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Maxx Explosion – Dirty Angels

Kivel Records (March 2015)

Reviewer – Dan Mann

Yes I admit it, I’ve been a slacker when it comes to actually reviewing the second album by the Maxx Explosion boys.

I’ve made no secret of my love of their first album, nor the fact that they’ve been very supportive of Rockposer’s Roulette.

Putting all that aside……………..who am I kidding, I absolutly love this release!

There is without doubt an improvement to Chris McCarvills vocals, not that he sounded like a fog horn I hasten to add. It’s more that he’s taken vocals duties more in his stride.

You have to remember this is a different animal to House Of Lords. It is in no way HOL 3/4, it’s a totally separate entity. Yes your going to get a few similarities here and there. That’s bound to happen with the guys so involved in HOL, but this is a release that can quite happily stand up on it’s own merit.

This album just flows so well, it’s obvious how much fun the guys are having and how well they work togeather.

There’s always that danger of liking an album from the off, only to eventually tire of it. Not so with ‘Dirty Angels‘. In fact it just seems to get better and better the more listens it gets, and a hell of a lot of listens it’s had too!

I must say the cover of ‘Dream Weaver‘ is superb. An inspired choice of song or a drunken gamble? Either way it’s a worthy inclusion.

Now to the dreaded moment when I need to pick stand out tracks. Gulp………..Well the title track ‘Dirty Angels‘, ‘Crazy Hot‘ ‘Nothing’s Easy‘and yes that cover of ‘Dream Weaver‘ would I guess be my favorites.

If you liked/loved ‘Forever‘ then this will in no way disappoint and should be added to your collection post haste.

Indestrutible

House Of Lords – Indestructible

Frontiers Music (June 2015)

Reviewer – Dan Mann

House Of Lords return with their tenth studio album ‘Indestructible’, recorded by a line-up that has been together ten years.

And a very successful line-up it is too, making everything flow like a well oiled machine with Messer’s Christian, Bell, Zampa & McCarvill as the engineers.

And so, to the album itself. It is pretty clear from the first notes of ‘Go To Hell’ that this is a House of Lords album, such a familiar sound and that first song certainly wouldn’t have been out of place on say the Sahara release.

James Christian is sounding better than ever, with tracks like ‘Pillar Of Salt‘ showcasing what a fantastic singer he is. The album follows on perfectly from last year’s ‘Precious Metal’ giving the listener everything they want from a House Of Lords release.

What you get are wonderful harmonys, and layer upon layer of music, with the band sounding incredibly tight.  A perfect example of this would be ‘We Will Always Be The One’ which is a perfect example of the melodic side of the album. But the hard rock side isn’t let down as ‘100mph’ clearly demonstrates, Jimi Bell delivering the goods on this fast paced track.

Chris McCarvill and BJ Zampa have to be one of my favorite parings when it comes to what I like to call a band’s engine room. This rhythm section are so tight, delivering a punchy, yet focused wall of sound.

If I had to pick stand out tracks I’d probably go for ,‘Eye Of The Storm’ and the aforementioned ‘Go To Hell’ as my current choices. My only real criticism would be that James’s vocals are a little muddied on the last track of the album ‘Stand And Deliver’ but apart from that there is no faulting the production.

To sum up, a must buy not only for House Of Lord fans, but all melodic hard rock fans.

 

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Iconic Eye – Hidden In Plain Sight

Sky-Rocket Records (May 2015)

Reviewer – Aaron Chatfield

Iconic Eye….. new one on me. Not a band I have heard of and certainly not one that I’d listened to any music by. So I can go into this open-eared and ready to be impressed.

According to the PR material, this is essentially a vehicle for guitarist Greg Dean’s writing prowess that has evolved into a full band. Recently winning Firebrand Rock Radio’s band of the year competition and securing a slot at Download Festival may indicate that the future is bright for the band.

The album features two vocalists, the current man at the helm Tim Dawkes, and Lee Small of Shy fame. The inclusion of Small sparked my interest, as I’m “that guy”… the one who prefers Shy with Small’s on the mic. Anyway… on with the show

‘I Can Feel It’ is a pretty good opener, with a staccato keyboard intro, that breaks into some classic keyboard flavoured melodic rock. Good AOR vocal, smooth and capable, although not remarkable. The chorus is suitably sing-along, which is what any band in this genre needs, but by the time the track closes I have pretty much forgotten it.

