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Album Review: Firewind - Immortals

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Firewind – Immortals
Written by Dave Smiles

After a few years of being on hiatus and without a singer it’s great to finally have some new music from Firewind. I really liked the two solo albums Gus G released, but I have to admit I was worried it was going to be his main focus going forward and that we’d heard the last of Firewind.

But fear not, they’re now back at full strength with new singer Henning Basse on board. Basse is a perfect fit for the band and has great vocal range, tone and a subtle element of menace, which comes out through his use of not so much a growl, but more of a sneer. His voice works great for the fast songs, and has a chance to shine on the slower tracks. There’s also some great use of spoken word introductions to set the topics and themes.

There’s some very cool performances on these songs. Great backup gang vocals, killer riffs, double bass drumming, impressive solos, harmonised leads, keyboard solos – everything you’d expect from Power Metal. There are bands with musicians that can play really well, but the songs sometimes come across as a bit self-indulgent. Firewind have always had the right balance of self-satisfaction and audience satisfaction.

Throughout the album we’re treated to a diverse collection of songs. There are some nice clean slow intros on songs like Ode To Leonidas, Live And Die By The Sword and Lady Of 1000 Sorrows, and then we have the more fast and aggressive tracks like Hands Of Time, We Defy and the awesome instrumental title track - Immortals, to name but a few.

I must point out I really like the artwork too. It’s a bit understated but still very effective and an indication of the band at this point in time. In the digital age where artwork isn’t anywhere near as appreciated as it was in times past, it’s nice to see a band making the effort.

Overall, Immortals is Power Metal done right. If you like your metal with great musicianship, and lots of playing then you’re going to love this album.

Album Review: Mr. Big - Defying Gravity

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Mr. Big – Defying Gravity

Written by The Rock Man


They just don’t make them like they used to…. Or do they? As a fan of hard edge rock and roll bands from the ‘80s I often lament “The good old days”, when bands took pride in their work and created music from the soul and with conviction. These days there seems to be a lack of imagination, technical excellence and passion about making rock albums, about track selection, about cover design and about delivering a quality product to the fans who made their careers a success in the first place. However, Mr. Big are one of the few bands left from that by-gone era that could mount a serious case to the contrary.


The band are into their 28th year of recording music and over that time I am yet to hear one sub-par or rubbish record. Their brand new effort Defying Gravity is no exception and maintains the high level of craftsmanship associated with this band. And when any band can boast the outrageous magnitude of talent from musicians like guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Pat Torpey and vocalist Eric Martin, then it hardly comes as a surprise that anything they record is going to be of the highest standard possible.


Sheehan doesn’t just play bass and make music. No, he creates works of sonic art and the notes emanate from the speakers and dance before your eyes. Gilbert mesmerizes and dazzles as his versatile fingers navigate with ease across the fret board and guitar strings. While Martin effortlessly blends rock and roll crunch with a smooth sensual soulfulness and pitch perfect harmonies that leave many of his frontman counterparts looking flat and lifeless. And then there is Torpey, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 2014. The fact that he can play at all is testimony to the human spirit and with the addition and support of drummer Matt Starr, who was brought in for this project, lays down some solid, groove-laden rhythms.


In a move that will feel all too familiar for long-term fans of the band, the record kicks off with the spoken phrase “Okay, we’re rolling!”. This was used to great effect on the opening track of their debut self-titled album way back in 1989, and once again the band ventures down this road with equally stunning results on Open Your Eyes. The album’s title song is a great little rocker with a quirky melodic guitar hook running through the verses before exploding into your standard massive Mr. Big chorus; this is then proceeded by Everybody Needs A Little Trouble, which is classic Mr. Big with its big polished production, deep driving rhythms, shredding guitars and dynamic vocals.


The pace takes a slight detour with the acoustically drive mid-tempo Damn I’m In Love Again. Here you’ll find lots of vocal harmonies and soulful “Do-do-do, do-do, do’s” and “Yeah, yeah, yeahs” and sentiments of unexpected love. Mean To Me is an eclectic rocker, the standout feature here is the duelling licks between Sheehan’s deep cutting bass and Gilbert’s high pitch guitar hook that inevitably launch into a smoking solo. Interestingly, the track was musically inspired by the rhythm section of Christina Aguilera’s What A Girl Wants and has been twisted to fit the band’s needs, this track alone is worth the price of admission.


Further down the track listing other highlights worth noting include the mid-paced ballad Forever And Back, where Martin’s vocals come into their own as he contemplates lost opportunities in love. There is the brilliant rocker 1992, where the band reflects on their sudden and meteoric rise to fame during the early ‘90s with the chart topping To Be With You single and the blues-laden Be Kind which brings the album to a satisfying conclusion.


From day one Mr. Big have prided themselves on not just making good quality records but blazing high impact pieces of music and Defying Gravity is yet another example of that creative excellence.

Album Review: Rian - Out Of The Darkness

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Rian – Out Of The Darkness
Written by Juliano Mallon

The blessed Sweden doesn’t stop producing bands and artists that enrich the galaxy within the AOR / Melodic Rock universe and the trio Rian is proof of that. Working since last year with producer Daniel Flores, the band has carefully constructed the tracklist of their debut album, and what an album that is!

Playing a very efficient mix of contemporary sound filled with classic references, the trio comes with a consistent album that is clearly directed at lovers of AOR / Melodic Rock. And if they were looking to make a good impression with the first effort, then mission accomplished.

The basic recipe of guitars + keyboards + sticky choruses is carefully crafted and with quite convincing results, as heard on "Out Of The Darkness", "In A Dream" and "Time Of Your Life", all devastating rockers with an undeniable radio friendly aura. Three beautiful songs that deserve your unrestricted attention and maximum volume with each hearing.

"Out Of Your Mind" retains the melodic level, as well as the frantic "Hide Away" and the explosive "In The Night", three absurd rockers which solidify the musical features established at the beginning of the album, showing that the band's choices were successful. Maximum volume for each of them ...

