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HOT NEW REVIEWS


UPDATED October 18, 2016


Eins, Zwei Orchestra 'Hope, sign, community' (DGR Music)

 

Hope, sign, community is the new album of the Dutch band Eins, Zwei Orchestra. They released their debut in 2011 and this new album is their 3rd full-length record so far. Musically they are compared with My Bloody Valentine and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but there’s much more to explore here. They are influenced by a lot of different genres while listening to the album and actually they have a professional international sound and could easily become a huge band! Indie (melodic) rock is the name of the game here, but we can also trace influences of 80s altrock/new wave sometimes, shoegaze, dreampop and even a touch of dark folk. Some of the material is very radio-ready, with definite massive hits in the making and overall this is a really great record actually! I hear some similarities to the UK band Blossoms, but the strong female vocals make it also remember of a sound somewhere between Gold, Shocking Blue, Tennis and Beach House. However, the band also has male vocals to offer, so we have a share in vocal duties by guitarist Stefan van Maurik and synthesizerplayer Lydia van Maurik. It’s a concept album about the Chinese student protest from 1989 when a student stood before a tank, so it is mostly about this so-called Tankman! The beginning of the album is definitely the best, with some great uptempo indie melodic rock that features very strong female vocals, a big drum sound and lush catchy melodies, especially during AK47, Samantha Smith and Hold your ground. Other interesting tunes are Superstar (catchy midtempo tune) and Come on (dreampop at its finest, lovely melodies even a bit like Haim, but more dreamy a la Webb Sisters, First Aid Kit, beautiful!!!). The second part is a little less good, with some commercial poppy tunes like Alright now (calmer ballad ish, nice harmonyvcocals, quite a lot hit potential!) and Turn around (poppy tune, very commercial sound) and the weaker songs Ordinary man and the final 2 tracks (not mentioned on the cd cover, but numbers 11 and 12). The highlight however during the 2nd part of the album is the calmer After the bombs where Lydia sings lead in a song that is a dark acoustic folk tune like Lisa Hannigan and Melissa Nadler. I am not familiar with their earlier releases, but check out more at: http://www.einszweiorchestra.com and https://einszweiorchestra.bandcamp.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Mother Of Pearl ‘Our love/These walls vinyl single’ (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Seattle comes the band Mother Of Pearl, who were kind enough to sent me their debut vinyl single, which consists of 2 songs, Our love and These walls. The band mixes rock, pop, blues, soul, jazz and aor influences and come up with a great relaxing smooth sound. Their line-up features Christa Wells (Vocals), Alex Mortland (Guitar), Kent Halvorsen (Keys), Jeremy Lightfoot (Bass) and Woogie D (Drums). The strong female vocals make them an interesting band and after 2 years of working, they released this single in late 2015 and are now preparing a full-length release. Without a doubt, this is something to look forward to, because it all sounds really excellent. They worked with Seattle recording legends such as Barrett Jones (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Sir Mix-A-Lot, etc) and Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, etc) on this lovely sounding debut single. The only pity is that there are only 2 songs included, because you definitely want to hear more and more. Our love is a very relaxing smooth slightly jazzy westcoast/aor influenced song that sounds like Toto with soulful female vocals. The other song These walls is actually a melodic rockballad and a really good one! This is a very promising start and I can’t wait to hear and review their full-length record. Definitely a band to watch out for in the future, so go check them out at: http://www.motherofpearlband.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 Sirens Sky 'Heal you/Forever' (Independent)

 

Heal you is the new mini-CD of the Dutch band Sirens Sky, which is actually a studio project created and maintained by Herbert Kaptein, a Dutch songwriter and guitarist who has previously played in several alternative rock bands based in the Rotterdam area. He does everything on his own, but for the vocals he is working with two American vocalists, Lydia Salnikova and Mella Barnes. On his previous album Forever, which was a full-length record, he collaborated with Jessica Rasche as singer besides Lydia. Lydia is definitely the finest singer of them all, because she is a truly gifted sensational sounding female singer who was active in the band Bering Straight, a Grammy-nominated band with releases on major labels in the USA, and also has a successful solo career going on. The Forever CD by Sirens Sky is a very nice AOR/Poprock sounding album that consists of mostly calmer tunes and is not so much rocking and despite the fact that the drums/production sounds a bit thin, overall the music is of an exceptionally high level!! Especially the songs with Lydia on vocals are a pleasure to listen to, because she has got the voice of an angel, just listen to songs like Forever (great semi AOR/Melodic Rockballad), Cosmic (calmer ballad), Let Go (lovely AOR ish ballad a la Jaime Kyle/Robin beck) and Until You Feel (great semi rockballad) and you can hear how incredible she is. Singer Jessica sounds a bit rawer, with as highlights the midtempo rocker Blinded (a la Alanis Morissette) and Dance (great uptempo classic AOR rocker with strong lead and harmonyvocals). On this full-length record Forever you can definitely hear the potential and on the new mini-album Heal you Sirens Sky has improved and sounds even more professional. Opener Heal You is a very nice relaxing semi-ballad, calmer melodic rock ish, with a laid-back lush sound, while No More Running and Release (Remix Aug 2016) are even a bit Heart ish, with the latter featuring very impressive vocals and harmonyvocals!!!! These kind of songs are AORish somehow, with no real electric guitar, but more laid-back relaxing guitarwork, although it gets rockier halfway, sorta midtempo AOR/Melodic Rock with during the song Release a beautiful classic rock guitarsolo. Soulmates and Here and Now are a little less impressive, but overall this is a really interesting record for the fans of lightweight female fronted aor/poprock. Stevie Nicks and Faith Hill are mentioned comparisons on the internet, but Heart and especially the legendary Californian band Challenge (if anyone remembers them?) are much better similarities for me personally. Vocalist Lydia Salnikova is definitely somehow you need to check out and hopefully we will soon be able to review some of her other (solo) work. Check out Sirens Sky at spotify and http://sirenssky.wix.com/sirens-sky

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Cos 'Cos' (Cosmark Music/USA Import)

 

Not much info on this band from New York, but Cos is an 80s inspired act that combines aor/poprock with prog/symfo and a little hi-tech pop, sounding a bit like Time Gallery, a Swedish band from 25 years ago. However, there’s a lot of fun and surprises while listening to their same titled debut album. Opener The Summer Never Ends is an 80s semi progressive melodic rocker, Rush ish with a Police kinda sounding guitar approach and in the end actually even reminding of Asia! Next track Negative Energy is reminding me of Saga, but is also sounding like 80s Rush and overall may be classified as a great symphpnic rocker. One of the most interesting tunes follows, namely Passion from a Distance, a fantastic relaxing westcoast/AOR tune that sounds a bit like Toto/Franke and the Knockouts, so a very smooth song with that perfect early 80s American radio sound (remember Big Ric, The Automatix, Alliance…), with a killer Toto/AOR type of chorus, really picture perfect! This song shows that Cos has got very good vocals, a nice laid-back sound that will wet the appetite of both AOR/Westcoast and prog.Sympho fans (read: Toto meets Rush and dare I say Le Roux!!!). The song Your Eyes has a similar approach and is also a great tune! We enter a slightly different route with Mountain of Rope that is light funky pop/rock, even a bit Gino Vanelli 80s style. Small Sacrifice is one of the few weaker songs, despite being a more straight-forward rocker. When Lovers Part is a nice semi aor ballad ala John Wetton, Love Is the Hunter is more proggy, Twisting the Knife is a great AOR ish ballad in a GTR style, while The Kiss is the only instrumental track and is basically pure Rush. Closing track Say Goodbye sets things into an 80s melodic rock/AOR style that comes across like White Sister meets No Eqxqze/Helloise. The drums sound a bit thin, but further more all sounds quite good and I can definitely recommend especially the fans of slightly progressive 80s AOR (GTR meets Toto) to check out Cos at: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Cos2

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Elysian Gates 'Crossroads' (Independent)

 

Elysian Gates from Luxembourg was formed in 2010 and through the years they switched vocalists several times, but with the arrival of Noémie Leer (Rude Revelation) in 2015, the band started working on their debut Crossroads, which is now released. It is released independently, but the sound is huge and could have been a major label release. The included music is not really original, because this kind of modern day female fronted symphonic melodic metal has been done many times before, but Elysian Gates are doing it at a very high level and Noémie is a wonderful singer! Eyes of Eden, Lunatica, Leaves' Eyes, Delain, Nightwish, Within Temptation and all those other bands in this genre come to mind while listening to Crossroads, but the performance is very impressive and takes you on a great journey from start to finish. Highlights are  Crossroads (uptempo melodic heavy rocker, catchy, very much like Delain), Far from home (midtempo bombastic piece a la Epica, 10 minutes with calmer ballad part halfway), Mary Ann (beautiful melodic rockballad) and Broken inside (uptempo, with awesome guitarsolo versus keyboardsolo, power metal ish almost). Do not miss this release if you’re a fan of this genre. More at: www.elysiangates.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Cairo 'Say' (Heavy Right Foot Records/Nineteen 73 Promotion/UK Import)

 

Touchstone founder, singer/songwriter and keyboardplayer, Rob Cottingham is the leader of the new UK band Cairo, which should not be confused with the legendary fantastic progrockband from the past that had the same name. Anyway, this Cairo also features in the line-up Rachel Hill – Vocals, James Hards - Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Paul Stocker - Bass & Acoustic Guitars and Graham Brown - Drums & Percussion. So, Rob share the vocal duties with the female singer in the band. Musically speaking the band’s debut album Say is a very impressive concept album that is quite complex progressive rock orientated, clearly influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree,

