|Posted on June 18, 2018 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
Kobra And The Lotus - Prevail II
Written by The Rock Man
Every now and then the sequel is equal to, or in some cases better than, the original.
And it goes without saying that this is always a matter of perspective. Two years ago Canadian heavy rockers Kobra And The Lotus embarked on an ambitious journey to create the band’s first double album set. The result was the release of Prevail I in May of 2017, with the second album to follow shortly thereafter. However, things didn’t pan out the way the band would’ve liked and a year later than expected the next installment Prevail II finally dropped; and it is pound for pound, every bit as impressive as its predecessor and without doubt worth the extended wait.
Upon its release last year Prevail I set a very high benchmark and I couldn’t help but wonder how frontwoman Kobra Paige and co were going to surpass the efforts of the previous venture; then once I heard Prevail II it suddenly fell into place for me. This would turn out to be a well-adjusted blend of metal mayhem coupled with suave melodic undertones.
Drawing from the same play book as last year, the band used various streaming services to showcase glimpses of what was on offer on the new album. The first of these was a lyric video for the opening cut Losing My Humanity; the track leaves the listener in no doubt were the band is going to take us on this disc with a burst of relentless melodic metal. Lyrically the track explores the inner struggles mankind faces to retain its humanity and as a result we end up becoming self-harming and destructive. In a surprising twist the band opted to make available for their second video a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song The Chain. This version gets the full Kobra And The Lotus treatment and it has to be said is beautifully brilliant in its simplicity.
A real strength of the album is several head splitting rockers that take no prisoners in the verses with a flurry of frenzied, unrestrained and unflinching guitars leading into beautifully arranged full bodied melodic chorus’. In this respect cuts like Human Empire, You’re Insane, My Immortal (and no, this isn’t an Evanescence cover) and Let Me Love You all serve as prime examples of keeping the foot to the flood, with lots of grit, raw power and catchy melodies.
To balance out the full steam ahead approach of the previously mentioned tracks, the band has included a number of songs which could also serve as potential promotional singles down the track. Heartache is the first of these radio friendly type tunes and features a nice guitar chugging vibe and toe tapping drum swagger. This is quickly followed by Velvet Roses which is a nice straight ahead heavy rocker, once again building to a nice melodic chorus. A real highlight of the album. And the third is Modern Day Hero which, again, continues on the theme of the previously mentioned tracks and this is a nice little section in the middle of the album before we hit the tail end and the brilliant White Water. This is basically the album’s only ballad and is dynamic and sophisticated. Kobra’s voice is simply outstanding on this cut and her full vocal range is on display.
While I thought the idea of a double album sounded good in essence when it was announced that the band was going to go down this route, I never believed both albums would be this spectacular. Few bands do double albums anymore, the risk is just too great it will fail; but bravo to Kobra And The Lotus for having the balls to have a go. In my opinion they have smashed both records out of the park and maybe more bands need to take note and lift their game.
|Posted on June 18, 2018 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
Dare – Out Of The Silence II (Anniversary Special Edition)
Written by Juliano Mallon
The late 1980s brought an avalanche of great AOR albums from the UK and Dare's spectacular “Out Of The Silence” is one of them. With engaging melodies and vocal highlights from Darren Wharton (Thin Lizzy) coupled with Mike Shipley's exuberant production, the album made its mark on the scene and catapulted the band into the AOR stratosphere.
Now, 30 years passed, Dare presents a retelling of their debut album with a different lineup, but one that still holds original members Wharton and talented guitarist Vinny Burns.
Overall, "Out Of The Silence II" may seem like a mere re-recording, but it's way more than that.
The songs gained a proper ending itself, unlike the fade out of the original version. This detail may seem small to some, but believe me, the additions made were of great value and conferred that "something else" to the tracklist.
Very cleverly, the melodies and arrangements remained untouched (as it should be), but the three decades that separate versions I and II present subtle differences, and despite not being a cause for worry, those don’t go unnoticed.
The biggest one is definitely, production.
Australian genius Mike Shipley (R.I.P.) introduced us to these Dare songs wrapped in that crystal-clear, pompous, engaging production, as he used to do in Def Leppard, City Boy, The Cars, Kim Carnes, Scorpions, Vixen, Ratt, Cheap Trick, Winger, Richard Marx and many others. It is worth remembering that Shipley was the most notorious apprentice of the legendary Robert John "Mutt" Lange, with whom he worked for decades.
From the very beginning, it’s noticeable that the drums and bass don’t have, respectively, the same punch nor the depth of the original version. Still, the vocals don’t sound like the grandiosity that Shipley has printed and this creates an aura of inconsistency, personally speaking.
But Wharton's production has given it a more organic sound, an aspect that’s much appreciated today. The guitars have gained more space in this new mix, and if on one hand bass and drums sound weaker compared to the original material, in this new version all elements integrate more fully and that should be reason enough for you to hear what Dare set out to do.
In short, "Out Of The Silence II" is an album as interesting as its original version. Not only has the re-recording brought new life to the songs, but interpretations also sound carefully different enough so they can be compared. And there's no getting around the fact that the Wharton / Burns duo is what unites the pieces of this re-recording. A risky maneuver, I think, but in this specific case, the band pulled it off graciously. An album recommended not only to Dare fans, but also to any AOR enthusiast.
“Out Of The Silence II” is out now, on Legend Records.
|Posted on June 12, 2018 at 10:00 PM||comments (0)|
Foreigner – Foreigner with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Choir
Written by The Rock Man
Being a fan of English-American rockers Foreigner over the years has at times been challenging and somewhat frustrating. The market is overflowing with band compilations and re-recorded versions of the same classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s and it seems like every couple of years we get another of these cash grab offerings. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying, as fans, we’d like some fresh new studio material from Foreigner; but alas, once again the band have elected to go down the tried and true road of releasing yet another reworked compilation record... but this one has peaked my interest and here is why.
Someone, either at the record company or within the band, had the brilliant idea to put this multi-platinum album selling band in a room with the renowned 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Choir from Europe. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whose idea it was, the fact is it was a master stroke of pure genius. Musicians of hard driving heavy rock are a dedicated and passionate bunch; the same can be said for craftsmen of classical music, who are equally and possibly more devoted. When the two forces come together something truly magical and intangible takes shape, just look to Metallica’s S&M offering with the San Francisco Symphony or Scorpions Moment of Glory album with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as examples of what is achievable.
So in May of 2017 Foreigner partnered with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Choir for two sold out shows in Lucerne, Switzerland and the pay-off is dazzling to say the least. The event kicked off with the orchestra and choir, masterfully conducted by Ludwig Wicki performing a three-and-a-half-minute piece titled Overture which is gate crashed by the gritty guitar sounds for Mick Jones, Thom Gimbel and Bruce Watson as the open riff to Blue Morning, Blue Day bellows out of Marshall amps. As the rest of the band, accompanied by vocalist Kelly Hansen chimes in, it becomes clear very quickly this is going to be a once in a generational occasion.
