Review: H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II

earMUSIC (21/02/2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

H.E.A.T are band that seem to have been around for ages yet still remain a young band and the next big thing to break. For whatever reason, they have just never made that leap into the big league. On their last album release they shook things up an bit and changed the formula they had stuck to previously, and took a little bit of criticism for that. Personally, I thought it was the best thing they had done and looked forward to them developing this direction further. However, judging by the press release it sounds like they have went to their roots, thus the name ‘H.E.A.T II‘.

Rock Your Body‘ opens the album with its pumping opening salvo and a great chop. And as you would expect it has a huge chorus. It pumps along nicely and definitively re-asserts the band’s sound. Next up is ‘Dangerous Ground‘ which lifts the pace and power somewhat and is classic H.E.A.T with some stellar vocals. ‘Come Clean‘ opens with a keyboard-driven riff, breaking down into picking guitar and once again there is a killer chorus. The arrangement cleverly changes a little each time round, keeping it fresh each time round. A more classic rock sound more akin to Rainbow/Deep Purple is next up with ‘Victory‘ and a chanting chorus. For me this is one of the weaker songs on the album. The feel changes with the opening bluesy guitar of ‘We Are Gods‘. This is powerful thundering track conveying the title perfectly, with Eric Gronwall giving it some serious big vocal licks. The pace is picked back up with ‘Adrenaline‘ and if there is such a thing sounds like typical Swedish melodic rock. With a staccato riff behind the chorus the song has another big chorus.

One By One‘ opens in a similar vein to its predecessor but drops into a completely differently melodic feel with keyboards and some choked guitar. The guitar solo is tastefully played over a more laid back break and provides a great contrast. Next up is the obligatory ballad, ‘Nothing To Say‘, and Gronwall shows he can vary his vocal styling. The song is predominantly acoustic guitar and ethereal keyboards but lifts for the chorus as do the vocals. In places, it almost has the feel of a movie soundtrack song.

Heaven Must Have Won An Angel‘ sounds like it should be a ballad from its title, but it’s a classic H.E.A.T mid-paced rocker which rattles along very nicely indeed. The opening of the next song sounds like the Scorpions to me before breaking down into a bluesy riff and then changing again into a rotating drum-pattern driven riff – great variation from the guys. Entitled ‘Under The Gun‘, it wasn’t the balls-out rocker the name suggested – great stuff. The last song on the album is ‘Rise‘ opening with some lilting keyboards before exploding into a huge guitar riff. This closes the album very much as it started with the classic H.E.A.T sound.

So what’s the verdict? Well, the guys wanted to go back to a classic sound after the experimenting of the last album and they have certainly achieved that. It oozes quality in terms of the songs and vocals and will certainly delight H.E.A.T fans. However, will it win them over a drove of new fans? I doubt it! A much as I love this album, I am kind of disappointed they didn’t go the whole way this time with the road they started down with the previous album. Regardless of my disappointment, let me be clear about it – this album seriously rocks. I dearly hope the quality of their recorded works and their kick-arse live shows get them into the big league.  If any melodic rock band that have emerged in the last decade or deserve to, its these guys. Get them album, buy your tickets for the tour – you won’t be disappointed!

Review: Secret Rule – Against

Pride & Joy Music (February 21st 2020)

Reviewer: Paul Saripo

Secret Rule hailing from Italy are set to release a fifth album entitled ‘Against‘ which is a powerful mix of deep metal electronica and riff centric energy.

Spira Mirabilis‘ is the grand prelude to the album which sets the scope and feel perfectly for the narrative.

As I listened to all the tracks on the album I found that I would come back to ‘Spira Mirabilis‘ as this seems to be quite pivotal in the journey of the ‘Against‘ story.

This is no ordinary concept album, I found its hypotheses a combination of human condition and that of the celestial, challenged on an unknown passage as cyber slaves.

The musical composition is the driving energy with a solid balance of synthesisers, low hung and deliciously heavy riffs, fast bass with percussion that beats out like artillery fire with intricate rhythm of Alex Beccati on drums keeping the time. ‘Shades Of Humanity‘ packs some weight with some influences from the electronica of Rammstein along the way. ‘Rise Again‘ is fast and energetic harmony’s.

Going Nowhere‘ has good vocal range and dexterity with convincing depth pitched alongside a massive backline of riffs of Andy Menario.

