Thursday, April 12, 2018
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
My catch up of Frontiers new and forthcoming releases continues with this debut offering from Sweden's Perfect Plan. Formed in 2014, the band have been working their way towards the debut with care and attention and it certainly shows in what they've come up with.
As the first chords of the ridiculously catchy and upbeat "Bad City Woman" belt out from the speakers it's clear that Perfect Plan have something special here. As a song it's nothing groundbreaking, but as a piece of AOR it sits right at the top of the pile, with melody spilling out of every pore, bouncy keyboards shining through and classic melodic rock vocals from Kent Hilli. Seriously, people, this man can wail with the best and I'm sure he's going to be a big name in AOR circles for some time. Opening with such a perfect example of your music is always a good move, and even if Perfect Plan struggle to better it (and any band would) it really sets the mood perfectly and will bring a big smile to any melodic rock fan's face.
Although the pace slows with 'In And Out of Love' it's still a great song with a nice, catchy chorus, even if it's a bit of a come down after the frenetic pace of the opener. That said, 'Stone Cold Lover' brings the energy levels straight back up. It's a track that I can see being much loved by fans of H.E.A.T when they rock out, with Hilli's vocals showing a nice tinge of Joe Lynn Turner as a bonus. Fourth track 'Gone Too Far' has a Turner-era Rainbow feel about it, with Hammond-ish keyboards and a nice funky rhythm both proving effective. It's hard to dislike, a description that fits the entire album. When Perfect Plan turn it on and allow themselves a bit of pace and bounce they are as good as any band I've ever heard, with slick guitar solos, perfect AOR vocals and an innate sense of what makes a song enjoyable. Unusually, there's no ballads to be found, and the majority of the eleven tracks are well paced. The album in no way outstays it's welcome, and is one of those that you can happily put on repeat three or four times without getting at all tired of it.
Perfect Plan are a real surprise, delivering a debut that nails the whole AOR thing perfectly. A heady mix of W.E.T, Eclipse, H.E.A.T and the likes of One Desire and Work Of Art, this album can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of them. It's not deep and it's not meaningful, but 'All Rise' will have you tapping your feet and smiling away throughout the duration, and sometimes that's all you need from an album.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Back in the late Nineties I was a fan of a band called Kick, featuring a pair of twins and vocalist Nick Workman, who made ridiculously enjoyable melodic rock. Fast forward to 2010, and after a few middling bands Workman finds himself hooked up with another set of twins and making ridiculously enjoyable melodic rock once more. The twins are Tom and James Martin and the band is Vega. Eight years of hard work later they're still fighting to bring high energy melodic rock to the masses, and I'm happy to reveal that album number five carries on the good work admirably. It seems maximum ratings are like buses for me. No, not that they smell of piss - I mean you wait for ages and two come along!
With most albums I get it's easy after a few spins to identify a favourite track or two and maybe pick out a weaker one that will probably end up deleted once the review is done. With 'Only Human', Vega have come up with their stroingest album yet, and if you've heard the other four you'll know that's quite a feat. The Martin twins are well known as powerful songwriters in their own right (see Issa and Ted Poley albums for evidence), but when Nick Workman joins in it's such a holy trinity Don McLean should have been singing about them at the end of 'American Pie' (google it, it's a cool reference, dammit!). Add to that live performances full of fire and fun and you get a band to be reckoned with.
'Only Human' is a real all killer no filler affair, perfectly encapsulated by the first four tracks. 'Let's Have Fun Tonight' is a traditional upbeat Vega album opener that will no doubt kick off the live shows on the upcoming tour (see you at the bar, boozers), followed by the album's advance single 'Worth Dying For'. This is a track that is like a stick of rock (sorry - ROCK!) with VEGA stamped through it, so perfectly typical is it of their sound. 'Last man Standing' follows, introduced by Planet Rock DJ Darren Reddick, and it's an upbeat, catchy song about getting rat arsed. Remember, kids, what happens in Vega stays in Vega. Lastly, we have 'Come Back Again', the album's first slower paced song. There's just something about this one that keeps me coming back (again, natch) - it's a smooth, majestic sounding tune that has a chorus that sticks in your head.
