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HOT NEW REVIEWS

UPDATED ON OCTOBER 7 - 2003

VERTIGO ‘VERTIGO’
(FRONTIERS RECORDS/BERTUS)


VERTIGO is the brainchild of former TOTO lead singer JOSEPH WILLIAMS, who recorded a great album for FRONTIERS RECORDS, with the help of songwriters like JIM PETERIK, JOEY CARBONE, DAN LUCAS, DAVID TYSON etc. and musicians like Fabrizio V. Zee Grossi (PERFECT WORLD) and Alex De Rosso (DOKKEN). The musicstyle is pure 80s AOR, similar in style to a rockier STARSHIP and TOTO circa ‘The seventh one’, and actually this album might be called the AOR album TOTO never made! There are some very sensational pure AOR tracks on this album. I would like to mention here tracks like “Straight to your heart” (excellent typical late 80s semi AOR ballad, with a very catchy chorus a la MARK FREE’s ‘Long way from love’), “More than enough” (lovely AOR ballad), “I don’t want to go” (another beautiful AOR ballad), “Love is blind” (classy uptempo 80s AOR, previously recorded by JOHN O’BANION, ALKATRAZZ and several others) and “When it doesn’t matter” (great midtempo AOR). Anyone who waited for TOTO to release a new AOR album are better off buying this awesome new JOSEPH WILLIAMS album which offers more than any of the TOTO records from the past 16 years!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

ION VEIN ‘REIGNING MEMORIES’
(MAJESPHERE RECORDS)


The American band ION VEIN returns with a new CD and without a doubt, this is one of the best Progressive/80s US Power Metal orientated releases so far this year. The band has created a truly awesome high quality record that sounds like the perfect mixture between 80s QUEENSRYCHE, CRIMSON GLORY and BALANCE OF POWER. The CD was produced, recorded and mixed by none-other than Mr. NEIL KERNON, who is famous for producing major masterpieces by QUEENSRYCHE, SHY, JUDAS PRIEST, FM, KANSAS, AUTOGRAPH and many more. The CD has a playing length of 64 minutes, and contains in total 12 superb tracks of the highest level you can reach in today’s Prog/Power Metal genre. The musicianship is excellent, and lead singer Russ Klimczak has a terrific high pitched voice that makes you forget GEOFF TATE ever existed! Anyone waiting for QUEENSRYCHE to return to their old style, forget it, and just purchase yourself a copy of this masterpiece by the Chicago settled ION VEIN. It’s hard to pick favourite tracks, as all tracks are sensational, but songs like “Spiral maze”, “Faith and majesty” (beautiful harmonies), “The power of you”, “Another life” and the epic “Adrian’s ladder” are definitely the absolute highlights here. This CD doesn’t need any negative comments, maybe only the sax in the song “Twilight garden” wasn’t necessary. Fans of the first 2 albums of CRIMSON GLORY and early QUEENSRYCHE can easily buy this ‘perfect’ CD. More info at:
http://www.ionvein.com and e-mail them at: mail@ionvein.com

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

MAMMOTH ‘LARGER AND LIVE’ (ANGEL AIR RECORDS)

The heaviest Rock band ever? Well, in the 1980s the UK band MAMMOTH received a great deal of publicity with being labelled as the heaviest rockband on the scene, but it’s a shame they were never taken serously for their music, because their mix of AOR and Melodic Heavy Rock sounded very impressive at times. Notable members include vocalist NICKY MOORE and bassist/guitarist JOHN MCCOY, and basically this CD release on ANGEL AIR RECORDS contains most of the recordings by MAMMOTH. In total 17 tracks are included, of which 6 are live recorded tracks. The 11 studio tracks are a very interesting listen for fans of 80s British AOR/Melodic Rock, although the band also offered some weaker rocksongs (like “Monster mania”, “Working for the man”, “Dressed to kill”, “Bet you wish” and “Do what you want to”). Highlights however are such great AOR/Melodic Rockers like “Fatman”, “All the days”, “Can’t take the hurt” (almost a classic, fantastic memorable chorus!), “Always and forever” and “Catcher in the rye”. Without a doubt, an underrated band that could have scored massive with their song “Can’t take the hurt”, although need to be added here that it ended up on the soundtrack of the famous Horrormovie ‘Freddy’s Nightmare on Elm Street’, so there was some success, but the main feature on the band was the fact they were the heaviest band on the planet and were more seen as some sort of SPINAL TAP kinda band!

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

KROKUS ‘STAMPEDE/TO ROCK OR NOT TO BE’ (ANGEL AIR RECORDS)

The legendary Swiss Hardrockband KROKUS made a return to the scene in 1990 with the album ‘Stampede’, an album that saw the replacement of original singer MARC STORACE. New singer was found in the shape of Peter Tanner, who was a good replacement. The album’s opener and titletrack “Stampede” saw the band moving into faster paced pure melodic metal, like JUDAS PRIEST, yet a bit more melodic. The rest of the album was just pure KROKUS, so rough and ready Hardrock with singable choruses, with as highlights “Electric man”, “Nova-zand” (pure LED ZEPPELIN midtempo “Kashmir” style), “Good times” and “In the heat of the night” (a 7-minute classy melodic rocker). 4 years later the band released ‘To rock or not to be’, which saw the return of MARC STORACE, although musically a bit simpler Hardrock and not as good as classic KROKUS, but still with songs like “Flying through the night”, “In the dead of the night”, “Talking like a shotgun” and “Stormy nights” an interesting record for the fans of the band. Both albums have been released onto a double-CD in the UK by ANGEL AIR RECORDS, with the addition of a few bonustracks, such as the BTO cover “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” and the unreleased KROKUS originals “Wasteland” and “Stormy night”. In other words, highly recommended to the KROKUS fan!

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

NU CLEAR DAWN ‘POEM OF A KNIGHT’ (INDEPENDENT)

It is definitely the truth what I am about to say about this band, because NU CLEAR DAWN is by far the first and best band ever to emerge from the Middle East. The band comes out of Syria, and as we all know music has no borders and so it is my honour to present you the first band from Syria, and it’s not just a band, because their debut CD ‘Poem of a knight’ is a very impressive high quality Melodic Neo-Classical Prog/Power Metal release with strong similarities to KAMELOT, SYMPHONY X and MALMSTEEN. The artwork looks very professional, so is the production and the included 8 tracks. Highlights are the fast uptempo “The meeting”, “Revolution” (fantastic ProgMetal, with lovely keyboardwork and a very melodic vocal/chorus approach, like SILENT EDGE), “Wounded” (ballad), “Rebirth” (a la SYMPHONY X) and “Memories on the road”. The CD takes up to 60 minutes and is without a doubt an important album, as it is the official first really sensational Neo-Classical Prog/Power Metal from the Middle East (not counting Turkey, as they are actually an European country). Let’s hope more bands will follow, as NU CLEAR DAWN proves there’s enough talent out there. More info on the band can be found at:
http://www.nucleardawn.com and e-mail them at: info@nucleardawn.net

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

HARDLINE ‘LIVE AT THE GODS 2002’
(FRONTIERS RECORDS/BERTUS)


With only 1 album out and a 2nd coming out soon back then, the band HARDLINE was one of the headliners at The Gods of AOR in 2002. This live-CD (and soon on DVD) is the perfect registration of what went down that night, because HARDLINE gave away a fantastic performance, performing mostly classics from their debut ‘Double eclipse’, such as “Hot cherie”, “Everything”, “Rhythm from a red car”, “I’ll be there” and excellent new stuff like “Face the night” and “Only a night”. Backing vocals were done by Gudrun Laos, who also backed up vocalist Johnny Gioeli during his AXEL RUDI PELL tour. The musicians included Johnny Gioeli’s brother Joey on guitar, Josh Ramos (THE STORM, RAMOS) on guitar, Bob Burch on bass, Michael T. Ross on keys and Bob Rock on drums. Together they performed an excellent show, which can now be heard on this Live audio-CD, while soon we can also see the original performance on the DVD version.