From here it’s a string of hits, Cold As Ice, Waiting For A Girl Like You and Say You Will. All of which are taken to a new level, especially Waiting For a Girl Like You. I’ve never really been a big fan of the track, but this arrangement and the inclusion of the orchestra is simply marvellous. They should have recorded it like this in the studio for the album 4. As we work our way through the track list, we are treated to more classics like That Was Yesterday and Feels Like The First Time, but the standout moments of the record comes with this next block of tunes.
To fully understand the sheer power of rock music coupled with stirring orchestral majesty look no further than Double Vision. I’ll admit this song is one of my all-time favourite Foreigner tracks but this cut is off the page and worth the price of admission alone. The atmosphere is built on a bed of violins and the angelic choir, as this reaches its crescendo the drums and crunching melodic guitars kick in backed by further spellbinding violins and the result is unforgettable. In fact, unforgettable can also be used best to describe the fresh and slightly modified versions of hits Urgent, Jukebox Hero and I Want To know What Love Is.
By the time the CD (or DVD) has come to its conclusion, what fans of this iconic rock act are left with is a feeling of pure delight. Here is a collection of songs most of us have grown up with over the decades presented in a new light and backed by one of the best orchestra/choir combinations the world over. Even if you’re not a fan of Foreigner but just a fan of rock music, I would strongly urge you to consider checking this package out, if only, to bear witness to what is musically possible when two seemingly opposite genres collide.
|Posted on May 31, 2018 at 1:35 AM||comments (0)|
Vega – Only Human
Written by Juliano Mallon
When it dawned on the universe of good sounds in 2010, Vega was just a good promise. Today, it is a consolidated and acknowledged band, and much of that recognition is due to the compositions of brothers James and Tony Martin, the secret weapon of the band, in my opinion. Consistently launching a new album every two years, "Only Human" hit the stores on May 11th bringing the sound that made Vega known: straightforward, well-produced and whimsically well-played melodic rock, as well as relying on mixing and mastering by Harem Scarem’s frontman Harry Hess. That put, it’s somehow obvious to say that if you enjoyed Vega’s previous works, the new one will please you in full.
The series of rockers begins with "Let's Have Fun Tonight," but it's the mood set by "Worth Dying For" that excites me more with its killer chorus and well-paced melody, as well as the excellent "Last Man Standing", a healthy shot of the best "melodic rock made in the UK", bringing a base of keyboards to the frontline, where bass and guitar elegantly parade up the explosive and sticky chorus, as the “how to” sacred book of good sounds teaches; as does "Come Back Again," a well-paced mid-pacer with a slight variation of tempo between verses and chorus, all framed by an engaging arrangement that culminates in a shocking chorus. Multiple auditions and absolutely no moderation become necessary in each of these songs.
Next up is "All Over Now," a rocker tailor made for radio, with engaging melody and sticky chorus - just like the gods want - and so multiple auditions are recommended. And this recommendation extends to the great "Mess You Made", a very effective rocker with simple structure, relying on cutting guitars in the foreground and discrete keyboards in the back one, sewing a delicate texture that fills the few spaces that bass and drums intentionally leave blank. And then there's "Only Human," a mighty rocker with keyboards and bass in the frontline, building the base through which precisely distributed guitars fly smoothly along the verses, leading the listener to an absolutely excellent chorus that stick with you for days, and this set of details makes this song another great highlight of the album and thus deserves multiple and noisy auditions. "Standing Still" is a more contained rocker throughout the verses but revealing a more aggressive face in the engulfing refrain and that triggers more dynamism in the progress from the second part of the song. One more worthy moment on the album and that deserves your unrestricted attention.
And in the final stretch we have "Gravity", a cool and well executed rocker, followed by the great "Turning Pages" (a killer ballad with well worked verses and involving chorus, which is one of the album's great highlights). There's still room for the awesome "Fade Away," a rocker that figures among the highlights of the album with its simple, straightforward melodic structure, where keyboards, bass, drums and guitar go together in a harmonious ensemble that opens the way to "Go To War ", another well-presented rocker who, despite not having the same impact as previous songs, doesn’t deviate from the direction set by tracklist and closes the album in a dignified way.
In short, "Only Human" brings Vega in great shape. It is a fact that the album doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but I think it is better to have the effective "more of the same" aspect than to get a disastrous novelty. What the band presents us with are excellent songs, immersed in the formula that make Vega… well, Vega. And speaking of that, the band is in top form and newbies Mykey Kew (guitar) and Martin Hutchinson (drums) fit perfectly, and we should also mention Nick Workman's great work on vocals, which improves with each new effort. I like the fact that Vega remains faithful to the sonority that shows us who they are, not embarking on the trap of obviousness or going down an easier path. The cohesion of their albums is laudable and that is one of the reasons why I became a fan of the guys. In addition, the songs of the band are shown in an upward curve and this alone is cause for celebration. So, I have absolutely no fear in pointing out "Only Human" as a worthy recommendation not only for Vega fans, but especially for any contemporary melodic rock enthusiast.
Vega’s “Only Human” is out now, on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on May 8, 2018 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
Stryper – God Damn Evil
Written by The Rock Man
Most bands are lucky if they get a shot at the big time. And if they get their big break, their time in the spotlight can be fleeting or everlasting - you just don’t know. It’s also fair to say most bands don’t hit the pinnacle of success achieving gold and platinum album sales, break up for ten years and then reform only to go onto greater heights. But most bands aren’t Stryper.
There has always been a steely determination about this band from day one, and after reforming in 2003 their resolve has grown. The results of this have shown in their music in recent years, you just need to look at recordings like No More Hell To Pay and Fallen to understand what I’m talking about. To further strengthen the case, the band’s new album God Damn Evil reinforces their stance on delivering positive, uplifting, Christian values blended with bone crunching, face melting metal music.
The first cut on this new record is Take It To The Cross and here Stryper attempt to break new ground, or at the very least expand the framework in which they operate. The track bears some resemblance to what you might expect from a Stryper song during the verses but when the aggressive or Death growl style vocals, aided by guest singer Matt Blanchard (Shadows Falls), kick in for the thrashy chorus it leaves me a little confused to say the least. I’ve never understood why bands go down that path when they have such a talented vocalist already in the band; for me it just ruins the music.
From here we launch into the next track and single from the album, Sorry. This is a classic Stryper anthem in every way possible: groove-laden drums, melodic attacking guitars and soaring vocals over a bed of perfect harmonies. The title track is an awesome song; upon first listen I couldn’t help but feel the opening riff had an AC/DC quality about it, this leads to a typical Stryper verse and flavour which then launches into an almost Quiet Riot type chorus... or this could just be me.
Over the past several years frontman Michael Sweet has released a handful of solo studio albums which have had a distinct sound compared to his work within Stryper and God Damn Evil features a couple of songs that feel more like solo efforts than Stryper tunes. Look to cuts like Sea Of Thieves, Own Up and You Don’t Even Know. But it has to be said there are a number of tracks that follow the standard Stryper formula such as The Devil Doesn’t Live Here,The Valley, Beautiful and the sole ballad of the record Can’t Live Without Your Love.