So we have an opening quartet that beautifully demonstrate the Vega sound in all it's guises. So far so good, as they say. The thing is, the quality doesn't dip at any point, so we get another eight tracks that keep the bar raised with as much passion as Eddie Hall picking up a car. There's the aggressive 'Gravity', the high melody of 'Fade Away' and the emotional ballad 'Turning Pages', where Nick Workman get to show there's more to him than a nice haircut and a deep, natural love of Joe Elliott. Seriously, though, Workman is on stellar form throughout, deserving of a place amongst the melodic rock greats for his soaring range and vocal gymnastics. When he's given a good tune to belt out he still makes me smile like he did almost twenty years ago (feeling old now, Nick?). Just when you think they must be tired by now, the album closes with the brilliant upbeat track 'Go To War', and the compulsion to just listen to the twelve tracks all over again is hard to resist.
I've always banged on about Vega in the past, and it's true that they are right up my alley as far as melodic rock is concerned. They can handle speed when needed, but also put a lot of soul into a passionate ballad too. Keyboards are mixed in very well, and whenever Marcus Thurston gets a chance to let loose on guitar he always gives it serious welly (let him do an instrumental, guys).Consistently impressive, always fun and sometimes sober, Vega are a band who should be palling around with the big boys on the big stage, but part of me still loves the fact I can see them in small venues. If you haven't discovered them yet you really need to get the album and a ticket for the tour, because to be this good takes Vega...
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Jamea Christian has a long, distinguished history in melodic rock, for his tenure with House of Lords, his songwriting and also for his three solo albums released over the last quarter century, now joined by this, the fourth to come out under his name. Whilst Christian is a known songwriter himself, on "Craving" he has been helped out by Tommy Denander, Chris Pelcer, Jimi Bell, Clif Magness, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Richard Hymas, Charlie Mason and Jeff Kent, so I was expecting a bit of a mixed bag.
A quick peruse of the tracklisting reveals a distinctly, um, Christian slant, and by that I mean the religion rather than the man. I mean, obviously there's a Christian (the man) slant, as it's his bleedin' album! 'Heaven Is A Place In Hell', 'Jesus Wept', 'If There's A God' and 'Pray' make me double check this isn't the new Stryper album, but when the music starts it's definitely of a wimpier nature so everything is OK. 'Heaven Is A Place In Hell' kicks things off in a nice, lively manner, aggressively melodic and making good use of Chritian's raspy, tuneful vocals. Follow up 'Wild Boys' is a bouncy affair that's pretty good but really loses out by leaving the guitars at the back of the mix, whilst the title track is an acoustic affair that is a pretty nice tune. A mixed bag? Definitely. 'Jesus Wept' is a mid paced melodic track that really hits the spot with a smooth refrain, 'World of Possibility' is a rather stale acoustic number, whilst 'Sidewinder' is another upbeat guitar fuelled aggressive melodic number and it certainly looks like a pattern has formed, and it contunues til the end, where the album limps home with the dull as ditchwater 'Pray'. Before that, however, we do get possibly the best track, the in your face 'Black Wan't Black', featuring some sweet guitar widdling from Jimi Bell.
So with 'Cracing' James Christian has delivered a package that mixes acoustic tracks, mid range smoothies and hard hitting melodic rockers in equal measure. The heavier tracks all work very well, as do the mid paced ones for the most part, but a couple of the acousticnumbers are so damn syrupy and devoid of charm that they totally disrupt the flow of the album. Despite this, there's a lot of good music here, and Christian's vocals are as good as ever, but too mahy cooks make this broth less sweet than it could have been.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Some of you may be aware of Whitecross and Guardian, two Christian rock bands from a while back. What we have here is a merging of members from both bands to form a new unit playing songs from the collective back catalogue. It's not a terrible idea and I can see them going down well on the live circuit. Neither bands have split, by the way, it's just that these guys are the ones who want to tour more than the others.