But no AOR / Melodic Rock album is complete without at least one ballad and this album features "Remember", the classic power ballad, with an engaging arrangement and explosive chorus, just as the AOR manual teaches. But you also should check "Burn The Love", a song that alternates its tempo at various moments, being rocker, ballad and mid-pacer in different parts. Personally, I don’t like this type of arrangement, but there is no denying the quality of the material. It would be much more consistent, though, as a rocker from start to finish. But listen and draw your own conclusions.

In short, Rian comes as great news for contemporary AOR / Melodic Rock enthusiasts. Their sound is very classy and, at various times, reminded me of H.E.A.T. in its current phase.

It is a fact that Rian brings nothing new to the table and is not innovative at all, but it's also true that the songs are well-crafted and the band plays its part properly. And that means A’s in my book. A great band, a beautiful album, a pleasant surprise.

“Out Of The Darkness” is out now, on MelodicRock Records.

Album Review: Quiet Riot - Road Rage

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Quiet Riot - Road Rage

Written by The Rock Man


You never forget your first. Whether it’s your first car, your first job, your first date, your first whatever… you never forget. In 1983 I had my first encounter with L.A. Heavy Metal and a whole new world opened up to me thanks to Quiet Riot and their album Metal Health. Since then Quiet Riot have been an integral part of the soundtrack to my life and regardless of the vocal revolving door policy that has dogged the band since original singer Kevin DuBrow’s passing in 2007, I have continued to support the band in whichever version it presents itself.


This newest incarnation sees new vocalist James Durbin join guitarist Alex Grossi, bassist Chuck Wright and band stalwart drummer Frankie Banali on their new studio recording Road Rage. This is a brand new chapter in the band’s legacy as Durbin, a former American Idol contestant, takes the reigns of the band’s vocal duties after the departure of Jizzy Pearl. The one thing I try to do each time the band changes lead vocals is try to leave my love and affection for Kevin DuBrow at the door and judge the band on what they are doing here and now. Because let’s face it, the simple fact is no one is going to come close to DuBrow; much the same way as no one will ever come close to Freddie Mercury in Queen.


So what does this all mean for Durbin? Well, after a couple of listens to the album I believe that the guy might have a future as the frontman of these metal legends; after all, Banali has put his faith in this young kid, so I’ll back his judgement and do the same. Musically that big, bombastic ‘80s swagger still exists and is flaunted throughout the album. From note one of the opening cut Can’t Get Enough it is crystal clear the band have regained their appetite for their craft. The track features all the hallmarks which has made the band an iconic name in metal music: gritty, raw and meaty guitars, solid and unwavering groove-laden rhythms and powerful, take-no-prisoners vocals.


To prove that this wasn’t dumb luck, the band repeats this formula over and over with each track and the results don’t lie, this is a solid, fun, let-your-hair-down record. Some notable highlights include Wasted, Knock ‘em Down, Renegades and Still Wild which are all balls-to-the-wall rockers and serve as a fair sample size of work to give an indication of where Quiet Riot is heading from this point on. But the two tracks that stood out for me as the “gold standard” were Freak Flag and The Road. On Freak Flag we find the band in “classic” Quiet Riot mode, the track is dripping with a big driving bass line, an irresistible drum strut, a healthy dose of guitar arrogances and a massive melodic chorus. While The Road serves as the album’s mid-temp ballad-ish track as the band reflects on life on the road as a touring act and thoughts about the families that get left at home.


It has been well documented the struggles this band, and Banali in particular, have gone through since the passing of DuBrow. I am just thankful that the band appears to be in a peaceful place right now and can enjoy making music once more and if Road Rage is anything to go by then whatever is to come next has the potential to be very exciting. Thank you Quiet Riot for all your past efforts and for your welcomed return.

Album Review: Battle Beast - Bringer Of Pain

Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Battle Beast – Bringer of Pain
Written by Dave Smiles

I discovered this band a few years ago with the release of their self-titled sophomore album. Their first with Noora on vocals. I love that album, and how they write bombastic Metal songs in the vain of Nightwish, but with a unique spin on it. Then when they released their next album, Unholy Saviour, I lost interest. It wasn’t that it was a sudden departure of change of style, but rather that they seemed to be going through the motions.

So it was with great interest and a little trepidation that I gave a listen, and I’m happy to say that they’re back in fine form and have forged ahead with honing their sound. They sound fresh and inspired; the addition of their new guitarist Joona Bjorkroth appears to have done them the world of good.

Bringer of Pain consists of powerful songs with great hooks. Those familiar with Battle Beast know that they draw as much influence from pop music as they do from metal and the combination works brilliantly, resulting in great hooks and catchy choruses. And when I say there’s a ‘pop’ influence, I’m talking ‘old school’, not the crap that charts these days.

Singer Noora has some awesome pipes and uses her vocal range to brings an amazing energy to these tales of trials and tribulations. The band is sounding amazing, and all work well together. This is a six-piece band we’re talking about so there’s a lot going on in these songs. In order for it to work, the musicians have to know and play off each other’s strengths. They do so in a way that has brought out the best in each other and in doing so has created the definitive Battle Beast album to date.

Killer tracks from start to finish with the power you’d expect from this band, with some moments of beauty brought through the use of melody. This is upbeat and enjoyable metal.

Credit must be given to the engineers of the album. Mixing all the various tracks down into a final product that allows each instrument to be heard and to allow for the songs the breath is no easy task. It’s a job well done.

Album Review: Nickelback - Feed The Machine

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Nickelback – Feed The Machine

Written by The Rock Man

I’m going to ask you to do something, which for some of you may be difficult - I want you to forget everything you think you know about Nickelback. Forget that they are one of the most commercially successful groups to come out of Canada. Forget that they have sold over 50 million albums worldwide. Forget that Billboard ranks them as the most successful rock band of the 2000s. And forget that they have become one of the most hated bands over the past 20 years. I want you to try and forget all of that because if you do, then you may be blown away by the direction of their new album Feed The Machine.

This new body of work is the band’s ninth studio release and it’s also their grittiest, edgiest, rawist, most aggressive, take-no-prisoners effort to date. Sure, on previous albums they have had some vigorous and intense moments, but nothing like you’ll experience on Feed The Machine. At several points throughout the album I found myself thinking about the sonic tone of the material, “OMG they are so enraged!”, and I for one loved it.