God Damn Evil is the band’s 10th studio outing and is their most expansive yet. The album features a number of tracks that will have appeal to a modern generation of metal fan but at the same time has enough material to satisfy the die-hard old guard. It’s clear that there is still a lot of gas left in the tank for Stryper and they aren’t showing signs of slowing down, the direction they choose to go from here will be exciting to watch.
|Posted on May 8, 2018 at 11:05 PM||comments (0)|
James Christian – Craving
Written by Juliano Mallon
Since 1988 as frontman for House Of Lords and cultivating a very cool solo career since 1994, James Christian is one of the most known and respected names in the universe of good sounds. His latest album was released five years ago, but now the long awaited "Craving" hits stores. This is Christian’s fourth solo album and one of the most interesting, especially due to Christian's versatility, which is already well-known for the many projects he has participated throughout his career and also for some tracks on the House Of Lords’ latest albums, but in "Craving" he expands his horizon into exciting and sometimes surprising songs.
The frenzied "Heaven Is A Place In Hell" is a big rocker, which features an alternation between verses and chorus (a detail that usually bothers me, but here, for some reason, it works great). The tempo has a classic format, but the chorus is as incendiary as it can be and this set of qualities makes this song one of the highlights of the album. "Wild Boys" is more direct, going for the kill without long introductions and featuring keyboards in the foreground accompanied by precise drums and their double pedals. I like the shifts in rhythm and the exciting chorus, although it sounds a little restrained. This song has several nuances and deserves careful listening, believe me. Meanwhile, "Craving" turns out to be a beautiful acoustic-based power ballad with a heavy bass, a refined chorus and a killer rendition of Christian is another highlight of the album, being worthy of multiple plays devoid of any kind of moderation. And with a bright AOR aura, "Jesus Wept" comes out with an engaging melody, where omnipresent keyboards make the basis for punctual guitars to emerge from the base of an intermittent bass. A beautiful song that, absolutely, stands among the greatest highlights of the album.
Then comes the surprising "World Of Possibility", a ballad with a delicate acoustic base and soft layers of carefully distributed keyboards. With an engaging arrangement, this song approaches AC Pop in an obvious way, but contrary to what one might think, it sounds absolutely appropriate to Christian, who shows his already mentioned versatility as an interpreter. A great moment of the album that deserves your total and unrestricted attention. Meanwhile, the killer "Sidewinder" rescues Christian's rocker vein in this simple, straightforward rocker with guitars and bass dominating the scene that is completed with precise drums. Another brilliant moment that deserves your full attention, maximum volume and multiple auditions. But "I Will Not Cry" is a song with a more introspective arrangement, well punctuated by a beautiful bass line occasionally punched by guitars with a bluesy feel to it, very well placed and that present themselves more discreetly throughout the track that has a somewhat shy, yet remarkable chorus. A beautiful surprise that is among the highlights of the album. And believe you me, it's worth persisting with this song if it doesn’t get to you right away.
With a more AC Pop oriented blueprint, the great "If There's A God" comes with a well-tied acoustic base with well-marked bass line. Contained and nicely placed vocals share space with occasional guitars in a simple and very, very efficient arrangement. Once again, Christian displays his versatility in an unexpected and welcome performance, another beautiful moment of the album with a song that doesn’t remember at all his previous works. And with a more engaging levy in an arrangement that balances weight and melody we have the great "Love Is The Answer," a powerful mid-pacer with chilling impact is yet another beautiful moment on the album. And in the final stretch we have "Black Was Not Black", a blunt and guitar-centered rocker, in a simple and efficient format, while "Amen" is a mid-pacer wrapped in pop gift paper what could’ve been a beautiful AOR moment, but the option placed before us doesn’t fly against Christian (even more if we take into account other moments throughout the tracklist) and comes as a good surprise to close the album.
In short, to state that "Craving" is the most varied work of James Christian is almost a redundancy. I confess that the possible lack of cohesion worried me but hearing the album makes it clear that he experimented with strands that could be well described as "risky" for a hard rock / melodic rock performer. But the secret in all those moments is their interpretation, always careful and precise, in order to make such songs adapt to the tracklist in the most natural way possible. Undoubtedly, they do not seem to have been misplaced or lost among the most characteristic material of Christian, a fact that, in my view, adds brilliance to the album. Just as it happened recently with the House Of Lords, James Christian ventures in musical areas rarely explored by him, but he did it carefully and with a healthy dose of common sense. The result may not be exactly what many would expect from him, but there is no denying the quality evident in each and every one of those “odd” songs. In a time when many insist on recipes used by so many people, James Christian shows - once again - that it is worth investing in what is less obvious. That is, if you have what it takes to play the bet .
“Craving” is out now on Frontiers Re
|Posted on May 8, 2018 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
Issa – Run With The Pack
Written by The Rock Man
Simply Brilliant. These two words best describe my thoughts of Issa Oversveen when I first heard her music way back in 2010 on her debut album Sign Of Angels. Since then Issa has spent the last eight years building an impressive body of work with records such as Don’t Stop, The Storm and Crossfire, and each time I’m drawn back to that phrase “Simply Brilliant”... but why?
Firstly, because in this day and age of deposable bubble gum hits, complex technical metal opus’ and fast talking hip-hop, gangster-wannabe rhymes, her music is, well, refreshingly simple in its nature. In the tradition of great female rock singers that have come before her, such as Ann Wilson (Heart), Pat Benetar, Lita Ford, Janet Gardner (Vixen) and Lee Aaron, Issa just sings the song! There’s no need for multi-layered vocal acrobatics or trying to create the most grandiose performance ever seen by mankind. Lyrically the songs themselves are relatable, everyday stuff that is relevant to most of us. And musically it’s basic chugging melodic guitars and rhythms on a bed of toe tapping drum beats.
Which secondly, therefore brings us to the brilliance of such an approach. In any successful endeavour you need to know what your product is and who your market demographic is and clearly Issa has identified both of those criteria as she’s demonstrated time and again on her albums to date which includes her new record Run With The Pack.
The album explodes into action with the killer Am I Losing You. Immediately with this one I’m taken back in time to the feel of her first album which I mentioned earlier. The guitars seem heavier and more upfront and present, rather than on a par with the keyboards as found on her last record Crossfire. This is a very good starting point and brought a smile to my face. The title track offers lots of melodic bite and punch and very quickly a pattern is set for the remainder of the record.
Sacrifice Me is a very gritty guitar sounding, modern day mid-tempo ballad featuring guest vocals from Deen Castronova (Journey/Revolution Saints). This turns out to be quite the pair as they complement each other’s differing tones rather well. As the album unfolds the references to her early recordings continue in the form of rockers like How Long, Closer To You and Come Back Again.
There is no shortage of ballads however on Run With The Pack and there are a number of them that hit the mark of what is expected on these kinds of albums. While The Sound Of Yesterday, Talk To Your Heart and Bittersweet are solid offerings, the standout moment is Everything To Me which starts off as a sensitive piano driven track that later explodes into an absolute guitar crunching monster; giving even more power to Issa’s passionate vocal performance.
