Saturday, October 31, 2015

PAT TRAVERS - Hot Shot (1984) [remastered 2015]

PAT TRAVERS - Hot Shot (1984) [remastered 2015] full

After all these years, Universal Records finally did it: remasters for the first time taken from the original tapes of PAT TRAVERS most celebrated albums, all packed in a great 'fatbox’ and with an exceptional price. Titled "Feelin’ Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984" contains all the studio long-players from the period (except 1980’s Crash And Burn). The approach here is to shoehorn two albums on each of the four CDs.
Of my special interest are Travers '80s recordings, all really good melodic hard rock oriented albums with a strong AOR feeling.
Now let's go with my favorite Pat Travers album ever, the great 1984's "Hot Shot".

"Hot Shot" would be Pat Travers' last studio album of the '80s due his disillusion with the music industry and his recording label, Polydor, particularly.
Like most Rock musicians of that era (first half of the '80s) Travers began leaning towards melodic hard rock, pretty popular in the US from the hands of acts such as Night Ranger, Loverboy, etc.

For "Hot Shot", Pat Travers hired a secret weapon to update his sound to mid-Eighties Melodic Rock / AOR; great guitarist, vocalist and composer Jerry Riggs. Yes, we featured here on the blog few days ago the album Riggs released with his own band two years before.
If you enjoyed that awesome disc, "Hot Shot" has many points in common.
Riggs brought the catchy choruses, clever keyboard arrangements and a overall sense of polished sound, and all that alongside Travers brilliant guitar playing resulted in a superb rockin' AOR record.

Pat Travers Feelin' Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984 booklet

An Angel / Giuffria-like keyboard intro leads into 'I Gotta Fight', a melodious rocker with a wonderful AOR pulse, great backing / harmony vocals and an elegant, radio/ready guitar solo.
'Killer' goes for more straight melodic rock akin Loverboy, same with the hot guitar driven title track plenty of te-rri-fic riffs and solos.
Travers famous anti-record industry ode "Just Try Talking (To Those Dudes)" is remarkably bitter lyrically, but radio friendly musically, as Pat tells us how tired he is of the radio and how the top five isn't reality.

"Women On The Edge Of Love' is pure first half of '80s AOR, and if this track does not shake your AOR heart, you do not like this genre. This is the kind of action-movie track plenty of blood running and a killer chorus. This song alone worth the entire album. A Gem.
Same with "In The Heat Of The Night"... could you resist to a song with this title? You can hear Riggs' touch on the harmony vocals and the overall rhythm, akin Night Ranger best moments. Another pearl.
"Louise" visits again the Loverboy territory with tons of catchiness, "Tonight" is (again) a melodic rock polished diamond, and closer "Night Into Day" an elaborated FM ready golden tune combining Melodic Rock and elegant AOR with mastery.

Pat Travers Feelin' Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984  back

Simply put, "Hot Shot" is one of the best first half of the '80s US Melodic Rock / AOR albums, heard by few fans of the genre and pretty ignored by the press.
"Hot Shot" was reissued in 2008 by a label called Lemon Records but it was a transfer from vinyl to CD and fans hated it. This fresh version included in "Feelin’ Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984" is the first time remastered from the original tapes.
The remastering job was done by Andy Pearce from the Rock Candy headquarters, and it's truly outstanding. Plus you have a complete artwork along with new sleeve notes from Rock specialist Malcolm Dome.
A Must Have.

01 - I Gotta Fight
02 - Killer
03 - Just Try Talking (To Those Dudes)
04 - Hot Shot
05 - Women On The Edge Of Love
06 - In The Heat Of The Night
07 - Louise
08 - Tonight
09 - Night Into Day

Pat Travers - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Jerry Riggs - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Pete 'Mars' Cowling - bass
Dave Kiswiney, Barry Dunaway - bass
Pat Marchino, John Thorpe, Don Brewer - drums



PAT TRAVERS - Radio Active (1981) [Remastered 2015]

PAT TRAVERS - Radio Active (1981) [Remastered 2015] full

After all these years, Universal Records finally did it: remasters for the first time taken from the original tapes of PAT TRAVERS most celebrated albums, all packed in a great 'fatbox’ and with an exceptional price. Titled "Feelin’ Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984" contains all the studio long-players from the period (except 1980’s Crash And Burn). The approach here is to shoehorn two albums on each of the four CDs.
Of my special interest are Travers '80s recordings, all really good melodic hard rock oriented albums with a strong AOR feeling.
Let's start with 1981's "Radio Active".

"Radio Active" marks Pat Travers first slightly departure from his late Seventies visceral bluesy hard rock approach, more oriented to the rising FM Rock / Melodic Rock waves from the beginning of the '80s, with more emphasis on keyboards and radio-friendly melodies.
Anyway, "Radio Active" is still a mostly guitar heavy, rock and roll record from Pat Travers.

Pat Travers Feelin' Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984 booklet

The album includes the semi-hit rocker "New Age Music" as well as the groovy "My Life is On The Line featuring a catchy chorus. "(I Just Wanna) Live It My Way" is blues based rocker as in the 'ol Travers vein, but the sweet guitar work shows a clear radio intention.

"I Don't Wanna Be Awake" is a melodic rocker not far from Franke & The Knockouts or what Foreigner was doing at that time, and I like it a lot.
Then we have the pure FM melodic rock of "I Can Love You", a highly vocal harmonized track including lots of keyboards and a lovely chorus. "Feelin' in Love" is pretty poppy, then "Play It Like You See It", while with a bluesy heart is a melodic ballad in a mid-tempo pace. Great tune and guitar work, featuring as well one of Pat's more soulful vocal performances ever.

