Review: Sign X – Like A Fire

Pride & Joy Music (December 6, 2019)

Reviewer: Paul Saripo

Fantastic album, comprising well written and executed musicianship with a polished production to suit.

Some catchy riff deliveries reminding me of Foreigner.

If you like melody, riffs, epic drums and powerful vocals this album will not disappoint and should be on everybody’s list of albums to buy and certainly a band I would like to go see live should an opportunity arise.

Storm’ opens with a signature piano melody leading to the full elements of percussion and fret work of guitar and menacing baselines with a punchy energetic vocal delivery.

Nothing is left out of this album, ‘Rain’ is a true anthem of a track, opening with an acoustic ballad on to a crescendo of power with hearty vocals and pleasing harmony’s throughout.

Free your Mind’ demonstrates the bands wordsmith-ability’s  and delivers a lyrical hook that will stay with you.

Crush‘ ’had me thinking of a west end musical score, not only in the presentation but in the message and feel of the song, credit to these guys on the composition of this triumphant piece and finding a suitable place that sits well on the Album.

Sign’ this reinforces the bands range of musical ability to write original music with a feel and nod over to the likes of Deep Purple on a tin of red bull.

Koda X’ a melody that closes the album with  tranquillity and reflection.

For me, this is one of the best albums I have had the privilege to listen to and review. Its released today and should be in everyone’s album collection.  I will be looking out for more  from Sign X, as these guys are simply genius.

 

Review: Grand Slam, Bannermans, Edinburgh (5/12/19)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

The new Grand Slam line-up has been driven by the vision of Laurence Archer to finally get some the original songs penned during the original Phil Lynott incarnation of the band recorded properly. This included Grand Slam being seen as a band and not a project. The recently released album goes a long way in proving that in spades. However, the real acid test for any band is can they deliver live?

The set opened with ‘Nineteen‘ after which just rocked from the off. The driving rhythm section and that superb guitar riff kicked the show off spectacularly with the vocals really sitting in the groove from Michael Dyer.

Next up is the wonderful ‘Gone Are The Days‘, which was the first video and single from the album. The song features some wonderful harmony guitars and I wondered how this would be achieved with only one guitarist. However, the harmonies were provided by the keyboards, played by one other than Gem Davis from FM, who also played with Laurence in UFO I believe. This song is just a genuine slice classic British rock and certainly snares the crowd.

Military Man‘ was next up kicking with some military snare and Mr. Dyer marching along. The Grand Slam version is absolutely superb, and according to Mrs. Scallan, is better than the Gary Moore version, and I tend to agree.

The only song played on the night not on the new album was ‘Harlem‘, which is another 80s Grand Slam original and executed superbly all round. One of the new compositions from the album was next, namely ‘Crazy‘. Another song driven by a great guitar riff, it again rattled along scoop up the audience with the catchy chorus and the sheer pace.

The band then returned to an old song in ‘Crime Rate‘, with Michael talking about how relevant the song is based on the stabbing epidemic in London and the fact it has happened on his own door step. This blues-based slow burner is one of my favourite songs and Michael acquits himself spectacularly in his delivery.

The title track of the album, ‘Hit the Ground‘ followed, before ‘Long Road‘ was introduced quite emotionally as it is dedicated to friend Mikael Fässberg who lost a short battle against cancer. Ironically ‘Dedication‘ was next and was dedicated to Mr Doogie White who happened to be in the audience.

The last song proper was ‘Sisters of Mercy‘ which had everybody bouncing along to the Irish jig section. The encore kicked off with Laurence demonstrating what a superb guitarist he is accompanied by Gem on keyboards before launching into the instrumental song ‘Grand Slam‘. Bringing Michael back on stage, they closed with a second rousing rendition of ‘Gone Are The Days‘.

