|Posted on February 18, 2018 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
Voodoo Circle - Raised On Rock
Written by The Rock Man
The hard rock and metal scene appears to be at an interesting stage of its development at the moment, the more we go further away from the 1980s the more we are musically drawn back to it. Over the past decade or so more and more bands have found inspiration from the era and the influence has resulted in some memorable and breath-taking works. Voodoo Circle have long dabbled in this homage to bands of the ‘80s and this theme continues on their latest effort, appropriately titled Raised On Rock.
After the disappointment of their previous release Whiskey Fingers (2015), I had a hint of hesitation about what Voodoo Circle were on the verge of serving up this time around. However, it quickly became apparent that Raised On Rock was going to return the band to the lofty standard set on albums such as Broken Heart Syndrome and More Than One Way Home.
Guitarist and band architect Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear/Silent Force) has always had a strong link to musical influences of the 1980s and once again that passionate direction comes shining through on Raised On Rock. From the word ‘go’ the album spirals into a kaleidoscope of Rainbow/Whitesnake/Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Deep Purple textures and mastery. The 11 track/51-minute running album explodes with Running Away From Love, a cut bursting with an infectious melodic chorus and killer take-no-prisoner riffs from Beyrodt. The track also introduces fans to new lead singer Herbie Langhans (Sinbreed/Seventh Avenue) who takes over from the departing David Readman. I had my doubts about the change initially, but it didn’t take me long to appreciate the high quality, melodic, vocal dynamics Langhans has brought to the fold.
From here the band launch into the single Higher Love, again, another example of tons of melodic swagger and punch; and great use of the voice box effect made popular during the 80s by acts such as Bon Jovi, Scorpions and the like. On Walk On The Line the band has the same musical vibe as most of the tracks from Whitesnake’s 1987 record. This rocker draws heavily from the familiar guitar sound of that record as does Just Take My Heart.
Where Is The World We Love fills the big arena power ballad quota of the album, while Chase Me Away is a big sounding heavy blues infused ballad. Thoughts of Gary Moore came rushing to mind. Unknown Stranger ventures into early ‘80s Deep Purple territory and then bringing the album to a stunning and somewhat satisfying conclusion is the acoustic driven rocker Love Is An Ocean, think Cinderella meets Deep Purple on this one.
Every track on Raised On Rock could be looked at as a salute to artists of that by-gone generation of hard rocker. While there are some bands out there that try desperately to steer clear of their past, thankfully there are still bands like Voodoo Circle trying to keep the magic of that golden era of music alive. Raised On Rock is certainly one of the better examples of that and worthy of a listen or two if you grew up with music from this wonderful decade; and it won’t take long after you’ve pressed play before you’re transported back to a more entertaining and care free time.
|Posted on January 22, 2018 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
Pretty Boy Floyd - Public Enemies
Written by The Rock Man
Despite its December 2017 release date, Pretty Boy Floyd’s new album Public Enemies looks destined to become one of the must have albums of 2018. For those of you not familiar with the Pretty Boy Floyd story, the band rose to public attention back in 1989 with their debut album Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz. While their counterparts like Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt were at the height of their respective careers, Pretty Boy Floyd were just beginning theirs. But then came that pesky Grunge Movement and like so many glam/hard rockers at the time the next decade or so would be difficult.
Vocalist Steve “Sex” Summers would lead the band through various incarnations as the band was caught in a vicious cycle of breaking up and reforming, but it appears that the band is in a more stable place right now with the release of Public Enemies. Summers is joined by original guitarist Kristy “Krash” Majors, who has had a bit of a revolving door policy with the band over the years. The pair appear to both be on the same page and the results speak for themselves as Public Enemies is 44 minutes of pure '80s infused sleaze rock of the highest order.
The album kicks off with a short one minute and thirty-three second piece titled S.A.T.A which in my view adds nothing of value to the album overall and should have found its way to the cutting room floor. With that out of the way the real entertainment begins with Feel The Heat, a cut that delivers heavy on the driving, take-no-prisoners guitars, throbbing double bass drum action and soaring Crue-esque style vocals. From here we quickly settle into a rhythm with more 80's ambience numbers such as High School Queen, Paint It On, We Got The Power, Do You Wanna Rock and 7 Minutes In Heaven.
