Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CONFESS - Haunters [European Edition +2] (2017)

CONFESS - Haunters [European Edition +2] (2017) full

Finally, after three long years Swedish rockers CONFESS will be releasing their long-awaited new album entitled "Haunters" on March 1, 2017. Mixing Sleaze with Melodic Hard rock in a Scandinavian fashion, Confess' previous album was one of this blog's pick of the year.
Well, "Haunters" is even better, showcasing a mature songwriting and some killer musicianship.

Formed in 2008, Confess are part of the new wave of Swedish sleaze commanded by Crashdiet, but these guys are much more melodic, clean, polished than the gritty sleaze of Crashdiet, recalling Shotgun Messiah second commercial era.
On the other hand, Confess injects into their songs a strong sense of musicality and catchy (harmonized) choruses in the vein of the first Crazy Lixx and a polished production similar to Hardcore Superstar.

"Haunters", indeed, is much melodic hard rock than sleaze, and believe me, it rocks.
You got more metallic rockers such as 'Strange Kind of Affection' (think a mix of Motley Crue & Skid Row), the Dokken meets Wasp "We Are the Rats", and the punchy 'Animal Attraction', all balanced by awesome midtempo rockers such as 'Stand Our Ground', a terrific tune driven by a solid melody with big production and huge gang vocals, or the highly melodic 'Haunting You', a sure hit in 1989.

'Talia' adds some electronics and synths at the beginning, then it turns Def Leppard / Hysteria era with monster verses and a catchy chorus that Mutt Lange would be proud of.
'How Could I Let You Go' is a superb ballad with a great atmosphere, and 'Lady of Night' is simply awesome with its, again, Def Leppard feel, but this time circa 1982.

CONFESS - Haunters (2017) inside

'Tonight' is short ballad only surrounded by synths (brings to mind early '90s Europe), then 'Let the Show Go On' is all feel-good melodic rock with that '80s magic.
The last two tracks, European bonuses, are cool but perhaps were not necessary, both covers from songs that influenced Confess' origins.

"Haunters" is one of the best melodic hard rock albums spiced with sleaze I heard in a long time.
Confess are ready to explode into the major leagues with "Haunters": killer songs, the guys are playing better than ever (there's a new guitarist and bass player) and production is huge, polished, like it used to be circa 1987.
An album to be included into my 'best of the year list' for sure.
HIGHLY Recommended

01. Irony
02. Strange Kind of Affection
03. Stand Our Ground
04. We Are the Rats
05. Haunting You
06. Talia
07. How Could I Let You Go
08. Animal Attraction
09. I Won't Die
10. Lady of Night
11. Tonight
12. Let the Show Go On
13. Eye to Eye
14. Vittring

John Elliot - Vox
Samael - Drums
Blomman - Guitar
Van Noice - Bass
Richie - Guitar



BEN POOLE - Time Has Come (2017)

BEN POOLE - Time Has Come (2017) full

It’s only been three years since BEN POOLE burst out of the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, with a bucket load of talent and stunning Blues debut album. But things don’t hang around in the blues for this, his second full length "Time Has Come"... with his smooth guitar tone, tenor voice and pop sensibilities Poole has clear crossover potential.

Indeed, seems the 'time has come' to sell Ben Poole to the masses, and this new album is a delicious mix of his blues musical formation with mainstream pop direction and a touch of light hard rockin' here and there.
When I said 'mainstream pop' I refer the rock&pop sound of the '80s, not the current Billboard crap for sure.

The album opens with the rocking “Lying To Me,” the most aggressive track on the record and then takes it down a few notches with “I Think I Love You Too Much.” This is a soulful number sporting a nice mid-tempo groove, Bryan Adams-esque vocals and guitar work right out of the Robben Ford soloing book.
“Just When You Thought Was Safe” is in the same vein. Both have a light, airy quality, and like much of the work here, there is a timeless feel to them.
That’s also true of the magnificent “If You Want To Play With My Heart”, which is as simple as it is effective.

BEN POOLE - Time Has Come - booklet

However don’t make the mistake of thinking that the guitarist who won the respect of – and plaudits from – no less a pair than Gary Moore and Jeff Beck, has left his chops behind...
Poole's solo on the gorgeous “Time Might Never Come” (a track dedicated to Moore when MV saw him play it live) is stunning.
The strident, confident riff of opening track “Lying To Me” is great starter, and the acoustics of “Longing For A Woman” – which meshes superbly with the understated Organ work – show his versatility.
There’s a playful side at work here too. The man who called his debut record Lets Go Upstairs is at it again the funky “Stay At Mine” with its key line: “the whole night’s led to this, just say the word and I’ll do the rest.”

Ben Poole's "Time Has Come" is a record where no idea seems to be out of bounds, as Wayne Proctor, who is the producer of choice for most of the best modern blues records right now, ties it all together with great skill.
Things finish with “The Question Why”, featuring a mellifluous into which brings to mind Mark Knopfler and showcases yet another side to Ben Poole, who surely will go on to do whatever he wants to as his career unfolds.

BEN POOLE - Time Has Come - back

This is a really well conceived album to appeal all audiences delivered with a lightness of touch that suggests Ben Poole is already on the up escalator. It's classic rock but it's commercial, it's poppy but rocks with melody.
“Time Has Come” is great, as it is aptly named.
Highly Recommended

01 - Lying To Me
02 - I Think I Love You Too Much
03 - Longing For A Woman
04 - If You Want To Play With My Heart
05 - Time Might Never Come (dedicated to Gary Moore)
06 - Stay At Mine
07 - You've Chanaged
08 - Just When YOu Thought It Was Safe
09 - Who Ever Invented Love
10 - The Question Why

Ben Poole - vocals, guitar
Todd Sharpville - guitar
Steve Amadeo, Matt Beable - bass
Craig Bacon - drums, percussion
Bob Friedzema - keyboards
Aynsley Lister - guest vocals on 2
Wayne Proctor - drums, percussion, production



HEART ATTACK - Heart Revolution

HEART ATTACK - Heart Revolution (2015) full

"Heart Revolution" is the full length debut of HEART ATTACK, a Greek quintet inspired by the '80s melodic hard rock / AOR scene with influences from American & European acts.
Founded by experienced musicians as George Drimilis (ex- Raging Storm) and bassist Nikos Michalakakos (Spitfire), Heart Attack's first record was produced by lately busy man in this matter Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Outloud) and mixed / mastered by famed Tommy Hansen (Pretty Maids, Helloween, Rage, etc.) at Jailhouse Studios in Denmark.