So does the new Grand Slam stack as well live as it does on the album? Yeah bet it does and then some! I was well and truly Slammed by Grand Slam at Bannermans. With an absolutely superb set of new and classic GS material and such an accomplished band of musicians, what is not to like? In summary, superb songs, superlative playing and a charismatic and articulate front man in Michael Dyer whose voice sits right in the groove. I doff my cap to you Mr Archer and co and I would say mission accomplished thus far! I can’t wait for the next instalment of seeing you guys live!

Review: Angel Witch – Angel Of Light

Metal Blade (November 1st 2019)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Angel Witch were formed in the mid-1970s and were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal alongside such stadium acts as Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Although they were never as successful, they were incredibly influential as hearing them encouraged Lars Ulrich to form Metallica. They have an interesting claim to fame as the least successful chart artists ever in the UK as their single Sweet Danger spent one week at Number 75, the lowest possible position for a registered chart entry. Of course, heavy metal is not a genre that gets a lot of chart time, so it’s a very poor indicator of quality! They have just released a new album ‘Angel of Light‘, so let’s see what has kept them going for so long.

The driving guitars and drums of ‘Don’t Turn your Back‘ start off the album in blistering fashion with echoes of both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. It is a fantastic tune that explodes out of the speakers and immediately tells you that this isn’t a group resting on past glories.

The second track on the album is ‘Death from Andromeda‘ which coalesces round a driving, tribal percussion that gives Fredrik Jansson’s drumming a real urgency. It is a science fiction inspired song that leads into a chant of ‘Death from Andromeda‘ which will be shouted back at them by audiences wherever they play.

We are Damned‘ starts off with a guitar riff that sounds completely different from the usual driving guitar and gets the song into its stride from the first note. The vocals of Kev Heybourne are as good as any heavy metal singer going around and they give the song a real depth of quality.

The Night is Calling‘ is the seemingly obligatory metal ballad that appears on so many NWOBHM albums. Just as well its so good! Duelling guitars, brilliantly played by Will Palmer and Jimmy Martin lift this song above the mass of half-hearted ballads that you hear on the radio and it is pure class.

Condemned‘ continues the incredibly high quality of this release and makes you wonder if there’s a parallel universe where Angel Witch are playing massive stadiums and Iron Maiden are scraping a living whilst being seen as an inspiration by many other groups! It just seems so arbitrary at times, the way one group is successful and another, just as good, is largely ignored.

Window of Despair‘ is built round Jansson’s drumming once again as he shows that there are very few heavy metal drummers who can live with him. ‘I am Infamy‘ is a tune that starts off quietly then builds and builds really cleverly as it leads into Heybourne’s powerful spine-tingling vocals. ‘Angel of Light‘, the title track finishes this incredible album off in a blaze of glory.

All four members show their musical pedigree on this marvellous album and make it clear that far from being elder statesmen of the rock movement going through the motions, they are vibrant, energetic and as vital as they have ever been.

Review: DeWolff – Tascam Tapes

Mascot Records (Jan 10th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Okay I here you cry it’s anew album from DeWolff. However, this is no ordinary new release having been recorded entirely on the road, armed with only an 8-track (hence the title) and a handful of instruments. So there’s no drum kit, no Hammond organ and absolutly no guitar amps whatsoever!

The result? What you get is a glorious slice of 70’s influenced rock, sounding quite rough round the edges, but with a wonderful analogue warmth. No real suprise considering the band prefer to record in analogue.

Are you short changed on tracks? Nope, ‘Tascam Tapes‘ consists of twelve songs of varying styles. From the laid back, chill music of ‘Rain‘ to the almost sixties sounding ‘Made it to 27‘, the funky ‘Let If Fly‘, and the blues of ‘Northpole Blues‘.

Favorite tracks for me so far are ‘Blood Meridian I’ & ‘Blood Meridian II‘.

This overal is an album that bucks the trends, will appeal to DeWolff’s fanbase, who are already familiar with their style, and also will appeal to those of you who fancy for once hearing something a little different, an album that as it were will clean the pallette.

Well worth checking out.