Let’s be honest, Run With The Pack isn’t going to win any major awards or burn up the charts, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t one hell of a quality record. With the exception of Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards and as the album producer, there aren’t any larger than life superstars playing on here either, but that doesn’t mean the musicianship isn’t top notch, grade A executed. And while the real star here is Issa, herself, everyone plays their part nicely to create one of the most enjoyable music moments you’ll have this year.
|Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:45 AM||comments (0)|
Judas Priest – Firepower
Written by The Rock Man
While some quarters of the music industry and music buying public debate whether rock and roll is dead, one thing is crystal clear... metal is alive and thriving - just ask British veterans Judas Priest. Another ridiculous argument that has been doing the rounds for the past several years is that no one wants to hear new music from these old timers, again, let’s refer to Judas Priest - because their new scorching 14 track studio album, Firepower categorically puts these questions to bed.
While some bands of a certain golden vintage call it a day, or debate pulling the plug, Priest continue to forge ahead and, with devastating results like Firepower up their sleeves, why wouldn’t they? The band have stated on numerous occasions they don’t record the same kind of album twice. Clearly there’s something wrong with my hearing or interpretation of this record because I couldn’t help but find similarities to past efforts such as Defenders Of The Faith, Painkiller, Angel Of Retribution and Redeemer Of Souls. Personally, I found this to be a good thing as the aforementioned albums are unrivalled examples of Priest at their best and to combine elements of those works in one single production makes Firepower a blistering experience.
Priest have always had a knack for creating these larger than life characters such as The Sentinel, Painkiller, Dragonaut and Night Crawler, to mention a few. On Firepower the band introduces their fans to a whole new collection of colourful and menacing characters like Spectre, Necromancer and Lone Wolf, and in time, these too will become much loved additions to the Priest song writing legacy.
But there’s more on offer here than just scary monsters and those heroic warriors who slay them, for example on Sea Of Red the band pay tribute to the many fallen soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms and on Children Of The Sun they take an environmental approach to how mankind is destroying the planet. While the lead single Lightning Strike is full to the brim of classic Priest metaphors as it examines defiance against angst based exploitation from figures of power or authority. And as I discovered very quickly, all of these songs on this record must be consumed at maximum volume whilst in the car.
From a production point of view, the combination of Priest and Tom Allom was always a winning one during the 1980s. It’s been a very long time since Allom helmed the production duties but finally he has returned and been paired with Andy Sneap (Accept/Saxon/Megadeth) and the end product is a clean, sharp and exhilarating sound. As for the band itself, once you’ve hear the guitar work from Glenn Tipton it’s hard to reconcile that he’s been battling Parkinson’s Disease. For over four decades he’s been a leading figure in the world of metal guitar and his work on this record further cements his status as a true guitar legend. His partner in crime, Richie Faulkner brings a freshness and youthful energy to the overall guitar sounds which gives vocalist Rob Halford a solid foundation to do what he does best... be the ‘Metal God’. In my opinion Halford is the best metal singer going around bar none. On Firepower when he needs to soar he still can, when he needs to rock he still can and when he needs to be emotional, well you get the picture.
What Firepower is in short, is a testimony to the resolve and staying power of this band. The fact that they were not included into the 2018 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is quite simply disgraceful and outrageous and is further evidence to the lack of validity and credibility of that organisation.
That being said, everything that is great about heavy metal music is contained in this package. Don’t bother spending the rest of 2018 looking for the ‘Album of the Year’, it has already arrived rock and rollers, and it’s called Firepower.
|Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Written by Juliano Mallon
Created in 2009, W.E.T. has precisely produced - from its first album - a violent dose of melody allied to weight, courtesy of the trio Jeff Scott Soto, Erik Mårtensson and Robert Säll. Time has passed and with it came the second studio work and, shortly after, the first live record. Now, finally, after four years, it's time to listen to "Earthrage," the fourth and long-awaited WET album, which brings the original core packed with the positive repercussions of the latest projects they’ve been involved with (both as performers and/or producers) and that puts their own project on the very top of what 2018 can offer in the melodic rock scene.
The album is absolutely cohesive (as were its predecessors) and it’s loaded with devastating rockers, as we noticed from the beginning with "Watch The Fire", "Burn" and "Kings On Thunder Road", a triad that brings the band in absolute harmony. Three songs that deserve your total unrestricted attention in multiple auditions, maximum volume and endless air guitars.
Next we have "Elegantly Wasted", a beautiful and engaging mid-pacer that contains all the best qualities of W.E.T. locked in a different tempo, but everything begins to fall into place with the huge "Urgent" and the killer "Dangerous", two sweeping rockers as well as "Calling Out Your Name", which points in another direction with a slow and smooth introduction, but that is slowly gaining momentum. This is another group of songs that deserve multiple auditions and maximum volume, as always.
On the other hand, "Heart Is On The Line" is a classic power ballad with engaging melody and explosive refrain, masterfully performed by Mr. Soto, but rockers dominate the tracklist and the rocking "I Do Not Wanna Play That Game " puts the album back on track, followed by the monstrous "The Burning Pain Of Love" and the awe-inspiring "Never-Ending Retraceable Dream" all caved in from the best contemporary melodic rock.
In summary, "Earthrage" makes it clear that W.E.T. is on the rise, even at considerable intervals between their studio work. Not even the most optimistic melodic rock enthusiast could have foreseen that the Soto, Mårtensson and Säll reunion could work so well; each bringing the best elements of his work as composers and that all this would fit so perfectly. This new album is absurdly cohesive, and it is almost impossible to point out any importance given the quality of the songs and the irreconcilable interpretations it contains. I say without fear that "Earthrage" is the best work of W.E.T. And this unusual quantity of quality (which also passes through the right production) maintains the good name that W.E.T. is building and knowing of some things that 2018 still reserve us I dare to say, though still in March, that "Earthrage" is the strongest contender so be the album of the year.
“Earthrage” is out now, on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
Dokken – Return To The East Live
Written By The Rock Man
Dokken.... just one of the standout hard rock acts of the 1980s. I spent many a night back in those days bathing in the glory of Don Dokken (vocals), George Lynch (guitar), Jeff Pilson (bass) and “Wild” Mick Brown (drums). To this day some of those albums they recorded in that period would easily make it into a Top 30 greatest album list if I ever had to make one. There is something intangible, an x-factor, a certain type of magic that happens when these four guys get in a room together and play music. And yet they are in my view, the most dysfunctional band in the history of rock music.
Sure, Dokken and Brown have continued the band over the years with various other guys coming in to add their stamp on the legacy, while Pilson has found a home in Foreigner and Lynch has been the driving force behind Lynch Mob. But this machine will always be at its optimal best when this classic line up is in play. The problem has been getting Dokken in the same room with Lynch, so it came as a shock when it was announced in 2016 that the classic line up would perform six sold-out shows in Japan in October. Fortunately, somebody associated with, or in the band, had the good sense to record the event for a live CD/DVD titled Return To The East Live.
