Saturday, March 25, 2017

OSUKARU - The Labyrinth (2017)

OSUKARU - The Labyrinth (2017) full

Lead by melodic rock fighter Oz Osukaru, his band OSUKARU is back on track with their fourth full length album titled "The Labyrinth". This time the Swedish five piece offers us their first concept album, which is lyric wise a love letter to classic fantasy movies from the '80s - in particular the 1986 flick 'Labyrinth'.
Music wise "The Labyrinth" sees Osukaru taking one step forward into their already established AOR-with-an-edge territory, raising the guitar riffs and the melodies just another notch.

While the movie bombed in the theaters in 1986, Labyrinth has become an enduring cult favorite. Featuring a young Jennifer Connelly (Beautiful Mind, et al) and avant garde musician David Bowie, the film was a cooperation between Muppet creator Jim Henson and Star Wars genius George Lucas.
This inspired guitarist Oscar Oz Petersson aka Oz Osukaru and his band for the new album, and resulted in a cool story wrapped by melodic rocking sounds.

Much like his previous effort Transition, Osukaru sticks to his AOR melodic hard rock path, maybe slightly punchier than before.
Being a guitarist and principal songwriter, most every song revolves around his brisk and harmonious riffs and the abundance of fiery lead guitar work. The band's vocals turn on both male and female vocalists, often in tandem as with 'The Stories We Tell' or the power ballad 'Undying Rose'.

Musically, I found many of the songs to be sharper, heavier, and more forceful than past material. The AOR accessibility and groove remain, but many songs, thanks to Petersson's riffage, have a definite edge to them, including 'The Offering', 'Voodoo (Who Do?)', and 'Edge Of Night', to name a few.
More keyboard driven are 'It's Only Forever' and one of my favorites, 'Edge Of Night'. Also, we found some nice saxophone work, as usual on all Osukaru releases.

OSUKARU - The Labyrinth (2017) inside

You'll enjoy Osukaru's "The Labyrinth" for several reasons. One, they simply deliver the type of '80s stuff we all love: Osukaru is very good at creating AOR / melodic hard rock. Second, you may like the movie Labyrinth and want to hear Osukaru's spin on it.
Both aspects work flawlessly, and Osukaru has strengthened his production skills resulting in a very solid record with a bright sound.
Highly Recommended.

01 - Maze of Mind
02 - The Stories We Tell
03 - Voices In the Dark
04 - Edge of Night
05 - It's Only Forever
06 - Voodoo (Who Do?)
07 - Poisonous
08 - Undying Rose
09 - The Offering
10 - Moonlight Silhouette

Fredrik Werner – Vocals, Guitars
Oz Osukaru – Guitars, Keyboards
Vidar Mårtensson – Drums
Lisa Eugenia – Keyboards, Vocals
Olof Gadd – Bass



Friday, March 24, 2017

LIONCAGE - The Second Strike (2017)

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"The Second Strike" is the long awaited sophomore effort from German melodic rockers LIONCAGE. A band formed around three guys having beers at an European rock festival should have some promise, even success.
That's how it began for Thorsten Bertermann (vocals), Torsten Landsberger (drums) and Lars Konig (guitar), who formed Lioncage to play their original music deeply rooted in classic melodic rock / AOR with little West Coast touches.

Lioncage cites the usual musical suspects as both peers and influences: Toto, Foreigner, Journey, Huey Lewis, Paul Carrack, Chicago, among others. Their music is large on big melodies, bigger hooks, harmony in vocal and guitar parts, and plenty of groove in the rhythm section.
Guest musicians (including the great Tim Pierce on guitar) add bass and a flourish of keyboards to give the songs a lush feeling and, often, that touch of aforementioned West Coast breeze.

Kicking off with ‘Mysterious Angel’ Lioncage serve up some nice warm and fuzzy West Coast feel AOR that proves that music can be the equivalent of ‘comfort food’.
‘Lights’ is similarly light AOR, while the classy ‘Sunrise’ adds keys to great effect and has an understated infusion of a little Pomp. If you like those you really can’t go wrong here as everything else is equally pleasant and more than capably executed.
More highlights include the laid back ‘Other Side of the Moon’, the harder chug of ‘When Dragons Fall’, the cool atmosphere of ‘Journeyman’ and the faster guitar-led closer ‘Save The Day’.

LIONCAGE - The Second Strike (2017) back

On this, their second outing Lioncage has come into its own. There’s a huge amount of confidence and no little finesse on offer here.
Perhaps the most significant feature of "The Second Strike" is that it's better than the first album, has stronger songwriting and punch than its predecessor thanks to the guitar lines, which may propel the band to greater heights and more fans in the future.