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

JANI LANE ‘BACK DOWN TO ONE’ (Z RECORDS)

JANI LANE is best known as frontman for WARRANT, the band that scored several huge hitsingles in the USA in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the wonderful ballad “Heaven” almost reaching the number 1 position in the official US Billboard charts almost 15 years ago. Anyway, we are now in the year 2003 and the world has changed a lot since then. Hair Metal has completely vanished, and it took JANI LANE 10 years to recover. Now he has gone solo and his first CD is being released through Z RECORDS. The music has not much to do with WARRANT, although songs like “Nothing” and “Better than you” sound like an updated version of the typical bubblegum rocksound of WARRANT, but mainly this record is a typical Nu-Breed Melodic Poprock affair. Despite the fact that it sounds so modern, Jani’s vocals didn’t change that much and therefore this album sounds a little more melodic than all the other releases in this genre. Opener “Funny” is one of the better tracks, a good uptempo melodic poprocker, while other highlights can be found in the shape of “Back down to one”, “Don’t trust me” and “6 feet under” (catchy sing-a-long song, could have been a WARRANT tune). Definitely not as good as WARRANT once were, but still a good quality nu-breed rock album, although a bit on the short side (only 34 minutes!).

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

THE MILLIONS ‘MILLION DOLLAR ROCK’
(STEALTH RECORDS/Z RECORDS)

On the new sublabel of Z RECORDS, STEALTH RECORDS, we can find the debut CD of the new American Nu-Breed Melodic Poprockoutfit THE MILLIONS. At first sight this band sounds very modern and very different from anything we have heard on Z RECORDS the past few years. It sounds like a mix between DEF LEPPARD circa ‘X’ and HAREM SCAREM circa ‘Rubber’, sometimes catchy and melodic, with lots of harmonyvocals, but also a bit modern at times. Nevertheless, this is a good album that could easily become huge in the USA with some good promotion backing it up. Highlights are uptempo rockers like “Today is the day”, “Heather”, “January fool”, “Million d

d band, and definitely much better than all the other Nu-Breed Rockacts out there at the moment!

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

FALCONER ‘THE SCEPTRE OF DECEPTION’
(METAL BLADE RECORDS)


On the 6th of October METAL BLADE RECORDS will release the third CD of the Swedish Power Metal band FALCONER. The line-up has changed compared to the first 2 albums, because lead singer Mathias Blad left the band and new frontman is now Kristoffer Göbel. Musically not much has changed, and so also this new CD is filled with high quality medieaval Power Metal with a slight folk touch, a lot sounding like BLIND GUARDIAN here and there. 10 songs are included, and together with a big production, this album is set to become a winner for the fans of true European Power Metal. Highlights are such faster uptempo Power Metal pieces like “The trail of flames”, “Night of infamy”, “Ravenhair” and “The sceptre of deception”, all very catchy. Concluded, we have here a highly recommended Euro Power Metal CD for you to be released in early October.

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SECRET SMILE ‘THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED’ (METAL MAYHEM MUSIC)

This band from Connecticut, USA has released a pure 1980s sounding Melodic Rock record that was engineered and mixed by none-other than JEFF CANNATA. He did a great job, because the CD has a very big sound. The AOR/Melodic Rock of SECRET SMILE also sounds pretty good, but not always sensational. This is a little bit due to the lead vocals of singer T.J. Gabriele, who reminds me of MIKE TRAMP, so a more Glam/Party-Rock orientated voice, not bad, but it doesn’t always match with SECRET SMILE’s AOR/Melodic Rock music. We can easily compare the band to early DANGER DANGER mixed with some WHITE LION, basically you then have SECRET SMILE’s sound. Highlights on their CD are “Take a chance on you” (early DANGER DANGER orientated fun 80s AOR/Melodic Rock), “Stop and go (Follow your heart)” (excellent catchy uptempo melodic rocker), “Around” (another catchy uptempo melodic rocker), “Come in from the rain” (classy AOR song a la NELSON) and “Tell me why?” (high class melodic rock). Concluded, a recommended CD to fans of
late 80s US Melodic Rock in the style of mentioned bands. More info at:
http://www.secretsmile.net and e-mail them at: tj@secretsmile.net

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

ZON ‘ASTRAL PROJECTOR/BACK DOWN TO EARTH’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

In the late 1970s in North America there was a big scene filled with Pomprockbands that wanted to breakthough after STYX and KANSAS scored massive with their records ‘The grand illusion’ and ‘Leftoverture’. Bands like TOUCH, SPY, AVIARY and ROADMASTER are just a few examples, and it is clear that we can also put the Canadian band ZON next to those bands. ZON managed to release 3 albums, of which the first 2 are now re-issued onto 2 CDs by ESCAPE MUSIC. There aren’t any Bonustracks here, but who cares, because both LPs were very hard to get the past 25 years, and so ESCAPE MUSIC has done a great job with putting both on a double CD. The fans of classy Pomprock will enjoy this a lot, as the sound is crystal clear on this CD. The big late 70s Pomprock of ZON sounded like a mix betwee STYX, QUEEN and TOUCH, with lots of keys and guitarwork, while the vocals of singer Denton Young sound a lot like DENNIS DEYOUNG. Both albums are perfect late 1970s Pomprock, with as best songs “Put on the show”, “Man in the mirror”, “On the road” and “Astral projector” (from ‘Astral projector’ – 1978) and “Circus” (STYX harmonies meets BOSTON guitarsound, excellent song), “Please stay”, “Back down to earth” and “Take it from me” (catchy melodic rocker) (from ‘Back down to earth’ – 1979). If you want to find out how pure STYX influenced 70s Pomprock sounded like, then better check out this excellent double-CD release of ZON, which comes along with some very nice artwork and packaging.

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

VOICE ‘SOULHUNTER’
(AFM RECORDS/ROCK INC./BERTUS)


The German band VOICE returns with maybe their best release so far. The production is big and the included 9 songs are very catchy melodic heavy rockers in the best German tradition. This time the band used MIKA JUSSILA (STRATOVARIUS, SONA ARCTICA) for the mastering of the CD, so that’s probably the reason why this CD has such a big sound. The music is Melodic Heavy Rock like a mix between VICTORY, EDGUY and HELLOWEEN, so typical German. Although there are only 9 tracks on the CD, and the playing length is about 45 minutes, from start to finish this is high quality melodic heavy rock/metal. Highlights are “Soulhunter”, “Valhalla”, “Place of deliverance”, “Firedevil” and “Glorious empire”. Fans of EDGUY, PRETTY MAIDS, VICTORY, HELLOWEEN, MAD NAX etc. will like this CD a lot.

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

MADOG ‘FAIRYTALES OF DARKNESS’
(SOUND RIOT RECORDS/ROCK INC./BERTUS)


Sometime ago we reviewed the 2nd Independent CD from the band MADOG from Austria and I remember that it was a very good record, so it wasn’t out of the question that they would be signed by a label soon. Now in the year 2003 the Portuguese label SOUND RIOT RECORDS has signed MADOG, and released that 2nd CD ‘Fairytales of darkness’ officially. It is a high quality release that contains well-played guitar orientated melodic German/Euro Power Metal like BLIND GUARDIAN, EDGUY and a bit RAGE. The songs are quite heavy, but on the other hand also very melodic, due to the excellent singer (guitarist Hans Zedrosser). Like I said this is a high quality CD release, partly due to the big production/sound quality, but also the songs are all very good. There are 11 tracks on the CD, and the album starts with the heaviest track on offer here, namely the fast uptempo melodic power metal piece "Veni mecum" that can easily be related to ICED EARTH and GRAVE DIGGER, yet with better lead vocals. Not a bad start for some of you, but I can guarantee you the rest of the CD is different (and better!). The band continues with a bunch of great melodic metal songs, such as "Fairy of darkness", "Miracle" (a la EDGUY), "Hunter" (very catchy chorus, fantastic song a la 80s PRETTY MAIDS, ATTACK), "Dream of the mountain" (best song, lovely midtempo melodic hardrock with impressive huge chorus!) and the uptempo "One thousand feet". Fans of mentioned bands need to check out MADOG a.s.a.p., go get more info on them at:
http://www.madog.net

