Captain Black Beard have released an Official video for the song ‘Sonic Forces‘ taken from the album ‘Sonic Forces‘. ‘Sonic Forces‘ was released on April 24th, 2020 via AOR Heaven.

Track list:

1. Headlights

2. Lights & Shadows

3. Disco Volante

4. Tonight, 5. Sonic Forces

6. Time To Deliver

7. Midnight Cruiser

8. Young Hearts

9. Gotham City

10. Emptiness

Line up:

Christian Ek – guitar

Martin Holsner – vocals

Robert Majd – bass

Vinnie Stromberg – drums

Captain Black Beard made their live debut in Stockholm, Sweden on the 31st October 2009 and released their self-titled album in May 2011. Hailed by the press all over the world, so much it was called one of the “albums of the year” by legendary journalist Geoff Barton of Classic Rock Magazine. After shows in America and the UK, most of 2013 was spent working on the second album ‘Before Plastic‘ which was released in May 2014. The band also made a return to the UK playing the Hard Rock Hell Festival and opening for Graham Bonnet (Rainbow, MSG). This album also got great reviews and featured a guest appearance by Bruce Kulick (KISS, Grand Funk Railroad).

In February 2015, Captain Black Beard entered the studio with producer Chips Kiesbye (Hellacopters, Bonafide). They also toured Scandinavia as support act to Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen), Robin Beck and House Of Lords. ‘It’s A Mouthful‘ was released in March 2016 and the tour started with a comeback to the Hard Rock Hell Festival as well as – again – supporting Joe Lynn Turner.

By the end of the year the group amicably parted ways with singer Sakaria Björklund. In 2017 a “new” Captain Black Beard entered the studio to record with producer Jona Tee (keyboardist in H.e.a.t) and in April 2018, ‘Struck By Lightning‘ was released to rave reviews. This line-up would however be short-lived and tour dates following the release featured the amazing Linnea Vikström (Therion) as temporary lead vocalist. In early 2019 the band brought in singer Martin Holsner for a co-headlining tour with Osukaru throughout Germany and started to work on a new album with producer Dave Malone (guitarist in H.e.a.t) which led to the band completely reinventing themselves in time for their 10th anniversary.

Following a bombastic start of 2020 supporting Geoff Tate on tour, Captain Black Beard brought out their ‘Sonic Forces‘ album in April. The album was recorded at Yardstreet Studios in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Review: Stoneflower – Finally

AOR Heaven (May 15th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Stoneflower are a melodic rock band from Norway who got together in 1996. They had some success with their first album ‘Crack a Little Smile’ but despite having started work on another album, the band split in 2010 when singer Frode Henriksen moved to another part of the country. Founder member and lead guitarist Tom Sennerud finished the album, ‘Destination Anywhere’ as a solo project. Following great reviews he contacted fellow founder member and bassist Svenn Huneide and they reformed the band in 2014 and recruited a new singer, John Masaki who had success in Norwegian Idol. The current line-up was completed by drummer Geir Johnny Huneide, Svenn’s brother. Now, 24 years after the band started they are ready to release just their second official album, called ‘Finally’!

The album opener ‘Gonna Let You Go’ starts with a superb riff and goes into Masaki’s melodic vocals which sail along over the top of Sennerud’s virtuoso guitar playing. Their melodic rock stylings sound fresh and urgent and indicate the previously untapped well of talent in this band. ‘What Can Be Done’ is an 80s style AOR track that sounds like a cross between a Huey Lewis tune and a Foreigner style vocal. The engine room of this track is the combination of the Huneide brothers on bass and drums who drive it forward with real power.

Believing’ has a start that reminds me of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long and shows off Masaki’s soulfulness before building to a real singalong chorus that will be great live when they take the album out on the road. ‘Calling All Stations’ has a Europe feel to it and is a song that shows how the band complement each other, creating a song that builds and builds becoming one of the standout songs on the album. ‘Kaylee’ has a really mellow tune complemented by a cleverly restrained vocal that makes me think of summer days.

The Devil Never Cries’ by contrast gets straight into a driving guitar riff and a powerful vocal that would be a great soundtrack for the next Rocky movie! ‘Shivering Hands’ is a song that has gorgeous lyrics covering the life of a girl as she grows from childhood to old age. It is a genuinely different song that tells a beautiful story and is definitely my favourite song on the album. Next is the title track ‘Finally’ takes up what is almost certainly the band’s story as Masaki sings that have ‘finally found where I want to be’.

