Saturday, January 31, 2015

WAKE THE NATIONS - Sign Of Heart (2015)

WAKE THE NATIONS - Sign Of Heart (2015) full


Melodic Rock / AOR fans of all time surely remember Human Temple, the Finnish band which released seome very good albums during the past ten years. Founder member guitarist Risto Tuominen now returns with a new project called WAKE THE NATIONS and its debut CD entitled "Sign Of Heart".
The album features many guest musicians and vocalists, including bandmate in Human Temple Janne Hurme on several tracks.

Each track reveals different facets mostly due the variation of lead singers, but basically "Sign Of Heart" it's a traditional Scandinavian Melodic Rock / AOR disc with strong '80s / early '90s influenced sounds.
From the typical Scandi AOR of opener "Fairytale Romance", through the more mainstream Euro Rock (“This Feeling”) to some modern sounding West Coast like the song “Love Distracts The Senses” (featuring a great vocal work by Human Temple's Janne Hurme), every parcel of this easy listening genre is covered with success, enhanced by some sing along catchy hooks and contagious chorus.
Some tracks are built in a massive keyboard driven direction like the uptempo “Love Leads The Way”, others are more guitar oriented (the solid riff-based “So Broken”), while some are clearly crafted in a commercial targeting purpose, such as the radio / arena ready “All I Want”.

WAKE THE NATIONS - Sign Of Heart (2015) inside

Masterminded by Risto Tuominen - a talented guitar 'orchestrator' - WAKE THE NATIONS delivers a bunch of instantly adorable songs spawning Melodic Rock, AOR, West Coast and some Melodic Hard melodies all in one disc.
This kind of diversity is a double edge sword because it’s not easy to create a mental picture of the sonics on this “Sign Of Heart”, but if you love the entire Melodic Rock spectre (with a Scandinavian sound), there's something for everyone here.
And all truly enjoyable.
Easily Recommended.

01. Fairytale Romance
02. The Touch Of Your Hand
03. All I Want
04. So Broken
05. Love Distracts The Senses
06. This Feeling
07. Sea Of Emptiness
08. Love Leads The Way
09. Until The End Of Time
10. Who Am I

Risto Tuominen - Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Janne "Gekko" Granfors - Bass
Jori Tojander - Keyboards
Tuomas Pelli - Drums
Janne Hurme (Human Temple) - vocals track 5, 7, 8, 9
Dado Topic (Time) - vocals track 6
Estef Martinez (Insider) - vocals track 3, 7
Taage Laiho (Ghost Machinery) - vocals track 2
Krister Stenbom (Villa Sucka) - vocals track 1, 4
Nils Nordling (Dirge Eternal) - vocals track 8
Timo Pelander (Finlanders) - guitar solos track 2, 9
Jari Pailamo (No Man's Land) - keyboard solo track 2
Kalle Saarinen (Clayskin) - drums track 7, 9



BILLY WALTON BAND - Wish For What You Want (2015)

BILLY WALTON BAND - Wish For What You Want (2015) full


From the fruitful New Jersey shore line comes a band worth spending your leisure time on; the BILLY WALTON BAND.
They’ve taken the long way round with 4 albums and an EP already under their belt, but their just released "Wish For What You Want" is my first meeting with the guys, where they have nailed a true, soulful Classic Rock bluesy style.

The emphasis is on strong songs, deep grooves, Billy’s confident vocal performance and his subtle tone colours, while the band’s sparkling interplay is framed by a top class production from Tony Braunagel and a crisp mix by the famed John Porter.
Above all, "Wish For What You Want" shows a well oiled band with tons of feeling complete with a cool guitar work and a warm keyboard playing, while the magnificent horn section of Ian Gray & Sean Marks fits perfectly into a succession of tight arrangements that are given a solid foundation by rigorous rhythm section of drummer Johnny D’Angelo and bassist William Paris.

Mike Finnegan’s Hammond B3 feature sets the standard on the opening title cut and Billy responds with a deep solo over a fabulous horn arrangement and some climatic band interplay.
And then of course there’s the fast growing songwriting partnership of Billy Walton and Randy Friel. Friel produced the band’s previous album, and his lyrics lock in perfectly with Billy’s bristling style.
On this first track you know these guys sound like a real tight unit when you hear the subtle drop-down in the middle: only musicians that have been together for a while can produce such great spark.

After this really good opener, the album as a whole also stretches their musical horizons, with elements of rocking funk, soul, bluesy hard rock and simply great songs.
"True Lovin Man" is a perfect example, being a classic rocker driven by a lovable melody with real commercial possibilities and it’s matched by the soulful, piano led "Til Tomorrow".
The Billy Walton Band explore a musical equilibrium that suites their style without sacrificing their natural exuberance. And when they do rock out as on "‘Come On Up", they suitably build up the tension and then resolve it with a tightly wrapped, clean toned solo from Billy.

BILLY WALTON BAND - Wish For What You Want (2015) inside

There's a down-home number in "Blues Comes A Knockin’", which is neatly juxtaposed by "Forgive And Forget", a killer funky groove with a Hendrix style sculpted wah-wah solo and powerful horn lines.
We have a change of pace and tone on the atmospheric "Change", which is built on a John D’Angelo neat drum pattern. It’s a reflective piece on which Billy’s voice is mixed slightly back as he contributes a nicely distorted solo.
He switches to slide on "Worried Blues" a meditative piece on contemporary times that could have been extended, while "Hudson County Star", despite written in a quite American style, sounds pretty British.

The Billy Walton band is a powerhouse outfit that operates within soulful, funky and bluesy classic rock & roll parameters, and "Wish For What You Want" is a mature and convincing piece of work.
Billy Walton and his guys effortlessly weave in and out of the groove. Their solid and entertaining songs fuses spark and polish to great effect.
"Wish For What You Want" is an aptly titled CD, as the band could surely not have asked for a better circumstances; they will be touring all over Europe the next four months presenting this really good slab of Classic Rock.
Very Recommended.

01 - Wish For What You Want
02 - True Lovin' Man
03 - Mountain
04 - Come On Up
05 - Blues Comes A Knockin'
06 - Forgive And Forget
07 - Change
08 - Worried Blues
09 - Till Tomorrow
10 - Just To Walk That Little Girl Home
11 - It Don't Matter
12 - Hudson County Star

Billy Walton - vocals, guitars
Mike Finnegan - keyboards, Hammond B3
Ian Gray, Sean Marks - horns
William Paris - bass, vocals
Johnny D’Angelo - drums, vocals



Thursday, January 29, 2015

LEGION - Animal Inside / Animal Within (2015)

LEGION - Animal Inside / Animal Within (2015) full


LEGION, the Melodic Hard Rock band assembled by vocalist Phil Vincent and Bob Catley's guitarist Vince O’Regan are ready to release their 7th CD "Animal Inside".
As curiosity, the digital version of the album will be entitled 'Animal Within', to not be confused with the title track already released as advance one month ago through iTunes, Amazon digital, etc.

Legion continues with the batch of one-album-per-year, as bands used to do twenty years ago. And the best part of it is that the quality of the material on offer seems to not decrease.
Of all Phil Vincent projects, Legion is the more musically balanced: combines melodic rock with a hard rock edge.
Also, the songwriting in Legion is mostly handled by talented partner guitarist Vince O’Regan (Bob Catley, Escape UK), truly showcasing his skills to craft catchy tunes yet with muscle. And we have lots of massive six-string chops.

"Animal Inside" is much more melodic than the last Legion albums.
Whilst the band always has had a definite Dokken influence, over the years Legion developed some kind of own, trademark style.
With their beefed up riffs still intact, the guys worked intensely to create more punchy choruses, and elaborate the songs to avoid repetition.

Among the more 'melodic approach' on this new CD we have the pumping "Fantasy", the midtempo "Roll The Dice" (one of my favorites adorned with clean guitars), the very good ballad "Come Back To Me" (nice atmospheres) and the groovy title track.
"Only A Dream" and "Black Cloud" are deeper compositions with a Winger feel, while "Turn Back Time" and "Don't Mean Nothing" are the harder, more hard rocking numbers driven by thick George Lynch-like riffs. All solid stuff.

LEGION - Animal Inside / Animal Within (2015) inside

Legion is a band that has honed their craft over the years, and with their seventh album "Animal Inside" confirm they are more than a solid outfit.
The new record finds the band more Melodic Hard Rock oriented than before, with Vincent really convincing at the mic, and O'Regan laying down impressive rhythm lines and tight, effective solos. Cooper and Hopgood form a very consistent rhythm section, seeming comfortable no matter the style of the song.
A very strong new album from a band that really needs the right attention.
Very Recommended.

