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Album Review: Judas Priest - Firepower

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:45 AM Comments 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.

Album Review: W.E.T. - Earthrage

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:40 AM Comments 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.

Album Review: Dokken - Return To The East Live

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:35 AM Comments 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.

Album Review: FM - Atomic Generation

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:30 AM Comments 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.

Album Review: Saxon - Thunderbolt

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 12:25 AM Comments 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.

Album Review: W.A.S.P. - Reidolized: The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol

Posted on February 26, 2018 at 7:40 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Shiraz Lane - Carnival Days

Posted on February 26, 2018 at 7:30 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Ammunition - Ammunition

Posted on February 18, 2018 at 11:20 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Voodoo Circle - Raised On Rock

Posted on February 18, 2018 at 11:10 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Pretty Boy Floyd - Public Enemies

Posted on January 22, 2018 at 7:35 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Revolution Saints - Light In The Dark

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:35 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Sweet & Lynch - Unified

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:30 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: The Darkness - Pinewood Smile

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:25 PM Comments 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.

Album Review: Eisley/Goldy - Blood, Guts And Games

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)


Eisley/Goldy – Blood, Guts And Games

Written by Juliano Mallon

 

Veterans David Glen Eisley and Craig Goldy emerged into the AOR universe as members of Giuffria in the mid-1980s. With the band coming to an end a few years later, both went their separate ways. However, in October 2014, Eisley posted in a social network that he had received a visit from Goldy, who said: "Enough of this, my friend ... time to get off that ass and get back to work." Just over a year later, the duo had a series of ready-made songs that were offered to Frontiers Records. This story will have its third chapter written from the beginning of December, when "Blood, Guts And Games" will hit stores. With a pompous but very consistent sound, the duo created a work that is less obvious than it seems to be. And believe me, this is the great secret of the album.

 

As expected, the album is filled with striking and well-paced rockers, such as the great "Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" (with its ubiquitous keyboards in the best tradition of Giuffria), "I Do not Belong Here Anymore" (heavy and engaging) and in the excellent mid-pacer "Lies I Can Live With", smooth without sounding bland, engaging without sounding tiring. Three songs that faithfully represent the musical proposal of the duo.

 

"No More Prayers In The Night" has a delicate introduction, but only paves the way for a rhythmic rocker with a healthy dose of weight in counterpoint to Eisley's vocal harmonies, while "Love Of The Game" brings us - once again - to good Giuffria sounds with precisely distributed keyboards and "Wings Of A Hurricane", a song that would be much better without the exhausting almost infinite solo of guitars and Hammond, which gives a seventy air chatérrimo and that spoils much of the song.

 

In the final stretch, we have the ballad "Life (If Only A Memory)" with great arrangement and alternation of progress in the chorus, in addition to the great rockers "Soul Of Madness" (again, weight distributed in the right measure, keeping intact the aspect melodic) and "Track Thirteen" (heavy and cadenced, with a neat arrangement and classic tempo), as well as the ballad "Believe In One Another", which parades all the classic elements of this type of song, from arrangement to tempo, interpretation.

 

Summing up, expensive and expensive, the big balcony of the album of the Eisley / Goldy duo is the lack of obviousness that the names of both generate. When you imagine a work focused on "AOR influenced by the 80's" (an expression so used in past years and to which few works really do just), we have a consistent album and whose sonority refers me, in a general way, to the most recent works of House Of Lords, and in a few moments to Foreigner in the early 1990s. It is also obvious that the weight of the years has dramatically affected David Glen Eisley's vocals, but his performances are not disastrous, only contained in some cases. Craig Goldy has had more room to show what he is capable of, though there are times when the impression that his role could have been better played out. However, "Blood, Guts And Games" is a very interesting album and nothing obvious, which implies that more than one listen may be necessary for you to realize the quality contained here in its entirety. But it is a very well done work and deserves your unrestricted and absolute attention. Material well recommended ...

 

“Bold, Guts And Game” is out now, on Frontiers Records.

