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HOT NEW REVIEWS
 UPDATED ON MARCH 1 - 2013

ANNIE GALLUP ‘LITTLE FIVE POINTS’ (WATERBUG/USA IMPORT/HEMIFRAN)

American Singer/songwriter ANNIE GALLUP releases already her 9th CD with this ‘Little five points’, which is a very calm mostly acoustic guitar based album that is situated around Annie’s vocals. Annie Gallup (Lead and backing vocals, Asher lapsteel, Gibson Blueshawk guitar, Celtic Cross Weissenborn, Martin ukulele, Beard/Goldtone resophonic guitar, stocking foot) and Peter Gallway (Fender telecaster, Dann custom bass, keyboards) are the only people involved in the making of this album, of which the recording took place in Santa Barbara, California. Poetic Singer/Songwriter music can be heard here, very calm and laid back, with a strong focus on the lyrics. More at: http://anniegallup.com/ and http://www.hemifran.com/artists_a-b.html#gallup

(Points: 7.6 out of 10)  

HAT CHECK GIRL ‘ROAD TO RED POINT’ (WATERBUG/USA IMPORT/HEMIFRAN)

Just a little more interesting than the new ANNIE GALLUP CD is the album of HAT CHECK GIRL, which also features Annie Gallup and Peter Gallway as only musicians, but on this album, Peter is singing most of the lead vocals and he happens to have a great typical American voice. Here the comparison to a LEONARD COHEN is even more striking, although musically it is a little more going into a laid-back singer/songwriter style with a focus on lyrics and vocals and using the acoustic and lap steel guitar as a campfire ish background sound. Peter emerged from the Greenwich Village/New York scene of the 1960’s and released 3 albums on Warner-Reprise and produced over 50 records (such as Grammy nominated "Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village In The 60's" and "Time & Love: The Music Of Laura Nyro"). Here he now can be heard together with Annie on a very nice little record titled ‘Road to red point’. Check it out for yourself at: http://hatcheckgirl.net and http://www.hemifran.com/artists_a-b.html#gallup

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)  

DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR ’WESTERN VIOLENCE‘ (FOOT POLE/HEMIFRAN)

Out of L.A. comes the instrumental band DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR, a band whom describe themselves as a “Cinematic punk jazz surf instrumental originals featuring lap steel guitar. From shimmering to noisy, melodious to dissonant. Brutal yet poetic, challenging but rewarding”! That is quite a description of the music they play, but let’s just keep it on a mix of melodic progrock and groovy classic rock, like JIMI HENDRIX meets PINK FLOYD meets STEVE VAI, that is basically where this lot is moving into and they do it quite well, with as highlights the songs when they go for a more uptempo melodic hardrock approach, which features guitarsolos that sound like a heavier version of THE SHADOWS!!! Anyway, mix up all the mentioned bands and you have this great instrumental record of DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR. More at: http://www.DoubleNaughtSpyCar.com and http://www.hemifran.com/artists_d.html#spycar

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

CHRIS SABATINO ‘CHRIS SABATINO EP’ (INDEPENDENT CDR/USA IMPORT)

CHRIS SABATINO is an American singer/songwriter, who has been writing songs the past 13 years, but only managed to record something official recently in the shape of this self titled EP. The 4 included short songs are based around the acoustic guitar and the raspy raw voice of Chris. Musically a little but JOHNNY CASHish, yet with a vocal that seems more suitable for a Rockband. In fact, sometimes it sounds like a sort of unplugged Rockband, in a good way that sounds promising, but somehow I would be interested in hearing a full blown rocksound of his material, especially during the catchy “Nothing at all”. Hard to judge as this is just a low budget sounding demo EP CDR, but who knows the future might bring Chris to a higher level, especially if you considers a full blown rockband line-up. In the meantime, check out his music at: www.youtube.com/NYGuycute

(Points: 6.3 out of 10)  

GARY SCHUTT ‘PUPPETS IN SYMMETRY’ (PALISADE RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

In the early years of Strutter’zine I was completely blown away by the sensational debut CD ‘Sentimental’ of the American multi-instrumentalist GARY SCHUTT. Now 17 years later I am still thinking of the first time I heard that wonderful JEFF SCOTT SOTO sung AOR ballad “I guess I’m still in love”, which is still Gary’s best song ever recorded. Anyway, ‘Puppets in symmetry’ is the 9th album of Gary and although he nowadays does everything on his own, including the vocals, it still sounds very good, despie you will always miss Jeff on vocals. Gary himself can also sing quite well by the way, something we already witnessed on previous albums. This time he re-recorded a bunch of songs from his past albums and overall we can speak of slightly groovy Melodic Hard/Heavy Rock with LED ZEPPELIN riffs, VAN HALENish melodies and songs that sound a bit like TALISMAN in their later years, with a darker proggier approach here and there. As always, Gary delivers quality stuff and especially songs like “Therapy”, “Self destruction” and “It’s not me” are quite recommended to listen to if you’re a fan of Melodic Hardrock. Perhaps not as much a classic as that ‘Sentimental’ is, still another nice record from Gary. Check out all on Gary at: www.garyschutt.com

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)  

ELECTRIC SHEPHERD ‘THE IMITATION GARDEN’ (INDEPENDENT/XO PUBLICITY/USA IMPORT)

Although in today’s music every new band is trying to be original, one can always draw comparisons and come up with similarities, even when listening to the album of the band ELECTRIC SHEPHERD. This Band from San Francisco however is nevertheless very creative and sound like a cocktail of PINK FLOYDish Progressive Rock, LED ZEPPELIN’s groovy Hardrock and vocal style and 60s Psychedelica Rock of THE DOORS kind, with some very unsual arrangements here and there (for example listen to “Into the forest, Father”, where I can even hear something that reminds me of a building construction area!). The result is very impressive and if major radio/tv and music magazines would be promoting it as the latest new sensation, then who knows within a year ELECTRIC SHEPHERD will indeed become a major band, playing all the big arena’s worldwide! However, there is a lot of competition going on nowadays, with bands like THE BLACK KEYS, HOWLIN RAIN, TAME IMPALE, etc. all doing their own thing, which sometimes also sounds like what this band is doing. Nevertheless, they have done a really great job, actually sound a lot more underground ish and include a lot of instrumental passages than any other popular band nowadays, so I would not mind that ELECTRIC SHEPHERD ends up on the bill of each European Festival in 2013. Released at the end of 2012, this band might cause some stir in the rock world during 2013 and we’ll see if they become big. They certainly deserve some attention for creating a really great Psychedelic Progressive Hardrockalbum that fits in nicely between all the classics from the 1960s and 1970s. Check them out for yourself at: http://www.reverbnation.com/electricshepherd