Digital Revolution‘ one of my favourite tracks from the album, the composition here is a showcase for the journey and opens the door to ‘Endless Promises‘, which is a fantastic track that jumps out and thrashes out rapid heavy riffs with synergy of music moving into ‘Purgatory‘ which by now your immersed with feeling of desperation held firm with bass strings and industrial synth, powerful vocal and growling riff.  Against brings with it a pounding heart beat bass lines of Michele Raspanti and indignant riffs.

Deep Solitude‘ demonstrates perfectly the incredible vocals of Angela Di Vincenzo who has a tremendous range and depth alongside yet more catchy hooks to have you moshing up. ‘Outsiders‘ another standout track from the album, this is a masterpiece of well engineered and executed sounds. The timing here is impeccable. ‘My Last Breath‘ embodies power of the story with musical intensity burning into the last track ‘Don’t Let Me Fade‘ which concludes the album with a build of emotion delivered into your imagination driven with a musical charge.

Review: Gary Moore – Live From London

Provogue/Mascot Label Group (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

It has been almost 9 years since we lost the legendary guitarist, but that legacy continues to spawn new releases, and the latest on the Mascot label is a live album from a sold out show at London’s Islington Academy back in 2009. This show is from the Bad For You Baby Tour, showcasing the album of the same name, which was to be Gary’s last solo album release.

The set on the night was a mixture of new tracks off the album and a lot of cover tracks. What you can be sure of though is that Moore displayed both his guitar and vocal talents from start to finish. We also get a mix of mostly Blues Rock tracks on this one which is interesting as he was in the process of putting together another Rock album prior to his death, the man could play either without anything sounding out of place.

There have been plenty of Live albums released by Moore over the years, and some unreleased shows that most fans seem to have, so where does this slot into the list. For me this is a good live album, and no doubt avid fans will pick this up anyway, the songs are interesting in selection of the covers, and mix well with his own tracks and as mentioned the guitar playing as you would expect is excellent, but I would much prefer a full set of his own music. I will no doubt pick this one up to add to the collection and it’s definitely worth checking out. One thing I appreciate is the odd bum note, not removed in the mix, makes it feel the way it should live.

Highlights for me aside from the brilliant ‘Still Got The Blues‘ that just brims over with passion, every note and lyric just sinks into you, and of course the closing tones of ‘Parisienne Walkways‘ which is a song I never want to leave my memory, and that held note that still raises the hair on the back of my neck and almost brings a tear to the eye, it’s a beautiful song. Don’t leave out other songs like John Mayall’s ‘Have You Heard‘, which is just spot on as a cover, aided by the keyboard accompaniment or his own ‘Since I Met You Baby‘ that just rocks along, showing just how well his voice was suited to Blues songs. Another album to add to the list and something a little different, Moore was on very good form on the night by the sound of this album, so some more great memories for those that were present in Islington.

 

Review: Ben Poole Trio /// – Live ‘19

(January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Ben Poole is one of a wave of young up and coming blues guitarist blazing a new trail for the genre. In the short time he has been kicking about, he has certainly gathered some great accolades for his playing and live performances. Therefore, this interest was of particular interest to me! This live set is a double CD and is basically Ben with bass and drums.

The album opens with the dirty riff of ‘Take It No More‘. It’s a catchy guitar chop with an equally catchy chorus. It also has some great light and shade with Ben acquitting himself well as guitarist and with some decent vocals. Next up is ‘Win You Over‘ which falls into a more blues style rhythm with some tasteful guitar playing. However, for the vocals sounded a little lightweight and a little limited, but good none the less.

Start the Car‘ is next up and has a great groove to it and powers along with another catchy chorus. The album then drops into some slow burning blues with an extended guitar intro with ‘Have You Ever Loved a Women‘. In fact the song is extended full stop lasting over 11 mins of the Freddie King classic. While the song suits both Ben’s guitar and vocal styling perfectly, for me it just goes on a little too long.

The outstanding song for me is next and that is ‘The Question Why‘, which is perfect for Ben’s voice. It is a little more soulful and suits the breathy vocals. For the penultimate track on CD 1 the tone goes a little more funky and harder-edged for ‘Further On Down The Line‘ before the closing track goes back to being a little lighter and soulful again with a great clean guitar part for ‘Don’t Cry For Me‘.