Through The Fire’ is another great example of Stoneflower’s superb lyrics which really lift this band above most of their contemporaries. They take familiar situations and rock music subjects and give them a genuinely different spin. ‘How Does Tt Feel’ is a break up song that sounds very reminiscent of REO Speedwagon and showcases the tightness of a band who really understand and complement each other.

Fall’, the final track features superb piano accompaniment from Bjørn Ole Rasch and a soulful, soaring vocal from Masaki. It is a fine end to a marvellous album. Despite being veterans of the scene Stoneflower sound fresh and vibrant. Just don’t leave it another 20 years before you record another album!

 

Captain Blackbeard have released an Official Lyric video for the track ‘Midnight Cruiser‘.

Midnight Cruiser‘ is taken from the album ‘Sonic Forces‘, which will be released on May 15th, 2020 via AOR Heaven.

Pre-order HERE

Tracklist: :

1. Headlights

2. Lights & Shadows

3. Disco Volante

4. Tonight

5. Sonic Forces

6. Time To Deliver

7. Midnight Cruiser

8. Young Hearts

9. Gotham City

10. Emptiness

Official Website

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Review: Newman – Ignition

AOR Heaven (Mar 28th 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Steve Newman is back with his band and a bunch of new songs, one of the stalwarts of the UK AOR scene, Newman have released a number of excellent albums over the years, so how does new release ‘Ignition‘ stack up. Steve Newman alongside the songwriting and vocals provides all of the instruments on this one aside from drums, which are taken care of by Rob McEwen. With some great additional backing vocals coming from the takents of Doug Bartlett and Mark Thompson Smith. If you are a Newman fan you will be sure to like this one too

First up on this 12 track album is ‘End Of The Road‘ by the title would appear to be the ideal song to finish an album by, but perhaps it would lead to many questions due to the track title and lyrical content, but it doesn’t matter where they place it on the album it is a good track. Nice variety here running from rockers to some slower style tracks, criss crossing right throughout. For some reason ‘The Island‘ doesn’t really grab me, but that could certainly be just me, not quite sure what it is that doesn’t do it, but it’s a minor quibble.

Highlights here for me are the excellent ‘Chasing Midnight‘ which for some reason during the spoken piece at the beginning makes me think of Jeff Scott Soto, but there is just something running through this one that brings a smile to my face and makes me move, be it the solid beat, crunchy riff, keyboards or vocals everything just runs together so well, top stuff as always. ‘Wild Child‘ is another that grabs you, has a different sound, deeper and very old school especially once you hit the chorus, love it. Add in the pumping ‘Promise Me‘ or ‘Welcome To The Rush‘, there’s just plenty here to keep the brain ticking along, having spent quite a bit of time with this one on many rambles around the local area it really isn’t an album I feel like moving on from just yet.

Another excellently put together album from Steve Newman, no doubt at all if you are a fan of their his previous work this one is going to hit the spot, and if you aren’t familiar then seriously go check them out. Classy AOR, great songwriter and composer and the hooks are plentiful. Have to say I love the keyboards on this album, lifting things and just adding something a little bit extra when you aren’t expecting it. Overall just another cracking album from Newman, AOR or Melodic Rock, call it what you may but this is great Rock music, delivered by one of the most talented melodic rock musicians of the last 20 years, get it and enjoy it.

Having released one album with Diesel Dahl (d, TNT), Tom Sennerud (g), Frode Henriksen (v) and Jon Johannessen (g) decided to form a band on their own in 1996: STONEFLOWER. The Norwegians were soon joined by Svenn Huneide (b). They decided to hire experienced drummer Steinar Krokstad (Stage Dolls) and Dag Bårdstu (keys) to create the best result. The debut ‘Crack A Little Smile‘ was finally released on the small label Storyteller Records in 2003 and sold world-wide via AOR Heaven’s mailorder. A video for the track ‘If You Say‘ was released feat. Geir Johnny Huneide (d). Then, Johannessen left group in 2005.

