Review: Domination Black – Judgement IV

Pride & Joy (July 17th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Domination Black are a rock band from Finland who have been going since 2003. In that time they have released three critically acclaimed albums and toured throughout Europe. They started preparing for their fourth album in 2018 and now ‘Judgement IV‘ is ready to be unleashed.

First track, ‘The Judgement‘ starts with the double guitar attack of Teppo Haiskanen and Jusso Lateinen. Lead singer Matias Palm powers through the vocals with a swagger as they channel Iron Maiden. It is a great start to the album. ‘Obsession‘ ups the decibels and the quality as they go through the gears with a song that is going to be great live.

Jusso Elminen’s keyboards introduce third track ‘Centre of the Universe‘ as Palm shows a more melodic side to his vocal range and the engine room of Lauri Eerola’s bass and Ville Nissinen’s drums really come into their own on this track, providing a solid base that the rest of the band can build on.

The fourth track is called ‘VAT‘ which, luckily, is not taxing to listen to! The melodic stylings of this track show a band with the confidence born of nearly two decades of honing their sound and is one of my favourites on the album. ‘Though the World Perish‘ keeps up the high standard of the earlier tracks as it starts with a Queen style guitar solo before Palm lets rip with a pure heavy metal scream of a vocal performance as the track gets heavier and heavier.

Beyond the Shadows‘ is a pure heavy rock ballad that sees Palm move from the softer verses to the heavier chorus with ease in a manner that reminds me of Joe Elliott. ‘This Endless Fall‘ takes us back into heavier territory as they show off their tight playing to really good effect.

Master of Deception‘ starts off with another superb keyboard solo from Elminen that really gives a different feel to the track. The guitars take over along with the drums as it gets more frantic and the musical interplay just carries the listener away. It is definitely my favourite track on the album.

Empire of Lunacy‘ starts with a no-nonsense Quo style opening salvo and really keeps up the quality of the previous two tracks as the album gets better and better. The final track ‘In the Abyss‘ is pure Maiden in its approach and execution. It finishes off a really good album on a high and leaves the listener wanting more.

Hopefully the lockdown will have ignited Domination Black’s creativity and we won’t have to wait long for the next album.

Review: Earache Presents The New Wave Of Rock N Roll

Earache Records (March 13th 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Compilation albums are definitely not something I generally come across while reviewing, but this one, especially coming from Earache Records, peeked my interest. For starters it has been released as limited edition vinyl, and of course secondly the track listing reads like a who’s who of some of the best talent coming out of the UK Rock and Blues scene. This one has been out for some time now, but may well have been missed by many.

First track comes from an artist I have seen a lot written about in recent times, but don’t know very well, but damn what a song to start any album with, but when it’s a compilation it sets the bar damn high and difficult for anyone to follow, Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones – ‘Bomb Through The Breeze‘ is just powerful, rocking and Hannah’s voice is brilliant.But it has to be said when you start off any album with a track this strong it’s a bloody hard act to follow, and the worry is always that the songs that follow either don’t come up to scratch or that the mix of artists just doesn’t fit, But this album certainly bucks that trend, there are so many top notch tracks on this one it’s a pleasure to listen to.

Highlights on this one are quite difficult to pick out as there are plenty, of course Hannah Wicklund’s ‘Bomb Through The Breeze‘ is one, but add in any from maybe six other tracks and you get an idea of the quality on show here, be it the Blues tones of Elles Bailey’s ‘Medicine Man‘ or the pumping Bluesy Rock of Revival Black’s ‘Wide Awake‘ both of which are top notch tracks in their own rights, there are many different styles and artist types but it mixes well.

Tomorrow Is Lost had the dubious honour to follow the opening track and the balls out rock of their anthem ‘We Are The Lost‘ holds it’s own very well, very much in contrast to what went before it this is the heaviest track on the album, and it gets the juices flowing without any doubt, Cass King’s vocals contain just the right amount of venom for a song like this and it powers along. It should be noted that the first 5 tracks on this one are female artists or female fronted bands, I don’t think it’s quite true to say anymore that women in Rock and Blues don’t receive credit, but when an album is pointing out the best talent around it’s also great to see that there is no old boys club making the decisions.

Take your pick from Loz Cambell, Jack J. Hutchinson, Matt Mitchell and The Coldhearts, Samarakind, The Dust Coda, everyone here has something to say, perhaps for me Side A is slightly more loaded than B, but they just have a slightly different feel to them and the reality is that it will all just come down to personal tastes on the style of bands on offer.Perhaps it’s that there is slightly less of a mix on Side B with it being all Rock/Blues Rock bands, but I’d be very surprised after listening to this if you didn’t go check out at least the majority of these bands on their own albums, and I think that in itself is a massive compliment for this album, it has certainly done it’s job, and keep an eye out for these artists and bands, lots more to come no doubt.