The mood changes considerably for ‘You’re On Your Own’, which could be a different band and feels like a different genre completely. More of a commercial rock sound, complete with jangly guitars. Not my cup of tea and to me, it’s just a little out of place.

Back to the melodic rock sound with a mid-tempo rocker by the name of ‘Every Little Thing’. Some nice keyboard arpeggios going on, but for me, the guitars aren’t loud and punchy enough to drive the song along. Surprising, considering it’s essentially the guitarist’s band. Another sing-a-long chorus. It’s not pushing any boundaries, but I can imagine a long car journey with this as accompaniment.

‘Don’t Stop Me From Leaving’ starts off with some clean guitar and builds nicely into another mid-pace track. The bridge and chorus are bigger than the previous tracks and you certainly get grabbed by the scruff of the neck and forced to sing the chorus along with the band…. Which is after all, what you want from this genre.

‘Now That I’ve Found Love’ is the stand out track for me, although I’d still like that guitar turned up a bit. A great keyboard motiv sets the tone and it builds from there. I especially love the galloping riff in the verse. The chorus is the business and I am back in that car, this time on the highway in the good ole USA, with the top down and Tawney Kittaen hanging on to the ‘hood’ for her dear life!

The tempo drops on our sixth track, ‘Broken Dreams’, which is the albums first power ballad. Classic Thunder springs to mind, which is no bad thing. Classy bluesy edge, it really reminds me of Thunder’s classic, ‘Don’t Wait For Me’.

Following up a ballad is important; you’ve got to re-establish the rock core with a solid track. ‘You Knew’, just about does this. Good tempo, with a fairly forgettable verse, but the chorus is the star of the song. You will soon be singing along to this one…. Until it literally stops dead! Took me quite by surprise and I would have been tempted to fade the track out on a repeat of the chorus

‘Better Place’ brings the guitars to the front, which I think suits the band. It’s not a great song, certainly a filler, but it’s still capable, with a singable chorus.

‘You Make It’ is a great AOR track. Guitars are there, complete with some glorious keyboard washes and a solid vocal performance. The chorus shines.

‘Let It Rain Down’ is another power ballad, graces the speakers, riding a nice piano chorus. The band kicks in at the bridge, which takes us to a big emotive chorus. Alongside the previous ballad, it’s clear that Iconic Eye can write these slow-mid tempo ballads.

‘All She Needed’ continues the quality, mixing in some acoustic guitar to this rocker. The chorus is catchy enough, the vocals soar in parts and the solo work is solid. Nothing new or remarkable, but a good album track.

The final track on the album is another power-ballad, ‘Here I Stand’. The vocals have a slight whiff of Gary Hughes in the chorus and bridge and the track wouldn’t have been out of place on Gary’s Now & Then debut. Whilst it’s a very emotive track and a great listen, I am not convinced that it is best placed as the albums closer. It doesn’t leave me wanting to put the album back on.

Overall this is an OK album. It’s not going to blow your socks off, but it’s a good listen and has some excellent moments in the shape of the two power ballads and Now That I’ve Found Love. If you are a fan of FM, Dare’s debut and other classics, then this would be of interest to you, but there is a still a way to go before Iconic Eye can take over the World.

 

 

Whitesnake – The Purple Album

Frontiers Records (May 2015)

