HOT NEW REVIEWS

UPDATED ON JANUARY 5 - 2004

DOMINE ‘EMPEROR OF THE BLACK RUNES’ (DRAGONHEART/METAL BLADE)

The Italian band DOMINE is about to release their 4th CD ‘Emperor of the black runes’. The band was formed around 20 years ago, but their debut CD was released in 1997, and in those 7 years 4 CDs are released, all on the DRAGONHEART RECORDS label. The new CD is an epic album with some long concept based songs, such as “The aquilonia suite” which is an 11 minutes counting epic based on the ‘Conan the Barbarian’ books by R.E. Howard. In total 10 songs are included, with a total playing length of 60 minutes. DOMINE is clearly different than the well-known typical Italian Power Metalbands such as LABYRINTH and RHAPSODY, because they play 80s inspired Classic Melodic Metal with influences from MAIDEN, RIOT and PRIEST. Without a doubt, this is a quality release, and my favourite tracks would be “Arioch, the chaos star” (pure 80s MAIDEN), “The aquilonia suite – part 1” (epic with a lot of tempo changes), “The prince in the scarlet robe”, “The sun of the new season” (fantastic midtempo Melodic Prog/Epic Metal), “True believer” (fast catchy melodic Power Metal) and “The song of the swords” (pure 80s MAIDEN). This is a highly recommended 80s sounding Melodic Metalalbum, which will be loved by fans of the classic MAIDEN records from the early/mid 1980s!

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

EXIT 69 ‘NO TOMORROWS’ (BALDWIN PRODUCTIONS)

Out of the US state of Idaho comes EXIT 69, and they play pure 80s Melodic Metal. 13 tracks are on their CD ‘No tomorrows’ and with a playing length of 65 minutes there’s much to explore here. The production is very good and instrumental it also sounds good. Opener “Freedom” is a nice rawer Metalsong that sounds a bit like MANOWAR. Next song “No tomorrows (in the future)” is quite different as it features much better vocals (of the same singer???) and is basically an excellent Melodic Progressive Metalsong. And it seems like it goes like this on the rest of the CD, because then we get to hear a nice 80s Heavy Metalsong (a la MANOWAR) and then a Melodic Rocker and actually I think the best songs can be found in that last category. So besides “No tomorrows”, other highlights are “Dangerous” (good semi melodic rocker), “Throw me a line” (somehow reminding me of 80s Dutch Metalbands like PICTURE) and “All my life” (ballad). From the Metal orientated tracks I would like to add “Feel the thunder” (a strong early 80s NWOBHM meets MANOWAR type of song) and “Thief of souls”. Concluded, a nice CD which will appeal to especially fans of 80s Heavy Metal in the style of (let’s say) PICTURE, a lighter MANOWAR, VANDALE and a less sensational VANDENBERG! More info at:
http://www.exit69rocks.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

PRIVATE LINE ‘SIX SONGS OF HELLCITY TREMOKILL’
(BAD HABITS PUBLISHING)


The new wave of Finnish Metalbands continues, but this time not with a band that sounds like one of the well-known bands from Finland (read: STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA, THE RASMUS, NIGHTWISH, HIM). This time we have a band called PRIVATE LINE and they play a sort of Sleaze Metal style (a la FASTER PUSSYCAT) with some Modern influences (even Industrial on the bad side, but some nice keys on the good side) and also tiny Punk influences here and there. 6 songs are on their CD, and the best ones are the uptempo ‘catchy’ Party/Sleaze rockers “Grown like others” and “Virgin suicide”. The vocals are pure 80s Sleaze/Glam (even a bit like Vince Neil), so I think this band will most appear to fans of FASTER PUSSYCAT and SHOTGUN MESSIAH. More info on this band at:
http://www.kraklund.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

BARNI ‘GUERRERO’ (NCM RECORDS)

Out of Argentina comes BARNI, and their CD ‘Guerrero’ was released sometime ago, but as probably nobody has ever heard of this band I decided to make a review of it. When you put on the CD, you’ll be impressed after just a few seconds, because the CD has a big open sound that combines the best elements of 80s melodic hardrock and power metal into one exciting style, with very impressive powerful vocals as well. The CD, which was released on NCM RECORDS, contains 11 tracks. Opener “Bueno es saberlo” is a very strong first track, an uptempo Melodic Hardrocksong, while next song “Experiencia real” is faster MALMSTEEN orientated Melodic Power Metal. With these 2 songs the band has already proved to be a sensational band that is right up there with the likes of RATA BLANCA, TIERRA SANTA... Happily, the whole CD is featuring such high quality Melodic Hardrock/Metal songs with as other highlights “Ciudad santa” (Powerful semi-ballad), “Zona de conflicto”, “Guerrero” and “Moca de in eternidad”. Concluded, this is a must for every fan of Melodic Hardrock/Power Metal with Spanish lyrics (TIERRA SANTA, AVALANCH, MAGO DE OZ, SARATOGA etc.). You can easily get a copy of this CD through
http://www.metaleros.de and e-mail at: Krukenberg@01019freenet.de

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

JASON ‘EN LO ALTO DEL CIELO’ (CR PRODUCCIONES)

Another high quality Argentinian band is JASON, and like many other bands from South America (except Brazil) they sing in the Spanish language, but that isn’t a problem at all. Their CD ‘En lo alto del cielo’ sounds very sensational, not only musically, but also the sound/production is huge! The CD starts with the fantastic midtempo Melodic Rocker “En lo alto del cielo” which has some DOKKEN similarities. The band jumps on the Power Metal wagon on the next track “Reina mortal”, another great song that goes pretty fast during the chorus (a la PRIEST), but is not as good as the first song. The band continues making Melodic Heavy Rockers and Power Metal tunes spread throughout the CD. They sound a bit like a typical German band in the instrumental parts (SINNER, ACCEPT, VICTORY), but their Power Metal is very melodic at times. Besides opener “En lo alto del cielo”, other highlights are “Num Negra 2” (fantastic uptempo Melodic Heavy Rocker with a very strong chorus a la TIERRA SANTA), “Patria en oferta” (another fantastic uptempo Melodic Rocker), “El sueno de volar” (lovely melodic rock/aor ballad a la JOURNEY!) and “Siempre existira” (fantastic faster uptempo Melodic Power Metal). Concluded, another highly recommended Latin Melodic Metalband, which CD you can get through:
http://www.metaleros.de and e-mail at: Krukenberg@01019freenet.de

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

SELIDOR ‘DESTELLOS EN LA OSCURIDAD’
(HEAVEN RECORDS)


Out of Argentina comes yet another sensational band called SELIDOR, whom released this CD last year. The band is playing HIGH QUALITY Melodic Power Metal with a strong European touch. Everything sounds perfect on this CD, the sound, the songs, the vocals and instrumental it all sounds very impressive. Just listen to opener “Resplandor” and you’re hooked, because this is prime-time Melodic Power Metal which sounds very strong and catchy. Other highlights on this fantastic CD are “Seca tus lagrimas” (superb), “Gritare tu nombre”, “Ayer Y hoy” (very catchy, very melodic!) and the AOR ballad “Resplandor”. Comparisons are hard to make, because they sing in the Spanish language, but they mix influences from bands like IRON SAVIOR, STRATOVARIUS and LABYRINTH into an exciting own style. Check out more info on SELIDOR at:
http://www.selidor.cjb.net and you can buy this CD through: http://www.metaleros.de and e-mail at: Krukenberg@01019freenet.de

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

RAVAGE
‘CURSE OF HEAVEN’ (DEMO)

Out of the US state of Massachusetts comes the band RAVAGE, who unlike many other new US bands play pure 80s Classic US Power Metal that reminds me of JAG PANZER, LIZZY BORDEN, 80s MAIDEN and also is along the lines of other US newcomer bands such as TWISTED TOWER DIRE, WAR MACHINE etc. The sound/production is very impressive, instrumental it sounds excellent (guitarists Eli Firicano and Nick Izzo are playing their instruments very well) and also the included 6 songs are pretty good. The vocals of singer Alec Firicano are raw and fit perfectly into RAVAGE’s Classic Metal tones. RAVAGE is still a very young band, and so I think the future will learn us more, but in the meantime they have managed to bring us a pure 80s US Melodic Power Metalsound which will be loved by all the European Metalheads, so I can easily recommend the 6-track demo of this US band. Highlights are “Terror’s head”, “The wasteland” (fantastic!) and “Reign fall”. Concluded, if you’re into JAG PANZER, FROST, ICED EARTH etc., then you might also want to check out this RAVAGE. More info at:
http://www.665.org/ravage and e-mail them at: ravaged@rocketmail.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

HOLYFIRE ‘SPIRITS LOOKING FOR...’ (INDEPENDENT)