Album Review: Operation: Mindcrime - The New Reality

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Operation: Mindcrime – The New Reality

Written by The Rock Man


It all began back in 2014 as an ambitious idea of storytelling over three albums. Former Queensryche singer Geoff Tate collaborated with a variety of musicians in the world of metal to create a new project called Operation: Mindcrime. The results of this amalgamation of talent would give birth to a tale examining international policies, social ethos and the world economy. This journey began with the release of the stunning first part The Key (2015) and was quickly followed up by the parameter expanding vision of Resurrection (2016). Now comes the third and final piece of the trilogy: The New Reality.


Tate had promised something different to the previous two albums, something musically challenging and it has to be pointed out that is what he has delivered with The New Reality. The album is very progressive in its sonic tone overall and will test the listener with its long instrumental pieces and off beat time signatures. If your attention span is in short supply, then you may want to move on to something less complex.


Once again, Tate has called upon the services of his one-time Queensryche bandmate, guitarist Kelly Gray, who also doubles as the albums co-producer. Drummers Simon Wright (AC/DC) and Brian Tichy (Whitesnake/Foreigner/Billy Idol) return as does bassist John Moyer (Disturbed) and Scott Moughton also on six strings.


The New Reality is a collection of 12 progressive metal songs running for an hour. Most of the tracks featured on the record are lengthy and the vocals on some cuts can be sparse. Of course all of this adds to the atmosphere and drama as this bold, lavish and futuristic vision reaches its crescendo. It is often said when you’re onto a good thing stick to it, so once again Tate reaches into his bag of tricks and calls upon sound effects, spoken word and unique instrumentation to enhance the listeners experience.


An early example of this is the opening track A Head Long Jump, in addition to the title song, My Eyes and All For What. Of all the cuts feature here Under Control is the only one that harkens back to Tate’s Queensryche days with a familiar trademark phrasing and melodic arrangement. While A Guitar In Church and Tidal Change are the album’s two instrumental tracks.


Unlike the band’s previous two albums, The New Reality may take a listen or two before you start to appreciate its idiosyncratic merit and it’s fair to say this one is an acquired taste. So, if you began this journey three years ago with The Key now comes the final chapter to this grandiose Geoff Tate showpiece.

Album Review: Bigfoot - Bigfoot

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)


Bigfoot – Bigfoot

Written by The Rock Man


When you work in the world of music journalism as I do, you get bombarded by record company press releases and emails about the “next big thing” or newest “must have” product. So it can take a bit of time sorting through press release after press release trying to weed out the genuine article from the waste of time hot air, and occasionally I have gotten it wrong. For several weeks I received pressers about this band calling themselves Bigfoot who were on the verge of releasing their debut self-titled album. Initially I dismissed it thinking they were nobodies and not worth worrying about until I got sent a copy of their album. So for whatever reason I put it on... and what a revelation!


Instantly a flood of questions fills my mind like: “Who are these hard rock marvels?” and “Why am I only hearing about them now?” and “Where do they come from” and “Why didn’t I pay attention to all those press releases!?”. So let’s break it down: firstly, Bigfoot are a five-piece band from Wigan, England who have released two EPs prior to the release of this full length album. The group consist of Sam Millar and Mick McCullagh on guitars, Matt Avery on bass, Tom Aspinall on drums and Antony Ellis on the mic. The band burst onto the music scene back in the spring of 2014 and have been growing a strong support base touring around their native UK and appearing at major music festivals such as Bloodstock, Hair Metal Heaven and Hard Rock Hell. Now it would appear the band is ready to unleash its fury on the rest of the world.


Bigfoot is an 11 track monster that will knock you clean on your ass. The disc explodes from the speakers in a hail of distorted guitars and deep driving rhythms with the opening song Karma. The track is a spirited take-no-prisoners cut that, not only reflects the energy and charisma of the band, but sets an uncompromising framework for the rest of the album. From here each track is better than the last and when you’re able to produce that kind of gold standard of music the end result will always be nothing short of phenomenal.