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

IMPERA ‘LEGACY OF LIFE’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

Now here we have a release that can easily compete with all the great 80s Melodic Hardrock releases from the late 80s-early 90s period in the USA. However, it concerns here a new Swedish so-called superband formed around the fantastic session-guitarist TOMMY DENANDER (TOTO, PAUL STANLEY, MICHAEL JACKSON, ALICE COOPER), the wonderful legendary vocalist MATT ALFONZETTI (JAGGED EDGE, SCOTT GORHAM, SKINTRADE, ROAD TO RUIN, RED WHITE & BLUES), bandleader and drummer J.K. IMPERA (BRUCE KULICK, GRAHAM BONNET, VINNIE VINCENT, JOHN CORABI, BRIAN ROBERTSON) and bassist MATT VASSFJORD (VINNIE VINCENT, JOHN CORABI, SCAAR, GRAND DESIGN, LANEY'S LEGION). The massive big production/sound (by Lars Chriss of LION'S SHARE) of the 10 included songs that are filled with excellent guitarwork and lovely vocalwork is making this IMPERA album quite a sensational album actually. Although nothing new is brought here and we hear a similar style which was originally done by XYZ, FIREHOUSE, DOKKEN, CRY WOLF and such bands more than 20 years ago, it is done very well and sometimes easily reach those legendary bands from the past. Of course it is thanks to the excellent musicians in the band and the fact Matt is singing his heart out here in the style of KELLY HANSEN, but also the included songs are a pleasure to listen to and all together it does feel really natural. A song like "Kiss of Death" is just pure terrific 1980s based guitar orientated uptempo US Melodic Hardrock in the style of DOKKEN, FIFTH ANGEL and XYZ. And glad fully the whole CD is following this style, which is by the way their debut album and hopefully more releases will follow in the future from this IMPERA. Without a doubt, a high quality release with no weak points at all and in the Melodic Hardrock genre perhaps the finest release in ages... More at: www.impera.org

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

TOYZ ‘THE INFINITE ROAD’ (INDEPENDENT/TWO SIDE MOON PROMOTIONS)

TOYZ is a Dutch band, whom I have seen live a few times in a long but not forgotten past. They were support act for several major bands back in the late 1990s, but I think I haven’t seen them in 10 years or so. However they are still active and now have a new CD out titled ‘The infinite road’. It is clear that they put a lot of effort in making this sound like their best work and indeed this new album features some of their strongest recordings so far. I believe it is their first real full-length CD and musically speaking we get to hear quite superb instrumental music that combines elements of Progressive Rock, Melodic Rock and Guitar virtuocity. It is done very well and a pleasure to listen to, especially during such a lovely uptempo piece like “Face the mirror” and the beautiful AOR ballad “Tears of joy” (NEAL SCHON / JOOST VERGOOSSENish), which sound like the finest instrumental pieces of this year! Perhaps a pity IAN PARRY didn’t sing any song, but was just a narrator during one of the songs. Anyway, a very impressive record we have here and recommended to any fan of instrumental prog meets neo-classical melodic heavy rock. Go check out all on TOYZ at: www.toyz-web.com 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)  

THE BRIAN MAES BAND ‘COLLATERAL DAMAGE’ (BRIOLA RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

Now here we have an amazing singer/songwriter from the Boston area, who was kind enough to sent me his latest CD ‘Collateral damage’, which he released under the THE BRIAN MAES BAND moniker. Brian himself is blessed with an amazing voice that reminds me of BENNY MARDONES, CHRIS THOMPSON and JIMMY BARNES, so a little raw here and there, but with an amazing Soul kinda vibrato. Musically we are heading back to the late 1970s/early 1980s American AOR sound of acts like MICHAEL STANLEY BAND, BENNY MARDONES, JOHN PARR, ROBERT TEPPER, HENRY PAUL BAND, STREEK, CHRIS MANCINI and especially the JACK STREET BAND and NEIL RUSH BAND (‘See you soon’). Besides Brian, we can also hear a female singer, who happens to be an excellent singer too. Her name is MARYBETH MAES and she is sounding like a picture-perfect female AOR singer (just listen to the superb pure Classic AOR Rocker “God fearin woman” that reminds one of PAT BENATAR meets QUARTERFLASH). The music goes here and there also into a more R&B influenced direction and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, CHICAGO and BILLY JOEL come to mind sometimes therefore, but overall this is BRIAN MAES BAND with their own sound. This great album ‘Collateral damage’ is filled with original high quality music. The Saxophone can be heard quite a lot, but it does not sound bad at all and is clearly referring to CLARENCE CLEMONS, JUNIOR WALKER and MARK RIVERA. By the way, Brian is not unfamiliar with the AOR readers I guess, because he was part of RTZ with former members of BOSTON in the past and he played during the 1980s with ORION (the BOSTON side project with that one time AOR Classic release) and PETER WOLF) live, so AOR is in his blood for sure. Anyway, THE BRIAN MAES BAND is playing all-original American music that draws influences not only from AOR, but also from Blues, Soul, Westcoast, Heartland-Rock, classic R&B, etc. etc., and the result is quite stunning, with such terrific songs like “The sudden stop”, “Just one more day of rain”, “Don’t make me scream” and the pure CLASSIC ROCK tune “Skin in the game” (here Brian sounds like JOE LYNN TURNER doing a FOREIGNER song in the late 1970s!). European musicians could only wish they sounded anything like BRIAN MAES BAND, because this is American Classic Rock at it’s best! The other CD Brian sent to me was a 2004 release called ‘Lullaby’, which is a tribute to his Belgium family and with a surname like Maes that is of course quite obvious! Make sure not to miss this act at: http://www.brianmaesmusic.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

VITRUVIAN MAN ‘THE STRANGER WITHIN’ (INDEPENDENT/AUSTRALIA IMPORT)

Out of Melbourne, Australia comes the band VIRUVIAN MAN, a rather interesting modern Progressive Rockband featuring a great melodic lead singer in the shape of DAN SWAN. Not to be confused with DAN SWANO of course, this Dan is definitely giving the band that extra additional touch, needed to survive in the progworld. The material is melodic and reaching a high level, reminding a bit of PORCUPINE TREE, THE MARS VOLTA, ENCHANT, COHEED AND CAMBRIA and even MUSE, yet with more ProgMetal ish guitarwork and vocally reminding me somehow of the legendary PSYCHOTIC WALTZ. 7 songs are included and for a debut album, this is a pretty good start. Highlights on the first album of VITRUVIAN MAN are “The most dangerous game”, “As it falls” and “Leave this all behind”. Challenging band with a promising future, combining original prog with accessible catchy melodies. More at: www.vitruvianmanband.com

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)  

TIFT MERRITT ‘TRAVELING ALONE’ (YEP ROC RECORDS/BRAMBLE ROSE RECORDINGS/EKONOMISK MANAGEMENT/USA IMPORT)