Inherently then, in this album, there's a new balance, even juxtaposition, of strength and sweetness.
If elegant Melodic Rock / AOR is where your heart lies then you need to listen to "The Second Strike", you won’t regret it.
Highly Recommended

01 - Mysterious Angel
02 - Lights
03 - Sunrise
04 - The Other Side of the Moon
05 - When Dragons Fall
06 - Journeyman
07 - Let It In
08 - Secrets
09 - The Inner Circle
10 - Colours
11 - Save the Day

Thorsten Bertermann (vocals)
Torsten Landsberger (drums)
Lars König (guitars)
additional musicians:
Tim Pierce: Guitars on 8
Lars Slowak: Bass
Sven Zimmermann: Bass
Andreas Laude-Schwedewsky: Bass
Dirk Meyer: Bass
Mitch Knauer: keyboards
Shanger Ohl: keyboards
Madeleine Lang, Anja Bublitz, Olaf Senkbeiland, Billy King: Backing vocals



Thursday, March 23, 2017

VIANA - Viana (2017)

VIANA - Viana (2017) full

Co-written / produced by talented Alessandro Del Vecchio, (who also does the lead vocals) VIANA is the new awesome Melodic Rock project by Italian guitarist Stefano Viana. The self-titled debut CD to be released tomorrow features excellent session musicians such as Alessandro Mori on drums (well-known for their collaboration with artists such as Hardline, Tarja or Ted Poley) and Gabriele Gozzi (Skill In Veins, Killer Klown) among others.

Amazed by guitar hero Randy Rhoads, Stefano Viana takes up the guitar at age of 16, when the glorious '80s Hard Rock was at its highest splendor. Influenced by artists like Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne and Y&T, Stefano starts recording his first songs in 1996.
He self-produced two unreleased albums and, during the works on the second he met Alessandro Del Vecchio, asking him to get involved in the production of his first official solo album.

Now 2017 Viana's dream became a reality, and let me tell you he can be extremely proud as "Viana" will be - already is - one of the best Melodic Rock debuts of the year.
We have here 10 tracks of beautifully crafted melodies, superb musicianship, killer choruses and top notch production.
Del Vecchio at the mic confirms another of his infinite abilities, while Stefano Viana showcases his skills on the six-trings and good taste.

Just the opening track "Straight Between Our Hearts" worth the disc purchase. Think the best Terra Nova moments mixed with Bad Habit, some Lionville, a pinch of Houston and you got it. Melodic Rock / AOR of the highest order.
Yeah, the remaining tracks are equally captivating; the punchy 'Bad Signs', the AOR little gem 'Feel Your Love Tonight', the exquisite ballad of 'Follow The Dawn', the killer chorus of 'Living A Lie'... and so on.

"Viana" is one of the surprises of the year, and believe me, if you love your Melodic Rock / AOR delivered with that late '80s magic (but with an updated, vibrant sound) you simply can't miss Viana's debut.

01 - Straight Between Our Hearts
02 - Bad Signs
03 - Feel Your Love Tonight
04 - Night of Fire
05 - Follow the Dawn
06 - A New Love
07 - Living a Lie
08 - Just to Sing
09 - Open Road
10 - That Place Is You

Alessandro Del Vecchio - Vocals
Stefano Viana - Guitars
Francesco Marras - Guitars
Anna Portalupi - Bass
Alessandro Mori - Drums
Pasquale India - Keyboards
Gabriele Gozzi - Backing Vocals
Written & Produced by Stefano Viana & Alessandro Del Vecchio



DIRTY WHITE BOYZ - Down And Dirty (2017)

BLACK ACES - Shot In The Dark [European CD version +3] (2016) full

The songs included in "Down And Dirty", the cracking debut of DIRTY WHITE BOYZ to be released tomorrow, were once intended to be a solo album from singer, songwriter & guitarist Tony Mitchell (Kiss of the Gypsy, Kingdom of Deadmen). While recording some tracks he decided to pitch some demos to various labels. Escape Music dialed up Mitchell suggesting he flesh out his tunes with some British talent.

At first it was intended to be a collaboration for the recording, but soon morphed into a full-time band baptized Dirty White Boyz, including veteran Paul Hume (guitar) from legends Demon, Neil Ogden (drums) from Lawless, talented Nigel Bailey (bass) from Bailey, Lifeline and Three Lions, and Jamie Crees (guitar) also from Lawless.
With such impressive line-up, my expectations were immediately flying high. And Dirty White Boyz delivers.