It may seem a little unfair to single out a couple of tracks in such a consistently, fully developed, well-balanced body of work, but there are a few which stood out as focal points of the record. Take for example, The Fear, I Dare You, Freak Show and Uninvited which are all sold, hard-edge rockers deserving of maximum volume. In addition, the rockers are passionately supported by two ballad-ish tracks; the stunning, near six-minute Forever Alone and the near nine-minute opus Yours.


Throughout the record the guitar work of Millar and McCullagh is steely edged, assertive and gritty, but always loaded with tonnes of melody and punch. The drumming of Aspinall is fierce, dynamic and unwavering and is well supported by Avery’s thrusting bass which adds extra depth to the overall sound. Vocally, Ellis is his own man and has his own style but from time to time I couldn’t help but hear similarities to Danny Vaughn (Tyketto). That said, he has all the potential to become a star in the making.


It has been some considerable amount of time since I was last excited about the prospect of fresh blood entering the music scene with something solid and valid to offer. In a climate where the question “Is rock dead?” is often asked, for the first time in a decade or so I have optimism that the baton has been passed and the future secure. I know that’s a lot of pressure to put on such a young band who’ve just put out their first album, but I feel super-confident Bigfoot are up for the challenge.

Album Review: Robin Beck - Love Is Coming

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)


ROBIN BECK – Love Is Coming
Written by Juliano Mallon

It’s absolutely impossible to talk about AOR without mentioning Robin Beck, one of the most known and respected names in the genre. With a solid career spanning more than three decades, Beck is known not only for her powerful vocals but also for the sweeping interpretations that are characteristic of her classic works; but also registered in more recent albums. The sound is not the same - and shouldn’t be, anyway - but the quality of the recorded material is indisputable.

And this quality is abundant in "Love Is Coming," Robin Beck's newest effort and her first in four years. This work had the illustrious collaboration of none other than Clif Magness (another great name for the AOR universe who is back in the game with a long overdue new album in early 2018), in addition to veteran Tommy Denander and also the great James Christian. With a team of experienced musicians, great songs and an above-average vocalist, the end result couldn’t be anything but spectacular.

Not surprisingly, the album is loaded with overwhelming rockers and always with a radio-friendly aura, as seen on the powerful "Island", on the exciting "On The Bright Side" and the explosive "Love Is Coming," all featuring a modern sound but without any excess. These are three songs worthy of multiple auditions and maximum volume, believe me.

Other awesome tunes include the great "Me Just Being Me" another highlight of the album and one that reminds me of the best moments of Sass Jordan, "Lost" and the surprising "Crave The Touch", as well as the fantastic "Girl Like Me", the greatest moment of the album, no doubt. All these songs deserve multiple auditions and maximum volume, as usual. And get ready for beautiful surprises while doing so...

But “Love Is Coming” also brings in more introspective moments, such as the ballads "In These Eyes" and "Here I Am" and the mid-pacers "On To Something" and "Warrior", the latter easily being the second major highlight of the album. Maximum volume, multiple auditions and no moderation are recommended.

In short, "Love Is Coming" comes to ratify the already known quality of Robin Beck as an interpreter. In addition, the album definitively establishes the more contemporary direction her recent works have been following. The collaboration with Magness (who produced the album with Christian) adds a lot of value to the new album, with well-constructed songs that could only have been performed by someone like Robin Beck. There is no doubt that "Love Is Coming" will surprise some and captivate others; but in any case, the versatility, skill and vocal excellence of Robin Beck are absolutely indisputable. In a time when many people talk about innovating and reinventing, Ms. Beck shows you how to do it.

"Love Is Coming" is an absolutely mandatory purchase. The album is in stores now, via Frontiers Records.

Album Review: Autograph - Get Off Your Ass!

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)


Autograph – Get Off Your Ass!