Before I mentioned the magic of this combination of players, to put an exclamation point on that statement the band have recorded a brand new studio track titled It’s Another Day which kicks off the record. As you would expect this is classic Dokken and if you bought one of their records during the ‘80s then you know what’s coming your way. It’s a solid rocker overflowing with melody, punch and outstanding vocal harmonies... Oh yeah, and a scorching trademark Lynch guitar solo.
With that out of the way the live set begins with Kiss Of Death and if anyone had any doubts if the band still had “it” the opening few bars of this rocker puts any fears to rest. From this point on it’s one classic track after another: Breaking The Chains, Into The Fire, The Hunter, In My Dreams, Unchain The Night, Dream Warriors... they ‘re all here. But for album highlights I couldn’t go past the blistering pace of Tooth And Nail and the beautiful masterpiece Alone Again. This version features a two-and-a-half-minute intro, which could have been a little shorter and in addition a good portion of the song is acoustic driven before the band explodes into full ballad mode. Regardless of whether it’s a live version or the studio track Alone Again is always an awesome cut. To round out Return To The East Live Dokken have included two re-recorded acoustic tracks, the brilliant Heaven Sent and Will The Sun Rise, both A+ performances.
The only sadness that I took away from this record is that this was a one-time deal, at least that’s the line Don Dokken is selling. I would love for this classic line up to reform full time and record a new full length album, but while the current incarnation of Dokken is in full swing it’s hard to see that ever happening. With that said I feel blessed that the classic band members have given the world one more piece of magic. Return To The East Live is an absolute must have for any fan of Dokken and ‘80s hard rock.
|Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
FM – Atomic Generation
Written by Juliano Mallon
Since they resumed their career in 2007, FM have been busy, really busy. The band has been releasing material almost annually since then (sometimes it's two releases, as happened in 2010 and 2013) and their participation in festivals throughout Europe is constant, not to mention their own tours. Now, the quintet is back with "Atomic Generation", an album that will surely please the fans of the band given the high musical quality that it presents. And much of that quality rests on the great interpretations of the flawless Steve Overland, one of the best known and most respected voices in the AOR/Melodic Rock universe.
The album opens with "Black Magic", a well-paced rocker with a simple front-line bass and drums (but an efficient one, I must say), with carefully spread out backing vocals in the verses and in the explosive choruses. "Too Much Of A Good Thing" is another handsome rocker and it reminds me of Shadowman (remember that project?), while "Killed By Love" shows that FM still knows how to do quality AOR with engaging melodies and an easy and sticky chorus. Why the band doesn’t go deeper in this AOR vein is a mystery ... In short, three excellent songs and all highlights of the album.
We continue with the great "In It For The Money" (and this one seems to have been taken from the great "Takin 'It To The Streets"), engaging and bass rocker and guitar sharing space in the front line along the verses, plus packing a killer chorus. Meanwhile, the excellent "Golden Days" comes in offering another high-quality radio friendly AOR with engrossing lyrics and a catchy chorus, just like "Playing Tricks On Me", a punchy rocker with an obvious bluesy aura and neat arrangement with brass and everything else, offering a song that reminds me – almost too much, actually - of what FM began to do in the magnificent "Aphrodisiac", however, not with that intensity. Three more beautiful songs, three more highlights.
Then comes "Make The Best Of What You Got", a great rocker in the vein of a very traditional, simple, very effective arrangement with an engrossing chorus, while "Follow Your Heart" comes with a radio friendly chorus that once again sends me back to the good sounds of Shadowman. But not everything is just a reference: the beautiful "Do You Love Me Enough?" is an updated version of the song originally recorded in 2004 by the project The Ladder, which had Steve Overland and Pete Jupp in the lineup. And although this re-recording has little change compared to the original, for some reason it sounds better to me. And here we have, once again, three great moments that deserve your total and unrestricted attention.
And in the final stretch we have "Stronger", a rocker that has a similar structure (attention: not equal) to the first song of the album and that excites and captivates in the same way and with the same intensity, adjectives that could well be used to describe "Love Is The Law", a massively beautiful ballad with acoustic structure and an inspired interpretation of the always excellent Mr. Overland. If you're in that loving mood, get yourself some tissues before checking this one out.
In summary, I confess that "Atomic Generation" didn’t impressed me from the start, but as tracks went by the songs gained different perspectives and their details and particularities began to surface, and now I can state without fear that this is the best FM work in years. Very well produced, cohesive, full of great songs performed on the verge of perfection and with an unparalleled vocalist, "Atomic Generation" shows FM in a big way, categorically denying those who bet on a forgotten future for the band. I am very pleased with the variations on the musical direction of the album, which brings to the table different musical perspectives without losing the identity. A beautiful FM album, which not only lives up to the good name that the band has, but also stands out as one of the coolest albums of the year.
|Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
Saxon – Thunderbolt
Written by The Rock Man
I can’t think of too many bands or artists that have consistently released quality material time and time again for such a lengthy period as U.K. heavy metallers Saxon. This grand statement isn’t just restricted to the boundaries of heavy metal; but I feel it encompasses the wider music industry making it a much bolder declaration. Consider this: Saxon have been quietly going about their business of hard rocking for close to four decades now and throughout that time they have never bowed to public trends or flavours of the moment but have stayed true to the ideals of their brand of rock and roll and Thunderbolt, the band’s new album, continues that tradition.
You would think that after recording 22 studio albums things might have become a little stale, repetitive and lacking inspiration and I’m sure there are bands out there that have fallen on such times, but this is not Saxon. Somehow, to this day, they manage to produce records that have the same fire and enthusiasm as they did way back in 1979 when they released their self-titled debut album. I’m sure this is something a lot of bands wish they could replicate.
In this day and age of multiple sub-genres of metal that can often be highly complex, technical, over produced and overrated blasts of noise, Thunderbolt reminds us how good traditional heavy rock can be. This new outing gets underway with the atmospheric building instrumental piece Olympus Rising which effortlessly explodes into the title track. All the hallmarks that have sustained Saxon over the generations are alive and present on this cut: passion, high octane energy and a take-no-prisoners attitude. As you would expect the twin guitar attack of Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn is relentless and as solid as ever and the vocal fury and gusto of Biff Byford puts his much younger counterparts to shame.
From here Thunderbolt settles into a foreseeable groove and highly enjoyable ride. Nosferatu (Vampire Waltz) inspired by the 1922 silent film of the same name is, as you would expect given the subject matter, heavy, dark and brooding. They Played Rock and Roll is a fitting tribute to countrymen Motorhead and their iconic lead singer, the late Lemmy Kilmister. The track, much like its focus of attention, is fast, uncompromising, pedal to the metal. The following track, Predator, is musically a solid effort with Byford at his consistent best; but the whole thing is spoiled by guest vocalist Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth) with his ridiculous growl vocal approach. This type of singing just isn’t my thing and in my opinion ruins the whole song, which is a pity.