The first single and title track kicks-off the album and from note one sets out very clearly and commandingly Nickelback’s mood and course plot over the next 45 minutes. Guitarist Ryan Peake is on fire throughout this record and his work here can more than hold its own against some of the best in the metal world. While frontman Chad Kroeger sings with a passion and sometimes rage I haven’t heard since Never Again and Too Bad. Oh, and that pounding, almost bursting feeling you’ll experience in your chest, that’s coming from bassist Mike Kroeger and drummer Daniel Adair.

What thrilled me the most about Feed The Machine is the relentless nature of the album. There is very little time to catch your breath as you work your way through one potent and driving track to the next. Some noteworthy moments include Coin For The Ferryman, For The River, Must Be Nice and the dynamic and enraged The Betrayal. Of course there are a handful of ballads on here but even they seem to have a bit more edge to them musically and occasionally lyrically. Take for example Home (which may or may not have been influenced by Kroeger’s failed marriage to singer Avril Lavigne) has a definite regretful and irritated tone to it.

What you won’t find on the album is cliché rock and roll lyrics that they have become known for such as “I like you pants around your feet”. Instead Kroeger and co appear to have some stuff they want to get off their collective chests and leave the listener in no doubt what they think about a range of issues such as a possible dystopian future, emotional despair and hopelessness, social consciousness and the affluently privileged.

Like I said at the beginning, forget what preconceived ideas you have about this band. Feed The Machine could be a defining moment in the group’s career; and it may change a lot of people’s minds and introduce the band to a new generation of fans. What I can say with absolute clarity is that Feed The Machine is one mighty impressive work of outstanding craftsmanship and artistry.

Album Review: Styx - The Mission

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Styx – The Mission

Written by The Rock Man

I love concept records. In fact, some of the greatest albums in rock history are concept records. I also love 70's hard rock and science fiction; so if you blend all these ingredients together, life is pretty awesome. It also happens to be the basis of a bold and ambitious new project by progressive rock veterans Styx titled The Mission.

It wasn’t enough that Styx decided to record new material - their first batch of new songs in 14 long years - but they also added the complexity of making it a concept record as well. And then to add a further layer of difficulty to the album the band chose to record it using old fashioned analog technology (it is possible that a younger generation will have no idea what I’m talking about here), a process that nobody uses anymore. The result: one of the most stunning and captivating records I’ve heard in decades.

The plot line is really simple: a crew of six adventurous space travellers from Earth are on a mission to Mars in the year 2033 aboard the spacecraft Khedive. Naturally, as it so often happens in science fiction, things tend to go pear shaped and the fight for survival ensues. The story develops over the course of 14 tracks or 43 minutes and I’m sure someone will see faint similarities between this tale and that of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

The story is narrated through the characters of The Pilot – Tommy Shaw (vocals/guitar), The First Officer – Lawrence Gowan (vocals/keyboards) and The Cynic – James ‘JY’ Young (vocals/lead guitar) with the rest of the band playing minor roles and vocally each band member does an impressive job at conveying the seriousness of the crew’s plight as the story and album unfolds. Musically, the band taps into a very defined ‘70s progressive rock sound and coupled with short musical interludes that segue from track to track create a dynamic atmosphere that elevates the material to the next level.

While the album is designed to be enjoyed as a whole experience, it is worth noting a few outstanding moments. Take for instants the groove laden Hundred Million Miles From Home or the phenomenal powerful ballad The Greater Good, that sees Shaw and Gown trade vocal chops with an unrivalled degree of prowess. Red Storm is classic Styx as it trades acoustic guitar parts with smoking electric lead licks and blistering solos and is further enhanced by atmospheric piano sections at the back end. Then there is The Outpost which is simply a triumph of melodic 70's radio rock.

When I first heard that Styx were embarking on recording new music I was pretty stoked. It had been such a long time since they had done anything fresh that I was happy to just have them put out some new product. But I had absolutely no idea just how impressive The Mission would turn out to be, this is good old fashioned record making in every respect. From the genuine 70's sound to the recording process to the craftsmanship and mastery of the playing and writing. They literally don’t make albums like this anymore… which is such a shame.

Album Review: Shadowman - Secrets And Lies

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Shadowman – Secrets And Lies
Written by Juliano Mallon

The Shadowman project came to life in 2004 and brought together Steve Overland, Steve Morris, Chris Childs and Harry James. Now, thirteen years after their first effort and six since their most recent one, the quartet is back with "Secrets And Lies"; an album that retains the best qualities of their previous works, with the consistency we are already familiar with in a parade of pleasant rockers and poignant ballads, plus the illustrious participation of Phillip Manchester, better known as Didge Digital, a name certainly very familiar to the enthusiasts of the good and old British AOR.

Right at the start we have "Gravity", "Automatic", "Contagious" and "Broken Bones" as representatives of the rocker side of the album, always keeping guitars based on well-placed keyboard layers, which are, at times, quite boring. This organ emulation is what has bothered me most about Shadowman since their second album, but despite that, the songs are cool and worthy of your full attention.

Other noteworthy rockers are the exciting "Best Things In Life", "No Smoke Without A Fire", the radio friendly "Be True To Yourself" and " Secrets And Lies ". Do not be afraid to invest in multiple auditions. And with a more intimate proposal, the band offers us the intimate mid-pacer "Put It All On Love" and the ballad "Face The Night", with an explosive, amazing chorus. Perhaps, a little less energy would sound better in the face of the prevailing arrangement of b-sections, but the song cannot be said to be bad. No way.

In summary, it is fact that the new album from Shadowman maintains their musical identity, which is a definite plus these days. However, it wouldn’t hurt to leave their comfort zone, since the quartet has plenty of talent. Still, the production of their albums is very contained and “too vanilla” for me. In fact, it is way beyond past time for Khalil Turk to leave that responsibility in the hands of someone more audacious and, for sure, more talented. Still, I persist in the karma that the keyboard emulating organ is irritating, although I understand that this is a key element in the band's compositions. But on a brighter side, Steve Overland continues to showcase high quality performances and vocal versatility wherever he goes and remains - from the very beginning - the strength of Shadowman.