HOLYFIRE comes out of Brazil, and they have released a mini-CD titled ‘Spirits looking for...’. 5 tracks are on the CD, which has a total playing time of 26 minutes. What we get to hear is high quality Melodic Power Metal that sounds a bit like ANGRA, but also reminds me of German bands like GAMMA RAY, DIONYSUS... with lead vocals a la MIKE VESCARA. The first song “Holy fire” is a fantastic start, as you can hear that this is definitely a very impressive band. The sound/production is very good, but also the song itself is very good catchy uptempo Power Metal with a strong chorus and great guitar and keyboardwork. In other words, this is a very good start, and happily, also the rest of the mini-CD sounds very impressive, with as other highlights “Spirits looking for...” and “Adonai”. A must for fans of quality European Power Metal! More info at:
http://www.holyfiremetal.net and e-mail them at: holyfire@holyfiremetal.net

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

TIANANOGUE ‘ETERNAL UTOPIA/FREE MY SOUL’ (VIGILANTE)

TIANANOGUE is another Japanese band with a few good releases. In 2001 they released a mini-CD titled ‘Eternal utopia’, which contains a mixture of nice Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal (“Beyond the light” and “Eternal utopia”) and very strong uptempo Neo-Classical Power Metal with great keyboardwork (“Ocean majesty” and “The storming”). It seems like the band is at their best during the Power Metal orientated tracks, and we can hear that clearly on their recent CD-single ‘Free my soul’. This CD-single contains 2 tracks, “Free my soul” and “A relic of the hawk”, and both are great fast Neo-Classical Power Metal tracks. Without a doubt, the band has progressed and I can easily say that this is a quality Prog/Power Metal band. More info at:
http://www.tiananogue.com and e-mail them at: tianaletter@aol.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ROCKET QUEEN
‘STAND ALONE CD-SINGLE’ (INDEPENDENT)

Only 2 tracks are on the CD-single, and that’s a pity, because both songs sound very good. “Stand alone” is a fantastic faster uptempo Melodic Power Metal piece with a very catchy chorus, kinda like SONATA ARCTICA meets CONCERTO MOON. Basically, everything sounds perfect, not only songwise, but also instrumental and the production is also very good. The other song is called “Pride” and this is also a very catchy fast melodic Power Metal tune a la STRATOVARIUS. Concluded, a very impressive band, and I do hope they are able to record a full-length CD somewhere in the near future. In the meantime, check out their site at:
ROCKET QUEEN and e-mail them at: diechan@jcom.home.ne.jp

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

TRANSCENDENCE ‘THE LEGENDARY DAWN’ (INDEPENDENT)

This Japanese band was formed 10 years ago, but their first official CD release was done a few months ago. Everything looks and sounds very professional, and basically TRANSCENDENCE is a very good female fronted Melodic Hardrockband with big Neo-Classical influences (read: MALMSTEEN). 6 songs are included, and this is as good as other signed label acts from Japan (CONCERTO MOON, BLIND FAITH). The guitar and keyboardwork is superb, and the songs also sound very good. Out of all the Japanese bands I heard the past few months, this TRANSCENDENCE is definitely one of the better sounding ones. The best songs on their mini-CD are “Eye of a storm”, “Kingdom inquiry” and “Fortune teller”. Concluded, a highly recommended band, especially if you liked the CONCERTO MOON, ARK STORM and BLIND FAITH album that were released on some of the European Metallabels the past few years. More info can be found at:
http://www4.plala.or.jp/transcendence and e-mail them at: legend@pnw.to

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

BLAZE ‘SEE THE LIGHT’ (CD-SINGLE)

Out of Osaka, Japan comes BLAZE, and finally we can hear a band that isn’t playing fast Neo-Classical Power Metal bands like all the other bands do from Japan. No, this BLAZE is playing early 80s British Melodic Rock which reminds me of RAGE (UK), EXPORT, TOBRUK, LIONHEART, SURFACE, SHY, AIRRACE, BRONZ... Sadly, only 2 songs are on this CD-single, because it really sounds fantastic and I would love to hear more! Opener “See the light” is a fantastic early 80s Melodic Rocker that sounds a lot like BRONZ (remember them?), so with a very catchy chorus. The other song is the early 80s NWOBHM sounding “Nightwalker” that is just pure SAXON, TYGERS PAN TANG, JAGUAR!. Both songs feature excellent guitarwork and also very good lead vocals. I truly hope to hear much more of this great band in the near future, because this CD-single sounds very promising. More info at:
http://homepage2.nifty.com/6360-098 and e-mail them at: w.one.hisashi@nifty.ne.jp

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

RAZING STEEL ‘ESCAPE CLAUSE’ (SEE G3 PRODUCTS)

This Japanese band was formed 6 years ago, and their CD ‘Escape clause’ is a very professional looking and sounding debut CD, which they released on their own label in 2002. The scene in Tokyo is huge, and we have reviewed many bands from the biggest city on earth the past few years, and RAZING STEEL is another quality band from Tokyo. The 7 songs on their CD sound quite impressive, and especially the twin guitarsound (a la MAIDEN) is outstanding. Musically they do not play Power Metal, but are more akin to 80s Melodic Metal like MAIDEN, LOUDNESS, ANTHEM, EARTHSHAKER... Opener “Don’t turn away” is showing how this sounds at its best, good strong uptempo Melodic Metal in a pure 80s style. Other highlights are the midtempo melodic rocker “Wasted”, “See you in my dreams” and “I still believe”. So, RAZING STEEL is another recommended Japanese band. More info at:
http://sound.jp/razingsteel/ and e-mail them at: razingsteel@hotmail.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SEVENTH SON ‘DEMO’ (DEMO)

This Tokyo, Japan settled band should not be confused with the same named British Melodic Hardrockband. This Japanese band is playing Melodic Hardrock/Metal, like so many other Japanese bands, but they do succeed on the 7 tracks of their demo. The demo has a playing lenght of 45 minutes, the production is very good, so actually this may be seen as a sort of CD release. Of course MAIDEN has had a big influence on the band’s music, and without a doubt, you can compare SEVENTH SON to bands like LOUDNESS, CONCERTO MOON and ANTHEM, but it is all played very well, although nothing original can be heard. Highlights are songs like “Evil fly away” (uptempo melodic metal), “All about you” (very strong midtempo melodic heavy rocker) and “You can stop me” and the bonustrack “Cold rain”. More info at:
http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/seventhson and e-mail at: seventhson@jcom.home.ne.jp

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

FRAMESHIFT ‘UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW’
(PROGROCK RECORDS/JUST FOR KICKS MUSIC)

Although the new DREAM THEATER CD is a great album, it is a shame that DREAM THEATER is putting so much other music influences into their sound on each new album. A lot of DREAM THEATER fans long back to the earlier DREAM THEATER albums that showcased a pure Progressive Rocksound, and more importantly, hear JAMES LABRIE singing the way he sounded at his best. Well, the wait is over, because James handled all the lead vocals of this new Progressive Rock/Metal masterpiece, which is based on the books on evolution by Richard Dawkins. Besides James on lead vocals, this project is entirely written and produced by Henning Pauly of the band CHAIN. What you get is an 80-minutes counting Melodic Progressive Rock epos that will please all fans of classic DREAM THEATER and RUSH. This is definitely a high quality record, with an important part for James’ vocals that sound better than ever! Highlights are such great uptempo Melodic Progressive Metalsongs like “The Gene Machine”, “Message from the mountain”, “Arms races” and “Off the ground” and the wonderful ballad “Your eyes”. Concluded, this is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Progmetal masterpiece that I like even more than the new DREAM THEATER album.

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

ATTACKER ‘SOUL TAKER’ (IRON GLORY RECORDS)

Back to the 1980s it is with the new ATTACKER album ‘Soul taker’. The album will be released late January 2004 and contains pure 80s US Metal with lots of high pitched vocals (a la PRIEST). Most of the 10 included songs are in the same style, so fast Power Metal in a pure 80s style, kinda like a mix between SAVATAGE, OMEN, PRIEST, KING DIAMOND and METAL CHURCH. Because all the songs are in the same style, and there’s not much diversity, some might call this just a standard Metal record, but you can not deny that this is a quality record. Songs like “Forgotten”, “Sleepy hollow” and “Raging fist” (best song) are nice 80s US Metal songs. If you like any of the mentioned bands, you will love this new ATTACKER album, which marks the return of a band that split in 1989, after having released 2 LPs in the 1980s, which recently got re-issued onto CD by SENTINEL STEEL RECORDS.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

RELLIK ‘KILLER’ (IRON GLORY RECORDS)

In 1986 the San Francisco based band RELLIK released a very rare EP titled ‘Remember the future’, a very fine piece of classic 80s US Metal with high pitched vocals. It was only followed up by a few demos, before the band split up in 1990. Happily, IRON GLORY RECORDS managed to get hold of all their original recordings, and they released a CD titled ‘Killer’, which contains all the songs the band ever record, 10 tracks in total. Opener “Dreamkiller” shows that this band should have become more well-known than the obscure band they stayed during the 1980s. This song is a great Classic 80s US Melodic Metal song a la HEIR APPARENT and IRON MAIDEN, although it also reminds a bit of a heavier version of BLACK’N’BLUE. In this style the CD continues with more great songs like “Street sinner”, “Rellik” and “Skulls”. The guitarwork is outstanding and the vocal performance is also very good, so this CD is a complete must for fans of high class 80s US Melodic Power Metal!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