So we get Jamie Rowe (vocals) and David Bach (bass) from Guardian, paired with Michael Feighan (drums) and Rex Carroll (guitars) from Whitecross, and as they are lovely, cuddly Christain pals they go very well together. The 'Revival' EP is really a taster for their prospective audience to show that the whole thing works, and unsurprisingly it has a decent selection of tracks, given the back catalogue they had to choose from. 'Enough Is Enough' from Whitecross is a jaunty, crunchy opener, nicely matched by Guardian's 'The Rain'. There are also two versiions of Guardian's powerful ballad 'Never Say Goodbye' in English and Spanish (I assume because they have fans south of the border) and a cover of Hendix's 'Spanish Castle Magic'. Whitecross tracks 'In The Kingdom' and 'Top Of The World' flesh out the playlist nicely, and the end result is a tidy collection of God-centric rock tunes. Jamie Rowe does a fine job with the Whitecross material, and all four members come accross as tight.
There's only 1000 CDs and 300 red vinyl records available of this EP, so it you like the idea then pick one up fast. Good songs well played is always a nice draw, and even this old Atheist enjoyed it so those blessed with faith keep your eyes peeled for this holy team up.
LABEL: KIVEL RECORDS
REVIEW BY:ALAN HOLLOWAY
Romeo Riot are a sort of supergroup, mainly if you're a big fan of Kivel records. For me, the real draw was the inclusion in the band of one Jace Pawlak, noted songwriter and keyboard player (as well as a nifty vocalist in his own right), and I've been waiting to get my ears wrapped round a copy. As you can see from the rating I was not disaapointed, and if you like quality AOR neither will you be.
What you have here are ten knock-it-out-of-the-park upbeat melodic rock winners, and whilst I don't have an inlay or album credits the songs are very comparable to those on Pawlak's last solo album but with lower register vocals. Those vocals belong to Mark Giovi, late of Farcry, and he has one of those voices that is hugely melodic but with a slight edge to it that works beautifully. One of Pawlak's songs 'Every Now & Then' appears on both albums, with the different vocalist turning it into quite a different experience, despite the very similar arrangement. It's one of two ballads unwisely both on the latter half of the album (makes it unbalanced), but with that said they both, along with every single other track, hit the aural sweet spot. It's so hard to pick out favourites as they all qualify - there's more fun and bounce here than a trampoline factory. You've got the high enegry opening duo of 'Room To Run'and 'Streets Of Babylon', or the more crunchy 'Same' and finish off with the upbeat glory of album closer 'Twist of Fate' (very Night Ranger), and there's still six other tracks to choose from, all with their own claims to being the best one. Well bugger it I really can't decide so I guess I'll just have to listen to 'em all again.... and again.
'Sing It Loud' is one of those AOR records that makes you remember why you got into this type of music in the first place. It's so hard to fault that I've given up trying, and can't reccommend it highly enough. It's very rare that I give a full five out of five to an album, but I can't see any reason to drop any marks here. Melodic rock perfectoon can be yours, so go out and get some.
band facebook page
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
REVEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
It's hard to believe that Issa released her first albumway back in 2010, pushed as the new femme fatale of the melodic rock world, with sexy photo shoots taking prominence over the music. Of course, it helped that the music was solid as you like, and it's been great to see her contiunue to release high quality albums. 'Run With The Pack' is album number five, and although not as good as 2015s 'Crossfire' it still keeps Issa's name at the higher end of any connoisseurs' lists.
As usual, Issa's vocal skills are prominent from the beginning as she breathes life into every song here, aided on 'Sacrifice Me' by Deen Castronovo. the two main differences from 'Crossfire' are the songwriters and the main guitarist. Gone are James and Tom Martin (of VEGA fame) as songwriters and band members, and in comes a smorgasbord of new writers, including Bob Mitchell, Glenn Ballard and the ever present Alessandro Del Vecchio. The guitars have been handed to Simon Mularoni, and to be fair his widdling is a constant standout throughout the album. The songs themselves are all prefectly acceptable, but if I'm honest they just aren't as exciting as the ones on 'Crossfire'. That said, none of them could be described as poor in any way, it's just that I'm nodding my head and tapping my feet rather than punching the air. Unusually for me my favourite track is a slow(ish) one, 'The Sound Of Yesterday', where Issa gets to show real passion and strength. She's one of those vocalists who is a ballad writer's dream, and soars when allowed to get her teeth into a tune.