Anathema… I have to say that I prefer Rachel on vocals, because she has a really great pleasant voice, but thankfully Rob can also sing very well. As it is a concept record, there are many instrumental passages, for example the first 3 songs are short instrumental/semi-instrumental intro’s that lead to the first real track Wiped out, a  complex progrocker in the style of Esquire. It shows a professional band making high quality music and especially the song Say is a fine melodic progrocker with a sorta 80s touch and somehow even revealing a funky/groovy hi-tech 80s Yes approach, although vocally a bit more like It Bites. Not that strange making such a comparison, because John Mitchell of It Bites, Arena, Frost, Kino fame was in charge of the production of Say. In the end, people who are familiar with those bands and also Touchstone will now have to hurry in order to get a copy of this first Cairo asap, because for them this is the perfect record. Other highlights are the calmer Katrina (female vocals), Searching (male vocals, lovely tune, sorta 80s melancholica, reminds me of Cutting Crew somehow, gets more semi-epic later on in the song, sounds very melodic!) and Dancing The Gossamer Thread (great uptempo tune, male vocals, close to It Bites, Kino and such). This is one of those albums you want to play over and over again to discover something new everytime, so a real big recommendation to especially the melodic progrockfans out there. More info at: www.cairorocks.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Elizabeth Butler 'Love & Loss & Stuff like that/ Lullaby' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Although singer/songwriter Elizabeth Butler has been active in the music business for almost her whole life, it took some time to release something on her own. She is currently based in the Houston area, but is actually originally from Savannah, Georgia, but has lived in Texas for over twenty years. She began playing the guitar at eleven years old, formed her own label Running Home Records in 1999, has been part of Running Home, a country/pop duo featuring Suzanne Comeaux Bucher and is now spreading her wings with her first solo-record Love and loss and stuff like that. On a side note, she also is very athletic, completing four marathons and three triathlons, but let’s get back to the music, because she sounds damn good on this album. There’s a mix of great calmer Americana, country and poprock melodies to be heard here. Sometimes a bit folksy, then rocking slightly and at other times poppy, so a real melting pot for everyone to enjoy. She has a great voice and comparisons to Faith Hill, Lenita Erickson, Stevie Nicks, Joan Osborne, Jewel, Carole King, Mary Chapin Carpenter and such can be drawn. Troy Warren, Jr., a multi-instrumentalist, helped her out on basically all levels, so he should also be credited in the contribution for this great album that I can highly recommend to everyone who likes a good deal of singer/songwriter with a pop melody and a light rocking touch here and there. Quality stuff for sure, which you need to check out at: www.ebutlermusic.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

C.T.P. 'Now and then' (Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Christian Tolle is the man behind this project C.T.P., so actually this stands for Christian Tolle Project and with the help of a very impressive guest list of musicians, this is a professional high quality release! Christian is a wonderful guitarist and his music is AOR/Melodic Rock based and this might well be his finest effort so far. It is actually a best of release, but he re-recorded them and added a bunch of new tracks, while the vocalists we can hear include John Parr, Philip Bardowell, Rick Riso, David Reece, Michael Voss, John Cuijpers and as musicians there are appearances by drummer Raymond Herveille, bassists Chuck Wright and Lauren Scheff and guitarists Steve Lukather, Michael Landau, Tim Pierce and Doug Aldrich (!!!), so it is hard to go wrong here! An exciting strong new album that starts with Dumped, which is awesome faster uptempo melodic heavy rock in a classic style early 90s like Casanova/Mad Max/Sargant Fury/Pretty Maids with strong vocals from Michael Voss. The midtempo Vengeance ish melodic hardrocksong Magic pudding follows, while John Parr is finally back to rock during The real thing, a  great classic 80s midtempo AOR/Melodic Rock tune with a lovely guitarsolo. Up next is Taking A Risk, a nice midtempo AOR song that would have sounded even better if Jeff Paris had sung it. Changed features Philip Bardowell on vocals and this is definitely one of the real highlights, an awesome uptempo AOR piece. The Price Of Love is uptempo bluesy hardrock n roll based, while Hard To Find is midtempo melodic rock based and John Parr shines again during Back To The Moon, a nice uptempo rocker, but not a classic like he used to sang on. On And On is pretty good AOR, while One Night Alone is another Philip Bardowell sung AOR tune. Enemy is a nice melodic heavy rocker, uptempo and a little Dio ish. The only instrumental song is 87 99, a Toto ish aor/melodic rock fusion and closing track of this very nice new album of Christian. OK, not really new, as it is a best of, but nevertheless all newly recorded with some great AOR vocalists and musicians and makign up for some great listening pleasure. The guitarwork is phenomenal in the Lukather/Huff school, so make sure to check it out at: http://www.christiantolle.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Plexiphones 'Electric' (Big Sky Song Records/Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Electric is the 2nd album of the German band Plexiphones, a 6-piece act with a sound that is clearly going into the 80s Brittish side of rock/wave (think U2, The Alarm, Killing Joke, Big Country, Simple Minds…). The album was produced in London by Soundengineer Tom E Morrison (Bonnie Tyler, Andrew Roachford, Underworld, Bliss) and ex-Wallenstein-, Sun- und Dead Guitars Bassist Kurt Schmidt. Mastered by Thomas Kessler (Dissidenten) and Andy Jackson (Pink Floyd, David Gilmour), Electric sounds likewise huge and massive. Also the included songs are very good actually, sorta melodic poprock ish with an electronic/80s new wave approach. The only remark I could make is that it all sounds very repetitive and montone after a while, but nevertheless we can hear some great tunes here and there, such as 40 Days (interesting high quality uptempo melodic rock ish with westcoast/aor touch, like a poppier Work Of Art 80s, somehow poppy and also reminding of The Outfield/Cutting Crew and such), Take Me, Break Me (Inxs/The Fixx ish uptempo electro melodic rock), Slow Down (laid-back ish ballad), Electric (great midtempo melodic rock ish), To Be Wanted (nice uptempo rocker, very 80s Billy Idol ish) and We Are Repeating (uptempo pure British early 80s new wave/synths a la Simple Minds). The vocals of singer Wolfgang Kemmerling are very strong and as already mentioned the production is huge, so if you’re interested how this all actually sounds like, then go to: http://www.plexiphones.com/impressum

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Eilera 'Face Your Demons' (Echozone/FastBall Music/Germany Import)

 

Face your demons is the 4th album of Finnish singer/songwriter Eilera. Helped by Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish) and Mika Jussila of the Finnvox Studios (Nightwish, Avantasia, Amorphis), this is actually a typical Finnish sounding female fronted rock product like a Tori Amos meets Finnish theatrical rock. It is not metal ish and even rock is sometimes not exactly the case, as the result is a safe sounding melodic folkish soft-rock album with average vocals and a mixture of Evanescence, Within Temptation and Loreena McKennitt might be the description in the press release, it really is far from that if we are honest. Only for the absolute die-hard fans this might be of interest, but the alternative celtic/folk pop/rock on this album is not making a real impact I’m afraid. Still interested, then go to: http://www.eilera.com

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Cunning Mantrap 'Hazmat' (FastBall Music/Germany Import)

 

This is a band from Cologne, Germany releasing a very aggressive sounding album titled Hazmat that starts with a sorta Hardcore ish Thrash Metal tune called Red, but on the other hand a song like Play the prophet taps out of an almost Grungy Nirvana kinda direction. It is a very diverse album, because if we listen to Uncanny valley we can hear suddenly a nice groovy melodic heavy rocksound with much better vocals and not such a depressing or aggressive way of singing. Somehow Alice In Chains also comes to mind here and there and Metallica influences are borrowed all the time, but this is one of those release you need to hear for yourself, as there is potential, yet it sounds a bit messy now most of the time. More at: www.cunningmantrap.com

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Piledriver 'Brothers in boogie' (Rockwall Records/FastBall Music/Germany Import)

 

The German band Piledriver was founded back in 1995 by Michael Sommerhoff ("Rick Parfitt") and Peter Wagner ("Francis Rossi"). Being fans of the original Status Quo line-up (also referred to as the "Frantic Four"), they weren´t very fond of the releases after the final "Frantic Four"-album Never too late in 1981. The Thirsty work-CD from 1994 was the "momentum" for their decision to kick off a "tribute-band" which wasn´t bound just to reproduce popular tracks of other people but to develop self written material in the very much appreciated "FF-style", the sound the original SQ once stood for and that secured them their place in rock history. This is the original quote on the band’s website and for easy reference I publish it in the review. Although Status Quo is indeed a close comparison here, the 4th album Brothers in boogie can also be seen as Rock and Roll boogie with a slightly more typical (German) Hardrock approach a la Accept, Krokus, ZZ Top, Running Wild, Motorhead… Good fun quality rock and roll in the classic rock style of the 1970s, maybe not sensational and all in the same uptempo boogie woogie style, nice to check out for yourself at: www.piledriver.de

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

The Atlantics 'The Atlantics' (Something Hit Communications/USA Import)

 

The Boston based powerpopband The Atlantics was formed in the mid 1970s and lasted until 1983, but now more than 30 years after their split one can hear all of their material on CDs that cover most of the band’s material. One of their first performances was playing support to The Ramones, whom had just started to make a name and in the summer of 1977 the band recorded a fantastic independent 45” single on Jukebox Records, When You're Young/Where Would I Be Without Your Love was the name and the songs are a classic pieces of late 1970s Powerpop in the The Jam style, with the flipside When you’re young being a prime example of classic late 70s powerpop/punkpop/poprock a la The Boys’ First time, The Undertones’ Teenage kicks, Cheap Trick’s Surrender and Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s girl. Despite a thousand copies were pressed, the single was never actually released. Eventually they were signed to ABC Records, which was later carried by MCA Records, and their debut full-length record Big city rock was officially released in 1979, but it never took off completely due to the switch of label and MCA not willing to promote it. Meanwhile they scored support acts for bands like Prince, Foreigner and Alice Cooper, so they enjoyed local Boston success through the years, but by 1983 they called it quits. Now many years later those CDs reflect that The Atlantics were a great band that could have easily become bigger. 2 original members (Bruce Wilkinson and Paul Caruso) sadly died during the 2000s, but the surviving members (Fred Pineau, Tom Hauck and Bobby Marron) put together the CD The Atlantics, which consists of untouched, archival studio recordings from 1979-1982, with no contemporary overdubs. The sound is pretty good actually, with a total of 13 tracks included. The group lasted only 7 years in total and this CD cover almost half ot their carreer, starting with Wrong Number, which is Powerpop bliss of the early 80s kind. Next track Back in the World is probably the best song The Atlantics ever recorded, because this is awesome catchy AORish uptempo classic early 80s hookdriven rock that even reminds me of a legendary AOR band like Aerial or Hyts, if anyone remember those bands! Hooks all over the place with that typical early 80s rock beat, AOR and Powerpop combined at a perfect radio ready level. What follows is a bunch of quirky powerpoprock tunes in the The Tubes style (Lonelyhearts, Perfect Stranger, Believe in Love, Rock and Roll Parts I and II and I Need a Girl), while the great midtempo poprocker Can't Wait Forever is a mix between The Cars and Cheap Trick. Pop Shivers and Secret Meeting are more quirky poprock ish tunes that remind a bit of The Police. Weekend is a rather catchy tune again that combines the best of the AOR and Powerpop worlds, in classic early 80s style. Tired Girl is midtempo AOR/Poprock ish a la Eddie Schwartz and Rick Springfield, while closing track New Identity is a cool catchy uptempo classic powerpop tune like The Knack meets Shoes. The other CDs that were kindly sent to me by original guitarist/vocalist Tom Hauck is a CD of a live concert the Atlantics did back in the day, but the sound quality is a little less good sadly, although it clearly captures the vibe of a strong live act. Some of the original The Atlantics members went on forming Ball And Pivot and from them a CD is available, namely Heart in the sky, which consists of recordings from 1985-1988. The band looks like a 80s Hairspray band (Duran Duran), but musically is more moving into a sorta Canadian synth driven wave/poprock direction, yet with an indie touch and vocals reminding me of Morrissey (The Smiths) meets Billy Idol. Quite interesting actually, with as highlights Baby Doll (cool uptempo 80s poprock, synth driven a la Dragon (Hunter), The Arrows, starts calm, but gets uptempo after a while a la Inxs), Christine (midtempo, pretty good a la Billy Idol), Blue Angel (classic uptempo aor/poprock with vocals a la Inxs/Billy Idol) and We Love the Dead (a little less synth orientated, even a bit 80s altrock orientated a la REM!). Tom also sent me 2 CDs of his recent band/project Telamor, Valentine to the future and 3, both released on Olex Music. The included music is slightly different, alternative pop/rock with a glimpse of powerpop. The finest moments however can be found on the The Atlantics CD, which is available through http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/atlanticsmusic