10 years ago the North Carolina based singer/songwriter TIFT MERRITT released her debut album ‘Bramble rose’, which gave her a fifteen minutes of fame at that moment of time in the early 2000s. The following 3 albums saw her reaching more and more people, especially due to the fact she appeared at such high profile TV shows like JOOLS HOLLAND, DAVID LETTERMAN and JAY LENO. Now a new CD on YEP ROC RECORDS has been released, which is titled ‘Travelling alone’ and compared to her earlier work it seems like she now has found the perfect mix between all the typical American styles she did on the previous 4 albums, because we can hear a wonderful combination of acoustic Alternative Country/American Roots Music, Americana/Folk, Country, a bit Mainstream Poprock/AOR and a few bluesy and soulful influences here and there. One thing is for sure here and that is the excellent vocalwork of Tift, because she has got such a breathtaking voice that clearly has an own identity and makes you longing for more and more. One of the guests on the new album is vocalist ANDREW BIRD, who sings a beautiful duet here with Tift, namely the song “Drifted apart”, on which Andrew sounds dangerously close to ROY ORBISON. Anyway, some of the material is quite calm actually, with the acoustic opener “Travelling alone” being a surprising peaceful start. However, the real highlights are the catchy “Sweet spot” that has got an irresistible vocal melody, the uptempo rocking “Still not home” (which reminds me somehow of JAIME KYLE and JUICE NEWTON, so with an AOR touch), the beautiful countryish ballad “Feeling of beauty”, the semi-ballad “Spring” and the ALANNAH MYLESish bluesy uptempo Poprocker “To myself”. This is definitely one of the highlights in the female fronted singer/songwriter field in 2012, together with the recent new album of SANDI THOM. More info on Tift at: http://www.tiftmerritt.com/

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)  

MARS HOLLOW ‘LIVE’ (FINGERWOVEN RECORDS/FIRST PEOPLE MEDIA/USA IMPORT)

L.A. is not known for it’s progbands, but MARS HOLLOW is the cliché tingled exception to the rule, because this impressive new band clearly shows that there is high quality melodic progrock being made in sunny L.A. where people are more interested in the way you look and dress than the way you sound. Therefore it will be hard for a band like MARS HOLLOW to reach a big audience in L.A., but on the other hand in the prog community world, which all together is perhaps even bigger than the whole population of L.A., this band is definitely very interesting to check out. I must have missed their studio debut record, because I received this live recording, which took place at Rosfest and is now released on CD by FINGERWOVEN RECORDS/10T RECORDS. The included music is as already mentioned pure Prog and then of the American kind, so with a clear focus on strong melodies and not an andless instrumental orgasm of keyboardsolos versus guitarsolos. No, this is well-crafted melodic prog like CRYPTIC VISION, SPOCK’S BEARD, KANSAS and ENCHANT have also been doing for many years now. I do have to add here that the vocals not always sound that picture-perfect, but on the other hand a song like the beautiful “Midnight” can easily be called a modern day American melodic prog classic. I think it would have been best to start with a studio-CD, because one can hear that vocally live some struggling can be heard, although during the RUSH meets YES kinda progrocker “Weapon” this seems to be solved. Anyway, I had to make this last comment, because when I heard the closing track “So far away”, which is in fact a studio-track, one can hear that this band has got potential to become big within the prog community. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.marshollow.com/

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)  

THERESA ANDERSSON ‘STREET PARADE’ (BASIN STREET RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

Although multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter THERESA ANDERSSON was born in Sweden 40 years ago, she has lived and worked in New Orleans ever since she moved to that American city in 1990. She performed and played with a lot of musicians, although she is capable playing a lot of instruments on her own, which she also does on her latest album ‘Street parade’. I am not that familiar with her earlier albums, but without a doubt, this is an incredible record that is simply crying out to become massive! Theresa already performed at the famous CONAN O’BRIEN show, so she is starting to become recognized by the established media in the USA, but how about JOOLS HOLLAND, because the included material on her new disc is as good as for example much praised acts like FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, ANE BRUN, BAT FOR LASHES or ELLIE GOULDING. Some people call it Indie Soul, but I would rather prefer saying this is intelligent melodic music that combines elements of different music genres, ending up sounding like the best of Indie, Singer/Songwriter, Electronic Pop/Rock and a touch of Classic Soul. Theresa’s vocals are spot-on and here and there breathtaking, such as during the beautiful “Endymion”. Especially the first couple of songs (“Street parade”, “Injuns” and “Listen to my heels”) are the kind of tunes you want to hear more than a few times, because they are simply brilliant. There’s actually some very original songs on the album as well, because you don’t hear a song like the New Orleans inspired “January” that often and anyone who is interested in hearing some really original music, which still has a lot in common with the current wave of female singer/songwriter movement, then you should definitely check out this sensational THERESA ANDERSSON and her new album ‘Street parade’. More info at: http://www.theresaandersson.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

ANNABELLE CHVOSTEK ‘RISE’ (BOREALIS RECORDS/CANADA IMPORT)

It’s quite extraordinary that there are so many talented musicians out there who are still unnoticed and especially Canada has been very productive in recent years and likewise we are starting to miss out some great material from time to time. ANNABELLE CHVOSTEK is one of those undiscovered artists. She is a multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter from Toronto who was part of a band called WALLIN’ JENNYS for a while, but has mainly been active solo for many years now and ‘Rise’ is her latest album. The record is filled with very original music that some might label as World Music, but is in fact a mixture of Baroque, Indie, Folk, Country, European traditional music (French/Balkan/Fado parts can be heard), some slow Jazz (“The will of how”) and Melodic Pop. The material sounds very diverse, but always very melodic and quite attractive to listen to due to the superb vocalwork of Annabelle. Somehow I do have to add here that when things get a little more Rock orientated, it sounds very sensational, such as during the fantastic titletrack “Rise” and also the lovely uptempo Country-Rocker “Ona” (DIXIE CHICKS meets PISTOL ANNIES) is one of the absolute highlights here. I also need to add the beautiful singer/songwriter piece “Do you think you’re right” as remarkable tune. Annabelle achieved her first rise to fame last year when her co-written duet with the legendary BRUCE COCKBURN received a JUNO AWARD, which is the Canadian version of the GRAMMY AWARDS. Hopefully Annabelle will be able to reach more success in the near future, because she definitely deserves to be heard by a lot more people. More info can be found at: www.annabelle.org/

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

DYLAN MONDEGREEN ‘DYLAN MONDEGREEN’ (DIVISION RECORDS/SHELFLIFE RECORDS/NORWAY IMPORT)

Sometimes you simply long back to the 1970s when Popmusic sounded smooth and very melodic, laid-back and with a touch of summer sunshine. Living in a world without problems is what DYLAN MONDEGREEN from Norway must have thought when writing and recording the material on his 3rd album ‘Dylan Montegreen’. The music fits somewhere between happy singer-songwriter 70s Pop of the CHRISTOPHER CROSS kind, a flare of smooth summer Westcoast, some pure Indie Pop arrangements and vocally speaking the good ole ALAN PARSONS PROJECT similarities do pop up several times. All together however DYLAN MONDEGREEN just makes you feel very good when listening to a lovely laid-back tune like “The heart is a muscle” that in the end sounds like Dylan himself, who clearly adapts an own style on this new album, which is most of the time laid-back, melodic and very relaxing, because each and every song has a slow tempo and melodies all over the place. Although he is coming out of Norway, he sings and sounds like the latest British sensation and in times like the current financial crisis we are all part of at the moment, one only has to listen to the wonderful new album of Dylan and every memory of the current state of troubles will vanish immediately! Hear for yourself at: http://www.dylanmondegreen.com/  