Pat Travers Feelin' Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984  back

Although not my favorite Pat Travers albums from the '80s, "Radio Active" delivers some really good tracks and shows the transition of the artist to a more US Melodic Rock oriented material, something developed in the two albums to come.
The album was reissued in 2008 by a label called Lemon but it was a transfer from vinyl to CD. This one included in "Feelin’ Right: The Polydor Albums 1975-1984" is the first time remastered from the original tapes.

The remastering job was done by Andy Pearce from the Rock Candy headquarters, and it's truly outstanding. Plus you have a complete artwork along with new sleeve notes from specialist Malcolm Dome.
Great albums, great remastering, great price: Highly Recommended.

01 - New Age Music
02 - My Life Is On The Line
03 - (I Just Want To) Live It My Way
04 - I Don't Want To Be Awake
05 - I Can Love You
06 - Untitled
07 - Feelin' In Love
08 - Play It Like You See It
09 - Electric Detective

Pat Travers: vocals, guitars, keyboards
Peter "Mars" Cowling: bass guitar
Sandy Gennaro: drums
Michael Shrieve: percussion
Pat Thrall: guitar
Tommy Aldridge: drums



Friday, October 30, 2015

KING ZEBRA - Wild! Wild! Wild! (2015)

KING ZEBRA - Wild! Wild! Wild! (2015) full

If you close your eyes and play "Wild! Wild! Wild!" - the new album from Swiss rockers KING ZEBRA to be released tomorrow - you would most likely think that this album was made sometime back in the mid to late ’80s and perhaps it had just been recently re-released since the sound & gain is louder than back in those days.
The melodies, hooks and choruses on this record are all reminiscent of that golden era in glam hard rock / hair metal.

Strongly inspired by the Sunset strip glory days, King Zebra's new album is more hard rock than their debut (album being re-released as well) which was more glammy, sleazy, hair metal oriented.
So the likes of Dokken, Black N' Blue, perhaps Extreme and Ratt are where these guys take the sound as reference in "Wild! Wild! Wild!".
I admit that the gritty singing of King Zebra‘s lead vocalist Chip Leather (interesting name) took a little bit of getting used to at first but I find now that his rougher delivery works really well with the polished guitar driven '80s music that his bandmates produce time after time, track after track.

It has been said many times, but perfectly apply here: if King Zebra‘s "Wild! Wild! Wild!" had been released back in the '80s, the band could have been huge.

If you haven’t figured out from the band members’ names or silly group name, King Zebra are not a band that takes themselves that seriously. After all, their previous album was entitled 'Greatest Hits' (their debut!). They remind me a bit of Steel Panther with their light hearted humour.
As far as "Wild! Wild! Wild!" is concerned, every track on it is a fun, party-ready, good one. If you are looking for something truly original or ground-breaking, there is no doubt that the album will leave you disappointed.
However, if you are longing for Eighties sounding, catchy, sing-along type songs with tasty not overdone guitar licks, "Wild! Wild! Wild!" may well be the equivalent of a wet dream for you.

Given that, King Zebra‘s music borrows heavily from a past era, you can find a lot of similarities. For example, the guitar riffs on “Point Of No Return” remind me a lot of Eddie Van Halen‘s guitar playing on the 1986 released 5150.
On the other hand, “Too Many Rules” reminds me of Extreme with its funky hard rock groove.
You know a band has hit a home run when you even enjoy their sappy cheesy ballad or at least 'slower' song; yes, the acoustic tinged “Purple Roses” has been done thousand times before, but I like it!

KING ZEBRA - Wild! Wild! Wild! (2015) inside

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly which are my favorite tracks on King Zebra‘s "Wild! Wild! Wild!" since I enjoy each one of them. Apart from the aforementioned songs, “Never Stop Trying” with its great melodic line, and the anthemic, stadium-ready “Welcome To Longstreet” (soaring guitar solo) are among the highlights.
If you like your glam / hard rock strongly infused by '80s hooks (including cliché), check out King Zebra's new album now; regarding this genre, it's all good.
Two thumbs up.

01 - The Roar! (intro) / Wild Animals
02 - Never Stop Trying
03 - Penny Hollywood
04 - Welcome To Longstreet
05 - One By One
06 - Point Of No Return
07 - Whiskey
08 - Purple Roses
09 - Too Many Rules
10 - Good Time

Chip Leather – vocals
Tom Hoochy Coo – guitar
Michael – bass
Maxx Lexx – drums



SERPENTINE SKY - Serpentine Sky (2015)

SERPENTINE SKY - Serpentine Sky (2015) full

Melbourne, Australia based melodic rockers SERPENTINE SKY have a long story, and after all those years the band finally has recorded their debut CD “Serpentine Sky”, released today, October 30 via MelodicRock Records.

Originally founded in 1989 by Patrick Creamer, Zakk Zedras, Rexx Fernandez, Clinton Roche and Craig Whitelock, Serpentine Sky made an immediate impact on Aussie audiences with their energetic live show combining shredding guitars, three-part harmonies, huge melodic choruses and the best rhythm section around.
In the early Nineties the band was tipped as ‘the next big thing’ coming from Australia and showered with major record label deals.
As fate would have it, everything came to an abrupt end in 1991. Drummer Craig Whitelock suffered a motorbike accident which put him out of action for a year. The band tried to carry on with another drummer, but relationships became strained and the magic was lost.

Reuniting almost 25 years later, the band played at the tribute show for dearly departed friend and former White Widow drummer George Kristy. After the show the band committed to record a full length album of the best songs with producer / engineer Ricki Rae.
The result was the self-titled “Serpentine Sky”, a record that in 1989 would have been huge.
Taking the best elements from the American scene from the likes of Winger, Poison, White Lion and the melody of '80s Europe and some Def Leppard-like backing vocals / multi-part harmonies, Serpentine Sky mix all 'em into their ultra melodic recipe.