KRAZE ‘DEVIL IN DISGUISE’
(IRON GLORY RECORDS)


At first sight this is a pure 80s Speed/Thrash-Metalband on the first 2 songs of their CD ‘Devil in disguise’, because both “Devil in disguise” and “M.A.D.D.” are pure 80s Speed/Thrash-Metal that sound like early ANTHRAX. Then suddenly the band comes up with a song called “Death row”, a fantastic Melodic Metal song with superb lead vocals and 4 excellent guitarsolos! It sounds like a completely different band, and happily it continues in this style, because following track “Solar strike” is a superb fast Melodic Metal piece that sounds like a heavier faster Metal version of MAD MAX and BLACK’N’BLUE. Also “Onward to war” is a great Melodic Metal track and so it goes on until the end of the CD with lots more great songs like “On the run”, “Land of sorcery” (fantastic!) and “Stand, be tall”. The band wrote tough political lyrics and only managed to release 3 demos during the late 80s, but they definitely could have been bigger, because they sounded quite sensational. Happily, this CD, which is released on IRON GLORY RECORDS, offers all their songs from the 3 demos on 1 CD, so go get it if you like Classic 80s Melodic Metal!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

MANILLA ROAD ‘SPIRAL CASTLE’ (IRON GLORY RECORDS)

The American band MANILLA ROAD has been on the scene for over 25 years now, and their latest release was ‘Spiral castle’. This album was released one year ago, but so far no review over here of the album, until now. Musically they still play pure 80s US Melodic Power Metal, with influences from Doom Metal here and there. Although they remind me a lot of MANOWAR, there’s still a big difference, because MANILLA ROAD has created an own style. The band started as a Progressive Rockband, but 25 years later they have developed themselves into a raw sounding epic pure Metalband which has a very underground feel. Highlights on their new CD are such long epic Metalmonsters like “Spiral castle” and “Seven trumpets”. The last couple of songs are less interesting, with especially the Doom Metal of “Merchants of death” (a song with Death-growls) as weakest song. Sure, this is quality Metal, but probably not interesting for the average Power Metal freak, but if you appreciate classic Metal like KING DIAMOND and MANOWAR, then this will definitely be up your alley, although MANILLA ROAD is not of the same high level as those Metalheroes!

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

WITHOUT END ‘SAMPLE PROMO CDR’ (PROMO CDR)

In March 2004 we can expect the debut CD of the new Australian band WITHOUT END. I received a sample promo cdr and I must say that this sounds promising. The band comes out of Melbourne, a city which has brought us many great Melodic Prog/Power Metalbands the past few years, such as VANISHING POINT, EYEFEAR and BLACK MAJESTY, whom all received favourable reviews on our site. Well, now it is time to introduce to you WITHOUT END, another great Melodic Progressive Metalband. WITHOUT END consists of vocalist/drummer Nicholas Georgakopoulos and guitarist/bassist Michael Totta. Instrumental it sounds very impressive, the vocals are high class (sometimes in the JAMES LABRIE style) and also the 4 included songs on this sample Promo CDR are fantastic Melodic Progressive Metal pieces, with as highlights “Again” and “Analyse”. So, this is another interesting Aussie Prog. Metalband. More info at:
http://www.withoutend.com and e-mail at:
nick@withoutend.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

DICE ‘IF THE BEATLES WERE FROM ANOTHER GALAXY’
(SCENE RECORDS)


The German band DICE returns with another new CD. The CD is a sort of Neo-Prog tribute to THE BEATLES, covering several BEATLES tunes, but also own songs that are a tribute to the legendary band. In general, it all sounds like good classy Neo-Prog (a la IQ), with as highlights “Welcome to the future”, “Galaxy”, “Virus” and “Penny lane”. Interesting for the Neo-Prog freaks! More info at:
http://www.scene-records.de and http://www.dice-band.de

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

JESTERS MOON ‘JESTERS MOON’ (MIB MUSIC)

Here’s another American band playing 80s style of Melodic Metal, although it doesn’t that good, because the vocals are nothing special. The band combines influences of PRIEST and UDO, and well, they just play 80s Metal, nothing more, nothing less! Songs like “Devil’s eyes”, “Amnesia”, “Man in a glass”, “No clue” and “What’s my name” are nice uptempo Melodic Metal tracks, but on the other hand, nothing spectacular happens here. Then I have to say that a band like TWISTED TOWER DIRE sounds much better, although both are more or less in the same kind of 80s US Metalstyle. Anyway, check out their site at:
http://jestersmoon.iuma.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘DEFENDERS OF METAL VOLUME 1 – THE SEDUCTION’ (MIB MUSIC)

MIB MUSIC is a new American label and they hav already released some interesting Metal releases, of which this compilation CD is a nice one to start with. It contains a collection of 18 songs from 18 bands that are active worldwide, and most of these bands play classic 80s (US) Melodic Metal. Most of the bands are quite unknown, although here and there we have reviewed some albums and/or demos of features bands (like RAIN, MADOG, THE PROWLERS, ART OF FEAR, STAIRWAY and MERCURY RAIN). Some of the bands I even have never heard of, but the best songs are from the bands ELEMENT, MADOG, ANTARES (very good), METHARIA, ART OF FEAR, STILL LIFE (great stuff), MERCURY RAIN, RAPID FIRE (another great Polish band!) and STAIRWAY ((by far the best song). Check out the label’s website for more info at:
http://www.mainblackmusic.com

(Points: - )

SILVER BACK ‘VARIOUS ALBUMS’ (INDEPENDENT)

This Japanese band exists for quite some time now, and they are preparing their third CD release, which might be released in 2004. Anyway, their previous CD ‘Native’ was a Thrash-Metalalbum, so not really interesting, but the latest ‘Advanced CD 2’ I received is a good pure 80s Heavy Metal collection of 3 songs that sound like SAXON and ANTHEM. “Never surrender” and “What wonderful life” being good songs, and a promise for a future CD. Check out their site at:
http://www.phoenix-c.or.jp/~t-kiyo/index.html and e-mail at: t-kiyo@phoenix-c.or.jp

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

PARALLEX ‘NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE’ (INDEPENDENT)

This American band is clearly playing modernish Melodic (Pop) Rock with influences from NICKELBACK, TONIC, COLLECTIVE SOUL, MATCHBOX 20, so not really interesting for our readers, but they do add a slight 70s Groovy Rock influence as well, which makes them sound a little bit different than afforementioned bands. The best songs are the uptempo rockers “Void”, “Not the only one” and “Drive”. Check it out for yourself at:
http://www.parallex.org and e-mail at: parallex@iastate.edu

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

SONIC PULSAR ‘PLAYING THE UNIVERSE’ (INDEPENDENT)

This Portuguese band is playing good quality Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal. The band is formed around multi-instrumentalist/vocalist HUGO FLORES, and their 72-minutes counting CD ‘Playing the universe’ sounds pretty good. Highlights are “Radio silent”, “Sending dead flowers”, “Wasting”, “...Somewhere in the universe” and “I have this stone”, all great Melodic ProgMetal pieces. Some songs are instrumental, but most of the 13 tracks feature good lead vocals by Hugo and I think this is a concept-record. Hard to compare, but keep it on good Melodic Prog. Rock. Maybe only the production could have been a bit stronger, but for Progrockfans this is interesting to check out. More info at:
http://sonicpulsar.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

NATURAL SCIENCE ‘THIS SIDE OF PARADISE’ (INDEPENDENT)

In the past I have reviewed something of this band, but it is now time to talk about the official first CD release of the Dutch band NATURAL SCIENCE. They play Progressive Rock with a slight Metal riff here and there, and some clean melodies which make their music quite interesting. They remind me a bit of a heavier version of FOR ABSENT FRIENDS. Songs like “On my own”, “Men at arms” (best song, 8 minutes epic sing-a-long uptempo Progressive Rocker), “Just before dawn”, “In our times” and “For better days” are great Melodic Progressive Rocksongs. Without a doubt, another quality band from Holland and again in the Progressive Rockstyle. Recommended if you like CASUAL SILENCE, SILENT EDGE, FAF and that type of typical Dutch Melodic Neo-Progressive Rock. More info at:
http://www.naturalscience.nl

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

STONEHENGE ‘FORGOTTEN FACES’
(MARKO’S MUSIC)


This CD was released in 1996, but I never saw a review of it, so it is still quite interesting to give it a review after all. STONEHENGE played good high quality Melodic Hardrock on their only CD ‘Forgotten faces’. You can compare the band a bit to PINK CREAM 69 or AXXIS. Do not confuse this Bulgarian STONEHENGE with the same named sensational Progressive Metalband from Hungary of whom we reviewed a CD not so long ago. Anyway, this CD is filled with great Melodic Hardrock and the highlights of their CD ‘Forgotten faces’ are “Too late” (catchy uptempo melodic rocker like a mix between BONFIRE and WHITE LION), “Forgotten faces” (very strong AOR/Melodic Rocker) and “I won’t let you go (No way)” (wow, fantastic classic 80s AOR/Melodic Rocker, very catchy, like DANGER DANGER/early BON JOVI/AVIATOR). Although the Melodic Hardrock also has some groovy influences here and there (a la TESLA/STEELHEART), it is still a recommended piece to fans of WHITE LION, PINK CREAM 69, BONFIRE... More info can be found at:
http://www.online.bg/ubp