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Pat Kreisl 'Tell me tell me' (Park Records/USA Import)

 

New Jersey based musician Patrick Kreisl started back in the 80s playing in several bands, including Crybaby, an act which supported bands like Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon), the Canadian Lipstick, The Hooters and Warrant. His band Keystone had an album that was mixed by Robert Berry and now he is releasing a solo-album titled Tell me tell me, which consists of 80s type of AOR/Melodic Rock. Vocally it is not that strong and the production could have been better, because the drums sound very thin, but overall it is a nice little record that features as highlights Tell me tell me (cool 80s uptempo AOR/Melodic Rock a la Rick Matthews (very much)), Redneck lover (80s midtempo Hair Metal), Do it tonight (nice semi-ballad) and Never walk away (good classic 80s AOR/MelodicRock).Pat did everything on his own, so that is very much respected and die-hard AOR/Melodic Rockfans (think Phil Vincent), they can try and check out for more info at: http://www.patkreisl.com

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Sixtynine 'You are me' (Rock Company)

 

Out of Koper, Slovenia comes the band Sixtynine, whom were formed back in 2012 and are now releasing their debut record You are me. Without a doubt we are listening to a high quality band here that takes a bit of melodic hardrock and semi-progmetal and mixes it into an own sorta sound. Opener Don't Give Up is a lovely melodic rockballad of a very high level with great vocals and a very fine guitarsolo, all perfect sounding, remind me of Gotthard and Shakra. Other highlights are Believe (good uptempo melodic hardrock a la Victory and Casanova), Morning (great semi melodic rocker), Come To Me (lovely semi melodic rocker, even a bit light progmetal with great high pitched vocals, even a bit like Crimson Glory, with a rather cool keyboard!), December Love (great midtempo melodic metal tune, high pitched vocals again), while the slightly rougher mhr tunes Good Trade and Sunlight Hour are a little bit sleazy Guns N Roses meets The Cult. The band’s singer Tomaž Klepač has a wonderful voice, the CD has a big major label ish sound and the songs are mostly good clean high quality melodic hardrock, so definitely a recommended band to check out at: http://www.sixtynine.si

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Jerry Scafone 'It's my life' (Centerline Publishing/USA Import)

 

Only 2 songs are on the CD by this Ohio based singer/songwriter, who has been in the music business for many ages now. The songs It's My Life and Don't Worry Darlin'

are definitely must-hear tunes if you care for the crooner/soft-traditional country ballad style a la Jim Reeves and Neil Diamond. Not bad at all, but perhaps a little bit dated to some of us. Check it out for yourself at: www.jerryscafone.com

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Giordano Boncompagni 'New shred generation' (Sliptrick Records)

 

New Shred Generation (N.S.G.) is an Instrumental solo Project of Giordano Boncompagni, an Italian guitarist who already released a couple of albums before this one. The most interesting fact is that it features besides Giordano on all guitars also the legendary Tony MacAlpine Keyboards, Franck Hermanny Bass and Aquiles Priester Drums. The result is a high quality shredding hardrock/metal record in the old school style. Not really original, but for fans of the classic shredding guitarsound that dominated a part of the 1980s (Shrapnel Records) this is definitely a recommendation worth to check out at: http://www.giordanoboncompagni.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

GC Project 'Face the odds' (Sliptrick Records)

 

Italian drummer Giacomo Calabria (ex-Barock Project) is the man behind this project titled GC Project. Musically it is a mixture of all kinds of genres, with also various singers, which makes it quite a diverse record that is safe in the hands of fans of for example Ayreon. The vocals are not always that strong, but instrumental it is of a very high level. There quite a number of instrumental songs and passages, it sometimes feels like an epic concept record, with as highlights the melodic hardrock pieces Hold On, The Spring And The Storm, Pt. 1The Road To Awareness, Darkest Enemy (best song, slightly progmetal ish a la Dream Theater) 18 Circles Of Life (great) and Friend Of Glory. Remarkable song is the instrumental jazz/fusion based prog piece Town Fair (with it’s use of the Hammond, Drums and Bass reminding of ELP), while Southern Comfort is progmetal with female vocals. Overall a very diverse record that is definitely recommended to check out at: https://itunes.apple.com/fm/artist/gc-project/id1060580853

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Easter Before Christmas 'Game' (Sliptrick Records)

 

Not much info on the Italian band Easter Before Christmas, but their album Game is defininitely a massive sounding American orientated record. The band consists of Leonardo Antonio Di Pinto :: Vocals; Mauro Toti :: Bass; Simone Bucci :: Guitar; Leonardo Dragovic' :: Drums and Riccardo Cecci :: keyboard/Synth. Shinedown meets Three Days Grace would be a good description, but there are also clear Industrial influences to be heard, although the overall sound is actually quite melodic, with as most interesting songs I'm Trying (great big midtempo modern melodic rocker in the typical current American radio sound of Three Days Grace), My Way and Everybody (both industrrial orientated, almost Rammstein ish) and the awesome Ballet with Bullet that feels a lot like Shinedown. The huge sound makes it wonder if this really isn’t a major label from an American band, but Easter Before Christmas is definitely Italian, whom you can check out at: www.easterbeforechristmas.com

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Lauren Anderson 'Lauren Anderson' (Independent/USA Import)

 

When it comes down to female singers, Adele meets Amy Whinehouse is what people want to hear and Lauren Anderson from Kansas City fits right into this category, because she has a raw bluesy tone in her voice and the music is as well sorta bluesy and soulful, making it feel quite pleasant for the ears and radio-ready for sure. Sadly only 2 songs are included, so we keep the review a bit short, but both the the lovely midtempo What good is a bad boy and Box wine blues are great tunes that will also wet the appetite of fans of Janis Joplin, Joss Stone, Norah Jones Sass Jordan and Joanne Shaw Taylor. Hopefully soon a review of a full-length record, meanwhile more at: http://www.laurenandersonmusic.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Edge Of Reality 'Edge Of Reality' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Edge Of Reality is a band from Nashville formed a few years ago and features the likes of Joey Frevola – Guitars, Jesse Peck - Guitars and Keys and Branndon Center – Drums. They sound quite original actually, progmetal ish but then with a wicked twist. They are influenced by acts like Haken, Devin Townsend, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Periphery, The Dear Hunter, Joe Hisaishi, The Contortionist, Ayreon, Between the Buried and Me, David Maxim Micic, The Enid, Between the Buried and Me, Haken, Devin Townsend, Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Snarky Puppy, Leprous, Thank You Scientist, Rush, Neal Morse Epica… and the result of their album is quite original and combining jazz, prog, metal, fusion with theatrical aspects, ending up sounding quite out of the ordinary, which on the other hand is very interesting for the open-minded musicfans out there. Quite a lot of guest musicians are appearing, including different lead singers. Sometimes it gets quite experimental and outta-control, such as during Grababyte and Cupcake, but also a little less complucated during a great modern day melodic heavy rocker such as Wasteland or Teeth of the Universe (a high quality almost pure melodic Progmetal ish tune, awesome song by the way!). The band is also keen on multi-layered Queenish harmonyvocals and a song like Forks & Spoons II combines that with Thresholdish progmetal, so a rather interesting mixture. The female vocals of the epic Into the Shadows show another friendly side, because this progmetal melodic masterpiece takes up to 20 minutes in playing time end evolves from a calmer Megan Rasmussen sung tune to a bombastic song with classic music influences a la Carmina Orff’s O Fortuna, making you think of Epica somehow. In the end, a very interesting band to check out at: http://www.edgeofreality.net because in the future they might become bigger if all is streamlined a little bit more, as I think that some of you might find it all sounding a bit too wicked, but that’s the beauty of this band!

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Brian Skiff ‘On the edge’ (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Multi-instrumentalist Brian Skiff grew up in the golden ages of music during the 1970s with bands like Moody Blues, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Chick Corea, Jimi Hendrix, etc. and after picking up the guitar he eventually ended up in a Punkband called Outside Agitators, who were influenced by bands like Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, etc. etc. The band didn’t breakthrough, but on the other hand did a reunion in 2002. Brian himself started doing solo work and sent me a recent CD he recorded. He played all the instruments by himself, except for the drums on a couple of tracks, which were done by his brother Rick. The included songs are very diverse and display the influences of his musical past. There’s some great calmer melodic atmopsheric progrock, instrumental passages, singer/songwriter pieces and alternative pop/rock, so not a boring record at all. Brian’s vocals are not that strong, but overall he sounds like a rather good musician. Check him out at: http://www.brianskiff.com

 

(Points: 7.3 out of 10)

 

Ylja 'Ylja' (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Musically speaking Iceland is known for its rather unique sound, which is dark, modest, laid-back, atmospheric and kinda relaxed in a way that you should open up yourself to listen to and explore and discover the natural feeling you get when hearing for example acts like Sigur Ros, Bjork and Of Monsters And Men, Asgeir, etc. The music is perfect as background music to a nature/wildlife documentary. On the other hand it’s also very melodic thanks to the beautiful harmonyvocals and fits somewhere between Celtic/Irish old Folk and Scandinavian Indie/Dreampop. In the case of the female fronted band Ylja it is somehow reminding of a calmer mixture of The Staves, Twarres, The Corrs and especially First Aid Kit, with however a touch of the Icelandic spirit and Enya/Clannad kinda influences are also notable. The result is a very strong album with many beautiful songs, such as Dúmdara Lara and Sköpun Mannsins, but you will like any song here because it all is perfectly done. Formed in 2008 by guitarists/singers Gígja Skjaldardóttir and Bjartey Sveinsdóttir in Reykjavík, this album shows that we are dealing with a professional sounding act that might easily breakthrough to a major audience. More info at: https://ylja.bandcamp.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Viken ‘Reduced to ash’ (Hammarr Records)

 