01. Fantasy
02. Roll The Dice
03. Only A Dream
04. Waiting For The End Of The World
05. Come Back To Me
06. Turn Back Time
07. Standing Alone
08. Animal Inside
09. Black Cloud
10. Don't Mean Nothing

Phil Vincent - vocals (D'Ercole, Tragik)
Vince O'Regan - guitar (Bob Catley)
Jeff Summer - keyboards
Gavin Cooper - bass (Lionsheart, DiAnno)
Steve Hopgood - drums (Jagged Edge, DiAnno)



ADRENALINE MOB - Dearly Departed (2015)

ADRENALINE MOB - Dearly Departed (2015) full


Although featuring awesome vocalist Russell Allen in the line-up, I never liked ADRENALINE MOB. Their two albums were too disjointed to my ears, that's why never were presented here on the blog.
But this "Dearly Departed" to be launch on February 9 via Century Media is different, and I liked a lot.

"Dearly Departed" is in fact a covers album and also features acoustic versions of songs from their two studio CDs, plus a previously unreleased track recorded during the band sessions last year.
The disc opens with melting, bluesy hard rocking take on Pat Travers' "Snortin' Whiskey", and man, Adrenaline Mob rock your socks off.
This confirms my problem with the band's own penned songs: they are not consistent enough, but give these guys a good song to work on and the play awesomely.

We have a great version of "Devil Goes Down To Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band which I was dubious about, as the guitar playing of Mike Orlando replaced the frantic fiddle playing on the original. It works a treat though.
The other top notch cover is Queen’s "Tie Your Mother Down". This version fair shakes the dust from the rafters!
The "Black Sabbath Medley" is solid too, with Russell Allen very close to Ronnie James Dio's magic.

"Gets You Through The Night" is an unreleased track from the ‘Men Of Honor’ sessions. It is a no nonsense old-school hard rocker pretty much different from what the band has been doing on their albums. Perhaps this is the reason I like this one a ton.
The acoustic version of "Crystal Clear" allow Russell Allen’s voice to take centre stage, while Mike Orlando plays some mean acoustic guitar on "Angel Sky".

ADRENALINE MOB - Dearly Departed (2015) inside

"Dearly Departed" may be an unusual release for Adenaline Mob's fans, but for me it's a very good record, in fact the first I can really appreciate from this combo.
If your ears are more Melodic Hard Rock / Classic Hard Rock oriented, don't miss "Dearly Departed". It's a great opportunity to enjoy these talented musicians (especially Allen) doing - this time - well written songs. And they are terrific at it.
Strongly Recommended.

01. Snortin' Whiskey (Pat Travers cover)
02. Dearly Departed [edited version]
03. The Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels cover)
04. Crystal Clear [acoustic version]
05. Black Sabbath Medley (Black Sabbath cover)
06. Gets You Through The Night [prev. unreleased]
07. Angel Sky [acoustic version]
08. All On The Line [acoustic version]
09. Tie Your Mother Down (Queen cover)

Russell Allen - vocals
Mike Orlando - guitars
AJ Pero - drums, percussion
Erik Leonhardt, John Moyer - bass



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SOTO [Jeff Scott Soto] - Inside The Vertigo (2015)

SOTO [Jeff Scott Soto] - Inside The Vertigo (2015) full


Jeff Scott Soto – one of today's premier Rock frontmen and vocalists – is back in 2015 with a new solo album. But it isn't really a solo album, because Jeff has decided to comprise his touring crew into a real 'band' under the name SOTO.
Simply put, SOTO's debut CD "Inside The Vertigo" (to be released next January 30th) will blow your mind away.

SOTO not only sounds as true band, but it’s also for Jeff Scott Soto a shift in a heavier, darker direction than previous solo offerings such as ‘Damage Control’.
"Inside The Vertigo" is really a heavier mosaic of all the singer's influences – it is still possible to detect his melodic and soulful approach given bite by his excellent band – two of whom feature in Tempestt with whom Soto toured previously.
SOTO is comprised of Jeff's most current solo band, who he insisted on making this musical merge with him. Jorge Salan (lead guitar), the super-talented BJ (keys, guitars), David Z (bass) and Edu Cominato (drums).

Produced by Jeff, the album features tracks co-written with his bandmates as well as a bunch of his famous friends / colleagues. Collaborators include guitarists Gus G (Firewind, Ozzy), Jason Bieler (Saigon Kick), Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) and Joel Hoekstra (Night Range), all of whom perform on their penned tracks for the album.

SOTO [Jeff Scott Soto] - Inside The Vertigo (2015) inside

There is a relentless driving rocking force to the whole album, from the opener "Final Say" which builds over a monster riff and a splendidly frenetic Jorge Salan guitar solo.
This groove-laden approach is continued throughout, always grounded in a memorable chorus and showcasing Jeff’s incisive vocals such as "The Fall" and "Wrath", whilst "‘Break" and "Karma’s Kiss" have that gut-churning grip that proves irresistible.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the mid-album epic "End Of Days" - which with its hint of school choir could be Soto's ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ - but much darker and with an orchestral undertow, shows a progressive side of SOTO. The song raises its tempo and adds tons of harmony vocals arranged and performed in an awesome way. This song is a BLAST.
More traditional 'melodic Soto' is evidenced on "When I'm Older", an utterly superb standout ballad and great vocal performance as we’ve come to expect and coming across like a much heavier version of Toto in places.

SOTO [Jeff Scott Soto] - Inside The Vertigo (2015) back cover

SOTO's "Inside The Vertigo" is impressive all over: original, innovative, rocking, with incredible performances and a million bucks production. But, moreover, sets the Melodic Hard Rock bar rather too high for the rest of 2015.
This goes straight to my 'Best Of The Year' list.

01. Final Say
02. The Fall
03. Wrath
04. Break
05. Narcissistically Yours
06. End Of Days
07. Inside The Vertigo
08. When I’m Older
09. Trance
10. Jealousy
11. Karma’s Kiss
12. Fall To Pieces

Jeff Scott Soto - lead and backing vocals
Jorge Salan - guitars
BJ - keyboads, guitars
David Z - bass
Edu Cominato - drums
Special guests:
Gus G (Firewind, Ozzy) - guitar
Jason Bieler (Saigon Kick) - guitar
Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) - guitar
Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger) - guitar



THE POODLES - The Greatest / House Of Cards (2015)

THE POODLES - The Greatest / House Of Cards (2015)


Swedish Melodic Hard Rock sensation THE POODLES are back with 'Devil in the Details', their sixth studio album to be released in March 25, and follow-up to the critically acclaimed 'Tour de Force'.
Today, The Poodles are presenting the first single off the album entitled “The Greatest”, including the B-side “House Of Cards”.

Following the evolution of the band's sound evident on the previous CD, the Poodles continued their collaboration with producer Mats Valentin.
“The Greatest” is indeed a great, anthemic midtempo ballad full of magic, while B-side “House Of Cards” shows a groovy, marching melodic rock feel with a punchy riff and a scorching guitar solo.

All in all, The Poodles have had over ten 'top 10' singles in Scandinavia so far - which makes them one of Sweden’s most successful Rock bands - and I'm sure this one won't be an exception.

1 - The Greatest (3:57)
2 - House Of Cards (4:32)

Jakob Samuel - Vocals
Christian Lundqvist - Drums
Johan Flodquist - Bass
Henrik Bergqvist - Guitar



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

STARGAZERY - Stars Aligned (2015)

STARGAZERY - Stars Aligned (2015) full


We were pleased on the blog three years ago with the debut album from STARGAZERY, the Finnish Hard Rock band fronted by the ex-Michael Schenker Group vocalist Jari Tiura, completed with several ex-members of Burning Point (another talented Finn band).
After that successful CD, Stargazery returns this 2015 with their sophomore effort "Stars Aligned", where the band fell back on the old adage: 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Then added another word of wisdom: 'Go Big or go home'.

In this sense, first, Stargazery has stuck to their formula of classic mid-Eighties (melodic) Hard Rock with an edge. As I said about their debut album, they sound a bit like Whitesnake, '80s Black Sabbath and latter period Rainbow, only with the keyboards at the forefront more often.
To the latter adage, these keyboards seem even more grand and encompassing. The guitar riffs as well, and when put together, "Stars Aligned" has monsterous bombastic sound. Indeed, this record sounds 'Big'.
Yet, groove, melody and vocal harmony are never lost. Everything's just larger - and better in my book.

Good examples of the more ambitious keys and guitar come with "Bring Me The Night", the killer "Missed the Train to Paradise" and "Painted Into A Corner" with its fantastic Hammond organ parts that seems coming out of the classic Uriah Heep repertoire.
Yes, the keyboards have an old school flair all over the album. While this motif abounds throughout, perhaps the best example comes when Stargazery covers Cher's "Dark Lady". They easily trump the Pomp of the original with a terrific delivery.