'Run With The Pack' slots nicely into Issa's repertoire, but treads water rather than breaking new ground. It's well produced (by Del Vecchio) and will certainly be welcomed by fans, but the feeling that there's something missing, however small, still haunts me every time I listen to it. If you like fun melodic rock with great vocals then you really can't go wrong here, so give Issa a try if you haven't already.
Issa's Official facebook
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of FM (old and new), so it stands to reason I'd like their new album. The things is, I hope those people would also realise that I wouldn't ever give them a free pass just because of who they are. After the excellent 'Heroes & Villains' from a couple of years ago, though, I'll admit I didn't have too many concerns over the quality that was likely to emerge.
Straight off, it's clear 'Atomic Generation' will appeal to those who enjoyed the previous album, with opener 'Blac Magic' coming off not a million miles away from that album's 'Digging Up The Dirt' opener. Solid, punchy and catchy, it's a good opening statement though. Second track 'Too much Of A Good Thing' is oddly placed, as it's a slower track that, whilst catchy, is possibly the weakes on the album. Fortunately it all comes to life again with the standout track 'Killed By Love', a ridculously catchy melodic rock gem, the crunchy 'In It For The Money' and the smooth melody of 'Golden Days', a nostalgic tune that stays with the listener. there's been a bit of divided opinion over 'Playing Tricks On Me', which has been released as an advance track, mainly because it really sounds like it should be on a Carlos Santana album, and this is pretty accurate if Carlos had Steve Overland's golden tonsils. Either way, it's a REALLY catchy song that can be enjoyed by rockers and Radio 2 fans alike, and I can see why it was included here. The second half of the album is as strong as the first, rocking out with the likes of 'Make The Best of What You've Got' and 'Follow Your Heart' and closing with the really beautiful 6 minute ballad 'Love Is A Lie', a track that will either move you toi tears or bore the arse off you. Me, I liked it.
'Atomic Generation' is a perfect representation of where FM are in 2018, with straightforward AOR mixed with more creative styles, all held together by a band that are tighter than Scrooge McDuck's purse strings. There's plenty here for those who like to sing along, with nothing to offend anybody in any way whatsoever. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and enjoy an album of melodic rock growers, and that time is now. Defininitely my sort of generation.
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Whilst Jurassic Park was an adventre 65 million years (give or take) in the making, the debut album from Ireland's No Not Ashes has been brewing for just 35 years, since the band's formation way back in 1983. Although they were singned in 1988 and recorded an album it was never released. This, however, is not that album, as after reforming in 2013 and finding out people still liked AOR they've recorded a fresh new album for our listening pleasure, and a pleasure it is.
Whilst nine of the ten tracks here are fresh as a daisy (although one is a cracking cover of Rick Springfield's 'Souls'), I guess we should start with 'I'm Back', the sole survivor from the band's original days. It says a lot that if pressed to pick the older song without any othert information I wouldn't have had a clue, as 'I'm Back' slips into the middle of the album without any surface ripples at all. All ten tracks here are of a similar quality, and that quality is high. Laid back, melodic AOR with a blues edge, No Hot Ashes show a real understanding of what makes a good song. Straight off the bat, opener 'Come Alive' showcases this with a solid rhythm, a sweet riff, nifty guitar solo and fine melodic vocals from Eamon Nancarrow. 'Good To Look Back' ups the ante with an even catchier refrain coupled with a nice inclusion of a strong keyboard presence, and it's clear that the album is going to be a keeper. Sure enough, there's not a duffer in sight, with melody piled upon melody throughout, mixed with a little funk and blues when approriate.