There's a flourishing melodic hard rock / AOR scene in Greece with acts such as Wild Rose, Osukaru or Outloud carrying the flag of the genre. Add Heart Attack to the list, as these guys present here pure '80s eleven tracks full of catchy rhythms and easy-listening refrains, all really dynamic and melodic.
The band has been around for five years now gaining experience in the local circuit and having opened for loved bands like Newman, Outloud, Work of Art, Danger Angel, Wild Rose or Hungry Heart and and recorded an EP.

On a musical scale, Heart Attack has a lot of great qualities. Guitarist Stefanos Georgitsopoulos has a sharp style that is melodic and flashy, not too shred-oriented but certainly in a hero mold on uplifting tracks like "Tell Me" and the mid-tempo swinging "Stalker".
Many of the keyboard stabs and fills are also delivered with a typical Eighties flair performed by female musician Lila Moka who also provides some lead vocals on the verses and supplements George Drimilis on choruses creating a nice effect.

HEART ATTACK - Heart Revolution (2015) full

Speaking of George, he sings with style ranging from a mid-range tone to some helium-orientation which work fine for the most part, however some may wish for a little bit more depth and grit to carry certain songs, as on the guitar driven "Under Your Spell" and the title track.

"Playing with Fire" is one of the numbers where both vocalists work together in an effective way, resulting in one of the best tunes of the record with a slightly H.E.A.T feel. Also on "Living A Lie" the pair complement themselves is a very harmonic output.
"China Blue" is really smooth with a strong AOR feel resembling some Red Dawn / Strangways vibe, of course not the same league of these great acts but in the right musical direction.

And of course what album in this genre would be complete without a power ballad to change the mood and showcase the band's sensitive side - "(You're a) Nightmare" fills that slot and brings to mind a lot of Def Leppard qualities in terms of the clean to heavy buildups & harmonies.

HEART ATTACK - Heart Revolution (2015) cd photo

"Heart Revolution" it’s definitely a really positive start for this promising Greek melodic hard rock / AOR combo.
Heart Attack needs to improve many things yet, but the band is on the right path. The songs are strong and catchy, and all are fine musicians. However, despite of having two talented men at charge of the recording (Katsionis / Hansen), production could be a lot better. Obviously that's due to the low budget (Greece is under a profound economic crisis), and something to fix in the next album.

All in all, Heart Attack's "Heart Revolution" will please all melodic hard rock / AOR fans out there. It's inspired in the best era of the genre, and you know what it means.
Two thumbs up.

01 - Falling Apart
02 - Under Your Spell
03 - Stalker
04 - Playing With Fire
05 - China Blue
06 - Livin' A Lie
07 - Tell Me
08 - (You're a) Nightmare
09 - Chase The Dream
10 - Heart Attack
11 - Hellenic Forces (Bonus Track)

George Drimilis: Vocals
Stefanos Georgitsopoulos: Guitar
Lila Moka: Keyboards, Vocals
Nikos Michalakakos: Bass
Mitso McBrain: Drums



Sunday, February 26, 2017

SUPERNOVA PLASMAJETS - Supernova Plasmajets (2017)

SUPERNOVA PLASMAJETS - Supernova Plasmajets (2017) full

SUPERNOVA PLASMAJETS is not the typically band signed by AOR Heaven Records, but I can hear why the label decided to add them to their roster and release the band's self-titled full length debut "Supernova Plasmajets".
And that is the strong '80s heavy-rock songwriting / attitude the band infuse to their music complemented by a very modern production sound.

Yeah, this female-fronted combo has tons of attitude and a ballsy attack but always ruled by melodies and catchy choruses. Think the last Hardcore Superstar or Adrenaline Rush's debut overall sound, yet the good thing in Supernova Plasmajets is that their music is spiced with '80s-like glammy hard rock twin guitar riffs and a drum sound huge on compression.
Musically I find the songs to be very emotion-driven in their delivery, with a punchy attack and Jennifer Crush's lead vocals plenty of urgency but at the same time full in control.

The party is on with opener "Leave Forever" driven by a heavy riffing, pumping bass line, smooth vocals and an explosive melodic chorus, a stomper to enjoy cranked to 11.
Check the video below (keep in mind it was shot 2 years ago, now the band has a more fierce image / attitude):

Then "Supernova Team" speed up things a bit with a clear early '90s American heaviness, while with "Hold You Close" the band delivers a brilliant midtempo melodic gem that includes huge harmonies and, of course, another catchy chorus.
Those 3 first songs finely represents Supernova Plasmajets overall sound & style: heavy riffs, melodic rock sensibility and catchiness.
But there's more to enjoy all over the album, such as the hooks galore of "Turn Off The Lights", the tasty "Will I Ever Know" and the modern melodic rocker "Nothings Gonna Stop Me Now", while the punchy "Faster" is a killer modern hard rock anthem build for big arenas.

Supernova Plasmajets are genuinely exciting and fresh sounding with unforgettable songs and full force headbanging energy. This album packs one hell of a melodic punch to the senses with songs as colourful as their appearance and imagery - yes you guessed it, so '80s.
The songs have keen pop sensibilities and a potent commercial edge but they never deviate to far away from the power and crunch of their heavy-rock heart.

SUPERNOVA PLASMAJETS - Supernova Plasmajets (2017) inside

I see Supernova Plasmajets as a natural progression of the melodic hard rock genre, their sound being more current, but holding close to the heart of traditional sounding 'melodic hard' from the late '80s / early '90s.
We need more bands of this ilk to bring the new generations to the always gratifying melodic rock field.
Two Huge Thumbs Up!