The balance is quickly restored however by the likes of rockers such as Sons Of Odin, a blend of melodic metal melodies and Viking adventures; Sniper, which given the highly charged debate over gun control, may or may not be in good taste depending on your viewpoint and Speed Merchant, a full throttle look at the world of street car racing. Fast cars and metal music are always a lethal combination and this track with its blistering guitar solo is no exception and another worthy addition to a long list of recorded songs about the topic.
Of late producer Andy Sneap has been responsible for a number of high quality, sharp, well-crafted projects. You only have to look at his work with acts such as Megadeth, Accept and more recently Judas Priest to get an understanding of what I’m talking about. Thunderbolt goes a long way to solidifying his reputation.
I guess when I really think about it this same sentiment is true of what the album does for Saxon’s legacy. Not that they need to enhance their status within the metal community at this stage of their careers, but it is a timely reminder of how great and influential this band has been over a lengthy stretch of time.
|Posted on February 26, 2018 at 7:40 PM||comments (1)|
W.A.S.P. – Reidolized The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol
Written by The Rock Man
It was 25 years ago that W.A.S.P. lead singer/co-founder/songwriter and guitarist Blackie Lawless embarked on creating an ambitious, mesmerizing and haunting project known as The Crimson Idol. This was to be the band’s fifth studio album and at this stage of their careers they could’ve easily rested on their laurels and continued to make the same cliché sex, drugs and rock & roll album they had made previously. But Lawless had a vision and that vision needed to come to fruition and manifest itself in the shape of this outstanding concept album.
The plot line for The Crimson Idol goes like this: Jonathan Steel is a young man from an abusive family who desperately wants the love and approval of his parents. His older brother Michael is the golden child of the family, while Jonathan is the black sheep. After a tragic car accident claims the life of Michael, Jonathan’s life at home spiral’s deeper into despair. At age 16 he runs away from home to the bright lights of the city where he will follow his dream of becoming a wealthy and famous rock & roll star. From here the story follows Jonathon’s meteoric rise to the top of the rock industry and his doom laden fate. But always lurking in the background is his desperate need for his parent’s acceptance and love, which agonisingly is never attained.
Two and a half decades later, Lawless is celebrating the importance of this record in the W.A.S.P. catalogue by releasing an anniversary edition of the album and a DVD movie under the banner of Reidolized: The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol; and to be honest, the reasons why he’s rereleasing this body of work aren’t really that important, what’s important is that he is and bringing to a whole new generation of music fans that need to experience this phenomenal record.
Before we look at the album, a brief word or two about the movie component of this package. The footage shot for this “movie”, which plays out more like an extended music video clip, appears to be limited and repeats itself a lot. However, with a spoken narrative from Lawless as the part of Jonathan acting as a glue between tracks the project overall just seems to work brilliantly and keeps the viewer captivated. It is my view that there are three concept albums that should be made into feature length films: Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime, Alice Cooper’s The Last Temptation and W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol. This package kind of fulfils this, but I still think Hollywood has a part to play.
Now, onto the album. The first thing of note is that Lawless has completely re-recorded the entire album with the current band line-up of Doug Blair (guitars, Mike Dupa (bass) and Mike Dupke (drums). The next thing that caught my attention was the six extra tracks not featured on the original ten track album. These tracks, some instrumentals, some full length songs further enhance the story line and add greater depth to the characters; if that is at all possible.
Musically the album flows seamlessly from hard edged rockers like The Invisible Boy, Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue), I Am One and Doctor Rockter to beautiful, moving and emotional cuts like Hold On to My Heart, Miss You and The Idol. But it’s the album’s final track The Misconceptions Of Me where Lawless displays all his brilliance bringing together multiple parts from other previous tracks to deliver a haunting and stunning heart-wrenching conclusion.
Concept records aren’t everybody’s cup of tea and it’s fair to say if you don’t have the patience some of them can wear thin on you pretty quickly. Reidolized: The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol clocks in at just over an hour and twenty minutes, so you are in for the long haul, but if you give it the time it deserves and the attention needed it will repay you tenfold.
|Posted on February 26, 2018 at 7:30 PM||comments (0)|
Shiraz Lane – Carnival Days
Written by The Rock Man
The sophomore album blues... so many bands suffer from this insidious curse. When a band’s debut album is of such stunning excellence it can be very easy for the follow up to be a letdown. But why? Is it the weight of expectation? Is it a sense of content that they’ve made the big time and the hard work is done? Is it a sudden lack of work ethic? Whatever the reasons Finland natives Shiraz Lane are one band that won’t have to worry about having the sophomore blues. Hot on the heels of their 2016 release For Crying Out Loud comes the scorching new album Carnival Days.
All the things that made For Crying Out Loud one of the standout moments of 2016 are here and accounted for but in a more bombastic fashion. Carnival Days is packed to the brim with spirited attitude, high octane youthful energy, grade A musicianship and a freshness sorely missed in a lot of newer bands on the market. The 11 track album gets off to a dazzling start with the title track. This melodic hard rocker is infused with swinging jazz/saxophone undertones. It confidently struts its way through its three and a half minutes and establishes a health perimeter for the rest of the album to work within.
The Crown takes us into more traditional hard rock territory and I had to remind myself I wasn’t listening to new Slaughter material. The chorus on this track is massive on harmonies and vocalist Hannes Kett sets a high benchmark for the rest of the album and at times is very Mark Slaughter-esque in nature. Back in October 2017 fans got a taste of what was to come with the single and video for Harder To Breathe. Again, as they did so often on their debut album, Shiraz Lane draws heavily on meaty guitar riffs and solos, big arena sounding vocals and ‘80s attitude.
Gotta Be Real really works as a mid-paced/up tempo ballad. This cut is loaded with melodic punch and a juicy fat harmonious chorus and not for the first time, the band aren’t afraid to experiment with saxophones to maximum effect. The other ballad on the record is Hope which is more of a traditional stadium rock effort in nature and has a definite radio friendly approach.
The latest single and video release from the record is People Like Us which I would describe as a solid melodic rocker with a nice piano bar/blues feel. War Of Mine is by far the heaviest track on the record served on a sturdy plater of melodic, groove–laden and multi layered guitars from Jani Laine and Miki Kalske. I kind of thought it had a strong Eden’s Curse feel about it and was a real standout moment of the album.
Carnival Days is a very polished and accomplished piece of work. It stacks up very well to its predecessor and has shown that the band are more than capable of producing quality material time and time again. With two albums under their belt now, Shiraz Lane have clearly demonstrated that they are more than a flash in the pan or one hit wonder and I’m already keenly awaiting the next album. If these guys are going to become the future of hard rock, then I think the genre is in pretty safe and talented hands.
|Posted on February 18, 2018 at 11:20 PM||comments (0)|
Ammunition – Ammunition
Written by Juliano Mallon
Active since 2014, Ammunition was born out of the collaboration between Åge Sten Nilsen and Erik Mårtensson and resulted in "Shanghaied", an album released by the duo's own label. Now, the two return with "Ammunition", an album that shows an evolution in the sound of the band, but walking the same path of their previous work. If the explosive mix of Swedish melodic rock with glam rock pleases you, there’s absolutely no way you can go wrong with the new Ammunition album.