Out of Indiana, USA comes the band Viken and their album Reduced to ash sounds as if it was released in 1985, which means proto-metal and for some a must-hear, but I am afraid it all sounds too dated and standard to get noticed nowadays. Perhaps in 1985 one could get away with such a release, but nowadays only fans of underground 80s sounding metal in the style of let’s say Elixir, Tyson Dog, Tyrant… will be interested. Check it out at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/viken

 

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

 

Bovonic Empire ‘Buffalo crows’ (Independent)

 

It’s a pity that the legendary lead singer Paul Mario Day (More, Wildfire, Sweet, Iron Maiden) didn’t sang on all tunes of the new album of the Australian band Bovonic Empire, because now we can only hear him on 3 tracks. The reason I mention this is that he is a better singer than Bovonic Empire’s own singer, Richard Crowfoot, who is also the guitarplayer in the band. Not saying he is bad, but he sounds a little raw like UDO or the guy from Running Wild, with even here and there a death metal growl, so after a while you get tired of that. And then you hear Paul sing on those songs, wow, what a fantastic melodic heavy rocksound we have when listening to The tempest for example. The other 6 songs are somewhat rougher bluesy southern rock and roll tracks that are nice to hear, but are not as strong as those Paul Mario Day sung tracks. So this album has more or less two faces, a melodic side a la Praying Mantis and a rawer side a la Running Wild. Check out this Aussie band for yourself at: https://buffalocrows.bandcamp.com/album/bovonic-empire

 

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

 

Favni ‘Wind swept’ (Silberblick Music)

 

The German band Favni was formerly known as Fauns, but a slight change of name brings new life in this band, with Wind swept being their latest release. It’s a double-CD, although CD 2 consists of mostly live material and a few unreleased studio tracks. The band offers a sorta fantastic atmospheric hypnotizing progressive ambient rockstyle a la Porcupine Tree when listening to the opening song of the album, Yearning For You. This song features mostly clean male vocals and sounds very laid-back, really grabbing you with also impressive instrumental passages and overall a melodic approach. Next track Fare-thee-well introduce us female vocals in a sorta Enya folk direction, while the song itself sounds like a lighter mediaeval folk version of Epica, but also similarities to bands like Renaissance, Reincarnatus, Steeley Span and Fairport Comnvention are possible here. And so the rest of the album continues in this style, but somehow I had hoped for more material in the style of the rather sensational opener. Now the band has more or less two sides, but check it out for yourself at: https://favni.bandcamp.com/releases

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Manny Charlton ‘Solo’ (Atom Records)

 

One of the founding members of the legendary Scottish band Nazareth left them in the 1990s to start a solo career and he has already released quite a few albums since then. His latest one is Solo and despite he is a very good guitarist, who was part of Nazareth for 22 years, this solo-album is not really groundbreaking I’m afraid. The good thing is that it is a very diverse record, but the vocals of Manny are very average and he should let other people sing, which also happens on 5 songs thankfully and those are the interesting songs. There’s some similarities to Santana and Nazareth and overall it feels like a 70s rock album. If anyone out there recalls Rick Ray, this is the closest comparison I can come up with, which isn’t bad at all, but also very standard and hardly sensational. The first couple of songs are very average 70s rocktunes, but the instrumental A Bride For Jesus and She Dances in Cordoba (with Randy Lopez) sound quite good actually. I think Manny is able to release a much stronger album, but he first needs to hire one lead singer for all songs and also a better sound/production could help. Nevertheless, check out more at: www.mannycharltonband.com

 

(Points: 6.4 out of 10)

 

Ric Tangle and The Squares/Rick Poss ‘Various albums’ (Independent/USA Import)

 

It was actually hard to find some info on a very rare obscure early 1980s outfit called Ric Tangle and the Squares, of whom I heard this fabulous powerpop tune Me, too on a 1982 compilation record. Eventually it turned out that Austin, Texas based Rick Poss is the man behind this band and he meanwhile has built up a career in the music business as a solo singer/songwriter with folk and blues kinda music. However 35 years ago it was Ric Triangle and the Squares, with whom he released a lovely 4-tracks counting EP vinyl single and he was also kind enough to sent me some unreleased material of this great act. Typically in that early 1980s American radiorock/AOR/Poprock style, especially the song All thru the night and the aforementioned Me, too are examples of a long lost sound. Remember Steel Breeze with their song You don’t want me anymore or The Cars and Rick Springfield, well, in that direction you need to look for musically speaking. Now many years later Rick Poss is the name of this gifted musician and he sent me 2 solo releases, a sorta Bob Dylanesque Folk singer/songwriter record titled From Greenville to Clarksville and a great blues record titled The Dying Man… and other Blues. It is clear that Rick is very good in the bluesrock thing. He opened shows for Mance Lipscomb, Buddy Miller, Bo Diddley, Lucinda Williams, Son Volt, Waylon Jennings, Billy Bragg, Robert Cray, and Ben Harper among others, but somehow I do hope he ever records a cool early 80s Poprock sounding record.  Check out all info at: http://rickposs.com

 

(Points: -)

 

Simon Hudson Band 'Earthman' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

The Australian band The Simon Hudson Band is formed around Simon Hudson himself on electric & acoustic guitar and vocals, while the line-up is completed by Oscar Poncell (electric guitar), Andrew Arnold (Rhodes, Hammond, BVs), Tom Krieg (upright and electric bass) and Geoffrey Worsnop (drums). They have already released 5 albums, of which Earthman is the latest one. Simon has a great voice, sounding picture perfect crystal clear and the included music is jazzy pop with a sorta latin/americana vibe, like a mix between Steely Dan, Billy Joel and Rufus Wainwright. Especially the songs Do Me A Favour (very much STEELY DAN! Lovely 1970s westcoast-aor/yachtpop), New Religion (westcoast-jazz), Shot In The Dark and Song About Us (beautiful calmer balladish a la Rufus Wainwright), I Know You'll Be Alright (calmer semi-popballad, radio ready) and Rolling (Billy Joel meets Rufus Wainwright, uptempo Americana folkpop tune, catchy vibe) are a joy to listen to. A little less interesting are the funky tunes Never Knew Why, Something Real and Mobile Phone Love. Interesting release with a lot of diversity combined with more traditional sounds, so likewise it is recommended to fans of the mentioned acts. More at: http://simonhudson.com.au and https://simonhudson.bandcamp.com/album/album-earthman

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Rivers Of England 'Astrophysios saved my life' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

From the West of England comes the band Rivers Of England, a folk/progrockband formed around Rob Spalding on vocals, guitar/keyboard; Brian Madigan on drums and percussion; Jacob Tyghe on bass; Katie Stone-Lonergan on voilin and keyboards, with as guest members Neil Gay on guitar (The Cedar, Protest Crayon, Jilk etc.) and Innes Sibun on guitar (Robert Plant).The new album they released is a diverse record that touches melodic light prog, funky pop (opening cut In universe in universe), a little folk and some singer/songwriter. Rob’s vocals are very impressive, reminding a lot of Sting and Peter Gabriel. Also musically speaking during lovely melodic light singer/songwriter pop/rock songs such as You Me and The Sea, Underneath The Moon and especially Norfolk you can hear these similarities. Definitely a very impressive album that is recommended to fans of well-thought singer/songwriter pop with a lot of melodies and influences from the 70s light progsound. More info at: www.riversofengland.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Sonny Axell 'Kickback: Funky contemporary jazz' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

The French singer/songwriter Sonny Axell released his debut in 2010, appeared in a Woody Allen movie and is now back with a new album Kickback that clearly shows we are dealing with a talent. His music is jazzy westcoast with r&b and smooth 70s pop influences, although at times this is picture perfect North Sea Jazz material. He’s a great singer and together with his good looks he should easily be able to reach a wide audience. Highlights on the album are the jazzy westcoast Empty faces (a beautful calmer piece, like Gino Vanelli, although vocally a bit more laid-back and smooth), Kick back and Little boy dreams (both Stevie Woner ish Jazzy R&B with a Westcoast flavor and a funky rhythm. High quality for sure and therefore recommended to check out at: http://sonnyaxell.com/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Don Conoscenti 'Anastasia' (Howling Records/Hemifran)

 

Out of Chicago comes multi-instrumentalist/producer/singer-songwriter Don Conoscenti, who is 60 years of age and now releasing his 9th album Anastasia. He started releasing records from 1992 onwards, but the past 7 years no new album was released, so you might as well as see this new record as a long awaited return from this talented musician. He has a very relaxing singer/songwriter old school style that sounds very melodic, just listen to the first couple of songs (Anastasia and Drink Another Round), while the absolute highlights are Big Big Deal (pretty good uptempo southern rocking like Eagles meets Neil Young) and Love Is A Curious Thing (great Venice ish westcoast/aor). And so the album shows its diversity later on with some country-rock and 70s pop influences, but always at a high level, so without a doubt we have here a quality record. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.donconoscenti.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Carrington MacDuffie 'Crush on you' (Pointy Head Records/Hemifran)

 

Out of Manhattan comes singer/songwriter Carrington MacDuffie, an award-winning voice actor, a spoken word performer, and a widely published poet, while she also has a music career going on and Crush on you is her latest effort. 5 tracks are included and the EP was produced in Austin, Texas, by Rob Halverson, who has produced and performed with an impressive roster of legendary Austin performers. He plays synthesizers, bass, piano, vibes, percussion, guitars on this record and is joined by drummer/percussionist Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer, Dr. John, Patti LaBelle, Brooks and Dunn, and Robert Plant), Paul Klemperer (baritone sax) and Carrington herself sings of course, but also plays acoustic and electric ukuleles and piano. She is compared to Americana folk singer/songwriters, such as Neko Case, Patty Griffin, and Lucinda Williams, but the music on Crush on you also has a sorta indie/altrock approach sometimes, which can best be heard during Precious Kisses. The best song is the titletrack Crush On You, a rather catchy tune. Folk, singer/songwriter, indie and altrock go hand in hand quite smoothly on this release. More at: http://carringtonmacduffie.com/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Shake Russell 'Little bright band of light' (Howlin' Dog Records/Hemifran)

 

Together with Texan Michael Hearne, singer/songwriter Shake Russell delivers a piece of classic country/folk music in a calm traditional old school American style, definitely good quality fun, but it gets more interesting when the two singer/songwriters join forces (see review of their album Only as strong as your dreams). Nevertheless, recommended to fans of let’s say John Denver! More at: http://www.shakerussell.com/

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Michael Hearne 'Red river dreams' (Howlin' Dog Records/Hemifran)

 

Together with Texan Shake Russell, singer/songwriter Michael Hearne delivers a piece of classic country/folk music in a calm traditional old school American style, definitely good quality fun, but it gets more interesting when the two singer/songwriters join forces (see review of their album Only as strong as your dreams). Nevertheless, recommended to fans of let’s say John Denver! More at: www.michaelhearne.com