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SAVALLION DAWN ‘THE CHARGE’
(SOUND RIOT RECORDS/ROCK INC./BERTUS)


Sometime ago we reviewed the Independent CD ‘The charge’ from the German band SAVALLION DAWN. The band got signed to SOUND RIOT RECORDS, and their first release on this Portuguese label is their CD ‘The charge’, which contains 2 more tracks, so in total 9 tracks. SAVALLION DAWN is a great band and their CD ‘The charge’ is filled with melodic Prog/Power Metal of a high level. The CD has a great sound, the included 9 songs are very impressive and the band has a good lead singer (Ernesto Monteiro). The best tracks on their CD are “Down in silence” (great melodic Prog/Power Metal), “The final hunt”, “Onward”, “Destiny” and “Seven signs” (catchy melodies). The band is comparable to OMEN, HELSTAR, DESTINY’S END, ONWARD and WARLORD, so a clear 80s US Power Metal influence may be heard here and there. The band switched from line-up quite a few times the past 3 years, but since last year they have a steady line-up. Most striking fact is that the lead singer comes out of Uruguay, a country not particularly known for Hardrock and Metalbands. Anyway, this SAVALLION DAWN is highly recommended to all Prog/Power Metal fans. Check out their site at:
http://www.savallion-dawn.de

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

ANDRA ‘CIRCLE OF FIRE’ (DARK EDEN/ROCK INC./BERTUS)

We are back in Germany once again where we can find a band called ANDRA. Lead singer is the beautiful lady ANDRA J., who sang with the band HELICON before forming ANDRA. The band’s 2nd CD ‘Circle of fire’ was co-produced by Uli Kusch (MASTERPLAN, HELLOWEEN) and so there’s nothing bad to say about the production, which is by far of a very high level. The music is just so typical German, with heavy riffs and singable choruses, like a heavier version of DORO. Not all the songs are impressive, because the gang-vocals of “Love changes to hate” do not really work that well, but despite a few weaker songs, most of the album sounds pretty good. Highlights can be found in the shape of “False religion” (very strong chorus), “La Rosa del Amor” (catchy fast Power Metal), “Angel” (strong semi-ballad) and “The circle of fire”. Recommended to fans of HEADLINE, DORO, HELICON, HELLION...

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

BODY ELECTRIC ‘WALKING THROUGH WALLS’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

The British label ESCAPE MUSIC has been doing some great stuff so far this year, mainly in the re-issue/re-release are, because after we have had excellent re-issues of SUGARCREEK and ZON, it is now time for BODY ELECTRIC. This Canadian band has had a long history before turning into BODY ELECTRIC. Since the 1970s the 2 main members (keyboardplayer Bob Buckley and vocalist/guitarist David Sinclair) were respected session musicians, but in the early 1980s they started their own band called STRAIGHT LINES. I have reviewed one of their 2 records back in the day, but actually haven’t played it in 10 years or so, although I can still remember the album was filled with good typical early 80s US AOR/Poprock/Mainstream Pop like a mix between TOTO and CHICAGO. As STRAIGHT LINES, the band even managed to score some hitsingles, but after 2 LPs they were dropped by CBS Records. However, David and Bob joined hands together again to form a band called BODY ELECTRIC. This time moving into a more Hi-Tech Poprock style, although the AOR was still present. Anyway, ESCAPE MUSIC has re-issued the album ‘Walking through walls’, with the addition of 5 bonustracks. Similarities to HAYWIRE, MR. MISTER, TIM FEEHAN, THINK OUT LOUD, LOVERBOY, RICHARD MARX etc. come to mind when listening to this CD. The excellent lead vocals of David Sinclair surely made this band sound better than other bands in the genre, although some more electric guitar could have made BODY ELECTRIC a pure AOR band, but one way or the other, this CD really captures the sound of the keyboard orientated Canadian Poprock of the 1980s. My favourite tracks are “Strangers in love” (midtempo pure 80s AOR), “Out of the blue” (lovely calmer AOR ballad), “Ordinary madness” (good pure 80s fun uptempo AOR/Poprocker), “Fire and ice” (catchy uptempo aor/poprocker like the first 2 HAYWIRE classics, but also a bit THE OUTFIELD and even CUTTING CREW when they rocked), “I think I’m falling” (great early 80s AOR/Radiorocker a la STEEL BREEZE, 2nd SILVER CONDOR), “After the storm” (lovely early 80s AOR) and closing track “The things you didn’t do” (a beautiful semi AOR ballad with classical influences a la JOHN MILES’ “Music”, very late 70s style, is an original STRAIGHT LINES song). This CD is a must for the fans of 80s AOR/Poprock, and a good move from ESCAPE MUSIC would be the re-issue of the 2 albums of STRAIGHT LINES up next, and Barrie of ESCAPE MUSIC informed me that this will probably happen soon, so cheers on that!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

HEARTPLAY ‘THE ALBUM’ (VDS MUSIC)

Out of nowhere this CD came my way, a recording by a band called HEARTPLAY, which features lead singer Kimmo Blom, whom some of you might know from URBAN TALE. That Finish band released an awesome AOR debut, but sadly followed it up with an average record, but before the URBAN TALE releases, lead singer KIMMO BLOM recorded songs as HEARTPLAY, together with the actual leader of the band, Sakari Salli. The band still exists, although the CD says it was made in 2001, but it took the band until now to release it to a bigger audience, and I am glad to inform you about this excellent AOR record. The album has a big sound (thanks to Finnvox) and although only 9 tracks are included (so a short playing length of hardly 34 minutes), this is high quality AOR from start to finish. The material is somewhere between BAD ENGLISH, JOURNEY, HUGO, STREET TALK, URBAN TALE and ALIEN, although slightly more based on slower poppier tunes instead of real rockers. The album’s highlights are “Waiting for you” (excellent big midtempo AOR a la JOURNEY/HUGO), “Don’t let them fade away” (strong AOR rocker a la ALIEN, DAVINCI, TREAT), “Take my word” (80s JOURNEY AOR rocker) and the midtempo AOR of closing track “Father forgive me”. Anyway, without a doubt, this CD is a MUST for fans of pure emotional AOR a la HUGO, STREET TALK, URBAN TALE and JOURNEY. You can buy the CD at:
http://www.targetrecords.de

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SPIRIT WEB ‘FAR BEYOND THE VISUAL MIND’ (MAUSOLEUM RECORDS)
I am a big fan of the band SYRIS, who managed to release 2 great albums, and therefore I was looking forward to the SPIRIT WEB album, as this band features SYRIS guitarist Paul Speredes. Unfortunately, the album they deliver here has not much to do with the high class Melodic Metal (a la early QUEENSRYCHE) of the previous band SYRIS. SPIRIT WEB is much more modern and quite average actually. Only a semi-ballad like “Far beyond the visual mind” is quite good, but mostly they play a very aggressive typical American modern Metal style that sounds a lot like PANTERA. That’s really a pity, because the CD contains one track that is different and reminding of what SYRIS once did, which is good quality Melodic Metal, and then I am talking about the song “From a Prince to a pauper”, a 7-minute epic classy Metal song a la HELSTAR, JAG PANZER, old QUEENSRYCHE, CRIMSON GLORY etc. and also featuring good melodic vocals instead of the annoying aggressive vocal style on the rest of the CD. Why on earth didn’t the band make a full CD with such material! Anyway, you can avoid this release, unless bands like CROWBAR and PANTERA are your kind of bands. Fans of ‘real’ Metal can only check out 1 song (track number 10) to hear their favourite style.

