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: Operus – Score Of Nightmares

Pride & Joy Music (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Jessica Wolff – Para Dice

Metalapolis (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

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

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

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

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

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

Review: BPMD – American Made

Napalm Records (12 June 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Wicked Smile – Delirium EP

July 1st 2020

Reviewer: Dan Mann

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

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

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

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

 

Review: Bad Touch – Kiss The Sky

Marshall Records (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

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

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

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

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

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

Buy it, buy it now!

Pre-order the album from www.badtouchkissthesky.com

Review: Room Experience – Another Time And Place

Art of Melody Music/Burning Minds Music Group (May 22nd 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

A lot of the recent reviews I have done have been for Scandinavian or German rock bands. For this review I am moving further East to Italy to take a listen to Room Experience.

Room Experience were set up by keyboardist Gianluca Firmo. He is joined by fellow Italians keyboardist Davide ‘Dave Rox’ Barbieri, Steve De Biasi on guitars, Simon Dredo on bass and Pierpaolo ‘Zorro’ Monti on drums. The line-up is completed by the English lead singer David  Readman.  After their well-received debut album in 2015 the follow-up, ‘Another Time and Place‘ has just landed in circumstances no one could have predicted. So, is it going to brighten up your lockdown?

Hear Another Song‘ starts with De Biasi’s driving guitar and  Readman’s growling vocals. The style is reminiscent of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard especially De Biasi’s excellent solo, but Readman’s performance gives it a real edge. It is a promising start to the album.

Wild Heart’ starts with a keyboard intro that sounds like Depeche Mode’s heavier cousin and gives this song a really different sound to the average rock track. ‘Disappointed‘ is a really heavy track that harks back to late 70s era of groups like Rainbow and Judas Priest and really suits Readman’s style.

Strangers in the Night‘ is a rock ballad that starts with a piano that sounds like Roy Bittan’s work from the early Meatloaf ballads, before moving into a Mid 80s style chorus that sounds like it will be really good played live.

The Distance‘ is a song with a mellow tune that could easily be another live favourite and in places sounds almost reminiscent of Kool and the Gang! ‘Shout‘ is back to basics with a driving rock tune that sees Room Experience let loose and create a wall of sound backed by Monti’s drums that keep the momentum going throughout the song.

Another Time and Place‘, the title track is another no nonsense rocker that makes the album sound like it is going through the gears. ‘The Miles That Make A Road‘ has a Europe style vibe and is definitely one of my favourites on the album.

The Night Goes On‘ is a track that once again showcases how well the musicians complement each other, creating the backing for another really good vocal performance by Readman.

A Thousand Lives‘ keeps up the high standard with a fantastic tune and a great chorus. ‘Your Voice Inside‘ is another mellow rock ballad that will get the phones lighting up when they get back out on the road.

The final track ‘The Distance‘ is an anthemic rock song with Gianluca Firmo taking on lead vocals. The song definitely reminds me of The Scorpions, both instrumentally and in terms of Firmo’s vocals and it gives the album a really strong finish with my favourite track of the lot.

Room Experience are a superb rock band with a wealth of experience and a definite ear for a killer tune. In answer to my original question, this is an album that will give your lockdown a real lift, so play it loud and put it on repeat!

Review: Mike Tramp – Second Time Around

Target Records (May 1st 2020)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

I have to admit something. Mike and I have history. Back in his Freak of Nature days, I not only saw them many times, but also supported him in Basingstoke, of all places. I’d just had my second tattoo completed and Mike and I shot the breeze for quite a while with the main man before and after the show on tattoos and many other subjects too. I wasn’t a big fan of White Lion, I really liked Freak of Nature and after ‘Capricorn’, I kinda lost track of Mike until a couple of years back when I was quite rightly told to stop being such an arse and acquaint myself with his later solo work.

It’s fair to say, Mike will never escape his White Lion days – I’ve read interviews where he complains about having to sing way above his natural range – and he has to field constant reunion questions. Mike’s solo work on the other hand, is as honest as the day is long. He seems completely comfortable in his own skin now and has turned out a high quality body of work so far.

Second Time Around‘ is a re-imagining of Tramp’s 2009 album, ‘Mike Tramp & The Rock and Roll Circuz’, that was only released in Denmark. Now you may think – ‘Why?’ Mike himself has said that the originals are some of his favourite tunes and were never given a chance and he missed singing them live. The question is – does it work?

Co-produced by Mike and Soren Anderson, the songs actually come across as fresh and full of life, when they could have seemed to be stale. Mike’s vocal delivery through out is warm, convincing and within his rightful range. He certainly sounds stronger vocally than I ever remember him. The songs here cover a wide variety of feelings and moods.

From the opener ‘All My Life’ which is an autobiographical tale of life in a rock and roll band, to ‘The Road’, which is deeper and darker, then on to the melancholy feel of ‘Anymore’, which deals with breakup and love lost. ‘Come On’ rocks and bops along, ‘Between Good And Bad’ is a gritty rocker, ‘Highway’ is a sunny day in musical form and ‘Tomorrow‘ is a stomping rocker. The album concludes with ‘When She Cries.’ It’s a hugely touching ballad about the day Mike’s daughter was born.

Mike has proved once again he is an excellent vocalist and a story teller of some note. This release has to be up there with the finest of Mike’s solo work and even touches the highs of his White Lion and Freak of Nature days, as it really feels like a real band collaboration on the arrangements.

Review: Vandenberg – 2020

Mascot Records (May 29th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

I, like many rock fans, was excited by the news Vandenberg would be releasing a new album in 2020. Speculation online was to whether it would sound just like classic Vandenberg, or whether there’d be some modern take on it all.

What you get with ‘2020‘ are ten tracks of pure, unadulterated hard rock! What you’ll hear people say a lot is it sounds like Whitesnake meets Rainbow. Well that’s hardly a suprise when the band has Adrian Vandenberg on guitar and Ronnie Romero on vocals!

Messers Vandenberg & Co have not tried to re-write any genre or style, and it’s not a case of ‘playing it safe’, it’s exactly as it should be and it should be welcomed as such.

I have played ‘2020‘ over and over again since the album landed in my inbox. At no point has it been an album of two halves, or only liking two or three of the tracks. I am thoroughly enjoying the whole album.

If there was some sort of blueprint for an album that ticked all my likes then ‘2020‘ would be pretty damn close.

Standout tracks………..bloody hell, sometimes that’s not such an easy thing to say. I find different songs grab me at different listens. If I’m forced to choose then ‘Hell Or High Water‘ with it’s Dio / Rainbow like qualities, ‘Let It Rain‘ for it’s delightful Whitesnakeness, ‘Light Up The Sky’ simply because it’s such a damn good track and I know certain ‘purists’ will moan but the new rendition of ‘Burning Heart‘ is a worthy re-recording of that timeless classic.

So there you have it If you like hard rock, Vandenberg, Rainbow, Whitesnake etc then this is a must buy. But most of you knew that already!