However, if the band doesn’t offer to bring something new to the table – which makes their albums quite predictable - Shadowman doesn’t jump on the bandwagon of the so-called "modern sound" that infests much of what is on the market, and this alone sets them apart from a whole lot of people. I just point out that it wouldn’t hurt the band to revisit what they did in the excellent "Land Of The Living" (2004) and even more recently in "Watching Over You" (2011). Maybe next time...

Album Review: Cheap Trick - We're All Alright

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Cheap Trick – We’re All Alright!

Written by The Rock Man

When Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s Cheap Trick released their Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello! album in 2016, I don’t think anybody expected a follow up record so quickly. Yet 14 months down the road these Illinois rock veterans are back with the remarkable We’re All Alright!.

This rapid turnaround between records certainly takes me back to era when musicians and bands brought out new product on a yearly basis, even twice yearly on some occasions. These days you can wait 5-10 years just to get an EP off some artists, so the fact that Cheap Trick have managed to knockout two quality records in such a short amount of time is testimony to their work ethic and standards.

I guess one could be forgiven for thinking that an album rushed out in no amount of time would suffer from a lack of character and polish but to the contrary, Cheap Trick have crafted 10 glossy and skillful songs (13 on the Deluxe Edition) that vary from hard rock to punk to psychedelic to good old-fashioned 70's rock in tone and attitude.

The album launches into top gear with You Got It Going On, a track that is best described as loud, hard, driving and overflowing with 70's bluster. This is proceeded by the lead single Long Time Coming which follows a similar formula. From here the band mixes things up a bit with the punkish Nowhere and Radio Lover, the quirky Floating Down, the Beatle-esque She’s Alright and the 90's driving hard rock of Brand New Name On An Old Tattoo.

Father Time clearly isn’t having an impact on the band either as Robin Zander’s vocals sound as fresh, flamboyant and dynamic as they did 40 years ago. While Rick Nielsen has lost none of his flair, innovation and eccentric nature of guitar playing. Tom Petersson, as we’ve become accustomed to over the years, is predictable and solid as a rock on bass and Daxx Nielsen on his second outing with the band, brings a youthful energy and rich, lively tone to the sonics of the drum tracks.

I have always thought of Cheap Trick as one of those bands that you either get it or you don’t. There’s really no fence sitting here - you’re either a fan or you’re not. I like bands that have that kind of ‘with us or against us’personality about them and Cheap Trick definitely fit the bill in that regard. I can’t imagine that there is anything on this latest effort that will change whatever opinion you hold towards this band.

In this ever changing disposable bubble-gum pop obsessed world we currently live in, it’s good that bands such as Cheap Trick continue to defiantly and unapologetically fly the flag for the glory days of rock music. For those of you still out there flying that same flag, We’re All Alright! is a worthy addition for collectors of good old-fashioned quality Rock and Roll.

Album Review: Radiation Romeos - Radiation Romeos

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Radiation Romeos – Radiation Romeos

Written by The Rock Man

So I stumble upon this self-titled record by a band calling themselves Radiation Romeos. I have no idea who they are and I haven’t heard a single note of their music. My first thought is “Huh, Radiation Romeos, that’s a line from the Steve Stevens song Atomic Playboys!”. My second thought is “Who are these guys and how dare they rip off Steve Stevens?’. Upon further investigation it turns out that Radiation Romeos is the new band of Parramore McCarty, the vocalist who sang on Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys album way back in 1989.

As I stare at the band photo I realize that McCarty has gone through some changes: gone are the skin-tight leathers and the long jet black mop of hair so fashionable back in the day. In its place is a man with a shorter blonde cut and sporting jeans and a designer style t-shirt and I wonder if McCarty is still able to rock like he used to… I press play and it becomes clear I had no reason for concern, the voice is still there.

The album explodes with a burst of melodic guitar riffs and punchy drums accompanied by McCarty’s powerhouse vocals on the opening track Radiation Romeos. Yep, they even have a song called that too. The song itself could’ve easily featured on the Atomic Playboys record and reflects the solid and consistent nature of the material to come. Cuts such as Ocean Drive, On The Tight Rope, Castaways and Monstertraxx are fine examples of what I’m talking about.

But it is worth mentioning a few standards like the blistering Bad, Bad Company. This track comes packed with serious attitude and gritty melodic bite. Promised Land lays down a nice meaty guitar arrangement and solid drum grooves under scored by Middle Eastern sounds and influences. Ghost Town is a throwback to the late ‘80s/early ‘90s ‘cowboy-influenced’ style hard rock tunes made popular at the time by bands such as Tyketto, Firehouse, Tangier and the like. It’s strong on acoustic guitar blended with shredding melodies and solos and lots of clichés and metaphors about ‘moving on’, ‘nothing tying me down’, ‘tumbleweed’ and ‘no horse towns’.

It’s not often that I will be critical, but if there was one minor issue I had with any of the material on the record it would be the disjointed lyrical flow of Mystic Mountain. Not sure if this track was a little rushed but it just seemed to me to struggle getting a rhythm going. However, this slight misstep wasn’t enough to stop me enjoying the album as a whole.

To that end I can’t imagine most fans of hard rock from that golden age not finding something of value on this record. Those searching for an enhanced musical experience with complex arrangements and thought provoking lyrics won’t find that here. Radiation Romeos is best suited to connoisseurs of pure rock and roll fun.

Album Review: Jorn - Life On Death Road

Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Jorn – Life On Death Road

Written by The Rock Man

It has become just a simple fact of life - today we live in a disposable music world. I have often spoken to friends and other music fans about this topic who are happy to entertain me lamenting the loss of the “good old days” of music collection. Depending on your age, you may or may not remember buying an album of 10/12 songs and racing home to open it and putting it on your stereo system, making sure that you take in every note of every track, from start to finish. Carefully examining every square inch of the album artwork and liner notes and enjoying the experience of this gift from the “Rock Gods”.