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

MEDEA ‘INDIVIDUAL UNIQUE’ (RED SEA RECORDS/ROCK INC./BERTUS)

Out of Holland comes this exciting new project called MEDEA. The leader of MEDEA is guitarist/keyboardplayer Henry Meeuws, who is also a member of the Dutch Neo-Prog band CASUAL SILENCE. This CD is basically a concept-album based on a partly fictional story of a young artist living in the 18th century in Florence, Italy. The music is like you would expect from a concept-record typical Prog. Rockopera like we have seen on other releases like GENIUS, NOSTRADAMEUS, STAR ONE, AYREON, LEONARDO, ONCE AND FUTURE KING and MERLIN (KAYAK version). The album features 9 vocalists, of which 3 also sing in CASUAL SILENCE, and I have to say it again that these 3 singers can really sing well. This is a very impressive record indeed, and as highlights I would have to say “Make the grade”, “The blind one leads the way”, “Tell me...” and “Day and night”. Concluded, this MEDEA has delivered a highly recommended Rock Opera Concept CD.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SNAKE CHARMER ‘BACKYARD BOOGALOO’
(MTM CLASSIX/MTM MUSIC/SUBURBAN)


10 years ago the Swedish all-star band released their awesome AOR Classic Debut titled ‘Smoke and mirrors’. This album is very hard to get nowadays, and therefore almost every AOR fan hoped for a re-release of this gem, but MTM MUSIC decided that the 2nd album ‘Backyard boogaloo’ of SNAKE CHARMER would be re-released, because so far it was only released in Japan. The music is still superb strong AOR/Melodic Rock, but not as good as their classic debut. Nevertheless there’s still some enjoyable high quality AOR on this record, such as “Someday you’re gonna love someone”, “Need a little help”, “Pretty little small town girl”, “Take a look at yourself” and “Not a day without you”. It’s incredible that the absolute top of the Swedish AOR and Metal scene came together and released this SNAKE CHARMER album several years ago, because the line-up featured vocalist GORAN EDMAN (STREET TALK, MALMSTEEN, JOHN NORUM, GLORY, KHARMA), bassist Per Stadin (SILVER MOUNTAIN), drummer ANDERS JOHANSSON (MALMSTEEN, HAMMERFALL), keyboardplayer JENS JOHANSSON (STRATOVARIUS, DIO, MALMSTEEM) and guitarist Benny Jansson (ERIKA). Some of the songs were written by outsiders, such as JEFF PARIS (“She made me fall”) and Jeff Silbar/Mark Baker (“Someday you’re onna love someone”) and there’s a DAVID BOWIE cover included (“Life on mars”), but the other 9 songs are all original songs written by the band. The CD contains 3 bonustracks, so without a doubt this is a recommended AOR/Melodic Rockalbum in the best Scandi tradition. Let’s hope MTM will also re-release the SNAKE CHARMER debut, but for now fans of classy Scandi AOR/Melodic Rock can easily purchase this record.

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘MTM MUSIC VOLUME 9’
(MTM MUSIC)


MTM releases another new compilation CD with many unreleased songs. 16 tracks are included, and it’s a pity the mentioned DARE track isn’t included, because that’s one of the most promising upcoming releases on MTM. Instead we get to hear a new DANNY DANZI track, and although I love his debut on Z RECORDS, this new song “Only the strong will survive” is an aevarge melodic rocker. The highlights on this compilation can be found in the shape of NORTHRUP/SHORTINO with the classy melodic rocker “Afterlife” (rough mixed demo song of their forthcoming album to be released spring 2004), RADIOACTIVE with the Japanese bonustrack “Somewhere, someday” (a great semi AOR ballad with big harmonies), SEVEN WISHES (who switched from Z to MTM, just like DANNY DANZI) with their BONFIRE/WHITE LION influenced melodic hardrocksong “Fortuneteller” and the new band XING (CROSSING) who perform the song “Wondering man”. XING is also one of the few bands on MTM to play pure Progressive Metal, while most of the songs included here are Melodic Rock/AOR. Anyway, if you are not able to buy all MTM releases, then this is an interesting compilation release for you to check out.

(Points: - )

MAGO DE OZ ‘GAIA’
(LOCOMOTIVE MUSIC/ROCK INC./BERTUS)


The legendary Spanish band MAGO DE OZ returns with a complete new studioalbum and after listening to it a couple of times it became clear to me that this is a superb album. The band is without a doubt one of Spain’s most important bands, as they sell millions in their own country, and also influence hundreds of new upcoming bands (as you might have noticed, we reviewed lots of new Spanish bands the past few years), and with their latest masterpiece ‘Gaia’ they are ready to attack the rest of the world. The album ‘Gaia’ is again featuring the high class musicianship of MAGO DE OZ, which is a sort of Folk Medieval Melodic Rock/Metal with soaring melodies, actually a ‘true’ own style this band has created which will appeal to fans of all sorts of Rock and Metal. The 11-minutes counting opener “Gaia” sets the spirit for the rest of the album, which is fantastic epic Melodic Folk-Rock/Metal with a strong chorus and lots of nice instrumental passages (both calmer and harder with the instruments Violin, Flute, Guitars and Keys). The CD continues in this style, and therefore ‘Gaia’ may be seen as the best MAGO DE OZ album so far. Other highlights include “La Conquista” (uptempo melodic rocker), “Alma” (uptempo melodic rocker), “El arbol de la noche triste” (beautiful melodies, midtempo AOR), “El atrapasuenos” (Melodic Metal with lots of Folk and even Indian influences), the melodic rockballad “Si te vas” and “Van a rodar cabezas” (superb melodic power metal with aor/prog chorus). It’s not so strange the band launched the song “La costa del silencio” as the first single (which is already huge in Spain), because this song has a very high sing-a-long level. Concluded, I can highly recommend this fantastic new MAGO DE OZ album, and then I mean not only to the Spanish readers, but also non-Spanish speaking people must check out this awesome release!

(Points: 9.5 out of 10)

LA GUNS ‘GOLDEN BULLETS’ (MAUSOLEUM RECORDS)

LA GUNS were formed 20 years ago by guitarist Tracii Guns, who also joined AXL ROSE for a short period in the early stages of the band’s career and was actually co-founder of GUNS’N’ROSES, but from 1985 he concentrated on his own band LA GUNS, with whom he managed to release about 10 records (including live and best of). LA GUNS has had their fifteen minutes of fame in the late 80s/early 90s, when their type of Sleazy Hardrock became MTV’s next big trend to promote. Now in 2003 the band makes another comeback with this best of release on MAUSOLEUM RECORDS. It’s not a real best of, because most tracks were either re-recorded, taken from different live and best of albums or the odd cover (the GUNS’N’ROSES song “My Michelle”). Nevertheless, you can clearly hear that the band never did change their musicstyle, and so it was always based on Sleazy Punky Hardrock with as highlights tracks like “Sex action”, “One more reason”, “Never enough”, “Over the edge”, “Slap in the face”, “Wheels of fire”, “Electric gypsy” and “Kiss my love goodbye”. It’s strange the band’s best song (the wonderful ballad “Crystal eyes”) isn’t included, but probably due to the fact this compilation CD is showing the band’s best Rockers. Although most of the songs have been released on various other compilations of the band, this CD is still interesting for the die-hard LA GUNS fan!

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

DOOMSWORD ‘LET BATTLE COMMENCE’ (DRAGONHEART/SPV/BERTUS)

‘Let battle commence’ is the third CD of this Italian Doom Metal band. It’s a concept CD about the first English Viking era, and about the conquest of the city of York (Jorvik) by the Danish army of Ivarr the Boneless in the year 866 a. C. If there’s one band that can say they play true Epic Heavy Metal, then it must be this DOOMSWORD. They are a perfect mix between CANDLEMASS and MANOWAR, and with those lyrics about the ancient Vikings they are starting to become true MANOWAR warriors. 7 long songs are included, with a total playing length of 52 minutes. Most of the tracks are in the same style, which is mostly slowtempo or midtempo melodic (yes it is!) Doom Metal, with as highlights “The siege”, “Woden’s reign” and “Blood eagle”. Fans of KRUX, CANDLEMASS, MANOWAR, CIRITH UNGOL, SOLITUDE AETORNUS etc. should buy this DOOMSWORD without hesitation.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

DARK AT DAWN ‘OF DECAY AND DESIRE’
(AFM RECORDS/ROCK INC./BERTUS)


I can not deny that this is a high quality release, because instrumental it sounds perfect, the songs are also very good, and the mastering by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki makes this CD sound huge. But the problem with DARK AT DAWN are the vocals, because these are growls actually, even worse than LEMMY at a bad day. I understand the band doesn’t want to sound like another STRATOVARIUS or NIGHTWISH, but now they are definitely not interesting, because vocalist Thorsten Kohlrausch is completely out of place here. DARK AT DAWN is making typical European Melodic Power Metal, but with those growls they sound a bit out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you should completely avoid this record, because it still brings you quality music in the shape of songs like “Forever”, “Weltenbrand” (catchy!), “Soultitude”, “The 5th horseman” and “Fair well”. If only the band would use clean vocals instead of these growls, then it would all sound much better. Anyway, I still think many people might enjoy this, because it is different than all other bands, but I would rather hear some cleaner vocals.