"Absolution" is in the great '80s Tony Martin / Black Sabbath kind of atmosphere, while "Academy Of Love" is more tagged in the heaviest mood of British AOR of the '90s. Of course, this is a highlight.
In "Angel Of The Dawn" vocalist Jari Tiura sounds like a perfect dead ringer for Rob Rock, and on the fierce "Dim The Halo" he sings similarly to the famous Graham Bonnet, sometimes like a young David Coverdale.
His vocal performance through the whole recording is simply astonishing and flawless, very diverse from high soaring to delicate crooning. The entire classic Hard Rock singing text-book is employed by the singer with taste and class.

STARGAZERY - Stars Aligned (2015) back cover

Stargazery's "Stars Aligned" is a fantastic piece of Classic Hard Rock.
The orthodoxy of the genre is perfectly respected, set in the eternal mode of excellence created by the likes of Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, Tony Iommi... Stargazery's dedication and their stainless faith is indisputable.
All comes out of the speakers truly engaging, entertaining, and often, seriously over the top and melodic. Add to this an amazing modern production / mix, and you have a winner here.
If the first try was already more than an enjoyable disc, this second effort from Stargazery is one step higher in the satisfaction scale, a pure Classic Hard Rock eargasm.

01. Voodoo
02. Angel Of The Dawn
03. Missed The Train To Paradise
04. Invisible
05. Absolution
06. Academy Of Love
07. Painted Into A Corner
08. Dim The Halo
09. Bring Me The Night
10. Hiding
11. Warrior's Inn
12. Dark Lady
13. Tumma Nainen (Special Bonus track)

Jari Tiura (ex Michael Schenker Group) - Vocals
Pete Ahonen (Burning Point) - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jukka Jokikokko (Burning Point) - Bass, Backing Vocals
Marco Sneck (ex Kalmah) - Keyboards
Jussi Ontero (Burning Point, ex Wildcard) - Drums



CYANIDE - Lethal Dose (2015)

CYANIDE - Lethal Dose (2015) full


Born in Sin City several years ago, rockers CYANIDE are releasing their debut "Lethal Dose" today, January 27th.
All members in the band are experienced musicians who have been rocking Las Vegas and the Bay Area with various projects, opening for the likes of Skid Row, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, Doro Pesch, Bulletboys, Black 'N Blue, Tuff, and more.

Founded by vocalist Robert Hussey & guitarist Marc Andrews, Cyanide started as a cover band playing in Las Vegas doing classics such as Queensryche's 'Queen of the Reich', Motley Crue's 'Ten Seconds to Love', Warrant's 'Down Boys', etc.
In a city filled with bands that often serve up the same generic rock and metal covers day in day out, Cyanide has managed to stand out largely thanks to a mixture of covers and original material alike.
Soon their own penned songs gained such strength that the band needed to record the stuff and put it on CD.
And this is what we have on "Lethal Dose": 11 originals with a sound that hearkens back to the glorious, sleaziest days of the Sunset Strip.

CYANIDE - Lethal Dose (2015) inside

Yes, "Lethal Dose" is a pure Hair Metal album. The kind of polished, clean, bombastic second half of the Eighties recordings.
If you did not know better, you would swear this album was recorded back in the '80s amidst all of the biggest bands on the day.
The aim was to obtain a sound like a 'Bob Rock produced record', and they have pretty accomplished the task. Everything sounds bright, potent and crisp.
Okay, you know the production is great and this album sounds like a true product of the '80s... but how are the actual songs on the record? You will be relieved to know that these songs are damn good and fit the mood perfectly.
As soon as the album kicks off, you are greeted with "Bitches to Blame", which very well could have been an anthem had it been released back in the day.

With tracks like "Drinkin", "Pump it to Me", the party-ready "Lookin' for a Good Time", first single "What Comes Around Goes Around" or the sleazy album closer "Whole 'Lotta Trouble" (dedicated to the legendary Sherri's Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada), this album perfectly brings back the spirit and attitude of the Hair Metal heyday.
Cyanide really sounds like '80s Ratt, Motley Crue, Kix, Bulletboys, and they even have a track entitled "Nikki Sixx in Disguise" - a blatant and obvious Motley tribute, but that just makes the song all the more amusing and enjoyable!
Of course a Hair Metal record needs a 'slower tune' balance, and the excellent "Groovin’" (one of my favorites) go for an elaborated midtempo pace.
Then the obligatory power ballad: "It's a Long Road" avoids the common place for this kind of songs still including all the classic elements to turn it memorable.

CYANIDE - Lethal Dose (2015) back

Definitely not a parody like Steel Panther, Cyanide brings back the fun, enjoyable party rock of the past with style and quality on all levels.
Great musicianship, a perfect singer for the genre and stupendous production provides to "Lethal Dose" a status of 'a major label lost '80s recording'.
Their 11 song debut album is full of high octane, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll fueled tracks. Yes, there's dirty lyrics too, and should have deserved a 'Explicit Content' sticker on the cover.
The ever present consistent songwriting prove this band has what it takes to drive '80s Hair Metal into the next generation.
And of course, it's a joyful ride for long-time fans of this underestimate genre.
VERY Recommended.

01. Bitches to Blame
02. Drinkin'
03. Pump It to Me
04. Flying Free
05. Nikki Sixx in Disguise
06. Devil Inside Me
07. Groovin'
08. Lookin' for a Good Time
09. What Comes Around Goes Around
10. It's a Long Road
11. Whole Lotta Trouble

Rob Hussey: Vocals
Marc Andrews: Guitar
David Karr: Bass
Ryan Gillan: Drums
Miranda Trenholm: Backing Vocals



Monday, January 26, 2015

SHADOWQUEST - Armoured IV Pain (2015)

SHADOWQUEST - Armoured IV Pain (2015) full


A new Swedish beast has born: SHADOWQUEST, a supergroup of sorts with its members combining a great amount of experience both past and present in the metal field.
Their strangely titled "Armoured IV Pain" CD debut is being released today (January 26th), what it's not strange at all is the quality delivered through these 11 songs.

ShadowQuest's impressive personnel includes Jari Kainulainen (Masterplan, Devil’s Train, Evergrey) on bass, Kaspar Dahlqvist (former Dionysus, hard rockers Nation) playing keyboards, Patrik Johansson (Bloodbound, Dawn of Silence) helming the lead vocals, Peter Huss (Shining, former Sinergy) / Ragnar Widerberg (Witherscape, Saint Deamon) teaming up on guitars, plus Ronny Milianowicz (Sinergy, Dionysus) holding down the fort on drums.
Together they cook the proven formula for an amazing melodic, groovy power metal band: creative songwriting, stellar vocals, outstanding solos, mood enhancing keyboards, and more hooks than a coat rack.
If you come into ShadowQuest expecting that European melodic metal has now been completely overhauled, you will be sadly disappointed.

What you will find is that elements borrowed from the band members’ past history and those of the greats who came before make “Armoured IV Pain” an incredibly enjoyable, memorable, and exciting debut.
On its face, you may gloss over “Armoured IV Pain” with the thought that it’s all been done before and there aren't enough new ideas brought to the table.
Well, if you dissect the songs carefully, there are clear nuances like beefier grinding riffs that create original heavy atmospheres, fluid natural time changes, and terrific melodic bridges and choruses.
The entire album is bound together by Dahlqvist’s ear popping – but not mega-overpowering - keyboard work, and Johansson’s vocals that transcend any other singer not named Rob Halford.

First off, the outstanding “Where Memories Grow” – with its punchy riff and symphonic power chorus tops the list of the album’s best tracks. “Blood of the Pure” is a perfect opener – providing power and melody that sets the tone for the album.
“We Bring Power” is the heaviest of the lot, showcasing those monster riffs from Huss / Widerberg. “All One” is the prototypical Euro metal tune, borrowing so heavily from Johansson’s Bloodbound that its nearly indistinguishable. His vocals on this track alone are a clinic on effortless delivery, perfect pitch and outstanding range.
Patrik is by far in the upper echelon of metal vocalist both present, past, and likely future.

SHADOWQUEST - Armoured IV Pain (2015) inside

“Live Again” is pretty awesome, representing the band’s tribute to ex-Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki, who had assisted drummer Ronny Milanowicz – also the producer of the album – during the production. Internally, the band calls the track “Anima Mundi, Part II.”
“Where Memories Grow” changes the pace a bit, beginning with a beautiful piano solo to start it off, and is then joined by a more orchestral paralleling introduction with a lighter entry by the rest of the band to accompany the grand entrance. This song has a more tempered 12/8 feel to the time, and carries a poignant sense to the melody and the lyrics.
“Freewheel Burning” is the final song on the digital release of the album, and a cover of the Judas Priest song, a la ShadowQuest style. This version is fairly close to the original, with a slightly updated sound with their own signature approach.
This remake is a worthy homage to the band, especially since ShadowQuest’s sound could be easily compared to that of Judas Priest, so this bonus track is a nice nod to their musical predecessors (and contemporaries).