Today, however, it’s all digital downloads and streaming services and no one appears to have the time or patience to sit down and enjoy listening to an album of songs. It’s all a single here and there or an EP every now and then, and it should come as little surprise that this generations rock heroes too have forgotten how to create quality records. Which is why I thank the heavens and stars that rock veterans such as Jorn Lande are still on a rock crusade to bring craftsmanship music to the masses.

His latest venture under the Jorn banner, and ninth album of all original material, is titled Life On Death Road. This is a project that is almost 2½ years in the making and the theory behind this is that Jorn wanted to perform, produce and write the best possible result and not just pump out “another Jorn album”. It has to be noted that the time taken on this record clearly is visible and the result is a rejuvenated and bolder sounding body of work.

The 7½ minute title track sets a high standard and cracking pace as the album opener. The track, much like the album, is thunderous across the board and showcases the ensemble of heavy hitters from the European metal community the Jorn has brought together for this record. The trio of Primal Fear musicians – Matt Sinner (bass), Alex Beyrodt (guitar) and Francesco Jovino (drums) - are joined by Frontier Records in-house producer and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio and instantly have provided Jorn with a freshness and invigorated approach.

From here the album is littered with songs full of punch, grit and melodic groove, such as Hammered To The Cross (The Business), Love Is The Remedy, Fire To The Sun and The Slippery Slope (Hangman’s Rope). There are also two ballads worth noting: the first is the David Coverdale-esque mid-pacer Dreamwalker, while the second is the beautiful piano/acoustic guitar driven The Optimist which is worth the admission price alone. Also on display is Jorn’s vocal influences from Coverdale – as I mentioned – to Dio, which is heavily drawn upon on cuts like I Walked Away and Devil You Can Drive. But when it comes to standout moments on the record one can’t go past Man Of The 80s which sees Jorn in a reflective mood as he reminisces about days long past.

Overall, if you’re looking for musical value for money you’d be hard pressed to find better in this modern, highly-disposable, iTune dominated world. Life On Death Road is a lengthy affair clocking in at 67 minutes - which these days may challenge some with short attention spans – and features nothing under 4½ minutes in duration… like I said, value for money.

Album Review: Kobra And The Lotus - Prevail I

Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (1)

Kobra And The Lotus – Prevail I

Written by The Rock Man

With each studio release over their short seven-year career, Canadian metal powerhouse Kobra And The Lotus have shown signs of growth, development and maturity; but it’s on the band’s newest effort that the group make their biggest step forward. The band’s fourth studio record is by far their most ambitious venture to date – a double album!

Over the course of 2017 the band will release both parts of the album, but in the first half of the year fans have been blessed with the arrival of Prevail I. And it has to be said that Prevail I doesn’t hold back in setting a very high standard for the forthcoming Prevail II later in the year.

Prior to its official release, three singles were made available via streaming services to tease what was to come from the record. The first single from Prevail I was TriggerPulse, which features lots of meaty, feisty, yet melodic guitar crunch from Jasio Kulaowski and is balanced by the unrelenting driving rhythms of drummer Marcus Lee and bassist Brad Kennedy. Add to the mix the rich, full-toned and intoxicating vocals of frontwoman Kobra Page and what we have here - my metal brothers and sisters - is a rock and roll tour de force.

Gotham – the second single and album opener, is a dark and brooding rocker befitting of its title. Page effortlessly brings to life the never ending destruction and despair of this iconic fictional city, through varying vocal applications. Trace elements of symphonic metal blended with her classical training makes the track bold, grandiose and almost cinematic in scope.

The third single from the album, You Don’t Know is clearly the best metal song I’ve heard so far this years, hands down! The guitars are aggressive and powerful but they leave plenty of room for melody and for Page to shine; her performance is positively glowing. Lyrically Page explores what it really feels like to be misunderstood, a place I’m sure we’ve all been in at one point or another in our lives, which makes this is a very relatable song.

From this point on the foundations of a very solid album are laid and strengthened by tracks such as Specimen X, Manifest Destiny and the mainstream rock friendly Victim; while Light Me Up serves as the album’s only ballad. Check The Phryg is a very well-crafted and technically executed instrumental piece with hints of neo-classical undertones and I have little doubt that this track would appeal to fans of Yngwie J. Malmsteen.

Hell On Earth is the album’s penultimate track and sees Page and co. tackle the tormenting nature of addiction. The phrase “You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped” certainly applies to the lyrical narrative here. The record comes to a stunning conclusion with the title track, Prevail. Once again, the band taps into a more mainstream melodic metal feel sonically while the lyrical tone is inspired by a ‘stand your ground and find inner strength in the face of adversity’ mentality.

It becomes glaringly obvious early on that Prevail I is Kobra And The Lotus’ most accessible album to mainstream audiences so far. That being said there is certainly enough metal goodness here to maintain the interest of long term fans. The band should be applauded for what they have created at this point. While double albums are always a gamble, it appears to have paid off in spades with this breathtaking release… now bring on Prevail II!

Album Review: Harem Scarem - United

Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Harem Scarem – United
Written by Julian Mallon

Since 1991, Canada’s Harem Scarem have been rendering valuable services to the cause of melodic rock in a very consistent way, so true that even their weaker albums are interesting. Still, the duo of vocalist Harry Hess and guitarist Pete Lesperance works perfectly and even the changes of bassists and drummers have not affected in any way the sonority of the band. And proof of this is "United", the band’s 14th album and one that serves as testimony of their abundant musical quality. And when you think there's no way the band can surprise you anymore, they prove exactly the opposite.

Absolutely jam-packed with good, old-fashioned melodic classic rock, the album brings chilling rockers like the breathtaking "United", the daunting "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" (featuring Jeff Scott Soto's stylish backing vocals) and the engaging " Gravitiy ", where the band's versatility and, above all, the ability to maintain its identity in variations of the same style is clear. The kind of thing only those who are totally aware of what they’re doing can achieve. All three songs deserve multiple and tireless auditions totally devoid of any kind of moderation.