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

BETRAYER ‘RUSTED ICONS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Out of Canada comes BETRAYER, a pure 80s Metal sounding band. They remind me a bit of MEGADETH here and there, but less aggressive, although the guitarwork is sometimes quite raw, but also at times very impressive (such as the solo on opener “Descendants of death”). Somehow it also reminds me of STORMWITCH, but I might be the only one to hear this comparison. They have a real demo/independent sound, but that’s not a big problem, because their songs are good anyway. Somehow when listening to the record it just hits me everytime that they sound just so 80s, so if anyone asks me to name a band that plays pure 80s US Power/Thrash Metal, then this BETRAYER could easily be mentioned. The strongest point here are the guitarsolo’s (!), because guitarist JEFF KLINGBEIL can easily play all the guitar chords, he’s definitely the most notable member of the 3, because singer Norm Michaud is better at the bass than as a singer. Anyway, if you’re fed up with today’s Metal styles (Power, Progressive, Gothic and Nu), then go for BETRAYER to hear a pure 80s sound. Recommended
tracks are “Descendants of death”, “Tribulation”, “Waiting” and “Wretched ways”. More info at:
http://www.betrayer.ca and e-mail them at: shop@betrayer.ca

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

ALBERZAKH ‘THE QUEEN’ (DEMO)

More 80s Melodic Metal comes in the shape of ALBERZAKH, a band from Brazil with a 4-track demo CDR titled ‘The queen’. Musically ok, but vocally not really impressive. The first song “Live or die” is nothing special, but next track “The God that I have behind my eyes” and also titletrack “The queen” (best song, strong melodies) are much better, pure 80s MAIDEN orientated. Still the vocals are really not good enough to convince me and that’s why I hope the band does switch from lead singer in order to come up with a stronger release in the future. More info at:
http://www.alberzakh.hpg.com.br and e-mail them at: alberzakh@grupos.com.br

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

TANKER ‘CLOSE TO US’ (INDEPENDENT)

Although the production and sound quality of the CD of TANKER is not really good, the included music is quite interesting, as this is a mix of pure 80s Melodic Heavy Rock and Metal, ending up sounding like a typical German band (read: MAD MAX, WARLOCK, STORMWITCH). Interesting fact is that TANKER has a male (guitarist Peter) and female singer (Cathy), and with me prefering the female singer it’s a pity she didn’t sang all the time, because her voice is very good. Nevertheless, she can be heard lots of times, such as on the great uptempo melodic heavy rockers “Runaway” (catchy), “Night time enemy” and “Secret for you”, and the great semi-ballad “Don’t say goodbye”. A good band definitely, but the real discovery here is the female singer who is quite excellent, although also guitarist Peter is playing his instrument very well. More info on this band from the Czech Republic can be found at:
http://www.mp3.com/tanker

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

THREADLINE ‘UNDEFINED’ (BLOODBOUGHT RECORDS)

Here’s another Nu-Breed Melodic Poprockband from the USA. It seems like every new US/Canadian Rockband is trying to make this kind of music, just to become the next SUM 41, MATCHBOX 20, FUEL or whatever they are called. THREADLINE from Winnipeg, Canada however is more melodic than mentioned bands. Their songs are very strong and remind me a lot of the earlier reviewed and much praised 40FT RINGO and also HAREM SCAREM/RUBBER and WALTHAM. In other words, this band is another soon-to-be much talked about band in the world of modern day aor/melodic rockfanatics if their catchy songs are interesting for them. Well, let me revail to you that I think THREADLINE is good enough for the average melodic rockfan, as the included 12 songs are catchy melodic poprockers with a strong modern twist. This band could easily be on ATENZIA RECORDS, as they are currently heavily promoting such acts. Best songs are the catchy uptempo melodic rockers “Blind”, “Fall short”, “Passed me by” (the band doesn’t know it, but this is pure RICK SPRINGFIELD 1981 era, yet a bit more updated catchy poprock), “Too far” and “Face value”. Although it’s a short album (36 minutes), it still contains 12 tracks and is highly recommended to fans of HAREM SCAREM and 40FT RINGO. More info can be found at:
http://www.bloodboughtrecords.com and e-mail them at: marc@bloodboughtrecords.com

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

ORPHAN PROJECT ‘ORPHAN FOUND’ (INDEPENDENT)

The American band ORPHAN PROJECT is the brainchild of vocalist SHANE LANKFORD. Their debut CD ‘Orphan found’ is a very impressive typical American Progressive Rockalbum with influences from DREAM THEATER, STYX, KANSAS, JOURNEY etc. I hear clear similarities to ENCHANT sometimes, so this is more polished Prog. Rock with beautiful melodies here and there. The songs are quite long in length, and so the 12 included tracks take us through a journey that’s called ‘Orphan found’. The lyrics are about the difficulties growing up as an orphan, and Shane can tell the story because he was an orphan himself. Anyway, once again I have to say that this is a very high quality record that could have been released on a label like INSIDE OUT MUSIC. Shane’s vocals sound a bit dark (and even depressive sometimes), but the music is pure Progressive Rock. Highlights are “Discovering new surroundings”, “Chosen”, “Encircling arms of the father”, “Orphan found” and “Gazing down on golden streets”. More info can be found at:
http://www.orphanfound.com and e-mail them at: tom@orphanfound.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

NAIKAKU NO WA ‘WHEEL OF FORTUNE’ ( LIVE FREAK)

This band is coming out of Japan, and their CD ‘Wheel of fortune’ is filled with quality instrumental Progressive Rock, with influences from RUSH, but also some poppier elements can be heard. The band is actually a duo, consisting of bassist/keyboardplayer Satoshi Kobayashi and drummer Norimitsu Endo. Together they have created a quality CD with a big production, and musically good Progressive Rock. Fans of instrumental Progrock can easily purchase this CD. More info at:
http://www.freiheit.co.jp/naikakunowa/index.english.html and e-mail at: arc-liveclub@muc.biglobe.ne.jp

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

LOS ASESINOS DEL PENTAGRAMA ‘DEMO’ (DEMO CDR)

This is a band from Panama, and they play pure 80s Metal. Only 2 songs are included, opener “Hellmachine” which is not really impressive, but second track “Evil rites” is quite a good Melodic Metaltune. I think a future longer CD (R) will tell us more about this band. For now, e-mail them at:
losasesinosdelpentagrama@hotmail.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

SOL LAGARTO ‘BARBARELLA’ (INDEPENDENT)

Out of Brazil comes SOL LAGARTO, a band inspired by the likes of ROLLING STONES and BLACK CROWES. They sing in the Portuguese language, and 6 tracks are included on their CD. If you like this kind of Funky Groovy Rock’n’roll with raw vocals then SOL LAGARTO might be interesting, but I found only the song “Quieres saber” interesting, as the rest is just too much based on THE ROLLING STONES. If you want to check out this band, go to:
http://www.sollagarto.com and e-mail at: sollagarto@hotmail.com

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

LORI LEE ‘NO ROAD TOO LONG’ (INDEPENDENT)