No Hot Ashes may not have got their shot back in the day, but against the odds they've come back to become a genuine melodic rock prospect. Seriously, this will be one of the best purchases you make this year if you like quality AOR played with a genuine passion. Me, I'm looking forward to seeing them on tour and singing along with each excellent track .Hot stuff indeed, just don't confuse them with the other No Hot Ashes band because you will certainly come off with the concolation prize.
official facebook page
Saturday, March 24, 2018
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Fifteen albums and about twice as many line up changes have caused some to wonder if this is even Bonfire any more, but guitarist Hans Ziller owns the name and as long as he's in charge then Bonfire will be the name of the band, except when it's EZ Livin', Charade etc etc. Of course, when you get down to it, it's all about how good the music is, and Ziller certainly doesn't tend to put put crap if he can help it, si maybe don't light those torches just yet.
"Temple Of Lies" kicks off with the now standard wanky intro piece that tells of the legend of the Temple Of Lies like it's a frickin' concept album (it's not). At least it's improved by some serious guitar widdling as it goes into the title track. This is where things get interesting, as it's really pretty darned good, with a serious crunch, power and melody that works well, bolstered by the powerful vocals of Alexx Stahl, on his second album with the band. After this things continue to be interesting, with "Wings Of An Angel" and "Feed The Fire" giving way to the fist-in-the-air catchy "Stand Or Fall". this may not be the Bonfire of old, but this new Bonfire can seriously rock, with Ziller's guitarwork underpinning everything rather brilliantly. Seriously, the man can work a fretboard with the best of them. The most AOR track is the melodic "Fly Away", probably my favourite on the labum, with the sole ballad, "Comin Home" being the only track that I will end up deleting as it's a bit shite.
With thsi album, Bonfire come accross as a band determined to show the naysayers that they still have what it takes, and I'm convinced that they do. Ziller shines throughout and Stahl suits the music nicely, and whilst plenty of it is by the book melodic hard rock it's so well done it's a pleasure to listen to. Definitely the surprise of the month for me, "Temple Of Lies" is proof that the 'fire is still burning brightly.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway
Greybeards may sound like some prog rock outfir comprised of septuagenarian musos, but in reality they are a bunch of young, hip Swedes who like to belt out uncompromising hard rock not a million miles away from Foo Fighters at their most fluid and aggressive.
'For The Wilder Minds' is the second effort from the band, following on nicely from their debut 'Learning To Fly'. They've been flying round the world on the back of that for two years now, and although the new album isn't a leap forward musically it delights in following it's predecessor's footsteps. This will certainly be good news to those who liked Greybeards style of straightforward rock with good melody and a galloping pace. There's no guitar heroics, no super silky vocals, just head down music that will either energise or bore you. Personally, I found myself somewhere inbetween, as I certainly like listening the likes of 'Fast Asleep', (the new single) or humming along to the catchy 'One In A Billion', but whilst the album is a snappy ten tracks long the lack of variety can mean full playthroughs are not as enticing as quick listens to certain tracks.
Full on, ferociuos and fun, 'For The Wilder Minds' is a solid follow up for Greaybeards and will appeal to anyone who liked the debut or looks back wistfully at the time when Foo Fighters still had big balls of steel.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Label: Self- release
Review by Martien Koolen
Crazy Cult Roadshow is a Dutch hard rock/metal band from the beautiful south of The Netherlands. After two impressive Eps, the four piece band, consisting of Roel Peijs (vocals), Steven van der Vegt (bass, keys, vocals), Krit Verbeek (guitars) and Kiki Beemer (drums and vocals), now release their full length debut album on vinyl. The self-titled album contains 10 songs and these tracks form an apocalyptic roller coaster ride of rock, metal, rock and roll, grunge and stoner music; so get ready to bang your head!! Opener "Luring Lights" sets the tone for the rest of the record: mean heavy guitar riffs, "brutal", rough vocals, pounding drums and more than excellent guitar solos. "Closure", which is already a well-known cult song in Limburg, features a very catchy opening, extremely raw vocals from Peijs and a ferocious guitar solo at the three minute mark! Other tracks like "Fistful Of Boomstick" with a more than excellent bass guitar riff or the experimental, almost instrumental "That Thing From Another Planet" kind of remind me of bands like Monster Magnet and Hawkwind; so really awesome. Suitable for a single would be the song "Ride The Fuzz", as that one really has an addictive chorus. This excellent album ends with a song called "Risky Business", which again features a nasty guitar hook and a splendid howling guitar solo. Crazy Cult Roadshow can be very proud of this album, so check it out, buy it, and play it f... LOUD and keep on banging your head and screaming along till your voice stops making noise!!! This is already one of the great surprises of this rock year, so do not miss this release!