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

MESSENGER ‘YOU CHOOSE’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

We have seen a lot of bands called MESSENGER in the past, so this Springfield, Virginia, USA based MESSENGER is not quite original when it comes down to picking a name for their band. However, their CD ‘You choose’ does sound very professional and is definitely of a very high level. In fact, this is TRUE METAL in the best Classic 80s US Metal direction, with a massive sound/production and some high class musicianship. The band’s singer FRANK CLIFTON HERRING (who also plays rhythm guitar and keys) has got a great voice and their lead guitarist VLAD GURIN shows he is a fantastic guitarplayer. 10 songs are included and despite an independent release, MESSENGER sounds like one of the latest sensations in the True Metal direction. The band combines True Metal with Progressive Metal and Melodic Metal here and there and especially during the epic “Paradise”, it sounds very impressive. Sure, there are some similarities to a MANOWAR, ARMORED SAINT, METAL CHURCH and such bands, but what MESSENGER is doing is of such a high level that any fan of this kind of Metal will instantly be shouting along to this band’s hymns like “Christian rocker”, “The sacrifice” and “Power”, as well as the terrific classic 80s tingled uptempo Melodic Heavy Rocker “Come home” (reminds one of FIFTH ANGEL, RIOT, KNIGHT FURY…). Be aware and check out this Christian Metalband MESSENGER a.s.a.p., because who knows they might become massive in the next few years. More at: http://www.MessengerMetal.com      

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

KATIE NOONAN ‘VARIOUS ALBUMS’ (KIN MUSIC/UNIVERSAL MUSIC AUSTRALIA IMPORT)

KATIE NOONAN is a very successful Australian singer-songwriter with an amazing vocal range, which already brought her a lot of fame and fortune in her homeland Australia the past 10 years. She started in a band called GEORGE, with whom she had a lot of success, even performing “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” by JON LORD in 2002, which made this band the only Rockband other than DEEP PURPLE to perform the piece. However, she did a lot of other projects, bands and also continued working on a solo career, all in different music genres (Opera, Jazz, Rock…). Anyway, we received her 2 latest recordings, which is first of all an album Katie recorded together with KARIN SCHAUPP titled ‘Songs of the southern skies’. This is a very interesting album that features 16 cover versions of Australia and New Zealand's best classical, folk, jazz and pop songs. Included are songs that were originally recorded by FINN BROTHERS, COLD CHISEL, NICK CAVE, ICEHOUSE, GOTYE, etc. and a few traditional Folk Songs, all sung by the wonderful Katie and Karin, The result is a beautiful album to listen to from start to finish. They are currently on tour in Australia promoting this record and if only we in Europe would be able to see these amazing singers on stage live… Anyway,  the other album that was sent was the latest release of an other band Katie is singing lead vocals for and that is the band ELIXIR. Their album ‘First seed ripening’ contains very original music actually, because there is a mixture of Jazz, Balkan/European kinda Folk/Traditional Music and partly Pop/Rock to be heard here. It does give me here and there some sort of TANITA TIKARAM meets ALFIE ZAPPACOSTA kinda feelings, yet vocally Katie is completely different and that is what makes this ELIXIR so interesting, because her voice is going up quite high usually, so there is the Opera connection. I guess whatever Katie does recording wise, she will always have that Opera voice that makes it very recognizable to hear it is actually Katie singing and actually, this is something to be proud of. Impossible to compare in the end, which makes ELIXIR very interesting of course. This kinda music is picture-perfect for late at night, especially with a playing length of 76 minutes! Check out all on Katie at: http://www.katienoonan.com/

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

THIEF IN THE NIGHT ‘UNDER THE INFLUENCE’ (FINISH STRONG MUSIC/USA IMPORT/TSM PROMOTIONS)

The main members of the San Pedro, California based band THIEF IN THE NIGHT are guitarist CHRIS VAN DUYN and vocalist JOHNNY ROSSA. With the help of drummer RANDY COOKE and bassist/producer RAFAEL MOREIRA, they recorded their very impressive debut album ‘Under the influence’. The sound/production is quite impressive and thankfully also the included 6 songs show that THIEF IN THE NIGHT is definitely a band to check out. They sound retro and modern at the same, very melodic in all parts, with of course a main focus on strong clean vocals and biting precise guitarwork of the 2 core members. “No one else” does have a lot of ALTER BRIDGE, SOUNDGARDEN and CREED similarities, but still an own approach to that sound, while the instrumental “Under the influence” shows the band’s love for instrumental precision. Opener “Chasing Utopia” is one of the finest songs here, as this is a real massive sounding Melodic Heavy Rocker that combines the best of the modern American Rocksound and the Mainstream Rocksound of the early 1990s. While listening to this band’s first album, one might feel that it all sounds very major label ish, but they truly recorded and released this album independently, yet who knows what will happen in the near future, because THIEF IN THE NIGHT has got all it takes to become better known in the Rockworld. Check them out for yourself at: http://www.thiefinthenightband.com/

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

LIFER ‘LIFER’ (RETROSPECT RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

Wow, LIFER! Released originally way back in 1980, this is one of those undiscovered Pomp Rock Classics, which musically is in the exact same style as bands like TOUCH, BIGHORN, SPY, ZON, MPG, TRILLION, AVIARY, LE ROUX, SUGARCREEK, ROADMASTER (and let’s not forget the only British Pomprockbands SARACEN and MAGNUM!)… actually meaning crystal clear lead vocals that can easily go up pretty high and is here and there combined with multi-layered harmonyvocals, while the songs itself feature beautiful catchy hooks, melodic memorable choruses, calmer parts, heavier moments, massive synths, laid-back pianowork, anthemic majestic guitarwork and a pumping mostly midtempo bass/drumsection backing things up, well… that basically sums up the late 1970s/early 80s Pomprocksound which took over America by storm a few years earlier when bands like STYX and KANSAS combined elements of British Prog (YES) with the guitarsound and melodies of QUEEN, URIAH HEEP and BOSTON. What followed was a whole New Wave Of American Pomprockbands that also went away pretty quickly when Poprock and AOR ruled the airwaves in the magical year of 1981. Sadly many bands did not get the same treatment that STYX and KANSAS had received a few years before, but nevertheless in the small Pomprock community they will never be forgotten and now even the RETROSPECT RECORDS label managed to re-issue the band’s album onto CD. The 8 original tracks sound remarkably well and stood the test of time, simply showcasing the enormous talent that was present in the Midwest of the US of A 30 years ago. LIFER was part of it and any Pomprockfan will absolutely fall in love with such classics like “Old sailor’s dream”, “Eddie Canasta” and the superb Pomprock Classic “Father”. More at: www.retrospectrecords.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