This could’ve been a very interesting release, as we see some familiar names popping up here and there, such as the late VAN STEPHENSON mentioned between the song credits, while guitarist HENRY PAUL produced the CD, and DAVE ROBBINS played keys. Unfortunately this is not an AOR record, not even a Rockrecord, because LORI LEE moves into Country/Middle Of The Road music, with also some traces of acoustic tingled Westcoast-Rock. These light rockers are also the best songs, such as the rocker “Heartache waitin to happen”, “Kinda close to my heart” (soft midtempo AOR), “Slow motion” (remember LISA HARTMAN?), “Somebody” and the ballad “Dont it feel good”, all sounding a bit like a softer version of JAIME KYLE. Not a bad record, but just not rocking enough for the average AOR/Rockfan, although a few songs tend to be interesting for the fan of female fronted AOR/Rock. A pity, because the girl looks pretty good and is also able to sing well, not unlike SHANIA TWAIN, which is also the best musical comparison I can make here. If only it could rock a little more, with some electric guitar and more upbeat songs, then this would be much more interesting. Anyway, more info at:
http://www.lorileeonline.net

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

THE ETERNAL ‘DEMO’ (DEMO)

Hailed as one of the first Australian Doom Metalbands out of Australia, which I totally agree with, comes THE ETERNAL out of the ashes of the Melbourne based band CRYPTAL DARKNESS. Their 5-track Demo CD takes us into the Doom Metal journey of THE ETERNAL. The vocals are not pure Doom, but more Gothic orientated. Nevertheless, the music is slow and pure Doom Metal, with still some great clean melodic choruses, such as on the strong opener “A cruel misfortune”. The second track “The eternal” is less interesting, as this song features more Black orientated growls. Happily, next track “Down” is much better, a good HIM orientated song. Closing track is “All hope lost”, a semi-instrumental song with really Dark/Black Metal orientated vocals, so less interesting again. Not as good as KRUX, CANDLEMASS or DOOMSWORD, but still interesting to check out if you’re a Doom Metal freak. More info at:
http://clik.to/theeternal and e-mail at: the-eternal@blackguild.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

SETH ‘BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR’ (DEMO CDR)

The American band SETH is playing pure 80s US Metal, so raw vocals, a big guitarsound and not too many clean melodies, but cool anyway to hear, especially since many of the new Metalbands in the US play Nu-Metal and SETH definitely doesn’t belong to these false Metal freaks. Best songs on their demo are “Reap what you sow” and the pure 80s orientated “Demons”. It sounds a bit like RACER X, so check it out at:
http://www.thesethbandrocks.com and e-mail at: SETHmanagmnt@AOL.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

MOTHER ‘SPRING 2003 DEMO’ (DEMO CDR)

Out of Seattle comes MOTHER, a Rockband that doesn’t have anything to do with the city’s Grunge scene (happily!), but is playing a 70s/80s orientated Rockstyle. There’s nothing AOR or Metal orientated stuff on this disc, just plain Rock. Opener “PowderKeg” is a nice fun rocker, but the other song “Salutations” is a weird piece of work. Anyway, check it out for yourself at:
http://www.motherband.com and e-mail at: info@motherband.com

(Points: 6.0 out of 10)

ACVILA ‘DEMO’ (DEMO)

Unfortunately I lost all the information on this band, but I can inform you that this band is playing some sort of rockstyle and they have a very good female singer who is able to sing very well. The songs of the band are also melodic, but still rocking, updated for today’s radio but just catchy enough for the fans of female fronted melodic poprock. The production of the CD is very impressive, and if you don’t mind the foreign language (don’t know which language actually?) you can hear some good modern female fronted rock here in songs like “Nu vreau”, “Dulci cuvinte” and “Tu nu stii”. More info at:
http://www.acvila.go.ro

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

PUSH ‘PUSHING RED BUTTONS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Another band called PUSH, this one comes out of New York. Their CD ‘Pushing red buttons’ is the band’s second CD, which is filled with early 80s quirky poprock, not unlike a cross between THE TUBES and DONNIE IRIS. 12 tracks are included, and it’s a pity I don’t have much background info on this band, but I remember a guy called KASIM SULTON from the 1980s, and he also appears on this record as a bassplayer. Anyone with info if this is the same musician from the 1980s (who played on several records) please mail me, but musically PUSH isn’t that interesting, unless you’re a big fan of retro quirky Poprock. More info at:
http://www.pushingredbuttons.com and e-mail at: red@pushingredbuttons.com

(Points: 6.0 out of 10)

OAKSENHAM ‘WODEN’S EVE LIVE’ (CADENCE MUSIC CENTER)

After we have had the band ARTSRUNI from Armenia, it is time to talk about another quality band from this country. The band is called OAKSENHAM, and their CDR ‘Woden’s eve live’ is a high quality instrumental challenge in the world of Progressive Rock. Similiraties that come to mind when hearing OAKSENHAM are bands like FOCUS, CAMEL, YES, IQ, KAYAK, GENTLE GIANT, KING CRIMSON, PINK FLOYD... This is definitely a band with skilled musicians that do know how to make good quality instrumental Progressive Rock. You don’t just pick favourite tracks, because the whole album needs to be played from start to finish, so from “The way back home” to “Gaudeamus igitur” to get to notice how good this really is. People looking for a real quality instrumental Progrockalbum need to check out this release. Especially the fact that they come from Armenia should gain interest among all musicfans and press in Western Europe, as not many Armenian bands/artists (read: none) are known over here. So go to their site at:
http://www.oaksenham.am and e-mail them at: cadence@arminco.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

JOHN ANGELINA’S AMEN ‘LIVE AT THE THEATERCAFE MUNICH’
(LONG ROAD RECORDS)


In the past JOHN ANGELINA’S AMEN from Germany released some good melodic rockalbums, but this Live Acoustic maxi-CD is definitely not a rockalbum. This is an unplugged acoustic performance the band gave in Munich last year. Although it received much praise, I hope the band will rock again on a future CD, because the unplugged versions of “Unconditional love” and “Long road” sound almost like middle of the road/westcoast type of music, and all we want to do is rock a little, but for an unplugged CD it’s alright for you to check out. More info at: http://www.amen-music.com

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

ABSOLUTE ZERO ‘CRASHING ICONS’ (DEMO)

What do I need to say about this band? They play something really wicked, very hard to categorise and absolutely nothing of interest for any of our readers. ABSOLUTE ZERO are playing a wicked and weird mixture of Jazz, Folk, Prog, Pop and some sort of Alternative Rock. The 4 songs on their demo are very lengthy and are sometimes just outrageous, absolutely without any structures. This is just too complex for me, and I think none of the readers will find something of interest in here, so only interesting for the people who don’t visit my site too often, to get a glimpse from what we normally do not review here. Check it out for yourself at:
http://www.absolute-zero.net and e-mail at: absolutezero@absolute-zero.net

(Points: -)

WILD HORSES ‘DEAD AHEAD’ (Z RECORDS)

The latest release on Z RECORDS comes from a band called WILD HORSES. This band is formed around some well-known musicians, as the line-up features vocalist John Levesque (SHOUT), guitarist Rick Steier (KINGDOM COME, WARRANT), bassist Jeff Pilson (DOKKEN, WAR AND PEACE) and drummer James Kottak (KINGDOM COME, WARRANT, SCORPIONS). The performed music is from a high level of course, and also the production is quite excellent, but on the other hand the 11 included songs are not really sensational, a bit standard groovy Melodic Hardrock with influences from WHITESNAKE, THIN LIZZY, LED ZEPPELIN and TYKETTO. Vocals reminding of BRUCE DICKINSON and some very raw guitarwork makes this CD however a winner to fans of 70s influenced Melodic Hardrock. The best songs are “Vancouver mover” (bluesy Melodic Hardrock, like BAD COMPANY meets WHITESNAKE), “Rebel road” (very strong melodic rockballad a la TANGIER) and “Asphalt ribbon fever” (uptempo melodic hardrock). A good quality CD, but not the best Z release this year, because that will probably be the new FINAL FRONTIER.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

