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: 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: 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.

Review: Dynazty – The Dark Delight

AFM Records (April 3rd 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Dynazty are a band that manage to continue to put out very regular output while still retaining a freshness. ‘The Dark Delight‘ is the Swedes 7th studio album and once again it’s a real cross genre affair, blending hard/melodic Rock with Power Metal, and interesting mix for me that they always seem to get right in the balance. There is no doubting their caliber as musicians, but because of other projects they work on it is perhaps a surprise that they can manage to continue to put so much effort into Dynazty, but long may it continue.

This time around there are 12 tracks on offer, and so many of these are just excellent, with opener ‘Presence Of Mind‘ setting the tone for what’s the follow. There is a power right through this album that just picks you up and carries you along, when you have listened to it for a period of time it just seems to be getting better and better in your head. For me the production on this one just makes everything shine, the power of the vocals delivered by Nils Molin ( also Amaranthe) to the sharpness of the guitars be it the crunching riff’s to the soaring solos or monstrous drumming, but as with most albums that live long in the memory I don’t find anything over powering in the mix. So not only talented musicians, but they produced the album themselves showing there’s no shortage of talent in that department either, Jacob Hansen’s mixing skills keep everything tight and vibrant.

Highlights for me are the excellent gritty ‘Paradise Of The Architect‘ which just rips along with  powerful drumming creating that backdrop beautifully. Alongside the wonderful ‘Heartless Madness‘ and beautiful balladesque ‘Hologram‘ that lifts from a quiet start to once again that powerful mid section, something about these tracks that has the ability to continue to hold your attention. ‘Heartless Madness‘ was one of the lead singles for the album and that’s no surprise, it is so upbeat, European Power Metal for sure, so melodic wonderful swathes of screaming solos and a track you can almost feel people moving to in live venue.  The title track closes things out in style, but there are a bunch of top songs here, really well written an put together.

This really is a cracking album from a band that continues to deliver, but this one is a bit special, it continues to bring you back to listen again and again, and not like many albums to one specific song. Tempo changes and style differences make the feel of different tracks seem miles apart, but at the same time it doesn’t ruin the flow of the album. Having a vocalist with the talents of Nils is of course a massive bonus, but everyone steps up on this release and again it’s an album you should immerse yourself in, let it wash over you, so far it’s my album of the year to date and in our current strange World this is a perfect album to stick on your mobile device and listen to while on your daily exercise routine, at the moment I tend to get out for a 5km walk and it’s the perfect companion to lift the pace to. Don’t miss out on this release, music is a passion to hold dear right now, pick this one up it’s a classy piece of work.

 

 

Review: Robert Tepper Better Than The Rest

AOR Heaven (September 27th 2019)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Most people will remember the song ‘No Easy Way Out‘ from the Rocky IV movie, but perhaps be unaware that the man behind the song was NJ born songwriter/singer Robert Tepper. That was a pretty big hit at the time and has continually received airplay over the yeas, especially in Europe where there were many different genre mixes of the song that kept airplay going. Continuing both recording and writing, although album releases have been a bit sporadic, his work mainly consisted of writing for TV/Film, so it’s great to see a new album of original material almost seven years since the last release.

Better Than The Rest‘ brings us 11 songs mixing styles, mostly Rock, some more pop orientated and a definite mix of keyboards/electronic sounds, what is consistent throughout though is an upbeat punchy feel to the tracks, excellent vocals and music that suits each of the compositions, from the screaming solos littered around the title track to those back beats on tracks like ‘Tell Me You Love Me‘.

There is something very calming about the music on this album, hard to put your finger on why, but listening to if over the last couple of months and it just has that ability to remove some of the stresses and strains of life, that alone is a brilliant trait. It may not be an in your face style release, and in places perhaps a little too laid back, but it’s certainly not a criticism.

Highlights on this album are opener ‘Why Does Over (Have To Be So Sad)‘ which sets a nice scene, has some great backing vocals leading in and it’s just one of those tracks and has you coming back for return visits, ‘Show Me Where The Light Is Going‘ which has an almost Van Halenesque opening, not as frenetic or heavy perhaps, but a nice solid riff right through the middle with a really solid rocker wrapped all the way around it, and  the terrific closer ‘You Know Just How You Feel‘ which provides an excellent ending to this chapter of Robert’s story. This one just builds as it progresses, a really strong track and lifts as though it may power on to be something more aggressive, but then gets pulled back to a more emotional place, was not what I expected but works damn well.

The reality here is that Robert Tepper continues to be an excellent songwriter, with some excellent tracks in the mix on this album, it’s great to hear new material and we will hopefully see him back on the road in the UK soon. If this one passed you by on release then do yourself a favour and pick it up over the Christmas period, great mix of Rock, a little Country/Americana in places and just overall good music. Would definitely be nice to here some of these tracks live. Perhaps it’s not better than all the rest but it’s certainly better than a lot of releases these days.