LEIANA ‘LUCKY #’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

Almost 6 years ago we reviewed the previous CD ‘No going back’ of LEIANA (please see review on the page http://www.angelfire.com/planet/strutter/HOTNEWREVIEWS114.htm ) and now she returns with her 3rd album ’Lucky #’. The Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter already worked with multi-instrumentalist CHUCK TREECE in the past, who is known as having played with acts like BAD BRAINS, URGE OVERKILL, BILLY JOEL… and now we welcome ROB CAGGIANO (ANTHRAX), BRETT SCALLIONS (FUEL, THE DOORS), JOHN TEMPESTA (THE CULT) and several other musicians. The result is a very strong album that sounds like her best work so far. The music is raw and edgy, but always with a good hook and a catchy chorus, along with superstrong clean vocalwork of LEIANA. The music fits somewhere between the classic 80s Melodic Hardrock of LITA FORD and the modern female fronted rocksound of let’s say PARAMORE, so put it in there somewhere and you will get the picture. The job is done quite well and the 12 included tracks are all very nice to listen to and without a doubt, this could easily have been a major US label release. Anyone who likes HALESTORM should also check out this new album of LEIANA, which simply offers the same kind of high quality melodic rock and roll, with as highlights “Heartless”, “Nothing = you”, “I don’t wanna be”,“Happy now” and the acoustic tingled “Day is done”. More info can be found through LEIANA’s sites at: www.leiana.com and www.myspace.com/leiana    

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

RACHAEL SAGE ‘HAUNTED BY YOU’ (MPRESS RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

‘Haunted by you’ is already the 10th album of this talented female singer/songwriter/producer from New York. Somehow it is the first time I am exposed to her music and it certainly gave me the the impression that I need to go look for her previous albums soon, because the music on her latest release ‘Haunted by you’ is really beautiful. Rachael plays several instruments, although the piano is her most favorite one, as this can be heard on almost every track. She produced the album herself and a lot of other people were involved in the recording process, including a whole string of violin players, guitarists, bassists, drummers and backing vocals, but in the end it’s the wonderful unique vocalwork of Rachael that is making the biggest impression. The music is piano/guitar based laid-back melodic singer-songwriter Pop/Rock that is also flirting with other genres here and there, such as light rock, classical music and jazz, while lyrical it is very poetic. “Ready” is definitely one of the strongest songs, with it’s impressive almost AORish melodies and nobody will deny that not only during this song, but also at several other moments throughout the album, Rachael sounds a tiny bit like TORI AMOS. On the other hand, making comparisons would not be justified, because Rachael has developed her own sound ever since her first album from 1996, creating a wonderful mix of pop melodies, poetic lyrics and classical piano-music, with just enough diversity to keep one interested from start to finish. There are countless other female artists doing more or less the same kinda music and Rachael definitely belongs to the best! More info at: http://www.rachaelsage.com/ and http://www.mpressrecords.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

LOVER UNDER COVER ‘SET THE MIGHT ON FIRE’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

Wow… this is sorta surprising, because I did review some demos of the Swedish band LOVER UNDER COVER about 12 years ago (one of the reviews can be read here: http://www.oocities.org/strutterzine/NEWREVIEWS33.htm), not knowing it would take up to 2012 before an official label release would take place, but ESCAPE MUSIC now releases the official debut CD of LOVER UNDER COVER. Musically it is the same style as back then, which is 80s influenced melodic hardrock the European way. The band was formed by multi-instrumentalist MIKAEL CARLSSON, who is joined here by guitarist MARTIN KRONLUND (GYPSY ROSE, PHENOMENA), drummer PERRA JOHNSSON (COLDSPELL) and legendary singer MIKAEL ERLANDSSON (solo, LAST AUTRUMN’S DREAM…). Although nothing new is brought here, the included songs are nice to listen to, because everything is done quite well. It’s a little harder edged than the usual Scandi Melodic Rock and actually goes more into the direction of typical German Melodic Heavy Rock in the style of CASANOVA, MAD MAX and BONFIRE. “Hero” and “Who needs love” are definitely the 2 finest tracks, but most of the material follow the same path, so if you like one of them, you can easily listen to the full record. I have to say that upon hearing the song “Through the storm” I was actually thinking this was a cover of the legendary TINDRUM song “Gods of war”, but it surely was not the case after checking the liner notes. Anyway, nice record and recommended to the Melodic Hardrockfans.

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)  

DANTE FOX ‘LOST MAN’S GROUND’ (INDEPENDENT/UK IMPORT)

18 years ago I received a superb 4-track demo cassette by a band called DANTE FOX, of whom I had heard about through a Belgian music paper called MINDVIEW. The band had already been working for quite a few years to become noticed outside their little town in the UK, but it was circa the mid 1990s when things really became reality. I reviewed this demo, gave it a very high rating and eventually all the positive reviews led to a label contract with the now defunct AOR label NOW AND THEN RECORDS. The band released the CD ‘Under suspicion’, which became one of the finest female fronted AOR releases of the 1990s. More albums followed, although there have been times it was quite around them, but with this new independent release ‘Lost man’s ground’ they are clearly showing the world they are still able to record some of the best (female fronted) AOR out there at the moment. It’s quite unbelievable they are now independent, because the first 2 songs on this CD are of an incredible high level, easily beating any other new AOR release! Both “Who stole the innocence” and “Go where your heart is” are superb uptempo AOR pieces that reflect the perfection of pure AOR I miss so much in other so-called AOR releases. Also the semi-ballad “Secrets” is a very nice song, while the new version of the DANTE FOX classic “I can’t sleep” is also a great tune to play loud and proud. One more highlight is hidden in the sensational midtempo “Lost man’s ground” and also with “This world” they are step into the Classic 1980s AOR sound, which we all love so much. Despite actually only 6 tracks are included here (not counting the live track and a radio edit version of the titlesong), this mini-CD feels like one of 2012’s strongest releases in the AOR field. It even is DANTE FOX’s best effort since the release of their debut back in the mid 1990s. It is of course thanks to the amazing vocalwork of SUE WILLETS (who happens to be one of the finest female singers to emerge from the UK the past 20 years!) and the excellent guitarwork of TIM MANFORD that DANTE FOX is a a definite winning team, although the band also consists of bassist ALAN MILLS and drummer ANDY PERFECT, while several other musicians guested here and there (including TONY MILLS, ERIC RAGNO and ALESSANDRO DEL VECCHIO). Anyway, the highly underrated cooperation between Sue and Tim works so well on each recording they do together and it still amazes me that so many people never even heard of this terrific duo, but perhaps via the new album ‘Lost man’s ground’ there is another chance. They definitely deserve to be heard and here’s hoping they come over to perform in Holland again, because if there’s one thing certain, then it is the fact that next to FM, DANTE FOX is by far the finest AOR act from the UK. More info at: http://www.dantefox.com/

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)  

DEAREST PINKY ‘BLOOD AND SCARS’ (DEAREST PINKY PRODUCTIONS/USA IMPORT)