01 - Leave Forever
02 - Supernova Team
03 - Hold You Close
04 - Turn off the Lights
05 - Will I Ever Know
06 - Nothing's Gonne Stop Me Now
07 - Hangin' on My Lips
08 - Faster
09 - Fallin' Backwards
10 - Feel Your Fear
11 - Turn Around

Jennifer Crush (vocals)
Manni McFly (guitars)
Alexis Rose (drums)
Randy Stardust (guitars)
Cliff Bourbon (bass)



BONAFIDE - Flames (2017)

BONAFIDE - Flames (2017) full

This year Swedes BONAFIDE celebrates their 10th anniversary with the release of their new full-length album "Flames". This is one of the hardest-working bands in the business constantly touring across the UK and Europe, and the band make sure they get as much distance possible out of their material.
On the other side of that coin, you wonder how they fit in studio time with such a busy schedule.

Bonafide has always stood with their boots deeply buried in the classic rock and roll mud, and "Flames" stay faithful to that. But seems this time the guys decided to add some interesting variation, combining instant-fun rockers with more elaborated classic rock inspired melodies.
"Flames" is indeed a flammable album that sparkles and sizzles, filled with plenty of fat riffs and boogie rock inspired by early AC/DC and the best of the Seventies hard rock but with a modern, punchy attack. Think Krokus meets Airbourne with a classic rock bluesy groove.

Hardly innovative, but this is classic rock n' roll when it is at its best, and Bonafide know their craftsmanship. This new record showcases a vital rock band plenty of spirit, whose title, "Flames", makes the album justice.
Talented Pontus Snibb, singer and frontman, welcomes us with a 'Good afternoon' and then he kickstart the rock and roll machine with the track "Back in the Flames", followed up by "Smoke and Fire". Two tracks with plenty of energy which sets the tone for the album and summarize the band, pure rock 'n roll with tons of energy.

This is rock n' roll as escapism, the way it used to be. On "Power Down" you can almost see Snibb racing out on stage to play it with fists pumping – this is glorious.
They keep rocking with the kick ass “Keep A Safe Distance” and “Gotta Go”, the latter with some Led Zeppelin on it yet filled with Bonafide's trademark groove.

BONAFIDE - Flames (2017) inside

That’s not to say, however, that “Flames” is a merely brainless full-on riff monster. These boys are far too savvy for that.
Just check “Written In Stone”, with its superb use of backing vocals and its countryfied stylings, it’s almost what Credence Clearwater Revival would have done if they’d been a hard rock band.
Additionally, there’s plenty of reason to think that Bonafide might be one of the finest retro themed rockers we have. They are steeped in it too. The Stones-y “Flipside Groovin’” proves that: “The b-side is where the magic’s at/ a different style and I like it like that” sings Snibb, and you know what? We were all like that once.

Some of us still are. And some that are form bands as a good as Bonafide. As they end this record with the wonderful ballad “Under Your Spell” which finds some real soul-filled goodness in its work, there is every reason to suppose that this band's next ten years could be even better than the first.

“Flames” might just be their best album to date. As they continue to do things in their own way, Bonafide ensure they provide genuine rock and roll, taking aim at those who can’t walk the talk and the clichés of rock with songs like “Smoke and Fire”.
The music may stay the same, the quality ever-consistent but it’s blues and soul-drenched hard rock for the denim and leather brigade. The sort of rock that has outlived every fad the music industry has thrown its way and somehow still survives.
This baby rocks, and rocks hard.

01 - Back in the Flames
02 - Smoke & Fire
03 - Power Down
04 - Bottle of Jack
05 - Written in Stone
06 - Like It Now
07 - Keep a Safe Distance
08 - Gotta Go
09 - Flipside Groovin
10 - Under Your Spell

Pontus Snibb: Vocals & Guitar
Anders Rosell: Guitar
Martin Ekelund: Bass
Niklas Matsson: Drums



FOGHAT - Live At The Belly Up (2017)

FOGHAT - Live At The Belly Up (2017) full

This spring, veteran rockers FOGHAT will release its latest live recording "Live at the Belly Up". It will be out on CD around May, however, it is available now online via the Belly Up website.

The English-born band always has been an energetic live band. This legendary group has recorded some terrific studio albums for sure, but from the start it was created to perform the arenas. Even their most successful LP was the one that said “Live” on the cover.
Foghat is a band that just can’t help ‘giving it their all’ onstage.

In 2017, Foghat includes founding member and drummer Roger Earl, the excellent ex Ted Nugent vocalist Charlie Huhn (who also play guitar), bass player Rodney O’Quinn, and great guitarist Brian Bassett (which 'slide' licks much define the band's characteristic sound), all contributing backing vocals as well, creating some really good harmonies.

Foghat Live simply rocks, putting up their hearts out. These experienced musicians simply know no other way.
It should be noted that O’Quinn is performing in this band as the permanent ‘fill-in’ while the long-time beloved member Craig MacGregor is courageously battling health problems. Rodney comes to Foghat via the Pat Travers Band where he proved he knows how to lay down a solid groove.

This album was recorded on August 11, 2016 at the Belly Up tavern in Northern San Diego County. So… this is just another night on the road for the band that is always on the road.
That is what I love about Foghat. These dudes will play like their lives depend on it whether in a club, state fair, or in front of 15,000 classic rockers at the Moondance Jam festival in Minnesota each July.
These guys simply can’t help themselves... and we are talking some damn fine ballsy classic rock, monsta groove boogie rock here.

On this release, the tracklist includes “Slow Ride,” “Fool for the City” and “California Blues / I Just Wanna Make Love to You.” The latter is a two-for-one slab of rockin’ glee that shows no mercy to those with negative attitudes.
This offering demonstrates all that was, is and shall ever be that is right about this band.

FOGHAT - Live At The Belly Up (2017) inside

Foghat is out on the road across the US promoting their latest studio effort Under the Influence. That album continues the band’s tradition of catchy hooks, fun lyrics and killer guitar solos. "Live at the Belly Up" features spirited tracks from the new album, including the title track, as well as “Knock It Off” and “Hot Mama.”
The new tunes fit right in with the old, making this a fun album from start to finish.
Hell… this band is so fun when they play live they could put out a new offering each month from different venues and I’d listen.