Reviewer – Stephen Brophy

There has been an awful lot of chatter about this release for the last couple of months. Yes this is Whitesnake doing an album of Deep Purple songs, the initial idea to work with Jon Lord never came to pass, but as with all albums I take it at face value and what we get here is an enjoyable romp through a specific period of Purple’s history while David Coverdale was at the helm as lead singer.
Honestly I thought the lead off track from this album was poor, and although I like the original version of ‘Stormbringer’, there is something about the reworking on this album that just doesn’t sit well. Personally I feel it just seems to have too many effects on it that distract from the song itself, but that’s not something that should stop you from giving the album a go. After all it’s only one out of thirteen tracks and you may well like it anyway.
So The Purple Album kicks off with the iconic ‘Burn’ which is a track I’ve always loved, having experienced it both on album and live from a number of singers. Coverdale handles it with ease and for me at least there’s always something different and generally better hearing the original singer delivering the song. And of course there are some great tracks on here, how could they not be, they are classics, such as ‘Sail Away’, ‘Holy Man’ and ‘Soldier Of Fortune’. The arrangements are all really good, but for me they haven’t been able to achieve the impossible and make a great flow through the album, it’s such a very hard thing to do with a collection of songs like this, but there are definite high points and the playing throughout is superb, some wonderful guitar work from Joel Hoekstra certainly helps to add a Whitesnake slant to a number of the songs.
There is bound to be some divided opinion about The Purple Album, and after all you can never please all of the people all of the time, but sometimes you just need to put up the volume, sit back and let it blast, take ‘You Fool No One’ for example, it manages to really rock along, retaining touches of classic and modern, with the ability of sounding fresh, there’s nothing wrong with being torn a bit by an album, but you need to give it a fair shake before dismissing it out of hand, something that is all to do in modern times, as I type this the huge grooves of ‘Love Child’ are bouncing around my head.
This is essentially a covers album, but it’s also a reworking, and in places an attempt to modernise some of the originals, and it’s a good job, but for a couple of tracks that don’t quite hit the mark for me. Having said that to hear Coverdale working on some of these classic tracks again is a joy in itself. This of course would have been a hugely more valuable project had the wonderful Jon Lord survived to play on it and I’d like to think he would have really enjoyed it too. Will be interesting to see how these tracks are received in the live arena, for me a lot of these tracks will suit Coverdale’s voice a lot more now, and that could be a very interesting mix with the Whitesnake standards that will be demanded by the fans. This was never going to be the best Whitesnake release, would be amazed were it intended to be, but it’s interesting, well made and contains all of the musical pieces of the puzzle, take a listen through this archive and make your own mind up.

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Crystal Ball – LifeRider

Massacre Records (May 2015)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

I must hold my hand up from the start and say I’ve been a long time fan of the band. Can’t believe it’s been 16 years since their debut ‘In The Beginning’ was released.

But putting that aside I approached this new release with an open mind. And there I hit a snag, this review won’t appear unbiased as I’ll state right now, I bloody love it!

Kicking into gear from the start with ‘Mayday!’ which has a hook that instantly grabs you and already your foots tapping and your head is nodding along. The pace does not let up, but with the very nice addition of Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo as a guest on ‘Eye To Eye’ which adds a great overall feel to the track and I feel myself leaning to this track as one of my favorites on the album. The title of track three ‘Balls Of Steel’ I think rather lets you know what to expect and your not disapointed with a great hard rock song with the right amount of nostalgia for us old farts. The phrase ‘anthem’ get’s bandied about in the rock world and ‘Hold Your Flag’ is an absolute classic example of one. Your hand will edge towards that volume dial as this can only be played at ’11’. No let up in the onslaught of what I’ll call traditional hard rock with ‘Gods Of Rock’ another glorious fist pounding song driven hard with some powerful drumming from Marcel Sardella and riff upon riff from the double axe attack of Scott Leach & Markus Flury.

Steven Mageney has once again picked up the vocal reigns after taking over from Mark Sweeny for Crystal Ball’s 2013 release ‘Dawnbreaker’ and a sterling job he’s doing too. From the full on ‘Take It All’ to the following track ‘Bleeding’ it clearly shows his range and adaptive style, very enjoyable and right up my street. The opening to ‘Rock Of Life’ is fantastic with the guitar sound so much to my taste and once again sterling work from the engine room of drummer Marcel Sardella & bass player Cris Stone. ‘Antidote’ is to me the weakest track on the album as it sounds a little muddied in the mix to my ears. And so to the title track ‘LifeRider’ there is more then one influence that shines through but certainly a more than subtle hint of Judas Priest about it. We now reach the last track on the ‘standard’ release. ‘Memory Run’ slows things down a little giving us a six and a half minute opus about friendship and memories (obviously) A great way to finish things off.