BATTLEROAR ‘BATTLEROAR’
(BLACK LOTUS/ROCK INC./BERTUS)


Out of Greece comes BATTLEROAR, a band playing pure 80s orientated US Power Metal, like a mix between MANOWAR, SYRIS and WARLORD. Their CD contains 9 tracks, and it sounds quite impressive actually. It’s unbelievable how Europe is divided in bringing all sorts of Metal genres, because in Greece it’s the Melodic 80s US Power Metal that rules, but if we go over to Italy it’s bombastic fast Power Metal and high in the North Gothic Metal is the leading Metal genre, while in Germany they like to bang on pure Heavy Metal with a high sing-a-long level. All the genres have one thing in common, and that’s bringing out quality Metal and not the false Metalstyle currently being very popular in the US (Nu-Metal). BATTLEROAR’s CD is a pleasure to listen to, because it is from start to finish high quality Melodic Metal, with as highlights “Swordbrothers”, “Mourning sword”, “Battleroar” (best song, a bit like TWISTED TOWER DIRE) and “Egyptian doom”. Fans of Medieaval Metal can easily purchase this awesome CD of BATTLEROAR!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

US ‘EAMON’S DAY’ (INDEPENDENT)

The Dutch Progrockband US returns with a new CD. Only 5 songs are included, but as they are quite lengthy, the CD still has a playing time of almost 70 minutes! The music performed here is 70s Progressive Rock like early GENESIS, YES, although the vocals are a bit 60s orientated. Sometimes the band reminds me of PLACKBAND, only US are better. The 5 musicians are capable of bringing some excellent instrumental parts in their music, which is just pure Progrock with the keys and guitars. If you enjoy typical Dutch/British Progressive Rock, you will love this, as it is of a high level what we hear here. Most notable track on the CD is definitely the 28 minutes counting “Life in progress”. Progrockfans should go to:
http://www.the-music-of-us.com and e-mail them at: info@the-music-of-us.nl
(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

TYGERS OF PAN TANG
‘VISIONS FROM THE CATHOUSE DVD’
(ANGEL AIR RECORDS)


It’s the year 2003 and TYGERS OF PAN TANG has made another comeback. I believe this is their 4th comeback or so, but this is a really good comeback! Their latest studio-CD was a very weak effort, but they got rid off their singer Tony Liddel and instead hired a great new lead singer called Richie Wicks. He is able to sing the classics of the Tygers quite well, while the new material which is currently being recorded as we speak is showing us an improvement in the band’s musical taste. Of course Richie will never be able to reach the fantastic vocal talent of the 2nd vocalist of the Tygers (Jon Deverill), but nevertheless, he can sing quite good and therefore the new studio-CD (to be released later this year) is something we can look forward to. In the meantime, this DVD called ‘Visions from the cathouse’ is a very interesting DVD to check out, as it features a concert the band did not that long ago with the new lead singer. The band made a nice collection of old and new songs, from the first period (1979-1983) and the current period (1999-2003), with the addition of 2 covers (the Tygers classic “Love potion no9” and TED NUGENT’s “Cat scratch fever”).

Most notbale fact is that 4 completely new songs were played during this concert, so it is very interesting to check out if you’re a dedicated fan of the band. Between the songs of the concert, there is some video footage of the band in the studio, where they are recording their new CD (which is also titled ‘Visions from the cathouse’ I believe). Those 4 newly played songs are “Bad bad kitty”, “Cybernation”, “Running man” and “Deja Vu”, but still the older tracks are showcasing the band’s finest moments (“Lonely at the top”, “Paris by air”, “Take it”, “Hellbound” and “Don’t stop by”). The DVD also contains a very nice interview with the only original member (Robb Weir) and it’s funny to see that at one point (in 1985) there was a line-up of TYGERS OF PAN TANG that didn’t include any of the members of today’s line-up, which is quite bizarre and unique for a rock’n’roll band. Anyway, another extra is the video clip of the song “Mystical”, which has been re-recorded with the new singer as well. So there you have it, a very impressive DVD of one of the first (and still surviving) bands from the NWOBHM scene!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

CRYSTAL BALL ‘HELLVETIA’
(NUCLEAR BLAST RECORDS)


The Swiss band CRYSTAL BALL was formed in 1995 and have built up a big reputation in the Hardrock/Metalscene. It seems like 2003 is the year of the new albums of some of Switzerland’s best known acts, because after the new albums by KROKUS, SHAKRA, GOTTHARD, it is now time for the 4th CD of CRYSTAL BALL. Musically the band is still playing high class strong and tough Melodic Hard/Heavy Rock with influences from bands like VICTORY and PRETTY MAIDS. The sound is big and the songs are catchy and really rocking. If you enjoyed the new SHAKRA album, you’re gonna love this new CRYSTAL BALL album as well. 12 tracks are included on ‘Hellvetia’, and the absolute highlights are “Forever and eternally” (sounds like a mix between WHITE LION and HELLOWEEN), “My life” (super strong midtempo melodic rocker), “Last dance” (very catchy uptempo melodic rocker, big harmonyvocals during chorus), “Want it all” (very strong uptempo Melodic Power Metal), “Pictures of love” (HUGE midtempo Melodic Rock), “One day at a time” (sing-a-long together big midtempo Melodic Hardrock, like BONFIRE meets VICTORY) and “Bird on a wire” (fantastic uptempo melodic hardrock). Concluded, CRYSTAL BALL did it again, releasing an excellent Melodic Hard/Heavy Rockalbum that should attract both Melodic Hardrock and Power Metalfans! ‘Helvetia’ is their finest release so far and is even better than the new SHAKRA, so this is the best Swiss record of 2003, officially released on the 3rd of November...

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

RICOCHET ‘RICOCHET’ (INDEPENDENT)

I don’t have much info on the band RICOCHET, but what I do know is that they play good typical German Melodic Hard/Heavy Rock a la VICTORY, SINNER... 13 songs are included on their same titled CD, which was released last year. Highlights include such good melodic heavy rockers like “Paradise”, “We will survive”, “Guitar heroes”, “Listen to your heart” and “In your eyes”. Only the vocals could sound a bit better, but in general speaking we have a good melodic hardrockalbum
with this RICOCHET. You can buy a copy of the CD at TARGET RECORDS:
http://www.targetrecords.de

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

FORTRESS ‘HANDS IN THE TILL’ (CDR)

20+ years ago there was this US band called FORTRESS, and they played like so many other North-American bands typical Midwestern US Melodic Rock/AOR/Pomprock. They managed to release only 1 LP back in 81. Now 22 years later original bassist CHARLIE SOUZA has put out an official CDR copy of the album, which was actually released on the major label ATLANTIC RECORDS back then. Anyway, the sound is quite good and it’s also very nice to hear that FORTRESS played quality melodic rock in the style of AXE, FOREIGNER, JOURNEY, REO SPEEDWAGON, STEEPLECHASE... Highlights on the album were such classy melodic rockers like “Hands in the till”, “How do I exist”, “Comin’ after you”, “Let’s do it again”, “Mystery” (awesome, like AXE!) and “Carry me back”. A must for fans of that typical classy early US Radiorocksound. It’s only out as CDR I believe, but check out the following site for more info:
http://www.charliesouza.com , while you can buy a copy of the CDR at TARGET RECORDS: http://www.targetrecords.de

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

IRRWISCH ‘TIME WILL TELL’ (CHESTWOOD MUSIC)

The Swiss Progressive Rockband IRRWISCH has been making records for 25+ years now I believe, and last year they released their latest CD ‘Time will tell’. The album continues the style of the earlier records, so calmer epic ballad orientated Prog Rock. It’s sometimes pretty soft, but it’s still quality music with also good vocalwork and some very nice songs here and there. Highlights are “Cinderella” (keyboard orientated semi-ballad), “Like a rainbow” (catchy uptempo Sympho Rocker with nice keys) and “Fata morgana”. If you are familiar with IRRWISCH, you know what to expect. You can buy a copy of the CD at TARGET RECORDS:
http://www.targetrecords.de