DEAREST PINKY is the brainchild of guitarist/singer/songwriter LINDSAY GARDNER, who studied at Berklee and has now released the first album ‘Blood and scars’ under the DEAREST PINKY moniker. The album sounds very professional, with a little help from several other musicians, including MARK CHERONE, the brother of EXTREME singer GARY CHERONE, with whom he was part of the band HURTSMILE, whom had an album out on FRONTIERS RECORDS. Also EXTREME drummer KEVIN FIGUEIREDO played on a lot of tracks, along with a few more musicians. The music on ‘Blood and scars’ is sounding quite melodic and combining Progressive Metal riffs with Melodic Poprock/AOR vocal lines/choruses and some groovy Hardrock in the guitar department as well. A song like “Last stop” is a good example of intillegent AOR melodies being mixed with a funky/groovy rock structure and rhythm, while opener “Slip your lie” is a massive sounding heavy Progressive Metal song, with melodies out of the female fronted Euro Gothic Metal book. The 16 included songs are more or less following the style of these 2 tunes, so I think you’ll get the picture what is going on here. A nice balance several rockstyles can be heard and all together it is an interesting affair, making up a great start for newcomer Lindsay, who certainly has got all it takes to become successful in the music business. Also recommended to fan of ORIANTHI by the way! More info at: www.dearestpinky.com

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)  

MIND THE JAEP ‘GET READY FOR TONIGHT’ (INDEPENDENT/GERMAN IMPORT/TSM PROMOTIONS)

The German band MIND THE JAEP released a nice typical Hardrock album that happens to have a big sound/production, thanks to ex-ROKO member MARC BUGNARD. The vocals are quite raw and the Hardrock of MIND THE JAEP is somewhat cliché tingled, but it is all done well enough to listen to and especially fans of bands like RHINO BUCKET, LA GUNS, D.A.D., HANOI ROCKS, EVERY MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE and also people into early 80s US Sleazy Hardrock will definitely find something of interest on this disc. The highlight however is the moment when the band takes a step back with the more poppy “Out of reach”, while the outrageous “Miss J” is the least interesting track as it sounds like a dangerous mixture of AEROSMITH and THE DARKNESS. Not exactly the album of the year for some of you, but I’m convinced that people who like their Rock and Roll to sound raw, full of energy and reminding of the ballsy sleazy Rock and Rollsound that was popular for a short while in the USA, right before the Grunge period around 1989-1991, well for them this is a highly recommended band to check out. Musicianship is of a high level, so without a doubt, quality stuff is what we have here. More at: www.mindthegaep.de

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)  

FABULAE DRAMATIS ‘OM’ (INDEPENDENT/BELGIUM IMPORT)

Recorded over 2 years in various parts of the world, the international band FABULAE DRAMATIS was formed in Antwerp, Belgium in 2011. Now they have a CD out titled ‘Om’, which musically is sounding like a Dark/Avant-Garde Metal release witjh influences from Doom, Gothic and Progressive Metal. There’s some OPETH, SAVATAGE and AFTER FOREVER to be heard here, although clearly not at that high level. However, for a first album, FABULAE DRAMATIS shows they are able to combine elements of various Metal genres quite nicely. Nevertheless, I do feel that in the massive amount of female fronted Gothic Metal releases nowadays it will become quite hard to face the tough competition of so many major label releases in the same direction. Still, I would like to recommend fans of the genre to check out this band at: http://www.fabulaedramatis.com

(Points: 7.2 out of 10)  

THE BITTER ROOTS ‘CHIAROSCURO’ (WATER WORKS HILL RECORDING CO/INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT/TSM PROMOTIONS)

THE BITTER ROOTS is an interesting band from Seattle, whom releases their 3rd album with ‘Chiaroscuro’ and musically it is sorta traditional American Rock/Hardrock with influences from all kinds of Rock era, so not only the Seattle sound can be heard here, because also B.O.C. ish Melodic Rock is hearable, such as during the opener “For king and country”. In fact, BLUE OYSTER CULT similarities are available all throughout the album, with many Classic Rock riffs, but also here and there some Alternative Rock influences can be noticed. No Autotune, Click Track or Samples have been used in the recording of the album, because THE BITTER ROOTS prefer the old fashioned more interesting way of recording, which is recording live to Analog Tape. The result is an all-original authentic recording that makes THE BITTER ROOTS a recommended band to check out. They clearly fit musically right between the 1970s Classic Rock of the B.O.C. school and the early 1990s Seattle Altrock explosion of let’s say ALICE IN CHAINS (just listen to the slow “Soldier on”). Think you’ll get the picture what this THE BITTER ROOTS more or less sounds like, but go for more info to: www.bitterrootsmusic.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)  

E.J. DEASE ‘LIGHT THAT SHINES’ (ONE WEST MUSIC/SAM ELLIS PRINTS/USA IMPORT)

Wow, I bought a nice vinyl record from the 1980s of a female singer called ELISA FIORILLO just recently, went on the internet to find out more about this danceable poprock singer and learned that she released many more records and in fact, she became one of PRINCE’s backing vocalists the past couple of tours he did. In the meantime, she released under a different name E.J. DEASE a more or less Country/Crossover AOR/Poprock record titled ‘Light that shines’ back in 2007, which musically fits somewhere between JAIME KYLE, TAYLOR SWIFT and FAITH HILL, with some very strong vocalwork actually. The first couple of songs (“I know” and “Lost and found”) are very AORish, but most of the 13 songs will definitely appeal to fans of female fronted AOR/Poprock who don’t mind a slightly lighter approach (the work DAN HUFF and the late VAN STEPHENSON have been doing in Nashville the past 20 years). The melodies and vocal style are pure AOR/Poprock, but it is all just crossed with Countryish arrangements of the (let’s say) original JUICE NEWTON sound. High quality stuff and without a doubt this album could have been a major US label release. One more mention worthy here is the involvement of JEFF SILVERMAN (famous for his work with RICK SPRINGFIELD), because he engineered, mixed, mastered and co-produced the album, besides playing guitar and co-writing some of the songs) and also the AEROSMITH cover “What it takes” has gotten a nice treatment. Anyway, more info at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisa_Fiorillo and http://www.elisafiorillo.com/ and http://www.onewestmusic.com/ejdease.html and http://www.ejdease.com/ , while the CD is available through: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ejdease

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

VAUDEVILLE ‘VENDETTA’ (PACIFIC UNDERGROUND RECORDINGS/USA IMPORT/TSM PROMOTIONS)

Out of Minneapolis, USA comes the band VAUDEVILLE, whom are described as an Alternative Rockband, but are actually sounding a little more diverse. In fact, they sometimes reflect a Progressive Heavy Rocksound, with melodic vocals and choruses out of the big Melodic Rockbook. A song like the catchy “Treason” even reminds me a bit of THE RASMUS, so VAUDEVILLE is not just another Alternative Rockband. I would describe them as a modern sounding Progressive Melodic Rockband with an European sound, although fans of bands like THREE DAYS GRACE might also find something of interest here. Anyway, the band released a very well-produced album titled ‘Vendetta’, of which the best song is probably the beautiful melodic driven “Into the mouth of madness”. Who knows this band might become huge someday in the world of Rock and Roll, because they definitely show they are able to write strong material on this album. More info at: www.reverbnation.com/vaudevillemn   

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

THE MIST OF AVALON ‘DINYA’ (ECHOZONE/SONY MUSIC/SWEDEN IMPORT)

