|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 11:15 PM||comments (4)|
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
H.E.A.T. – Into The Great Unknown
Written by The Rock Man
Sweden’s melodic hard rockers H.E.A.T. are proof that a television singing competition contestant (in this case, Swedish Idol) can take over the vocal duties of an established band and lead them successfully into the future. There are other cases where this has failed miserably but somehow H.E.A.T. have managed to turn this into a strength. Since joining the band in 2010, vocalist Erik Gronwall has elevated the group to new heights on the albums Address The Nation (2012) and Tearing Down The Walls (2014). But it is in 2017 that Gronwall and his fellow H.E.A.T. bandmates take their biggest leap forward with the stunning new release Into The Great Unknown.
There has been a minor change to the band along the way since we last heard from them on Tearing Down The Walls. Late last year guitarist Eric Rivers departed the band and was quickly replaced by former guitarist Dave Dalone who had left the band back in 2013. He now returns to the fold along with bassist Jimmy Jay, keyboardist Jona Tee, drummer Crush, and of course, singer Gronwall. As I say, the change is minor; so minor in fact that you wouldn’t even know something happened as it has no bearing on the band’s sound or ability to write an almighty good melodic rock song.
And that is exactly what you get from H.E.A.T. on Into The Great Unknown; a collection of 10 almighty good melodic hard rock songs. It has to be said that the benchmark is set pretty high with the opening cut Bastard Of Society, which is a blistering anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian anthem. Redefined follows and is a solid melodic rocker, while Best Of The Broken is a less than flattering view of the music industry and bubbles along with a steady toe-tapping beat before launching into a massive melodic chorus.
Blind Leads The Blind is a heavy guitar driven rocker with a great neo-classical keyboard section and scorching guitar solo. This is without doubt one of the band’s heaviest tracks recorded. Eye Of The Storm serves the album as a mid-paced ballad-ish track that focuses on the hardships of being in a relationship. We Rule is a slow burner to start that builds into a heartfelt rocker. If it’s classic radio friendly H.E.A.T. you’re craving, then you can’t go past Do You Want It? Lyrically the song is about bad sex; apparently inspired by a trip to Thailand, according to Gronwell. Bringing the album to a conclusion
is the seven-and-a-half-minute title cut. Some of the main features of the track include a massive gritty heavy guitar riff, lots of rhythmic strut, a big chorus and melodic harmonies and a nice symphonic section at the mid-way point where we find a trade-off between guitars, keyboards and bass.
While the title of this new effort is Into The Great Unknown there is no doubt where this band is headed. This is the band’s fifth studio album overall and the third to feature Gronwall and its clear that H.E.A.T. have a very straightforward understanding of who they are, what they do best and what their fans want. Simply put: pure unadulterated rock and roll pleasure.
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
Janet Gardner – Janet Gardner
Written by The Rock Man
I have said this many times before, the 1980s was a glorious time for the hard rock/metal scene. Tonnes of make-up, spandex, smoke bombs, laser light shows, scorching guitars and ear shattering vocal acrobatics; and this was mostly the male bands I listened to. But there were a couple of female bands around holding their own at the time too, take for example L.A. rockers Vixen. Considered by many as the all-female version of Bon Jovi, I thought they were simply awesome. To this day I consider their debut self-titled album (1988) and their sophomore release Rev It Up (1990) to be two of the classic hard rock records of that generation.
I was convinced they had a bright future ahead, but then, as we all know by now, the landscape changed dramatically during the 1990s and that style of glam metal became redundant. Fast forward 19 years later after she last recorded with the band back in 1998 and lead singer Janet Gardner is releasing her first solo album, simply self-titled.
To be honest I thought I had a fair idea what to expect from the Vixen singer, but I was way off base on this one. Upon first impressions it would appear that Gardner has tried to put some distance between herself as a solo artist and that of her role in Vixen. This record is very aggressive in tone and very heavy on a gritty, dark guitar attitude which is aided by her guitar playing husband Justin James, who also serves as album producer. Vocally Gardner still has what made her a powerhouse back in the ‘80s.
The album pulls no punches as it is a short and sharp 10 track affair running in at just under 40 minutes. Rat Hole kicks us off and it becomes crystal clear that this is going to be a modern sounding metal record with little time for ‘80s nostalgia. The track is driven by raw and ballsy guitars with slight undertones of industrial rock, while vocally the song relies heavily on effects such as phasing and distortion in selected areas for maximum impact.
The album quickly settles into a rhythm with rockers like Your Problem Now, Hippycrite, Lost and The Grind all following a similar formula to the album’s lead track of contemporary sounding, intense and assertive rock and roll. On Best Friend, however, we get a chance to catch our breaths with this acoustic ballad that is a real standout moment and showcases Gardner’s vocal ability, as I said before, she’s still got it. Bringing the album to a conclusion is The Good Or The Bye which out of the 10 tracks on offer is the only one that resembles anything like a Vixen song.
Lyrically Gardner has a few things she wants to get off her chest and explores issues such as psychological abuse, social and political commentary and despair as well as the stock standard topics of love, desire and relationships.
Initially I was taken aback by what Gardner served up on her debut record, but after several listens the tide has changed. This is a new-fashioned record for a modern audience, a generation that has embraced this style of new-fangled metal; but this doesn’t mean that us ‘old-school’ rockers can’t enjoy it too. It’s an interesting blend of textures, dynamics and techniques and as a fan boy of her previous work I look forward to what potentially comes next.
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 10:50 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:25 AM||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.
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:20 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:10 AM||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.
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:10 AM||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.
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:05 AM||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.
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:00 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 1:50 AM||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.
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 1:45 AM||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.
|Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:25 AM||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.
|Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:20 AM||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!
|Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:15 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on June 14, 2017 at 1:05 AM||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.
|Posted on June 14, 2017 at 12:55 AM||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.