The album features a series of powerful rockers, with guitars up ahead on the mix and explosive choruses, as you can easily notice on such awesome tracks as “Time”, “Freedom Finder” and “Virtual Reality Boy”, three heavy doses of the most traditional Swedish melodic rock (and all three highlights of the album) that set the blueprint for what’s to come. Maximum volume and multiple auditions for each one of those songs is required.
Moving on there’s the excellent "Eye For An Eye" (another highlight that is featured in an alternate intimate acoustic version as a bonus track for the Japanese edition of the album) and "Tear Your City Down ", both worthy of your full attention and of those traditional multiple auditions cranked up to 11.
And before you catch your breath, "Caveman" and "Wrecking Crew" come to consolidate the avalanche of Swedish melodic rock, while "Miss Summertime" appears as the only ballad on the album, offering a welcome counterpoint to an absolute rock-oriented tracklist. But the curtains close to the sound of the great "Bad Bones" and "Klondike", both highlights that deserve maximum volume, living up to the set the album presents.
In short, the new Ammunition album not only follows the line proposed in "Shaghaied", but it raises the bar. The songs sound better, the mix is accurately balanced and the flawless, precise vocals make the album grow along with the band's killer performances. It's no surprise that at times you come to remember either Eclipse or Wig Wam, but it's pretty obvious that the influences of both bands don’t affect the identity Ammunition has established for itself; and it becomes crystal clear while listening to "Ammunition", that this is a great album that deserves a place in your collection.
“Ammunition” is out now, on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on February 18, 2018 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
Voodoo Circle - Raised On Rock
Written by The Rock Man
The hard rock and metal scene appears to be at an interesting stage of its development at the moment, the more we go further away from the 1980s the more we are musically drawn back to it. Over the past decade or so more and more bands have found inspiration from the era and the influence has resulted in some memorable and breath-taking works. Voodoo Circle have long dabbled in this homage to bands of the ‘80s and this theme continues on their latest effort, appropriately titled Raised On Rock.
After the disappointment of their previous release Whiskey Fingers (2015), I had a hint of hesitation about what Voodoo Circle were on the verge of serving up this time around. However, it quickly became apparent that Raised On Rock was going to return the band to the lofty standard set on albums such as Broken Heart Syndrome and More Than One Way Home.
Guitarist and band architect Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear/Silent Force) has always had a strong link to musical influences of the 1980s and once again that passionate direction comes shining through on Raised On Rock. From the word ‘go’ the album spirals into a kaleidoscope of Rainbow/Whitesnake/Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Deep Purple textures and mastery. The 11 track/51-minute running album explodes with Running Away From Love, a cut bursting with an infectious melodic chorus and killer take-no-prisoner riffs from Beyrodt. The track also introduces fans to new lead singer Herbie Langhans (Sinbreed/Seventh Avenue) who takes over from the departing David Readman. I had my doubts about the change initially, but it didn’t take me long to appreciate the high quality, melodic, vocal dynamics Langhans has brought to the fold.
From here the band launch into the single Higher Love, again, another example of tons of melodic swagger and punch; and great use of the voice box effect made popular during the 80s by acts such as Bon Jovi, Scorpions and the like. On Walk On The Line the band has the same musical vibe as most of the tracks from Whitesnake’s 1987 record. This rocker draws heavily from the familiar guitar sound of that record as does Just Take My Heart.
Where Is The World We Love fills the big arena power ballad quota of the album, while Chase Me Away is a big sounding heavy blues infused ballad. Thoughts of Gary Moore came rushing to mind. Unknown Stranger ventures into early ‘80s Deep Purple territory and then bringing the album to a stunning and somewhat satisfying conclusion is the acoustic driven rocker Love Is An Ocean, think Cinderella meets Deep Purple on this one.
Every track on Raised On Rock could be looked at as a salute to artists of that by-gone generation of hard rocker. While there are some bands out there that try desperately to steer clear of their past, thankfully there are still bands like Voodoo Circle trying to keep the magic of that golden era of music alive. Raised On Rock is certainly one of the better examples of that and worthy of a listen or two if you grew up with music from this wonderful decade; and it won’t take long after you’ve pressed play before you’re transported back to a more entertaining and care free time.
|Posted on January 22, 2018 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
Pretty Boy Floyd - Public Enemies
Written by The Rock Man
Despite its December 2017 release date, Pretty Boy Floyd’s new album Public Enemies looks destined to become one of the must have albums of 2018. For those of you not familiar with the Pretty Boy Floyd story, the band rose to public attention back in 1989 with their debut album Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz. While their counterparts like Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt were at the height of their respective careers, Pretty Boy Floyd were just beginning theirs. But then came that pesky Grunge Movement and like so many glam/hard rockers at the time the next decade or so would be difficult.
Vocalist Steve “Sex” Summers would lead the band through various incarnations as the band was caught in a vicious cycle of breaking up and reforming, but it appears that the band is in a more stable place right now with the release of Public Enemies. Summers is joined by original guitarist Kristy “Krash” Majors, who has had a bit of a revolving door policy with the band over the years. The pair appear to both be on the same page and the results speak for themselves as Public Enemies is 44 minutes of pure '80s infused sleaze rock of the highest order.
The album kicks off with a short one minute and thirty-three second piece titled S.A.T.A which in my view adds nothing of value to the album overall and should have found its way to the cutting room floor. With that out of the way the real entertainment begins with Feel The Heat, a cut that delivers heavy on the driving, take-no-prisoners guitars, throbbing double bass drum action and soaring Crue-esque style vocals. From here we quickly settle into a rhythm with more 80's ambience numbers such as High School Queen, Paint It On, We Got The Power, Do You Wanna Rock and 7 Minutes In Heaven.
We Can’t Bring Back Yesterday” serves as the album’s only power ballad and is a 5 out of 5 gold star moment; if this track was around back in the era of I Remember You (Skid Row) or Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison) then it’s safe to say this would have been a massive worldwide hit also. Public Enemies takes you back to the electrifying '80s and if released back in the day would have been the perfect companion to Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz.
It’s a shame, in my view, that Pretty Boyd Floyd didn’t catch their big break a few years earlier; if they had they could’ve had a massive impact on the glam/hard rock scene of the era. But unfortunately like I mentioned before they were hamstrung by the changing musical landscape and living in the very long shadow of successful acts which had come before them. But with grunge music long behind us and the retirement of bands like Motley Crue, maybe now is the perfect time for Pretty Boy Floyd to have their moment in the spotlight.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|
Revolution Saints – Light In The Dark
Written by The Rock Man
One of the standout moments of 2015 came in the form of the debut album by ‘supergroup’ Revolution Saints. Although it was hardly a shock that this album was nothing short of sonic mastery, considering the pedigree of the players involved. This three-piece group featured musicians that had performed in bands that had shaped the face of hard rock and metal music for over three decades: Jack Blades (Night Ranger/Damn Yankees), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/Hurricane/Dio/Dead Daisies) and Deen Castronovo (Ozzy Osbourne/Bad English/Journey).