The sound is instantly recognizable. Mitchell and his Dirty White Boyz deliver the true classic melodic hard goods. This music is straight out of its '80s roots, spiced with a classic metal edge, a touch of blues, and then crafted with accessibility and catchiness, at places close to AOR.
The tunes are large on twin guitar harmony with sharp riffs and assertive feisty leads. The rhythm section has a deep sound and a solid groove. And Mitchell has a true, rather straight-forward and clean, rock vocal style, maybe a tad whiskey raspy, but always passionate.

For pure classic feeling and groove, notably with that AOR glimmer, look to 'Playin' Dirty', 'Hangin' On A Heartache', and 'Waitin' For This Feelin' (all which the lack of the "g" in "ing").
Some edge comes within the faster 'Hell To Pay' and the heavier, lightly bluesy 'All In The Name Of Rock 'n Roll'. A slice of British bluesy traditional hard rock comes with the grinding 'Bring It On'.
'Rise' delivers something of an arena anthem offering a fine melody, pleasing vocal arrangement, flashy guitar work, and a catchy refrain. A true ballad comes with 'Ride With Angels', where you'll find Mitchell and company stealing a page out of the Bon Jovi playbook. The song has the timbre of Bed Of Roses, but maybe not quite as powerful and dramatic.

Whether by fate or the the musical muses, Mitchell took the right advice and made the right move recording 'Down And Dirty' with the full crew of Dirty White Boyz. These musicians are top notch and all have learned the melodic hard rock lesson on the road and playing for more than thirty years.
Strong and entertaining collection of songs finely recorded & produced.
HIGHLY Recommended

01 - All She Wrote
02 - Dynamite
03 - Hangin On A Heartache
04 - Ride With Angels
05 - Playin Dirty
06 - Rise
07 - Waiting For This Feelin
08 - Sanctuary
09 - Hell To Pay
10 - All In The Name Of Rock N Roll
11 - After The Rain
12 - Bring It On

Tony Mitchell (Kiss Of The Gypsy) - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboard
Paul Hume (Demon, Lawless) - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jamie Crees (Lawless) - Guitars
Nigel Bailey (Three Lions) - Bass, Backing Vocals
Neil Ogden (Demon, Lawless) - Drums, Backing Vocals



BROTHER FIRETRIBE - Sunbound (2017)

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Finland's BROTHER FIRETRIBE, the five-strong outfit that we are never sure will be able to make a ‘next’ album thanks to the demands of Nightwish placed upon guitarist, Emppu Vuorinen, have found a slot in the diary, cleared the schedules, stepped up to the plate and pulled 12 tracks out of the hat to deliver their fourth album "Sunbound".
And what a great AOR album it is.

While Brother Firetribe have been often compared to Survivor (or copycats), they're in fact strongly influenced by all '80s US AOR. Perhaps the comparison resides on Pekka Heino (Leverage) vocal tone. He sounds uncannily like Jimi Jamison, delivering the catchy choruses with panache and aplomb surrounded by the ever-present keyboards of Tomppa Nikulainen.
But don't be fooled, what Brother Firetribe bring to the table as well is modern Scandinavian melodic rock with Vuorinen’s signature guitar work that set the band apart from so many modern pretenders.

Opening with an instrumental track, the album immediately brings to mind that arena sound that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a certain boxing underdog franchise. It leads immediately into ‘Help Is On The Way’, a track that harks back to the style that drew people to the band when their ‘False Metal’ debut was released back in 2006. The solo from Emppu reaffirms why the band present a different, original and modern take on the genre and as it merges into the lick that opens future single ‘Indelible Heroes’ it’s clear, only 2 full songs in, that the album is going to be a winner.

If the aim is to reinvigorate and re-energise a musical style that contains hooks galore, massive melodies, vocals that soar so high they leave you gasping for oxygen, then Brother Firetribe succeed.
“Follow your heart and relive the taste of a champion”, so sings Pekka on the lead single. If Hollywood ever decides to remake the aforementioned boxing franchise, they have the lead single ready and waiting to go. The song has already been used as the theme for a major Finnish advertising campaign and it’s no surprise, it’s the sort of song that only needs 30 seconds to bed itself into the brain.

‘Shock’ with its anthemic chant along chorus should become a highlight of a live set if and when we get to see the band perform again. Prolific touring is not their strongest attribute but when one of you is the lead guitarist in Nightwish, well, it’s not surprising.
‘Strangled’ also delivers a powerhouse track with Pekka’s vocals really driving the song from start to finish.