Cuts like the hooky 'A Whole Lotta Love', the catchy 'Look Into My Eyes', 'Everybody Wears A Symbol', and the hair metal of 'Nobody's Girl' are really solid melodic (hard) rockers in the best '80s tradition.
Serpentine Sky breaks this mould via the harder 'Groovy Feeling' with a definite Whitesnake Vandenberg-era feel to it. Also 'For Love The Way' has some edgy intent but the chorus is typically melodic rock.
Listed as bonus track, 'Emotional Riot' (presumably it didn’t make the cut for the main menu of the album) is other of the tracks in a slightly different vein with a Guns 'N Roses touch and a more sleazy approach. It's one of best songs on the album.

“Serpentine Sky” is a great time-warp to 1989's American scene, plenty of melodic tunes, lots of hooks and catchy choruses. The vocals are clear and the musicians - especially guitarists Zakk Zedras /Rexx Fernandez - really skilled on what they do (and obviously love): '80s Melodic Hard Rock / Hair Metal.
Easily Recommended.

01. A Whole Lotta Love
02. Nobody's Girl
03. For Love The Way
04. Everybody Wears A Symbol
05. Look Into My Eyes
06. You're The One
07. Strong Is The Love
08. Groovy Feelin'
09. Flower Dolls
10. Midnight
11. Emotional Riot (Bonus Track)

Patrick Creamer - Vocals
Zakk Zedras - Guitar
Rexx Fernandez - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Clinton Roche - Bass, Backing Vocals
Craig Whitelock - Drums, Backing Vocals



JERRY GASKILL (King's X) - Love And Scars (2015)

JERRY GASKILL (King's X) - Love And Scars (2015) full

King's X legendary drummer JERRY GASKILL is releasing today October 30 his new album "Love And Scars" via Rat Pak Records. The record is Gaskill's sophomore effort the follow-up to his 2004 debut as solo artist, featuring Billy Sheehan, Ty Tabor, Phil Keaggy, Earl Slick, DA Karkos, Andee Blacksugar and a host of other notable musicians

"Love And Scars" marks the completion of a long musical journey that started almost a decade ago. Enduring a series of personal tragedies along the way, including two heart attacks, and losing his house in Hurricane Sandy, Jerry remained steadfast and true in his belief that music heals all.
“It’s been a long time coming and I’ve had some heavy obstacles to deal with, but the record is finally ready and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished!” says Jerry.

JERRY GASKILL (King's X) - Love And Scars (2015) inside

The album spotlights Jerry’s vocal and songwriting talents as he passionately pours his heart out into each and every song, putting to music all of his triumphs and tragedies of the last decade.
"The lyrical content of this album is simply about everyday life the way I see it and I hope that people will be able to relate to it on some kind of personal level.”, says Jerry.
Musically, it quickly becomes evident within the first few seconds of "Love And Scars" that Jerry is highly influenced by his own band King’s X, as well as some of his earlier influences from the 80s / 90s.

However, while I was expecting a more progressive material, and I'm glad to say the songs here are pretty accessible, melodic, with a classic rock feeling for the most part but with a contemporary sound.

JERRY GASKILL (King's X) - Love And Scars (2015) back

Songs like 'This Picture' could remind you The Winery Dogs, "No More Yesterday" has a Led Zeppelin vibe with a modern approach, "Waking Up" feels pretty Californian circa the late '80s (Cheap Trick), while I found the harder "Never Ever Know" similar to a Crown Of Thorns song.
"Paradise" is a ballad with a nice atmosphere, while on the moody 'Sandy' Jerry talks about the hurricane disaster which pretty much changed his life.
Well composed, played and solidly produced, "Love And Scars" is a really fine listen, varied and quite entertaining.

01 - Far Away
02 - This Picture
03 - No More Yesterday
04 - Hypothetical
05 - Waking Up
06 - Never Ever Know
07 - Sandy
08 - Patty's Song
09 - Paradise
10 - Sad
11 - Girl In The Warehouse

Jerry Gaskill - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Drums
Ty Tabor (King's X) - Guitars, Keyboards
Billy Sheehan (Winery Dogs)
Phil Keaggy
Earl Slick (Silver Condor)
DA Karkos
Andee Blacksugar (Peter Murphy Band)
John "JD" DeServio (Black Label Society)
and many more



SUBSIGNAL - The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime (2015)

SUBSIGNAL - The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime (2015) full

Favorites of this blog, German progressive rockers SUBSIGNAL are coming back with their new album "The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime". This is the fourth CD from the band that arose out of the ashes of the very good outfit Siege Even, founded by excellent vocalist & songwriter Arno Menses and guitarist Markus Steffen.

"The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" isn't build on a conceptual storyline, but there is a some kind of connection through the various tracks on this new Subsignal opus. The overarching theme is about loss and parting.
When it comes to the music, Subsignal became harder again. The predecessor 'Paraiso' (featured on the blog) was in general a bit softer with some tracks that have been even closer to AOR.

SUBSIGNAL - The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime (2015) cd

The new album brings back some heavier riffs and intense rhythm section passages, but always around melodies and a polished sound, a Subsignal trademark. "Tempest" is a first indicator for this, underlined by songs like "Everything is Lost".
But in the end it's not about heavier or softer when it comes to Subsignal's music. It's the band's lambent way of composing great songs that come with big melodies / harmonies merged with a lot of emotional depth and thoughtfulness.
"The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is full of those attributes and it's the passion for details that makes Subsignal's sound complex as well as approachable also for non-musicians or casual listeners.