This album was the brainchild of Earache head honcho Digby Pearson, and kudos to him for it, often label released compilations are simply nothing more than some advertising promotions for said label, this one has a different feel to it and really is a showcase for the general Rock/Blues talent in the UK at the moment, and for that it’s quite obvious that there is a lot of it around. We may see more of these artists end up on the Earache label in the future, but one thing is for sure we will hear more of a lot of the bands present here. The vinyl is still  available and for me is well worth adding to your collection.

Review: Vega – Grit Your Teeth

Frontiers Records (12th June 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

VEGA are and have been one of the best AOR/Melodic Rock bands in the UK for a number of years now, releasing some excellent albums and renowned for their high energy live shows, the hard work ethic and memorable shows have garnered them a growing fan base both at home and across the Globe. And with their 6th studio album ‘Grit Your Teeth‘ that will I’m sure be expanded as it’s a great album.

This time around there are 11 tracks on offer and the album kicks off with an absolute cracker with ‘Blind‘, it certainly blast things off in style, no messing around here, and this one has VEGA written all over it. It’s punchy, the chorus is just beaming. It’s not a full on in your face album from beginning to end, but it’s certainly powerful. For me VEGA are a band at the top of their powers, that’s not to say that their output won’t continue to get better and they won’t continue to develop in different directions, but they are creating music of a consistently high standard, this release has a heavier kick to it for sure, always love Marcus Thurston’s guitar work, and they’re certainly a leading light of the UK Melodic Rock scene.

The one track that I just can’t get out of my head is ‘Save Me From Myself‘, it’s just stunning. There’s something a bit different about it, I love the opening keyboard section. It’s not the first time I’ve heard lyrics of a similar nature, but this time the song and the arrangement just grab me from the off and it makes perfect sense to me. As with everywhere else on this album, Nick’s vocals are exemplary. The keyboard riff seems simple, but there’s something about it that I can’t get out of my head, love this song.

The first single off the album ‘(I Don’t Need) Perfection‘ is another cracking rocker, another example of what’s so good here, it sounds different, some of the rockier tracks have a similar tempo but a very different sound. This album is certainly a band effort and there aren’t weak spots for me. An accusation levelled at a number of melodic releases from Frontiers over the years was a very similar sound resulting from the production, but that’s certainly not something that can be levelled here, this is polished, but not overly so, the sound is great, the instruments all come through clearly in the mix and aren’t overshadowed, great work from all involved.

There are catchy riffs all over the place, ‘This One’s For You‘ being a prime example, but we also get stuff like ‘Battles Ain’t A War‘ which is very different, but works so well and is almost an anti ballad, it’s one of the tracks that grew on me the more I listened to the album.

This really is a superb piece of work from the guys, a mature and interesting album, not all one flavour, toned down in places which changes the whole perspective and well written and structured songs that are not just fleeting moments in the mind. For me this is definitely one of my favourite albums of 2020 so far, can’t wait to hear some of these songs in a live set soon, I know the band are gutted to not be out on the road with this one straight away, but when they do get out there it will be well worth the wait. Do yourself a favour and get out and pick this one up, it doesn’t disappoint.

Review: Jack J. Hutchinson Band – Who Feeds The Lockdown

Self Release (July 17th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

With this current Covid-19 situation, it is a testing time for everyone, especially bands and artists for whom live performance is their bread & butter as well as their life blood!

So what to do during this lock down? Sit back and binge watch Netflix, or keep releasing new music, Facebook live performances etc.

Jack Hutchinson and his band have taken the latter option, with Facebook live performances,both solo and as part of the NWOCR (New Wave Of Classic Rock) webcasts, the band being at the forefront of said NWOCR.

The guys have been on a serious roll the last couple of years, with their last album, ‘Who Feeds The Wolf‘ (2019) hitting the No:1 spot on Amazon’s Blues chart.

This new release ‘Who Feeds The Lockdown‘ is not some bedroom studio release, okay it’s not a traditional week in the recording studio affair, but this is a properly orchestrated album, mixed and mastered by Brazilian producer Lucas Sagaz, and it shows, or rather sounds so.

What you get is plenty of bang for your buck as it were, with ten solid tracks. Those of you like myself familiar with Jack’s musical output won’t be surprised, but will gladly grab onto this feast of guitar, complete with the engine room powerhouse of Lazarus Michaelides (bass) & Felipe Amorim (drums).