“Armoured IV Pain” is a stellar debut, with a stellar cast of musicians. While they don’t break many boundaries and stick to the European melodic metal formula, they don’t apologize for it… and pull off incredible performances to boot.
With masterful production by Milanowicz (the crisp sound is awesome), this album easily could rival the last Allen / Lande recording.
Very Recommended for all audiences.

01. Blood Of The Pure
02. Last Farewell
03. All One
04. Live Again
05. Midnight Sun
06. Reach Beyond The Dream
07. We Bring Power
08. Insatiable Soul
09. Take This Life
10. Where Memories Grow
11. Freewheel Burning (Judas Priest cover)

Patrik Johansson (Bloodbound) - Vocals
Peter Huss (Shining, ex-Sinergy) - Guitars
Ragnar Widerberg (Witherscape) - Guitars
Jari Kainulainen (Masterplan, Devil's Train) - Bass
Kaspar Dahlqvist (Nation, ex-Dionysus) - Keyboards
Ronny Milianowicz (ex-Dionysus, Sinergy) - Drums



U.D.O. - Decadent (2015)

U.D.O. - Decadent (2015) full


One of the most unique vocalists in the history of Heavy Metal may also be the most prolific, and yet Udo Dirkschneider gets far less credit for pioneering and defining the genre than he deserves. After two decade plus fronting Accept, Dirkschneider went solo forming his own band U.D.O. and since then has released thirteen studio records and five live albums.
"Decadent" it's U.D.O. brand new album for 2015.

Udo Dirkschneider always will be 'the voice of Accept'. Period.
I love his albums with Accept, which defined a genre, a sound, a style. To be honest, I don't like it much his later work with U.D.O., a quite miss and hit lifeless (for me) metallized mud.
Dirkschneider has the chops, the broken voice, all the experience and he clearly knowns what real headbanger fans want, but somehow (again in my opinion) U.D.O. never worked.
The man just need good songs, a more hard rockin' / hard n' heavy sonic approach and bright production, all things pretty absent on most of his U.D.O. records.

Well, "Decadent" restored my faith in Udo Dirkschneider.
Packing the best songs he has composed in the las 20 years, a cool production job, and a fitting, dynamic band - including bassist Fitty Wienhold (ex-Bullet) and Edge of Forever / Hardline drummer Francesco Jovino - "Decadent" rocks.
Indeed, with these guys with a Hard Rock pedigree in the rhythm section, now U.D.O. sounds much more bouncy, groovy, almost catchy.
Yes, "Decadent" has a pretty Accept feel, and this is what old-school fans want. The twin guitar attack is not as sharp as Accept (but the spirit is there) but this is logical, U.D.O. needs to sound more updated, modern.
And both factors, the old & the new, combined together, work really well in "Decadent".

Each and every track stood out in their own unique way. From the adrenaline fuelled “Untouchable” to the captivating ballad “Secrets In Paradise”, each song had a story to tell and it suited every mood.
Title track is filled with socially accurate lyrics, and then "House of Fake" is no nonsense, take no prisoners classic heavy metal, now called 'classic rock'
"Mystery" sports a bloodcurdling menace, while in "On Pain" Dirkschneider's anger at those who dictate modern society is feverishly evident. A giant middle finger is raised throughout.

U.D.O. - Decadent (2015) inside

Dirkschneider's barbaric bark and Smirnov & Heikkinen‘s melodic riff work, fuse brilliantly on "Breathless". If you suffer from a severe build up of wax in your ears "Under Your Skin", will act as the perfect antidote. This full blooded metal track has the whole band in feral mode, especially drummer Francesco Jovino, who batters his toms with savage gusto and groove.

"Decadent" marks a return for Udo Dirkschneider to classic metal stuff.
The material feels elaborated, some with a complex song structure, meaningful lyrics and chunk heavy riffs in the traditional heavy metal style.
For this record, many of U.D.O. members are new to the fold, and you can hear the difference revitalizing the whole thing.
If you never liked U.D.O. (as me), you should try "Decadent". It's a dynamic, groovy rocking record recapturing some of the magic of Udo Dirkschneider's Accept years.

1. Speeder
2. Decadent
3. House Of Fake
4. Mystery
5. Pain
6. Secrets In Paradise
7. Meaning Of Life
8. Breathless
9. Let Me Out
10. Under Your Skin
11. Untouchable
12. Shadow Eyes

Udo Dirkschneider - Vocals
Andrey Smirnov - Guitars
Kasperi Heikkinen (ex- Gamma Ray live) - Guitars
Fitty Wienhold (ex- Bullet) - Bass
Francesco Jovino (Edge of Forever, Hardline) - Drums



Sunday, January 25, 2015

THE GRAMMERS - Journey (2015)

THE GRAMMERS - Journey (2015)


Hailing from Turku, Finland, THE GRAMMERS have been together since 1999. After winning the Finnish Rock Championship in 2002, they relentlessly toured Scandinavia / the Baltics and put out five records, but this freshly 2015 published "Journey" it's their first album released internationally.

The Grammers plays Classic Rock of all time, but with their own spin. This means a typical Scandinavian touch in the melodies.
Influenced by traditional acts from Britain and America, The Grammers infuse to their guitar / keyboard riff driven songs a strong melodic patina and a feel-good vibe all over. There's some traditional Hard Rock pump on several tracks inspired in the classic Seventies, with nice choruses and harmonies.

THE GRAMMERS - Journey (2015)

All over its 11 tracks, "Journey" showcases in The Grammers a mature band clearly knowing what they do: catchy Classic Rock with a true rock n' roll spirit.
Vocalist Hannu Vainionpää raspy pipes is one of the band's biggest winning cards. The guy owns a powerful yet controlled and clear voice which turns more middle range on harder songs like "Sign of the War" where utilises his entire vocal cord arsenal.
More accessible, easy listening rockers include "Kids", the bluesy "Hey Mama", "U.S. Of A." or "Home Love".
My favorite is opener and title track "Journey" which pretty much represents The Grammers' style and where you can find some of their 'influences'. Check the video-song below.

From a scene dominated by Melodic Hard Rock / Metal acts (at least talking about Rock related) that is the Scandinavian, The Grammers emerge as one of the best current Classic Rock bands from the area.
Feel good, fun songs is what "Journey" has to offer, and deliver the goods. Everything comes out lavish melodic and polished (bright production), genuinely enjoyable indeed.
Very Recommended.

01 - Journey
02 - Brother
03 - Hey Mama
04 - Kids
05 - Glitter & Glow
06 - Sweet Liberation
07 - Sign of the War
08 - U.S. Of A.
09 - Home Love
10 - Flight to Mars
11 - Tsar Bomba

Hannu Vainionpää - vocals
Ville Vesalainen - guitar
Hannu Huitu - guitar
Tuomo Pfaler - keyboards
Saku Kujala - bass
Jussi Vuola - drums



Saturday, January 24, 2015

ULI JON ROTH - Scorpions Revisited Volume 1 (2015)

ULI JON ROTH - Scorpions Revisited Volume 1 (2015) full


Legendary German guitarist ULI JON ROTH will release a new double album, "Scorpions Revisited - Volume 1", next February 9, 2015.
Roth, one of Scorpion's founder members, has freshly re-recorded songs from the band's early period when he was the lead guitar and composer.

Uli states: "The material we recorded for this project will be released in two stages, beginning with a double CD, which was recorded last year in the same hall near Hanover that we used for the Scorpions rehearsals 1973-1978.
Together with an amazing bunch of very talented young musicians, I revisited my personal favourites from the early Scorpions period, some of which were written in that same hall.
It was an emotional few days and I am very pleased with the results in more ways than one."

He continues: "The idea was to stay truthful to the original spirit of the music, while also putting a new slant on it whenever it felt like the right thing to do. I feel we succeeded in this.
It was a intense journey into the past and I think we really managed to bring the songs back to life with a vengeance. They seem to have a timeless quality and it was easy to revisit this music and fill the old songs with new life."

ULI JON ROTH - Scorpions Revisited Volume 1 (2015) inside

Indeed, these songs from Scorpions' early days from albums like "Fly To The Rainbow", "In Trance", "Virgin Killer" and "Taken By Force", now in perspective, are amazing compositions.
With a strong hard rock foundation, Roth was the key factor to add a wonderful progressive touch to song such as "In Trance", "We'll Burn The Sky", "Catch Your Train" or the awesome "The Sails Of Charon".
These new versions are literally 'reinterpretations': Roth combines technical expertise with soulful sonic landscapes giving to the songs a revitalized feel.