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
LABEL: MeloidicRock Records
REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway
British rockers Burn have certainly trodden a troubled path on the way to 'Ice Age', their fourth album in 25 years. Founding members Marc and Barney Stackhouse have kept the fire burning over the years on and off, resurrecting the band in 2007 for the very highly rated 'Global Warning' album, but even a triumphant appearence at Firefest in 2008 didn't end up being the glue that kept the band together for good. As we all know, though, you can't keep good musicians down, and Burn are back once more with a new secret weapon or two in their armoury.
So what do you do if you want a lead singer who can handle the material, has a ridiculous amount of experience and a built in fan base? Simple - you call Steve Newman. As you should be well aware, Newman in a bit of a veteran at this melodic rock thing, and apparently was very happy to be part of a band without his name on it, especially one with the quality of songs Burn were offering. The other secret weapon is guitarist Chris Green (Furyon, Tyketto and more), who brings a very high standard with the benefit of being used to botgh AOR and metal. What could go wrong?
the simple answer is 'nothing'. Seriously, there is nothing at all wrong with 'Ice Age', which really grinds my gears as I can't take the piss. Okay, so it's got a wanky intro at the beginning, but that's just a personal annoyance and I can always skip it. As for the rest, the only accurate thing to say is 'wow'. Straight away things get chunky and melodic with 'Irontown', a song that I guarantee you'll be singing along with during the first listen. As it's the lead track you can go listen to it now on YouTube, and trust me it's a VERY hard song to dislike. One thing that's apparent is Steve Newman is really on fine voice here, raising his register slightly at times to fit in perfectly with the songs. The songs themselves, meanwhile, are some of the best I've heard for a while now. The songwriting is a real band effort, with guitarist Phil Hammond collaborating with Barney, Chris and Steve on most of the songs, and they seem like they've been hammered into shape by people who really care about what they're doing and won't let a song out of it's cage until it's ready.
'Ice Age' is a triumph, full of meaty rock tracks with a ton of melody, beautifully mixed by Tobias Lindell. There's a few songs where it slows down, like the soulful 'Wasreland', but it doesn't adversely affect the album as a whole, simply because every song is a winner in it's own way. There's a proper bluesy vibe to it, but with big handfuls of AOR as well, like Hand Of Dimes or Whitesnake of old. the cover, although fitting the title, is a bit shite but don't let it put you off in any way. 'Ice Age' is an absolute stonker of a melodic rock album that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in well crafted, catchy rock music. Never before have I been so happy to be Burned...
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Label: Mascot Records
Review by Martien Koolen
Family Tree is the sixth album by (blues) rockers Black Stone Cherry and in my humble opinion it belongs to one of their best so far as on this album their sound is really unique. Their music being a mix of Cream, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, rock and roll, blues and rock really comes to life on Family Tree; just listen to the amazing opening track Bad Habit and you will be hooked.
This new album contains 13 tracks and the musical highlights are numerous, take for example Carry Me On Down The Road (heavy rock and roll with great wah-wah guitar solos), Get Me Over You (funky Lynyrd Skynyrd-like southern rock), Bad Habit (heavy, up tempo with a bluesy guitar solo) and the title track, a mid tempo blues rock stomper with a melodic slide guitar solo. However the very best song is without any doubt Dancing In The Rain, a mid tempo blues rocker where the guitars dominate, featuring guitar legend Warren Haynes. Family Tree was sell-produced and Chris Robertson (guitars/vocals) mixed the album and this resulted into an excellent up to date blues-based rock album of the highest quality. Highly recommended, so be sure to check it out!