The frantic "Sinking Ship" and "No Regrets" continue the parade of awesome melodic rock, followed by the excellent "Bite The Bullet" and the surrounding "Things I Know", and these songs serve to ratify, in an unmistakable way, all the adjectives pointed out in the previous paragraph. And so the same recommendations mentioned above to hear them apply here.

The swinging "The Sky Is Falling" sparkles with its lively arrangement, while "Heaven And Earth" and "Indestructible" (which tricks with a drastic change in the arrangement and tempo) maintains the band's classic footprint. And the poignant “One Of Life's Mysteries” is one of those power ballads that makes the eyebrows of the coldest of creatures shiver, as well as the beautiful acoustic version for "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow", a bonus track from this Japanese edition that also features a DVD - just over 28 minutes - containing two promotional videos and the making of the album.

In summary, there is no way to ignore the excellence of Harem Scarem, a band that deserves much more recognition than it has. Canadian’s are able to reinvent themselves in a subtle way, but always maintaining the musical cohesion that is expected of them and that is the reason why I cannot point out highlights on the tracklist, since we have an endless series of sweeping songs here. "United” arrives not only as one of the best albums of the year and also of the band's career, but also as an explicit example of the sonority that made them one of the great names in the melodic rock scene. Personally, I put "United" quietly among the three most relevant albums on the Harem Scarem discography and I hope that a live tour record soon to be released (with Darren Smith on drums) is duly made. Meanwhile, let's celebrate the triumphant return of one of the great names in the universe of good sounds. This album is absolutely mandatory in your collection.

The fantastic “United” is out now...

Album Review: Bonfire - Byte The Bullet

Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Bonfire – Byte The Bullet

Written by The Rock Man

German hard rock veterans Bonfire have recorded and released their 14th studio album titled Byte The Bullet. With this announcement came the news that the band had once again made some line-up changes in the vocal department and this caused me some apprehension about what to expect from this new venture.

Over a 31 year recording period numerous guitarists, bassists and drummers have made Bonfire a pit-stop on their way to something else; and by and large I’m okay with that. But the lead singer gives the band its identity and, pardon the pun, its voice. For the better part of two and a half decades former frontman Claus Lessmann is what I identify as the “sound” of Bonfire.

With his departure several years ago I admit it has been a struggle for me to find the same level of enthusiasm for the band as I once did. For a time, former Accept vocalist David Reece filled the breach and did the best job he could, but it wasn’t quite the same band. Now in 2017 the band brings Alexx Stahl to the front of stage as he attempts to leave his footprint on the band’s legacy.

Once I’m able to leave my Lessmann bias at the door and judge the material on its merits, I’m able to acknowledge that Byte The Bullet is a pretty solid hard rock record. The band clearly has never been concerned about making lengthy records and Byte The Bullet is another in a long line of extended efforts, the album features 14 tracks and clocks in at 64 minutes.

And so we begin with the punchy opener Power Train. This seven-minute monster kicks off with a building guitar piece from band founder and guitarist Hans Ziller that explodes into what you would expect from a Bonfire tune musically. It’s pacey, meaty and full of melody and Stahl’s vocals makes them sound like a German band again… the genuine article, not just a German band fronted by someone from America. This is followed by Stand Up 4 Rock and judging from the title you can pretty much guess what you’re going to get here, again - pacey, meaty guitars with lots of fun cliché lyrics about Rock and Roll.

From this point on the album settles into a similar rhythm with cuts such as Some Kinda Evil, Reach For The Sky, Too Far From Heaven, Locomotive Breath and the title track. InstruMetal is a nice heavy guitar-driven instrumental piece which draws heavily on well-known classical arrangements. Bonfire have always excelled at the big power ballad and Without You and Lonely Nights serve the record well in this regard. The only real question mark I have with the material on Byte The Bullet is the need for another re-recording of their classic track Sweet Obsession. I have lost count of the number of times the band has re-recorded this track and I just don’t see what Ziller is trying to achieve by regurgitating it so often. The original will always be the best and in my view it’s pointless trying to reinvent the wheel.

As the final notes fade out it is clear that if Stahl can stay with the band for a lengthy amount of time the future for Bonfire might be pretty good. Sure, for me it will never be what it was with Lessmann up front, but this new incarnation has laid the foundations with Byte The Bullet to build something new and sold. This next chapter in the band's story may have some excitement to it.

Album Review: Warrant - Louder Harder Faster

Posted on June 14, 2017 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Warrant – Louder Harder Faster

Written by The Rock Man

From the outset I need to acknowledge that this may potentially be the most confusing and contradictory review I’ve written; and to you - the reader - I apologise. Here is my issue: From the moment I heard L.A. rockers Warrant way back in 1989 I was on-board in a massive way and one of the main contributing factors was the undeniable vocal talent and presence of frontman Jani Lane. When Lane left the band back in 2004 my interest went with him until he briefly returned a few short years later, before leaving once again. Then in 2011 Lane tragically passed away and for me, at least, Warrant just wouldn’t be the same with anyone else out the front. However, this hasn’t stopped the band from continuing on with former Lynch Mob singer Robert Mason, who finds himself leading the band on their new studio album Louder Harder Faster.

This is Mason’s second album with the band following on from the 2011 release Rockaholic and in many ways, like that record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this collection of new material. In fact, if I close my eyes and with intent immerse myself in the music before me these are very well crafted, polished and performed songs - the kind that would make any other band proud. But then I go and open my eyes and see the giant Warrant logo across the album cover and things just don’t seem right because Lane isn’t front and centre.

I’ll compare it to a jigsaw puzzle missing a piece in one corner. Sure, all the other pieces are there and you can clearly see what the image is but your attention is always drawn to that one missing piece. Yes, four of the original five members are still present and clearly moving on, but it just doesn’t sound like the band I grew up on. But, again, the confusion for me lies in that this is a solid piece of work.

High praise must go to producer Jeff Pilson (Ex-Dokken/Foreigner bassist) who has done an outstanding job of creating a very crisp, clean and fresh sounding album. As for the material itself, you get a very clear idea where the album will take you with the opening handful of tracks. The title track kicks of this shindig and took me back to a period around 2007/8 where a lot of former ‘80s bands were getting back together and releasing new music. At that point all these bands had a certain sound about them and the title track definitely has that kind of feel. It’s high energy, hard rock of today but with an acknowledgement of the past. This is followed up by Devil Dancer which packs some serious melodic groove and swagger. The same can also be said of Perfect, Choose Your Fate and Only Broken Heart.