Lying To Me‘ opens the second disc and is back to the grooving guitar riff. There is a great brooding guitar riff for the chorus. However, it only serves to highlight the fact that vocals can’t match that power or intensity of the riff. Next we have a Jeff Healy number in the shape of ‘I Think I Love You too Much‘. This is a great rendition of the song but again for me highlights the limitations of Ben’s vocals. We drop back into a more laid back song called ‘Found Out The Hard Way‘. Doing this type of song suits Ben’s vocals and guitar playing. It also has the benefit of a killer chorus.

Stay At Mine‘ opens with a great drum intro and bounces along nicely on the drum/bass rhythm and picks up the pace just when it needs it. The funk returns with ‘Anytime You Need Me‘ with another great rhythmic, pacey number and chorus. However, for me it’s just a little too self-indulgent coming in at well over 14 minutes with a number of musical interludes. The last song is another slow burner in the form of ‘Time Might Never Come‘. This is another great song but again for me is just too long, lasting over 15 minutes and too much guitar self-indulgence.

Having got to the end of this double CD set, I have mixed feelings. There are some great songs on this album and some great playing. While I get that with a blues trio there is always going to be an element of showboating from the main man, for me in this instance the really long songs just don’t hold my interest enough. I would also rather hear more of Ben’s original material! And finally, my perennial niggle of the singing blues guitarist! There are some fine examples out there of this phenomenon, with the like of the Nimmo brothers and Kris Barras to name a few. However, some of the material in this set only serves to highlight Ben should either select the material to suit his vocals or have someone share the vocals, such as a bass player with a voice that can move up a notch for the harder-edged material. Overall impression is that this is a good album but could easily be an excellent album depending on which way Ben wants to go with vocal options. Existing fans won’t be disappointed, but I don’t see this attracting too many new fans.

Review: Easy Action – That Makes One

AOR Heaven (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Easy Action were a Swedish band of the early to mid-80s. They had short lived fame off the back of two albums, their eponymous debut album released in 1983 and ‘That Makes One‘ released in 1986.

They were the first Swedish rock band to sign a worldwide record deal but found themselves overshadowed by the success of Europe. The band split up later in 1986 when Europe invited Kee Marcello, guitarist and founder of Easy Action on board just after the release of ‘That Makes One‘.

Talk of the Town‘, the opening track, could be the long lost son of Huey Lewis and the News ‘Stuck With You’ and points towards the American influence that was widespread in music at the time.

Teachers do it with Class (!)‘ is a driving rock track that makes use of Tommy Nilsson’s growling rock vocals, great guitar work from Marcello and Chris Lind and the unshowy effective drumming of Freddie Von Gerber. Needless to say, the lyrics don’t bear up to close inspection but it is a fun track.

Code to your Heart‘ is a track that any 80s rock group would like to have in it’s locker with a Springsteen style vocal. ‘Only Love‘ is the obligatory ballad that sounds very much like Def Leppard’s Love Bites at the start before morphing into a Foreigner type chorus that robs the song of its power.

One in a Million‘ is a true mid-80s song with synth and simple chorus that in places reminds me of the song Pop goes my Heart from the movie Music and Lyrics! ‘Talk, Talk, Talk‘ starts off with quiet guitars and faraway lyrics that draw the listener in, then breaks into a song that proves that these guys could produce hair rock with the best of them.

Partners in Crime‘ is a decent enough album track but nothing in it really stands out. The title track is a really good slice of AOR of the type that Survivor were knocking out whenever a new Rocky movie needed another training montage!

Rosie‘ is probably the track that sounds most like a single that could have really made dents into charts worldwide and probably reflects the direction that the band would have taken if they had stayed together. ‘In the Middle of Nowhere‘ is similar in sound to the Scorpions and is simply superb. It is my favourite track on the album by a long way and would almost certainly get airplay these days if re-released.

Eye for an Eye‘ starts off with a synth riff that sounds amazingly similar to Chequered Love by Kim Wilde. It also features probably Tommy Nilsson’s best vocal performance on the album. ‘There is a River‘ is the final track and appropriately enough brings the album to a meandering conclusion.

It is a fascinating album that shows a talented group of artists starting to find their sound through experimenting with a number of rock styles. It might have been the start of something bigger but the band’s break up meant that this became an intriguing if ultimately frustrating swansong.