The Swedish band THE MIST OF AVALON recorded several albums during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but were inactive recording wise for almost 10 years. However, in 2010 they released a very strong new album titled ‘Dinya’, which musically may be called a Gothic Rock/Metal release, but already during the first song “Helpless”, the band is sounding more melodic and actually very much leaning towards 1980s DURAN DURANish vocally speaking and also the verses and choruses remind a lot of that band, although instrumental it is typical modern Gothic Rock orientated (HIM, TIAMAT), with a touch of uptempo Melodic Rock catchiness. Anyway, whatever it sounds like, THE MIST OF AVALON released an interesting album with this ‘Dinya’ and despite the fact it is already 2 years old, it nevertheless still sounds very fresh, with many highlights between the 12 included tracks. They are not so well-known actually, but on the other hand will have a cult status among it’s fans, which is totally understandable, because they perfectly combine 80s sweet melodies of DURAN DURAN with the darker 90s/00s Gothic Rocksound of TIAMAT, THE NEGATIVE, HIM (“Sacrifice” is a must-hear!) and even TYPE OF NEGATIVE. Check them out at: http://www.mist-of-avalon.com  

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

AVANT LA LETTRE ‘IN MY TIME’ (AVANT LA LETTRE MUSIC/DGR MUSIC/ROUGH TRADE)

Ever since the early 1980s and probably even further back, new bands in The Netherlands have been heavily influenced by British bands and the Amsterdam based AVANT LA LETTRE is no exception to that rule, because they play pure British orientated New Wave Poprock meets Indie Pop/Rock. Of course in the UK many new bands adopt a similar sound nowadays, which is very retro 1980s inspired, but one listen to the new album of this Dutch band and one will agree that ‘In my time’ is of a very high level. It’s the band’s 2nd album and if they are lucky they should be able to breakthrough at least here in The Netherlands, where the kind of music has always been very popular. The band is blessed with a great lead singer, while instrumental they balance somewhere between New Wave of the early 1980s and modern Indie Poprock, yet there’s some more diversity to be discovered if you listen closely enough. A song like “Postmodernity” could well become the big hit of 2013, because this is a damn catchy uptempo tune. Happily, each of the 10 included tracks is interesting enough to be played more than just a few times, with not just the focus on uptempo happy tunes like many other bands in this genre are doing, but instead a lot of midtempo material, with some very original arrangements here and there, such as during the slow bluesy 90s UK Britpop orientated “Before/after” and the big Synth Proggy touch of “Peace sign” or how about the Americana shuffle of “In my time” which shows a complete different band once again. Perhaps that last mentioned song is the finest and most original song on offer here, as it sounds so surprising compared to the rest of the material. So the only conclusion one can draw here is that AVANT LA LETTRE has delivered a very strong album that sounds international enough to become noticed outside The Netherlands as well. Check them out at: www.avantlaletttre.eu

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

MOST UNPLEASANT MEN ‘MOST UNPLEASANT MEN’ (DGR MUSIC/ROUGH TRADE)

It must be something in the water, because with MOST UNPLEASANT MEN, we have another strong band coming out of The Netherlands. In this case it concerns the 2nd album of this Utrecht based band and it is simply titled ‘Most unpleasant men’. Keyboardfriendly and sounding very melodic, yet also quite melancholic, it is heavily influenced by the early 80s British New Wave moment, where we sometimes can hear similairites to bands like TALKING HEADS, ROXY MUSIC, TALK TALK, JOY DIVISION, but also to the more recent New Wave ish bands from the UK (and USA!), such as THE EDITORS, INTERPOL, WHITE LIES, etc… Still, MOST UNPLEASANT MEN is here and there creating something just a little different than all those bands, with more creativity during the arrangements, which is by the way a very common thing in the Dutch musicscene (bands over here are always trying to sound unique and different than anything else!) Often it really works well on the band’s new album, especially on great songs like “Everybody does”, “Fall of the city” and “Blankets”, but in a song like “Hole in the ground” the band sounds a bit too repetitive and the Electro Pop of “Stairs” is not really making it the strongest track. On the other hand, the band is doing some great experimental treatments to the song “It ticks” that reminds me somehow of THE NITS and how about “This is it” that is a very happy little tune in the style of THE HOUSEMARTINS and SPLIT ENZ!!!. Enough diversity going on here and perhaps therefore a band to watch out for in the near future. More info at: http://www.mostunpleasantmen.nl/

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

BETTIE SERVEERT ‘OH, MAYHEM!’ (PALOMINE RECORDS/DGR MUSIC/PIAS)

The Dutch band BETTIE SERVEERT has been around for more than 20 years now and during this period they have become a household name within not only Holland, but actually throughout the whole of Europe, the USA and even Japan. Now there is a new album titled ‘Oh, Mayhem!’, which starts with a very catchy uptempo rocking tune titled “Shake-her”. This song sets the record straight that BETTIE SERVEERT is a pure Rockband and also during the following songs it is clearly notable that the band is keen on delivering uptempo melodic rockers that reflect influences from classic 1960s Garage/Fuzz-Rock, while the clean vocals of female singer CAROL VAN DYK are giving it a melodic approach. The band has of course created an own sound during the years, but somehow they have always reminded me of a heavier modern version of the legendary band SHOCKING BLUE, with some great guitarwork by the band’s guitarist PETER VISSER to give it a sorta Alternative Rock approach. “Had2byou” is one of those radioready tunes that could become massive, as this is a really catchy tune and clearly showing the band’s love for simple 1960s Poprock material as well and if bands like THE LIKE and DUM DUM GIRLS can create such tunes nowadays, why not our own Dutch band BETTIE SERVEERT! What surprises me that this new album of BETTIE SERVEERT sounds so dynamic and in-your-face, as if they have created their finest album ever and perhaps this is the case with ‘Oh, Mayhem!’. Make sure to check out this new album of BETTIE SERVEERT and all related info on their site at: http://www.bettieserveert.com/

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

KATYA ‘ROCK LIVES!’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

There is more than meets the eye, which in the case of the debut CD ‘Rock lives!’ is clearly an understatement, because the Californian multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter KATYA delivers a high class performance on this album she just released. Not only does she look very well, but she actually played almost all of the instruments herself on the album besides singing, writing, recording, arranging and producing the 13 songs as well. I guess you can say we have found here a new angel in the rock music industry. She already has had her 15 minutes of fame on VH1 CLASSIC, where she was part of the TV series ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp’ alongside PAUL STANLEY, PHIL COLLEN and several GUNS’N’ROSES members. With fame around the corner, it is perhaps only a matter of time before she hits it big. Her music is very 1980s Hair Metal orientated, with a strong Melodic Hardrock approach in the style of LITA FORD. Guest appearances on the album are made by Stephen Perkins (JANE’S ADDICTION), Gonzo Sandoval (ARMORED SAINT), Jerry Peterson (ERIC CLAPTON), Adam Cohen (RAY CHARLES) Paulo Gustavo (GRAHAM BONNET), John Philip Shenale (TORI AMOS) and Eliza James (BURT BACHARACH). 