A Warrant album wouldn’t be complete without a monstering power ballad and on this project U In My Life fits the bill nicely. But for me, the standout moments came in the form of three tracks: Music Man, Faded and Let It Go which all harken back to that “Classic” Warrant sound.

Normally at this point I’d try to convince you that life won’t go on without this release in your collection, however I’m not going to do that here. I know there are those fans fiercely loyal to the Lane era of the band and equally those fans who can appreciate the glory days and embrace the new road ahead. After listening to Louder Harder Faster I’m of the view it’s a solid album by any other name other that Warrant. But don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself.

Album Review: House Of Lords - Saints Of The Lost Souls

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (0)

House Of Lords – Saints Of The Lost Souls
Written by Juliano Mallon

It's been two years since the last album from the House Of Lords and, who knows, maybe you're already conformed and accustomed to the change in the sound of the band. Personally, I was very pleased and saw an unexpected - and very welcome - growth of House Of Lords in the face of everything that is currently out there. Well, the new album "Saint Of The Lost Souls" features new songs with a contemporary sound (as expected) but with structures recurring to the first three classic albums released between 1988 and 1992. With a set of excellent songs and participation of familiar names from the House Of Lords universe, this mixture had no way of going wrong.

As expected, the album features a slew of rockers such as "Oceans Divide", the radio friendly "New Day Breaking" and the rhythmic "Reign Of Fire", all highlights and deserving of multiple auditions and maximum volume.

The excellent "Concussion" retains the high level, a fact that is repeated in "Art Of Letting Go" and the great "Grains Of Sand", with a powerful bass line and a healthy dose of weight on guitars. Still featured as highlights are the frenzied "The Other Option", where guitars and keyboards constantly compete for space, just as in "Saint Of The Lost Souls." Once again, we have here highlights of the album that deserve your full attention.

"Hit The Wall" is a sweeping mid-pacer, packed by an obvious bass line and punctuated by precisely distributed guitars. One of the great highlights of the album, no doubt, as well as "The Sun Will Never Set Again", a power ballad with classic arrangements that brings a perfect interpretation of the great James Christian. This is one of the highlights of the album, as well as its acoustic version (bonus track of the Japanese edition), which marvelously highlights the keyboard layers, transforming the song completely. A beautiful way to end the album, no doubt.

In short, House Of Lords shows - once again - that is in top form. The set of songs on "Saint Of The Lost Souls" lives up to the best moments of the band's career and shows their ability to reinvent themselves; just as they had done on their last two works. Still, B.J. Zampa (drums) and Jimi Bell (guitars) justify their presence in the band, with precise and solid performances, as does Chris Tristram, the new bass player. And what about vocalist James Christian? The man continues to impress with capitalized interpretations, showing why he is one of the most respected names in the melodic hard rock scene. It's easy to say that the new album by House Of Lords is one of the best of the year, but also of his career, which makes it mandatory in your collection.

Album Review: Adrenaline Rush - Soul Survivor

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Adrenaline Rush – Soul Survivor
Written by The Rock Man

One of the surprise releases of 2014 was the debut self-titled album by Swedish hard rockers Adrenaline Rush. Lead by the talented (and visually appealing) Tave Wanning on vocals and reinforced by guitarist Alexander Hagman, this was an album that showcased everything that was excessive, flamboyant and glamourous about 80s influenced hard rock which seems to be in vogue with rock acts for the past decade or so. So when a debut album of such high standards is released I tend to have concerns if the follow up album can live up to the lofty heights set by its predecessor… on this occasion however, I had absolutely no need for concern.

A bit has happened since we last heard from Adrenaline Rush; for starters the band has had a bit of a shake-up within its ranks. The band has parted ways with guitarist Ludvig Turner and bassist Soufian Ma’Aoui and replacing them are Sam Soderlindh and Joel Fox respectively. This has had an immediate impact on the sound - more on that soon – the other point of note is the collaborative writing between frontwoman Wanning and Fredrik Folkare of Firespawn and Unleashed fame; succeeding Erik Martensson (Eclipse) who wrote on the first record.

It’s clear from the opening track Adrenaline that this is a more aggressive, meaner sounding Adrenaline Rush; replacing the polished, big sounding, 80s area rock inspired style of the first effort. As I mentioned, in part due to the inclusion of two new band members, but also due to the songwriting partnership with Folkare, which brings new scope to the table. The twin axe combination of Hagman/Soderlindh hits you like a battering ram and is unapologetic about it. The guitar solo is blistering and unrelenting and yet there is still heaps of room for melodicism. The bass/drum rhythm of the track is solid and unwavering in its purpose which brings us to Wanning’s vocals. There simply needs to be more female hard rock/metal singers like her in the business. Her style, range and tone is first class all the way, and at times it reminds me of Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale).

The follow up track is the lead single from the record Love Is Like Poison and reinforces everything I mentioned about the opening track and establishes a clear path and expectation for the rest of the album to come. Tracks such as Breaking The Chains, Stand My Ground, Shock Me and Sinner also serve the band well in this respect. The band hits top gear on My Life with its take-no-prisoners approach and the only time the album slows down for a breather is during the title track. But even this has a real heavy, dark and brooding feel to it, but again the band gives the song enough space for melodic crunch and Wanning’s soaring vocals give it all a nice balance.

There is little doubt that since the band’s last outing Adrenaline Rush have grown musically and as individuals. This band is no longer in the same place it was a few short years ago and the proof is in this new, grittier incarnation. If the self-titled album was more in line with glitzy ‘80s arena rock, then Soul Survivor is more representative of melodic metal.

Album Review: Treat - The Road More Or Less Traveled

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Treat – The Road More Or Less Traveled
Written by Juliano Mallon

On April 15th 2016, Treat released the gigantic "Ghost Of Graceland," unquestionably one of their best albums and which was eventually singled out by many as the best album of the year.