 

Review: Jesse Damon – Damon’s Rage

AOR Heaven (28 February 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Jesse Damon returns with solo album number six ‘Damon’s Rage‘. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit of a fan since first discovering Silent Rage (Jesse was vocalist & lead guitar) back in the late 80’s. Since those heady days I’ve followed his career with interest, enjoying the Silent Rage albums as well as Jesse’s previous five solo releases.

I guess I knew what to expect when it came to ‘Damon’s Rage‘ and fellow fans certainly won’t be disappointed as there is that distinct Jesse sound.

Together with long time musical partner Paul Sabu, Jesse has once again delivered a hard rock album that delves into AOR and melodic rock, all with a modern approach.

As to be expected the songwriting is above parr, with each song flowing seamlessly as the album progresses.

No chance of being short changed neither with the album containing twelve songs, all of which are over four minutes each.

Favorite tracks, ‘Damon’s Rage‘, ‘Flyin Dutchman‘ & ‘Lonely Night

Well worth adding to the collection and not just to complete your Jesse Damon catalogue!

Review: Gorilla Riot – Peach

Off Ye Rocka Recordings (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: Steve Borkowski

I first became aware of Mancunian 5 piece Gorilla Riot at Ramblin’ Man where I was blown away by their performance on the Rising Stage back in July 2018 and caught them later that year at HRH CROWS in Sheffield where I picked up their EP ‘American Honey Vol 1‘.

Initially I was surprised by the EP as I was expecting the energy of the stage performance and anyone who owns the EP will know that it’s stripped back, semi acoustic set.

With a few plays I began to really enjoy the EP, but still wanted something that represented what I’d heard on stage and with ‘Peach‘ I finally have it.

Peach‘ shows not only how versatile the band are but just how far they have come in a relatively short space of time. The record draws inspiration from a multitude of genres and times, from classic rock of Black Sabbath to the grunge of Nirvana and the southern rock of The Black Crowes, while keeping true to their stoner rock roots, there really is something for every type of rock lover on this record.

This record opens with an instrumental, ‘Riders‘, and this gives the listener an idea of what to expect from the whole album. A much harder, grittier edge to it than previous released EPs, the triple intertwining guitars are still very much evident, but there’s heavier, monstrous bass lines and pounding drums driving each track.

The first couple of times I played it, I struggled, perhaps the wrong frame of mind when I initially listened, but I stuck with it and after a few plays I noticed the intricate solos, punchy vocals and most of all swagger of the album begin to shine through. For me the album was definitely a grower and I look forward to hearing the tracks live.

Stand out tracks for me – ‘Beat Your Bite‘, ‘Half Cut‘, ‘Mind Your Head‘, ‘Riders II‘.

 

Review: Autumn’s ChildAutumn’s Child

AOR Heaven (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Autumn’s Child’s eponymously titled album starts with a 45 second track called ‘Intro‘ which consists of whispered words and Gregorian style chant that is definitely arresting as well as unexpected.

The second track ‘Rubicon‘ is a soft rock song that brings to mind fellow Swedes Europe with a driving guitar courtesy of Pontus Akesson.

Third track, ‘Glory‘, is a showcase for founder Mikael Erlandsson’s smooth vocals and the drums of Robban Back. ‘Crying for Love‘ is an 80s style tune that oozes class with another great piece of guitar work by Akesson.

Victory‘ is a ballad with another superb vocal performance and great keyboard work from Jona Tee and Claes Andreasson on acoustic guitar holding the song together. ‘I’m Done‘ ramps up the volume and shows a group that can write a heavier tune without losing that Swedish smoothness.

Sayanora Eyes‘ is another ballad that reminds me of Carrie by Europe. ‘Face the Music‘ has a Elton John style piano in the background, a Billy Joel style vocal and a chorus that sounds remarkably like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart!

You’re Breaking My Heart Again‘ is pure 80s AOR and sounds like a lost Survivor track that should accompany a Rocky training montage! ‘Everytime‘ is probably my favourite track on the album that channels Meatloaf and sees Erlandsson’s vocals soar.

Northern Light‘ is another Meatloaf style track that has more than a hint of Modern Girl and is another track that I really love. The final track ‘Heaven Knows Your Name‘ finishes off a really strong trio of tracks that really leave the listener wanting more, and they lift the album to another level.

I have always enjoyed Swedish rock music and this album is a strong entry that certainly bears comparison with some of their famous predecessors especially in those final three tracks.

