State Of Rock

C.O.P – State Of Rock

AOR Heaven (2015)

Reviewer: Aaron Chatfield

I don’t know much about C.O.P and I actually thought this was an album from UK band Crimes of Passion (who appear to be going by the moniker COP UK). C.O.P actually features three members of Grand Illusion and hails from Sweden.

‘Loner’ starts our melodic rock journey off in fine form. Crunchy guitars, smooth vocals, orchestral keyboards, thudding bass… Yep, it’s all there. It’s a good track, instant chorus, but not quite enough on the hook for me, but it’s a fair starter. ‘I Want The World To Know is hot on the openers heals and I have pictures of a rocky training montage in my head, pounding beat, driving Rocky on to face his biggest challenge ever! Survivor, Journey, Alien, Stan Bush, they all come to mind.

‘Nightmare’ continues the theme, before the obligatory ballad softens the sound. ‘Without You’ is a good enough power ballad, riding on the vocal performance. ‘On The Run’, ‘In My Dreams’, ‘She’s Gone’ and the rest of the album, are all decent tracks and the CD closes well with ‘Darkness’, great stabbing keys and melodic guitar lines.

What you’ve got with C.O.P is a well conceived album, that wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve. Combining the current crop of awesome European and Nordic bands, such as Eclipse and H.E.A.T, with the 80’s icons like Journey and Survivor, works well, but it isn’t really carving anything new and that might bring the longevity of the album into question. My advice, if you like the bands I have mentioned, then slam this on…..and like the aforementioned Rocky movie, don’t question it, just enjoy!

 

Your Heaven Is Real

Chris Caffery -Your Heaven Is Real

Metalville (2015)

Reviewer: Aaron Chatfield

I first became aware of Chris Caffery, when he joined one of my favourite bands, Savatage. A multi-instrumentalist (the usual bass, vocals, guitar… Plus saxophone! J).

He released his first solo work back in 2004, although, it’s not until his 2009 release, Pins And Needles, that I believe he found his solo sound.  The title track opens up with some clean guitar, before ripping into some uber-heavy riffage. Chris is a solid player, with some serious weight to his playing as well as handling the vocals too. His voice is powerful and gritty, hints of Jon Olivia in there as well as a few other metal pipe-smiths. Great opener for the album.

Arm And Leg’ follows, riding a flanged guitar, a la Inside The Electric Circus. The vocals are pure insanity, like Jon Olivia’s craziest moments. ‘Just Fine’ follows on some great riffing, reminding me of Zakk Wylde or maybe Diamond Darrell (I refuse to use Dimebag!). The tempo slows down for the chugging ‘Why’. An epic battle anthem for peace, with a rumbling baseline and a balladesque verse. Reminds me a lot of Iced Earth.

‘Damned If You Do’ follows nicely. ‘Hot Wheelz’, is an instrumental piece, reminding the listener that Chris has world class chops while ‘I Never Knew brings in the gentler side, which Chris is also known for. The track has some great lead work. ‘Sick And Tired’ and ‘Death By Design’ are both good album tracks, that lead us to a small acoustic instrumental, ‘2 26 15′… (why can’t Americans use the same date format as the rest of the of the world?!?)  ‘Too Soon To Be Too Late leads us to a pair of ballads ‘Over And Over and ‘Come Home’. The later is similar to Savatage tracks such as Breathe. Not sure if it’s the best way to finish an album, but they are good tracks.

Overall, Chris delivers a good, personal album. You can hear a lot of influence from the bands he’s played in and I get the feeling that he writes for his own enjoyment, rather than to please a fan base. In doing that, he probably pleases his true fans anyway. If you like Savatage, TSO, etc and want something with little less grandiose and a little heavier, then pick this up.  His previous two releases, House Of Insanity and Pins And Needles are also worth a check out

Edge Of The Blade

Edge Of The Blade – The Ghosts Of Humans
 
Escape Music (2015)
 