SUBSIGNAL - The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime (2015) back

This album is the soundtrack for an exciting journey through eleven new tracks from a band that combines technical capabilities with an outstanding sense for good, really well constructed songs.
"The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is another solid and entertaining album in Subsignal's discography, especially recommended to those who like elaborated progressive arrangements, elegant melodies and clinical instrumentation / production.
Strongly Recommended.

01. The Calm
02. Tempest
03. A Time Out Of Joint
04. And The Rain Will Wash It All Away
05. Ashes Of Summer
06. A Myth Written On Water
07. Everything Is Lost
08. The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime:
a. Part I: Maelstrom
b. Part II: The Path
c. Part III: In This Blinding Light
d. Part IV: A Canopy of Stars

Arno Menses (Sieges Even) - vocals
Markus Steffen (Sieges Even) - guitars
Luca di Gennaro (Soul Secret) - keyboards
Ralf Schwager (Dreamscape) - bass
Dirk Brand (Axxis, Geoff Downes, John Wetton) - drums
Peavy Wagner (Rage) - vocals
Kalle Wallner (RPWL, Blind Ego) - guitar solo (3)
Jana Urbanová - flute
Albert Clemente - piano
Marek Arnold (Flaming Row) - backing vocals
Frank Rohles (Roxxbusters) - backing vocals



Thursday, October 29, 2015

DEF LEPPARD - Def Leppard (2015)

DEF LEPPARD - Def Leppard (2015) full

If you were thinking why the new DEF LEPPARD album has been dubbed “Def Leppard” - a self titled at this stage of their career - it's simply because the record (to be released tomorrow) contents can only be described as sounding like... well, Def Leppard.
What we have here is an album that is classic Def Leppard without actually honing in on any one album or era. There’s parts of Hysteria, Adrenalize, Euphoria, Slang, X and even Sparkle on here. In other words, it's “Def Leppard”.

The first half of the album is true, traditional 80s - 90s Def Leppard, and I love it! Catchy songs, sharp riffs and 'that' melodic choruses. The second is more varied, where they blend their recent modern sound with the band's eclectic influences, but all, in trademark Def Lep style.
Opener 'Let's Go' is an absolute classic Hysteria-era Leppard; big drums, big guitars, big harmonies – it may be a little structurally similar to Pour Some Sugar On Me, but who cares?
'Dangerous' that follows is an awesome ultra-melodic rocker, while the bass-driven 'Man Enough' somehow manages to sound classic rock with punch; there are elements of Queen circa 'The Game' here – great fun.

The classy ballad 'We Belong' features all band members singing lead vocal lines for the first time, the excellent driving melodic rocker 'Invincible' is contagious, while the heavily-programmed 'Energized' adds modern waves.
There's happy rhythms on 'Sea Of Love', then 'Forever Young' continue the no-frills approach from the 'Songs From The Sparkle Lounge' album. The Hard Rocking, guitar-driven 'All Time High' and 'Broke 'N' Brokenhearted' nod back to the High 'N' Dry and Pyromania days, albeit with a more modern sheen.

Sounding quite unlike anything that Def Leppard have recorded before is the wonderful 'Battle Of My Own' that sees the band go all Led Zeppelin on us (Lep Zeppelin?), initially acoustic-led until the power-chords crash in, accompanied by string effects.
The beautiful, serene ballad 'Last Dance' has acoustic elements that harks back to some of the 'Retroactive' tracks.

Def Leppard's new studio album is one of the biggest surprises in 2015. I hoped for such an album many, many years, but I never thought that it would see the light of day.
Joe Elliott & Co proved me wrong, so if you're a fan of the early, classic Def Leppard days, then you need to check out this record. You will love it.

01. Let's Go
02. Dangerous
03. Man Enough
04. We Belong
05. Invincible
06. Sea of Love
07. Energized
08. All Time High
09. Battle of My Own
10. Broke 'N' Brokenhearted
11. Forever Young
12. Last Dance
13. Wings of an Angel
14. Blind Faith

Joe Elliott - Vocals
Phil Collen - Guitars
Vivian Campbell - Guitars
Rick "Sav" Savage - Bass
Rick Allen - Drums



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

VANDEN PLAS - Chronicles Of The Immortals, Netherworld Path Two (2015)

VANDEN PLAS - Chronicles Of The Immortals, Netherworld Path Two (2015) full

Last year Germans VANDEN PLAS released the first part of a new concept album, now on November 6th the band will present the second chapter entitled "Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld path II", again through Frontiers Music.
Frontiers Music have been expanding their roster (mostly integrated by melodic hard rock bands) with products like Vanden Plas, always associated with heavy sounds.
However, since the previous 'path I' and this "Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld path II", shows a bit of a different side of Vanden Plas, a more introspective one that de-emphasizes both progressive technicality and also heaviness in favour to more melodious lines.

That being said, Vanden Plas have not gone soft or bland, but they are offering here a more accessible, melodic and intriguing Melodic Prog Metal album.
Suffice it to say that this release is the second half of the band's collaboration with successful homeland author Wolfgang Hohlbein, based on his vampire series Die Chronik der Unsterblichen (The Chronicle of the Immortals).
And that if you heard and liked the band's previous part of the saga, you'll like this. If you are new to Vanden Plas and the previous album, let's explore a bit.