Welcome to the panopticon of darkness: German gothic pioneers CREMATORY continue to perform the tightrope act in the somber void with their brand new first single, ‘The Downfall‘, along with an artful black and white lyric video.

The first single introduces not just a new chapter, but prepares fans for their upcoming fifteenth album, ‘Unbroken‘, to be released on March 6th via Napalm Records.

The Downfall‘ offers the powerful reincarnation of the sinister CREMATORY universe: Opening bell-bright, devilish sounds in addition to Felix Stass’ rough and scratchy vocals underline the night-black narrative. Dark yet melodic guitar lines mixed with staccato rhythms make this song a true eye-opener and emphasize that the band is right back in the middle of the musical black ceremony. Welcome insanity that CREMATORY has written!

With ‘Unbroken‘ the German pioneers of gothic metal present 15 energetic tracks boasting brutal riffs, deep growls and tight drum grooves – proving their diversity even after almost 30 years in the business. In addition to the concise influences of Neue Deutsche Härte, Unbroken appears as a bravura-piece in an industrial guise.

CREMATORY states:
Yes, we’re back with gothic rock’n’roll at its finest: A tough mixture of gothic and metal in a classifying CREMATORY kind of style. Those who liked our old hit “The Fallen” will love our new single “The Downfall”. Just the right song as an appetizer for our new album and the following tour in April.

Pre-Order ‘UnbrokenHere:

Track listing:

  1. Unbroken
  2. Awaits Me
  3. Rise And Fall
  4. Behind The Wall
  5. The Kingdom
  6. Inside My Heart
  7. The Downfall
  8. My Dreams Have Died
  9. I Am
  10. Broken Heroes
  11. A Piece Of Time
  12. Voices
  13. Abduction
  14. As Darkness Calls
  15. Like The Tides

CREMATORY are touring heavily this spring – get the chance to see them live on stage:

Tour Dates:
09.04.20 DE – Hamburg / Logo
10.04.20 DE – Berlin / Nuke Club
11.04.20 DE – Hagen / Stocks
12.04.20 DE – Cologne / Helios37
01.05.20 DE – Leipzig / Hellraiser
02.05.20 DE – Munich / Backstage Club
08.05.20 DE – Trier / Mergener Hof
09.05.20 DE – Kaiserslautern / Kammgarn
21.05.20 DE – Frankfurt a.M. / Nachtleben
22.05.20 DE – Erfurt / From Hell
23.05.20 DE – Zwickau / Club Seilerstrasse
30.05.20 DE – Lindau / Club Vaudeville
31.05.20 CH – Bern / Gaskessel

About CREMATORY:
One of the pioneering acts of the fertile European goth metal scene in the 1990s. CREMATORY began as a strict death metal unit in 1991 before adding goth and industrial elements to their arsenal. In their 29 year career, the band around Markus Jüllich, released 14 studio albums, three live albums, various compilations and splits, played hundreds of shows around the globe and they are still hungry for more.

Line up:

Felix Stass – Lead Vocals
Markus Jüllich – Drums
Katrin Jüllich – Keyboards
Rolf Munkes – Lead Guitar
Connie Andreszka – Guitars, Vocals
Jason Matthias – Bass

Official Website
Napalm
Facebook
Instagram

Review: Storm Force – Age Of Fear

Escape Music(Jan 25th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Storm Force, the new Canadian hard rock band, put together by Brighton Rock & Fraze Gang‘s Greg Fraser, are set to release their debut album ‘Age Of Fear‘ on January 25th via Escape Music.

Okay so what can we expect? Well dear reader, you can expect ten hard rock tracks that will delight the old ear lugs.

They are not out to reinvent the wheel when it comes to their sound nor are they developing some new music genre. This is certainly not a critisism as that old addage if it ain’t broke is very apt when it comes to ‘Age Of Fear‘ and judging by the interest already shown by music fans, it’s the right decision.

Yes of course there are strong Brighton Rock influenses especially ‘Ride Like Hell‘ & ‘Marshall Law‘ plus Fraze Gang sounding ‘More Than You Know‘, but that’s not a bad thing in my book, there is enough of a bent to keep the whole album sounding fresh.

Stand out tracks for my are ‘Age Of Fear‘, ‘Breathe‘ & ‘Different Roads‘.

Certainly an album for those of you who love just good old hard rock with out thrills and window dressing.

Order yourself a copy and treat your ears as well as your neighbour’s ears…….