But wait……….the digipak has three bonus tracks on, a whole seventeen and a bit more minutes. The first of these is a brave choice of track, as picking any Dio number is always going to get heavily scrutinised. However I think Crystal Ball do a very good version of ‘Sacred Heart’ No it’s not as good as the original, but a sterling effort never the less. Second bonus track is ‘Sign Of The Southern Cross’ Don’t know why this is only a bonus track as it’s fantastic and another one of my favorites from the album. It would not of been out of place on Black Sabbath’s ‘Headless Cross’ release. Now finally we reach the last and final track. And we end on an absolute high into the bargin with ‘Not Like You’ very catchy chorus and again more than worthy to be more than a bonus track.

I mustn’t forget to mention Stefan Kaufmann, whose at the helm for not only the album’s mastering but also the acoustic guitar on ‘Memory Run’ and backing vocals on ‘Gods Of Rock’

So to sum up, if you like I guess one could call it traditional hard rock with just the right homage to the past then this won’t disappoint.

HRH AOR 3

HRH AOR 3 (12-14 Mar 2015)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Photographer: Stephen Brophy

Day 0

Hard Rock Hell AOR has grown as an event since its launch in 2013 at the Magna Centre in Rotherham. I thought this venue was excellent but it caused a lot of logistical problems for organisers Chic Talent. Therefore, last year they moved it to the spiritual home of HRH at Hafan Y Mor in Pwllheli, North Wales. While maybe not quite having the quirkiness of the Magna, the venue delivers an excellent experience. The festival is in essence a two day festival and day 0 is a party night on the Thursday evening. Unfortunately due to a combination of travelling and some very fine single malt whisky, I only managed to see the last two bands.

Angels or Kings (AOK)
Angels or Kings (AOK)

I caught Angels or Kings (AOK) set and the guys were running through songs from the debut album Kings of          Nowhere. For me what really sets AOK apart from the competition is vocalist Barrie Jackson’s rasping but melodic vocals. The sound out front was poor but the band rocked along and certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, and deservingly got a good reception.

Stephen Brophy ©
Chris Gould (Serpentine)

Headline act for the party night were Serpentine who also played at the inaugural 2013 event. However, they seem to have undergone some lineup changes since then. They now sport vocalist Adam Payne in the place of Matt Black. These guys also suffered a poor out front sound but new singer Payne is certainly impressive and carries some of the mediocre songs. Admittedly I am not overly familiar with Serpentine’s back catalogue but the song quality was a little inconsistent but the performance sound and gain they deserved the reception they got on the night. Both bands I would think will have done themselves little harm with their respective shows.

Day 1

Stephen Brophy©
George Aspiotis (Kingdragon)

And so to the festival proper! Due a late breakfast shared with the wonderful Ashcrofts and a brisk walk on the beach being required to shake off the single malt after effects, I didn’t get to the main stage until just before Kingdragon from Greece hit the stage. They certainly came across as polished musically sounding a little progressive in places. They had some decent songs, the best of which for me was ‘Dreams are Broken’ (if my sketchy notes are right).

These guys were followed by Night by Night who had lost their vocalist and seem to be making an unfortunate habit of this! They need to be more careful. New Device vocalist Daniel Leight stepped into the breach and I don’t know how much preparation he had, but I thought he did a sterling job. He proved to not only have a great voice, but also to be a great frontman. The guys ran through a set of great British melodic rock with some great individual guitar contributions and some great harmony guitar work. Not being familiar with the material, most of it was grabbing me on the first listen and I need to check these guys out more.

Although looking forward to Vega, by this time hunger and thirst pangs had got the better of me and I missed these guys (much to my annoyance) and The Poodles, whom I have managed to live without my entire life so far with little impact.

Stephen Brophy©
Michael Lee Smith (Starz)

I returned to the main area to catch Starz, more out of AOR curiosity I must admit, as the owner of their 1979 effort Coliseum Rock. More novelty value than anything else, the guys looked like they were having an absolute blast running through material older than some of the audience. They certainly brought something different to the day and live renditions of their material only served to remind more of the Kiss influence! More for AOR geeks, I don’t think they quite fitted the audience and/or event.