The riffs and solos played with his home-built guitar Sky are more complete than the originals, while what he tickles from his dulcimer with a range of fabulous six octaves, has no equal.
Uli's backing band here is fabulous, including ex- Zeno bass player / backing vocalist Ule W. Ritgen, and terrific British lead singer Nathan James, that sounds like a good mix of Michael Kiske, Tony Martin and Joe Lynn Turner.

ULI JON ROTH - Scorpions Revisited Volume 1 (2015) back cover

"Scorpions Revisited" could easily have become a wallow in nostalgic mud, and sunk under the weight of the originals. But Uli Jon Roth has brought so much joy and style to these early Scorpions songs that they take on a new life.
It's hard to believe that these songs have been composed four decades ago.

Disc 1:
1. The Sails Of Charon
2. Longing For Fire
3. Crying Days
4. Virgin Killer
5. In Trance
6. Sun In My Hand
7. Yellow Raven
8. Polar Nights
9. Dark Lady

Disc 2:
1. Catch Your Train
2. Evening Wind
3. All Night Long
4. We'll Burn The Sky
5. Pictured Life
6. Hell-Cat
7. Life's Like A River
8. Drifting Sun
9. Rainbow Dream Prelude
10. Fly To The Rainbow

Nathan James - Vocals
Uli Jon Roth - Guitars, Dulcimer
Niklas Turmann - Guitar, Vocals
Corvin Bahn - Keyboards, Vocals
David Klosinski - Guitar
Ule W. Ritgen - Bass
Jamie Little - Drums



Friday, January 23, 2015

CARE OF NIGHT - Connected (2015)

CARE OF NIGHT - Connected (2015) full


Two years ago at 0dayrox we proudly presented in exclusive the debut EP from CARE OF NIGHT, a new Swedish AOR bringing all the magic from the genre to the new millennium.
After shedding more than seven tears over the split of Seven Tears back in 2009, three of that band’s members initially stuck together (bassist Fredrik Lager subsequently stepped aside) to form Care Of Night and here finally is their debut studio album "Connected", released today through - yes - AOR Heaven Records.

I for one am eternally thankful that these guys stayed together to bring us such fantastic AOR / Melodic Rock, and if you like the classic, keyboard-driven side of the street from the genre then you really do have to get "Connected".
Names as Da Vinci, Dalton and Europe are mentioned as influences, alongside new acts like Work Of Art and Houston, so we know what to expect, we think, but what we get is a surprise.
"Connected" (produced by the Wigelius brothers) doesn't transcend genre clichés, it embraces them, then shapes them into something coherent and totally fresh.
Dynamic songwriting, sharp guitars, bouncy rhythm section, keyboards galore, a classy singer, tons of harmonies and top choruses are the motto of Care Of Night, and I love it.

All the songs in "Connected" indeed switch on you an emotional connection to the comforting warmth of '80s AOR, where it all began. But Care Of Night adds a contemporary feel turning things even more interesting and enjoyable.
The opening cut "Cassandra" is the perfect summary of what this album is all about, bright and bold with a sparkling factor in the catchy melodies in the key of love. If the amazing vocalist Calle Schönberg takes the lead and shares with his superb voice and his positive energy, the other members are more than competent, notably Jonathan Carlemar who provides some first class lead guitar chops in the subtle tradition of Schon & Scholtz (check "Those Words" or "Unify").

CARE OF NIGHT - Connected (2015) inside

The urgent "Contact" (another highlight) is driven by fluffy keyboard melodic line, but without resign muscle and power. A rocker that Loverboy would be proud of, and as with most albums of this much loved genre the themes are mainly about the trials and tribulations of love.
Add to these songs like "Heart Belongs" or the slick, awesome mid-tempo "Say A Prayer" and this album will no doubt be a regular listening partner for me for quite a while to come, it’s easily up there with FM and White Widdow's more recent releases.
"Dividing Lines" with it's beautiful piano led into and verse segues into a heart wrenching chorus complete with lovable harmonies, then on "Please Remember" the backing vocals swell and subside around while the guitars and keyboards race to crescendo, ready to underline an inviting killer hook.

CARE OF NIGHT - Connected (2015) back cover

Sweden seems to be an inexhaustible AOR / Melodic Rock hot bed... "Connected" by Care Of Night is another clear proof and a must have for any rocker with a heart.
Every song is pulled taut, stretched across deceptively simple arrangements, and Care Of Night never let the tension slacken, leavening the mix occasionally with an emotional yell or a suitably snarling guitar.
"Connected" is truly a triumph of passion, a work of genuine flair and accomplishment, rich in melodic detail. The aforementioned Work Of Art and Houston, as well as H.E.A.T, Brother Firetribe and others should take heed. There’s a new kid on the block.
And they are awesome. They are called Care Of Night.

01 - Cassandra
02 - Hearts Belong
03 - Those Words
04 - Dividing Lines
05 - Say A Prayer
06 - Contact
07 - Please Remember
08 - Unify
09 - Give Me Strength
10 - Say You Will

Calle Schönberg - Lead Vocals
Jonathan Carlemar - Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Kristofer von Wachenfeldt - Keyboards, Vocals
Jonas Rosengren - Bass
Linus Svensson - Drums, Vocals



IMPERA - Empire Of Sin (2015)

IMPERA - Empire Of Sin (2015) full


Whenever I see the name Matt Alfonzetti on anything, I know one thing: that what I am about to listen to will be of the highest quality, and "Empire Of Sin", the third album from IMPERA is certainly no different.
Throw into the mix the legendary Tommy Denander (Toto, Paul Stanley and Michael Jackson to name but a few) on guitar and you have the perfect collaboration that comes together, and releases one hell of a great album.

Impera's 2nd album was a bit dubious in the songwriting department, but on "Empire Of Sin" the guys polished the thing to the extreme: only 10 tracks but consistent as granite.
Along with the explosive and spectacular, jaw-dropping lead axeworks by Mr. Denander (“Don’t Stop”, ”Lost Boy”), the other thrilling and most obvious parameter in the Impera’s musical triumph is the superb vocal performance by Matti Alfonzetti, a very energetic actor in the Swedish Metal Scene since the mid '80s in countless bands like Bam Bam Boys, Talisman, Skintrade, Jagged Edge, etc.
And the rhythm section is great as well: mastermind Johan Kihlberg aka J.K. Impera on blast the drums, while the deep bass parts are played by Mats Vassfjord (Laney's Legion, Grand Design).

IMPERA - Empire Of Sin (2015) inside

Except for the track “Darling” which is a calmer bluesy rocker, this new opus is set in an 'angrier' mood, it offers a furious slab of heavy riffage (“Fly Away”) with a darkest feel (the slight epic and TENish “End Of The World”), an unusual density in the thematic (“Hole In The Sky”) and a more metallic edge in perfect concordance with this new found songwriting method.
Yes, Impera's new composing approach is more direct and impactful.

The brilliant “Never Enough” (a highlight) is the more AORish song on the record, a mid-tempo driven by a groovy riff quite similar to Van Halen, but with the stunning “Thunder in Your Heart”, the heaviness takes once again its prominency. “Thunder in Your Heart” is co-written with John Levén - founder member and bass player in Europe - who also contributes with a solo, but on the electric guitar!
“Light In The Sky" is an anthemic cut, a manifesto to the power of wilderness with many Whitesnake overtones, and another subtle and emotionnal solo spot for Denander.

Clearly, "Empire Of Sin" it's Impera's best album, and if you love your Swedish Hard Rock hot & tasty enhanced with a Melodic focus, this is for you.
The sound design created by band leader / drummer Johan Kihlberg, and mixed by Lars Chriss (Road II Ruin, Lion's Share) is also powerful and in harmony with this new Impera's approach: sharp, rocking and in concordance with the strong temper of headbanging songs such as opener “The Beast Is Dead” or “Evil”.

IMPERA - Empire Of Sin (2015) back

Impera have matured and honed their sound to rock you hard, and "Empire Of Sin" is their best album without a doubt. The band just signed with this third CD their own, signature style & sound.
Musically, 2015 starts pretty fast with an incredible bunch of sublime releases, and this is another one to add to the Top list.