We Can’t Bring Back Yesterday” serves as the album’s only power ballad and is a 5 out of 5 gold star moment; if this track was around back in the era of I Remember You (Skid Row) or Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison) then it’s safe to say this would have been a massive worldwide hit also. Public Enemies takes you back to the electrifying '80s and if released back in the day would have been the perfect companion to Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz.
It’s a shame, in my view, that Pretty Boyd Floyd didn’t catch their big break a few years earlier; if they had they could’ve had a massive impact on the glam/hard rock scene of the era. But unfortunately like I mentioned before they were hamstrung by the changing musical landscape and living in the very long shadow of successful acts which had come before them. But with grunge music long behind us and the retirement of bands like Motley Crue, maybe now is the perfect time for Pretty Boy Floyd to have their moment in the spotlight.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|
Revolution Saints – Light In The Dark
Written by The Rock Man
One of the standout moments of 2015 came in the form of the debut album by ‘supergroup’ Revolution Saints. Although it was hardly a shock that this album was nothing short of sonic mastery, considering the pedigree of the players involved. This three-piece group featured musicians that had performed in bands that had shaped the face of hard rock and metal music for over three decades: Jack Blades (Night Ranger/Damn Yankees), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/Hurricane/Dio/Dead Daisies) and Deen Castronovo (Ozzy Osbourne/Bad English/Journey).
For Blades and Aldrich the past couple of years have seen them busy with their respective other bands and side projects; but for Castronovo the road has been a rough one dealing with addiction, legal entanglements and a stint in jail and rehab. And to be honest with all this going on the thought of another Revolution Saints record seemed most unlikely to say the least. Yet somehow through all of this the band has managed to amass a stunning body of work for their new sophomore release Light In The Dark.
From a personal point of view, the first thing I noticed about this new collection of songs is the overall sonic tone of the album. Specifically, the heavier guitar sound from Aldrich; the riffs have a more raw and edgy vibe to them but without sacrificing harmony or melody. In terms of the material itself, I walked away from this feeling as thought I had just heard what Journey would sound like if they adopted a heavier, grittier approach. With that said, the tracks by and large are locked in a late ‘80s/early '90s style and a number of these cuts could have just as easily been on a Bad English or Triumph album.
As on the debut album, Castronovo not only handles drums but the vocal duties as well. On the first album he was supported by Blades on the occasional track and joined by his then Journey bandmate and lead vocalist Arnel Pineda for one duet. On Light In The Dark we find Castronovo, with the exception of the title cut with Blades, taking on the vocals for the entire album. Now it’s possible that I may be reading more into this than there really is, but I couldn’t shake this feeling Castronovo was in a reflective mood. I guess given all the self-inflicted drama he’s had to deal with recently, that might make him appreciate the privileged lifestyle he almost lost.
As mentioned, Blades joins Castronovo on the opening track Light In The Dark which sets a cracking pace and lays the foundations for what is to roll out over the course of 11 full bodied, sonically rich, emotional, stadium rock anthemed memorable tracks. Highlights include rockers such as Running On The Edge, Freedom, Don’t Surrender and The Storm Inside. The album’s ballads are solid and compliment the rockers nicely and add balance to the overall feel of the record, of particular note is the single I Wouldn’t Change A Thing.
Once again, like they did back in 2015, Revolution Saints have come out of nowhere to provide one of the must have albums of the year. When these three gifted musicians get together in a room sparks fly and magic happens and the proof is in their two studio releases thus far. I have a sense of optimism going forward, that Revolution Saints will continue to produce breathtaking material of the quality of Light In The Dark for a long time to come.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:30 PM||comments (0)|
Sweet & Lynch – Unified
Written by Juliano Mallon
By now, you know (or, at the very least, have heard of) Sweet & Lynch — the project featuring guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet of Stryper, veteran axeman George Lynch (ex-Dokken, Lynch Mob), seasoned bassist James LoMenzo (White Lion, Megadeth) and talented drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Dead Daisies).
A couple of years ago their debut album caught the attention of a whole lot of people, due to its overall quality. But now, their new effort called “Unified” raises the bar and, I dare to say, is even better than its predecessor.
It’s true that there are some lighter tunes, with an obvious more melodic rock aura, and even some AORish flavors here and there, but don’t let it fool you: “Unified” is a solid, in-your-face rock album that might make some bricks fall off the walls.
Within a very tight tracklist, songs that deserve special attention (for various reasons) are “Promised Land”, “Make Your Mark”, “Find Your Way”, “Tried And True” (a beautiful ballad), “Bridge Of Broken Lies” and “Better Man”, all very classy and varied I must say. And though different from each other, all these songs present catchy choruses, killer riffs and awesome vocal performances.
The Japanese edition brings an exclusive acoustic version of the title track, which sounds more interesting in its stripped version.
It’s true that Sweet & Lynch doesn’t sound as heavy as some of the more recent Stryper albums, but it also does not sound “modern” as many recent George Lynch efforts have. Overall, “Unified” has an early-90’s feel to it, powerful, punchy and well-worth your time.
Michael Sweet is on top of his game and George Lynch sounds inventive and innovative as ever, making this an almost flawless duo. The result is a solid album, featuring some of the most respect musicians on the planet doing what they like to do, and doing it damn well.
“Unified” is out now, on Frontiers Records and Avalon/Marquee, for the Japanese market.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
Written by The Rock Man
In this day and age of extreme political correctness it’s refreshing to know that there is still the odd rock and roll band out there that is willing to, not only bend the rules, but break them on occasion. After all, isn’t rock and roll meant to be dangerous, rebellious and fun? Listen to many of today’s artists and most of them are so serious and so glum and everything is a case of “The sky is falling!” Then you have a band like The Darkness, who you would think by the name alone is all doom and gloom, but on the contrary is the complete opposite.
Since their arrival in 2003, these UK glam rockers have been on a mission to bring the fun back into rock and roll with their unique blend of ‘70s inspired rock flare and sharp-witted narratives. Following the release and success of the debut album Permission To Land the band has gone from strength to strength with each passing release and now comes their newest instalment Pinewood Smile.
The album explodes into action with the first single All The Pretty Girls. This is trademark The Darkness with its catchy driving guitar hooks, foot stomping drums and high pitched vocal acrobatics. Lyrically the song explores the sexual appeal of fame and fortune: “All the pretty girls like me for who I am/All the pretty girls when the record goes platinum/Plenty of action, massive attraction when you’re selling out stadiums/All the pretty girls and their mums”. From what I can tell, Buccaneers Of Hispaniola is an exercise in how high vocalist Justin Hawkins falsetto can soar and on this number he exceeds his own benchmark.
Solid Gold is a tongue-in-cheek look at the music industry and the trials and tribulations of getting a record deal. Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry draws heavily on their ’70s influenced upbringing, especially the Dan Hawkins guitar solo which has traces of Queen’s Brian May throughout. As always The Darkness’ warped sense of humour is on full display, for example check out Japanese Prisoner Of Love about life in prison: “Sentenced to the big house/Jumpsuited, shaven and de-loused/Solitarily confined, taken from behind/By a surly white supremacist named Klaus” or this from Stampede Of Love about overweight people in relationships: “You walked in and the ground shook/I can’t believe how much food you took/You looked at me with those hungry eyes/You were eyeing up my fries/To the naked eye you’re a perfect sphere/Stomach bulging out to here/I don’t know if my heart can last/I ain’t ever had a love this vast”.
For those wanting more the deluxe edition contains an additional four bonus tracks. The main highlights here are Rack Of Glam which blends AC/DC’s musical charisma with Freddie Mercury’s vocal approach and Rock In Space which is a ‘70s glam rock meets the Daleks from Dr. Who kind of affair.
If nothing else, The Darkness are consistent when it comes to making music which is fun. Mind you, it may not be to everyone’s taste and as I mentioned before political correctness and boundaries are throw out the door on any record from The Darkness. But their albums are always well crafted, well executed, polished affairs and in my view always a nice break from the mundane run-of the-mill sombreness of life’s difficulties and worth the price of admission. Pinewood Smile has proven to be no exception.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:20 PM||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.
|Posted on December 18, 2017 at 10:15 PM||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.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:20 PM||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.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:10 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:05 PM||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.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:00 PM||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.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 8:50 PM||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.
|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)|