Reviewer – Stephen Brophy
Edge Of The Blade were a new name to me, with a new album that again was a bit of a mystery until the band members names struck an immediate chord, featuring former SHY drummer Alan Kelly and John Francis (After Hours) who was briefly the vocalist for SHY interest was peaked. The band is the idea of Engineer and Guitarist John Chick (who has also produced the album) and from here at least it’s been a very good idea.
This is a Melodic Rock/Metal album with some excellent musicianship and vocal work and having an Engineer/Producer making this album is a big benefit for the guys and he’s done a really good job. No pretensions here right from the opening riff of the excellent ‘Vital Signs‘ which hums along at a nice pace, the vocals are classic in style and epic of nature, Riffs are chunky throughout and work well with John’s vocals, there are some nice variations as we go along, ‘Believer‘ for example benefits from the addition of keyboards, has a different tempo and construction and like most songs on this particular album layered vocals/backing vocals work particularly well.
These songs are well written and put together, and although the ten tracks on offer have similar feel with the musical style and the nature of a lot of the riffs they still offer enough to keep things interesting and each of the songs holds it’s own. The stand out tracks are ‘Mr. Hell‘ which has some lovely guitar playing on it while maintaining enough gruffness to give it that edge. The slower, rumbling ‘River Runs Red‘ which is a really nice mix of power ballad and classic rock track, clean and harder edged vocals and the same with the guitar parts, this is the song that grows on me every time I hear it.
Last but not least is the monster of a title track ‘The Ghosts Of Humans‘ which just rips the guys out right at the start and doesn’t let up, the riff remains catchy while being solid and heavy at the same time, Alan Kelly is destroying the kit on this one, terrific pounding drums and John’s soaring vocals, it has to be said that they have managed to find a sound that certainly is a little different from what’s been out there in the scene, at times I get a feel of Scandinavian Metal, bands like Tömmermenn, it’s straight in your face music, with melody in there, excellent playing all around and a killer voice.
There is certainly the basis here of something special and the next step for these guys should be eagerly awaited, remember the name Edge Of The Blade.

Eric Martin

Eric Martin

Bannermans, Edinburgh

26 Mar 2015

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

The first time I heard Eric Martin was just after Sucker for a Pretty Face came out and both the songs and his voice just blew me away. I have been a fan ever since through his solo stuff and most of Mr Big with Paul Gilbert. In my humble opinion he has the perfect rock voice from crooning to screaming and all stops in between. Therefore, the opportunity to see him in an intimate setting such as Bannerman’s in Edinburgh doing a solo acoustic set was just too much to resist.

Mr Martin opened the evening with a Mr Big number from the last album (which I think was Where Do I Fit In?) followed by a Ritchie Kotzen album song (called Electrified I think) both of which I am not overly familiar with. But they were still awesome despite that! However, the rest of the evening we were treated to more familiar material. This included superb renditions of Voodoo Kiss and Burning in my Mind before a newer song was introduced which I didn’t quite catch the name of. This was mainly due to the delay while there were technical problems with the sound, which Mr Martin duly filled in with some hilarious rock’n’roll tales. I can’t repeat them as he ‘asked us all no to’ but they involved chicken salad and two legendary British rock vocalists! This was followed with Just Take My Heart, Take Cover, Going Where the Wind Blows and Shine from a number of Mr Big albums. We were then treated to an awesome rendition of Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song) followed by Cat Stevens Wild World which Mr Big covered on the Bump Ahead album. The place was singing in full voice when Mr Martin did a stellar version of To Be With You which nearly raised the roof. There was also time for another sing-along song in the shape of Dancin’ With My Devils with the crowd playing its part to the max. We were finally treated to an encore of Undertow which closed the evening perfectly.

I have been lucky enough to see Mr Big a few times and once back in the 90s when they first toured the UK and Mr Martin has never failed to deliver. However, I was intrigued to see what he would be like in such a small venue having played some spectacular venues in his time.

Not only did he sparkle as much as he always does vocally and proved himself a handy guitarist, we got to see what a consummate professional and excellent front man he really is. He not only comfortably filled the time while the sound problems were sorted with his amusing stories, but engaged freely with the audience throughout the gig. His one-liners were priceless and he even held some conversations with people in the audience. He came across as humorous and affable and the kind of guys you could happily spend an evening with socially, which I can’t see about many musicians, I have met, although there are some very notable exceptions! There were no airs and graces and he seemed as comfortable in this intimate setting as he is on bigger stages. Add this to his absolutely humongous voice and a back catalogue of songs that any singer would be envious of (me for one!) and I just wonder if there really is any justice in the world, as this guy should still be filling stadiums as both solo artist and Mr Big singer.