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SIGNAL ‘VARIOUS ALBUMS’ (UBP INTERNATIONAL)

Of course the AOR fans all know the American band SIGNAL from 1989, whom released a Classic AOR record, but never got the attention it deserved. Anyway, in Bulgaria there’s also a band named SIGNAL, and they have been active for quite some time now. I reviewed a best of release a few weeks ago, and now I got hold of 3 original CD releases of the band. The first CD is called ‘Signalistica’, an album with 10 songs. Opener “Endless game” is a good uptempo AOR rocker. Things slow down on the next couple of songs, which are even a bit bluesy, but still good AOR ballad orientated like TOTO did on their last couple of records. The band has a strong lead singer, and instrumental it sounds pretty good (very AORish, like GIANT meets TOTO). The best songs to me are the uptempo AOR rockers like the already mentioned opener “Endless game”, “I know”, “In this world” (80s AOR) and “Give me your love” (PURE AOR). The second CD of SIGNAL is called ‘Flower – Golden Ballads’ which is like the title says a best of release. The album contains 13 ballads of SIGNAL, and is actually a Poprelease, because the ballads are performed in an acoustic/piano style. Not really interesting, but happily the third CD ‘Taste the life’ is a ‘normal’ album of SIGNAL, and contains many great rocksongs. This album features 14 songs and released in 1997. It starts with the great midtempo (pure) AOR song “And farther and farther”, so a very good start. Happily, it is followed up by more nice Rock and AOR songs, with as other highlights Melodic Rocksongs like “Time for men”, “Isn't there fire inside of you?”, “Tomorrow” (AOR rocker a la NO CREDIT BAND – remember them?), “Let the storm sleep” and “We are silent again” (great AOR/FM-rocker a la SURVIVOR/LE ROUX). This is probably their best recording, so get yourself a copy of ‘Taste the life’. Although I mention everything in English here, all of their lyrics are actually in the Bulgarian language, so you should not have a problem with foreign lyrics! Anyway, more info can be found at:
http://www.online.bg/ubp

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

ANIMETAL ‘ANIMETAL MARATHON 4/5’ (AVEX/VAP JAPAN)

This is sounding HUGE! The only thing is that the songs of the Japanese band ANIMETAL only count 1 minutes of playing length. The reason is that their CDs are actually soundtracks to famous Japanese cartoons, so with 30-40 songs on each ‘Marathon’ CD it is indeed a collection of short tunes. Happily, all the songs are sort of connected with each other, so you can also say that you’re listening to 1 long song of 48 minutes! And I must say that I really enjoyed this ANIMETAL ride. 2 CDs I received and both are filled with HIGH QUALITY Melodic Hardrock/Metal, with super strong musicianship and also good Japanese vocals. It reminds me of LOUDNESS, VOW WOW, ANTHEM... It’s a pity the songs are all very short, because there are some fantastic songs on the CDs, such as the tracks 3, 4, 8, 10 and 19 from ‘Animetal Marathon 4’ and the tracks 2, 4, 7, 10, 11, 12 (tough boy), 40 and 41 (the longest song, 3 minutes!) from ‘Animetal Marathon 5’. If only all these songs were released in longer versions, and put on a double-CD for each Marathon, then it would have been one of the best Japanese release ever! Yes, it sounds very impressive indeed and if I am right, these guys are very popular in Japan with 50,000 copies sold (?). Anyway, if you want to hear how good quality Melodic Hardrock/Metal from Japan sounds like, with some amazing guitarwork, then go for ANIMETAL! More info can be found at:
http://www.compozila.co.jp/iron/

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SAGE ‘LIGHTNING STRIKES’ (INDEPENDENT)

SAGE from Chicago is quite an original band, because this female fronted band is playing Melodic Progressive Hardrock with some out of the ordinary rhythms. Best example is their song “Ever unanswered”, an exciting well-thought 7-minutes counting epic Progressive Rocksong that has some sort of ‘Arabic’ feel, which you don’t hear that often. Anyway, the other 4 songs are mostly Progressive Hardrock with an important part for the female lead singer Tracey who has an own way of singing, so no
comparisons here. In fact, the band has really created an own style, and although some might compare them to EVANESCENCE, I think SAGE is definitely more original and progressive. Other hiighlights on their mini-CD ‘Lightning strikes’ are “Scarecrow” and “Blindsided”. Concluded, a good all-original female fronted Progressive Hardrockband. More info at:
http://www.sage4.com and e-mail them at: info@sage4.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

JACK FOSTER III ‘JAZZRAPTOR’ (MUSE WRAPPED RECORDS)

Out of California comes JACK FOSTER, a vocalist/guitarist who is playing Sympho/Prog. Rock (with a slight Jazz touch) in the style of JOHN WETTON, ASIA, ROBERT BERRY... In fact, ROBERT BERRY played bass, drums and guitar on this album, so without a doubt, this CD is a must for fans of that talented musician. Anyway, the CD counts 9 tracks and has a total playing time of 60 minutes. Highlights are such great midtempo Sympho/Progressive Rockers like “Feel it when I sting”, “Bohemian soul” and “Every time you smile”, all sounding a lot like JOHN WETTON. Sometimes it’s a bit soft and it’s not always interesting (“Tiger bone wine” and “Cat’s got nine”), but for someone who wants to hear a bit experimental Prog/Sympho, this might be very interesting to check out. More info at:
http://www.jazzraptor.com and e-mail at: jack@jazzraptor.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

DIVERTIGO ‘GENTLE CHAOS’ (XENSORI MEDIA CORP)

Multi-instrumentalist STEVEN DOUGLAS A. has been working on his DIVERTIGO project for 10 years now, and ‘Gentle chaos’ is his third CD. Steven is definitely a talented musician, because he did almost everything on his CD, and also sang vocals (and believe me, he is able to sing very well). After the instrumental New Age intro “At the gates”, we get to hear a fantastic fast Progressive/Power Metal song called “Meeting in the valley” that sounds like a mix between SYMPHONY X and BALANCE OF POWER!!! Next track “Fall together” however is completely different, as this is an acoustic driven calmer poprocker (like NELSON), although towards the end it turns out to become a fast Prog. Metal song after all. So, you see this is quite a diverse CD, but without a doubt, it is a high quality release, because what we get to hear sounds very impressive and the fact it has been done by one man makes it even more interesting. Sometimes the link to PHIL VINCENT is very clear, but DIVERTIGO is definitely more Progressive Metal. Other highlights are the epic “Mother’s arms” that combines influences of New Age, AOR and Progressive Metal into one exciting 10-minutes counting epos, “Peril” (a semi-melodic rockballad) and “Liberation” (melodic rocker a la PHIL VINCENT). This is definitely a recommended piece, some good Prog. Metal, but it also contains a lot of influences from other musical genres (such as New Age), although it mainly stays in the Melodic Rock/Progressive Rock/Metal genre... More info at:
http://www.divertigo.com and e-mail at: chaos@divertigo.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SEQUEL ‘DAYLIGHT FRIGHT’ (INDEPENDENT)

Exactly 20 years later the US band SEQUEL finally releases it’s second album, because the recordings of ‘Daylight fright’ took place in 1983, one year after their debut album. It’s strange it never got released, because the music was radio-ready AOR/Melodic Mainstream Radiorock, perfectly suitable for the American Radiostations. The music is similar in style to classy acts from that so0much loved early 80s AOR sound of bands like 707, STEEL BREEZE, PREVIEW, VICTORY GROUP, 1st STRANGER, STEALER, SILVER CONDOR’s first album, LOVERBOY, AVIATOR... The 10 featured songs are short, but very impressive and without a doubt, this is a highly recommended CD that truly captures the spirit of the early 1980s North American AOR/Radiorocksound, even though the album has a playing length of only 30 minutes. All the songs are in the same style, namely uptempo classic AOR rockers, with as absolute highlights “Over you now”, “It’s not me”, “Pull the trigger” (could’ve been on the very first SURVIVOR album, a la “Rebel girl” and 38 SPECIAL) and “You love you”. If you’re a dedicated 80s AOR freak, then you’re gonna love this... More info at:
http://www.sequelrocks.com and e-mail at: Greggeorgeson@aol.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

TOWER ‘TURN THE PAGE’ (FRONT ROW SEAT MEDIA)