Foghat’s "Live at the Belly Up" is a record that is sure to do anything but go belly up. This 11-song, 74-minute recording is an easy, early pick for any critic’s list of the year’s top live CDs.
That is due in part to a set list that spans a respectable portion of the band’s catalog, so the new generations (and old classic rockers) can taste how this genre should be done right.
And the other plus is the band’s performance; energetic, ballsy, always melodic but with a punchy delivery.
Much more than just 'another live record'. Strongly Recommended.

01 - Fool For The City / Eight Days On The Road
02 - Under The Influence
03 - Stone Blue
04 - Drivin' Wheel
05 - Knock It Off
06 - Terraplane Blues
07 - Hot Mama
08 - California Blues
09 - I Just Wanna Make Love To You
10 - Slow Ride

Roger Earl - Drums, Background Vocals
Charlie Huhn - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Bryan Bassett - Lead & Slide Guitar, Background Vocals
Rodney O’Quinn - Bass, Background Vocals



PLACE VENDOME - Close To The Sun [Japanese Edition] (2017)

PLACE VENDOME - Close To The Sun [Japanese Edition] (2017) full

Just to remind you, this is another killer release just appeared via Frontiers Music this week, Not To Be Missed
PLACE VENDOME storm back into your lives with the release of their fourth album, "Close To The Sun", on February 24, 2017 via Frontiers Music. The just appeared Japanese Edition includes the great Orchestral Version of the track 'Strong', one of the highlights.

Place Vendome was formed by ex-Helloween and current Unisonic vocalist Michael Kiske and talented Dennis Ward (bass and production) back in 2004 and since then have released 3 awesome albums.
This new effort "Close To The Sun" is just another fantastic piece of music mixing classic hard rock, progressive, melodic rock and punchy AOR melodies.

Apart from Kiske & Ward, Place Vendome 2017 consists of longtime keyboardist Günter Werno and guitarist Uwe Reitenauer, plus Dirk Bruinenberg on drums. And of course, there's an impressive array of guest guitarists providing terrific solos such as Magnus Karlsson, Gus G., Kai Hansen and Mandy Meyer to name a few.

The new album starts with the ass-kickin' title track "Close To The Sun". Melodic hard rock with a metallic edge in it that takes no prisoners. The guitar solo by Uwe Reitenauer is simply breathtaking.
"Welcome To The Edge" is yet another highlight; modern with a blasting rhythm section and a killer guitar hook, while the chorus sticks in your head for days. Kiske's vocals shine here as well.
Then "Strong" is a true surprise; an orchestrated and beautifully harmonized (additional choirs by Alessandro Del Vecchio) tune that includes a profound, emotional performance by Kiske, a monster guitar solo by Michael Klein and great arrangements that puts Place Vendome into some new welcomed music territories.

"Riding The Ghost" is one of my personal favorites from the new opus; fast, edgy, catchy as hell and melodic as it gets.
The heavier, more complex but with a chorus to die for "Light Before The Dark" (feat. Gus G.) steals the show, while with "Breathing" Place Vendome delivers another highlight out of their new album. A moodier, 'darker' but very emotional song with a haunting melody and Kiske's amazing and multi-dimensional vocal lines.

PLACE VENDOME - Close To The Sun [Japanese Edition] (2017) inside

Place Vendome are back with album number four and it is yet another great one that stands equally besides their previous three records. In "Close To The Sun" Michael Kiske and Dennis Ward put out some new tricks out of their sleeve and deliver a strong and memorable effort all the way.
These talented cats never disappoint and I assure you this new Place Vendome CD will rock your world in weeks to come. Addictive stuff for sure.
HIGHLY Recommended

01 - Close To The Sun
02 - Welcome To The Edge
03 - Hereafter
04 - Strong
05 - Across The Times
06 - Riding The Ghost
07 - Light Before The Dark
08 - Falling Star
09 - Breathing
10 - Yesterday Is Gone
11 - Helen
12 - Distant Skies
Japan Bonus Track:
13 - Strong (Orchestral Version)

Michael Kiske - Vocals, Backing Vocals
Dennis Ward - Bass, Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Uwe Reitenauer - Guitars, Lead on 1, 2, 3, 5
Gunter Werno - Keyboards
Dirk Bruinenberg - Drums
Alessandro Del Vecchio - Backing Vocals
Guitar solo by Uwe Reitenauer on "Close To the Sun"
Guitar solo by Alfred Koffler on "Welcome To The Edge"
Guitar solo by Magnus Karlsson on "Falling Star"
Guitar solo by Gus G. on "Light Beyond The Dark"
Guitar solo by Simone Mularoni on "Hearafter"
Guitar solo by Mandy Meyer on "Helen"
Guitar solo by Kai Hansen on "Riding The Ghost" and "Across The Times"
Guitar solo by Michael Klein on "Yesterday Is Gone", "Distant Skies", "Strong", "Breathing"
Produced by Dennis Ward



Saturday, February 25, 2017

SAINTED SINNERS - Sainted Sinners (2017)

SAINTED SINNERS - Sainted Sinners (2017) full

Featuring vocalist extraordinaire David Reece (ex Accept, Bangalore Choir, Tango Down and most recently fronting Bonfire), "Sainted Sinners" is the rocking debut by SAINTED SINNERS, rounded up by experienced musicians from the hard rock scene such as keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell) and guitarist Frank Pane (Bonfire).

As the story goes, after things went sour with Bonfire, Reece was approached by Bonfire guitar player Frank Pane. Frank had a number of songs that he thought was perfect for David‘s vocals and the result is the debut album from Sainted Sinners.
Reece and Pane recruited keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell) and the rhythm section from Pane‘s Purpendicular band, on bass Frederick Burkert and on drums Berci Hirleman to complete the lineup and the results are in a word… HUGE.

Simply put, the crux of Sainted Sinners is the pureness of rock’n’roll, this’s the real essence of their self-titled debut album. If you enjoy Deep Purple, UFO, Dio-Rainbow and vintage Whitesnake then make sure you pick your copy of Sainted Sinners now.

SAINTED SINNERS - Sainted Sinners (2017) inside

From the opening chords of “Knight Of The Long Knives”, the tone of the album is set in stone. Big guitars, magic keyboards, and Reece‘s unmistakable, soaring vocals take you back to a time when blues was the biggest influence in hard rock.