Mr Martin you are indeed Mr Vocalist and more! Awesome, just absolutely awesome!

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Riot V – Unleash the Fire

Steamhammer/SPV (Oct 2014)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Riot V is the latest incarnation of the band originally called just simply Riot. The original band were, for me anyway, a real melodic heavy rock band with superb vocals from Guy Speranza and great songs too. I bought the first three albums on vinyl but went off them a little when Speranza quit and was replaced by Rhett Forrester. The band have continued on and off over the decades but this incarnation doesn’t feature any original members after the death of founding guitarist Mark Reale. The fare on offer is more metal than rock so let’s have a listen.

Opening number ‘Ride Hard Live Free’ sets the tone in terms of the melodic metal that is on offer. It is fast-paced double-bass drum driven rocker which sounds like a cross between Iron Maiden and Judas Preist, but leaning more towards Maiden. Latest vocalist Todd Michael Hall does a great job too with a powerful yet melodic voice and good range too. ‘Metal Warrior’ sounds like an outtake from the first two Maiden albums and keeps up the pacey rocking and is very well executed. The next song ‘Fall From the Sky’ changes the style a little dropping the Maidenesque harmony guitar opening. Sounding more eighties melodic metal a la Priest especially at the chorus at least the band have varied the approach. ‘Immortal’ continues the journey into more Priest-like metal and is very reminiscent of late 80s Priest with snippets of Saxon. The Judas Priest comparisons continue with the rapid fire riffing and vocal stylings of Hall of ‘Unleash the Fire’. Despite the comparisons, it is again really well played and has a great chorus too. The harmony guitar intro returns for ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ and the pace drops a little and the song is peppered with harmony guitars and double-bass drums injecting energy at the bridges.

‘Kill to Survive’ is the first song that sounds more original and with its start/stop beat and moving into a more thrash metal riff before the melodic chorus kicks in. Well-structured, it presents something a little different from that which has preceded it. ‘Return of the Outlaw’ continues to introduce something a little different and opens with some excellent picked guitar and then kicks into a mid-paced staccato riff for the verse and then picks up the pace for the chorus. Certainly the best song by far and it hints at their melodic rock roots as opposed to metal. Although the harmony guitar intro returns for ‘Immortal’ it is more melodic than previous intros. It is a slow-paced power ballad of sorts with more clean (ish) picked guitar playing and again introduces something a little different especially with the guitar solo. ‘Take Me Back’ continues the more melodic metal approach with a bouncing beat slightly reminiscent of Thin Lizzy as are the use of the harmony guitars. It also has a strong chorus melody. The harmony guitars open ‘Fight Fight Fight’ signalling a return to the style of the earlier songs on the album being more metal than melodic and a truly awful chorus. Thankfully we return to the more melodic approach with ‘Until We Meet Again’, which I am assuming is a tribute to Mark Reale. Opening with chanting vocal and guitar break which is very Gary More it turns into an acoustic driven power ballad and is one of the best songs on the album. A very pleasant surprise indeed especially as this is actually a bonus track along with a live version of ‘Thundersteel’ which closes this bonus pack version of the album.

These guys clearly know what they are doing in terms of the quality of playing and vocals which are second to none. However, the album quite literally is a ‘game of two halves’ with the front end being metal by numbers with the Maiden and Priest ‘influences’ coming too much to the fore. However, in the second half of the album we get some really good stuff (apart from the awful Fight Fight Fight). Granted, this line up is newly formed and I would hazard a guess they are finding their own style. On that basis I look forward to the next album and hope that is more reflective of the second half of this album!

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Review: Ozone – Self Defence

Escape (2015)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Ozone I hear you say! Who the hell are Ozone? Well let me tell you! Yes, it’s another project album which seems to be driven by none other than Mike Slamer of City Boy and Streets fame. It also features the talents of Tommy Denander. However, this is the best bit for me – it features two vocalists and they are none other than Chris Ousey and Steve Overland. Geddit? O-zone? I certainly do!

Unlike most albums I review where I turn out the review fairly quickly and the opinion is fairly reactive, I have lived with this album for over a month. It’s been getting played in the car frequently on my daily journeys. Consequently this review is probably more considered than most of my previous efforts.