BROTHER FIRETRIBE - Sunbound (2017) inside

Even the song titles remind us of a time when AOR ruled the airwaves and bands like Foreigner and Survivor were commonplace on the radio; ‘Heart of the Matter’, ‘Restless Heart’, ‘Big City Dream’ all suggest people moving to L.A. to live the West Coast dream. It’s sun, sea and surf, pretty good from a band whose country is swathed in darkness for half the year.
They save the best for last though and with ‘Phantasmagoria’, they deliver five minutes of epic melodic rock, opening with a beat that feels like it could be the opening music to ‘Top Gun II’ should it ever get made.

"Sunbound" is a superb return for Brother Firetribe, a marked improvement over the previous release and an album that delivers everything we have come to hope for from the Finns. And that is pure '80s AOR with a modern approach, done like few can do it in 2017.
AORsters, this is a Mandatory Listen

01. Sunbound
02. Help Is On The Way
03. Indelible Heroes
04. Taste Of A Champion
05. Last Forever
06. Give Me Tonight
07. Shock
08. Strangled
09. Heart Of The Matter
10. Restless Heart
11. Big City Dream
12. Phantasmagoria

Vocals - Pekka Ansio Heino
Guitars - Emppu Vuorinen
Keyboards - Tomi Nikulainen
Bass, Backing vocals - Jason Flinck
Drums - Hannes Pirilä



BONFIRE - Byte The Bullet (2017)

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After the release of their long desired double-album Pearls and the super successful 30th Anniversary 2016 Tour, BONFIRE have been busy recording the material for their brand new studio album “Byte The Bullet”, which will be released through UDR Music on March 24th, 2017.

A turning point for the band happened almost two years ago when Bonfire released 'Glorious' an album that contained very good songs with a singer that also was a perfect match. Next to Bonfire’s main man Hans Ziller it was David Reece who gave each of the songs a strong identity. The energy level was raising and it felt like the band’s coming back. This trend was fed by 'Pearls' that included many re-arranged / re-recorded Bonfire classics.

While the line-up on guitar, bass and drums showed some consistency it was the role of the singer that was the more fragile element in the group. David Reece left the band in Summer 2016 and a replace was found in no time. Talented German singer Michael Bormann joined and thing looked like getting back into shallow waters. Nobody could foresee that 2 months later the news was spread that Bormann left again.

Fortunately Ziller could hire with Alexx Stahl a new singer rather quickly and Bonfire could continue working on the next longplayer “Byte the Bullet”. And Stahl is a real find, his powerful vocals perfectly suit Bonfire 2017.
The opener "Power Train" sets the scene, a killer song and with seven minutes a surprisingly long one too. What's better is the second shot on this tracklist. "Stand Up 4 Rock" is a powerful rocker that comes with a good punch, a catchy melody and chorus that's made for live show.

The power ballad "Without You" highlight’s Bonfire’s passion for such songs, and shows that new singer Alexx Stahl is more than capable of slowing things down as well as belting out songs.
There's a great cover of Jethro Tull’s "Locomotive Breath" which Bonfire turned it into a powerful hard rock number with a modern punch
The groovy "Some Kinda Evil" provides some classic hard rock touch, followed by "Lonely Nights" which is much more in the trademark Bonfire melodic hard style, and in the end we have a new version of "Sweet Obsession" (which of course made it’s first appearance on their legendary 1987 album ‘Fireworks‘) that rounds off the album in great style.

BONFIRE - Byte The Bullet (2017) back

With “Byte The Bullet” Bonfire are releasing their strongest album since 'Point Blank' (1989), and that's saying alot!
It comes with songs that are fresh, dynamic, melodic and powerful. And the fact that the guys teamed up with UDR Records feeds the hope of a sustainable continuation of this revitalized German Melodic Hard Rock institution.
HIGHLY Recommended

01 - Power Train
02 - Stand up 4 Rock
03 - Praying 4 A Miracle
04 - Some Kinda Evil
05 - Lonely Nights
06 - Byte The Bullet
07 - Locomotive Breath
08 - Reach For The Sky
09 - Sweet Surrender
10 - Friedensreich
11 - InstruMetal
12 - Too Far from Heaven
13 - Without You
14 - Sweet Obsession

Alexx Stahl: Vocals
Hans Ziller: Guitars
Frank Pané: Guitars
Ronnie Parkes: Bass
Tim Breideband: Drums



ALDARIA - Land Of Light (2017)

ALDARIA - Land Of Light (2017) full

Two years in the making and with a cast of all-star musicians, Memorized Dreams' guitarist Frode Hovd introduces his new project, ALDARIA, and debut album, "Land Of Light", to be released tomorrow.
As for the participants, the involved musicians are a who's who of melodic metal in Europe, including talented bassist Mike LePond, shouter Rick Altzi, legendary Roland Grapow on guitars and many, many more.