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Michael Hearne and Shake Russell 'Only as strong as your dreams' (Howlin' Dog Records/Hemifran)

 

Besides a solo-career, both Texan singer/songwriters Michael Hearne and Shake Russell also join forces to record material together. The result is Only as strong as your dreams, which likewise contains also classic country traditional old school style like we can hear on the musicians’ solo records, but as a duo it gets a vibe, such as the more uptempo rockabilly ish I got news for you and and even a bit southern rocking during I heart Texas. Not saying this is a classic, but for fans of rockabilly country/old-school style, with a touch of Irish Folk (Irish Prayer), this is one to check out at: www.michaelhearne.com and http://www.shakerussell.com/

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Cornerstone 'Reflections' (Atom Records)

 

Well, well, well… female fronted the classic 80s AOR way is what to expect on this release! Cornerstone from Austria just released their 3rd album titled Reflections and musically speaking it is in the same style as their earlier releases, which we also reviewed in the past. The band has a new singer (Alina Peter) and somehow this album feels like their strongest release so far. It could be due to the fact that the album was produced by Harem Scarem mainman Harry Hess (Simple Plan, Billy Talent, Muse...). Although the vocals are not superstrong and sound a bit blend here and there, actually reminding of 80s female singers such as Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Fiona Flanagan, Rindy Ross, Chrissie Hynde… The music is as mentioned 80s AOR, sometimes quite cliché tingled, but done well and a few times quite sensational actually. The album starts very energetic with 3 uptempo 80s AOR driven rockers (Nothing to Lose, Last Night and Heart on Fire, which has those typical 80s dut-dut keys and harmonyvocals), but the best songs are definitely Northern Light (superb!) and Brother (reminding me of Kate’s Desire and Dante Fox). There are some cool sax solo’s to be heard and overall it sounds very impressive actually, although I have to admit that the second part of the CD is less interesting, with as weak moments the final 3 songs. Still, for a fan of 80s female fronted AOR/Melodic Rock, this is a must-have for sure! More info at:  www.cornerstone.co.at/ 

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

The Weekenders 'Bright silence of night' (Independent)

 

The Weekenders come out of Salt Lake City and they deliver a sensational 2nd album titled Bright silence of night. Without a doubt, we have here quite superb Led Zeppelin ish groovy classic hardrock in the best 1970s style there is available. Of course this is a style that is adopted by many new bands out there, but The Weekenders do it really well, just listen to fantastic songs like best The Grifter, Cherokee Rose and Monkey See. The band was formed back in 2010 and consists of Rob Reinfurt - Guitar & Vox, Mike Torgerson – Bass, Shaun Thomas- Drums and Mike Sasich – Guitar. Rob has a fantastic voice and the groovy guitar sound of him and Mike give the band a big rock anthem approach, although they slow things down here and there as well, such as during the great semi-ballads Blue Hill Bay and Every Night as a Slave. One of the absolute highlights is the awesome rocker Army of one. If you want to hear a band that is musically speaking moving somewhere between The White Stripes, Rival Sons, Led Zeppelin and Kingdom Come, including those big classic guitar rock riffs and still sounding very melodic, well then look no further than this high quality new release of The Weekenders at: www.theweekendersmusic.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Witch Tripper 'Witch Tripper' (Independent)

 

Out of Nottingham, UK area comes Witch Tripper, a stoner rockband that is influenced by Clutch, Orange Goblin, Kyuss, Monster Truck, Extreme, Sleep, Cream, Black Sabbath and many more. The band was formed only 2 years ago and the sound on their same titled debut album is reminding of the mentioned acts, although slightly more aggressive as well (Black Veil Brides/Hardcore Superstar direction). Production is of a very high level and what we get to hear is definitely quality stuff. The best songs are the uptempo pieces like You Get What You Pay For, Chills To The Bone and Black Lips, but to get a real good idea of this band it’s best to check out this band for yourself at: https://witchtripperuk.bandcamp.com/album/witch-tripper  

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Apocalyptic Lovers 'Redemption volume 1' (Independent)

 

Out of Youngstown, Ohio, USA comes the sensational Hair Metal band Apocalyptic Lovers. They are sounding like it was still 1986, but then in a good way, so at a very high level in the classic style of bands like Dokken, Stryper and Firehouse. They actually have a long history before this release, because back in the early 1990s they were called Love And War, with an EP release back in 1994, when the style had completely died and Strutter’zine started, but somehow back then I must have missed this release. The band members each went their own way after Love And War, but now reunited under Apocalyptic Lovers. Now 22 years later there is Redemption volume 1, which was recorded at Mindrocket Studio in Pennsylvania and then mixed over 12 days in Nashville by legendary producer, Michael Wagener (Ozzy, Metallica, Skid Row, Dokken, Motley Crue, Poison, Alice Cooper, Extreme, etc.) at his Wireworld Studio. The current line-up consists of George Allan – Bass, Dave Hope – Drums, Robert Kane – vocals, Sean Magee – Guitars and Mike Nagy, and if you’re a fan of 80s Hair Metal then grab a copy of this release a.s.a.p. Basically this is high quality 80s US Melodic Hardrock a la Dokken/Stryper, in the classic Hair Metal days style of the mid 1980s, straight-ahead, catchy and singable, with a big crunchy guitarsound and shredding guitar solo’s, in a so-called “coolness sound at it’s best” during great uptempo songs like Better Days, Killing for a Living (great vocals, pure Loud and Clear style), Left in the Cold and Dying Day. There’s also some early 90s Firehouse to be heard during the great midtempo tunes Who the Hell Are You? an The Groove. What more to say… as this is Hair Metal Heaven, must-check for fans of the afforementioned bands! More at: www.apocalypticlovers.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Blue Sky Theory 'Cassandra' (Rockdome Records)

 

Blue Sky Theory is a band from Bremen, Germany founded in 2014 and now releasing their debut album Cassandra. Although not bad at all, as they have a big modern rock/metal sound, which sounds melodic and catchy and combines big harmonyvocals with strong choruses, the vocals are not really strong I’m afraid. The modern day rock/metal sounds at best during  Build It Up Tear It Down and It All Ends The Same, while the aggressive parts of The Covenant and Ignorance Is Bliss are making it less interesting I’m afraid. The best song is definitely the semi melodic rockbalkad This Day, but overall I think this band has to drop their screaming and aggressive parts and take more time to release a stronger album, because there are definitely interesting moments to be found on their debut record. More info at: http://www.bst-music.com

 

(Points: 7.6 out of 10)

 

The Pinx 'Freedom' (Independent)

 

Out of Georgia, Atlanta comes the band The Pinx and they have got a real classic rocksound that owes a lot to the early 1970s. Late psychedelic 60s rock and 70s hardrock are combined all the time on their latest album release Freedom. MC5 and Cheap Trick are mentioned as similar acts, but there’s more to be heard here and despite this is classic 70s rock, it sounds modern retro ish and even has a lot of hit potential somehow. Without a doubt, this is high quality stuff of a band that was formed back in 2007 and already released a couple of records. However, Freedom might well be their finest moment so far, containing all-American Classic Rock with good clean vocals. Highlights are Rock All Night (very 70s Kiss ish), Baby Don't (more psychedelic stoner rock ish a la The Black Keys), Blue Dream (semi psych-pop ballad, somehow feels like a classic rock ish song), Sun House (very strong uptempo hardrock in 1970s style, Uriah Heep ish), Other Side (great uptempo classic late 70s melodic hardrock) and Boss Man (classic 70s melodic hardrock a la Van Halen). A band to check out a.s.a.p. at: http://thepinx.bandcamp.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Jonas Lindberg and The Other Side 'Pathfinder' (Mode Music)

 

Jonas Lindberg (bass, keyboards, additional guitars & vocals) is the leader of The Other Side, a progressive rock project from Stockholm, Sweden which was started in 2012 and has so far released 2 albums. Pathfinder is their 3rd album and what we get to hear is high quality relaxing AOR/Pomprock a la Promotion (remember that Swedish band?), Styx and also Symphonic Progressive Rock a la Mystery (Canada). This is of an exceptional high level and fans of mentioned bands can easily check out Pathfinder that not only is instrumental of a superb high level, but also songwise and vocally reaching the level of mentioned acts. Songs like Square One, Pathfinder and Leaving The World Behind (with great female backing vocals) are really beautiful and a pelasure to listen to. Jonas and his bandmates (Calle Stålenbring (guitars), Michael Ottosson (keyboards), Nicklas Thelin (guitars), Jenny Sandgren (vocals) and Maria Olsson (percussion)) deliver a strong album that is highly recommended to fans of Mystery (Canada), Enchant and such melodic progressive rock. Check it out for yourself at: http://lindbergmusic.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Planistry 'Threeless' (Independent)

 

Formed in 2014, Planistry is a Finnish band, with a debut album out entitled Threeless. Basically they are a melodic hardrockband, with a 70s/80s approach. The start is very promising with Bring me trust, a great uptempo piece with shredding guitarsolos and catchy melodies, in a late 70s/early 80s style and reminding a bit of 70s Scorpions. However, as the CD continues, it all gets weaker and weaker, with a song like Join the show as absolute weakest song on offer. A pity, because it all started quite inspiring, but somehow the rest of the album didn’t make any impact. Perhaps the band needs more time to record a full-length record. Nevertheless, check them out at: http://www.soundcloud.com/planistry

 

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

 

Divine Intervention 'Traveler' (Independent)

 

Divine Intervention comes out of San Pedro, California, was formed in the summer of 2015 by Tomislav Pintaric-Vocals, Sean Wagoner-Lead Guitar, Will Setka-Rhythm Guitar, Gavin Kellems-Bass and Marco Benedetti-Drums, and already comes up with a full-length debut CD titled Traveler within 1 year after formation. The band is playing aggressive Metal, with a sorta 1980s Metallica approach, but a bit more melodic metal orientated and actually it doesn’t sound bad at all! You have fast uptempo pieces like Misdirect and most of the songs feature twin guitars and also a clear NWOBHM style can be identified (Architect), reminding of Angel Witch. The vocals are sometimes a bit too much sounding like James Hetfield, but Tomislav can not help it either he sounds like him. A song like Martial Law is very aggressive, but on the other hand Of The Martyr starts really beautiful and is a calmer epic tune with a change to a rockier sound halfway, sounding a bit like Lords Of The Trident. More info on this band can be found at: www.divineinterventionband.com

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Pariah 'Mirage' (Independent)

 

Out of Switzerland comes the stoner rockband Pariah, formed in 2011 and now releasing their debut album Mirage. The band has a huge international sound and their heavy groovy stoner 70s hardrock approach will impress a lot of people worldwide. The foursome consists of Ruedi Eugster (Vocals & Guitar), Christian Eugster (Bass & Backing Vocals), Stefano Cappilli (Guitar) and Alessandro Cappilli (Drums) and especially songs like Sun and Among Us are very strong tunes that showcase the enormous talent and potency of Pariah. Do not confuse this Swiss Pariah with the countless similar named bands from the past by the way, so go check them out at: www.pariah.ch