01. The Beast Is Dead
02. Evil
03. Don't Stop
04. Hole In The Sky
05. End Of The World
06. Thunder In Your Heart
07. Lights In The Sky
08. Darling
09. Lost Boy
10. Fly Away

Matti Alfonzetti - Vocals
Tommy Denander - Guitar
J.K. Impera (Graham Bonnet, Vinnie Vincent Band) - Drums
Mats Vassfjord (Grand Design, Laney's Legion) - Bass
Special guest:
John Leven - lead guitar on 6



Thursday, January 22, 2015

DEVIL'S TRAIN - II [DigiPak incl. Bonus Track] (2015)

DEVIL'S TRAIN - II [DigiPak incl. Bonus Track] (2015) full


When we presented here two years ago the selft-titled debut from DEVIL'S TRAIN we were very impressed by the wonderful gut-churning, ball-grabbing, riff-fest set of songs packed on the CD. The band is back with the second album simply entitled "II" to be released tomorrow January 23rd.
All credit, then, that this is more than just a one-off project for ex-members of Stratovarius, Mystic Prophecy and Evergrey. Indeed this is a great assemble consisting of Mystic Prophecy's iconic mastermind and producer RD Liapakis on the mic, drum legend Jörg Michael known to be in his long career for heroes like Rage, Stratovarius, Saxon and more, plus four-string Finn Jari Kainulainen (Masterplan, Evergrey) on bass, and Mystic Prophecy's Lakis Ragazas on guitar.

"II" is just another killer, hot, ripping collection of hard n' heavy songs.
The riffs and catchy songwriting are still in place and this seems to be pitched from the Slash / Myles Kennedy handbook of hard rocking with a modern sound, but inspired in the classic sounds of the genre.
Simple and irresistible hard rockers like the monster opener "Down On You", the Whitesnake-esque "Can You Feel" or "You And Me" rock your socks off. There's a fun old-school feel on the feisty "Hollywood Girl", while "Let's Shake It" adds a lot of groove.
As an album of riff-based raunchy tunes it still takes some beating from the relentless churning of "Mr Jones" and the bluesy "Rock Forever" to the pneumatic (and more modern) "Girl Like You".

At difference with the debut, there's no place for ballads on "II".
Instead, we have two cool covers. The first is the classic "Born To Be Wild" done with a ripping riff as base, smashing drums and raspy lead vocals.
Then the other is a very personal, heavy take on Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", where the pace has been accelerated a bit for a major impact and the guitar wah-wah rule.

DEVIL'S TRAIN - II [DigiPak incl. Bonus Track] (2015) inside

If this is the new vision of what is Hard N’ Heavy in 2015, I am all in. DEVIL'S TRAIN kick some serious ass with "II"
Nowadays so many bands try to reshape the glorious era of the '80s where Hard N’ Heavy outfits made it to the crown jewels. Sadly, those hungry days are all but gone with only memories and the older versions of the bands that profiled them.
Aside from a few true groups that still follow the old paths, the rest run towards the unknown with nothing more than decent releases that aren’t even close to the past. Some would call it age, but I think that it has nothing to do with it.
Motivation is the key to success following the long standing devotion for the music. If an older band doesn't have it, it won’t work for long or almost every release will end up being a drag.
Well, this is not the case with DEVIL'S TRAIN, a band that can be considered as how old-school, made in modern hands, should exactly sound and feel like.

01 - Down On You
02 - Hollywood Girl
03 - Gimme Love
04 - Mr. Jones
05 - Can You Feel
06 - Rock Forever
07 - Let's Shake It
08 - Girl Like You
09 - Born To Be Wild
10 - You And Me
11 - Thunderstorm
12 - Suffocated
13 - Immigrant Song (Bonus Track)

R.D. Liapakis - Vocals (Mystic Prophecy, Valley’s Eve)
Jörg Michael - Drums (ex Running Wild, Saxon, Stratovarius)
Jari Kainulainen - Bass (Masterplan, ex Stratovarius, Evergrey)
Lakis Ragazas - Guitar (Mystic Prophecy)



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LEVEL 10 - Chapter One (Japanese Edition) (2015)

LEVEL 10 - Chapter One (Japanese Edition) (2015) full


Frontiers Music Srl will release LEVEL 10's debut album, "Chapter One", in Europe on January 23, in North America on January 27, and in Japan today. Now here’s a super-group with a lineup that’s sure to get people’s attention.
Level 10 features vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob), bassist Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner), guitarist Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween), guitarist Alex Beyrodt (Silent Force, Primal Fear), drummer Randy Black (ex-Primal Fear) and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Voodoo Circle, et all).
As if that weren’t enough, the album also boasts guest appearances from Magnus Karlsson, Carsten Schulz, Sander Gommans and Amanda Somerville. This is 'top shelf' talent in every spot, so expectations are quite high for the band’s debut, appropriately titled "Chapter One".

In terms of overall style, Level 10 sounds exactly like you’d expect it to given the players involved: this is catchy melodic metal somewhere between Primal Fear, Sinner and Allen-Lande.
However, there's more groovy material in between: “Soul Of A Warrior”, the ballad “All Hope Is Gone” and “One Way Street” sound like they came off a Rocky Soundtrack. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but that’s the feeling I got. These songs' foundation are in the '80s Hard Rock / AOR vein, done now with heavier guitars and more balls.
Of course there’s certainly a 'Metal' edge and a dark side to some songs as well like “Blasphemy” and “Demonized”, but the motto in "Chapter One" is catchiness.

Given the players involved, you know what you can expect from each position on the album. The guitar work is impeccable, merging heavy and melodic sides perfectly.
The rhythms show just how much chemistry Sinner and Black have together, and of course Russell Allen sounds like the vocal titan he is. We hear a lot of the more melodic side of his voice from the Allen-Lande collaborations, but there is also a good dose of 'Angry Russell' plenty of power.
There isn’t a single individual performance that you could find fault with here.

On paper "Chapter One" should be one of the albums of the year. In reality it’s a really good rocking album that at the end of the day isn’t equal to the sum of its parts. As good as it is to have these stellar performers in one place, the songwriting – good as it is – perhaps isn’t up to the task.
Don't get me wrong, "Chapter One" is a completely enjoyable album and one that grabs your interest throughout, but there are no instant classics here that you know you’ll be listening to a decade later, like you do with Allen-Lande songs, as example.
Again, this is a really strong album, and Level 10 sounds awesome as unit. I just miss that 'memorable' tune.

LEVEL 10 - Chapter One (Japanese Edition) (2015) back


01 - Cry No More
02 - Soul Of A Warrior
03 - When The Nighttime Comes
04 - One Way Street
05 - Blasphemy
06 - Last Man On Earth
07 - In For The Kill
08 - Voice Of The Wilderness
09 - All Hope Is Gone
10 - Demonized
11 - The Soul Is Eternal
12 - Forevermore
13 - All Hope Is Gone (Acoustic Version) *
* Japan Only Bonus Track

Russell Allen - Lead & Backing Vocals
Mat Sinner - Bass, Backing Vocals
Roland Grapow - Guitar
Alex Beyrodt - Guitar
Alessandro Del Vecchio - Keyboard
Randy Black - Drums, Percussion



JORN LANDE & TROND HOLTER present; Dracula - Swing Of Death (2015) Japan Edition

JORN LANDE & TROND HOLTER present; Dracula - Swing Of Death (2015) Japan Edition


Norwegian Rock Stars, singer JORN LANDE and guitarist TROND HOLTER (aka Teeny of WIG WAM), have created a new Rock Opera concept album about the life of Count Vlad the III, Prince of Wallachia, widely known as Vlad, The Impaler or by his patronymic name Vlad Dracul(a).
"Dracula - Swing Of Death", to be released this weekend via Frontiers Records (available today in Japan), explores the inner struggle inside the multifaceted and engorging character that this mysterious 15th Century personality was, while also taking into account some of the metaphysical aspects that passed into literature, forming the whole basis of the vampire mythos.

Alarm bells sounded in my head as reading in the press sheet the words 'Rock Opera Concept Album'. Has Jorn taken a risk too far or has he once again proven to be an originator, willing to catapult his talent into uncharted waters?
"Dracula - Swing Of Death" is an album detailing the story of Dracula (combining factual and fictional aspects).
What makes this different from many previous rock operas is that there are no monologues, no interludes and no orchestral forays to create an atmosphere.
This collection is an album of ten anthems of varying styles pulled together as a musical narrative.

Where many concept albums over the years have been caught up on delivering a convoluted storyline that easily became the prime focus of the artist, Holter and Lande already had one of the greatest stories ever told and all they had to do was adapt the epic struggle of eternal love into their classic Hard Rock compositions.

“Walking On Water” and “Save Me” carry strong melodic sensibilities alongside Thin Lizzy harmonies. The title track is the real curveball as it is more vaudevillian than metallian and the flow of the album benefits from its ingenuity. The grotesquely gargantuan “Masquerade Ball” allows Dracula/Lande to bellow forth about his insatiable need – 'Tonight on you I’ll dine'.
The vocal of Lena Fløitmoen who covers both Mina and Lucy is a succulent highlight on the album as her voice brings a crisp and sharp contrast to the gravelly rasp of Lande.
Their trade-offs on the aforementioned “Save Me” and “Into The Dark” are what defines the album and brings the story to the forefront. “Queen of the Dead” could slot into the Jorn live set let alone the theatres to which the stage production is already being lined up.

