Review: Terra Atlantica – Age Of Steam

Pride & Joy Music (August 14th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Terra Atlantica are Tristan Harders on vocals, Nico Hauschildt on drums, bass player Julian Prüfer and lead guitarist Frederik Akkermann. To give depth to the concept album ‘Age of Steam‘ they invited Alex Hunzinger from Aeternitas, Oleg Rudych, the lead singer of Magistarium and Gabriel Tuxen  of Seven Thorns aboard and set sail for uncharted waters. Their new album ‘Age of Steam‘ continues the story of Atlantis from their debut album ‘A City Once Divine‘, as its growing influence concerns the British Empire in the 19th Century and plans are made to eliminate this would be rival for good.

Rebirth 1815‘ is a suitably bombastic start to this concept album as overblown narration competes with a soundtrack to a pirate film of the 1950s. This is followed by ‘Across the Sea of Time‘ which pounds out of the speaker with an Iron Maiden style guitar attack and lyrics that are reminiscent of one of their more fantastical tracks. It is an absolute blast to listen to as it builds to a crescendo with a dazzling guitar solo.

Mermaids Isle‘ is more of a melodic rock ballad in the style of Europe as the album really starts to get into its stride. ‘Age of Steam‘ is pure Rick Wakeman style prog rock with the keyboards being put through their paces and anchoring one of my favourite tracks on the album. ‘The Treachery of Mortheon‘ sounds like an offshoot of Wakeman’s King Arthur album and returns to the guitar and drums of heavy rock to great effect.

Forces of the Ocean Unite‘ once again delves into Prog Rock as it uses a powerful chanted vocal style to presage the battle to come. ‘Quest into the Sky‘ revisits the melodic rock style of ‘Mermaids Isle‘ as the album draws the listener further into the story and continues to capture the imagination, at the same time the sheer musical quality of Terra Atlantica blows you away.

Believe in the Dawn‘ is a gorgeous song, very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. Paradoxically, the restraint of the vocals and the music really gives the song its power and it is my favourite track on the album. ‘Gates of the Netherrealm‘ starts off with a Viking chant before developing into a soft rock track of real quality. ‘Rage of the Atlantic War‘ powers through your defences with its heavy metal guitar and a really fine lead vocal which oozes quality. The return of the Viking chant gives it another layer that tells you that we are reaching the climax of the quest.

Until the Morning Sun Appears‘ is the final track of a marvellous album which starts with a Roy Bittan style piano that sets up a melancholy finale. The wistful vocals at the start remind me of Wind of Change by The Scorpions, but soon the song gets faster and louder and it is fitting that this track gives the chance to all the musicians and vocalists to shine.

Like all really good concept albums, ‘Age of Steam‘ draws you into its world and gives you a clear narrative but never forgets the importance of great music. Terra Atlantica are clearly steeped in the history of the concept album and they have added another classic entry to the genre.

Review: Devilfire – Black Soul Vendetta

September 4th 2020

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Devilfire return with their new full length album, having already released their debut ‘Dark Manoeuvres‘ (2017) and ‘Out Of The Dark EP‘ (2018). When I first heard the band’s debut it grabbed me immediately, and after the excellent EP I’ was more than ready for another full album.

If your already familiar with Devilfire and their existing material then ‘Black Soul Vendetta‘ won’t be any surprise to you, slotting in perfectly with their existing musical output.

That’s not to say it’s a boring, samey, sort of a release, there are indicators of the band starting to spread out their roots, something which isn’t easy at the best of times, even more so now of course.

If there’s one thing Devilfire do, is to reinforce this wave of new bands & music that the UK rock scene is more than happy to embrace, all under the banner of NWOCR (New Wave Of Classic Rock).

Black Soul Vendetta‘ gives us a convincing brand of hard rock, Alex Cooper‘s destinctive vocals delivering each of the thirteen tracks (no short change here) with conviction and sometimes a hint of malice, the twin guitars of Baz Blackett and Kieran Topp fleshing each song out to the max, and that bounding beat provided by Jamie Downes (bass) and Lars Wickett (drums) reinforcing everything without overpowering it.

A stand out track is kind of hard to pick as the album flows so well, but ‘Dream Evil‘ is the track which for some reason raises it’s head above the already high parapet and grabs me just that little bit more.