Stephen Brophy©
Darren Wharton (Dare)

Next up were Dare, whom I must confess I have never been a huge fan of. However, the mix Celtic influenced rock and AOR on the night really worked for me with Darren Wharton gently wooing the audience and Vinny Burns smacking them round the head with his guitar playing and even playing the second half of the set with a Flying V. It did get a little too Celtic in the middle but they kicked up a gear with songs from the first album including the awesome Abandon, Into The Fire, The Raindance, and King Of Spades in quick succession. A superb set and lead us quite nicely the next act.

 

Stephen Brophy©
Eric Rivers (H.E.A.T)

 

Who were of course Swedish rockers H.E.A.T Having seen these guys three times in the last two years they have got to be one of the most consistent acts on the circuit and you just know what you are getting. These guys just rock and opened with Point of No Return and drew predominantly on the set for the Live in London album. This included mostly songs from albums Address The Nation and Tearing Down The Walls as well as some earlier songs. The sheer energy from these guys is phenomenal, especially singer Erik Gronwall who bounces about like Tigger on acid and never misses a beat or a note in his performance. They provided an accomplished and energetic set and it makes me wonder why these guys aren’t even bigger than they are. My only complaint on the evening was it seemed incredibly loud and distorted, but maybe I am just getting too old for this stuff! Certainly set us up nicely for the Saturday!

Day 2

Stephen Brophy©
Jules Mills (White Widdow)

By the time this old guy got his act together and got down to the AOR hall, Australian act White Widdow were hitting the stage. Jules Mills seemed to be struggling a little vocally, but when he hit his stride he was good. In addition, I thought he was a pretty awesome frontman and showing some real flashes of humour, especially his comment about the Poodles talking about traveling so far which went along the lines of ‘try coming from Australia’! Guitarist Enzo Almanzi proved to be no slouch either. Add to that for me these guys were the first genuine AOR band I had seen all weekend, I thought they were great. Drawing from their three albums, with some new songs from the Caught in the Crossfire album I thoroughly enjoyed the set and look forward to seeing these guys again the next time the hot these shores.

Stephen Brophy©
Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse)

Next up were hot melodic hard rock sensations Eclipse. Now I totally get just how talented Eric Martenson is in terms of vocals, guitars, songwriting and production, but it just doesn’t work for me I am afraid. Excellently executed by superb musicians, it just leaves me cold and sounds a little fabricated. I know that will make me the odd man out, but music is subjective and not objective and I left after four songs to grab some food.

Stephen Brophy©
Hank Erix (Houston)

 

 

 

 

I returned to catch Houston’s set which I was looking forward to. The band has undergone a line-up shuffle and Hank Erix has come in for some criticism for his live performances. For me the only disappointing aspect was the size of the crowd! These guys were the bona fide AOR band of the weekend and played a superb selection of polished songs from both their original and cover albums. Favourite for me by far was Return My Heart but the guys have superb cache of original songs. They maybe played more covers in the set but the standout cover for me was Carrie from Michael Bolton’s first solo album. It truly showed how accomplished Hank is as a vocalist and the new single Standing on the Moon bodes very well for the next album – just hurry up and get it out Hank!

Stephen Brophy©
Merv Goldsworthy (FM)

I ducked out of Romeo’s Daughter to suitably refresh myself before returning for the mighty FM. Having just realised what I consider to be their best album since Indiscreet I was looking forward to this immensely. Like H.E.A.T these guys always deliver and you know what you are getting. However, as if it were even possible, they have got even better live. Steve Overland who is most definitely ‘the Man’ seems to have accepted he is the band frontman and has started putting down his guitar to great effect. Really engaging with the crowd has taken FM’s live performances to another level. I also happen to think that Jim Kirkpatrick presence in the band is now really being felt live. He brings an edgy, blusier feel to live sound and really adds something to the mix. Perhaps the Man’s confidence in his ability is one of the reasons he feels comfortable after all these years being the Man at the front. Absolutely, gob-smackingly marvellous they were! Rumour even has it that Night Ranger closed down the back stage area so they could watch FM!