"Land Of Light" tells a story place in the future, a mixture of sci-fi, fantasy, and apocryphal Christian themes, but let's concentrate in the music and the overall concept.
Hovd's musical focus for Aldaria, is essentially inspired by the Tobias Sammet and Avantasia book of "how to do" a metal concept record. That's not to say that Aldaria is like having warmed up leftovers for dinner. But the overarching approach to the project of this kind is the same.
Hovd wrote the story and the music, then got a pleiad of very talented musicians to perform the music for him.

At the core the music is traditional melodic metal with a strong Euro feel, then swiftness of power metal is tossed in, and maybe some mild progressive metal twists. Then add some synth orchestral layers to give the arrangements some lush depth. Guitar solos are abundant and swirl, performed by various players into the same song.
Among the strongest cuts there's the rapid 'Test Of Time', 'Answers In A Dream', and the groovy 'Where Reality Ends'. Also the excellent, slower anthem 'Trail Of Tears' which builds upon a strong piano line, synth orchestration, and the voice of Mathias Blad, also from Falconer.
But the bottom line here is that it all works together and sounds equally impressive.

ALDARIA - Land Of Light (2017) back

While the 'metal opera' or 'various artists into a massive project' is not new to us, Frode Hovd's Aldaria with their debut "Land Of Light" delivers a fine album of epic and entertaining melodic metal, progressive, etc.
If you like Tobias Sammet / Avantasia be sure to check this very well recorded album.

1. Excitare ad Lucem

2. Another Life
Lead Vocals: Rick Altzi, Kristoffer Göbel & Todd Michael Hall
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Roland Grapow (Guitars) Uli Kusch (Drums), Rayner Harøy (Bass) Peter Danielsen (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar), David Åkesson (Backing Vocals)

3. Guardians Of The Light
Lead Vocals: Yannis Papadopoulos & David Åkesson
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Andreas Nergård (Drums),
Rayner Harøy (Bass) Filip Andel (Bass) Mistheria (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar), Christian Palin (Synths)

4. Sands Of Time
Lead Vocals: Vasilis Georgiou & Mina Giannopoulou
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar, Synths), Andreas Nergård (Drums), Rayner Harøy (Bass)
Mistheria (Synths & Piano), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar)

5. Lost In The Darkness Below
Lead Vocals: PelleK, Marit Minniva Børresen & Todd Michael Hall
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar, Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Uli Kusch (Drums), Ciacomo
Manfredi (Bass) Peter Danielsen (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar) Filip Kolus (LeadGuitar), David Åkesson (Backing Vocals) Roland Grapow (Backing Vocals)

6. Test Of Time
Lead Vocals: Tommy ReinXeed Johansson & Rob Lundgren
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Andreas Nergård (Drums),
Ronnie König (Bass) Gabriels (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar), David Åkesson
(Backing Vocals)

7. Trail Of Tears
Lead Vocals: Mathias Blad
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Orchestra arr), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Andreas Nergård
(Drums), Rayner Harøy (Bass) Mistheria (Synths & Piano), Stian Rødsjø (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar)

8. Where Reality Ends
Lead Vocals: Yannis Papadopoulos & Eli Prinsen
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Uli Kusch (Drums), Rayner
Harøy (Bass) Paolo Campitelli (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar), David Åkesson
(Backing Vocals)

9. From The Ashes
Lead Vocals: David Åkesson, Bernt Fjellestad
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Andreas Nergård (Drums), Linus Abrahamson (Lead Guitar & Bass), Peter Danielsen (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar), Eskild Kløften (Guitars) David Åkesson (Backing Vocals)

10. Answers In A Dream
Lead Vocals: Todd Michael Hall & David Åkesson
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Andreas Nergård (Drums),
Giacomo Manfredi (Bass) Peter Danielsen (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar)

11. Land Of Light
Lead Vocals: Fabio Lione, Jonas Heidgert, Kristoffer Göbel, Yannis Papadopoulos &
Siegfried Samer
Band: Frode Hovd (Guitar & Synths), Christer Harøy (Guitar) Uli Kusch (Drums), Mike
LePond (Bass) Peter Crowley (Synths), Jimmy Hedlund (Lead Guitar), David Åkesson
(Backing Vocals)

Pre Order:


STEEL PANTHER - Lower The Bar (2017)

STEEL PANTHER - Lower The Bar (2017) full

I guess all of you already know this; if you miss the days when glammy hard rock was king and big hair, make-up and incredible guitar solos ruled the airwaves, LA’s STEEL PANTHER have you covered… While their music bring you that sense of euphoria you felt when you were that age, they’re a parody band for the genre and bring a lot of fun into it. Their latest album to be released tomorrow, "Lower The Bar", has an ironic title, because they’ve done anything but with the music contained within it.
In fact, they’ve RAISED the bar for the genre on the musical side.

Screaming metal guitar, a high pitched scream and an immediate segue into a melodic refrain heralds the subtly titled ‘Goin’ in the Backdoor’ – the opener to Steel Panthers latest Hair Metal ‘smut-athon’.
You might argue a million things are wrong with Steel Panther – the politically correct I imagine steam at the very thought of such a band, the easily offended would I’m sure be pretty quickly offended, but the interesting group are those fans that actually love this type of late '80s Sleazy Hair Metal.

Steel Panther may well parody the genre but it is very well, darn well done, the riffs like on ‘Anything Goes’ and the lighter flavoured ‘Poontang Boomerang’ are the sort of riffs that hit the mark in Hollywood 1988 and the groove is pretty much spot on.
The irony of course is that this ‘joke’ band now pull in audiences far in excess of many of their ‘serious’ Eighties peers.

Musically, I’ll stick a neck out and say that "Lower the Bar" is by far Steel Panther’s musical highpoint. Close your ears to the lyrics and imagine that English is a foreign language and this album rocks.
It’s well-written, beautifully played and power ballad 'That's When You Came In' might be designed to offend with its opening foray of questionable words but hum it you f@ckers! Can’t stop can you?
It’s a song that a band like Warrant or any of their peers would have loved to squirt across the stage (with only the odd word changed perhaps) and that my friends is the great dilemma of Steel Panther – try and do this with a straight face and you’d be laughed out of the room, but do it laden with expletives and bad jokes and you are playing to packed rooms! Go figure.
Yeah, Steel Panther is one of the most successful live rock acts in America. Yeah, in 2017.

‘Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out in Beverly Hills)’ is similarly spirited and similarly smutty and of course similarly consummately executed. Jeez, these guys know how to rock, and rock they do on ‘Now the Fun Starts’ a moody low key paean to the party that has some great guitar and a terrific vibe.
‘Pussy Ain’t Free’ strikes a slightly sleazy pose as a future live anthem in the making, second power ballad ‘Wasted Too Much Time is a 'subtle' contemplation on relationships that should strike a chord with some; whilst ‘I Got What You Want’ takes it back up a notch with a real Sunset Strip scorcher plenty of keyboards and Van Halen-isms.
The album closes with two sure-fire winners; the swagger and blues of ‘Walk of Shame’ and a cover of Cheap Trick’s ‘She’s Tight’ which is nice n' catchy.

STEEL PANTHER - Lower The Bar (2017) back

Musically, "Lower The Bar" might just be Steel Panther’s best. In fact, for this genre, established bands need to start stepping up their game because, at this rate, Steel Panther is going to take the throne.
So grab your hairspray and six-pack of beer, get smashed and crank this sh*t up to 11 – "Lower The Bar" arrives on March 24th!

01 - Goin' In The Back Door
02 - Anything Goes
03 - Poontang Boomerang
04 - That's When You Came In
05 - Wrong Side Of The Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills)
06 - Now The Fun Starts
07 - Pussy Ain't Free
08 - Wasted Too Much Time
09 - I Got What You Want
10 - Walk Of Shame
11 - She's Tight

Michael Starr – lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar
Satchel – guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxx – bass, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, keyboards, piano, backing vocals



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

VAIN - Rolling With The Punches (2017)

VAIN - Rolling With The Punches (2017) full

US, San Francisco based rockers VAIN return with a new release titled "Rolling With The Punches", the follow up to their 2011 critically acclaimed album. We had to wait almost six years for a new studio CD, but well worth it as the new songs are plenty of ripping guitars & haunting vocals, and in terms of sound, while updated, bring back memories to their celebrated 1989 debut.

Indeed, "Rolling With The Punches" on many aspects (and despite the band released various albums after) it's the natural successor to Vain's debut ‘No Respect’, one of best hard rock records appeared in 1989.
Opener and title track is classic Vain – a slow burn start, simmering sexuality and guitar that perfectly drives the song along. It’s not an ‘out and out’ rocker but it manages to encapsulate all that made Vain so very special. It underlines what fans always knew – they really were a big band out the '80s that slipped under many people's radar.

‘Deliver the Passion’ starts out with that trademark Vain sound and an impassioned Davy Vain vocal phrasing, and jumps right at you and sticks on your back all the way home. It's a tour de force, fresh, immediate and so full of energy you fear for the speakers.
‘Long Gone’ is even more robust with a traditional hard rocking riff and enticing solo before Davy’s vocals come in and take over – sonically we’re in classic ‘No Respect’ territory.
‘Dark City’ takes the intensity down a notch, a moodier piece that gives a little respite and hangs on a sing-along chorus before the even moodier ‘Bury Some Pain’, which simmers and sizzles as Davy recounts his tale.

After the initial bluster, the darker side of Vain shines through with ‘It’s a Long Goodbye’ delivering a midtempo swing that makes you move and sway, crowned by a staggering spot-on solo. ‘Inside Out’ takes us up a notch in dynamics, another solid song.
We are now in top gear with ‘Don’t Let It Happen to You’ which cranks it up with a blast of guitar and drums and proceeds to build to a crescendo that is vintage Vain.

VAIN - Rolling With The Punches (2017) inside

‘Sacrifice’ starts with studio chat and a simple guitar line and voice, before exploding majestically out of music player as Davy snarls the opening lines and the guitars wail. It’s a song that mirrors that fiery opening track as does the shimmering, staccato ‘Show Your Love’ which leads us into a fine finale.
'Sip The Wine' is a digital-only bonus track, and packs that groove & swagger Vain is know for, with a catchy, melodic chorus. It's a shame that will not be included into the physical CD, as it's one of the best songs on the album.

How good is "Rolling With the Punches"? Well it’s very, very good indeed. Dare I say it Vain’s second best record in a career that has seen some fine releases.
You have the catchiness, the groove, that classic '80s hard rock feeling blended with melody, and it's really well recorded & produced.
Highly Recommended

01 - Rolling With The Punches
02 - Deliver The Passion
03 - Long Gone
04 - Dark City
05 - Bury Some Pain
06 - It's A Long Goodbye
07 - Inside Out
08 - Don't Let It Happen To You
09 - Sacrifice
10 - Show Your Love
11 - Sip The Wine (Bonus Track)

Davy Vain - Vocals, Guitar
Jamie Scott - Guitar
Danny West - Guitar
Ashley Mitchell - Bass
Tommy Rickard - Drums

Pre Order:


JOURNEY - Departure +2 [Blu-Spec CD2] [mini-LP Limited Release]

JOURNEY - Departure [Blu-Spec CD2] [mini-LP Limited Release] full

After the recent JOURNEY posts here one of you asked as well for "Departure", in its Japanese Deluxe Paper Sleeve Mini Vinyl LP Replica package and pressed on a high quality Blu-Spec CD2 disc. It uses the last DSD remastering and on this CD format it truly sounds fabulous.

The first Journey album in the '80s, "Departure" arrived at a crucial moment during the band's transition from jam-friendly progressive rock to an arena-ready mainstream AOR sound, and found the band continuing to streamline its songwriting in an increasingly successful quest to invade Top 40 radio.
True to its title, the album served notice that the group was closing a chapter in its history by embracing a new direction while letting go of some formerly ingredients.
“We named it that because there’s going to be a little bit of a musical change,” singer Steve Perry teased in a spring 1980 interview. “We’re departing from some of our roots and keeping some.”

Despite many people think the new 'commercial' approach wanted for "Departure" came from Steve Perry, in fact it was guitarist Neal Schon & Columbia Records whom aimed for a more rocking, melodic, intense sound.
Part of that intensity derived from a switch in producers. Having openly groused about working with Roy Thomas Baker, the band hired Kevin Elson to co-produce alongside engineer Geoff Workman, adopting a live-in-the-studio approach to tracking "Departure" which provided much more muscle to the music.
It all added up to an album that, while perhaps somewhat edgier sonically than the previous, was still eminently radio-friendly.

JOURNEY - Departure [Blu-Spec CD2] [mini-LP Limited Release] booklet

"Departure" climbed to No. 8 on the album chart and summed up the Journey of 1980’s Top 40 appeal with its lead-off track and first single 'Any Way You Want It', one of my favorite Journey songs ever.
There's the slightly bluesy, catchy 'Walk Like A Lady' (which also did great on the charts), 'Where Were You' has an terrific melodic chorus, 'I'm Cryin' contains some of the most amazingly emotive Perry vocals ever, and 'Line Of Fire' absolutely smokes.
Another favorite of mine is 'People and Places'. I don't know what it is about that song, but with the way the different members each sing a word one after the other combined with the haunting (in spots) sound of the keyboard, this one still can send shivers up my spine. Very unique track.

"Departure" also would mark the last full-time studio album appearance of founding member Gregg Rolie, and his penultimate recording with the band - his final contributions would appear on Dream, After Dream, a soundtrack album to the Japanese film of the same name, from which 'Little Girl' is added here as bonus track.
Rolie had become tired of life on the road and decided to leave the band after assisting in the selection of his replacement, talented Jonathan Cain, then of The Babys. Rolie sang lead vocals on only one song on "Departure", the blissful, melodic midtempo ballad 'Someday Soon'.

JOURNEY - Departure [Blu-Spec CD2] [mini-LP Limited Release] back

"Departure" is one of Journey's strongest albums, very well written & arranged, melodic and rocking at the same time. It went triple-platinum and Journey rode this success with a major tour. These gigs spawned the follow-up live album Captured, which was another major hot seller for the group in the '80s.
This remaster pressed on BSCD2 is fantastic, I can hear more bass presence and an overall 'studio ambiance'. Additionally you got 2 bonus tracks.
A must for Journey fans and highly recommended to all Melodic Rock / AOR enthusiasts.

Columbia / Sony Japan ~ SICP-30136

01 - Any Way You Want It
02 - Walks Like A Lady
03 - Someday Soon
04 - People And Places
05 - Precious Time
06 - Where Were You
07 - I'm Cryin'
08 - Line Of Fire
09 - Departure
10 - Good Morning Girl
11 - Stay Awhile
12 - Homemade Love
13 - Natural Thing
14 - Little Girl [Dream After Dream soundtrack]

Steve Perry - lead vocals
Neal Schon - guitars, vocals
Gregg Rolie - keyboards, vocals
Ross Valory - bass guitar, vocals
Steve Smith - drums, percussion, vocals



JONAH KOSLEN & THE HEROES - Aces [Extended] (2016)

JONAH KOSLEN & THE HEROES - Aces [Extended] full

A much sought after vinyl LP-only for years, "Aces" by JONAH KOSLEN & THE HEROES was finally made digitally available assembled by Johan Koslen himself. And he did it with a huge bonus; the unreleased material from the band. Koslen put on sale the whole thing some years ago, but due to collector's demand, it was re-released last year under the title "Aces Extended" with refreshed artwork. (this is was requested in one comment, place yours!)

Jonah Koslen was part of the original Michael Stanley Band and later formed another interesting group named Breathless releasing two strong albums which unfortunately went unnoticed. The band broke-up in 1981 and Koslen decided to create his own group, and take the total control song-wise / musically.
Koslen created The Heroes, featuring very good musicians including future Michael Stanley Band guitarist Danny Powers, and keyboardist Dennis Lewin who later would create cult AOR act Beau Coup.

Koslen & The Heroes taped a bunch of songs for a debut release in 1982. But around the time ain't was easy to get a record contract in the overcrowded US scene, and the recorded songs were shelved.
The tapes were known as the 'Orange album', traded with fervor by collectors since then. These are the bonuses added to this reissue (tracks 10 to 19).

JONAH KOSLEN & THE HEROES - Aces [Extended] indise

But then the opportunity knocks the door in 1983 for Jonah Koslen & The Heroes, and they made a deal with small indie label Ransom. New tracks were recorded, and the result was "Aces".
There was a slightly line-up change in the band but what remained intact was Koslen's penchant for instant, short melodic songs with the poppy, light AOR / FM Radio oriented sound so typical from the first half of the '80s in America.

"Aces Extended" is a really pleasant compilation plenty of ditty melodic tunes quite unknown by the Melodic Rock fans out there. There's nothing revolutionary here, just fun, feel-good melodic tunes in the typical first half of the '80s fashion to enjoy this Spring that already embraced us.

01 - Say I'm The One
02 - Wanted
03 - Try Baby Try
04 - Aces
05 - Sun Down
06 - Do It All Again
07 - Lost Without Her Love
08 - Worthy Of Your Love
09 - No Way To Know
10 - Hunting The Dragon
11 - Dreaming My Life Away
12 - Face The Morning
13 - Radio Heart
14 - Here Comes The Hurt
15 - Here In My Baby's Arms
16 - Working The Night Shift
17 - Love You For Who You Are
18 - Love Made The Difference
19 - Dr. Rock

Jonah Koslen - lead vocals, guitar
Danny Powers - guitar, vocals
Dennis Lewin - keyboards, vocals
Bill March, Eddie Pecchio - bass, backing vocals
Don Krueger - drums, vocals
Jennifer Lee - additional vocals



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