The album starts with ‘Tiger by the Tail’ which for me is very reminiscent of the second Streets album being a mid-paced rocker with the man (Overland) and golden tonsils (Ousey) sharing lead vocals across the song. This is quickly followed by a bluesy funky number called ‘Let the Good Will Out’ which really suits both voices and features some stellar guitar work too.

The pace is slowed down for ‘So Blind’ which is an acoustic-driven power ballad which features the man and golden tonsils harmonising and trading adlibs. ‘Destiny’ is next and opens sounding like another Streets offcut but sounds very much like FM in the main body of the song with the man leading the vocal charge as only he can with no offense intended for golden tonsils!

Quite possibly my favourite on the album! The Streets reference is still relevant for ‘Shadow on the Sun’ and this rocks along nicely with Os trading vocal licks again. Next is ‘Save My Soul’ which was strangely missing from my version of the album initially. This sounds like a cross between Streets and Foreigner which is no bad thing in my books.

‘Evolve’ opens with a bluesy rocking guitar riff and develops into a high tempo rocker breaking down into a half-time bridge before delivering a killer harmonised chorus with the man and golden tonsils giving it some. Quickly following is the title track opening with harmonised guitars and keyboards and developing into another Streets style rocker with what sounds like some interspersed wah-wah guitar. It’s a ‘get in, kick you in the melodic nuts, and get back out quickly’ rocker coming well under four minutes with the majority of songs being five minutes plus.

The superbly titled ‘Smile Before You Lie’ (sounds like a few females I have encountered in my time!) again has a guitar-riff and song structure which reminds me of Street’s second album and motors along very nicely. ‘Lifetime’ has a dark brooding bluesy riff and is a real slow burner padded nicely with some Hammond organ.

The two Os work well together to bring this song to life and really go for it. The penultimate song is ‘Practice What You Preach’ which has some great backing vocals on it and has the man and golden tonsils trading licks and harmonising vocally again to good effect. Album closer ‘Visionary Man’ is fast-paced rocker and for me quite possibly is the weakest song on the album and doesn’t really do it for me.

What can I say about this album in terms of summarising it? Well, for me this album is a classic demonstration of the old adage of ‘the singer(s) not the song’. There are some great songs on here but not as stunning as you might find on an FM album and certainly not at the standard of the last FM album. However, as I was at pains to point in my review of the afore-mentioned FM album, when the man opens his mouth he can lift the ordinary to spectacular and he does on here. And not forgetting the additional treat of golden tonsils chipping in his tuppence worth. I would hazard a guess that you could get these guys to sing a collection of kid’s lullabies and it would sound awesome. For me as a fellow vocalist aspiring to mediocrity, the album is worth buying just to hear the man and golden tonsils sing their respective nuts off! Gentleman, I doff my hat to you both!

 

Joe Bonamassa - Live at Radio City Music Hall

Joe Bonamassa has just issued a new video for the song ‘Trouble Town’, taken from his upcoming live album ‘Live At Radio City Music Hall’ released 2nd October via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. The live concert will be released on DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, and 180 gram 2LP vinyl with free MP3 download code.

The live release was filmed over his two sold out shows on 23rd and 24th January 2015 at the iconic Radio City Music Hall  in the heart of New York City.  It’s the largest and most iconic music theatre in the world.  Joe’s father would take Joe to Radio City as a boy to see shows in the city, and it had forever been his dream venue to play as a musician. Live At Radio City Music Hall dovetails Joe Bonamassa’s 8- date October 2015 UK tour. Tickets are available from www.eventim.co.uk or 0844 493 6666.

JOE BONAMASSA – OCTOBER 2015 UK TOUR DATES

Newcastle Metro Arena                               Wednesday Oct 21

Liverpool Echo Arena                                     Friday Oct 23

Leeds First Direct Arena                               Saturday Oct 24

Nottingham Capital FM Arena                   Sunday Oct 25

Cardiff Motorpoint Arena                            Tuesday Oct 27

Bournemouth BIC                                            Wednesday Oct 28

Brighton Centre                                               Friday Oct 30

Brighton Centre                                               Saturday Oct 31 (SOLD OUT)