Written by The Rock Man


When I think back to 1984, I recall the majority of music fans in those days partying out to the sounds of Michael Jackson, Prince, Cyndi Lauper and Culture Club. But I was going down a different path. Back then I had just discovered Californian hard rockers Autograph, largely thanks to the T.V. show Miami Vice that featured their hit of the day Turn Up The Radio on one of season one's episodes. It’s fair to say that I took to Autograph like a duck to water and from that moment until they disbanded in 1989 they maintained heavy rotation on my stereo system.


Fast forward through 24 years of nothing and some of the original band members reformed in 2013 to play a bunch of shows here and there. This new relaunched version, “Autograph 2.0” if you will, led by guitarist Steve Lynch, drummer Keni Richards and bassist Randy Rand, were now joined by new vocalist Simon Daniels. Unfortunately, Richards time in the band was short and he was replaced by Marc Wieland in 2014 and this line–up has been powering on since appearing at Monsters Of Rock Cruise, Firefest UK, M3 Rock Festival and releasing a 5 track EP titled Louder. But in 2017 the band takes things a step further by offering up their first full length album with this new reincarnation titled Get Off Your Ass!.


I have to be honest here, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new redesigned union or if they could deliver anything of relevance so I approached this with a fair degree of trepidation. However, to my surprise what I found was an album that not only stands up well against their back catalogue, but also promises a bright future for the band moving forward. A future that I didn’t think possible without original singer Steve Plunkett at the helm.


The band has packaged a collection of 10 songs that make up the track listing for Get Off Your Ass!, although a handful of these cuts first appeared on the Louder EP. In a nutshell, the tracks marinate in ‘80s excess and it becomes blatantly clear as you work your way from track to track that chief architects Lynch and Rand have little interest in trying to reinvent the wheel and are happy bathing in the sunlight of their glory days.


For example, take You Are Us, We Ae You, here is a song which screams 1980s. The track features that familiar chugging guitar tone used so often back in the day and is driven by a strutting rhythm section that commands your feet to tap along. Lyrically the track celebrates the relationship between the band and its fans and in another life time could have easily passed as a KISS song. I Lost My Mind In America follows down a similar musical root: lots of self-assurance and groove and it boasts a big melodic chorus, although the guitars are a little meatier.


All I Own is a mid-paced ballad that offers the record a change of pace. Again, typical ‘80s in attitude with its big melodic chorus and propelling acoustic/electric guitar riffs. The title track explodes in a hail of guitar and drum frenzy before launching into a steady, reliable and standard chugging rhythm so often drawn upon within this style of music and so often with maximum effect and this is no exception. And if that wasn’t enough Lynch lays down a pretty smoking guitar solo as well. A real treat comes at the end of the record with a live version of Turn Up The Radio which holds its own compared to the primary studio version and is a definite selling point of the album. My hat goes off to Daniels who does a sterling job of doing justice to the spirit and energy of the original vocals.


There has been a swag of bands that in recent times have tried to revive their careers with reinvented line-ups. Sadly, most of them just aren’t able to capture the fire they once had, while others have found a way to not only re-engage with the past but clear a path for a strong future. Unquestionably Get Off Your Ass! shows that Autograph easily falls into the latter category.

Album Review: Boulevard IV - Luminescence

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)


Boulevard IV – Luminescence

Written by Juliano Mallon


Over the years, in recurring conversations about which bands should resume their career, Canada’s Boulevard was always quoted. With only two albums under their belt, the band had left an indelible mark on the scene in the late 1980s just to disappear into the shadows as the 1990s began. Then after 25 years, the band reunited and released the great "Live From Gastown," DVD that captured Boulevard in action at the legendary Warehouse Studios in Vancouver.


And now, finally, after 27 years, the Boulevard - in its fourth incarnation and, therefore, the IV in its name - returns to the scene with "Luminescence", the first album of brand new material since the classic "Into The Street ". With a more contemporary but equally captivating sound, the band comes back in style and shows itself not only renewed but also improved.


The album features a series of engaging and well-built songs, such as the exciting “Life Is A Beautiful Thing”, the radio friendly "Laugh Or Cry" and the explosive "Come Together," three rockers that accurately depict the new phase Boulevard’s into. These three songs are not only highlights of the album, but mainly deserving of your full attention and maximum volume.