TOWER is an LA based band that features the likes of singer Jerry Gabriel (who sang on Joshua Perahia’s solo CD from 2001). Anyway, they have released a CD titled ‘Turn the page’, a very impressive Melodic Progressive Rock/Hardrock album that sounds like a mix between WHITESNAKE and 80s AOR with some very groovy rock influences (towards the end of the CD). Jerry’s vocals are very strong and most of the included 10 tracks are quite good actually. Sometimes it reminds me a lot of 7 MONTHS, the Frontiers signed act. Not all the songs are convincing, because the poppy “Say a prayer”, “Rain” (like recent GOTTHARD) and “My heartache ways” are nothing that special, but the other 7 tracks are very good, with as highlights opener “I’d give you my life”, “Take it or leave it”, “I wanna know why” and “Doesn’t really matter”. Concluded, this is a recommended act if you want to hear good quality (Progressive) Melodic (Hard) Rock with strong vocals. More info at:
http://hometown.aol.com/FRONTROWSEATCD/myhomepage/business.html and e-mail at: frontrowseatcd@aol.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

AMARAN ‘PRISTINE IN BONDAGE’
(LISTENABLE RECORDS)


Out of Sweden comes AMARAN, a band that was formed in 2000, and released it’s debut ‘Pristine in bondage’ in 2002. Now AMARAN has released it’s new CD ‘Pristine in bondage’ which is a very good album that combines Melodic Metal with strong female vocals (Johanna DePierre). I saw the band myself a few weeks ago when they supported the Dutch sensation SUN CAGED, and they performed a good show back then, although this CD shows they are able to sound even much better. ‘Pristine in bondage’ is a highly recommended album, as the songs are very sensational, there’s a lot of diversity on the album and with a strong production/sound quality, this is definitely a high quality release. Opener “Atropine” shows right from the start that we are listening to something very good here, as this midtempo Melodic Metal song has a very strong catchy chorus. Johanna’s vocals are very good (and somehow remind me of DANTE FOX – remember them?), while instrumental the band is sometimes quite heavy (pure Power/Thrash Metal at times), but the songs are always very melodic. Anyway, besides opener “Atrophine”, other highlights are “Coming home”, “Inflict”, “24 Pills” and “Primal nature”. Without a doubt, this is a highly recommended CD, and I think it is better than the other recent female fronted Melodic Metal releases of SHIVA and HEADLINE, both a bit in the same style. Check out their site at:
http://www.amaran.net

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

GLASS HAMMER ‘SHADOWLANDS’ (ARION RECORDS)

The American band GLASS HAMMER has a new CD out, and I can easily say that this is their strongest effort so far. The band is playing Melodic Neo-Progressive Rock in the style of KANSAS, IQ, THE FLOWER KINGS, PENDRAGON... The music is calm, very melodic with fantastic instrumental parts, and although there are only 5 (very long) songs included, the CD has a playing length of 60 minutes, and the Neo-Prog fan will enjoy every single minute of it! This is without a doubt a high quality release in the Neo-Prog scene. Highlights on the wonderful new GLASS HAMMER CD are “Run Lisette”, “Longer” (cover) and “Behind the great beyond” (perfect mix between 70s KANSAS and THE FLOWER KINGS). The songs are filled with beautiful instrumental keyboard versus guitar passages, while the melodic male and female vocals are giving the songs a very interesting vocal approach. If you’re a fan of THE FLOWER KINGS, YES and 70s KANSAS, then you will totally love this awesome CD! More info at:
http://www.glasshammer.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

TENEBRIOUS ‘CULMINATION OF AN ERA’ (COLORADO MUSIC)

This is an interesting band from Colorado, USA. They have released a CD titled ‘Culmination of an era’ and play quality Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal with strong female vocals. It sounds like a mix between LANA LANE and NIGHTWISH, with even some RUSH and DREAM THEATER elements thrown in the instrumental sections. Maybe not as sensational as afforementioned bands, but still this is a very good Melodic Progressive Rockalbum with 12 long tracks. The best songs are “Follow”, “Culmination of an era”, “Odins descent”, “Juggernaut”, “Lament lullaby” and “Twilight of oblivion”. Everything looks and sounds very professional with this TENEBRIOUS, so I can easily recommend it to you. More info at:
http://www.Tenebrious.com and e-mail them at: tenebrious@tenebrious.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

STREET TALK ‘DESTINATION’
(MTM MUSIC/SUBURBAN)


It’s unbelievable that one of Sweden’s best AOR bands ever is calling it to an end, because STREET TALK’s final record is titled ‘Destination’, a best of CD release with 4 new songs, and 14 tracks taken from their 3 albums. Bandleader Fredrik Bergh sadly announced the end of STREET TALK, and that’s really a pity, because this best of shows once again how good this band really was, with of course the fantastic vocals of singer GORAN EDMAN. The new songs, like “Astray” and “Made for paradise”, are truly wonderful Classic AOR songs, and prove that the spirit is still there, but unfortunately this is the last STREET TALK CD we will see. If you didn’t check them out before, then this best of however is the perfect way to start collecting, as all the STREET TALK classics are present here. Songs like “Dancer in the rain”, “Need someone”, “Language of love”, “If you say it’s over”, “Someday”, “Walk away from love”, “Could you be the only one”, “Standing in the rain” and “Why is my heart feeling lonely tonight” are all superb HIGH CLASS AOR songs that will never be forgotten. This band sounded like a mix between BAD ENGLISH, ALIAS and MARK FREE’s ‘Long way from love’, and now a ‘Best of’ release marks the end! It’s truly a sad day when this CD is released on the 19th of January, but let’s hope this review will convince Fredrik to keep working on his STREET TALK project, I hope so, because you just can’t give up such a sensational AOR project...

(Points: 9.5 out of 10)

ERIKA ‘COLD WINTER NIGHT’
(MTM MUSIC/SUBURBAN)


ERIKA is best known as being the ex-wife of YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, but she also released about 5 CDs, of which some sold very well in Sweden. The music was standard female fronted poppy Melodic Rock/AOR, a bit like TONE NORUM meets BELINDA CARLISLE. MTM MUSIC somehow managed to get the rights for some of her albums, and ‘Cold winter night’ was her debut album which has now been re-released by MTM. The album features some non-interesting bonustracks (2 remixes of “Together we’re lost” and the popsong “Super sonic city”), but if you never heard this ERIKA album you should check it out a.s.a.p. as the album is featuring some great AOR/Melodic Rocksongs, such as “Together we’re lost”, “Cold winter night”, “Living like a hurricane” and “Line of fire”. Check it out if you want to hear good old 80s sounding female fronted AOR/Melodic Poprock a la PAT BENATAR, ROBIN BECK, SHEILA, ELLEN SHIPLEY...

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SHIVA ‘DESERT DREAMS’ (MTM MUSIC/SUBURBAN)

The Swedish band SHIVA returns with their 2nd CD titled ‘Desert dreams’. Although the first track is very impressive, sadly it it isn’t as good as their sensational debut CD. The band has chosen for a slightly heavier and modern approach, with some uninteresting distorted vocals here and there, and that’s really a pity, because the female lead singer Anette Johansson has such a fantastic voice... Anyway, the music is still good Melodic Hardrock/Metal that reminds me of the French band HEADLINE and DORO. Opener “Mystery of mine” is a very impressive Melodic Heavy rocker with strong hooks and a catchy chorus. The following 2 songs are less interesting, but both “Completely strangers” (midtempo melodic hardrock) and “Losing my child” (AOR Ballad, radio-ready) are then again pretty good. The CD has more ups and downs, because the following 3 songs are nothing that special, while the final 2 tracks are happily quite nice to listen to, namely the semi-ballad “Dawning of a new horizon” and the uptempo “Preacher”. Unfortunately, this new SHIVA CD is not as good as their debut album, but still a good female fronted Melodic Hardrock/Metal album.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SHADOWMAN ‘LAND OF THE LIVING’
(ESCAPE MUSIC/BERTUS)


SHADOWMAN is a sort of new UK Supergroup, formed around members of FM, HEARTLAND and THUNDER. FM’s lead singer STEVE OVERLAND handles the vocals on this debut album of SHADOWLAND, and I have always been a big fan of the man’s excellent soulful lead vocals, and also on this CD it sounds awesome. Musically this is of course pure 80s AOR, with a slight Pop/Rock touch here and there. It’s not really a rockalbum, because it is softer than FM, THUNDER and HEARTLAND, but here and there we can enjoy some pure AOR. Highlights between the 11 included songs are “Those days are gone” (catchy uptempo melodic rocker), “Medicine to me” (strong midtempo AOR), “Touched by an angel” (very good AOR ballad), “How does it feel” (great AOR ballad) and “Silver lining” (lovely midtempo AOR). There are also some poppier moments on the album, such as “Gypsy heart” and “Shelter me”, but in general this is a good AORish album that will definitely
please fans of the earlier FM records.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

MAGNITUDE 9 ‘DECODING THE SOUL’
(INSIDE OUT MUSIC/SUBURBAN)


‘Decoding the soul’ is the 3rd CD of the American Progressive Metalband MAGNITUDE 9. Their first 2 albums were very good Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal albums that were clearly inspired by DREAM THEATER, yet a bit more straighter and melodic sometimes. This time the band has put in a lot of AOR/Melodic Rock influences into their Prog. Metal. This is notable in the catchy hooks and melodic choruses that pop up in almost every song of the 10 included on this new album. The big sounding Melodic Prog. Metal is reminding me a bit of the earlier BALANCE OF POWER albums. The songs have all strong melodies and excellent lead vocals (singer Corey Brown), while the guitar (Rob Johnson) and keyboard (Joseph Anastacio Glean) are also quite impressive. I think I am safe to say that this new MAGNITUDE 9 CD is a very good start of the year 2004, because this is a very sensational album with many fantastic songs. Highlights include “New dimension”, “Facing the unknown”, “Walk through the fire”, “Changes” and “Thirty days of night”. This album is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to fans of VANDENPLAS, TOMORROW’S EVE, ADAGIO, BALANCE OF POWER, ARTENSION, ROYAL HUNT...