“Beauty In The Beast”, “Maybe She’s Got Balls” (could have been on Whitesnake‘s Slide It In) and “We’re All Sainted Sinners” all continue with that high energy riffing bluesy hard rock.
This Sainted Sinners debut really needs to be available on vinyl and preferably with a record sleeve all worn looking to give it that vintage look that the music feels like.
“In Need”, the 8th track on the album takes a turn into ZZ Top territory with Reece‘s vocal delivery morphing into a Texas drawl. With some insane guitar work, this is a brilliant and fun tune.

SAINTED SINNERS - Sainted Sinners (2017) back

“Evangeline” is probably my favorite track on the album, pumping with energy and a vocal melody to die for, this one needs to be a single. On second thought, “Shine Diamond Girl” might just make a better single.
Oh hell just buy the whole album and enjoy it in its entirety like we did in the 70s and 80s when we bought Burn and Slide It In. Let’s just say that I will be very surprised if "Sainted Sinners" doesn’t end up on my Top 10 of 2017.

01. Knight Of The Long Knives
02. Beauty In The Beast
03. Maybe She's Got Balls
04. We Are All Sainted Sinners
05. Blue Lightning Man
06. The Love That I Have Found
07. Did You
08. In Need
09. Evangeline
10. Shine Diamond Girl
11. Truth Is A Lie

David Reece - Vocals
Frank Pane - Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg - Keyboards
Frederik Burkert - Bass
Berci Hirleman - Drums



BOBBY KIMBALL - Mysterious Sessions (2017)

BLACK ACES - Shot In The Dark [European CD version +3] (2016) full

Cleopatra Records has just released a Toto's vocalist BOBBY KIMBALL new album titled "Mysterious Sessions". In fact, these are not mysterious at all, as most the songs appeared years ago in some tribute albums, etc.
But it's a very cool compilation to have all these Kimball performances (some really hard to find) into one single CD, plus, there's an unreleased Bobby Kimball cover of Level 42’s classic 'Something About You'.

Apart from the covers of famous songs by bands such as Aerosmith, Journey, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and more, we have Kimball’s unique take on 3 Toto megahits, including "Hold the Line" & "Rosanna", recorded with an updated sound.

Alongside Kimball covering these songs there's super musicians such as Mike Porcaro (Toto), Billy Sherwood (Yes), Patrick Moraz (The Moody Blues), Tony Kaye (Yes), Alan White (Yes), Derek Sherinian (ex Dream Theater), progressive legends Nektar and many more.

As said, results very nice to have all these Bobby Kimball performances into one CD, being sold at a very reasonable price. It has been written many times; Kimball may be singing the phone book and still would be interesting to hear.
Ah, and I love the album arwork.

01 - Hold the Line
02 - Have a Cigar (feat. B. Kulick, M. Porcaro & Greg Bissonette)
03 - Get Back (feat. Tony Kaye & Alan White)
04 - I'm Not in Love
05 - Who's Crying Now (feat. Billy Sherwood)
06 - Africa (feat. Nektar & Patrick Moraz)
07 - Give a Little Bit
08 - The Dance (feat. Gary Griffin)
09 - What It Takes (feat. Mike Porcaro & Derek Sherinian)
10 - Something About You
11 - Please Come Home for Christmas
12 - Rosanna



AXXIS - Retrolution (2017)

AXXIS - Retrolution (2017) full

Near to celebrate their 30th Anniversary, cult German rockers AXXIS are releasing a new album: "Retrolution". The idea behind the album title is a wordplay on retro and revolution, bringing the old school influences back with a modern twist, but done the AXXIS way...
The band have been around for nigh on three decades, varying their musical styles here and there, but never loosing their true sound. The roots of AXXIS have been firmly planted, and their loyalty to the fans is second to none.

Classic melodic metal always has been the core of AXXIS' music, spiced with hard rock groove and melodic choruses.
However, "Retrolution" is mostly inspired by traditional hard rock - now often called 'classic rock' by general music press. The 13 tracks have their own identities and in someway, depict different historical rock sounds and eras. I can hear some Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin in some tunes and some '80s hard rock sounds in others.
Some of the tracks almost transport me back to a certain point in my life just with the atmosphere the song projects.

It's the two main men Bernhard Weiss and keyboarder Harry Öllers that are mainly responsible for the band's sound, a mixture of strong vocal lines and great keyboard sounds, but also guitar and riffs doesn't get too short.
In fact, the band are presenting a new guitar player on this record, Stefan Weber. I can honestly say that he's a massive asset to the band, an absolute powerhouse six-string player. I’m not sure how to define his style, but he' the perfect blend of riff orientated, groove, power and outstanding leads.

In general, AXXIS songs are based on a positive vibe. I don't want to use the term 'happy metal', but these tracks can turn dark days into a sunny time. This is what we know from their earlier albums and it's also "Retrolution"s biggest strength.
Talking about the title - it is gambling with words, since there is 'retrospective' included as well as 'revolution', both terms describing the current situation in metal with e.g. a revitalisation of vinyl that takes place right now. So, this is for sure 'retro', but for the CD / mp3 generation it's a kind of 'revolution' too.

The five-piece from North Rhine-Westphalia starts the record with “Burn! Burn! Burn!” which is a moderate paced melodic metal tune built of a strong bassline and a cool groove. “All My Friends are Liars” is the next tune and it comes with all Axxis trademarks. Great hooks, meet a well-done melody and rocking guitars, things that also are the foundation for “Dream Chaser”.

Bernhard Weiss and his gang unveil their classy origins with uptempo smashers like ”Rock the Night Away”, a hard rocker full of fire with a very '80s feel.
To round of the entire spectra of AXXIS music the band added a ballad called “Queen of the Wind”, not too slow, more a midtempo rocker crafted in the way many Germans bands did in the past (read early '80s Scorpions).