Only ten days later, the band performed at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, Italy and thanks to the gods, someone had the brilliant idea of ​​recording the show that is out now; including a beautiful Blu-ray version. With a not-so-comprehensive tracklist, which includes material from the classic "Coup De Grace" (released in 2011), "The Road More Or Less Traveled" is an excellent register of Treat in action, as one can imagine.

Here, the maximum volume and multiple listens are applicable to all songs.

The album has a devastating start with "Ghost Of Graceland", "Better The Devil You Know", "Nonstop Madness" and "Ready For The Taking", five towering rockers and worthy representatives of Treat's sonority, always putting guitars and keyboards in the frontline.

The massive "Papertiger" follows the series of good sounds, followed by "Endangered", "Gimme One More Night" and "Roar", in another series of overwhelming rockers, forged on the best Swedish tradition.

There are also two more introspective moments, represented by the ballad "Do Your Own Stunts" and the spectacular mid-pacer "We Own The Night", which gains an even larger dimension on this live version. If you had already tasted that song on the album "Coup De Grace", get ready for a great surprise.

And there are even more rockers that can cheer up souls, such as "Get You On The Run", recorded on the band's first album, "Conspiracy", the monstrous "Skies Of Mongolia" and "A World Of Promises" which closes the album in style.

In short, "The Road More Or Less Traveled" is a great live record of Treat. Any fan will miss one or another song, but there is no denying that the material chosen for this show satisfies without difficulty. In full form and with a series of good songs on their hands, Treat delivered a lean show, but with fun and of a high level (Blu-ray will confirm this). And I did not praise any song as a highlight because it seems impossible, since the series of songs is stunning and the performances more than inspired. So, there's no way you cannot say that "The Road More Or Less Traveled" is more than recommended.

"The Road More Or Less Traveled" is out now

Album Review: Night Ranger - Don't Let Up

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up
Written by The Rock Man

You wouldn’t expect to find too many bands that have been around for 35 years to be expanding their operating parameters so deep into their careers. And yet, after hearing Don’t Let Up, the newest offering from Californian hard rockers Night Ranger, that’s exactly the feeling I got from this blistering body of fresh and dynamic material.

All the elements that fans have come to expect from Night Ranger are there and present from the dual vocal superiority of bassist Jack Blades and drummer Kelly Keagy to the emotionally melodic guitar work of Brad Gillis to the well-structured song writing and well executed musicianship and harmonies. But on this record they have added a new element, a grittier and edgier drive. I’m not for one second suggesting this is a “metal” album by any means but there is a “heavier” feel throughout. Possibly this could be due to the inclusion of guitarist Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper/Vince Neil Band/ L.A. Guns) to the fold.

It’s fair to say that on Don’t Let Up that Night Ranger have come armed to the tooth with a collection of tracks that come charging at you like a bull out of a gate. The opening track Somehow Someway is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The standout feature of the song is its high energy, maximum spunk and exhilarating full steam ahead approach, perfectly balanced with all the trademarks that have become identifiable with Night Ranger’s sound over the journey; in addition to the scorching guitar solo that takes no prisoners.

Further examples of this can be found on cuts like Running Out Of Time, Night And Day, Comfort Me and Say What You Want. The album deviates briefly from this blueprint ever so slightly on the bluesy, piano-bar driven feel of (Won’t Be Your) Fool Again and on the melodic acoustic driven mid-pacer We Can Work It Out - and no, this track has nothing to do with the 1965 Beatles song of the same name. But in terms of classic, radio-friendly, big chorus, 80s hit style Night Ranger, the absolute standout moments come from Truth, Jamie and the title track.

I have said this before - and at the risk of sounding like a broken record - you don’t survive in this business for any length of time by accident; you have to be doing something right. Night Ranger are clearly one example of a band that knows how to produce simple, quality product time after time that has struck a chord with millions of fans the world over for decades.

If I was to suggest that the band’s 2016 live CD/DVD package: 35 Years And A Night In Chicago was a solid testimony to the band’s remarkable career and staying power, then there is little doubt in my mind that Don’t Let Up is tangible proof that the next chapter in Night Ranger’s history is going to be extraordinary.

Album Review: Crazy Lixx - Ruff Justice

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (1)

Crazy Lixx – Ruff Justice
Written by Juliano Mallon

Three years after the release of their last album of new material, Swedish quartet Crazy Lixx returns to the scene with "Ruff Justice". With a new guitarist on board, the band has put a lot of energy into their compositions and maintained, in general, the sound that made them famous. But there is a good melodic dose in all of the songs and a healthy reduction in the exaggerated heavy aspect that, little by little, has been introduced into the songs of the band. Not that it was harmful, but it also didn’t sound so natural when compared to what the band had already done, as opposed to what they have been doing. But now the guys are back on the right track and have delivered a great album with Chris Laney's polished production.

The album is full of rockers, as expected, and the tonic is well presented with "Wild Child", one of many highlights of the album. Further highlights include "XIII" and "Walk The Wire", where well-cut guitars inject nitroglycerin into surrounding melodies. Oh, and the choruses are absurdly clingy, the sort that echoes in your auditory pavilions for hours.

There are still other good examples of the classic sonority of the band, as in the explosive "Shot With A Needle Of Love", "Killer" with its variation of tempo between verses and chorus, “Hunter Of The Heart”, an imposing rocker - and with excellent refrain - and who figured among the highlights of the album.

In the final stretch we have the great rocker "Snakes In Paradise", the ballad "If It's Love" and "Live Before I Die", a devastating rocker and deserving of your total attention.

In summary, "Ruff Justice" is an album worthy of the name that Crazy Lixx has built over the years. There is still one or two heavier songs, however, the album brings a series of tunes with greater melodic range and invariably refers to their first - and more fun - works. In fact, there is no big news here, but who cares ? I often say that I prefer the "more of the same with quality than the disposable modern trend". With this album, Crazy Lixx definitely reinforces my idea and reiterates its musical identity unmistakably with a consistent album; convincing and more than recommended.

“Ruff Justice” is out now, on Frontiers Records.