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

7TH CIRCLE ‘UNSUMMON DEMO’ (DEMO CDR)

Out of Belgium comes 7TH CIRCLE, and they sent me a very impressive demo titled ‘Unsummon demo’. 3 long songs are included, and musically this is typical Melodic Gothic Progressive Metal in the style of SENGIR, AUTUMN, WITHIN TEMPTATION etc. Without a doubt, what we hear is high quality stuff, because all 3 songs (“Unsummon”, “Jade” and “Transience”) are very sensational Melodic Goth/Prog. Metal songs with strong female vocals (by Winnie Versmissen). This is a band with a bright future, because this demo shows they are able to make quality music and because the musicstyle they play is very popular at the moment, a label deal should be possible! More info at:
http://www.7thcircle.be and e-mail them at: sam.oerlemans@skynet.be

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

MAMA KIN ‘PARTYTIME’ (DEMO CDR)

The Swedish band MAMA KIN has a new demo out, and again we can hear nice typical late 80s/early 90s LA type of Sleaze/Glam Metal like a mix between CRUE, GNR and BRINTY FOX, simple but effective. Uptempo Party Hardrockers like “Partytime” and “Boys night out” are quite nice, but the best song is the midtempo Melodic Hardrocksong “Get it on”. More info at:
http://www.mamakin.tk and e-mail them at: the_kin@hotmail.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

BRUTALIATOR ‘PROMO’ (PROMO CDR)

Out of Sweden comes BRUTALIATOR, a band mixing Thrash and Power Metal, not unlike ICED EARTH meets very early METALLICA. The vocals are very strong actually, and the sound of the CD is very good as well, and even some of the songs are really great. 10 tracks are included, and most of them are very short, but what you get is quality Thrashy Melodic Power Metal. Highlights are Melodic Power Metal songs like “Flesh” (very good guitarwork, like BRAINSTORM, SYMPHORCE and ICED EARTH), “Metal commandos” (good 80s Speed Metal a la early METALLICA), “Frontier of fear” and “Blue turns black”. Most of the songs are fast, so maybe next time some longer and slower songs and then it will be even more interesting, but for now, sometimes the band is too much focused on Thrash Metal (the 80s way) on songs like “Genetic harvest”, “The loss”, “Terminal breath” and “Brutaliator”, and then it gets a bit boring. However, the band has some good stuff to offer as well, so check them out at:
http://www.brutaliator.com and e-mail them at: contact@brutaliator.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

AGRO ‘FORTHCOMING’ (DEMO CDR)

AGRO is a band from Johannesburg, South Africa and they have released a very professional album titled ‘Forthcoming’ which was sent to me as a demo CDR, but sounds like a professional album release. Anyway, they play quality Melodic Power Metal, although I am not that impressed with the vocals, because lead singer Cliff Crabb has a very aggressive voice which is more suitable for Thrash Metal. Instrumental it all sounds perfect, but the lead vocals spoil things here a bit, and maybe only fans of NEVERMORE might get away with this. However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, because the TWISTED SISTER cover “The price” contains very good melodic guest lead vocals (a la MARK BOALS), so if only those vocals would be used on all the songs, then this AGRO CD would be very sensational. Sadly, this guest singer only appears on 1 more song (“Through the chaos”). Like I said, instrumental everything sounds perfect, but the vocals give the Melodic Power Metal of AGRO a very aggressive Thrash-Metal approach, although some songs are also pure German Metal (a la GRAVE DIGGER), such as “At liberty”, “Woken by silence” and “A rule so deformed”. Anyway, if you like Power Metal with Thrash vocals, then this AGRO is a must for you to check out at:
http://www.agro-metal.com and e-mail at: denise@boolive.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

NATURALYA MUESLA ‘DEMO CDR’ (DEMO CDR)

This is an all-female band from Venezuela. Their demo CDR contains 5 tracks, and is musically good solid Melodic Progressive Hardrock. It’s definitely demo quality, but you can hear the band is able to make good music. Opener “I do” for example is a good semi progressive melodic rocker. Other highlights are “Fugaz” and the instrumental “Soul’s imperfection”. More info through e-mail at:
Naturaleza_muerta_box@hotmail.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

TYGERS OF PAN TANG ‘NOISES FROM THE CATHOUSE’ (COMMUNIQUE RECORDS)

The TYGERS are making another comeback with this CD ‘Noises from the cathouse’, with yet another new lead singer. Happily, Richie Wicks is the best singer the band has had since Jon Deverill left the band, and also this CD features some of the best material the band has recorded since 1985 (!). I think we are safe to say that the band finally found a steady line-up, although it will never ever reach the high level the band reached in the early/mid 1980s. Nevertheless, this new TYGERS OF PAN TANG CD is a good record, which will see the light of day on the 9th of February. Musically this is good Melodic Hardrock, and most of the 10 songs are actually quite long, so there’s lots to enjoy here. Highlights are such good Melodic Hardrocksongs like “Master of illusion” (9 minutes counting epic), “The spirit never dies” (semi-ballad), “Cybernation” (epic melodic heavy rocker), “Deja vu” (semi-ballad) and “Running man” (midtempo melodic rocker). Concluded, a reasonable new TYGERS record, not as good as their first 4/5 records, but nevertheless recommended to the fans of the band and by far better than anything the band has released after ‘The wreck-age’ (which I still think is the band’s best record ever!).

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SCAVENGER ‘BURNOUT LANE’ (INDEPENDENT)

The Dutch band SCAVENGER comes out of the city of Den Bosch, the same city that brought us Melodic Metalacts like ALLIED FORCES and XYSTUS. Well, they are about to release their second CD ‘Burnout lane’ very soon and I am glad to inform you that it’s a quality record. SCAVENGER is playing a mix of 70s and 80s Hardrock/Metal and they remind me a lot of PICTURE, with some Bluesrock (and even light Punk) influences added here and there. Although not all songs are convincing, there are some sensational Melodic Heavy Rocksongs on the CD, such as the great songs “Purity”, “Fire”, “Tie wraps” and “Bourbon”. On the other hand songs like “Sold your soul” and “Save my dreams” are less interesting, so the CD has ups and downs, although it never gets really bad. ‘Burnout lane’ is a rather good 70s/80s inspired Melodic Hard/Heavy Rockalbum with a bluesy twist, kinda like a mix between THIN LIZZY, BAD COMPANY, WHITESNAKE, AC/DC and PICTURE. More info at:
http://www.scavenger.nl and the CD is available at: http://www.sonic.nl and e-mail at: info@scavenger.nl

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

REVEREND BIZARRE ‘HARBINGER OF METAL’ (SPIKEFARM RECORDS)

One of the first new CD releases on SPIKEFARM RECORDS is the 2nd full-length CD of the Finnish Doom Metalband REVEREND BIZARRE. The album has a playing length of 74 minutes, alhtough only 7 tracks are included. Musically this is a must for fans of slow Doom Metal in the style of very early BLACK SABBATH, CANDLEMASS, ST. VITUS, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, TROUBLE... The vocals are melodic, and the songs are very very slow and pure Underground. Songs like “Strange horizon” (13 minutes) and “The wandering jew” (18 minutes) are a must for fans of CANDLEMASS and that sort of slow melodic Doom Metal. Still I think sometimes it gets a bit too depressive, and the songs
are a bit too slow, kinda like the opposite of bands like SONATA ARCTICA! Nevertheless, this is a must for fans of pure Underground Doom Metal!

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

BLACK LEAGUE ‘MAN’S RUIN REVISITED’ (SPIKEFARM RECORDS)

This is the third CD of the Finnish band BLACK LEAGUE. They play 70s meets 90s Biker Hardrock’n’roll like a mix between MOTORHEAD and GRINGOS LOCOS, with some 70s groovy guitar riffs and a raw lead singer who comes across like a mix between DANZIG, THE CULT, LEMMY and GRAVE DIGGER. The band is at their best during the straight-ahead uptempo rockers like “Old-world monkey”, “Cold women and warm beer”, “Hot wheels” and “The healer”. Recommended to fans of Biker Hardrock!