And as for Night Ranger themselves, well I witnessed possibly the best display from any band at HRH AOR since its inception. Considering how long these guys have been about, the energy from them was amazing. Jack Blades was all over the place and Brad Gillis had such a manic smile on his face he could be the Joker in a Batman movie – and what an awesome player! The band has recently been joined by Keri Kelli from Alice Coopers touring band and he fits in perfectly both musically and personality-wise. And he is no slouch either, giving Brad as good as he got! Kelly Keagy steps from behind the drums to sing a couple of songs and his voice seems to be even better than it was in 80s/90s. Playing mainly songs from the first 4/5 albums and of course the new album, the guys threw in a couple of curve balls covering their other projects including Damn Yankees and Alice Cooper’s Schools Out and Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train. While some might question throwing these in, it all just added to the absolutely awesome party atmosphere the guys created and they give the kind of professional kick-ass display you would expect of a band with 35 years plus experience. And of course, closing with You Can Still Rock in America – how can you fail to be impressed! Superlatives fail me! Night Ranger were indeed fitting closing act for another great HRH AOR weekend.

Well done Chic Talent and I look forward to next year already!

 

Joe Bonamassa live

 

Joe Bonamassa

London Hammersmith Apollo

21 Mar 2015

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

I had been waiting quite some time to see Joe Bonamassa and his solo show for quite some time, having only seen him with Black Country Communion when they toured the UK a few years ago. Quite often such lengthy anticipation can lead to such disappointment, so it was with a mixture of excitement and caution that I made the journey to London to see this guy.

The lights went out and a James Bond-style intro was played before Joe launched into the first two songs from his last studio album Different Shades of Blue, namely Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) and Oh Beautiful and already I was impressed. Next up was another song from the same album, namely Never Give All your Heart Away in which Joe demonstrated what a great live vocalist he is too. He then rolled onto a Howlin Wolf cover (Hidden Charm) from his recently released live CD/DVD set. He then swung into another song from Shades entitled Living on the Moon, which really did swing! And continuing with the same album he played Trouble Town with the brass section doing their thang maan! This started with an awesome display of bottleneck playing which I don’t think I have seen anybody do since Micky Moody was in Whitesnake!

Drawing again on the recent live album, he then gave us Otis Rush’s Double Trouble which opened with some great piano which continued to drive this slow-burning blueser along nicely. Again JoBo demonstrated he is a bona fide blues man with both his playing and vocals. He then jumped back to the shades album for I Gave Up Everything For You ‘Cept the Blues. He then played what I think was another cover, which I wasn’t sure about, which turned into a mammoth blues jam with a muted trumpet solo. I wasn’t familiar with the next song either which I believe may also be a cover called One Less Cross to Bear. He then continued with some more tracks from the Shades album including the excellent So What Would I Do before getting into the set closers. Both these were from the Sloe Gin album. Possibly my favourite Bonamassa track, he unveiled an awesome version of Sloe Gin itself, starting slowly and building up from there. And then of course was there was the Ballad of John Henry which is a truly magnificent example of blues rock at its best, which even Jimmy Page would be proud of. The encore was another cover which I think was Muddy Water’s All Aboard. During this the brass section got to strut their stuff and their was also a guest guitarist, whose name I didn’t catch as I was so engrossed. Apparently someone said it was Bernie Marsden, but it was hard to tell! Regardless, this brought the show to a fitting close.

What can I say – the guy was awesome. A number of occasions I watched his playing wondering how he could tease out sounds with such extreme light and shade and not appear to be near any effects pedals, relying on pure technique by the looks of it. And his guitar sound was just incredible too. Of course, it was self-indulgent with only 16 songs in over two hours, but we were all there to see this guy do! And not forgetting that live he has an awesome voice too and it was definitely one of my bucket list that was worth the travel and hassle! In summary, we were treated to a vulgar display of of serious geetar porn which blew me away completely. This was one from the bucket list that was worth the hassle and expense and shall have me smiling all the way to the crematorium!

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Bonfire – Glorious

Borila Rekords (April 2015)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Well I guess we’d better get the ‘elephant in the room’ out of the way now seeing as it’s something that has dominated news of this release more than the actual music itself.