Holter’s guitar work throughout and notably on "True Love Through Blood" is clinically organic with a rich tone that lets his stringed voice be as much a character in the story as that of Lande’s or Fløitmoen’s.
"River of Tears" and the album curtain call "Under The Gun" are old school Euro classic rock anthems that feed the lifeblood of the story that true love never dies.
This Japanese version of the album includes the excellent bonus "Hands Of Your God" that deserved to be included into the regular release; it's a dark, moody and somehow charming semi-ballad plenty of rich (and terrifying) atmospheres.

JORN LANDE & TROND HOLTER present; Dracula - Swing Of Death (2015) Japan Edition inside

With "Dracula: Swing Of Death", Lande and Holter have delved deep within themselves, stoked the fires of inspiration and created their own chapter in the artistic mythos of the lovelorn Prince.
“Listen to them, the children of the night, what music they make”...


01 - Hands Of Your God
02 - Walking On Water
03 - Swing Of Death
04 - Masquerade Ball
05 - Save Me
06 - River Of Tears
07 - Queen Of The Dead
08 - Into The Dark
09 - True Love Through Blood
10 - Under The Gun
11 - Hands Of Your God (Exclusive Japan Bonus Track)

Jorn Lande – Vocals
Trond Holter – Guitar (Wig Wam, Dream Police, Jorn)
Bernt Jansen – Bass (Wig Wam, Sin City, Adrenalin)
Per Morten Bergseth – Drums (Source Of Tide, Sonic Debris)
Lena Floitmoen Borresen – Duet Vocals On 5, 6, 8, 10
All songs written by Trond Holter & Jorn Lande
Produced by Jorn Lande & Trond Holter



Monday, January 19, 2015

ARCANE - Known / Learned [2CD] (2015)

ARCANE - Known / Learned [2CD] (2015) full


Australian Prog will soon rule the world. There are so many wonderful progressive bands coming out of down under right now, but, without a doubt, ARCANE is the greatest of all.
Arcane spent the last 5 years to craft their new fantastic opus "Known / Learned" (to be released tomorrow), and what an album it is!!!
As you may have suspected, "Known / Learned" is a double album of epic proportions, complete with a darkness / light theme, a heavy disc (Known) and a softer one (Learned), and emotional lyrics.
This being their third album, how does Arcane fare? Can they really pull off an album in excess of 130 minutes?

The answer is a definitive "yes". I'm incredibly impressed with the grace, maturity and compositional tightness with which this massive album was created. The band is: Jim Grey on vocals, Michael Gagen on guitars, Matt Martin on keyboards, Adrian Goleby on bass and Blake Coulson on drums.
Michael's guitars are stuttering brilliance, and the rhythm sections on both albums are massive successes, especially Blake's mad drumming.
Jim's vocals, however, are on a level of their own. This guy has the range, the tone, and the lungs to out-sing just about anyone. From quiet, beauteous moments to blaring monuments, Jim Grey makes this double album work. Need convincing? Listen to "Womb".

ARCANE - Known / Learned [2CD] (2015) inside

Arcane has a rather distinctive sound that carries on in this double album. On "Known", soaring melodies crash straight into hefty riffs and incredible polyrhythmic instrumentals with results that aren't quite metal, but could certainly be called that.
"Known" is a joy from start to finish, with an opening track that grabs your attention, "Promise [Part 2]" in a jawdropping amazement. It continues on with high level compositions, including the amniotic "Womb" and the greatness of the 20+ minute epic "Learned".
In fact, the latter has one of the best closing five minutes that I've heard in some time.
Catchy, impressive on a technical level, and always sublime, "Known" is near to a masterpiece.

"Learned" is a much different album. Dropping the technical feats of the previous album, "Learned" explores a more human, delicate side to the band. In fact, it's much more relatable and personal, as the band isn't hiding behind a wall of sound, so to speak.
The CD begins strongly with "Hunter, Heart & Home", featuring a consistent and addictive melody. Other strong tracks include "Nightingale's Weave", which loops and spins around your mind precariously; and "Impatience and Slow Poison", which has that slow building effect that can be so incredible.

ARCANE - Known / Learned [2CD] (2015) cd photo

Arcane has created here a piece of work close to masterpiece.
I think the success of "Known / Learned" is almost entirely down to the fact that this is not a double album. This is two completely separate albums, and should be treated as such.
Sure, they have overlapping themes and titles and the digipak has this cool ying/yang thing going in the art (excellent packaging), but in essence these albums are their own entities with their own themes and styles and they should be treated as two separate sides of a whole.
And both are amazing.
"Known / Learned" is the sort of releases that has so many great moments, an ambitious undertaking of considerable length and one where Arcane show that they are capable of making it in the big leagues.

Disc 1: Known
1. Promise [Part 2]
2. Unturning
3. Instinct
4. Womb (In Memoriam)
5. Selfsame
6. Holding Atropos
7. Keeping Stone: Sound on Fire
8. Learned

Disc 2: Learned
1. Hunter, Heart & Home
2. Little Burden
3. Impatience and Slow Poison
4. Known
5. Nightingale’s Weave
6. Eyes for the Change
7. Keeping Stone: Water Awake
8. Promise [Part 1]

Jim Grey: Vocals
Michael Gagen: Guitars, Hair
Matt Martin: Keyboards
Adrian Goleby: Bass
Blake Coulson: Drums



Saturday, January 17, 2015

ICE BLUE - Back To The Light (2015)

ICE BLUE - Back To The Light (2015) full


At the beginning of the century, the was a flourishing AOR movement in Spain with bands like Airless, 91 Suite, Eden Lost, Nexx, Hardreams o Elyte releasing very good albums.
In the lot there was also ICE BLUE which debut is still regarded by fans of the genre as one of the finest from the era. Now after 12 years Ice Blue is back with the second effort "Back To The Light".

The only remaining member from the original line-up is Miguel Bravo (guitar, backing vocals) accompanied by young bandmates making clear that AOR is still alive and kicking in the blood of new generation of musicians.
Female singer Elena Cintora owns a really sweet vocal timbre, Guillermo Gutierrez delivers a varied arsenal of keyboards / pianos and the rhythm section is solid, all orchestrated by Bravo's polished riffs and solos.
While the sound of Ice Blue 2015 is much more Melodic Rock oriented than before, the AOR melodies still spring throughout.

"Back To The Light" offers a bunch of lovely crafted (with a strong appreciation of details) melodic songs.
Opener "The Light Of This World" is plenty of keys, punctuated guitar riffs and a catchy chorus. The vocal phrasing is suave and Bravo's solo - as on the entire record - really interesting.
Other highlights include the mid-tempo Melodic Rock of "For Loving You", the rocking, broken "Give Me Action" and the moving "Never Surrender".
More smooth are the modern AOR of "Don't Stop Dreaming", "Don't You Break My Heart" and "Far Away From You".
Of course there's nice ballads in "Always Be In My Mind", and the best, called "Tears In The Dark", orchestrated with lots of synths and where Cintora showcases her sugar-coated vocals.

ICE BLUE - Back To The Light (2015) inside

Smooth Euro Melodic Rock / modern AOR is what delivers Ice Blue on their 2nd effort "Back To The Light", a highly enjoyable collection of carefully crafted and performed tunes.
A singer that at places reminds me of Julianna Regan from All About Eve, lots of keyboard textures and a guitar player with a great feeling are the order of the day on "Back To The Light", wrapped by a warm production.
Very Recommended.

01. The Light Of This World
02. For Loving You
03. Don't Stop Dreaming
04. Tears In The Dark
05. Give Me Action
06. Don't You Break My Heart
07. Turn On The Night
08. Always Be In My Mind
09. Never Surrender
10. Secret Time
11. Far Away From You

Elena Cintora (lead vocals)
Miguel Bravo (guitar, vocals)
Guillermo Gutierrez (keyboards)
Jose Simancas (bass, vocals)
Raul Alcubierre (drums)



SIC VIKKI - The Early Years Vol.2 (2015)

SIC VIKKI - The Early Years Vol.2 (2015) full


If you are a veteran Melodic Rock / AOR aficionado, you should know SIC VIKKI. Hailing from the USA, Philadelphia area, Sic Vikki released a superb CD in the early '90s, but the band origins date from the mid-Eighties.
Now frontman Richie Cox (who still performs as solo artist) is presenting the very first, previously unrelased recordings by Sic Vikki under the title "The Early Years".

Sic Vikki's debut “Kiss Me In French” was one of the best Melodic Rock / AOR albums created by an American band during the '90s. Ironically, the CD was released in Europe and Japan, but not in America.
With a bombastic production courtesy of Steve Plunkett (Autograph), the album was very successful in the old continent, leading Sic Vikki to tour Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, etc, and also all over the US East Coast as headliners or supporting major acts.
The band released a second effort in 1995 but resulted a big disappointment for the old fans, with a more of a raw rock sound influenced by the grunge era. Sic Vikki disbanded soon after.