Black Soul Vendetta‘ is without doubt a worthy follow up, and hopefully when everything settles down the band can take this new material out on the road and give us more of their full on live performances.

Hat’s off to Devilfire for helping keep the proud tradition of British hard rock alive and well. Without doubt a solid ten out of ten!

Review: Thirteen Stars – Finest Ramshackle Jam

Rock People Music (June 19 2020)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

The press release for this album name checks some mighty fine artists – Blackberry Smoke, Quireboys and the Black Crowes – so you hope, that what you’re going to hear isn’t burnt offerings.

What Thirteen Stars are, without doubt, is a slice of 70’s Americana. Perfect for the radio whilst cruising in a Chevy, or sitting in a bar downing Bud and Jack chasers in a mid hick town.

There is more than huge slice of Tom Petty pie in ‘Running So Long’ – ZZ Top in ‘Mint Jelly’ (love that title!) – the Crowes in ‘Give It Good’ and southern rock that is littered all over the place.

Yet, there are still surprises to be had. ‘Be There In The Morning’, drives us back to the 60’s – ‘Rebel’ add some soul into the mix – ‘Razor’s Edge’, has a progressive elongated intro which melds into a much darker feel and ‘Break It Down Slowly’, shuffles nicely and album closer ‘Only A Soldier’ is the southern rock classic.

It’s obvious that Thirteen Stars’ influences recorded a vast array of styles and genres and the band have followed that, which makes for a very interesting listen indeed. In fact, for those of that southern blue collar persuasion, they could be your new favourite band.

Calgary’s Osyron are proud to unleash their new album ‘Foundations‘, out now, as of July 10th. The album is an immersive exploration of Canadian history and identity, speaking on topics on the country’s colonization to the mistreatment and recognition of Aboriginals to the country’s participation in global warfare. Although it is not a conceptual release, it does bear a consistent theme across nearly the entirety of the record. For fans of Nightwish, Dream Theater, and Wintersun; Osyron is progressive, powerful metal with a knack for engaging storytelling.

The band comments:

We believe that the album will both surprise and challenge our current and new fans while still bringing back the big elements we are most known for (hooks, huge layered sections, melodies, and finger-twisting riffs, etc). This album is meant to be digested as an immersive exploration of Canadian history and identity. Delving into sensitive topics such as cultural genocide, racism, and segregation. It touches on more communal elements of emotion such as loss, pain, hope, and perspective of faith.

Overall, ‘Foundations’ is a view into an unseen and rarely explained/talked about topics; human nature. We wanted to bring to life on the very foundations that Canada as a nation was built; the bloodshed, war, and assimilation of different ethnic groups (mostly First Nations) that cultivated into what we know as Canada today, as well as the very fabric that the complex, diverse culture of Canadians share.

We hope we perfectly blend art with history, expression with emotion, and opinion with reason. ‘Foundations’ is but a chapter in a young nation’s history book, that just completed its prologue.

Along with the album’s release, Osyron are sharing with fans a personal and very detailed Behind The Scenes documentary video that grants insights into the process of birthing”Foundations”. The band talks about their sound experiences of creating and thereby covers the steps of making an album, all the way from the first ideas and motivations through writing, recording, mixing, and mastering.

And if that’s not enough for making it a perfect release week, guitarists Bobby and Krzysztof proudly announce that they are now officially endorsed Solar Guitars artists. The brand, founded by The Haunted guitarist and YouTube guitar icon Ola Englund, offers high-quality instruments for everyone from amateurs to studio pros and touring musicians – showing a strong focus on innovation and fair pricing while sticking to the highest possible standards. Solar Guitars works with artists such as Marcus Siepen (Blind Guardian), Jonas Wolf (Eluveitie), or Johan Bergebäck (Necrophobic), only to name a few.

Osyron‘s new album ‘Foundations‘ is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer HERE.

Album CD and digital download via Bandcamp HERE.

Track Listing:
1. The Cross (5:01)
2. Ignite (4:33)
3. Battle of The Thames (6:51)
4. The Ones Below (3:54)
5. Foundations (8:20)
Album Length: 28:41

Line Up:
Krzysztof Stalmach (Guitar)
Cody Anstey (Drums)
Bobby Harley (Guitar)
Reed (Vocals)
Tyler Corbett (Bass)

Official Website

Facebook

Instagram 

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.