When singer Frode Henriksen moved to a different part of the country after 2010, the band split up. Tom felt that the album already in progress was too good to let go, so he started finishing the album on his own. ‘Destination Anywhere‘ was released on his own label, Late Night Music. It received highly critical acclaim, like “best AOR album 2014” (Sweden Rock Magazine).

After the positive feedback, members Tom and Svenn decided to reignite the band with a new singer. By sheer luck they found the amazingly talented John Masaki (“Norwegian Idol“). The first track recorded included one of the most famous and gifted Norwegian drummers, Per Hillestad (LAVA, A-HA,) but the band soon decided to go for a full-time member and the talented and AOR-loving Geir Johnny Huneide (brother to Svenn) got the job. Geir then recorded the rest of the album with Steinar Krokstad (Stage Dolls) guesting on one track.

STONEFLOWER this time signed a record deal with AOR Heaven. ‘Finally‘ was mainly recorded in Tom’s own studio ‘Late Night Music’. Some drums were recorded at Leif Johansen’s (21 Guns, Phenomena, A-HA) “Stable Studio“. Guests on ‘Finally‘ are Per Hillestad (d), Swedish guitarist, Tommy Denander , Bjørn Ole Rasch (keys, Secret Gardsn) and Gunnar Westlie (g, Da Vinci). Mixed by Trond Engebretsen and Tom Sennerud, mastered by JK Northrup (King Kobra).

Line-up:

John Masaki – Vocals

Svenn Huneide – Bass, Vocals

Tom Sennerud – Guitars, keys, vocals

Geir Johnny Huneide – Drums

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Captain Black Beard made their live debut in Stockholm, Sweden on the 31st October 2009 and released their self-titled album in May 2011. Hailed by the press all over the world, so much it was called one of the “albums of the year” by legendary journalist Geoff Barton of Classic Rock Magazine.

After shows in America and the UK, most of 2013 was spent working on the second album ‘Before Plastic‘ which was released in May 2014. The band also made a return to the UK playing the Hard Rock Hell Festival and opening for Graham Bonnet (Rainbow, MSG). This album also got great reviews and featured a guest appearance by Bruce Kulick (KISS, Grand Funk Railroad).

In February 2015, Captain Black Beard entered the studio with producer Chips Kiesbye (Hellacopters, Bonafide). They also toured Scandinavia as support act to Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen), Robin Beck and House Of Lords. ‘It’s A Mouthful‘ was released in March 2016 and the tour started with a comeback to the Hard Rock Hell Festival as well as – again – supporting Joe Lynn Turner. By the end of the year the group  amicably parted ways with singer Sakaria Björklund.

In 2017 a “new” Captain Black Beard entered the studio to record with producer Jona Tee (keyboardist in H.e.a.t) and in April 2018, ‘Struck By Lightning‘ was released to rave reviews. This line-up would however be short-lived and tour dates following the release featured the amazing Linnea Vikström (Therion) as temporary lead vocalist.

In early 2019 the band brought in singer Martin Holsner for a co-headlining tour with Osukaru throughout Germany and started to work on a new album with producer Dave Malone (guitarist in H.e.a.t) which led to the band completely reinventing themselves in time for their 10th anniversary.

Following a bombastic start of 2020 supporting Geoff Tate on tour, Captain Black Beard are proud to bring out their ‘Sonic Forces‘ this coming April. The album was recorded at Yardstreet Studios in Stockholm, Sweden.

Tour Dates:

April 25th, Musikens Hus – Göteborg, SWE

May 22nd, Harry B James – Stockholm, SWE

May 23rd, Björnes – Örebro, SWE

Line-up:

Christian Ek – guitar

Martin Holsner – vocals

Robert Majd – bass

Vinnie Stromberg – drums

Official Website

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Review: Shaft Of Steel Steel – Heartbeat

AOR Heaven (February 28th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Shaft of Steel are a band with an interesting history. They met and formed the first incarnation of the band in 2004 when they were at the Hull University. After the end of their degrees in 2007 they went their separate ways. Four years later they reformed and started playing live, building up a good following. An EP in 2014 was very well received by fans and music press alike. They intended to release an album soon afterwards, but things didn’t go as planned. They stuck to their guns though, and nearly six years later they are finally ready to release their debut album ‘Steel Heartbeat‘.