For Blades and Aldrich the past couple of years have seen them busy with their respective other bands and side projects; but for Castronovo the road has been a rough one dealing with addiction, legal entanglements and a stint in jail and rehab. And to be honest with all this going on the thought of another Revolution Saints record seemed most unlikely to say the least. Yet somehow through all of this the band has managed to amass a stunning body of work for their new sophomore release Light In The Dark.
From a personal point of view, the first thing I noticed about this new collection of songs is the overall sonic tone of the album. Specifically, the heavier guitar sound from Aldrich; the riffs have a more raw and edgy vibe to them but without sacrificing harmony or melody. In terms of the material itself, I walked away from this feeling as thought I had just heard what Journey would sound like if they adopted a heavier, grittier approach. With that said, the tracks by and large are locked in a late ‘80s/early '90s style and a number of these cuts could have just as easily been on a Bad English or Triumph album.
As on the debut album, Castronovo not only handles drums but the vocal duties as well. On the first album he was supported by Blades on the occasional track and joined by his then Journey bandmate and lead vocalist Arnel Pineda for one duet. On Light In The Dark we find Castronovo, with the exception of the title cut with Blades, taking on the vocals for the entire album. Now it’s possible that I may be reading more into this than there really is, but I couldn’t shake this feeling Castronovo was in a reflective mood. I guess given all the self-inflicted drama he’s had to deal with recently, that might make him appreciate the privileged lifestyle he almost lost.
As mentioned, Blades joins Castronovo on the opening track Light In The Dark which sets a cracking pace and lays the foundations for what is to roll out over the course of 11 full bodied, sonically rich, emotional, stadium rock anthemed memorable tracks. Highlights include rockers such as Running On The Edge, Freedom, Don’t Surrender and The Storm Inside. The album’s ballads are solid and compliment the rockers nicely and add balance to the overall feel of the record, of particular note is the single I Wouldn’t Change A Thing.
Once again, like they did back in 2015, Revolution Saints have come out of nowhere to provide one of the must have albums of the year. When these three gifted musicians get together in a room sparks fly and magic happens and the proof is in their two studio releases thus far. I have a sense of optimism going forward, that Revolution Saints will continue to produce breathtaking material of the quality of Light In The Dark for a long time to come.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:30 PM||comments (0)|
Sweet & Lynch – Unified
Written by Juliano Mallon
By now, you know (or, at the very least, have heard of) Sweet & Lynch — the project featuring guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet of Stryper, veteran axeman George Lynch (ex-Dokken, Lynch Mob), seasoned bassist James LoMenzo (White Lion, Megadeth) and talented drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Dead Daisies).
A couple of years ago their debut album caught the attention of a whole lot of people, due to its overall quality. But now, their new effort called “Unified” raises the bar and, I dare to say, is even better than its predecessor.
It’s true that there are some lighter tunes, with an obvious more melodic rock aura, and even some AORish flavors here and there, but don’t let it fool you: “Unified” is a solid, in-your-face rock album that might make some bricks fall off the walls.
Within a very tight tracklist, songs that deserve special attention (for various reasons) are “Promised Land”, “Make Your Mark”, “Find Your Way”, “Tried And True” (a beautiful ballad), “Bridge Of Broken Lies” and “Better Man”, all very classy and varied I must say. And though different from each other, all these songs present catchy choruses, killer riffs and awesome vocal performances.
The Japanese edition brings an exclusive acoustic version of the title track, which sounds more interesting in its stripped version.
It’s true that Sweet & Lynch doesn’t sound as heavy as some of the more recent Stryper albums, but it also does not sound “modern” as many recent George Lynch efforts have. Overall, “Unified” has an early-90’s feel to it, powerful, punchy and well-worth your time.
Michael Sweet is on top of his game and George Lynch sounds inventive and innovative as ever, making this an almost flawless duo. The result is a solid album, featuring some of the most respect musicians on the planet doing what they like to do, and doing it damn well.
“Unified” is out now, on Frontiers Records and Avalon/Marquee, for the Japanese market.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
Written by The Rock Man
In this day and age of extreme political correctness it’s refreshing to know that there is still the odd rock and roll band out there that is willing to, not only bend the rules, but break them on occasion. After all, isn’t rock and roll meant to be dangerous, rebellious and fun? Listen to many of today’s artists and most of them are so serious and so glum and everything is a case of “The sky is falling!” Then you have a band like The Darkness, who you would think by the name alone is all doom and gloom, but on the contrary is the complete opposite.
Since their arrival in 2003, these UK glam rockers have been on a mission to bring the fun back into rock and roll with their unique blend of ‘70s inspired rock flare and sharp-witted narratives. Following the release and success of the debut album Permission To Land the band has gone from strength to strength with each passing release and now comes their newest instalment Pinewood Smile.
The album explodes into action with the first single All The Pretty Girls. This is trademark The Darkness with its catchy driving guitar hooks, foot stomping drums and high pitched vocal acrobatics. Lyrically the song explores the sexual appeal of fame and fortune: “All the pretty girls like me for who I am/All the pretty girls when the record goes platinum/Plenty of action, massive attraction when you’re selling out stadiums/All the pretty girls and their mums”. From what I can tell, Buccaneers Of Hispaniola is an exercise in how high vocalist Justin Hawkins falsetto can soar and on this number he exceeds his own benchmark.
Solid Gold is a tongue-in-cheek look at the music industry and the trials and tribulations of getting a record deal. Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry draws heavily on their ’70s influenced upbringing, especially the Dan Hawkins guitar solo which has traces of Queen’s Brian May throughout. As always The Darkness’ warped sense of humour is on full display, for example check out Japanese Prisoner Of Love about life in prison: “Sentenced to the big house/Jumpsuited, shaven and de-loused/Solitarily confined, taken from behind/By a surly white supremacist named Klaus” or this from Stampede Of Love about overweight people in relationships: “You walked in and the ground shook/I can’t believe how much food you took/You looked at me with those hungry eyes/You were eyeing up my fries/To the naked eye you’re a perfect sphere/Stomach bulging out to here/I don’t know if my heart can last/I ain’t ever had a love this vast”.
For those wanting more the deluxe edition contains an additional four bonus tracks. The main highlights here are Rack Of Glam which blends AC/DC’s musical charisma with Freddie Mercury’s vocal approach and Rock In Space which is a ‘70s glam rock meets the Daleks from Dr. Who kind of affair.
If nothing else, The Darkness are consistent when it comes to making music which is fun. Mind you, it may not be to everyone’s taste and as I mentioned before political correctness and boundaries are throw out the door on any record from The Darkness. But their albums are always well crafted, well executed, polished affairs and in my view always a nice break from the mundane run-of the-mill sombreness of life’s difficulties and worth the price of admission. Pinewood Smile has proven to be no exception.