"Netherworld II" melds nicely with 'path 1p, coming across as a seamless work, although I would perhaps describe II as slightly darker than path 1. Most of the accolades and descriptors of 'path 1' apply here as well. There are elements carried over from the expected melodic sensibilities to varying degrees of heaviness and lightness as well.
Vanden Plas is not going to overwhelm with overly complex music, speed, or brutality – they are clearly a progressive outfit with a metal touch thrown in now and then.
Once again the consistency of Vanden Plas shines through via their strong songcraft. Clearly the stable lineup has led to great results.

The complementing 9 tracks range from expertly executed melodic prog metal to more subdued ballads to big atmospheric passages. Again, the album should be considered as a whole (alongside path 1), but there are some outstanding tracks that really grab me.
'Stone Roses Edge', third track here, jumps out as a wonderfully compelling song – and my favorite – with an excellent riff and couple of tremendous solo sections. It’s one of the less 'orchestral' songs on the album.

VANDEN PLAS - Chronicles Of The Immortals, Netherworld Path Two (2015) inside

'The Last Fight' is another of the pretty heavy tunes, though sporting a flowing, soaring chorus. I’m digging the odd time signature use in this one too. Album opener 'In My Universe' doesn’t really mess around either - sure, there are some subdued parts (the verses in particular), but the bridge and chorus rock hard.
The nearly 14 minute long 'Blood of Eden' (divided in 3 parts; 'All love must Die' / 'The Rite' / 'This is the Night') is the obvious centerpiece of "Netherworld II".

A delicate piano intro sets the stage leading to a song that takes its time to build. The very complete vocalist Andy Kuntz is at his best here. Vanden Plas gets to the meaty metal parts about four minutes in, but only for a minute before transitioning to a heavier sound and a good dose of complexity paired with some lighter passages. The band then returns to the piano motif for the final couple of minutes of the song. Truly a great and epic song.
To make it seem even more than it is, the two songs following, 'Monster' and 'Diabolica Comedia', feel like a continuation resulting in a single work pushing 30 minutes.

"Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld path II" is a fine companion to Path 1, neither worse nor better: it's the second part of a whole piece of art. And if you like elaborated (technical at places) prog metal with abundance of melody, this is for you.
'Netherworld path II' feels like the logical continuation of the concept album, culminating this Vanden Plas theatrical / melodic prog metal project. You have very solid songwriting, some awesome performances (clinical playing) and the necessary pristine production for this type of material.
Ultimately, another very good album from Vanden Plas, a band that has maintained a single lineup for almost three decades, and you can tell that listening their tightness.
Strongly Recommended.

01 - VISION 11even * In My Universe
02 - VISION 12elve * Godmaker'S Temptation
03 - VISION 13teen * Stone Roses Edge
04 - VISION 14teen * Blood Of Eden
05 - VISION 15teen * Monster
06 - VISION 16teen * Diabolica Comedia
07 - VISION 17teen * Where Have The Children Gone
08 - VISION 18teen * The Last Fight
09 - VISION 19teen * Circle Of The Devil

Andy Kuntz (Vocals)
Stephan Lill (Guitar)
Günter Werno (Keyboards)
Torsten Reichert (Bass)
Andreas Lill (Drums)



MIDORI & EZRA BOY - Midori and Ezra Boy (2015)

MIDORI & EZRA BOY - Midori and Ezra Boy (2015) full

MIDORI & EZRA BOY and their self-titled album are a rare beast in the present Californian rock scene: they are one of the few - if not the only - playing female fronted melodic rock with an '80s feel right now in 2015.
This band is formed around lead female singer Midori Longo, drummer Dave Briggs, and guitarist, bassist, keyboard player & more Tiger Yakimoto.
Midori is an incredible singer both in attitude and a killer rock voice (and she looks pretty hot as well, by the way).

At first glance, looking at the album artwork and the band's name you may think about Indian music or something like that: not at all folks, the songs packed into "Midori and Ezra Boy" are short, quite infectious melodic rockers with a hard rock twist at places and a modern rock touch.
The songwriting and Midori Longo's way of singing will remind you Eighties / early Nineties female fronted bands such as Saraya, Vixen, If Only or, why not, Gudrun Laos.

The opening track “So What” is a fantastic AOR / Melodic Rock anthem with a sweet commercial refrain and an extremely catchy poppy chorus. All the 11 songs are in this vein alternating tempo and hardness.
Besides that really good opener, other highlights are the mid-tempo groovy melodic rocker “Love Avalanche”, the moving “On and On” (a bit Halestorm here), the rocking “Killing Me” and closing track “Light the Fire”, perhaps the more hard rock oriented tune on the CD and one of the best.

MIDORI & EZRA BOY - Midori and Ezra Boy (2015) inside

"Midori and Ezra Boy" is a more than welcomed female fronted melodic rock band not only in the poor scene for this genre in America, but also for the rest of the world eager to listen melodious rockin' tunes performed by a woman.
Short and effective songs with excellent vocals, pretty blistering guitar work and solid production. A definite must for fans of the previously mentioned bands, but it also touches the modern way of female fronted hard/heavy rock.
Rock the way it needs to sound like.

01 - So What
02 - Burned
03 - Wound Up
04 - Born Lucky
05 - Love Avalanche
06 - Over the Edge
07 - Not Waiting Here
08 - Mile High
09 - On and On
10 - Killing Me
11 - Light the Fire

Midori Longo - Vocals
Tiger Yakimoto - Guitar, Strings, Backing Vocals
Dave Briggs - Drums, Backing Vocals
Sean Zilla - Bass
thanks to Gabor Kleinbloesem



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UREAS - The Black Heart Album (2015)

UREAS - The Black Heart Album (2015) full

Danish outfit UREAS was founded in 1999 by Per and Heidi Johansson, starting as a Pop/Rock band but through the last 15 years their style turned heavier. After nine years from their debut record, Ureas are back with a refreshed line-up and a new CD to be released soon entitled "The Black Heart Album".