AXXIS - Retrolution (2017) back

All in all I must say that this longplayer contains everything you want to hear from a classic hard rock band inspired by the glorious eras.
AXXIS is in business since many years and they are still burning for what they are doing – classic stuff that’s catchy and heavy.
"Retrolution", song-wise and in terms of sound it's more of a back to the roots, but without repeating themselves. I guess the easy way of explaining the album is: 'a solid ball of rock'.
Great band, great album, great passion.
HIGHLY Recommended

01 - Burn! Burn! Burn!
02 - All My Friends Are Liars
03 - Dream Chaser
04 - Burn Down Your House
05 - Rock the Night
06 - The World Is Mine
07 - Do It Better
08 - Queen of the Wind
09 - Seven Devils
10 - This Is My Day
11 - Somebody Died at the Party
12 - Heavy Metal Brother
13 - Welcome to My Nightmare

Bernhard Weiss (vocals, guitar)
Stefan "Stürmer" Weber (guitar)
Harry Öllers (keyboards)
Rob Schomaker (bass)
Dirk Brand (drums)



STAMINA - System Of Power (2017)

STAMINA - System Of Power (2017) full

Italian melodic progressive metal band STAMINA is the brainchild of guitarist, songwriter and producer Luca Sellitto. And since their inception, their idea has been to create powerful music across the Hard Rock, Power Metal and Prog Rock genres. "System Of Power" is Stamina's third full release and features a host of guest musicians including the great Göran Edman, Henrik Brockmann (ex Royal Hunt, Evil Masquerade) and Nils Molin (Dynazty), among others.

Something of a musical signature to Stamina is the tandem playfulness between guitars and keyboards, with generous solos to be found between each, in most every song. Alessandro Granato sings clean and strong, yet always in control.
The new album kicks off with "Holding On" a melodic power / prog metal of a tune filled with soaring vocals ala TNT's Tony Harnell and fleet fingered neo classical guitar runs.
A tune like "Love Was Never Meant To Be" allows the band to stretch out a bit and flex their collective technical muscles and show their progressive side.

"Must Be Blind" is a straight ahead metal pounder with a gritty staccato riff and "One In A Million" will suck you in with its catchy chorus and punch, featuring Göran Edman on backing vocals.
"Portrait Of Beauty" capture your attention by starting with pleasing drum work paired with something akin to an old school Hammond organ sound that I like alot.

Perhaps the only lighter and reserved song is Undergo (Black Moon Pt. 2). Something of anthem, it offers classical acoustic guitar at the start, then combined with light synths, and Granato's voice lighting above each. Eventually the arrangement rises in crescendo with bigger riffs, larger drums, swelling orchestration, and a huge guitar solo.

STAMINA - System Of Power (2017) back

Overall, "System Of Power" is a very solid album that will hopefully bring more attention to Stamina, as it’s a great blend of melodic progressive metal, power, and classic metal with some excellent musicianship, great vocals, and consistently strong songwriting.
Highly recommended for metal and prog fans who prefer the more melodic side of the genre.

01 - Holding On
02 - Must Be Blind
03 - One in a Million
04 - Undergo (Black Moon Pt. 2)
05 - Love Was Never Meant to Be
06 - System of Power
07 - Why
08 - Portrait of Beauty

Luca Sellitto (guitar)
Alessandro Granato (vocals)
Andrea Barone (keyboards)
Mario Urciuoli (bass)
Andrea Stipa (drums)
Göran Edman (Yngwie et all)
Nils Molin (Dynazty)
Henrik Brockmann (ex Royal Hunt, Evil Masquerade)
Kenny Lubcke (Royal Hunt)



Friday, February 24, 2017

STEFANIE - Stefanie (2017)

STEFANIE - Stefanie (2017) full

And here's comes a great surprise this year; "STEFANIE", the fantastic debut cd from American female singer Stefanie Johnson, yet released by a UK record label. It happens that the woman does classy AOR / melodic rock, a style not so much appreciated by the current US musical industry.

Singing and writing songs since a young girl, Stefanie Johnson hails from the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Her professional musical experience is varied and significant: performing at Allentown's popular Musikfest, appearing in local television station WLVT's Steel Sessions, performing at Nashville's legendary Bluebird Cafe and 12th & Porter, and then on to perform at the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2011.
This year she releases her self-titled debut album, "Stefanie", through England's Escape Music specialized label.

To describe her voice, Stefanie has a bold melodic presence, both strong and smooth. Her style ranges from a classic rock singer to soaring pop diva, and you may hear that American FM AOR waves as well.
Similarly, her music and songwriting style traverse those same motifs. It would be fair to drop her music into the overarching genre of AOR / melodic rock without diminishing either her talent or the depth and breadth of her songs.
Suffice to say, you will be captured by both her voice and her music, equally and exceptionally paired together.

As for the songs, there's simply not a runt in the litter or, stealing a cliche used often in hard rock and heavy metal: it's all killer and no filler.
Certainly, I can say that I liked some songs over others. But considered as a whole, these eleven tracks are beautifully well-crafted and pleasing AOR / melodic rock tunes.
You get some fine rockers with 'All I Know', 'Stranger', 'Master Of Disguise', or the very catchy 'One Life'. Something more akin to '80s pop with a melodic rock envelope comes with 'Everything You Need' with it's playful piano line.

Then you get to hear Stefanie's smoother and softer side, yet wrapped in her powerful vocal presence, with anthems and ballads such as 'Word Man', 'Hello Love', 'The Song I Was Meant To Write' and 'We Will Fight'. Those last two showcase the emotion in her voice and, for you guitar fans, the latter has a killer guitar solo.

STEFANIE - Stefanie (2017) back

It's pretty much all good. Stefanie Johnson's self-titled debut is an exceptional album of delightful AOR / melodic rock, featuring her immense vocal talent within well-crafted songs and a crisp production.
They do not make albums like this anymore, so if you love that classy late '80s female fronted sound & melodies with an updated touch, "Stefanie" is must.
HIGHLY Recommended

01 - All I Know
02 - Master of Disguise
03 - Stranger
04 - Everything You Need
05 - Word Man
06 - Hello Love
07 - One Life
08 - In My Shoes
09 - The Second Time Around
10 - The Song I Was Meant to Write
11 - We Will Fight

Vocals - Stefanie Johnson
Acoustic Guitar - Paul Franceschini
Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboards - Brian J. Anthony
Special Guests:
Guitar - Paul Crook (Meat Loaf), Ken Dubman (Prophet)
Keyboards - Charlie Calv (Shotgun Symphony, Punky Meadows)
Backing Vocals - Hasan Smith, Tonya Price, Shekinah Glory Kee



ASIA - Symfonia, Live In Bulgaria (2017)

ASIA - Symfonia, Live In Bulgaria (2017) full

Released by Frontiers Music today, ASIA's "Symfonia, Live In Bulgaria", a live set recorded in 2013, will serve as their memorial to singer John Wetton who passed away last month at the age of 67.