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Chile Colorado 'Chile Colorado' (Independent)

 

Out of California comes Chile Colorado, a three-piece power band with a self-titled album. The band is formed around singer/songwriter/guitarist Ron Wright, of whom we reviewed more albums in the past. He is now assisted by Paul Goss on bass and John Ferraro on Drums for this release. Their music is late 1970s orientated hardrock, which doesn’t sound too bad, although perhaps a little dated. It actually sounds like a record from 1978, including the dust and weaker vocals. A song like Gun Smoke is a nice classic rock tune, while In America is pure early 80s hardrock and the album’s best song Cloud Jumper has a bigger sound somehow, being a great jam/session like song with excellent guitarwork and a sorta slow 70s classic hardrock approach, so definitely an impressive tune! However, overall it all sounds a bit average, which is a pity, because the guitarwork is superb, but vocally and also the sound quality is below par I am afraid. Now it feels like a weak independent record from 35 years ago, which I know some of you will even be interested in hearing, so check for yourself at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chilecolorado1

 

(Points: 6.3 out of 10)

 

Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown 'The wayside' (Republic Records/UMG Recordings/Petting Zoo)

 

Out of Texas comes guitarist/singer Tyler Bryant, who makes a huge impact with this 6 songs counting new EP titled The wayside. Together with his band the Shakedown (Caleb Crosby on drums, Noah Denney on bass, and Graham Whitford, the son of Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, on second guitar), he brings us a lovely sound that should easily gain him a lot of attention, as it does sound quite sensational. They have already released a couple of albums, but now they are signed to the major label Republic Records (Universal Music Group) and thanks to being a support-act for acts like Aerosmith, B.B. King, and Eric Clapton, they have built up quite a reputation so far. Not a huge surprise, because the material on this new EP is of an exceptional high level. Criminal Imagination and Loaded Dice & Buried Money open up this EP and are both big fat heavy groovy stoner rock tunes, with the latter revealing some southern rock influences. On the other hand they slow things down during the calmer Devil's Keep and The Wayside, both being awesome relaxing tunes that smell like a wonderful mixture of Americana and Singer/Songwriter, with a southern flavor. Mojo Workin rocks again, sounding like The White Stripes with a distorted heavy bluesrock approach and also a comparison to Lenny Kravitz is possible here, but let’s not forget to mention Joe Bonamassa as well here. The only track that does sound a little odd here is Stitch It Up, which is a sorta 1980s slow tempo tune with a hair metal chorus, a cool tune nevertheless… Great vocals, a big fat sound and cool guitarwork are making all 6 songs a pleasure to listen to and Tyler Bryant might easily become the next big rockstar! More info at: http://www.tylerbryantandtheshakedown.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Jeremy & Lynne & The Typical Johnsons 'The sailor and the siren' (Independent/USA Import)

 

3 years ago the long-time friends Jeremy and Lynne from Ohio began practicing and writing music, with as result a 2015 debut album Drawing blood. Now another year later a new EP is released. The Sailor & The Siren is described as a Folk/ Americana / Punk hybrid in the DIY tradition, but I would rather say that this is a great typical Americana rock product in the John Cougar style, especially during songs like The Lo-Fi Type, Hidt (How I Died Today), The Sailor & the Siren and Good Ones. Uptempo Americana rootsy rock and roll that also brings memories of bands like Wilco, War On Drugs and such, so good quality stuff. Ohio Gone brings a slightly calmer acoustic tingled Neil Young to mind, while Inside My Head is ballad ish. The vocals are overall very good and if you are into any of the mentioned acts and/ortraditional American rootsy rocks, then you definitely need to look up this album. More at:

http://www.jeremyandlynne.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Love 2be 'Can you hear me' (Independent)

 

Love 2be is a new band project of Austrian native and Black Sand founding member Walter Weber. It’s only one song that you can hear at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_tGPVyaaS0 and basically it is a nice rather standard calmer melodic rockballad, acoustic tingled with average vocals, but let’s wait for a full-length album before making a judgement about Love 2be.

 

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)

 

Gudrid Hansdottir ‘Painted fire’(Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Gudrid Hansdóttir is the name of a sensational musician from Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. Her sound is a mixture between pop/folk and electronic music and her main instruments are vocals, guitar and flute. She has already released 4 solo albums and is also known as the other half of the Faroese Electro Duo called Byrtha. Painted fire is her new record and without a doubt, this might well be the finest release ever to come out of the Faroe Islands. After the release of her third album Beyond the Grey in June 2011, she moved to Reykjavík, Iceland, where she met Janus Rasmussen (Bloodgroup, Kiasmos) and together they created the duo Byrtha, which became very on the Faroe Islands due to the fact that the music was more or less in the tradition of the Island’s music with also Faroe Islands lyrics. Guðrið also continues her solo-career, having built quite a name on the Islands and after hearing Painted fire I am quite convinced that she will one day breakthrough outside the Faroe Islands and Iceland. She is inspired by Kate Bush and you can clearly hear that, but also similarities to Bat for Lashes and Beach House are possible to draw. The album has a huge major label kinda sound and it could have easily been an American release. It has a band feeling, melodic pop/rock ish with an alternative touch, strong on the melodies and choruses with beautiful fantastic vocals. Highlights are Nothing About You, Pegasus (cool 70s style keyboardsolo), Endaloysi (Amanda Bergmann style), the relaxing typical Icelandic laid back Morgun (also reminding of Enya) and the calmer Living with You Is a Lot Like Dying and To Divine where you can hear the amazing vocal sound of Gudrid. Definitely a big recommendation! More info at: https://soundcloud.com/gudridhansdottir

 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

 

The Anatomy Of Frank ‘North America' (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

The Anatomy of Frank are coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia and are blending post-rock with poprock, with this wonderful new album North America as result. It is the intention of the band to create an album for every continent and they start with their own continent. 9 songs are included and the strong vocals are sounding quite perfect on the somewhat laid-back direction of the band that reminds a bit of Band Of Horses Bears Den, Calexico, War On Drugs and such. Here and there a bit rockier and in the end definitely a band that could become huge among the young crowd, who are very much into this indie-post/pop-rock kinda sound. The album starts with Minnesota (Part I), For Scott And Jeremy, which is great indie folk with a poprock chorus a la Mumford And Sons, very strong and radio-ready, quite melodic tune that also sounds very much like Bears Den). The record continues with A Bridge Over Lake Champlain (starts calm, semi-rocker, rocks a lot towards the end, alt indie poprock), Leavenworth, WA (very impressive awesome song that clocks 9 minutes and is even a bit proggy post-rock ish actually), Canton, OH (starts once again calm and gets postrock towards the end), Danville's Best And Brightest (best song, lovely almost pure progrock the 70s way, with a very happy melodic chorus, quite memorable tune), Occupy Anchorage (lovely melodic ballad, almost classic Alan Parsons Project/Camel ish symphonic ish), My Thick Skin (yet another great proggy post-rock tune), Vancouver, For Child Astronauts (happy tune like The Kinks/Happy Mondays) and the album closes with Photographs Of Inuvik In January (relaxing almost westcoast 70s ish tune, also catchy chorus and showing that this is a very original band with a lovely sound). A sensational release that is highly recommended to check out at: www.theanatomyoffrank.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Árstíðir 'Hvel' (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Árstíðir (English: Seasons) is a band from Iceland, formed in 2008 and currently consisting of Karl James Pestka (violin), Gunnar Már Jakobsson (baritone guitar), Daniel Auðunsson (guitar) and Ragnar Ólafsson (piano), with a cellist as 5th member during concerts. Their 3rd studio-album Hvel, which means Spheres, it was crowdfunded and released in March 2015. Without a doubt, this is a sensational record and the music is of an incredible high level. The band sings partly in the Icelandic language, but also English lyrics are used sometimes, so it is sorta two worlds, but the music itself always sounds really impressive, no matter in which language they are singing. The band’s music has the typical minimalist elements of the Scandinavian/Northern European traditional music, but also clearly focusing on superb strong melodies, thanks to the fact all members sing really terrific lead- and harmonyvocals together a la CSNY and Simon & Garfunkel. The music is a mix of indie-folk, singer/songwriter, light progressive rock and classical music and the result is absolutely beautiful! Songs like Things You Said, Someone Who Cares and Shine are amazing songs and there’s not a single weak moment to be found here. Recently they even recorded a song with one of the greatest Dutch female singers, Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering), so it would not surprise me if this band will become much bigger in the future. Find out more at: http://www.arstidir.com

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

Var ‘Var’ (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)


Var is the name of this band, they hail from Iceland and were formed in 2013 by lead singer and composer Júlíus, who was actually starting it as a project in his home, where he recorded the material together with Myrra Rós. However, through the years it became more or less a full band, with as other members Egill Björgvinsson, Arnór Jónasson and Andri Freyr Þorgeirsson. The same titled album is a strong high quality calm atmospheric Enya/Clannad ish record, yet with an Icelandic sound. The overall sound is very very laid-back, just listen to 2 and 3, but especially 5 is dangerously close to Enya, so I think fans of mentioned acts will more or less understand what Var sounds like. Hear for yourself at: http://variceland.bandcamp.com


(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Gurdan Thomas ‘It’s not the end of the world’ (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Described as a mix of unconformist chaotic folk and baroque pop, the CD of the German act Gurdan Thomas sounds quite original. Founded by Ian Chapman, It’s not the end of the world takes pieces of French chanson, Latin guitars, Alternative Folk, Pop, world music, country, quirky singing and anything else that is not standard, with as result a very out-of-the-box thinking record that will be embraced by the press. If you mix David Byrne and Rufus Wainwright with Caro Emerald, then you might end up with Gurdan Thomas perhaps. However, it’s best to check out the album for yourself and hear something very original. Songs like My Head Is Stuck In This Honeypot and Swimming Against The Tide are good examples and also lyrically you will experience some very weird stories. A little more commercial and radio-ready is the catchy Mockumentary Man, but in the end this is one of those albums you need to hear a few times before making up a good judgement, because everytime you discover something new and therefore we can easily recommend it. Check out more info at: http://www.gurdanthomas.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Myrna Ros ‘One amongst others‘ (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

There is not so much info available on this Icelandic musician, but One amongst others is another typical laid-back atmospheric Northern European sounding record. Quite calm, dark and with an Icelandic feeling it brings to mind Bjork and also Enya, but with vocals that remind me a bit of Sinead O’Connor. 7 songs are included and without a doubt this is a quality record and it’s best to hear it for yourself at: https://myrraros.bandcamp.com/album/one-amongst-others