Review: Dream Company – The Wildest Season

Tanzan Music (15th October 2019)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Well I’d admit from the off that I’d not heard of Dream Company before the album promo email dropped into my inbox. Reading the accompanying blurb, they started off back in 2006 as a Bon Jovi tribute band. After several line up changes in 2012 Mario Percudani ((Hungryheart, Mitch Malloy, Lionville, Hardline) became involved in a producer capacity.

Moving forward to 2019 and the band have released ‘The Wildest  Season‘ via Tanzan Music.

This album is very much nailed down in melodic rock territory, with some catchy tunes, especially the single ‘Revolution‘. I think the most obvious description of this album as a whole is it’s very similar to British band Vega, which is certainly not a bad thing.

With Giulio Garghentini (Vocals), Enrico Modini (Guitars), Stefano Scola (Bass),
Davide Colombi (Drums) as the current line up I think they have an oppotunity to make some inroads into the current rock scene.

Worth checking out!

Review: Carl Dixon – Unbroken

AOR Heaven (November 29th 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Carl Dixon is better known as silver throated singer of Canadian melodic rockers Coney Hatch. They were the classic example of critical success and had three magnificent albums in the 1980s. The last of these was the humungous ‘Friction‘, which to this day is still one of my favourite albums. I did see Coney Hatch in 2014 at Firefest to coincide with their comeback album ‘Four‘. However, I must confess, I haven’t really kept up with Carl’s solo career, so I was intrigued to get this one to review.

Opening with ‘Can’t Love a Memory‘, this is a pacey, melodic rocker that illustrates just how much influence Dixon exerted over the Coney Hatch sound. And the man hasn’t lost his voice either! Great start! The intro of keyboards and guitar are reminiscent of Journey for the next number. Called ‘Bowl Me Over‘, once the song kicks in properly it is another riff-lade melodic rocker and I am back in 80s heyday of melodic rock. The clean guitar intro belies the pacey melodic rocker that is ‘Nothing Lasts Forever‘. Lyrically the song is obviously a biographical song about Carl’s days in 80s with Coney Hatch and takes me back to my own days in the 80s with Moritz when I lived in London.

‘Every Step of the Way‘ has an almost contemporary rock intro but then kicks into a great staccato guitar riff with overlayed lead licks. Another well-arranged and executed melodic rocker with great light and shade. There is a harmony vocal intro to ‘Summer Nights‘ but the song doesn’t turn into the poppy summertime melodic rocker I anticipated. Instead what get is a more complexly arranged number which ebbs and flows with a number of changes of beat which work well. Next up is ‘All My Love and Hopes for You‘, which is a ballad. For me this is possibly the weakest song on the album and just doesn’t really get going, albeit there is a pretty catchy chorus. Maybe one that will grow on me with a few more listens.

‘This Isn’t The End‘ opens with an archetypal Coney Hatch guitar riff and continues in that vein and could easily sit on Outa Hand, Coney Hatch’s second album. Another great melodic rocker. Continuing in that vein, ‘Drive Just Drive‘ opens up a like a track from ‘Friction‘ and is another powerful melodic riffing rocker. However, the chorus is a little weak for me compared with the rest of the song. Good none the less! Next song, ‘Roll the Dice‘, just picks up from the last song and delivers another solid slice of melodic rock with some nice guitar work too.

With a sequenced keyboard intro and guitar lick over it, ‘Keep the Faith‘ is more 80s AOR than straight forward melodic rock. Again, this song didn’t quite gel for me until after a couple of listens, but once it did it really grew on me. Last but by no means least, is the title track ‘Unbroken‘. This strangely sounds a little like Eden’s Curse with the guitar playing, especially the harmony guitars. A mid-paced rocker it fittingly brings the album to a close.

This is a great album, but unlikely to make Carl Dixon many new fans. There are some great songs here, but it lacks a little in consistency. However, there are no fillers. If you like Coney Hatch and you are looking for a new fix, then my advice would be to get a hold of this and you won’t be disappointed.

