist pumping anthems which recalls the '80s hard rock/metal fringe emerging from central Europe, Thomsen 'borrows' a few parts and pieces from bands like Scorpions ("New Horizon"), DIO in "Break the Spell" and Accept on "We Made It" where Appice delivers a smashing work behind the drum kit. The parallels in the last mentioned one are not a big surprise since ex- Accept Udo Dirkschneider contributes with a guest appearance.
I hear some Saxon, Pretty Maids, 220 Volt too as influences, and I like it.

THOMSEN - Unbroken (2014) full

If you live and breathe traditional metal / hard rock from the late '70s through the late '80s, ballsy Hard N' Heavy in the vein of German pioneers like Accept, Victory or Sinner, then "Unbroken" is targeted at you directly.
The genesis of some of these tracks was initiated up to 20 years ago, and they sound like it! But of course, as said, with terrific production / sound.
Rene Thomsen nails in a very important thing here: the entertainment factor. "Unbroken" really rocks in the old-fashioned way, and always is fun to hear some well done straight-forward melodic German Hard N' Heavy again.

01 - Draw the Curtains [feat. David Vincent on bass]
02 - In Steel We Trust
03 - New Horizon
04 - Break That Spell
05 - Dream
06 - Fools of Fortune
07 - Into the Unknown
08 - Unbroken
09 - Six Thirteen 64 [feat. Mathias Dieth on guitar]
10 - We Made It [feat. Udo Dirkschneider & Vinny Appice]
11 - One
12 - Tears of the Sun (Live from RehearsalStage)

Rene Thomsen, Mathias Don Dieth, Michael Pesin - Guitars
Denis Brosowski, Robert Soeterboek, Udo Dirkschneider - Vocals
David Vincent, Ingo Lühring - Bass
Andre Hilgers, Bobby Jarzombek, Vinny Appice, Max Dietzmann - Drums



Saturday, September 20, 2014

DION BAYMAN - Afterburn (2014)

DION BAYMAN - Afterburn (2014) full


The Melodic Rock sensation from Australia is back: DION BAYMAN came out of nowhere in 2013 with his album 'Smoke & Mirrors' (presented on this blog HERE) which surprised and impressed us with its quality very much back then
Just one year later Mr. Bayman reaches for the stars again with his new record “Afterburn” on September 23rd.

On 'Smoke & Mirrors' Bayman offered us a well crafted and produced Melodic Rock / Rock&Pop record that was easy to listen to because of its smooth songwriting, catchiness, Dion’s warm voice and lyrics from the heart.
First of all: you’ll find this formula again on “Afterburn”, so not much has changed. The songs are extremly catchy (especially the choruses) and the whole album is delicious. Dion’s idols are still Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Richard Marx and Rick Springfield and you hear that immediately.
However, the sonic approach this time is a bit more modern and slightly heavier. That means the guitars are a bit louder and more present, which gives the album a few more edges.
With that said “Afterburn” has finally much more of an Melodic Rock record than its predecessor had, which I really appreciate. Just listen to songs like “Strong” or “You Might Think I Don’t Want You” – these tracks rock!

There are so much melodic jewels on this album again, so I just can’t count them and it’s hard to pick some favorites here. Nearly all tracks are potential airplay hits and in a fair world Dion would rule the radio stations with his music all over the world.
So if you want to get a first taste of “Afterburn”, listen to the first single “Bittersweet” and if you like that one you can buy this album immediately!
Speaking about the production: it’s again very polished and clear and a bit louder this time. One thing that impresses me over and over again is the fact that Dion Bayman is a one-man-band. He makes everything on his own – and I really mean EVERYTHING.
He plays all instruments on this record, he writes the songs, he sings, he mixed, produced and mastered the album all alone without a big budget and then this album sounds so enjoyable. I take my hat for such a stunning performance.

I know it shouldn’t be part of a review, but I just want to add something personal now: in my review to “Smoke & Mirrors” I criticized that Dion didn’t do something to promote his music. Shortly after that he launched his own Facebook page and it is unbelievable to me that he just reached 82 likes in a year.
What is wrong with you, folks? I mean everyone who has a sense for Melodic Rock (and I know that much of the readers of this page have this) should be pleased to have an artist like Dion, who delights us with the music we love, so show your support – he simply deserves it.
Same goes to the record labels – I really don’t get it. Why people like Dion Bayman or Johnny Lima didn’t get a licensing deal? Their records are so much better than any pseudo Melodic Rock project in the last years. Dear labels, give these musicians a chance to grow!

Finally I just can say that “Afterburn” is again a fantastic album from a very charismatic guy who makes passionate music with heart and soul.
I enjoyed every minute of this record and I’m pretty sure sooner or later Dion Bayman will get the success he deserves. For now you should buy this album, because it is simply essential for every Melodic Rock fan out there. (written by Thomas Schwarzkopf).
Highly Recommended.

01. The Great Unknown
02. Bittersweet
03. I Remember
04. You And I
05. Into My Arms
06. You Might Think I Don't Want You (You're Wrong)
07. Never Fade Away
08. Strong
09. Possession
10. Morning Light

All vocals and instruments by Dion Bayman
Album written, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Dion Bayman



STRYPER - Live At The Whisky (2014)

STRYPER - Live At The Whisky (2014) full


Pioneer Christian hard rockers STRYPER will release a concert CD/DVD combination called "Live At The Whisky" on September 23 via Frontiers Records. The live recording was captured at a sold-out show last November at the legendary Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood, California.
The 16-track collection documents the band's first show in support of its latest, critically acclaimed release, 'No More Hell To Pay'.