(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Kati Salo ‘Kati Salo‘ (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Out of Finland comes Kati Salto, who delivers a good quality calmer folkpop/singer-songwriter record that reminds one of Ane Brun here and there. She wrote all the songs by herself and actually the music is quite different than the standard singer/songwriter folk-pop, so it might not appeal to everyone’s taste. Songs like The Street Sounds Different Now, The House and Dear Roe-Deer are a few examples where you can hear Kati’s way to create an own identity. To some it might sound a little bit too experimental songwise and vocally, it is for the open-minded folkpop fans definitely interesting to check out at: https://www.facebook.com/katisalomusic

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Oh Lonesome Me ‘Things that could destroy me (in the end)’ (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Named after an old Johnny Cash song, the Berlin, Germany based female duo of Anne Stabe and Carina Schwertner deliver a superb piece of vocal/harmonyvocal driven melodic singer/songwriter that is not far removed from Webb Sisters, First Aid Kit, The Staves, The Pierces… Both the lead- and harmonyvocals are sounding like they are coming from heaven, just beautiful and picture perfect for this kind of melodic folk-pop driven music. 11 songs are included and right from the start with the song A Year No Longer you are completely hooked and I am safe to say that this might well be the finest female fronted record of the past few years! A very relaxing sounding record that grabs you and never gets boring, so go ahead and check out this sensational release asap, because basically every song is a highlight! Fans of Webb Sisters will absolutely love this! More info at: http://www.oh-lonesome-me.de

 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

 

Ochre Room ‘Box, bar and diamond’ (Broken Silence/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Box, Bar & Diamond is the 2nd album of the Finnish band Ochre Room, whom were formed back in 2010. The band plays Americana/indie/folkrock and consist of Lauri Myllymäki: vocals/guitar, Minttu Tervaharju, vocals, Tomi Moisio: bass, Antti Leikkanen: drums, Ari Savolainen: guitar and Tanja Peltonummi: trumpet. As a band they are influenced by Bob Dylan, The Jayhawks, Neil Young and such, which you can also hear clearly on the album. 10 songs are included and the music is most of the time quite calm, with as highlights Other Side Of The Town, Blue Devil and No Trail (melancholic singer/songwriter ish with a violin, quite a dark song), but also the duet Spark (duet with high pitched female vocals, beautiful acoustic calm singer/songwriter), the happy uptempo Americana folk tune Garbage Trucks Are On The Move and the slightly rockier Meeting & Passing need to be mentioned. The final 2 tracks (Curtain and Box, Bar & Diamond) are acoustic based revealing those Bob Dylan influences. Concluded, a very nice album by this Finnish band and for more info go to: www.ochreroom.com    

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

The Flyin' A's 'You drive me crazy' (Flying-A Records/Hemifran)

 

The Flyin’ A’s is a duo from Texas, consisting of Hilary Claire Adamson and Stuart Adamson, husband and wife and together they recorded a strong Americana pop/rock album titled You drive me crazy. It might not be a groundbreaking album, but it has elements of country, singer/songwriter and popmusic as well, although overall it does sound a little safe here and there. The performance however is of a high level, so it is enjoyable and that’s what counts. Hilary has got the best voice, which especially sounds at best during uptempo pieces like Little Miss Tumbleweed and Wild Texas wind. On the other hand, Stuart has a country kinda voice, which can be heard at best during It Ain't Funny and Blistered. As a duet they sound really great, just listen to the southern ish ballad I won’t stop loving you.  Clearly influenced by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash and Miranda Lambert, this Texas based duo is offering some great fun happy music that will put a smile on your face for sure. More info at: http://www.theflyinas.com

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Kaurna Cronin 'Southern loss' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

22-year old Australian singer/songwriter Kaurna Cronin comes out of Adelaide, was named after the original residents in that area (Kaurna) and now releases his 2nd album Southern loss. The music is calm singer/songwriter orientated and despite it might not all sound really original, it is of a high level and reminds me a bit of Josh Rouse, Damien Rice, Tom McRae and such, although his influences come from Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. It’s not all-acoustic based, because Kaurna was helped by musicians like Tom Kneebone (guitar), Kiah Gossner (bass), David Resce (drums), Aaron Nash (organ and piano) en Julian Ferraretto (violin), while female backing harmonyvocals are sung by Delia Obst, Laura Knowling and Tara McHenry. The result is a good strong album, with as highlights the uptempo pieces Don’t Grow Up Too Fast, Forgetting The Blue, Lavender Bay and Always Never Alone, but also during calmer moments (Never Got You Off My Mind and Black Cotton), Kaurna sounds quite impressive. Musically speaking there’s even similarities to Tom Petty, although vocally perhaps John Cale or Paul Simon might be good comparisons and with Mark Knopfler ish guitarwork we can even hear some Dire Straits ish moments, but the Bob Dylanesque harmonica takes us right back into singer/songwriter territory. Definitely another recommended singer/songwriter to check out! More at: www.kaurnacronin.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Jaime Michaels 'Once upon a different time' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Once upon a different time is already the 10th album of the American singer/songwriter Jaime Michaels, who released his debut 20 years ago. It’s the first time I get to hear his music and I must say that it sounds pretty good. His songs really tells us stories and are basically a must-hear for the singer/songwriter fans, because it takes us back right to the 1970s when Jim Groce and James Taylor were receiving a lot of attention and Jaime Michaels is actually doing the same thing. His journey on this CD also reveals other music styles (blues, soul…) as well, which has its highlights in uptempo tracks like Once Upon a Different Time and No Paddle Wheel. The overall feeling is pure 1970s calmer singer/songwriter, so any fan of that genre need to check out www.jaimemichaels.com

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Viken ‘Reduced to ash’ (Hammarr Records)

 

Out of Indiana, USA comes the band Viken and their album Reduced to ash sounds as if it was released in 1985, which means proto-metal and for some a must-hear, but I am afraid it all sounds too dated and standard to get noticed nowadays. Perhaps in 1985 one could get away with such a release, but nowadays only fans of underground 80s sounding metal in the style of let’s say Elixir, Tyson Dog, Tyrant… will be interested. Check it out at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/viken

 

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

 

Fogwax ‘Swimming with sharks’ (Season Of Mist)

 

Fogwax is a band formed by David and Julien, whom both were in the French fusion/crooner rock band Last Barons before starting Fogwax. Not so much info available, but their debut album is titled Swimming with sharks and without a doubt it sounds like a high quality release. 9 songs are included, starting with Man of the year, a rather experimental start, but things get much better during the following track Face the sun, which is 1990s grunge rock a la Pearl Jam, slow and heavy on the grooves. Then we get to hear 2 great uptempo modern melodic heavy rockers (Ocelot and Ice Cold Men), while the short calm instrumental Blood eagle is a nice break between the heavy rockers. Fight! Women! Continues the uptempo melodic heavy rocksound, another very strong song in the style of Alter Bridge and Shinedown. While listening to this album you would really think this is a major American label release, because it sounds very impressive and international, and more importantly, it is quite sensational what we get to hear! Spider will have his revenge against the town continues the uptempo rocksound, but following track Big black nowhere is an 8 minutes counting epic tune that introduces some heavy progrock elements besides being a lovely slow stoner rock ish tune with fantastic vocals by singer Julien Soler and great guitarsolo’s, so definitely the best song on the whole record. Closing track Despotic anxiety starts calm, with even a sax, developing into a somehwat grungy tune like a stripped Pearl Jam again. Concluded, this is a highly recommended band with a bright future, because they have an international sound that will appeal to all rockfans out there. More info at: https://fogwax.bandcamp.com/album/swimming-with-sharks

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

The Refusers ‘Wake up America’ (Independent)

 

Out of Seattle comes The Refusers, a band with a somewhat traditional classic rocksound, especially when you listen to the first song Born to rock, which could have been recorded by countless bands in the past. The 1970s is a clear period when this kind of music was made by many bands, so The Refusers’s record Wake up America might as well have been released in 1975. Definitely not a bad thing at all, since this kind of retro classic rock is quite popular nowadays and thankfully they are doing it very well, because the 15 songs on the album sound rather good, both instrumental and vocally. Just listen to the titletrack Wake up America for instance and you get to hear a very nice tune that mixes elements of Neil Young, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, The Who, REO Speedwagon and CCR into an own sorta typical 70s American Classic Rocksound. And the CD continues in this kinda direction and towards the end of the album, it was a pleasure to listen to The Refusers’s 70s classic rock. I also hear some similarities to so-called goof-rock bands like The Tubes and Good Rats, because there is also a humoristic and political reference as well, such as during the songs You Won't Read It In The NY Times, U R What U Eat and Professor Friedman's Magic Money Contraption, while REM meets Cheap Trick can be heard during Who is the world for. If you’re starting to become interested, then go to: https://therefusers.com

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Traktor ‘Artefuckt’ (BMS Company)

 

Not so much info on this Czech band Traktor, although I do remember a band with the same name from the past, but they could have been from Poland or Hungary for that matter. Anyway, they have released a professional sounding album, although the included music is rather standard and reminds me a lot of the Finnish bands Terrasbettoni and Lordi. The vocals are weak and the melodic metal goes in one ear and out the other, only saved by a massive sound/production. Therefore it still gets a decent rating, but I am afraid this will never make a big impact outside the Czech Republic. More at: http://www.bmscompany.net/katalog/rock/traktor-artefuckt-(id-MM1602-2).html

 

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

 

Sendelica ‘The cromlech chronicles’ (Independent)

 

Out of Wales comes Sendelica, an instrumental band consisting of Pete Bingham (guitars and electronics), Glenda Pescado (Bass Guitar), Lee Relfe (saxophones), Meurig Griffiths (drums), Richard Armstrong-Cripps (aka Lord Sealand ) (Theremin and Keyboards) and Gavin Lloyd Wilson (Bass Guitar). They have already released a lot of albums since their formation more than 10 years ago and then I mean more than a dozen records! The latest album is titled The cromlech chronicles, a lovely instrumental record which consists of 1 very long song that has a playing length of 23 minutes, the beautiful relaxing The Cromlech Suite, Parts I to IV, and 3 shorter songs, including the uptempo Satoti, Part 1. The instrumental music feels like the classic 1970s, a hybrid of jazz, prog/sympho and fusion rock, although it is more based on beautiful melodies through sax/guitar/keys solo’s than endless complex freaking instrumental improvisations one normally hears in the jazz/prog world. Let’s mention Camel, Alan Parsons Project here as good comparisons and I must say it sounds very sensational and makes you feel very relaxed while listening. It seems that the band is live a joy to watch and I must admit that after listening to this new record I am very keen on checking out this band. More info at: https://sendelica.bandcamp.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Yigga Digga ‘Faded glory’ (Independent)