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

TURBULENCE ‘INDEPENDENCE’ (DEMO CDR)

This is a band from New York, and their demo contains 4 tracks. Opener “Roxanne” (a POLICE cover) is clearly the best song, as this version sounds like a great melodic rocker with very good vocals. Up next is a Nu-Metal song called “We’re screwed” which is not interesting at all. “Stand side by side” is better, as this is good modern melodic hardrock with good vocals and a nice guitarsolo. Closing track is the semi-ballad (nu-breed meets AOR style) “The one in my dreams”, which is a nice little catchy tune and is basically a radio-ready tune. So, the best songs are the cover and the ballad, and if HAREM SCAREM ‘Rubber’ period is your kind of thing, you will love this band as well. More info through e-mail at:
turbulence_music@hotmail.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

BOETZ ‘CALL TO ARMS’ (BALLS OUT RECORDS)

Out of Atlanta comes BOETZ, a band playing typical Biker Hard Rock’n’Roll like a mix between ROSE TATTOO, MOTORHEAD, AC/DC and STRANGER. Leader of the band is singer/guitarist/bassist Ernest Robert Boetz, and we can see and even hear some well-known people on the first BOETZ CD ‘Call to arms’, which was released in 2001. LEMMY from MOTORHEAD sings on 1 track, while that same song (opener “Call to arms”) was engineered by BOB KULICK, and the whole CD was mastered by Rodney Mills (38 SPECIAL). Musically it is very much 70s/80s Biker Hardrock like AC/DC with some Southern and lots of Bluesy riffs, such as on the songs “Call to arms”, “Rock n roll is good” and “Don’t mean a thing”. If you’re into this simple rock’n’roll music, then this BOETZ is a must, but I can also mention 2 songs that sounded a bit different. These are the fantastic classic early 80s AOR/Radiorocker “Shinin’” (like 38 SPECIAL, LOVERBOY and STRANGER circa 1982) and the uptempo rocker “Almost to Scotland” (catchy song). I hope next time BOETZ puts some more songs in this style on his album, and I think a new CD should be out soon, because I also received a 4-track demo CDR. The 4 songs follow the same style, although there’s also some raw punky material between those songs, but it sounds all quite nice (especially the semi melodic rocker “Lorion”), so if you like AC/DC, TED NUGENT, STATUS QUO sort of original Hardrock, then go for this BOETZ. More info at:
http://www.boetz.com and e-mail them at: lion@boetz.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

MONN TANNO MONDO ‘TALES OF ETERNITY’ (INDEPENDENT)

This American band is formed around multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Ed Montano 2. Their CD is titled ‘Tales of eternity’ and with 18 tracks and a playing length of 78 minutes, this is a very long album. It’s also very diverse musically, because opener “Tales of eternity” sounds very heavy, pure 80s Metal with influences from MANOWAR, SAVATAGE and DIO. However, next track “Mombasa” is completely different, as this sounds like ROD STEWART, very soft with Whiskey orientated vocals. Then comes something that sounds like a mix between early WHITESNAKE and DIO on the song “I am a citizen of the universe”, only a few levels lower. And actually the whole CD has ups and downs, with average songs like “Mind of wilderness”, “Papa always said”, “Far away and long ago” and “Dinin’n’dashin” and quality Metalsongs with good guitarwork (like “Through the ages”, “Turn up the night” and “The zone of Peril”). This is quite bizarre, and I am afraid not that interesting (although a RICK RAY fan will love this!), but maybe next time MONN TANNO MONDO comes up with a full Metal release.

(Points: 6.0 out of 10)

SIGIL ‘LEFTOVER’ (INDEPENDENT)

SIGIL is a Brazilian band and on their CD ‘Leftover’ they have come up with something original. The music is a mix of European Power Metal and American Alternative Rock. It sounds melodic and different, a bit reminding me of a Prog. Metal version of FOR ABSENT FRIENDS. The vocals are not really strong, but among the 6 included tracks there are some highlights, such as the great midtempo Progressive Melodic Rocker “Lost link”, a very impressive song. A promising band for the future, only the vocals need to get a bit stronger. More info at:
http://www.sigil.tk and e-mail at: sigil@bridge.com.br

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

DRAGON’S EYE ‘VARIOUS ALBUMS’ (INDEPENDENT)

This is a Polish band and they sent me 2 albums they released the past few years. The band is playing Heavy Metal with very raw vocals, somewhat like a mix between an 80s German Metalband (ACCEPT, STEELER) with METALLICAish vocals. The CD ‘A drop world’ contains 6 tracks and a playing length of 25 minutes, with as best song the great melodic heavy rocker “On the other side of my life”. The other songs are not that strong, and basically just OK Metalsongs with some unusual elements slipped through as well. The other CD ‘Screaming for Metal’ is much better, because this is a straight-forward Melodic Euro Power Metal record in the style of PRIMAL FEAR, yet with still the vocals a la James Hetfield unfortunately. Nevertheless, it all sounds very good now and highlights on this CD are “Crimson legion”, “Dragon’s eye”, “As I rise my sword”, “Heavy machine” and “Chemnistry of hearts”. More info on DRAGON’S EYE can be found at:
http://dragonseye.rockmetal.art.pl

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

SHADOW POINTE ‘REASON BEYOND ACCEPTANCE’ (INDEPENDENT)

Out of New England, USA comes the quality Progressive Rock/Metalband SHADOW POINTE. Their 2nd CD is titled ‘Reason beyond acceptance’. Without a doubt, this is a quality release and I can easily recommend it to fans of Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal. Highlights on their 60-minutes counting epic record are “Cause or the cure” (great uptempo Progressive Melodic Rocker like TNT), “Breeding cancer” (great Prog. Metal with ncie keyboardwork), “Along the way” (Progressive AOR) and “Requiem” (Pompy Progrock a la 7 MONTHS – remember them?). The band reminds me a bit of ELEGY meets SHADOW GALLERY, although there are clearly influences from the big 3 bands in this genre (QUEENSRYCHE, DREAM THEATER and RUSH), maybe it isn’t of such a high level, but nevertheless highly recommended to fans of those bands. The band has a great lead singer, and instrumental it all sounds very impressive, so nothing stands in my way to give this a good rating. You can check more on SHADOW POINTE at:
http://www.shadowpointe.com and e-mail them at: theband@shadowpointe.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

GAISEN MARCH ‘BATTLE MARK‘ (INDEPENDENT)

Out of Japan comes GAISEN MARCH, and they play raw Heavy Metal with a European Power Metal touch here and there. The band reminds me a lot of ANTHEM, LOUDNESS and VOW WOW, yet a bit heavier in it’s approach. The lyrics are all Japanese, so I can not say too much about the songtitles, but the Melodic Heavy Metal of GAISEN MARCH sounds quite good, and is definitely from a high level. Only the singer sounds a bit raw (and is clearly the weakest link), but the 71 minutes playing time of this CD can easily be played without ever pushing the forward button of the player. The band is also clearly influenced by the straight-foward German Metal/Power Metal genre (bands like PRIMAL FEAR, GRAVE DIGGER, RAGE and SINNER). Fans of mentioned bands will definitely like this Japanese band. More info at:
http://www.geocities.co.jp/MusicStar-Live/8312/

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

TRADEMARK ‘FATAL BLUES’
(UNISOUND/KARTHAGO RECORDS)


The Greek label is best known for it’s re-issues of old Greek Metalalbums, but some of their recent re-issues are dealing with a different rockgenre. I am talking about some fantastic AOR releases the label has done. Somewhere else you can read a review of the re-issued classic aor album of RAW SILK. Another Greek AOR band is TRADEMARK, which I had not heard before this CD release. The band released an album titled ‘Fatal blues’, and this re-issue contains the 5 original tracks of that record, as well as 4 unreleased bonustracks. The style fits somewhere between SURVIVOR and TYKETTO, and I can assure you that this CD is really awesome, as this band played pure AOR, with a fantastic instrumental back-up (a fantastic guitarist!) and a great lead singer. I never thought that there were such sensational Greek AOR bands (TRADEMARK and RAW SILK), but thanks to UNISOUND we can get to know them. 9 songs are in total on the TRADEMARK CD, which starts with the fantastic midtempo AOR/Melodic Rocker “Too late”, which has some great guitar riffs and a very strong hook and chorus. Next track “Burn the sky” is pure AOR like a mix between TYKETTO and SURVIVOR. It’s unbelievable, but the sensational AOR keeps on coming on this excellent CD, because also “Cold love” is a fantastic catchy uptempo AOR rocker that even has some DRIVE SHE SAID similarities, mixed with a bit of the early 80s British Melodic Rock (RAGE, NIGHTWING). The other 2 songs of the original album ‘Fatal blues’ are “The fatal blues” (beautiful Melodic Rockballad) and “In the prison cell” (good uptempo melodic rocker). The original album was recorded in 1992, and it’s a pity that it didn’t get much attention, as this is a very sensational AOR album. As a bonus, UNISOUND added 3 unreleased demos and 1 live recorded track, and although these songs are not as sensational as the original album tracks, it’s still nice Melodic Rock, only slightly heavier in approach here and there. Concluded, this is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AOR album, which is available through
http://www.karthagorecords.de and for more info on the band go to: http://www.trademark.pre.gr