Of course I cannot help but mention track ten of the album, which is a rather splendid cover of ‘War Pigs‘. It doesn’t stand out in the wrong way as an add on to standard JHB material, it just works and I’ll put money on that you’ll be cranking up that volume knob!

Who Feeds The Lockdown‘ will be available purchase on vinyl, CD and digital formats exclusively via the band’s new Patreon page, so form an orderly (or disorderly depending on how your spending lockdown) queue and grab yourselves a copy.

Review: Operus – Score Of Nightmares

Pride & Joy Music (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Operus are a six piece group from Canada who come from a range of backgrounds that encompass classical music, heavy rock and stage musicals. With that range of backgrounds and influences they promised to be a very different group from the ones I usually review. Their second album ‘Score of Nightmares’ is an album that took nearly a year to make.

The first track ‘Overture of Madness’ sounds like the theme for a fantasy film with a swelling military feel to the tune that ends with chanting in a Lord of the Rings style.

Phantasia’ sounds much more like a traditional rock track with a driving guitar, urgent drumming and a tune that just builds and builds. The singing is suitably operatic and the whole effect reminds me of an upper class Iron Maiden! It is like a show tune and a bombastic Queen song rolled into one.

Lost’ starts with a string section, unusually for a heavy rock track, but this gives way to a drum solo followed by a verse that is reminiscent of ‘Be Quick or Be Dead’.

Dance with Fire’ begins with a Roy Bittan style piano solo which is joined by strings and finally a vocal that barely rises above the music. Then it moves into a section that sounds like the ‘Bismillah’ part from Bohemian Rhapsody. By this stage it is clear that Operus will throw everything at the music including the kitchen sink, which is no doubt being played somewhere in the background!

Echoes’ is a classical piano piece that reminds us of the conservatory background of some of their members. ‘Where Falcons Fly’ returns to the heavy rock arena as they move once again into Iron Maiden territory. It is never clear where any of the tunes will go next which is what keeps them interesting. The group have so many styles and so many musical skill sets that they can literally go in any direction.

Nightmares’ has a spoken word intro that is pure Jim Steinmann and a vocal that sounds like a horde of Vikings in Valhalla! ‘Book of Shadows’ starts off sounding like Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain, before moving into a heavy metal tour de force. It then builds into a soundscape of screaming guitars and thundering percussion.

The Mirror’ is a song that would fit nicely into a Rocky Horror style musical. As with everything else on this album the usual rules of good taste go out of the window and the effect is irresistible.

The penultimate track ‘Ruin’ turns the levels of bombast up to 11 as Operus build towards the final crescendo.

Final track ‘La Llorona’ is an epic that starts in the style of Queen before heading to the West End stage as it begins to resemble Europe style hair metal as sung by the cast of Les Miserables before giving way to a frantic guitar solo. Its clash of styles continues with the flamenco style guitar from ‘Innuendo’. The final section fittingly starts with another screaming guitar solo and an operatic vocal that just builds and builds until the record ends with a soft scream!

This is a completely off the wall album that includes all the most theatrical elements of Queen and Meatloaf but combines it with a mix of classical and rock musicians at the top of their game. It is utterly bonkers but just go with it and you’ll be carried along until you finish the album with a grin on your face.

Review: Jessica Wolff – Para Dice

Metalapolis (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Finnish Rock singer Jessica Wolff is set to release her third album, ‘Para Dice‘, in June on the Metalapolis label. Musically it’s a mix of Pop and Rock that really works well here. Along the way there are many different styles and accompaniments, but lots of rock and metal riffs beef things up a bit and add to the tracks punch, on top of that there is also some powerful drumming that keeps you on your toes and of course all the way through Jessica’s vocal delivery.

There are some really interesting tracks among the ten on offer here. Lead single ‘All The Right Things‘ is just so damn catchy it’s ridiculous, the mix of Rock and Pop isn’t always going to be to everyone’s taste, but here it works perfectly and the balance is great. The is something that just sits in the brain with this one and gets the body moving.

Jessica is a very versatile Artist who combines her music with acting, performing as a stunt woman and trying her hand at extreme sports, now that sounds like a really active life to me. Having toured her last album ‘Grounded‘ in Germany and around Europe it would be a surprise if this one didn’t get the same treatment, and hopefully see some expanded dates around different European Countries.

Highlights for me are, alongside the aforementioned ‘All The Right Things‘, the soon to be released new single ‘Superhero‘ which just has that bit of something about it and maybe very poignant at this current time, and ‘Demons‘ that’s another cracking song and probably my stand out on the album. That crunching riff running through it and once again that worm like quality to sink into your head and grab hold, have got to say this one has been on repeat a number of times since I started listening to it.