Now is the turn of reviewer Stephen Brophy and his choices for Top Ten Albums Of 2019. So in no particular order here they are:

Work Of Art – Exhibits

Elles Bailey – The Road I Call Home

Ashen Crown – Obsolescence

Kris Barras Band – Light It Up

New Model Army – From Here

Flotsam And Jetsam – The End Of Chaos

The Defiants – Zokusho

Crazy Lixx – Forever WildAvantasia – Moonglow

Evergrey – The Atlantic

Jailbirds The Great Escape

Golden Robot Records (July 5th 2019)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

 Jailbirds are an Australian / Irish 4 piece Rock band based in Dublin. The guys have been working really hard to build up a really good reputation and no shortage of fans on the local scene, so now is the time for their first Album to be unleashed on the public. Consisting of the MacDonald brothers on lead vocals/guitar and drums, Ed Orr on rhythm guitar and Jamie Trimble on bass these four young guys make one hell of a racket and live they are just electric.

The lovely acoustic into on the opening title track is of course a little misleading, there is no doubt in their sound that these guys produce classic Rock/Metal and that this is a fine opening salvo from Jailbirds. We get treated to 8 tracks on this one and there’s certainly differences in tempo and style throughout, which is always great.

There is something a little refreshing about this album, not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it is that’s drawing me back over and over, but it’s there, it’s a package rather than just a couple of individual tracks, but still there are highlights here, ‘Loose Canon‘ is just a kick ass rocker that like most of the tracks on this album will obviously translate brilliantly live. ‘Nothing Good Lasts Forever‘ has some earworm inducing catchy riffs that run right through the middle of it and ‘The Pilot‘ that again is catchy as hell and just pounds along and like everywhere else on the album Axel’s vocals are on the money with some strong backing vocals to kick it up a level, for me the best think about this one is that it’s most definitely a group effort, everything works in a tight unit.

There is a grit to this music, a bite, it’s not light and happy there are definitely elements of shade in this album, but at the same time it’s certainly upbeat and not grimm. When you get the chance to see these guys live please do, that’s when it all pieces itself together so nicely there is a ravenous feel to the live show, this is a hungry young band and that’s great.

For a first release this Rock ‘N’ Roll roller coaster is a thrill ride, elements of antipidean rockers AC/DC and Airborne are in the makeup but this is very much Jailbirds and hopefully they are here to stay, please check these guys out you won’t regret it if you like power rock that’s unabashed fun, a classic sound but still fresh and best of all it just gets in your head from the first listen.

 

Review: Ketos First Strike

Hostile Media  (April 26th 2019)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy 

Hailing from Northern Ireland Ketos play a very melodic based style of Thrash, but with some more aggressive vocals at times, the end result is their 9 song debut album ‘First Strike‘, and although this one did not grab me on first listen too much it’s definitely grown on me.

Released through Hostile Media this album is a fine piece of work by a young band still in it’s relative infancy. Have to pay particular attention to the duelling guitars of ‘Dwayne Close‘ and ‘Keith HD‘ who really do shred so well in unison or alone, and the excellent Peter Renshaw who manages to completely pull off sounding like two different vocalists, it’s not something that every singer can do and in both styles he sounds great. Some great power on show here. Add in the power of the backline of James Popple (Bass) and Gareth Dick (Drums) just helps to elevate this release.

There are some cracking tracks on here, from the opener ‘Escape The Chains‘ with it’s gatling gun drumming, just smashing you in the face it’s a great way to open the album, then there’s  ‘Harmacist‘ which is a real beast beast of a track, speeding along like a freight train with no brakes and then it punches into a very Testament style chorus but the track generally has more speed and more aggression, it’s a keeper. ‘Temptations‘ is another track that manages to keep coming back into your head and just grabs control, there’s a certain maturity that perhaps wouldn’t be expected in this setup yet, but it’s here and there’s a lot more to come from this band. In places I’m reminded of their influences but the maintain enough of their own fresh stamp everywhere.

Overall this is a powerful debut from a band that clearly has a lot of promise and no shortage of talent. The whole package works well together here, the music, the arrangements the production and most importantly the songs. Ketos are not a name fresh on everyone’s tongue just yet, but give this a spin and keep an eye out for them. Can’t wait to see what direction they choose as they develop but this is an excellent start..

Track list:

  1. Escape The Chains
  2. Into The Maelstrom
  3. Temptations
  4. Harmacist
  5. Ascendant
  6. The Lost Ones
  7. Full Force
  8. Fall In Line
  9. First Strike

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