There’s very little found throughout Stryper’s "Live At The Whisky" that has the potential to rub dedicated followers the wrong way. We find the band’s entire original lineup running through a set list which takes the appropriate visitation of the hitssuch as “Calling on You” and “Loud and Clear,” while also standing close to selections from their latest ‘No More Hell to Pay.’
Once the metal train has left the station, this listener’s advice is that you’d best jump aboard and enjoy the ride before you’re run over by a bombardment of escalating vocal melodies and accelerating guitar solos.
The show is immediately propelled forward with the vocal snarls and crashing percussion work that accompanies the new cut “Legacy,” before the members of Stryper transition into another freshly crafted anthem, the commanding “Marching Into Battle.”

2013's ‘No More Hell to Pay’ was largely considered by critics and longtime admirers alike as a formidable return-to-form for this veteran hard rock collective, so to find Stryper with the confidence to present their latest work at the helm of their live performances is an enjoyable quality on "Live At The Whisky"
Also notable is the fact that the band doesn’t even attempt to touch up these recordings in the studio, which makes the moments where Michael Sweet does execute a lung bursting scream (ie. “The Way”) all-the-more memorable.
The sound of the recording is clear, potent, and the instruments widely mixed as if you were there in the show.

“Definitely need your help on this one, your voices are better than ours,” Sweet encourages the audience before Stryper moves into the ‘In God We Trust’ fan favorite “Always There For You,” however a clear majority of fans should find that to be an unostentatious statement as the backing section of bassist Tim Gaines and guitarist Oz Fox nail the song’s climbing vocal harmonies.
As for Robert Sweet? He’s occupied with matching his original percussion tracks from almost three decades ago with apparent ease.
From a band perhaps more readily known for their share of chart-topping power ballads rather than for their predominantly hard rockin' side, Stryper doesn’t attempt to drop the rhythm guitar-led pace of “All For One” or “The Rock That Makes Me Roll” in exchange for a lighthearted moment in the form of 'Honestly' or 'First Love'
No, there's no ballads here, this is a take-no-prisoner record.

STRYPER - Live At The Whisky (2014) back cover

Stryper’s set is boldly concluded with a proper rendition of “To Hell With the Devil” completed with the broadcasting of the opening instrumental “Abyss,” as well as a pitch perfect run through of “Soldiers Under Command.”
What more could a diehard fan ask for from a new Stryper live outing? Or a hard rock fan in general?
"Live At The Whisky" ROCKS.

01. Legacy
02. Marching Into Battle
03. You Know What To Do
04. Loud And Clear
05. Reach Out
06. Calling On You
07. Free
08. More Than A Man
09. The Rock That Makes Me Roll
10. No More Hell To Pay
11. Jesus Is Just Alright
12. Always There For You
13. All For One
14. The Way
15. To Hell With The Devil
16. Soldiers Under Command

Michael Sweet: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Robert Sweet: Drums
Oz Fox: Guitar, Vocals
Timothy Gaines: Bass, Vocals



Friday, September 19, 2014

MOONLAND (featuring Lenna Kuurmaa) - Moonland (2014)

MOONLAND (featuring Lenna Kuurmaa) - Moonland (2014) full


Getting a boost back to the international musical stage is Lenna Kuurmaa, mostly known for her vocal work with Vanilla Ninja, an all female pop-rock band had some international success in the early 2000's. Afterwords, she pursued a solo career, but now that solo career is being backed by Frontiers Records and the debut CD under the MOONLAND moniker.

As the label often does, they find a European singer, write some songs for her, and then build a band around her, often as a one-off project. In this case it's "Moonland Featuring Lenna Kuurmaa", with composer and musician Alessandro Del Vecchio handling most of the songwriting duties and overseeing the production.
Do the math putting label, songwriter, producer and singer together, you know the sum. This is AOR melodic hard rock of the classic order begun in the Eighties.

MOONLAND (featuring Lenna Kuurmaa) - Moonland (2014) inside

Kuurmaa has a strong smooth voice fit for both melodic rockers and more harder nuances, at times reminding of a cross between Pat Benatar and Lita Ford, maybe some Robin Beck.
You have edge from big riffs and the kicking drums, with nice appointed keyboards and stylish flaming guitar solos.

With Del Vecchio taking the lead in composition you're guaranteed some darn catchy material, with hooks in lyrics and arrangements, and a feel-good vibe. Not to dismiss Ms. Kuurmaa, but the music is rather impressive.
Some favorite picks from the melodic rock side are "Another Day in Paradise", "Out of Reach", "Poison Angel" and "Crime of Love". There are two cool poppy ballads with "Open Your Heart" and "Live and Let Go", the former more a building anthem and the latter of the quieter variety with voice and piano.

In light of some recent attempts at the same thing by the label - thinking Issa and Angelica projects - 'Moonland featuring Lenna Kuurmaa' is definitely on par if not a stronger effort than those.
So, if female-fronted AOR Melodic Rock is your thing, this is a really good, solid and entertaining material.
Highly Recommended.

01 - Heaven Is to Be Close to You
02 - Open Your Heart
03 - Crime of Love
04 - Poison Angel
05 - When Love Is Gone
06 - Out of Reach
07 - Live and Let Go
08 - Cold as Ice
09 - Over Me
10 - Heart Made of Steel
11 - Look at Us Now
12 - Another Day in Paradise

Lenna Kuurmaa - lead vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio - keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
Francesco Marras - guitars
Bruce Gaitsch - nylon guitar
Anna Portalupi - bass
Alessandro Polifrone - drums



Unique Visitors
View My Stats

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP