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Album reviews

Metal reviews

Monday, December 19 2011 16:57:18

EVERGREY ‘A Decade And A Half’ (Double CD 2012) SPV

Evergrey reach fifteen years as a band, although only Tom S Englund remains as the sole original member and in 2010 all but Englund and keyboard player Rikard Zander quit the band.

They released a new album ‘Glorious Collusion’ earlier this year (three songs from the album make it onto this 24 song compilation) and songs form that album feature as the two previously unreleased songs ‘Wrong’ and ‘Frozen’ – both live unplugged versions and sounding as though the drummer was using upturned biscuit tins on 'Frozen'! I am not sure these two songs alone would entice existing fans of the band to but this CD but for those new to the band this is the perfect starting point. The band have a prog meets gothic metal sound and songs like ‘Recreation Day’ and ‘A Touch Of Blessing’ (the guitar solo is one of the finest the band have done) demand to be heard combining sharp riffs and the unmistakable voice of Tom S Englund.

The good thing about Evergrey’s music is that they can be ruffing metal one minute before dropping the tone and bringing the piano/keys to the fore for a ballad, albeit with through provoking lyrics, like on ‘Waking Up Blind'.

This should hopefully propel the band further onwards and upwards as they have never quite got the recognition they deserve to date. Seeing as this is being sold at a single CD price point you have no excuse now to discover the wondrous music of Evergrey.

Jason Ritchie
Last edited Tue Dec 20 08:20:12 2011

Friday, December 16 2011 19:40:10

YOU ME AT SIX 'Sinners Never Sleep' (2011)

You Me At Six is personally one of my favorite bands and as this is their third album, I was delighted to review it!

Sinners Never Sleep has a different feel to the album compared to YMAS previous records. It shows a different side to the band and is more rock to their old pop/punk style. However, this change has not been an unwise move. The lyrics show lots of emotion and lyrics that fans can relate to and with amazing guitar solos,great vocals & awesome riffs,this is a little masterpiece on a disc.

Unlike most other modern bands, You Me At Six's songs have a special element to them.The songs are very powerful and addictive to listen to which urges the listener to turn their MP3 up to full volume!

Jasmine Ritchie

Last edited Fri Dec 16 20:02:18 2011

Thursday, December 15 2011 22:16:21

DICK VENOM & THE TERRORTONES 'Rockin' Rollin' Vampire Man'/'Sticky Pants Trance' (CDS 2011)

Good band name, excellent sleeve artwork - a mini-graphic novel based on the vampire hero of the song. It is all going swimmingly until the music starts...oh dear what a load of old cobblers. I am sure fans of psychobilly will like this but for those who like some semblance of melody steer well clear...

Jason Ritchie

THE DUNWELLS 'Blind Sighted Faith' Playing In Traffic Records (2012)

After hearing their excellent single 'I Could Be King' (which kicks of their debut album in style) the Dunwells follow this up with a superb debut album. They have just been announced as one of one HMV's Next Big Things for 2012 as well. Often bands and artists can have plenty of critical plaudits but lack that magic spark (or quite often a decent tune) to click with the public, no chance of that with this band who have familiar reference points when you listen and their own unique sound.

The band have a knack for penning blissful harmonies, check out the Crosby, Stills & Nash like harmonies on 'Only Me'. 'Follow The Road' and 'Hand That Feeds' you can both see as future single releases whilst album closer 'Oh Lord' shows a reflective side to the band. 'In The Moment' is a personal highlight as the melody is so damn addictive!

The Dunwells can easily tap into the resurgence of all things folk and follow in the footsteps of Mumford & Sons. This is one band who live up to the media hype...get your hands on this debut album in February.

Jason Ritchie
Last edited Thu Dec 15 22:33:54 2011

Tuesday, December 13 2011 10:16:49

London Islington O2 Academy
12 / 12 / 2011
View: From The Bar

I’ve been a fan of this band since the early 80s and their new material is as strong as ever – Molly Hatchet are flying the Southern Rock flag higher than anyone right now and proved it on this all too rare visit to London.

After an enticing support (Mojo Perry) – some competent blues rock with blistering guitar, the venue started to fill rather nicely before Hatchet took to the stage to a very enthusiastic roar.

Vocalist Phil McCormack, flowing locks and cowboy hat all present, ruled the stage a menacing figure, his growls strikingly similar to original vocalist Danny Joe Brown. His harmonica too, on the opening track Whiskey Man, added to the sound. Guitarists Bobby Ingram and founder member Dave Hlubek rocked hard. Two more early classics followed, a good way to warm the crowd, before we got American Pride from the latest album Justice, and this went down as well as the first.
Each song went down with a rough whiskey and a lot of Hell Yeahs. Fall Of The Peacemakers (well, half of it, they’ve not played the whole song in years, sadly) sounded fantastic, as did the new album’s title track.
The drum solo was good, but seemed a little unnecessary given the songs they could have played in it’s place, but a rawkous version of Beatin’ The Odds soon made up for things. Another new track rocked well, and surprise track was the excellent The Creeper from the band’s debut – solid slide guitar that really stood out. Also outstanding was John Galvin’s keyboards – rock’n’roll piano at it’s best. And it was good to see Jukin' City get a rare outing.
The main set closed with a wonderful take on the Allman’s Dreams (I’ll Never See).
Quickly back for an encore of Boogie No More, which saw many a fist in the air and many a head shaking, and the classic Flirtin’ With Disaster.

Every track a wonderful southern rock classic, this band can boogie and rock, and they make many of Hatchet’s contemporaries (and I include Skynyrd here) seem like an AOR band.
The band are still celebrating the new Justice set, as well as SPV’s double vinyl reissue campaign (these are truly wonderful items), and rightly so. And on tonight’s evidence the band should be bigger in Britain. A LOT bigger.

The fact the band were out by the merchandise stall almost immediately says a lot about how much this band care about their fans and how nice they are. A handshake with Phil and John made my evening. If I had one complaint, bar the 85 minute running time, it was the amount of material they could have played from a wonderful catalogue.

Hell Yeah!
Joe Geesin

Whiskey Man
Bounty Hunter
Gator Country
American Pride
Fall Of The Peacemakers
Drum Solo
Beatin’ The Odds
In The Darkness Of Light
The Creeper
Been To Heaven, Been To Hell
Jukin’ City
Dreams (I’ll Never See)
Boogie No More
Flirtin’ With Disaster

Tuesday, December 13 2011 09:40:59

Boguslaw Balcerak’s Crylord – Blood of the prophets (Lion Music)

Yes, strange as it may sound, Boguslaw Balcerak is his real name. He is a Pole who is the mastermind behind the Crylord project, which is touted as neoclassical metal. This is the outfit’s debut album.

This is indeed neoclassical metal, in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen’s early works. Balcerak’s guitar tone is a deadringer for Yngwie and the influence is further underlined with the addition of three vocalists: Carsten Schultz (sounds like early JSS in places), Mark Boals and Goran Edman (both of whom had performed vocal duties for Yngwie in the past).

While the Yngwie influence is heavy, the quality of the songs is breathtaking, with a more dramatic feel to the album than one would expect. Where there are places on the album that the tone is light and the guitar solos fly, there are other numbers which are heavier and sombre and plod along.

This is a fine debut from the Polish guitarist. If you’re a neoclassical fan who enjoys Yngwie’s earlier works, look no further than this.

Nick van der Meulen

Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 my nightmare (Universal)

Alice Cooper needs no introduction. The king of shock rock returns with the sequel to “Welcome to my nightmare” a good 36 years later, with the same band members as in the past!

This is a shock rock album of note and, in my view, not for the right reasons. The album has many WTF moments, the first as the album begins with “I am made of you”...a ballad written by Desmond Child with electronic Alice voices in places! WTF?! This is a concept album with Steven returning with his visions of hell. While there are some corkers on this album (“Last man on earth” comes to mind), there are too many moments that destroy the brilliance.

While Alice has an exceptional sense of humour, hearing him perform a disco track (“Disco bloodbath boogie fever”) and a 60’s sounding rock ‘n roll Beach Boys number (“Ghouls gone wild”) does not warm the cockles of my heart. The concept of the work may be sound, but shelling out my hard-earned money for this leaves me cold.

Approach with caution.

Nick van der Meulen

Chickenfoot – III (earMusic)

The supergroup returns with its sophomore release, despite being titled “III”. The band claimed that the album was too good to be titled “II” and shifted it by an “I”...

The album is undoubtedly better than the band’s debut, with good American melodic rock tunes being pounded out. Sammy Hagar, despite being 64 years young, is in fine fettle vocally and he belts it out relentlessly, particularly on “Three and a half letters”, a song about job losses in the U.S. which the band obviously feels strongly about. Joe Satriani wails in places, while providing a strong rhythm section with Michael Anthony and Chad Smith. There are a number of songs that have a “Van Hagar” feel to them, enhanced by Anthony’s strong harmonising backing vocals. “Dubai Blues” is the song that puts the band into a different league, showing a bit of their softer side.

A strong release containing simple, straight up rock. Worthy of your attention.

Nick van der Meulen

Megadeth – Thirteen (Roadrunner)

Dave Mustaine returns with the bands 13th effort, hence the title of the album. While the band’s previous four releases have been solid enough, there’s been something lacking. While I know Mr. Mustaine doesn’t care much what people say, my belief is that the missing three factors have been David Ellefson, Marty Friedman and Nick Menza...

Some of the magic of albums past is heard again on this release, as Ellefson returns to the fold and guitarist Chris Broderick wails on guitar solos as Friedman did in the past. The songs are hard, solid and not as speedy and relentless as on “Endgame”, Megadeth’s previous release. “Public Enemy No. 1” has a distinct Alice Cooper feel to the vocal (and the song is a nominee for a Grammy award for best metal performance), while other songs like “New World Order” and “Black Swan” come from the vaults.

This is the band’s best release in a good ten years! May Megadeth’s future releases continue in this vein. Onwards and upwards...

Nick van der Meulen

Vain – Enough rope (MusicBuyMail)

Davy Vain has managed to achieve cult status with Vain’s debut release “No respect” in 1989. A further five releases followed over the years and “Enough rope” is Vain’s first release since 2005, with much fanfare.

Vain is well-known for his sleaze rock releases and this album is no exception: it oozes sleaze through its pores. There is a “but” involved here though, in that it lacks that edgy, over the top knockout punch. It’s melodic enough, but as much as I listen to it, there’s a tardiness to it that I cannot ignore.

It’s a good album, but after all the hype I’m a tad disappointed...

Nick van der Meulen

From The Depth – Back to life (Rising Records)

From The Depth is an Italian power metal outfit that turned heads in the Italian underground metal scene following the release of their E.P. “The will to be the flame” in 2008. “Back to life” is their debut album.

The songs are melodic and solid, although a bit lacking in bombast, particularly when one can hear strong influences of Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody of Fire, Kamelot and early-era Helloween in their music. Sadly, while the songs are pleasant, one cannot remember one that stands out and this is what they’ll have to work towards in future.

The band shows much promise with this album and I look forward to hearing future releases from them.

Nick van der Meulen

Awake – Forever More (Lion Music)

U.K. progressive metal act Awake return after a four-year hiatus to produce their second album, “Forever More”. The album features a twin guitar attack in brothers Andy and Steven Cole and a heavier sound than their debut.

The album is good, solid, metal with driving rhythm and not much in the way of progressive tempos – which is a good thing. Simon Shedwell provides a fine voice for the music, with a vocal range akin to Gary Hughes of Ten fame. There is not one poor song on the album and one enjoys the whole musical experience…but there isn’t a track that grabs you by the throat, either.

A very good listen…I expect their next release to be the breakthrough they’re looking for.

Nick van der Meulen

Tuesday, December 13 2011 09:39:07

Areph - Areph (Quadraplus Records)

Areph are an Italian four piece pop/ rock outfit formed back in 2008 by bass player/vocalist Valero Iovine. This is their first album and it is, according to the blurb “ a journey through emotions, moods and different ideas”.

This journey unfortunately takes us to a flat, featureless land of insipid soft rock with light prog overtones. Musically the band certainly know their way around their chosen instruments, but what they produce is bland to say the least. The biggest problem is with the vocal delivery which is thin, reedy and a bit whiney, even if the music was top notch the vocals would still drag the record down.

Having said all that though, the album is not without some merit and there are a few good tunes within the eleven tracks on offer, but they are all too infrequent and there is nothing here to really hold the listeners interest .

If you love Coldplay you might want to give this a go…. I think that sums it up nicely !

David Wilson

Chris Devotion & The Expectations - Amalgamation & Capital (Armellodie Records)

Chris Devotion & The Expectations (or CD/EX to their friends ) are a pop punk outfit hailing from Glasgow and they master in the short sharp blasts of sunny sounding rock.

This is the trio’s debut album and serves up tasty nuggets, or should that be McNuggets, of melodic, punky pop in the style of ‘Rocket From The Crypt’ ,who are fans of the band. Most of the tracks on offer come in at under 3 minutes with the highlights being ‘I Don’t Need You Anymore’ and ‘Tell The Girl’ which are both short and sweet.

The only criticism I would level at the album is that at 16 tracks long it does run out of steam towards the end, perhaps a bit of selective editing would have made for an all killer, no filler album. It is a minor gripe though and overall this is a bouncy, happy and uplifting album and the guys sound like they would be a blast live.

Happy, sunny and from Glasgow? Surely some mistake!

David Wilson

Allerjen - Equilibrium (Brutal Elite Records)

This is the second album from the Manchester based noise machine that is Allerjen. Part of the UK underground metal set, these guys offer up Deathcore metal with progressive undertones as ably demonstrated on opener ‘Destroyers Of Worlds’ which is fast paced with solid riffs and gutteral vocals.

The sound is hard, heavy, brutal stuff but it is held together nicely with strong melodic passages and good playing throughout. Album highlight for me is ‘Treachery Be Thy Name’ which again shows the bands well honed skills, you can tell the band have been on the circuit for a while as they are a tight unit. The two guitarists Paul Wilkinson and Audie Harrison both put in a good shift, but the sound mix on the album does push the guitars a bit too far down, so what should be a hefty punch in the guts comes across as a bit of slap round the face with a wet haddock.

This release though should further cement Allerjen’s position on the UK scene and hopefully beyond. It should also see them feature on support tours and festival bills during 2012, if there is any justice.

David Wilson

Sunday, December 11 2011 20:32:05

ARENA 'The Seventh Degree Of Separation' Verglas Music (2011)

Arena are back with their first album since the excellent 'Pepper's Ghost' back in 2005. Since then John Jowitt has returned on bass and they have a new vocalist in Paul Manzi and returned with a concept album. This album looks at the last hour of life and the first hour after, which added to the stunning album sleeve artwork makes for a thoughtful and enjoyable listen.

The heavy 'The Great Escape' starts the album off well, allowing John Mitchell to lay down some big riffs. Paul Manzi comes into his own on the slower, more melodic numbers like the moving 'One Last Au Revoir' and 'Close Your Eyes'. Of course Clive Nolan's keyboards are a massive part of this band's sound, be it the piano and organ on 'Thief Of Souls' or the spacey soloing on 'Burning Down'. This song also has a wonderful chorus. There is not a duff song in sight and cleverly the songs can be played as one sitting or listened to separately without losing the overall concept of the album.

There is also a two disc version adding a DVD of band interviews and the making of this album. Interesting insight, with each band member going through how they recorded their parts for the album, although not much from the new frontman Paul Manzi!

Arena have done it again, creating an album that reveals more and more on each listen and by doing the songs (bar one) at the three to four minute mark they lend themselves easily to airplay. It is always a gamble changing your vocalist but Arena have found a more than adequate replacement for Rob Sowden. Musically this album has a harder edge and although the songs are shorter, the band maintains their progressive feel coupled with some very strong melodies. Hold the press, I have just found another album of the year contender...

Jason Ritchie
Last edited Sun Dec 11 21:12:16 2011

Saturday, December 10 2011 23:03:39

RAMIN 'Ramin' (2012) Sony Music

Ramin Karimloo may not be your normal GRTR! fare as he has made his name in a series of West End shows including 'Les Miserables' and 'Love Never Dies'. This is his debut album, a mix of self-penned tunes, musical numbers and a few covers.

'Show Me Light' and 'Coming Home' are decent AOR numbers with a suitably grandiose musical backing. He makes 'Music Of the Night' from 'Phantom of the Opera' his own - you can see why he lands so many lead roles in musicals. Listen out for the Muse cover, 'Guiding Light' done like a musical number, as is the Bryan Adams cover 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You)'. The album can dip occasionally into MOR/cheesy listening but overall a decent listen for fans of musicals and big production AOR.

Released in early February this is perfect for the Valentines Day market and Radio 2 daytime airplay, plus rock fans who have a melodic rock passion.

Jason Ritchie

COREY TAYLOR 'X-M@$' Roadrunner (Download 2011)

Available again for download after a failed attempt last year to make Christmas number one - a big ask given the amount of swearing on it! Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Stour) has produced a perfect anti-Christmas song, one for those who enjoy watching 'Bad Santa' as opposed to say 'It's A Wonderful life'. With humorous lyrics and a decent punky riff this is a fine tune, just don't play it loud at your family Christmas meal...

Jason Ritchie

BLACK STONE CHERRY 'Santa Claus Is Back In Town' Roadrunner (Download 2011)

Originally released back in 2009, Black Stone Cherry release a riff heavy Christmas single. Not the greatest song they have ever done but compared to most Christmas tunes at least you can see yourself playing it again in future festive seasons...

Jason Ritchie
Last edited Sat Dec 10 23:24:10 2011

Friday, December 9 2011 09:02:35

URIAH HEEP + SNAKECHARMER Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Thursday 8th December 2011

Snakecharmer as the name suggests feature some former Whitesnake members – Micky Moody and Neil Murray – who are joined by Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash/Tina Turner/We Will Rock You), Harry James (Thunder/Magnum), Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and Chris Ousey (Heartland/Virginia Wolf).

Given a decent length of time for a support band they fair ripped through some classic Whitesnake (all songs from before the post-1987 big hair days). Vocalist Chris Ousey, sporting the Paul Rodger’s approved jeans and white vest look, hits the notes perfectly something sadly Mr Coverdale no longer does. Great to hear ‘Slow An’ Easy’ and a nice rocking version of ‘Here I Go Again’. Micky Moody had a chance to shine with a stunning slide guitar solo whilst Neil Murray (looking more and more like ‘Top Gear’s James May) seemed to be having a good time playing the old ‘Snake classics live again. The sound was not great at times but from this display you can expect to see and hear more of this fine band of musicians.

Uriah Heep have come a long way since I first saw them live in the late 80’s with their then new vocalist Bernie Shaw playing the small club venue Shelleys in Longton. Fast forward to now and they have got their fans back out again including some younger fans which is always good to see.

Touring their new album ‘Into The Wild’ Uriah Heep are lucky in that their fans like to hear the new songs unlike some of their fellow contemporaries who have to sneak a few new songs in. Kikcing off with ‘I’m Ready’ and a frantic ‘Return To Fantasy’ soon had the crowd nicely warmed up before the Heep choir kicks in with ‘Stealin’.

Drummer Russell Gilbrook (who has a kit that would put many a power metaller to shame!) had a drum solo between two new songs ‘Money Talk’ and one of my favourates ‘Nail On The Head’.

Mick Box as ever was grinning throughout and throwing his shapes, a rival to Magnum’s Bob Catley if ever there’re was one. Made a change to have an acoustic guitar solo spot which segued well into ‘The Wizard’. Bernie Shaw is a perfect frontman as he has an easy interaction with the audience and vocally has lost none of his power. He had the audience singing along to ‘Lady In Black’ which closed the set.

Encore time and the band wanted a few fans onstage to headbang along to ‘Free An’ Easy’, a song Mick Box introduced as being voted one of the first heavy metal songs in Germany. Amongst the lucky few fans on stage was none other than Mark Taylor, who had cannily taken his video recorder onstage to capture the moment. Nice touch as the band was joined by their families including Bernie Shaw’s daughter who seemed naturally at ease centre stage dancing away. ‘Bird Of Prey’ and ‘Easy Livin’ closed the set off in fine style.

Uriah Heep are one of the few 70’s rock bands who still sound great, look to have a ball on stage and are still making good music, albeit not quite at their early 70’s pace of two albums per year! Long may they continue.

Jason Ritchie

Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues
Ready An' Willing
Ain't Gonna Cry No More
Moody's Blues
Slow An' Easy
Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City
Here I Go Again
Fool For Your Loving

I'm Ready
Return to Fantasy
Rainbow Demon
Money Talk
Drum Solo
Nail on the Head
Acoustic guitar solo
The Wizard
Into the Wild
Look At Yourself
July Morning
Lady In Black
Free 'n' Easy
Bird of Prey
Easy Livin'

Tuesday, December 6 2011 15:25:43

TALON ‘III’ Escape Music (2011)

Talon reach their third album, which also marks their third record label and third vocalist (their last vocalist Chandler Mogel left to join Outloud). The new vocalist is none other than Line Of Fire’s Shawn Pelata and he is joined by fellow new boy Eric Ragno (China Blue/Takara) on keyboards.

Talon dip their toes in the hard rock field with ‘Crying To Me’ (written by Scott Miller and Guardian’s Jamie Rowe), and ‘Everytime’. They can also turn on the ballads with ‘Brothers’ (Eric Ragno’s keys nicely fill out the song) and ‘Did You Have To Say’. Shawn Pelata drops his register from his Line Of Fire work to a more raspy sound, not dissimilar to Paul Shortino at times.

Jeff Scott Soto takes the lead vocal on ‘Take You All The Way’ but it sounds out of place on here as it is too much like a JSS solo song. One little treat at the end of the album is a sterling cover of Jefferson Starship’s ‘Jane’ with Jim Kee matching the original’s searing guitar solo.

Hopefully now Talon can hold onto this line-up and start to get some stability which will help them big time. A good, solid release and one of definite interest to melodic rock fans.

Jason Ritchie

Sunday, December 4 2011 20:32:11

SAVATAGE 'Poets And Madmen' Ear Music/Edel (2011)

The final studio album from the band, originally released in 2001 and one that saw Jon Oliva back on vocals following the departure of Zak Stevens. Guitarist Al Pitrelli also jumped ship to Megadeth, although he did have some guitar solos on the album, leaving Chris Caffery as the main guitarist.

There is a definate feel of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on this album, none more so on the album's showpiece 'Morphine Child'. This song has it all from a big orchestral production through to the canon vocal section. 'Commissar' and 'Drive' are two of the band's more straight ahead heavier tunes, whilst 'Stay With Me Awhile' features one of Jon Oliva's finest vocal performances - nice and menacing. 'I Seek Power' is another fine vocal tour de force backed by some immense riffing. It does fall away towards the end of the album but 'Back To Reason' brings the quality back up.

Two bonus songs on here, an acoustic version of 'Sleep' and a 2011 version of 'Tonight He Grins Again', both good additions to the original album.

Will there ever be another new Savatage album? I somehow doubt it with the TSO going strong and Jon Oliva's Power but this album marked a strong finish to a fine band's musical career.

Jason Ritchie

DAMIAN WILSON 'I Thought The World Was Listening 1997-2011' (Double CD 2011)

Damian Wilson is currently the vocalist in the rather good Threshold and has in the past worked with Rick Wakeman, Ayreon and Star One amongst others. Now we have this two CD collection of his solo music although if you are expecting some prog metal think again as this is a true solo album sounding nothing like any of his current or previous bands.

Even for fans this is a 'must have' as there are new versions, demo versions and previously unreleased songs on here, nearly half of the 31 songs on offer. Where to start? The live from rehearsal version of 'Please Don't Leave Me 'Till I Leave You' is a hit-in-waiting if Radio 2 ever got wind of it. The jaunty piano and quick beat make it perfect for radio. 'Light In The Middle' is another one with a decent beat and again perfect for radio.

There are a lot of reflective acoustic numbers and listening to 'Never Close The Door' and 'Array Of Lights' bring a tear to the eye, whilst 'When I Leave This Land' really does move the listener. How can one person come up with so many moving and beautiful songs? The short but sweet 'Naturally' reminded me of Mike Peters in solo mode, as does 'Homegrown' - love the musical arrangement on this one. I could go on about each track but get the CD and let the music do the talking...

Neatly packaged in a digipak and a nice touch to have his dad write a short piece about his son and his music on the inlay sleeve.

I can honestly say there is not one duff song on this two CD set and it deserves a pride of place in your music collection. Damian Wilson is one of our better singer/songwriters and this is a perfect celebration of his undoubted talent.

Jason Ritchie

REV78 'Could Have Been A Dancer' (CDS 2011)

London based band who according to the PR blurb 'reminds you of nothing you've heard before' - wrong! This is pretty average alt rock with a shouty chorus loved by bands like the Kaiser Chiefs. Next...

Jason Ritchie

NICKELBACK 'When We Stand Together' Roadrunner (CDS 2011)

The musical equivalent of Marmite return with a new song that adds a little dance flavour in the vocal effects on the chorus. Fear not though they haven't gone all techno, although the guitars are way down in the musical mix. Sure to be a hit and another strong single from the band.

Jason Ritchie
Last edited Sun Dec 4 21:26:27 2011

Sunday, December 4 2011 20:05:46

When Words Fail- Eyes On Everything
( S-a-N PR )

Yet more melodic nu metal this time at the heavier end of the scale. The five piece from Swindon are another new entry into this already crowded genre with this their debut EP. The three tracks on offer here are from the
‘Funeral For A Friend’ school of rock, heavy, melodic songs with good vocal harmonies throughout but they don’t bring anything new to the party.

The EP though is a decent listen and should secure the band a few support slots possibly opening on three or four band bills around the country. This is a competent release, but as I say this is a genre that is getting rather crowded with bands of a similar standard and When Words Fail need something extra to help them rise above the rest.

David Wilson

Souldrainer - Heaven’s Gate
( ViciSolum Productions )

Swedish winters must be a breeding ground of dark thoughts and dark music as Souldrainer’s latest release has both in spades. This is the death/ doom metal merchants’ second album and with a name like Souldrainer you should have some idea of what to expect.

The music is fast, loud and oh so heavy, but it also has a softer side with large swathes of keyboards throughout which add a large chunk of atmosphere to the proceedings. The band are only a three piece featuring Marcus Edvardsson on vocals and guitar, Joakim Wassberg on bass and Arttu Malkki on drums but the sound created is huge.

There are also a couple of tracks which show a bit of a different side to the band, especially last track ’ Heaven’s Gate’ which is more in a heavy indie rock direction. Mostly though the band stick to what they know and on tracks like ‘ Quest’ and ‘Alien Terror’ they provide classy death metal with excellent arrangements and a majestic sound.

Glad to see those long Swedish nights don’t go to waste.

David Wilson

Slowtorch – 4-Barrel Retribution
( Riff/ Hongly )

Slowtorch are stoner rockers from Italy and this is their third release. Formed in 2004 they are very reminiscent of Kyuss and Clutch with big chunky driving riffs with the odd bit of psychedelia thrown in for good measure.

This is a 4 track EP and it is rather good. Matteo Meloni handles the vocal duties with a rather rough style but it works well especially on the first track ‘La Vaja’, which has a monster sound with heavy double bass drum patterns and huge riffs. The other 3 tracks 27 and the double header of 10,000 tons/ Lords Of Tomorrow are all of the same high standard. If you like a bit of stoner music you will love this, but even if you are not that keen, Slowtorch are still with a spin.

David Wilson

Dirtswitch – Phoenix Down
( Two Side Moon/ SLW )

Dirtswitch hail from Slovenia and are purveyors of fine, down tuned rock in the vein of Alterbridge and Black Stone Cherry. This is the bands first release and over the 12 track feature they show some good song writing skills and can certainly churn out a good riff or two. Another band that came to mind on several tracks, especially ‘ Restraints’ and ‘Too Much’ were Nickelback with vocalist Luka Lamut doing a good Chad Kroeger impression.

It is Alterbridge though that appear to have had the biggest influence on the band, and as with AB there is excellent playing and strong melodies throughout the album. My one complaint, and I always level the same at Alterbridge, is that they need to lighten up a bit, it’s all very serious stuff which becomes a bit tiresome after a while, a bit like watching Question Time on repeat.

As debut albums go though, this is a damn fine one that should open a few doors for the band in the coming year.

3.5/ 5
David Wilson

Sunday, December 4 2011 20:03:33

Alloy (Frontiers)

The latest album from singer / songwriter Amanda Somerville, who has worked with metal bands Avantasia and Epica.

This is a solid melodic rock album that, at the light end is big ballads with acoustic touches, and also works heavily round melodic power metal with slight nods to the gothic and operatic metal of Nightwish.

Trivia note – Trillium-D is also an Alloy found in the Star Trek series.

Opener Machine Gun opens with a hard metal riff and some smooth vocals. It’s quite catchy in places too. Purge is a heavy track too that has some great vocal harmonies; the lead and backing vocals are superbly layered. Cracking guitar solo too.

Utter Descension is another big sounding song – mixing power metal and power ballad well.

Bow To The Ego is a heavy crunchy number with some well mixed smooth keyboards. It’s also suitably dark and moody.

A seriously good album with a range of moods and pace, beautiful vocals and lots of screaming riffs and solos. Definitely worth checking out.

Joe Geesin

Grainne DUFFY
Test Of Time

Second album from Irish singer / guitarist Duffy, who blends the acoustic and electric singer/songwriter fare with rock, pop and an obvious touch of blues and soul. Let Me In is a stand out rocker that defines the album’s Americana well; some rock’n’roll and full band sound come over very well. Rockin’Rollin’ Stone is soulful blues with plenty of sleazy passion. In contrast Sweet Sweet Baby is a gentler soul number with a hint of funk. Test Of Time sees the music blend Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart, and the touch of huskiness to the largely smooth and solid vocals hint to a similar mix. Her vocals handle it all well, and sound just as good on the soulful brass laden Don’t You Remember. Then Please Take Care moves in a blues direction – more good stuff.

As moods go, it’s a Sunday morning album and pretty enjoyable with it. Radio 2 should pick her up.

Joe Geesin

Alba Place (Wurly Music)

Singer / Songwriter Riley has been writing and recording for 20 years , using any excuse that required expression to write a song. This is his first outing and features 12 tracks covering personal relationships.

The vocals are smooth, the guitar is strummed along at a variety of paces. The band sound woks well to make it all pleasant listing, and the mood changes are well encompassed. The odd solo, some decent beats and bass lines. But that said, the music does drift by in an occasionally bland way. But that’s the nature of the music here.

The lyrics are well written, it’s all emotive stuff and if you let the mood changes sweep over you it is gentle and pleasant listening.

Joe Geesin

Try Harder

This is the twelfth album from the Swiss born American singer/songwriter/guitarist.

As opener It’s Gonna Rain shows, there’s a solid smooth sound with a lot of blues and hint of soul. There’s an obvious comparison with Chris Rea here. Make My Home Where I Hang My Hat is a gentle blues number with added brass; reminiscent of Nicky Moore’s Blues Corporation but a tad more MOR.

Jealous Kinda Fella is more upbeat and uptempo, with decent guitar matching the brass again.

Please Come On Home is more balladic, some nice piano touches.

It’s a good album, def worth a listen if you like gentle singer/songwriter blues.

The 11 track album is nicely bolstered by 4 additional live tracks recorded December last year.

Joe Geesin

Time & Charges / Portraits

Two albums on one CD, and album numbers 2 and 3 for this late 60s Sunshine Pop band. Formed in Chicago, Illinois, USA in the mid 60s, they mixed west coast / psychedelia with bubblegum pop, beat and orchestration. Releasing albums in 1967 alone, they were one of the most listened to bands of the era.

Time & Charges opens with Don’t You Care and Pitted Be The Dragon Hunter, it’s easy, melodic and dramatic all together. The brass adds to the drama, while the gentler moments are a little more whimsical.

Portraits, the third album released that year, opens with the rockier C’Mon. The brass / orchestration is still there but this is more guitar / keys / drums oriented, and some nice vocal harmonies too.

Good value with 2 albums a single disc, and a good idea of what was big bag then. I feel this was America trying to beat the British Invasion at the time.

Joe Geesin

Skin (Rock Candy)

An aptly timed reissue for this classic hard rock album, given the band’s recent reformation and appearance at High Voltage earlier this year.

Originally released in 1994, when many British rock bands had been killed by the abomination called grunge, the band’s eponymous debut was produced by Keith Olsen and followed on from the band’s roots nicely – the band featured ex members of Jagged Edge/Tokyo Blade/Shogun (guitarist Myke Gray and Andy Robbins had been in Bruce Dickinson’s band too) and Kooga.

This was perhaps one of the best classic rock albums of the period, as the band didn’t entertain indie or alternative that was popular at the time, in fact the sound had more of a modern nod to the likes of Free and Zeppelin, and vocalist Neville McDonald certainly had the lungs to match. Openers Money and Shine Your Light On Me are full on, catchy, powerful and full of riffs.

House Of Love is slightly more American, a touch of cock rock, but it’s not overly done, a decent track.

It is a good album, and if not everyone’s cup of tea it was a breath of fresh air in the face of Nirvana.

The album is bolstered by band comments in the extensive sleevenotes, remastering, and 7 bonus tracks from period EPs. A damn fine job.

Joe Geesin

Long Way To Heaven (Rock Candy)
Wild In The Streets (Rock Candy)

Formed in the mid 70s, Canadian rock band Helix found success in the mid 80s with a move to more melodic rock mixed with powerful AOR and a touch of hair metal (this was in terms of both music and image). 1985’s Long Way To Heaven was the band’s fifth full studio album and third for Capital, and it would eventually go Platinum. The opening two tracks The Kids Are All Shakin’ and Deep Cuts The Knife show the commercial edge well, with the twin guitars producing many a solid riff.

Ride The Rocket takes the vocal harmonies to an even bigger stage and nods towards to Def Leppard.

The title track is less derivative, a real rocker, Vollmer’s vocals standing out. The guitar interplay is also outstanding. A wonderful melodic rock album.

Two years later and Wild In The Streets saw a more rock’n’roll direction. The opening title track saw an AC/DC / Krokus kind of sleaze introduced, with plenty of shred riffs.

Two notable covers are Nazareth’s Dream On and FM’s Never Gonna Stop The Rock.

As usual from Rock Candy they’re well packaged.

Both 3.5/5
Joe Geesin

Orion The Hunter (Rock Candy)

A Boston offshoot, this band featured guitarist Barry Goudreau, and future Bostoner Fran Cosmo on lead vocals. Brad Delp even provided backing vocals. Drummer Michael DeRosier was ex Heart which also helped cement the sound, so think Boston, Heart, Journey and Triumph.

The tracks are fairly typical 1984 melodic rock, given the influences, although there is some fantastic guitar work, and Fran Cosmo’s searing vocals hint at why he was given the Boston job a few years later. So You Ran was a top 10 hit in the US, no mean feat.

Dark And Stormy is a piano lead moody number, featuring some good guitar harmonies.

It is a very good album but far from groundbreaking.

Joe Geesin

Area 52

Mexican acoustic shredders Rod y Gab release their new album, so named Area 52 because it’s next to Area 51 (think Mulder & Scully here), a journey into unknown territory. Nine renowned RyG classics, nine completely new arrangements – unchartered territory indeed.

This is more of collaborative effort, as the duo worked with C.U.B.A., a 13 piece Cuban orchestra, as well as guests Anoushka Shankar on sitar and drummer John Tempesta (Cult / Testament).

Opener Santo Domingo features some classic RyG guitar work, the riffs and sound as classic and epic as ever, but the orchestra adding a full Hispanic sound. The opening few bars could be from a US cop show theme tune, before settling down into a fine groove. The piano as an extra dimension. Also almost progressive.

The production throughout is a wall of sound effect, it’s quite full on compared to previous RyG releases; as a fan I’d be lying if I said it didn’t detract at all, but much of the effect it has to be said is worth it.

The reworking of Hanuman definitely adds a jazz feel, and elsewhere there’s an acid jazz feel as well as a nod to Santana. There’s even some electric guitar work on the album that stands out.

Ixtapa, 11:11, Diablo Rogo and Juan Loco all sound good; think late 60s / early 70s big band, Hispanic jazz with the trademark Rodrigo y Gabriela melodies and guitar work.

While my own preference is for the more stripped down work, this is still as good as ever.

One for the guitar maestro.

Joe Geesin

At The BBC (2CD)

The BBC, between its various music radio shows, Top Of The Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test, could really help make and break a band, and in the case of Ireland’s finest, it must have helped. Right from the band’s early days, they became regulars on BBC TV and radio and gained quite a following.

This collection opens with Look What The Wind Blew In, recorded for Sounds Of The Seventies in 1971, followed by Whiskey In The Jar and Saga Of The Ageing Orphan, both recorded for John Peel in 1972. From the band’s early days it’s clear how good a live band Thin Lizzy were.

From John Peel, Bob Harris, Rock On and In Concert series, disc one covers 1971 to 1974, the band often showcasing album tracks as well as singles, and Little Girl In Bloom, Sitamoia and Showdown sit well with The Rocker and Randolph’s Tango.

Disc 2 kicks off with John Peel sessions from 1974 and 1975, and after the likes of She Knows, Philomena and Half Caste we definitely are into hit territory with Jailbreak, Cowboy Song and Don’t Believe A Word. Killer On The Loose from Hammersmith Odeon 1981 stands out, and the set closes with Cold Sweat and The Boys Are Back In Town (Sight And Sound 1983).

Many come with the original intros, which takes you back, and throughout the several incarnations it’s forever frontman, singer and bassist Phil Lynott who holds court. The sound is pretty good throughout and the performances are great too. The set is pretty well annotated too.

One for Thin Lizzy fans and more – classic rock beginning to end.

Joe Geesin

Last edited Sun Dec 4 20:04:51 2011

Saturday, December 3 2011 21:35:47

Take The Seven - Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious S-a-N PR

It would appear that someone in this band has a bit of petrol flowing through their veins judging by the band name and album title. Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious is an acronym most commonly associated with Norfolk’s finest sportscar manufacturer Lotus and company founder Colin Chapman’s finest moment was the Lotus Seven , hence Take The Seven. Either that or I am a complete automotive anorak who is reading far too much into all this !

Anyway, we are here for the music not the inner workings of my mind, so what do we have on offer. Take The Seven are purveyors of alt rock coming across as a cut and shut job splicing The Blackout with Taking Back Sunday and adding the wheels from Funeral For A Friend. The finished product however has polished up well. The band know how to write a catchy tune with hooks aplenty as ably demonstrated on opener ‘ Welcome To My Town’. All 7 tracks on the album are upbeat and well crafted with solid vocals and harmonies and excellent playing throughout.

For a debut album it is one that will stand up to repeat plays and shows a lot of promise for the bands future. One thing though lads, I would lose the scary bunny on the cover, it made me think of the Were-rabbit from Wallace and Gromit, possibly not the direction you are after !

4/ 5
David Wilson

Friday, December 2 2011 16:20:13

PATSY MATHESON ‘Stories Of Angels & Guitars’ (2012)

Former Waking the Witch member Patsy Matheson returns with her new album, her first in nearly four years. Mind you not that she hasn’t been busy touring relentlessly including some very well received gigs with folk legend Clive Gregson. Patsy plays most instruments on here (including the xylophone!) with Jon Short on double bass and former Housemartin Hugh Whitaker on drums.

This is an album for concentration and enjoyment – with a wine/beer (or tea in my case) in hand along with the lyrics sheet. The vocals are simply stunning, from ‘Under Your Wing’ with a heavenly high vocal part midway through to ‘So The Same’, where Patsy joins her herself on harmonies, something her former band Waking the Witch excelled at. Lovely mandolin solo on ‘Water Is Over The Weir’ and again another song you can lose yourself in. The moving ‘Sylvia Jean’ closes the album, a tale of two young lovers whose romance is cut short after the young man dies in a flying accident.

What makes this album special? The smoothly melodious voice draws you into a song; add a little acoustic guitar and what more can you want? We all have our musicians and singers we like to rave about and I would urge lovers of singer/songwriter and folk music to buy this album.

Jason Ritchie

Friday, December 2 2011 14:07:54

ROYAL HUNT ‘Show Me How To Live’ Frontiers (2011)

Royal Hunt are back after their last album ‘X’ seemed to disappear without trace but now they are back on Frontiers for their new album. Since the last album gone too are vocalist Mark Boals and guitarist Marcus Jiddell, with vocalist DC Cooper returning (he was the band’s vocalist in the mid-90’s) and new guitarist Jonas Larsen.

Now for the majority of Riyal Hunt fans the return of DC Cooper is like Ozzy back in Black Sabbath or Slash returning to Guns ‘N’ Roses. I however, must be one of the few who really enjoyed the John West fronted albums! This album is a back to basics one after the disappointment of ‘X’. It is not a concept album and Andre Andesen’s keyboards set to ‘stun’ along with DC Cooper on fine vocal form. ‘An Empty Shell’ contains wondrous keyboard runs coupled with just the right amount of guitar. A gentle harpsichord intro (not often you read that in a rock review) gives way to catchy ‘Hard rain’s Coming, a song chosen as the lead song of this album. The band’s use of layered choir backing vocals is used to good effect on this song. ‘Another Man Down’ brings in the band’s skill at creating a story set to music and again those keyboards are swirling all over the place creating a keyboard’s heaven. Again the band shows they haven’t lost the skill of penning catchy melodic metal. Those seeking some OTT guitar solos may feel short changed on the album but then this band has never dues them as a foundation of their sound.

A returning key member doesn’t always mean a return to form, (just ask Megadeth) but in Royal Hunt’s case they are back on form. Now for some live dates and a juicy big concept album next time…

Jason Ritchie