Review: Burnt Out Wreck – This Is Hell

Burnt Out Wreck (October 11th 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

This is the follow-up to the 2017 debut for Burnt Out Wreck. For those of you who don’t know, this is former Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat’s baby. However, he is the main songwriter and singer this time around. And a what singer too! Although I must confess to being a little biased here having watched this guy rip into AC/DC covers at The Venue Rock Xmas party and just think, ‘Git!’

The nine song album kicks off in arse-kicking fashion with ‘Dead or Alive‘. It opens with a riff that could sit comfortably on any classic AC/DC album. It rattles along at a fair pace and doesn’t let up at all except for a few breakdowns before kicking back up through the gears. From the outset ‘Positive‘ sounds like it could be from Powerage (my favourite DC album) and the song builds nicely into a massive bridge and chorus with huge vocals.

The amusingly-titled ‘Paddywack‘ opens up with a twelve-bar intro and the swings throughout with a great quirky chorus. We then have the straight-forward ‘Headfuck‘ which is most definitely not a song to be fucked with. While it has elements of AC/DC I can also hear other influences in there such as Judas Priest. The song just bulldozers its way through to the end and has another great chorus and some great guitar parts. ‘Guitars Amplified‘ is just that with the guitars cranked up both left and right. What a great riff the vocal melody is woven around – superb.

The title track ‘This is Hell‘ starts with a lone guitar and then another massive riff until the rest of the band kicks in – in fact with my headphones on they kicked my head in. While just as powerful, ‘Rock Hard Sticky Sweet‘ returns to more playful mood in terms of the riffage and story-telling and of course a killer chorus. ‘Just a Dog‘ moves to a more heavy blues style and grooves along nicely. There is also a very tasteful solo section too before the huge chorus kicks back in. And all too soon we are at the last song – noooooo! Entitled ‘Snow Falls Down‘ the song immortalises a famous rock pub in Glasgow called the Burns Howff. In fact if I am correct, the song is about the very last night the pub was open and as everybody spilled out into the snow filled streets we all started pelting people coming out the pub across the road. It got a little out of hand in terms of size and the police eventually arrived by which time I was standing watching on the sidelines. It was one of those I was there moments – and I remember that night Mr Moat!

Yeah – I know the album has a fair AC/DC influence and Gary sounds a little like Bon Scott in places. Yeah – I know it is hardly innovative or ground-breaking. But feck me, this album is chock-full of superb songs with more balls than an elephant after a vasectomy! It also has some superb lead guitar playing and a voice I would die for. So if this is hell, then hell ain’t a bad place to be my friends! Let’s all burn together!

Review: Black Stone Cherry – Back to the Blues 2

Mascot Records (November 1st 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

This is the second of Black Stone Cherry’s ‘Back to Blues‘ EPs. The first one was released in 2017 and received such a great reaction the guys thought they would do it again! Sandwiched in between these has been the full studio album ‘Family Tree‘, which is also much more bluesy than previous BSC offerings. Quite what the purpose of this second blues outing is, I am unsure. However, I am sure glad they did!

With only six tracks on it, the proceedings open with ‘Big Legged Woman‘, which is a Freddie King song. It swaggers along and the addition of the keyboard player pays dividend, with some great blues piano.

Next up is ‘Me and the Devil Blues‘ which also has some great electric piano in it. An original from Robert Johnson, the song has some great twin guitar parts reminiscent of the Allman Brothers. It is breaks down in the middle with the piano being more prominent providing some great light and shade in this version.

All Your Love (I Miss Loving)‘ is I believe a blues standard brought to prominence by Otis Rush and grooves along nicely on a great drum beat with some nice blues licks throughout before breaking into a twelve-bar section. The pace is picked up a little with ‘Down In The Bottom‘ which drives along on a ferocious drum rhythm and is great version of a Howlin’ Wolf song.

We then get treated to the out and out twelve-bar blues intro of ‘Early One Morning‘ before it drops down into a laid back funky rhythm that Elmore James would be proud of. The closing song opens with piano and military-style snare drums that make it sound like a Free song before the guitars kick in. The song in question is Son House’s ‘Death Letter Blues‘ and the guys absolutely rock this number.