Perhaps the name of Per Johansson doesn't ring any bell on you ,but the vocalist is a well known musician in the Scandinavian scene having worked with several bands, being the most famous Fate.
He has recruited some excellent partners too for this Ureas 2015: great bass player Mike LePond (Symphony X), guitarist Reece Fullwood (Eumeria) and drummer Michael Pitman (Xerath).
Add to this the co-prodution, mix and mastering of the famed Danish Tommy Hansen (Pretty Maids, UDO, Doro, Gamma Ray and many more) and we have a more than solid combo.

Musically, "The Black Heart Album" is a wide-ranging album in terms of style, with progressive, melodic metal, some modern hard rock and a bit of a dark touch being words that can be used to describe it.
All is focused in melodic guitar riffs, strong (but not hard hitting) rhythm section and Per Johansson's male vocals complemented by Heidi's female harmonies.

Among the best cuts there's the heavy "Seven Deadly Sins", a trepidating metal cut yet highly melodic in the chorus, somehow reminding me Russell Allen. "Seal This Moment" is also in this vein yet more 'mysterious', more proggy and with a great guitar work.
"V For Victory" is metallic, melodic metal in the Euro style, while "It's All Around Me" is prog metal with a very modern feel, even some sympho touches.
Ureas are more melodic and commercial in songs like opener "Hello", the synth flavored "For Who You Are" where Heidi's sweet vocals offer great contrast to Per's raspiness, or the lullaby ballad "Epistula".

UREAS - The Black Heart Album (2015) back

Ureas "The Black Heart Album" is a very interesting product as delivers something new to the table. It mixes progressive, melodic metal, commercial sympho but all in pretty original way.
The album is really varied, with moments of bursting heavy guitars to slow, melancholic keyboards. This, at the same time, could be taken by many as the strength or the weakness of the record. For me, it's what makes the band (and the album) interesting: not the same stuff all over again and again...
Perfectly recorded & mixed, Ureas "The Black Heart Album" well worth your attention.

01 - Hello
02 - Seven Deadly Sins
03 - Black Heart
04 - Seal This Moment
05 - V For Victory
06 - For Who You Are
07 - The Valley
08 - Shut The Fuck Up
09 - It's All Around Me
10 - All Alone Am I
11 - Epistula

Per Johansson - Vocals, Keyboards
Heidi Johansson - Vocals, Keyboards
Jacob Hansen - Guitars
Reece Fullwood - guitars
Michael Pitman - Drums
Mike LePond - Bass



MAD HORNET - Would You Like Something Fresh? (2015)

MAD HORNET - Would You Like Something Fresh? (2015) full

Hailing from Taranto, Italy, MAD HORNET are releasing their proper debut "Would You Like Something Fresh?". The group was formed in 2006 and recorded their first effort one year after, locally distributed.

Mad Hornet's first album received a positive feedback and the band played at several concerts with a highly positive response. In 2009, the band split-up due to internal troubles.
But guitarist Ken Lance (real name Salvatore Destratis), after playing with some Italian artists decided to resurrect Mad Hornet as he wanted to perform his own songs and the genre he's in love with: melodic hard rock.
In 2013, with the addition of the powerful bass player El Piamba (Alessandro Saracino), who brought ex- bandmates in other project, vocalist Mic Martini (Mimmo Maiorano) and Beats Frank (Francesco Duggento, drums), Mad Hornet was back in business again.

This new Mad Hornet recorded "Would You Like Something Fresh? early this year looking for a label, when Rock promotion agency Atomic Stuff signed them to release and distribute the album.
Mad Hornet sounds like a typical US melodic hard rock band but with a fresh, more modern, approach that's givin' the extra flavor to the final result.
Check out the cool "Your Body Talks" with something that recalls back to the late '80s US hair metal scene or the melodic hard rocker "Blue Blood" that includes a fine sing-a-long chorus and a really good guitar solo.
"Raise 'n' Do It" provides hard rock grooves while in "Game Of Death" we are dealing with one of the album's most elaborated tracks. This is a straight forward commercial rocker that takes no prisoners.

MAD HORNET - Would You Like Something Fresh? (2015) inside

"Would You Like Something Fresh?" is a fine international debut for Mad Hornet. It's a self-managed / self-produced record and some little things could have been done better, but these guys have crafted a pretty good first album.
Quite strong songs inspired by the late 80's / early 90's scene, very good performances, and a singer with all the swagger from the era (which needs to polish some flaws in his vocals but has tons of attitude) are the ingredients to have a good time with "Would You Like Something Fresh?".

01 - Would You Like Something Fresh?
02 - Your Body Talks
03 - Dyin' Love
04 - Blue Blood
05 - Free Rock Machine
06 - Game Of Death
07 - Rise 'n' Do It
08 - Walking With You (In The Afternoon)
09 - Pink Pants School
10 - What Is Love
11 - Roses Under The Rain

Mic Martini - vocals
Ken Lance - guitars
El Piamba - bass
Beats Frank - drums



Monday, October 26, 2015

CRIMSON GLORY - Transcendence [remastered +1]

CRIMSON GLORY - Transcendence [remastered +1] metal mind

These were requested many times on this blog; the reissue of the two essential albums from CRIMSON GLORY - the self titled debut album and this follow-up "Transcendence" - by Metal Mind Productions, both remastered for the first time using 24-Bit process on golden disc, including bonus tracks and presented in a deluxe digipak limited to numerated 2000 copies.