Touching You Every Day‘ starts off with a great guitar riff before Robert Fenning’s vocals kick in. it is a really smooth AOR track that gets the album off to a good start. ‘I’ve Never Been Alone (With a Girl Like You)‘ has a Genesis vibe to it that really works well. The keyboards of Chris Smurthwaite, guitars of Alex Markham and Chris Carruthers, drums Michael Levy and the bass of Dominic Swords blend perfectly on this track, showing the tightness that comes from years of playing together.

All Because of You‘ is an 80s inflected piece of soft rock that brings to mind Starship with its catchy tune and punch the air chorus. A Mr Mister style guitar intro moves in to heavier territory on ‘Together as One Tonight‘ becomes an anthemic soft rock track that will sound really good live. ‘Vulnerable Man‘ starts with Smurthwaite’s smooth keyboards and picks up pace as the guitars come in. Fenning discovers his inner Joey Tempest on this soft rock ballad which is one of my favourites on the album. ‘Falling Through the Flames‘ is a track that shows a harder edge to Fenning’s voice as the band look back to their original metal roots and demonstrates his range as a rock singer of real flair.

Body and Mind‘ reminds me of a chilled out Whitesnake track and it is quite simply marvellous. It’s my favourite on the album and would make a great single. ‘Lucky Girl‘ is a heavier track that plays to their strengths and sounds like another one that will become a live favourite. ‘You See Smoke When I See Fire‘ is as smooth as silk and confirms Shaft of Steel as melodic rockers of real talent.

The final track is ‘Every Time I Look at You‘ features a gorgeous keyboard intro which is reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby then morphs into a heavier song altogether courtesy of a guitar riff played over the top. Fenning once again shows his vocal chops by moving into the heavier end of his vocal range.

Shaft of Steel’s debut that has been a long time coming but it’s definitely been worth waiting for. It would be great to see the British sextet build on this and go from strength to strength over the next few years. They certainly have the talent and, as the last few years have shown they have the determination to overcome any obstacles in their way. Good luck, guys.

 

Although never offered the same opportunities compatriots TNT and Stage Dolls enjoyed in venturing into the US and British markets, Norwegian melodic hard rock band Return nevertheless have carved their own place in the annals of rock history, with a quite illustrious career to boast of in their own right. The band’s fifth album, ‘V’, reissued courtesy of AOR Heaven, perfectly captures what Return were all about.

Comprised of Knut Erik Østgård (v), Steinar Hagen (g), Tore Larsen (b) and Øyvind Håkonsen (d), Return were founded in the early 80s combining various influences from punk, ska, disco, pop and hard rock drawing major inspiration from British bands such as Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and The Police.

By the mid 80s there was certainly a very interesting music scene happening in Norway, too, with the likes of the aforementioned TNT, Stage Dolls and other emerging acts, including Da Vinci. Winning a band competition got them a deal with ARCO records, eventually resulting in the debut ‘To The Top’ (1987) arousing interest with majors like CBS who signed them for the next three records, ‘Attitudes’ (1988),’Straight Down The Line’ (1989) and ‘Fourplay’ (1991) leading the band to basically constantly tour from 1987 to 1994 and develop musically and form some kind of Return brotherhood.

For ‘V’, the album at hand, with its slightly more international approach, the band followed their label managers to EMI Norway. Recordings took place during the summer of 1992 in Glen Studio in Stockholm and the mix in Studio Nova in Norway. Unfortunately, soon after grunge struck Norway, too, and after yet again some extensive touring, in 1994 Return decided to take a break which actually lead to a six year hiatus.

Return’s, uh, return to action occurred in the year 2000 when a best of compilation sold a total of 120.000 copies! More compilations, e.g. a live output, followed over the years. Being the strongest effort so far, Return still play a considerable amount of the songs from ‘V’ in their sets of their occasional live appearances.

2020 is a year to celebrate. It is 40 years since four young guys met in a small rehearsal room and started to make great music together. This re-issue was re-mastered by Chris Lyne, offers an upgraded booklet with vintage picture material from the archives and comes as 1000 copies only ltd. edition and is being sold via mailorder only. Liner notes by Dave Reynolds.

Review: Easy Action – That Makes One

AOR Heaven (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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