Now I know it is an album full of standard covers, and some might say it’s for the collectors only. But I have got to say I have absolutely loved both the Back To Blues EP, and even gladder it is filtering into their original material as evidenced by Family Tree. For once it is nice to see a band grow and just get better and bigger which doesn’t really happen much these days. Perhaps there should also be a little kudos for their label and other labels should have a look at what can be achieved if you truly nurture an artist. Well done to both and long may it continue!

Review: Gravity Festival 2019

The Station, Cannock – October 19th 2019

Reviewer / photos: Dan Mann

Last Saturday was the inaugural Gravity Festival, held at the Station, Cannock. Unfortunately due to other commitments I missed the first two bands, so first off the bat for me was the excellent Trident Waters. First chance to see them live and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

Next on the line up was False Hearts, a female fronted outfit very much in the Halestorm school of rock. It’s great to see young bands showing their worth, however not my cup of tea personally.

Next up were 4th Labyrinth, something a little different genre wise, offering hints of Uriah Heep, and supplying a thoroughly entertaining set.

It was great to finally get a chance to see Fugitive, a band offering a fine style of NWOBHM inspired rock. A band who deserved a bigger audience in my humble opinion.

Next was my first chance to see a firm favourite of mine, Kent rockers Wicked Stone with their new line up.

Did they deliver? Damn right they did, they delivered in spades, the crowd pressed up to the barrier rocking out to an enthusiastic performance.

Then we were onto another firm favourite of mine, another Kent band who I’ve in fact seen four times this year!

Collateral continue to go from strength to strength and they certainly had plenty of fans in the audience.

This was my first time seeing the Burning Crows, although I’m familiar with their material. Again a band who entertained the crowd with an energetic set.

Next up was Dead Man’s Whiskey, a band who if I’m honest I prefer recorded rather than live and this occasion didn’t do anything to change that view. The crowd seemed to be enjoying them so what do I know?

The headliners Mason Hill were delayed coming onstage which meant that unfortunately I had to miss their set for personal reasons.

I cannot end the review without mentioning the loudest compère and indeed the most enthusiastic in the business, Pete K Mally (He’s also an author you know) for his superb job.

A couple of small grumbles regarding the venue, I think they’ve inherited the floor from the old Marquee as it was somewhat sticky underfoot and the stage lighting wasn’t great from a photographer’s point of view but these are things easily sorted long before Gravity Festival 2020.

I must congratulate Shaun and his team for putting together a thoroughly enjoyable event. Roll on the next one!

 

 

 

Review: Michael Bormann’s Jaded Hard – Feels Like Yesterday

RMB Records (October 25th 2019)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

To be honest, this could easily be a really short review being such a fan of this band’s vocalist. There are vocalists I like that I always grab the releases ofwhatever band / project they sing on. One such vocalist is Michael Bormann.

Unbelievably it’s been almost fourteen years since Michael’s departure from Jaded Heart. Since his announcement of the formation of Jaded Hard around two years ago, I’ve been keeping a beedy eye on their plans. Jaded Hard have up to now been playing live dates in Europe. But now they’ve taken the plunge and are releasing an album, ‘Feels Like Yesterday‘, containing twelve brand new songs.

Put it simply, this is like an early Christmas present for all Bormann fans. This is like re-visiting those classic Bormann fronted Jaded Heart albums, albums I absolutly love!

With albums you’re instantly taken with, it’s damn hard to pick favorite or stand out tracks. However, for me personally ‘Won’t Surrender‘, ‘We’d Still Make It‘, the Tyketto sounding ‘Bring Me Higher Love‘, the Y&T esk ‘Good Times‘ and ‘It Feels Like Yesterday‘ fit the bill.

To be fair, in my humble opinion, there isn’t a bad/weak track on the album, I’ve already played it multiple times and have it pencilled in as another likely contender for my top ten list for the year.

If your a Michael Bormann fan then this is a must buy. Likewise if your a melodic hard rock fan, add it to your ‘to buy’ list forthwith!