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

RAW SILK ‘SILK UNDER THE SKIN’
(UNISOUND/KARTHAGO RECORDS)


There have not been that many Greek AOR bands in the past, but TRADEMARK and RAW SILK are clearly pure AOR bands, and they were both very sensational as well! RAW SILK from Athens recorded this album in the late 1980s, and I am glad UNISOUND re-issued it onto CD, because ‘Silk under the skin’ is a very sensational pure 1980s AOR album in the style of WHITE SISTER, FORTUNE, SURVIVOR, JOURNEY, AVIATOR... In other words, this is pure AOR with many keys, catchy hooks, memorable choruses etc. etc. It’s only a pity that there are only 8 songs on the album, but from start until end this is high quality AOR. Most of the songs are uptempo and in the same style, with as highlights “Street girl”, “Journey of no return”, “Second advent” and “Irene”, all sounding very much like AVIATOR and a bit WHITE SISTER. Fans of high quality 80s pure AOR should get a copy of this RAW SILK as soon as possible. The album is available through
http://www.karthagorecords.de

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

ARMAGEDDON ‘REV. 16:16’ (UNISOUND/KARTHAGO RECORDS)

Out of Cyprus came the band ARMAGEDDON, and their only (?) mini-CD from 1990 has been re-issued recently through the Greek label UNISOUND RECORDS. Sadly, only 4 songs are included, no bonus material, so with a playing time of just 17 minutes this is a very short affair. On the other hand, what we get to hear is quality stuff, because ARMAGEDDON is playing Melodic Hard/Heavy Rock that sounds very close to SCORPIONS circa ‘Lovedrive’ and ‘Blackout’. The band’s lead singer Jimmy Mavromatis has a great voice, although he is trying to sound like KLAUS MEINE quite a lot. Nevertheless, all 4 tracks are great Melodic Hard/Heavy rockers in the best 80s style, with as highlights “Raiders of steel” and “Rockin’ the universe”. If you like SCORPIONS and DOKKENish Melodic Hardrock, you will like this a lot, although this is a real mini-CD, so a bit short, but still recommended. The album is available through
http://www.karthagorecords.de

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

RUST ‘SHOOT THEM HIGHER’ (UNISOUND/KARTHAGO RECORDS)

Originally recorded in 1989, but now re-issued onto CD through UNISOUND, ‘Shoot them higher’ is the only (?) release of the Greek band RUST. The band played typical 80s Melodic Rock/Metal and also faster NWOBHM, kinda like a mix between RAVEN, MAD MAX and JAGUAR. The songs are sometimes fast and pure NWOBHM (“Shoot them higher”, “One more time”, “Till the end” and “Out of control”), but also then again very melodic rock orientated (“Rust”, “Time” and “That look”). In the end, I can say that this is another quality Greek album on the growing catalogue of UNISOUND, however this one is sometimes a bit heavier than their other recent releases. The album is available through
http://www.karthagorecords.de

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SEVENTH WONDER ‘TEMPLE IN THE STORM’ (PROMO CD)

Only 4 songs are on the new CD of the Swedish band SEVENTH WONDER, but without a doubt, this album is something special, as the Melodic Progressive Metal of the band sounds very sensational. All 4 included songs (“Temple in the storm”, “The secret”, “Like Him” and “In the blink of an eye”) are fantastic Melodic Progressive Metalsongs with lovely vocals, great breaks, very melodic choruses and basically a must for fans of VANDENPLAS, ENCHANT, MAGNITUDE 9 etc. This is high quality Melodic Progressive Metal and it would not surprise me if these guys would be signed by a label soon, as this new 4-track CD shows they are one of the best bands in the independent scene at the moment! More info at:
http://www.seventhwonder.nu and e-mail them at: seventhwonder@mail.com

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

SYMPHONY X ‘SYMPHONY X’ (INSIDE OUT MUSIC)

The story of the American Neo-Classical Progressive Metalband SYMPHONY X goes back to the early 1990s, when guitarist Michael Romeo was working on a demo tape, and somehow received overseas interest for a possible album release on the Japanese label ZERO CORPORATION, after rave reviews in BURRN!!!. Michael had just left a band called PHANTOM’S OPERA, whom released a couple of great Melodic Pomprockalbums, and he formed a new band called SYMPHONY X. Together with vocalist Rod Tyler, keyboardplayer Michael Pinnella, bassist Thomas Miller and drummer Jason Rullo the band SYMPHONY X was formed in 1992, and in 1994 the band released it’s official debu CD. The album featured some great Melodic Progressive Metal with Neo-Classical influences, kinda like a mix between MALMSTEEN, SAVATAGE and DREAM THEATER, yet with a strong own identity. This album was just the beginning of greater things to come in the future, because we all know what happened the next 10 years for this band, because SYMPHONY X became very popular, but this first album showed how they started 10 years ago. Although this debut album featured a different singer than on all the other albums SYMPHONY X did with of course RUSSELL ALLEN, the musicstyle is clearly of a very high level. Basically this debut CD is a great Melodic Prog. Metal album with such lovely songs like “Premonition”, “Masquerade” and “Absinthe and rue”, but the only thing is the difference in vocal range, as the singer on this debut CD was Rod Tyler, and he just isn’t as good as the fantastic RUSSELL ALLEN. I had heard of plans the band re-recording the debut with Russel on vocals, but somehow that hasn’t happened yet, and that’s a pity, because this CD is very impressive indeed, although it has been 10 years ago since it was first released. Nevertheless, the first SYMPHONY X has been re-released by INSIDE OUT MUSIC, with some bonus material and therefore it is a must to check out.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SYMPHONY X ‘THE DAMNATION GAME’
(INSIDE OUT MUSIC)


Most SYMPHONY X fans consider this album as the real start of the band, because ‘The damnation game’ featured their ‘real’ lead singer RUSSELL ALLEN and the album had a much better production than their debut CD from 1994. ‘The damnation game’ was originally released in 1995, and now 9 years later it gets a re-release on INSIDE OUT MUSIC, with the bonus addition of part 2 of the band interview as a bonus. In fact, all 4 re-releases feature a part of the band interview, so I am sorry to inform you that none of the 4 re-released albums contain new or unreleased music, because the bonus material is just the interview. Nevertheless, the packaging is great, with some great new liner notes written by the bandmembers, and it is very interesting to collect the first 4 albums of SYMPHONY X in this special edition digipack release. Anyway, the 2nd CD of SYMPHONY X saw the band clearly moving into the style that made them such a popular act. Especially the new lead singer back then (RUSSELL ALLEN) sounded awesome and was a clear improvement for the band, and therefore the reason he stayed as their lead vocalist until this day. Although ‘The damnation game’ is not their best effort, and Russell had to develop himself as a singer, he did a great job, especially considering the fact his vocals were recorded in a week after he agreed to sang on the album! The production and also the songs were however much better than their debut and clearly showing an unique mixture of Prog. Metal, Power Metal and Neo-Classical influences. Highlights on this 2nd release were “Dressed to kill”, “The edge of forever”, “Whispers” and “Secrets”. Without a doubt, it was one of the better albums of 1995!

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

SYMPHONY X ‘THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY’
(INSIDE OUT MUSIC)


The third CD of SYMPHONY X ‘The divine wings of tragedy’ was actually the big breakthrough for the band in 1997, as this album was a Neo-Classic Melodic Progressive Power Metal masterpiece (!!!). The album was almost perfect from start until the end, with a big high class production and 9 sensational songs, with a total playing length of 65 minutes. The result is a stunning album with such fantastic songs like “Of sins and shadows”, “Sea of lies”, “Out of the ashes”, “The accolade” and the 20 minutes counting epos “The divine wings of tragedy”. Concluded, it’s great to re-recommend this re-released 3rd SYMPHONY X to you, although the best was yet to come on their 4th release ‘Twilight in Olympus’.

(Points: 9.5 out of 10)

SYMPHONY X ‘TWILIGHT IN OLYMPUS’
(INSIDE OUT MUSIC)


The final and 4th re-release of SYMPHONY X by INSIDE OUT MUSIC this year is of course ‘Twilight in olympus’, the band’s best release so far. It has been already 6 years since it was first released, but now 6 years later this re-release shows how good this album really was. It was basically SYMPHONY X at it’s very best, with such amazing Melodic Prog/Power Metal songs like “Smoke and mirrors”, “Church of the machine”, “In the dragon’s den” and “Through the looking glass”. Concluded, ‘Twilight in olympus’ was SYMPHONY X’s finest record, and since the release the band went on releasing 2 more records, although none of them was better than this 4th CD. Maybe their upcoming new CD will be as good as this album, but only time will tell. In the meantime, if you never checked out the band’s earlier releases, then these re-releases are the perfect opportunity to get hold of them at a lower price in a digipack version.

(Points: 9.5 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem, except where noted)
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