Taped on September 21, 2013 during the Sounds Of The Ages Festival a the IInd Century Roman Theater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the band, which included Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, keyboard player Geoff Downes, and guitarist Sam Coulson (who had recently replaced Steve Howe) played a selection of their strongest songs from throughout their long career.
As an added bonus, the band was even joined by The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Levon Manukian, on a selection of tracks.

Featuring all the mandatory tunes from the very first two Asia albums, such as "Sole Survivor", "Time Again", "Only Time Will Tell", "Don't Cry", "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", "Wildest Dreams", and their mega-hit "Heat of the Moment", the band mixes in later period songs like "The Face on the Bridge", Heroine", "Holy War", and "An Extraordinary Life" from the XXX, Phoenix, and Omega albums.
A cool treat is the inclusion of "Days Like These" from the Then & Now album, an upbeat track that is sort of a forgotten gem from that mid '90s set.

The orchestra comes into play for the second half of the concert and adds a little bit of majestic grandeur alongside Downes' keyboard flourishes, but overall this concert is ultimately about how powerful Wetton's vocals still were.
The record is a good opportunity as well to taste the metallic guitar skills of Coulson. The youngster is about as different from Steve Howe as you can get, but his flashy playing actually works quite well on these AORish proggy classics.

ASIA - Symfonia, Live In Bulgaria (2017) inside

While some might say that the last thing we need is another Asia live album, this one comes as many of us are still mourning the death of Wetton, and he's the star here.
And honestly, we can never get enough of that magic voice.
Strongly Recommended

01. Sole Survivor
02. Time Again
03. The Face On The Bridge
04. My Own Time
05. Holy War
06. An Extraordinary Life
07. Days Like These
08. Open Your Eyes
09. Only Time Will Tell
10. Don't Cry
11. Heroine
12. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
13. Wildest Dreams
14. Heat Of The Moment

John Wetton – bass, lead vocals
Geoff Downes – keyboards
Carl Palmer – drums
Sam Coulson - guitars



Thursday, February 23, 2017

LIONVILLE - A World Of Fools (2017)

LIONVILLE - A World Of Fools (2017) full

It was time for AOR institution LIONVILLE to be signed by Frontiers Music; “A World Of Fools” is their third album and their debut for the label to be released this week.
Born as a high profile project dedicated to pure AOR with a touch of Westcoast and melodic rock, Lionville draw inspiration from acts like Toto, Giant, Bad English, Survivor...

Lionville are back after an extended break (their second album came out in 2012) always conducted by main man guitarist / songwriter Stefano Lionetti, plus Work Of Art’s vocalist Lars Säfsund whose singing style suits the AOR sound on this album down to the ground.
This band really nail that classic '80s Toto sound on ‘Our Good Goodbye’, from the keys through to the percussion and backing vocals (if you didn’t know better you’d swear it was David Paich on backing vocals).

A highlight for me is ‘One More Night’, that allows the band to add in a little more elaborated keyboards than the usual, which are swiftly followed by a soaring guitar solo while the vocal harmonies are near perfect.
Lionville really have upped their game on this one paying attention to each little musical detail.

The album delivers more quality AOR wig outs like ‘Show Me The Love’ and slow building ballads such as ‘Heaven Is Right Here’. If you need arena-ready catchiness, 'Bring Me Back Our Love', is your sure fire single.
The band provide variation with the bit heavier rocker 'Paradise' and the brisk paced hard rocker 'I Will Wait', one of the most energetic songs Lionville ever recorded.

For '80s styled Melodic Rock / AOR delivered here in the modern age, it just doesn't get much better than the music that Lionville are cranking out on “A World Of Fools”.
Instantly memorable melodies, big fat production values, strong vocals, and stellar musicianship brings all of this together, resulting in another winner from the folks at Frontiers Records.

01.I Will Wait
02.Show me the Love
03.Bring Me Back Our Love
04.Heaven Is Right Here
05.A World of Fools
06.One More Night
07.All I Want
08.Livin' On the Edge
09.Our Good Goodbye
11.Image of Your Soul

Lars Säfsund: Lead & Backing vocals
Stefano Lionetti: Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards
Michele Cusato: Guitars
Giulio Dagnino: Bass
Martino Malacrida: Drums



MIKE TRAMP - Maybe Tomorrow (2017)

MIKE TRAMP - Maybe Tomorrow (2017) full

Former White Lion frontman MIKE TRAMP will release his tenth solo album, "Maybe Tomorrow", on February 24, 2017 via Mighty Music / Target Group. The CD is without doubt one of the Danish singer / songwriter's finest efforts so far, and the nature of the music is deeply personal.
"Maybe Tomorrow" was recorded at Medley Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark, once again with Tramp's trusted partner Søren Andersen behind the knobs and on guitar.

Tramp is a fantastic songwriter and a great storyteller and this "Maybe Tomorrow" comes soon after the quick fire trilogy of Cobblestone Street, Museum and Nomad, all released in consecutive years. If you liked those albums then you’ll be glad to hear that this new one very much continues the theme.
What's nice about Mike Tramp, all these years after White Lion, is his honesty and confidence. He has settled vocally, and any high-pitched squelching he was compelled to peel off during the '80s has matured into a sage, everyday rocker's intonation.

The album has a rockier opening with 'Coming Home', before becoming a mid-tempo track that he does so well. Most of the songs on offer here are fairly stripped down and from the heart but what sets Tramp apart from the rest is the quality of his songwriting.