Lyrically it is very Rock and Roll based, so no exceptional lyrics to be read and no original songtitles can be found, but that doesn’t matter much, because the performance is perfect and also vocally, KATYA has a great strong 1980s type of Female Rock voice. The material is not far removed from the classic days of VIXEN and LITA FORD, such as can be heard during the lovely massive sounding midtempo epic Melodic Rocker “We never say goodbye”, while the orchestral ballad “Like a dream” does sound very remarkable and different from the rest of the album. Katya’s voice is quite impressive, easily reaching those difficult high notes. I am somewhat surprised this album hasn’t been picked up yet in the Rock press, because it sounds clearly better than for example ISSA, with Katya handling everything on her own here, so definitely more interesting for a starter. Even a simple Rock’n’Roll tune like the JOAN JETT/THE RUNAWAYS inspired “Vicious little brat” makes you smile, so there is really something good about this album and that is not just the frontcover! We already had ORIANTHI in recent times, but this KATYA is just as good and clearly a girl with a bright future. For anyone who wants to hear Katya at her very best, switch over to the song “Hey sister”, which is an incredible calm acoustic ballad that resembles classic 1970s HEART, including some superb vocals by Katya. If a future CD would also bring a slightly better sound/production, then we have a true winner here! Keep your eyes wide open for this talented girl (who also writes books and is active in the fitness, clothing and health industry besides music) at: http://www.KATYAMUSIC.com

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

VALENCE ‘SLEEPWALKER’ (INDEPENDENT/TSM PROMOTIONS/USA IMPORT)

Out of New York comes the band VALENCE and they deliver a high quality instrumental progalbum with ‘Sleepwalker’, which marks also their debut album. 2 guitarists, a bassist and a drummer make up the band and all together they have created something quite sensational. OK, we have heard it before and surely it isn’t something new, but nobody will disagree when I say that VALENCE is doing a really great job on their first record. There are some incredible melodies to be heard and on record they sound as good as DREAM THEATER and RUSH during their instrumental parts. 8 songs are included and all together they form a suite titled “Sleepwalker”. I don’t have enough time to listen to all the instrumental releases out there, but I am convinced that this VALENCE belongs to the better unsigned ones out there, so go check them out at: www.valance-band.com

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

FAST TRAIN UNION ‘FAST TRAIN UNION + FAST TRAIN UNION 2’ (INDEPENDENT/CANADA IMPORT)

Now here we have an all-original Canadian Classic Hardrockband that follows the steps taken by APRIL WINE and HELIX many moons ago, yet with a more metalized sound. Thanks to JOEL JOYAL I was turned on to this Ottawa based band and he was kind enough to sent me the band’s 2 albums. Their same titled debut was released in 2009 and now just recently the 2nd album ‘2’ has been released. The music is like already mentioned Classic traditional Hardrock with a strong 1970s Classic Rock touch, yet also with 1980s MAIDEN type of Metal influences all throughout the album. The first 2 songs on the new album were just ok, but nothing that spectacular. However, during “Sweetwater” and “After all” we can hear quite a strong active rocking band, combining Classic Rock, Melodic Hardrock and 80s Heavy Metal at it’s finest. Try imaging a mix between THIN LIZZY, IRON MAIDEN, ARMORED SAINT, BLUE OYSTER CULT, Y&T and CONEY HATCH, then you have the FAST TRAIN UNION sound! “Sweetwater” has some excellent IRON MAIDEN twin-guitarwork and an almost Southern Hardrock chorus out of the Classic MOXY book! “After all” and “The truth” are tapping out of a pure Melodic Hardrock book, which reminds me so much of CONEY HATCH, TALON and TALAS, yet vocally a bit more rawer like BLUE OYSTER CULT. The midtempo groovy guitar riff dominated “Fly until tomorrow” has an infectious glorious melodic chorus that recalls and brings you in a classic 80s hardrock extase! Here and there we can also find traces of classic NWOBHM, so there’s enough diversity going on here. Thankfully the sound/production is also rather excellent, so absolutely no complaints about that. Especially the guitarwork is superior, so an extra mention of that part of the FAST TRAIN UNION sound needs to be mentioned here and with many great songs included on their new CD, it makes them a highly recommended band in the end! Their same titled debut is somewhat rare, but not as good as the new one, so first go for the great new record of this talented high quality band from Canada! More at: http://www.fasttrainunion.com and http://www.facebook.com/fasttrainunion  

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

DANIEL BUKSZPAN ‘THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HEAVY METAL – COMPLETELY REVISED AND UPDATED BOOK’ (STERLING PUBLISHING/USA IMPORT)

3 ½ years ago we reviewed the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal by DANIEL BUKSZPAN and now there is a revised and updated version released. Some bands were taken out, while others were now included as they were missing in the previous edition. The original review can be found at: http://strutterzine.angelfire.com/HOTNEWREVIEWS147.htm, but actually many things have changed since that edition, as the book was already published way back in the early 2000s. Now a mere 10 years later, Daniel has perfectionized his book and the book itself is besides being an interesting encyclopedia, secretely revealing some really cool rare and unseen pictures of the included acts. Admitted, the book still isn’t the perfect Encyclopedia, but thankfully DREAM THEATER is now included. The only pity of this new edition is that it is much smaller than the original large format, which makes the pictures look smaller as well of course. Anyway, Daniel has included the familiar Metal bands once again likewise, but also some very rare underground obscure Cult bands and not just only Metal, but also a lot of Hardrockbands are present. Basically a very nice summary, with also some great lengthy biographies. Highlight for me personally are still the incredible pictures of THE RUNAWAYS on page 278, a real eye-catcher of these beautiful girls, of whom of course in later years JOAN JETT, LITA FORD and CHERRY CURRIE would go on record some great solo material, but THE RUNAWAYS were an amazing all-female band back in 1976. Gladly I have all their LPs and recently re-issued CDs here closeby! But there are loads more, mostly 1980s, 1990s and a few 2000s bands are included here, ranging from WHITESNAKE, TESLA, WARRANT, QUEENSRYCHE, RATT, MOTLEY CRUE, MEGADETH, URIAH HEEP, Y&T, RIOT, RAVEN, RUSH, KISS, MALMSTEEN, MANOWAR, FATES WARNING, BLACK SABBATH, DIO, DOKKEN, BLUE OYSTER CULT, etc. etc., so actually the title should have been Hardrock and Metal, because not all of these bands may be considered Metal! The biographies are well written, but like mentioned before the absolute highlights are the included photos of the bands and musicians that look very impressive. Besides all band features, additionally we can find some sidebars, such as the genres, band rivalry, radio, venues, magazines, several countries (Africa, Germany, Australia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Japan), intraband conflicts (DOKKEN of course) etc., a foreword by the surviving wife of the late Metal God RONNIE JAMES DIO, WENDY DIO and at the end of the book a bunch of Charts that are of course Metal related. Not that many bands are included, so we can not call this the ultimate Encyclopedia, but it does at least give a real good inside look into the genre and it’s subgenres, with also visually something to look at, making this Encyclopedia a recommended Book. Available through: www.sterlingpub.com, but probably in the better book stores in the major cities available as well…

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted) 

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