But Sic Vikki born in the '80s, and while rocking every venue in the US East coast, they recorded a lot of own composed material. These demos are now rescued by Richie Cox on this "The Early Years".
The main songwriter around the time was original guitarist Joe Seabe, who left Sic Vikki at the end of the decade.
So most the cuts here were penned by Seabe, but the style of the band didn't changed much from what we heard later in Kiss Me In French: catchy, hook-driven US Melodic Hard Rock.

SIC VIKKI - The Early Years Vol.2 (2015) inside

On this "The Early Years" Vol.2 the quality varies both in the songwriting department and sound wise - obviously recorded at different stages of the band during the '80s - including some raw live recordings from Sik Vikki's early shows.
The songs are the vein of Autograph, the first Warrant, Danger Danger, Winger, etc, of course with less bombastic production - all are demos - yet enjoyable and a collectors piece.
Very nice stuff rescued from oblivion.

01. Money Talks
02. Please Don't Leave
03. Calamity's Child
04. Out on the Streets
05. Tears Like Rain
06. Burn It Up
07. Here Comes the End
08. Lady Dreamer
09. Over the Edge
10. It's Never Too Late
11. What Is Love
12. Body of an Angel
13. Midnight Emotion
14. Heart Attack
15. Blow Me Away
16. She Wants Me for My...
17. Sex at the Wheel
18. Dear Prudence
19. Love Only Happens Once
20. I Want You
21. You Make Me Bleed
22. Turn My Heart On
23. Aphrodisiac
24. Let Me Down Easy
25. How Does It Feel (Live)
26. Hang the Bitch (Live)
27. Fast Women (Live)

Lead vocals, guitar: Richie Cox
Lead guitar & background vocals: Joe Seabe
Bass, background vocals: Pat Schumaker
Drums: Steve Salter



Friday, January 16, 2015

VEXILLUM - Unum (2015)

VEXILLUM - Unum (2015) full


Released today, "Unum" is the third full length album from Italian metal band VEXILLUM and the first approach to them by me. It certainly piqued my interest for this record the inclusion of some renowned vocalists: Chris Bay (Freedom Call), very good female singer Maxi Nil (Jaded Star, ex Visions of Atlantis), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), and the great Mark Boals (Malmsteen, Ring of Fire, Iron Mask).

The name of the band provides some hints of what to expect here; 'Vexillum' refers to flag banner that the Roman army carried in ancient times. Yes, Vexillum plays a mixture of power metal with some epics.
But they mix their strong metal riffs with folk ingredients, Celtic and Nordic, and wear Scottish kilts when they perform. This isn't novel either as there are many other bands doing the same, yet in the case of Vexillum it works very well.
In fact, they sound darn good.

“Unum” is a concept album, where lead singer Dario Vallesi is principal character in a medieval tale, accompanied through his quest by stellar vocalists that are Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) as 'The Sentenced', Chris Bay (Freedom Call) playing 'The Jester', Maxi Nil (Jaded Star) as the 'Lady Thief', and Mark Boals (Malmsteen, Iron Mask, Ring of Fire) acting like “The Hermit”.
All these seasoned shouters add a truly colorful texture to the album, helped by the short running time of each song which can be enjoyed separately instead of the concept.

VEXILLUM - Unum (2015) inside

Musically, Vexillum add some bagpipes, lute and acoustic guitars, but mostly on the intros, the whole 'folk' thing is neither mere accent or overwhelming indulgent.
The style here, as said, is basically melodic power metal with an 'easy' approach, and surprisingly entertaining. Vexillum makes it work without sounding contrived.
And it really helps keeping the story short: 7 songs in 38 minutes. To 'complete' the CD, Vexillum add two songs, both covers.
One is from an unknown band to me; Tazenda, and the song is a fine stomper, while the other is a crazy take on Slade's classic "Run Runaway" done in a very, very fun epic / folk / medieval way.

Vexillum are very, very good at what they do and I warmed to their music very quickly indeed. As the trend of the moment, their sound is not overly heavy, catchy at places, polished and always melodic. There's cool choruses, nice keyboards, and solid good vocal performances of all involved.
And they have the 'medieval folk' touch. It seems a lot of folk metal bands are content to play a bunch of woodwinds and other quirky things and just let the guitars plod mindlessly in the background. Thankfully Vexillum are not like that at all, as the guitar work is the high point on this album. Riffs, leads, solos, they're all here in good amounts and quality.

VEXILLUM - Unum (2015) back cover

Vexillum might be another band in a long line of melodic metal / Euro power acts who wants a headliner slot in the genre, and if they keep on making albums entertaining and as good as this "Unum" that day might not be to far away.

01 - The Departure; Blow Away The Ashes
02 - The Jester; Over The Clouds (Feat. Chris Bay)
03 - The Sentenced; Fire And Blood (Feat. Hansi Kursch)
04 - Lady Thief; What We Are (Feat. Maxi Nil)
05 - The Hermit; Through The Mirror (Feat. Mark Boals)
06 - The Way Back; The Clash Within
07 - The True Beginning; Standing As One
08 - Spunta La Luna Dal Monte (Tazenda cover)
09 - Run Runaway (Slade cover)

Dario Vallesi - Vocals
Michele Gasparri - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Francesco Ferraro - Bass
Efisio Pregio - Drums

Mark Boals - Vocals
Hansi Kursch - Vocals
Chris Bay - Vocals
Maxi Nil - Vocals



Thursday, January 15, 2015

SERIOUS BLACK - As Daylight Breaks (2015)

SERIOUS BLACK - As Daylight Breaks (2015) full


The new year is upon us, and we already have a contender for 'best album of 2015' with "As Daylight Breaks", the debut album from SERIOUS BLACK to be released tomorrow, January 16th.
This is a new band – not just a one-off project – formed by some very familiar names in the melodic /power / progressive metal scenes. Serious Black features guitarist Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween), drummer Thomen Stauch (Savage Circus, ex-Blind Guardian), bassist Mario Lochert (Emergency Gate, ex-Visions of Atlantis), guitarist Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge), keyboardist Jan Vacik (ex-Dreamscape) and vocalist Urban Breed (Trail of Murder, ex-Bloodbound).

The collaboration between Grapow – one of the best songwriters in melodic metal – and Breed, one of the nest new vocalists in genre, alone should be enough to get most fans’ attention, but Serious Black is more than just these two individuals, and "As Daylight Breaks" doesn’t simply sound like a Masterplan album with a different vocalist.
The songwriting was collaborative, so you can hear elements of each member’s past bands on this album. Overall, the band found a perfect meeting point between power metal and melodic metal with this album.
And as happens lately with these genres, all is very accessible and quite catchy, reaching wide audiences.

"As Daylight Breaks" is just a fantastic melodic album all around.
Stauch and Lochert keep things fast and heavy, but between Grapow’s melodic lead guitar work and Breed’s powerful soaring vocals this album is all about huge melodies.
Breed has been something of a journeyman of late, but he fits so very well here. So much so that it feels like Serious Black is where he truly belongs. Having Grapow – a very capable singer in his own right – on backing vocals adds even more layered harmonies.

It’s hard to call out specific songs when the whole album is this good, but if you’re looking for an idea of Serious Black’s overall sound, you’ll want to sample leadoff single “Sealing My Fate”.
Also remarkable are “I Seek No Other Life”, “Akhenaton” or the powerful “Setting Fire to the Earth”. A proof that Serious Black has a very commercial approach is the fact that title track “As Daylight Breaks” is a ballad (and a wonderful one).
Aside perhaps from the brief instrumental “Temple of the Sun”, you won’t find a forgettable song on this CD.

SERIOUS BLACK - As Daylight Breaks (2015) back cover

If you're a fan of melodic and catchy 'new' power metal, particularly bands like Masterplan, Avantasia, Allen-Lande, etc, "As Daylight Breaks" is your first must-have album of 2015.
This is melodic metal magic, and with any luck this will be the first of many albums from Serious Black.

01. I Seek No Other Life
02. High And Low
03. Sealing My Fate
04. Temple Of The Sun
05. Akhenaton
06. My Mystic Mind
07. Trail Of Murder
08. As Daylight Breaks
09. Setting Fire To The Earth
10. Listen To The Storm
11. Older And Wise

Urban Breed (Project Arcadia ex-Bloodbound) - Vocals
Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween) - Guitars
Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge, Shadows' Grey) - Guitars
Mario Lochert (Emergency Gate) - Bass
Jan Vacik (D-Vision, ex-Dreamscape) - Keyboards
Thomen Stauch (Savage Circus, ex-Blind Guardian) - Drums



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