This album is well worth taking a listen to with an open mind, there are a lot of positives here and plenty to like irrelevant of your general tastes. Jessica has a great voice, and there’s an great edge to tracks like ‘Killswitch‘, but for me it’s the melodic rock tracks where she shines brightest, the music behind it swings around a bit and that’s fine, keeps things interesting and moving along nicely. A nice piece of work and hopefully we will get to hear these tracks live in the not to distant future.

Review: BPMD – American Made

Napalm Records (12 June 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

BPMD are a supergroup made up of Bobby Ellsworth, who takes lead vocal duties, Mike Portnoy on drums, Mark Menghi on bass and lead guitarist Phil Demmel. Many of you will recognise them from their previous groups but make no mistake they are not resting on their former glories.

The album starts with ‘Wang Dang Sweet Pootang‘ with Ellsworth sounding like Noddy Holder in his prime! From the initial screamed spoken intro to the incendiary playing of these four experienced rockers it is a real statement of intent that opens this record with a blast.

Toys in the Attic‘ is a track that starts off with Demmel’s blistering guitar riff and builds from there. The Aerosmith original is great fun but BPMD give the music a much harder edge that really adds a lot to the song.

Evil‘ is three minutes of AC/DC style as the quartet take a Howlin Wolf original, rip it to shreds and turn it in to a heavy rock classic. The drums and bass of Portnoy and Demmel in particular really give a firm bedrock to this amazing version and makes the blues feel of the old version a distant memory.

If you’re going head to head with ZZ Top you need some confidence, but thanks to tight playing this version of ‘Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers‘ really hits the spot.

Saturday Night Special‘ was originally performed by Southern legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and they can surely have no complaints about the way that BPMD give a real punch to the song. There’s a real respect here, but they are not afraid to bring it up to date with attitude and a virtuoso performance from Ellsworth once again.

Tattoo Vampire‘ is a great song originally by Blue Oyster Cult that is given an Iron Maiden style reworking that really brings it to life. ‘D.O.A.‘ once again shows the experience of the quartet as they complement each other’s strengths and show their musical pedigree in no uncertain terms and it is definitely my favourite song on the album. ‘Walk Away‘ keeps up the standard and the volume as they grab the song by the throat and refuse to show it mercy.

Penultimate track ‘Never in my Life‘ is another AC/DC style track that updates the original and improves on it. The final track ‘We’re an American Band‘ is nothing less than a statement of intent from four consummate musicians who are steeped in the traditions, sounds and songs of American rock music.

The album shows that they can rock with the best of them, which we knew already from their previous bands. What it also shows is that they know how to cover songs without slavishly copying them or losing their original elements. By choosing songs that aren’t as well-known they can put their mark on them, and they do so in no uncertain terms. This is probably the best covers album you will hear this or any other year and a supergroup that really deserves the name.

Review: Wicked Smile – Delirium EP

July 1st 2020

Reviewer: Dan Mann

I wasn’t entirly sure what to expect when I received the Delirium EP via my inbox. It’s sometimes difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff with all the new music that seems to pour in via email and postie.

What I did know about the band was a certain Stevie Janevski  was involved. That meant it would be worth a listen. And worth listening to if most certainly is, four tracks of pure, unadulterated hard rock, no added bells & whistles, no need with songs this good.

I didn’t actually read the attached info until after the first play to discover it was produced and mastered by two very well know musicians of this particular genre, namely Paul Laine and Bruno Ravel respectively. Paul also on bass and backing vocals to boot!

So if hard rock is your thing, and it’s certainly mine, then this little four track gem is a ‘must add’ to your music collection.

 

Review: Bad Touch – Kiss The Sky

Marshall Records (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Brit rockers Bad Touch are back, their fourth album ‘Kiss The Sky’ will be released on June 19th via Marshall Records.

Okay let me start by saying I was curious what the band would pull out of the bag in order to better the 2018 release ‘Shake A Leg‘. Well I don’t know what the band have been drinking/smoking/eating, but whatever it is, hell’s teeth it’s worked!

Kiss The Sky’ is an absolute stormer of an album, a foot tapping, head bobbing soundscape of epic proportions which I’ve been playing time and time again.

From ‘Let Go‘ a quintessential Bad Touch song to ‘Something About Your Kiss‘ which has to be one of my favorite Bad Touch tracks from any of the band’s releases, ‘Kiss The Sky’ just keeps on ticking boxes.

Yes this review is a tad on the gushy side, but the album is that good.

Buy it, buy it now!

Pre-order the album from www.badtouchkissthesky.com