Bonfire have a new vocalist in the shape and form of David Reece, a singer who will be more than familiar to most of you reading this review. Those of you unfamiliar, David has song in Accept, Bangalore Choir, Gypsy Rose, Tango Down and EZ Livin’, the later being a fine starting block for the small jump over to front Bonfire.

The writing for this release was done by Hans Ziller and David Reece, with Hans handling the production, and a superb job he has done too.

And so to the important bit. The album!

We kick off with 21 Guns Salute (Goes Boom) which starts slowly with an intro almost a minute long, before you hear the distinct vocals of Mr Reece. Straight away there is a change to the familiar sound of Bonfire, a band I’ve followed since 86′, with a broader soundscape and with Alessandro del Vecchio adding layers of keyboards to the mix.

Nothin’ At All certainly is a pacier number with drummer Harry Reischmann slightly louder in the mix. I detect quite a few influences in this track, from hints of Deep Purple and Whitesnake, especially Purple style vocals around two thirds in. As with as David Reece’s voice, Hans Ziller’s guitar sound is also distinct and leads us nicely into the third track Can’t Break Away. Maybe I’ll be so bold as to say this is probably the best I’ve heard David sing for a few years. Not that he sings badly on the rest of the album, far from it. I’m just constantly drawn back to this particular track.

Remember would not be out of place on a Bangalore Choir album. If you’re familiar with that band’s work then you will know exactly what I mean. With an acoustic guitar as intro there’s a fair bet you’ve reached a ballad, and yes you’d be exactly right with Fallin’ Outta Love. Again this exemplifies the fact that David is on top form and also highlights the nice feel of the production.

The title track, appropriately named Glorious, is somewhat of an anthem, with a big chorus and a choir / orchestra vibe. Supernatural Disguise if I’m honest I found a bit of a plodder even with the big guitar break half way through. Another acoustic guitar intro for Shooting Star, which apart from the bonus track is the longest track on the album, coming in at 6.38. However it’s not one of those tracks that appear to drag on forgetting that it’s meant to end at some point. I love the guitar intro to Lies, just the sort of guitar sound that draws me into a band.

I’d certainly say that Put Out The Flames is the track closest to the Bonfire of old and I suspect ‘purists’ will wish there were more tracks like these on the album. I wasn’t sure which direction the intro to Freewheel Desperado was going with the sound of boots marching (don’t mention the war) However it is nothing more sinister then a biker walking to his ride and roaring off. I kept on having to stop myself singing Freewheel Burning! The next two tracks will possibly divide opinions as they are re-recordings of two tracks from the legendary Bonfire release ‘Fireworks’ Firstly you have Sweet Obsession followed by American Nights. Again, being totally honest, I think David Reece has done a damn good job on these re-recordings. What I don’t like are the new keyboards which don’t sit quite right, especially at the start of Sweet Obsession.

And finally we are presented with a bonus track in the shape and form of the all time classic With A Little Help From My Friends. I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying this version and a fine job the band has done.

So there we have it, overall a very good album with only the occasional wobble along the way.

 

 

Circle of Knives

Serpentine – Circle Of Knives

AOR Heaven (April 2015)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Serpentine are back with a brand new album, Circle Of Knives, their third release.

There have been two changes to the band’s line up with original bassist Gareth Vanstone and vocalist Matt Black having left the band. Taking the reigns vocally is ex-Tidal singer Adam Payne, who I have to say really suits what is a very mature sound to the album. They have chosen well in Matt’s replacement in my opinion. And so to the album itself. What your presented with are ten tracks, which represent what melodic hard rock is all about. It’s not hard to notice the influence of Gary Hughes (Ten) who has helped the band find their direction and it’s nice to see Sheena Sear once again take the reigns in the final mix.