He excels on the rocking, thoughtful tracks such as 'Rust and Dust' and 'Leaving One Day', then the album closer, the more melancholic title track 'Maybe Tomorrow'.
The haunting 'Time and Place', which consists of just vocals and a simply beautiful piano backing track is a staggering piece of work, while 'What More Can I Say' has a fantastic bounce to it.

MIKE TRAMP - Maybe Tomorrow (2017) back

Yet to release a less than stunning album, Mike Tramp just seems to get better with each new record.
"Maybe Tomorrow" is, put simply, a superb piece of work. Here’s to an artist whose voice just improves with age, and his way to craft an emotional rocking song is truly hard to match.

01. Coming Home
02. It's Not How We Do It
03. Spring
04. Would I Lie to You
05. Rust and Dust
06. Leaving One Day
07. Time and Place
08. What More Can I Say
09. Why Even Worry at All
10. Maybe Tomorrow

Mike Tramp (vocals, guitar)
Soren Andersen (guitar)
Morten Buchholtz (keyboards)
Jesper Haugaard (bass)
Morten Hellborn (drums)



JIMI ANDERSON GROUP - Longtime Comin' (2017)

JIMI ANDERSON GROUP - Longtime Comin' (2017) full

Scottish AOR vocalist Jimi Anderson has been plying his trade in melodic rock circles for a fair few years now, most notably with Legends Of AOR project and tribute band A Foreigners Journey, which awesome album was featured in this blog years ago. Now it's time for his JIMI ANDERSON GROUP debut "Longtime Comin'", with all songs penned by Anderson himself.

As the album title suggests, Jimi has finally gotten around to issuing an album under his own name and for influences you need look no further than the aforementioned bands with some Bad Company, Whitesnake and Thunder thrown in for good measure.
But, after listening to the record, it was very readily apparent to me that this guy shouldn’t only be behind the mic in a tribute band singing covers of other bands. No, with a voice like Jimi has been blessed with, he needs to be out there doing his own material, and this record is a fine start for him as it delivers 12 tracks of pure AOR goodness!

Jimi has been supported on the album by fellow Scottish musicians Sandy Jones (guitar, bass, drums) and Greame Duffin (guitars) who is best known for being the long-time unofficial member of 80's/90's pop act Wet Wet Wet.
All the music packed in "Longtime Comin" is splendid, catchy songs and really just some excellent AOR that should make any fan of the genre very happy.

From the grooving melody of ‘Same Old Song‘, the swagger of ‘Let’s Get Serious‘, the hard rocking ‘Welcome To The Revolution‘ and ‘Higher Than Higher‘ (which prove the considerable chops of guitarist Greame Duffin), to the somewhat bluesy vibe of the title track, ‘Oh Why‘, an elegant song that Foreigner would be proud of, and the beautiful ballad ‘Where Do We Go From Here‘, this record is a near perfect one that I couldn’t be more thrilled about.

Anderson possesses the sort of melodic rock voice that really makes the listener stop what they are doing and take notice, and certainly he could draw favorable comparisons with Brian Howe, Danny Vaughn or Jeff Scott Soto.
Strong, clear, soulful and just an all around wonderful set of pipes that fits the styling of the classic '80s melodic rock sound that this record has going on.

JIMI ANDERSON GROUP - Longtime Comin' (2017) back

There are some terrific and memorable moments on "Longtime Comin" and perhaps after all the years of paying tribute to classic artists it is time for Jimi Anderson to step into the spotlight under his own guise; this album proves he certainly possesses the talent to do so.

01. Same Old Song
02. Let's Get Serious
03. Spread It All Around
04. Feel Like Letting Go
05. Better This Way
06. Welcome to the Revolution
07. Higher Than Higher
08. Longtime Comin'
09. Where Do We Go from Here
10. Necessary People
11. Best for Me
12. Oh Why

Jimi Anderson - vocals, keyboards
Sandy Jones - guitar, bass, drums
Greame Duffin - guitar



UNRULY CHILD - Can't Go Home (2017)

UNRULY CHILD - Can't Go Home (2017) full

Frontiers Music have managed to pull many classic acts out of hibernation over the years, and now they can add another one to the list in the form of early '90s AOR band UNRULY CHILD, fronted by the unique Marcie Free. "Can't Go Home" is the title of their delicious new album to be released this week.

Original vocalist Marcie Free (King Kobra, Signal), drummer Jay Schellen (Hurricane, World Trade, Asia), bassist Larry Antonio (Pablo Cruise), guitarist Bruce Gowdy (World Trade, Stone Fury), and keyboard player Guy Allison (World Trade, Doobie Brothers, Lodgic) have reunited for "Can't Go Home", an upbeat set of hook-laden melodic rock tunes powered by Free's still sparkling vocals and plenty of crisp arrangements.

"Driving Into the Future", "The Only One", "Four Eleven", and the AOR sweetness "She Can't Go Home" feature a never ending supply of soaring vocals from Free, the band doing a great job of writing memorable melodies with catchy choruses for the veteran singer to shine on.
And there's even a few potent hard rockers, such as "Point of View", "Get on Top", "Sunlit Sky", and "Ice Cold Sunshine" that contain enough guitar & keyboard firepower to appeal to fans of Styx, Toto, Journey, etc.
Power ballads? Yep, sure, they are here too, with "When Love Is Here" being especially rewarding, again featuring a stellar Free vocal performance.

UNRULY CHILD - Can't Go Home (2017) inside

Fans of classic Melodic Hard Rock / AOR will be delighted by "Can't Go Home", a bright comeback album for Unruly Child. You won't find easily a 24 carat vocalist like Marcie Free, so press play and enjoy this incredibly talented performer.
Hopefully this isn't just a one-off from Unruly Child and they are indeed back for the long term. The Melodic Hard Rock / AOR genre needs this band, a band a of this quality.
HIGHLY Recommended

01. The Only One
02. Four Eleven
03. Driving Into The Future
04. Get On Top
05. See If She Floats
06. She Can't Go Home
07. Point Of View
08. Ice Cold Sunshine
09. When Love Is Here
10. Sunlit Sky

Marcie Free – Vocals
Bruce Gowdy – Guitars
Guy Allison – Keyboards
Larry Antonino – Bass
Jay Schellen – Drums



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