Keeping the high level up, "Runnin 'Low", "I Can’t Tell You Why" (and its classy sax), “Slipping Away” and “Don’t Stop The Music” display majesty and property, both common ingredients on any Boulevard song. Here you have four more highlights of the album, and so that maximum volume becomes mandatory once again.


Still, the album offers the mid-pacer "Out Of The Blue" (with a very nice vintage aura) in addition to the ballads "What I'd Give" (introspective, with an intimate arrangement and one of the highlights of the album), "Confirmation" with a more classical structure, especially in the chorus and the wonderful "What Are You Waiting For", with its acoustic base and carefully stripped arrangement, which captivates from the beginning in one of the great moments of the album.


In short, "Luminescence" does more than just mark the return of Boulevard. Bringing to the table excellent compositions, great interpretations and a contemporary sound without falling into the "modern" sameness; the Canadians not only rescued the sound that made them known, but mainly reinvented it carefully, with a contemporary dress that refers to everything that made us enjoy Boulevard many moons ago. That this album has, in fact, marked the return of Boulevard, and I hope we have more material as cool as this in the next years. There is no doubt that "Luminescence" is one of the best surprises of the year.


Boulevard’s “Luminescence” is out now, on MelodicRock Records.

Album Review: Accept - The Rise Of Chaos

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (0)


Accept – The Rise Of Chaos

Written by The Rock Man


Acclaimed German metal pioneers Accept are one of those examples of bands of a certain vintage that prove retirement is not, and should not be, an option. For over 40 years they have produced quality material time and time again and have out-lasted all the trends of the day. I have a strong belief that when you know who you are as a band, know who your audience is and stay true to that formula, you’ll always be successful. Accept would appear to support that theory. Adding further weight to this argument is the band’s latest effort The Rise Of Chaos, which in short, can only be described as a sold ball of heavy metal mastery.

 

Guitarist Wolf Hoffman and bassist Peter Baltes have been the driving force since the bands conception back in ’76 and remain so to this day. As for vocalist Mark Tornillo, this is his fourth outing with the band and with each record I feel he consolidates his place in the legacy of Accept. The album also introduces fans to newcomers Christopher Williams on drums and Uwe Lulis on guitar.


For those looking for a little more lyrical substance than the standard ‘boy meets girl’ tag-line, the album is full of thought provoking themed tracks. For as long as I can remember a popular source of inspiration for metal bands throughout the ages has been the destruction of the human race and/or Mother Earth. On The Rise Of Chaos cuts such as Die By The Sword, Race To Extinction and the title track serves the album adequately in this regard.


Koolaid, in short, is a cautionary tale of extreme religious cults. More specifically the 1978 Jonestown massacre where cult leader Jim Jones forced 900 of his followers to participate in a mass murder-suicide. For those of us that grew up in the vinyl/8 track era there’s Analog Man. Here Tornillo laments a simpler time before the world was overtaken by technology with lyrical gems like “I’m an analog man / trapped in a digital world” and “My cell phone is smarter than me”, and this is a song I can honestly relate to.


On Hole In The Head the band focuses on breaking free of the bonds of addiction. The track is written in such a manner that the “addiction” can be interpreted however the listener chooses. Of course anytime you have a metal song called No Regrets it’s pretty obvious what you’re going to get. In a similar vein, What’s Done Is Done shares a simple message that: ‘the past cannot be changed, accept what has happened and move forward’.


Once again the band has turned to producer Andy Sneap (Saxon/Megadeth) to helm the production duties. And why not? Sneap has produced the band’s previous three albums and on those works the results were stunning. Again, the sonics are well balanced, clean and crisp and you can easily identify what each band member is doing and the ratio of vocals to instrument is spot on.


Overall, The Rise Of Chaos is another durable achievement in the band’s extensive contribution to metal music. And with strong efforts like this under its belt, it’s easy to see why Accept have become one of the powerhouses of the German music industry over a four-decade reign.