We Kick off with Season Of The Witch, a track that builds until you’re greeted with a wall of guitar & keyboards. The mix is not dominated by one particular instrument, nor does it come across as muddied thankfully. Next up is La Tragedienne (The Actress) which will without a doubt appeal to Ten fans and features some excellent keyboard work from Gareth David Noon. The album continues in very much the same vein with Forever, guitarist Chris Gould delivering some sterling playing. He really does deserve more recognition. The Hardest Fall is I’d say a more forceful track, picking up the tempo somewhat, before slowing down for the ballad style Bleed. A very strong keyboard intro greets us for Where Does Your Heart Beat Now, which reinforces how tight the band sound. Again the tempo is turned up several notches for Bound By The Strings Of Discord, a very pacy track with some serious skin pounding by drummer Roy Millward. The title track, Circle Of Knives starts off with an atmospheric feel before picking up the pace and leading us head log into the second longest track on the album. Once again exemplary guitar work by Chris Gould helps keep the track on an even keel. Such A Long Way Down would not of been out of place on the last Shy album, with Adam sounding like Lee Small, which let’s face it ain’t a bad thing. And so the final track on the album, Suicide Days. This track has a slightly different slant, not that it’s out of place on the album and it’s a difference I can’t quite put my finger on but very enjoyable all the same. To sum up, the album is certainly strong enough to stand up against the competition and deserves to help propel the band to greater heights. Serpentine fans won’t be disappointed and I think it will garner more fans for the band.

Live With The Curse

Eden’s Curse – Live with the Curse
AFM Records (Feb 2015)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Eden’s Curse have been around for some nine years and released four studio albums very much in the melodic metal vein. Driven by Paul Logue from Scotland as main songwriter, the band has been mainly a studio project with occasional live appearances. However, since the release of the last studio album Symphony of Sin in 2013, which introduced new Serbian vocalist Nikola Mijic, the band has become more of a live act. This live work has clearly encouraged them to record a live album, recorded at the Classic Grand in Glasgow.

The set kicks off with the track Symphony of Sin with the symphonic intro building until the band kick in spectacularly. The band give a superb rendition of the song and Nikola Mijic sounds spectacular as he did on the night as I was lucky enough to be present. This is followed up by Break the Silence as it did on SoS which picks up the pace a little and rally rocks along with Mijic again in sparkling form. Masquerade Ball is the first of the older songs and seems to have been given a new lease of life with the change of vocalist. Hot on its heels is Black Widow driven by John Clelland’s drums and again the difference Nikola makes is quite amazing. Next is the title track from the third album Trinity and it keeps up the pace and has great moments of light, shade and power. Fly Away is the first of two songs from the band’s debut album from 2007 and while keeping up the pace is more melodic than the previous songs. Just Like Judas introduced by Mr Logue is another older song that gets Mijicated and is given a new lease of life and sounds superb. We are briefly taken to a lighter, slower beat with Fallen from Grace from SoS and you really get to hear how good this vocalist really is! We are back to the Trinity material for Jerusalem Sleeps which is driven by a chunky chugging bass, drum and rhythm guitar and is far more powerful for me than its studio counterpart. This lined to the next song Time to Breathe by an excellent guitar solo from Thorsten Koehne.

Mr Logue introduces the excellent Rock Bottom from the last album which showcases Nikola’s voice in terms of its soft velvety texture and soaring hard-edged high notes – absolutely spectacular in my books. It starts a run of three songs from SoS which includes crunching Devil in Disguise and the pacey melodic rock of Wings To Fly. No Holy Man, probably my favourite song from Trinity stomps along nicely and gives Nikola the opportunity to demonstrate why he is ‘the undisputed new voice’ of Eden’s Curse. We then swing back to the more melodic intro of Unbreakable before it bursts into life and races along albeit still very melodically. The other song from the debut album in the set is Judgement Day which again sounds far superior to its studio counterpart. Nikola then introduces the band before the band drive for home with penultimate song Evil and Divine before closing with Angels and Demons.

The album is a double CD and many artists with bigger fan bases would not dare do so. However, this just sums up for me the confidence that Eden’s Curse has in doing what they are doing. And that confidence just oozes throughout this live album also. If the plan was to capture the best of the older stuff being revitalised with the excellent voice of Nikola Mijic, then they truly have been Mijicated© and given a new lease of life. In this guy the band have unearthed a truly world class vocalist that does justice to the material and takes this band to a whole new level in terms of performance. No coincidence methinks that all of a sudden the band is a bona fide live act – who wouldn’t want to show this guy’s vocals off. I am just glad I was there to see it for my own eyes. If you like melodic metal with great songs and stunning vocals, do yourself a favour and splash out on the double CD – you won’t be disappointed.