Crimson Glory's self-titled debut success was not surprising – the unique collaboration of heavy, yet melodic guitars, brilliant drumming and amazing vocals brought a true masterpiece onto the metal soil.
But the band did not rest after touring intensively and immediately begun working on a follow-up. And so in 1988 Crimson Glory’s finest achievement was born… "Transcendence" took almost two years to create, but the result was simply astounding.

Crimson Glory managed to come up with an album that featured all the terrific elements found in the debut and took them to the next level.
The band managed to put out two over-the-top albums in a row, and not one dull song on either of them. Tell me another band from the who's done just that. Crimson Glory just had that "it".

CRIMSON GLORY - Transcendence [remastered +1] booklet

"Transcendence" delivers unbelievably catchy tunes, backed up by killer riffs and well-crafted songwriting. It's really not fair to point out specific songs from this album, but 'Painted Skies' and 'In Dark Places' are my favorites.
The album also contains another highlight; the band's first hit-single 'Lonely', a song that was in the top of the American Rock Radio charts in several major market areas for over 24 consecutive weeks.

The production of "Transcendence" is also a remarkable point.
The drums on the record are a combination of both live and sampled drums. The band sampled drummer Dana Burnell performing live into a synclavier without any cymbals, and then re-recorded the cymbals live later in order to have complete separation of drums / cymbals.
Guitarist Jon Drenning stated "It was a very arduous and time consuming way to do it but at the time it seemed like something we wanted to try to achieve; a pristine, clean sound and true separation of all instruments".

CRIMSON GLORY - Transcendence [remastered +1] back

Fabulous songs, a great singer (with a very unique signature voice) and memorable arrangements make "Transcendence" another must have album.
Crimson Glory's unique musical mixture, followed by their characteristic image / silver masks (which definitely worked well with their Sci-Fi oriented lyrics) marked the beginning of a metal legend.
This Metal Mind reissue delivers a superb digitally remastered job, balance and crystal clear. Added to this digipak is also a remixed version of the single track 'Lonely' as bonus track.
Essential in your collection.

Metal Mind Records / Cat. No.: MASS CD 1089 DG
Gold CD Digipak (limited edition of 2000 numerated copies)

01 - Lady Of Winter
02 - Red Sharks
03 - Painted Skies
04 - Masque of The Red Death
05 - In Dark Places
06 - Where The Dragons Rule
07 - Lonely
08 - Burning Bridges
09 - Eternal World
10 - Transcendence
11 - Lonely (Re-mix) [bonus track]

Midnight - Vocals
Jon Drenning - Lead Guitar
Ben Jackson - Rhythm Guitar
Jeff Lords - Bass
Dana Burnell - Drums



Sunday, October 25, 2015

STRANGERS - Survival (2015)

STRANGERS - Survival (2015) full

Seeing that their just released second album "Survival" was produced and mastered by super talented Swede Erik Martersson (Eclipse) is enough reason to check STRANGERS, the Spanish, Madrid-based melodic rock / AOR quintet.

We already received Strangers' debut two years ago, but it was almost a home-made demo. Now "Survival" presents a band ready for its international presentation; more professionally recorded, finely produced and with the right artwork.

From the first track "Never Stop" - with a melody recalling the great Alias - you hear a band sounding tight and firmly influenced by the classic '80s waves from the genre.
"Venom" is catchy and with a strong AOR feeling (pretty British), followed by the hooky "Angel", another solid track. Adding some sax, "Stand By" provides variation in a midtempo way. Here vocalist Oscar O’Brien clearly shows his major influence; Jon Bon Jovi (as on most the record).

STRANGERS - Survival (2015) inside

On cuts like 'Burning Within', the faster 'Beyond Your Eyes' and the groovier 'Beyond Your Eyes' you can hear Martersson's touch, all songs still melodic but with more bite.
'Light' has some Harem Scarem on it, 'Dreamer' is the more Americanized cut on the album (Tyketto), while 'Forever' is the obligatory ballad akin Bon Jovi.

"Survival" is a nice melodic rock / AOR record by Spaniards Strangers with some catchy songs, cool guitar / keys interplay and fine choruses.
Though singer Oscar O’Brien has a noticeable accent, his performance is mostly convincing, helped by the bright production and solid arrangements.
Welcome Strangers to the world-wide Melodic Rock / AOR scene - Quite Recommended.

01. Never Stop
02. Venom
03. Angel
04. Stand By
05. Burning Within
06. Forever
07. Beyond Your Eyes
08. Heroes
09. Light
10. Dreamer

Oscar O’Brien – vocals
Miguel Martin – guitars
Carlos Jimenez – keyboards
Carlos R. Garcia – bass
Abel Ramos – drums
Gillem Ferrer – guest sax on 4



Saturday, October 24, 2015

ANDERSON-PONTY BAND - Better Late Than Never (2015)

ANDERSON-PONTY BAND - Better Late Than Never (2015)  full

Last year, Yes founding member Jon Anderson and multi-faceted musician Jean-Luc Ponty announced that they were finally bringing to fruition an idea they had a few decades ago of joining together on a project. ANDERSON-PONTY BAND is the result and "Better Late Than Never" the proper title for their CD debut.

Taken from a live concert but enhanced with studio magic and innovative post-production, the album consists mostly of the duo's well known songs arranged for this group's strengths. The Yes compositions are given a fusion treatment, and arranging Ponty's songs with Anderson's unique vocals and lyrics was done artfully, and elevates the songs.
As you may know, Ponty plays violin, but in a very interesting, vary and original way. Hearing what Ponty could do with the Yes material interested me the most.
We have 'Lonely Heart', 'Roundabout' and 'Wonderous Stories' re-done and arranged in a completely new shape.