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

PRESENCE ‘INSIDE’ (SMASH/ISLAND RECORDS)

It’s 10 years ago since this obscure release was done by ISLAND RECORDS, but it is now again easier to obtain as TARGET RECORDS has copies for sell. Therefore a short review appears on our reviewspages. This US band produced very 80s orientated Wave/Gothic influenced Poprock, very much like early GLASS TIGER, THE OUTFIELD and CUTTING CREW, so pure 80s with a strong Canadian touch. 12 tracks were included, and although it didn’t sound really rocking and was very soft sometimes, there was some nice hi-tech Poprock included like “Never”, “Revolve”, “An ocean hill” and “Act of faith”. It also reminds me of INXS, UK, SIMPLE MINDS and such bands sometimes, with some DAVID BOWIE kinda vocals, so this is borderline Poprock. Only recommended to the die-hards! You can buy a copy of the CD at TARGET RECORDS:
http://www.targetrecords.de

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

MIDNITE CLUB ‘RUNNING OUT OF LIES’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

With the German band MIDNITE CLUB, the British label ESCAPE MUSIC has got a typical German Melodic Hardrockband on their label. MIDNITE CLUB is playing in the style of JADED HEART, FRONTLINE, DOMAIN, BONFIRE, DOKKEN, STEELER, CRAAFT, ZERO, ZENO, BOYSVOICE, EVIDENCE ONE etc. etc. Their CD has a big sound and is almost as good as mentioned bands. The band features former MR. HATE members guitarist Stephan Seger and vocalist Carsten Schulz (who also sang on records of DOMAIN and EVIDENCE ONE), and also bassist Andy Keller of SCARLET ROSE. Together they have recorded a great quality Melodic Hardrockalbum. 11 songs are included and my favourites would be great uptempo melodic rock stuff like “Neon dreaming”, “Snakecharmer” and “Ticket to silence” (pure FRONTLINE), the (semi-) ballads “Morning rain” and “Thoughts away” (hello BON JOVI) and the lovely big midtempo melodic rocker “Running out of lies”. Concluded, a must for fans of classy melodic rock like JADED HEART, FRONTLINE, 80s BON JOVI, DANGER DANGER... Also check out their site at:
http://www.midniteclub.de

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

HOUSE OF MIRRORS ‘SPIRIT OF FREEDOM’ (CD SINGLE)

Unfortunately only one song on the new CD-single of one of the most promising new bands from Finland. HOUSE OF MIRRORS are back with a fantastic very catchy uptempo AOR/Melodic Rocker titled “Spirit of freedom”. The song has a lovely singable chorus that sticks in your head after you’ve heard it just once, reminding of the big 80s sounds of EUROPE, TREAT, SHY, TALISMAN, AVIATOR... Everything sounds perfect, and together with a crystal clear production and mastering at Finnvox studios by Mika Jussila, this song is yet another addition to the gowing song collection of HOUSE OF MIRRORS. Let’s hope they will someday release a full-length CD, because that would probably become one of the best releases from Finland, as good as STRATOVARIUS and SONATA ARCTICA, only more in the AOR style. More info at:
http://www.house-of-mirrors.com and e-mail them at: info@house-of-mirrors.com

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

KILPI ‘SAHKONSINISTA SINFONIAA’ (MTG)

This Finnish band features members of the band MACHINE MEN, of whom we reviewed a fantastic high class demo sometime ago. KILPI is another high quality band, although they are somewhat different. Musically they move in a typical Euro Power Metal style, which is very melodic and reminding me of STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA, AVALANCH, TIERRA SANTA... yet the band sings in Finnish! That’s not a problem at all, becuase now they remind me a lot of the Spanish and Japanese Melodic Metalbands. Actually it sounds very catchy, the Finnish language! The songs and the sound of the whole CD is very impressive and really excellent! Opener “Samaan aikaan toisaalla” is a fantastic start, a very catchy uptempo Melodic Metal piece with a strong chorus. The musicianship is very tight throughout the whole CD and I really love this band, and I think most of you will too, as this is just very good stuff. Besides the excellent opener, other highlights include “Nerokasta ikavaa” (great uptempo pure 80s melodic rocker), “Pahalle et kaanna selkaa” (fantastic catchy uptempo melodic Power Metal, a la STRATOVARIUS), “Villin vaaran kosto” (awesome midtempo AOR/Melodic Rocker with big harmonyvocals) and “Tahtien lapset” (best song, fantastic melodic heavy rock). Concluded, this is a unique band, because I never heard a band singing in the Finnish language, and it sounds awesome! Without a doubt, this is a sensational band, recommended to both AOR/Melodic Rockfans and Power Metalfans! Check out their site at:
http://www.kilpi.com and e-mail them at: kilpi@kilpi.com

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

FIREBALL MINISTRY ‘THE SECOND GREAT AWAKENING’
(NUCLEAR BLAST RECORDS)


This American band is basically ignoring all the current trends and brings out a record that is filled with typical 70s influenced Hard/Heavy Rock/Metal. Actually it sounds pretty good! 12 songs are included on their 3rd CD and musically they sound like a mix between 70s KISS, THIN LIZZY and 70s BLACK SABBATH, with their singer/guitarist Reverend James A. Rota sounding a lot like OZZY OSBOURNE. Songs like “King”, “Master of none”, “Flatline”, “He who kills” and “Dark descend” are actually very good melodic Hard/Heavy Rocksongs. It’s hard to compare this band, because they play a Hardrockstyle not played by many bands out there, it’s groovy sometimes, but most of the time straight-ahead and raw to the bone, like you would expect from a 70s band, but this is a rather new band, so actually quite interesting. Some people call it stoner rock, but I think it’s just plain old 70s Hard/Heavy Rock with a clear American Rock’n’roll approach. Check it out if you want to hear some real Retro-Rock stuff.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ERIC MOORE AND THE GODZ ‘TWENTY FIVE MOORE YEARS’
(OUTLAW ENTERTAINMENT)

Does anyone remember the legendary US Rockband THE GODZ? Well, if not I can tell you that they were quite popular in the late 1970s (primarily in the USA) and were labelled as KISS without make-up. Actually in the 1970s they sounded more like ROLLING STONES/HANOI ROCKS, but the 80s saw them moving into KISS territory, just listen to the song “Criminal mind” and “Hey you” (hello KISS!). Anyway, OUTLAW ENTERTAINMENT released a retrospective of ERIC MOORE and THE GODZ. The 2-CD set includes songs recorded the past 25 years by Eric and his band. I am not a big fan of the band, and they go in the same list of other ‘average’ rockbands like AEROSMITH, STATUS QUO, BLUE OYSTER CULT, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, HANOI ROCKS etc. etc. If you’re a fan of the band, then you can easily purchase this 2-CD set, just go to:
http://www.outlawrecordings.com

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘AOR DREAMZONES’ (AOR DREAMZONES)

The other Dutch AOR website on the net, AOR DREAMZONES, has released an interesting compilation CD. The CD features 16 tracks, some unreleased, and some taken from recent albums of the performing band or artist. Quite a few bands have been reviewed here on the site as well, and so this compilation is interesting to hear these bands all together, bands like WILD WEST, DEFYANCE, KEN TAMPLIN, SWEET CRYSTAL, TWO PIECE PUZZLE, NEXX, REQUIEM, NAZCA and many more. Very interesting are the unreleased tunes by the sensational female fronted AOR band COASTLINE (soon out on VINNY RECORDS), HAVEN (a new song called “Allies”, written by Jonathan Cain!!!), WORLD STAGE (not unreleased, but only available on the US release ‘The day America cried’) and the unknown (for me) band DAVE VARLET (their song “Totally, faithfully and deeply” is a catchy semi AOR track like a mix between DAVE BALDWIN, TOTO and FRANKE AND THE KNOCKOUTS, soon a review of their demo). In general, this is a very nice compilation to check out if you’re a fan of AOR/Melodic Rock. More info at:
http://www.aordreamzones.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem, except where noted)

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