ANDERSON-PONTY BAND - Better Late Than Never (2015) booklet

Also a rock&pop song like 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' is done, played a bit too similarly to the original, but the violin fills give the melody a completely new approach.
'Wonderous Stories' and a truncated 'And You And I' benefit greatly from the slow piano played on each. And 'Roundabout' played fusion style rocked a little bit less, but at the same time retained it's power.

The group also play some of Jean Luc Ponty‘s beloved compositions, with Jon‘s lyrical vocals and melodies enhancing the music and creating a very special and unique sound, such as 'Infinite Mirage', a new song incorporating Jean Luc‘s classic tune Mirage as base.
The Anderson-Ponty Band is excellent including Jamie Glaser on guitars who has played with Chick Corea, Bryan Adams; Wally Minko on keyboards – virtuoso player and composer who has performed and recorded with many worldwide stars including Pink, Toni Braxton, Gregg Rolie; Baron Browne on bass (Billy Cobham and Jean Luc Ponty band); and Rayford Griffin on drums and percussion, who has played with Stanley Clarke Band, George Duke, and Michael Jackson.

ANDERSON-PONTY BAND - Better Late Than Never (2015) back

This album's biggest stumbling block to the casual listener, is also the album's biggest asset, and that is Violin player Jean Luc Ponty. Once you accept that there is no lead guitar on this album, just Jon’s exquisite singing and Jean virtuoso violin playing, then you are in for an aural treat.
This album will take you back to places thought lost long ago with a whole new set of eyes, ears, and sense of appreciation. I hope this is only a first attempt from these two masters. It is clear they will get even better as they continue.
Prog fans, spread the word about "Better Late Than Never". I know of no other album that better brings together the golden age of progressive music and the modern era. This album belongs in your library.

01 - Intro
02 - One In The Rhythm Of Hope
03 - A For Aria
04 - Owner Of A Lonely Heart
05 - Listening With Me
06 - Time And A Word
07 - Infinite Mirage
08 - Soul Eternal
09 - Wonderous Stories
10 - And You And I
11 - Renaissance Of The Sun
12 - Roundabout
13 - I See You Messenger
14 - New New World

Jon Anderson - vocals
Jean-Luc Ponty - violin
Jamie Glaser - guitars
Wally Minko - keyboards
Baron Browne - bass
Rayford Griffin - drums, percussion



AMBERIAN DAWN - Innuendo [Limited Edition + Japan bonus] (2015)

AMBERIAN DAWN - Innuendo [Limited Edition + Japan bonus] (2015) full

We were pretty pleased by Finnish sympho / prog metal combo AMBERIAN DAWN with their last year album, so let's see what they are delivering in the fresh 2015 opus "Innuendo".
The formula is the same; some epic vocals combined with basic melodic (light) metal, touched with some hard rock groove at times, but always steeped in symphonic yet poppy motif.

"Innuendo" is the second Amberian Dawn album with vocalist Capri Virkkunen at the microphone. She's got the typical voice for the genre: melodic, strong, controlled, and slightly operatic, yet not grossly so. In other words, she doesn't try to use her voice as an ice pick to your ear drums.
Musically, Amberian Dawn has changed little. The larger content of "Innuendo" is easy listenable melodic symphonic metal, often fortified with rock groove and catchy melodies, which give them some sensible accessibility.
'Fame & Gloria', 'Ladyhawk', and 'Knock Knock Who's There' fall in this category, with the latter more 'rocking' akin Ayreon. Amberian Dawn can get large, fast and ambitious too as with 'Rise Of Evil'.
While the breadth of presence in that song comes from the power metal, within 'Symphony Nr 1, Part 1 - The Witchcraft' it rises first from the orchestration, only to be revved up some powerful riffage. The song marches along until riffs eventually turn to a speedy guitar solo.

AMBERIAN DAWN - Innuendo [Limited Edition + Japan bonus] (2015) cd photo

We have an earworm of a track in 'The Court Of Mirror Hall' which features a brilliant repeating melody that gets presented to the listener both on the instruments and vocals, and you’ll find yourself humming along to it for days afterwards.
Of additional interest is 'Angelique'. It's the lightest song here moving almost entirely upon Virkkunen's voice with piano and then embellished by lavish orchestration. The song reminds of a soliloquy sung by a female protagonist in the heart, the dramatic turning point, of a great Victorian Broadway musical. Or it will simply remind of how talented a vocalist Capri Virkkunen really is.

AMBERIAN DAWN - Innuendo [Limited Edition + Japan bonus] (2015) back

"Innuendo" is another fine melodic and symphonic metal album from Amberian Dawn, carried along by the strong song arrangements and exceptional vocals.
All is based on the aforementioned genres, but this band is quite different from the others playing in this style; most the songs are pretty accessible with a 'poppy' feel mostly provided by the lush production, a crystal clear one for sure.

01 - Fame & Gloria
02 - Ladyhawk
03 - Innuendo
04 - The Court Of Mirror Hall
05 - Angelique
06 - Rise Of The Evil
07 - Chamber Of Dreadful Dreams
08 - Knock Knock, Who's There?
09 - Symphony Nr. 1, Part 1 - The Witchcraft
10 - Your Time - My Time
11 - Fame & Gloria (Instrumental Version) [bonus track]
12 - Sunrise (Re-recorded Vocals) [bonus track]
13 - The Darkest Times [Japanese bonus track]

Capri Virkkunen - Vocals
Tuomas Seppala - Guitar & Keyboards
Emil Pohjalainen - Guitar
Joonas Pykala-aho - Drums
Jukka Hoffren - Bass



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