 

Out of Pennsylvania comes Yigga Digga, a band formed in the early 2000s, but Faded glory is their 2nd full-length so far. Their music is heavy and modern sounding, kinda typical American. The opening titletrack starts very aggressive, but already on the next track Best Slave to the Life things go more melodic and rock in the direction of especially Alter Bridge and Shinedown. Nothing new on the horizon, but nevertheless it all sounds pretty decent and typical modern American heavy rock orientated. Other highlights are the ballad Memory and the rocker Wendigo, while the Cutter is also aggressive but features female guest singer Dorothy Macaluso, which makes this song a great mixture between Halestorm and Arch Enemy. As mentioned, the album has more or less two faces, which is sometimes aggressive (read: Gang vocals) and brings forward similarities to Metallica and Trivium, but typical American melodic heavy rock is around the corner always, which puts them in the Shinedown/Creed/Alter Bridge field. Quality stuff and sounding like a major label release, so it is recommended to fans of mentioned bands. More at: www.yiggadigga.com

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Madman’s Dream ‘Where it ends’ (Independent)


Madman’s Dream is a band from Germany, formed in 2006 around Achim Biszwurm (vocals), Kai Trautwein (guitar), Steffen Volk (guitar),  Florian Menzel (bass) and Michael Vierkorn (drums). Not sure if Where it ends is their debut, but the album contains 7 songs in total and starts with Atmosphere, which is quality melodic modern hardrock with a light prog touch and a 1990s approach, sounding quite dark actually. After this somewhat experimental depressing tune, we get to hear the best song on the album, namely Drifting Away, a catchy uptempo melodic progmetal tune with high pitched vocals. The band’s diversity continues with Goddess Of Night slow, a bluesy melodic heavy rocker that also sounds a bit like Axxis and Angel Heart (Germany). Some more 90s melodic metal can be heard during the next few songs, while another highlight is the titletrack Where it ends, which is a beautiful melodic calm ballad. The only real disappointing track is closing song An Hour In The Tower (Live), which is very weak 80s teutonic metal. The production is of a very high level, the guitarwork is superb, but the vocals are not clear without the typical German accent and as you can see not all songs are convincing, but overall Madman’s Dream delivers quality and a future full-length CD might bring us even more pleasure. Meanwhile check them out at: www.madmansdream.de   

                                             

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Derin Dow Band ‘Illuminate’ (Crapshoot Music/USA Import)

 

The Derin Dow Band releases perhaps the finest AOR album in ages, because what we get to hear on their new album Illuminate is of an incredible high level! Frontiers might have the money and people to fabricate so-called fake classics in the AOR genre, but this Illuminate album is showing how real late 70s/early 80s AOR sounded like. This is smooth AOR/Westcoast-Rock the way it sounded around 1981 in the USA; the days when Toto, Styx, Journey, Kansas, Foreigner, Ambrosia and such ruled the radio airwaves. Derin is the guitarist-vocalist-songwriter and leader of the band. Originally from Indiana, he started rocking in the early 80s and made the move to California in 1989. He’s a gifted singer with the voice of an AOR god, reminding me of Tommy Shaw a lot. If you start listening to this album, you get goosebumps all over the place. This is the way AOR should sound like: laid-back and still rocking enough, filled with beautiful hooks and melodies. Instrumentally speaking, the music is also challenging due to a somewhat funky rhythm section a la Toto. Besides a cover of Chicago's classic "25 or 6 to 4", we get to hear 9 original tracks that were written and self-produced by Derin. Besides Derin on vocals, guitar, and bass, other featured musicians include former Ambrosia keyboardist David Cutler Lewis, lead guitarist Rick Sailon (Stan Bush, Acoustic Saints) and drummers Billy DiBlasi and Kevin Millar. It all starts with "A New Day", a lovely, calmer semi-AOR ballad with a light 70s prog touch as well; picture perfect sounding with beautiful melodies and reminding me of Kansas/Styx/Enchant a lot, with pure Tommy Shaw-ish vocals. (This also reminds me of Joe Lamont of Shelter and Jon Fiore of Preview). Absolutely fantastic vocal work (I cannot say this enough!!!), along with beautiful melodic guitar work, all sounding super sensational!! What a fabulous start of a new album release!!! This is what made AOR so interesting back in the day, and makes you keep digging to discover the real gems like Derin Dow’s Illuminate. "Close At Hand" follows as the 2nd song and is a great Toto-ish semi AOR/Rock tune with a jazzy westcoast flavor. Once again, it has a beautiful AOR chorus, which is pure TOTO! "Fly" is up next and this is a damn good uptempo melodic rocker a la Foreigner. The following track "I'm Gone" is basically an early 80s classic uptempo AOR/Radio rocker in the Preview/Shelter style. This is an excellent tune and a sure AOR classic in the near future. The first slightly weaker song is the Pomp-orientated "Waterfall" that nevertheless reminds a bit of Starcastle and Roadmaster. Then we get to hear the cool cover of Chicago’s classic "25 or 6 to 4" (in a heavier vibe) and a short instrumental entitled "Marina". The last 3 songs are "Ladysong" (which is amazing… sounding like a classic Styx/Tommy Shaw tune from 1977, a semi AOR/Pomprockballad), "Jesus" (with a fantastic late 1970s Westcoast/AOR vibe a la Ambrosia/Alliance) and "Lonely Feeling" (a SUPERB, relaxing semi-AOR ballad which sounds dangerously close to that 1983 Shelter classic!!!). What more is there to say about this release? This album sounds like an AOR classic from 1983, so get yourself a copy asap if anything listed is among your favorite music. A total must-have for all AOR/Westcoast fans of the old school style! Melodies all over the place and the vocals are bringing tears to your eyes… DO NOT MISS THIS RELEASE! Available at CD Baby at www.cdbaby.com/cd/derindowband. More info at: http://www.derindow.com

 

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

 

Tragic Earth ‘Hatred and tolerance’ (Independent)

 

Tragic Earth is a 4-piece Hardrockband from Melbourne, Australia and Hatred and tolerance is their latest album release. The record has a massive sound and it could have been a major label release. The included music is basically modern sounding melodic heavy rock/metal with a slight touch of late 80s/early 90s melodic hardrock. The vocals are quite strong, instrumental Tragic Earth offers enough quality and most of the included songs are very good, although there are also some weaker moments. The best songs are Bittersweet Reality (uptempo late 80s/early 90s melodic hardrock), Bury Me (Alter Bridge similarities, but with a more late 80s approach, even a touch of hair metal) and Pretty Vacant (midtempo melodic rock, catchy and polished tune! Best song, with also a great guitarsolo, everything sounds perfect here!!!). Somehow they even remind me a bit of Kingdom Come and Axxis, but there are also a few weaker tunes such as The Taste of Wasted (Rage Against The Machine style) and The Curse of the Nocturnal Eternity (very average). Things completely slow-down during Overflow, a very nice acoustic ballad. All together a nice record from this Aussie band! More at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tragicearth7

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Gun Machine ‘Balls to the wall’ (Santo Grial)

 

Out of the northern part of Spain (Asturias), the band Gun Machine was formed in mid-2013 and they quickly started to write and record material, which now results in their debut full-length release Balls to the wall. 9 songs are included and without a doubt what we get to hear is of a very high level. Even the vocals sound very impressive for a Spanish band. Songs like Bad Memories, Addiction and Forever Free are very strong classic uptempo melodic hardrocksongs that remind me of Sargant Fury, so it is late 80s/early 90s influenced, yet with an updated sound. It sounds great in all aspects and if you’re familiar with Sargant Fury and Heaven’s Edge, then you will love Gun Machine for sure. It’s a pity that there are just 9 songs present on the album, because you want to hear more and more, but besides the mentioned highlights, other notable songs are The Black Hat (a sorta groovy tune like Talisman / Soto), I Pray For You (great semi melodic rocker, Firehouse/Dokken ish) and Zulina (great uptempo meliodic heavy rocker). The band sometimes remind me of Tarantula, although Gun Machine is definitely better. The second part of the CD is slightly weaker, but overall, this band is recommended to the fans of pure melodic hardrock in the style of Sargant Fury, Talisman, Firehouse, Heaven’s Edge…. Check out more at: https://gunmachineband.wordpress.com/

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

145 ‘Rhythm'n Booze Vinyl + various CDs’  (Beautiful Sounds/Northside Records/USA Import)

 

The band 1.4.5. was formed in Syracuse, New York back in 1980, led by once and future The Flashcubes guitarist Paul Armstrong. They were active for the greater part of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, although eventually they changed their name to The Richards. Although they had a different singer in the beginning, Norm Mattice became their lead singer. Unfortunately Norm recently died, but Paul is still very active and he was kind enough to send me most of his releases he did with 145, The Flashcubes and The Richards. This gave me a good idea of the sounds of his bands and probably outside Syracuse they are not that well-known, but when listening you can hear some great music that could have easily become bigger. Starting with a CD of The Flashcubes, a typical late 1970s powerpopband who came from Syracuse, although Paul himself was actually originally born in Nuneaton, England. Anyway, this band made a big impact on the locals with their powerful catchy pop/rock that had the typical The Beatles ish radio-ready sound everyone can fall in love with. If you remember for example The Romantics, The Boys, The Undertones, Nelson’s Life, Rick Springfield, Big Star, Badfinger, the Dwight Twilley Band, the Raspberries the Rubinoos, The Jam (A LOT!) or whatever in the powerpoppunkstyle of the late 70s/early 80s, then you will absolutely love this band. A CD of their music is available, which is called Sportin' wood - play the songs of Roy Wood. Back in the late 1970s the band released a couple of Eps and singles and despite they were close in releasing a full-length, they never managed to do that and so this is the first full-length record. It consists of material that could have easily been recorded in the good old late 70s, featuring catchy beautiful memorable melodies backed by a powerful uptempo poprocksound. Just listen to songs like Green glass windows, Givin’ your heart away and I can hear the grass grow, catchy and melodic in the old school style of the mentioned bands. Paul himself by the way was fired once from The Flashcubes in the late 70s, which eventually led him to form 145, but he rejoined them in the later 1990s and now is part of their current line-up. With 1.4.5. he first released a rare single, but in 1988 a full-length LP was released entitled Rhythm’n booze, a superb pure 80s sounding record that combined elements of classic rock, powerpop and AOR/Radiorock. Songs like Right now, Girl in the window, Dancin’ spree and Famous local hero contain enough catchy hooks and melodic choruses to entertain the AOR/Radiorockfans among us. In fact, they remind a little of the long-but-not-forgotten band Preview! There’s also some vintage classic rock and roll to be heard, Powerpop a la The Outfield and 2 covers (Slade’s Do we still do it and The Beatles’ Hippy hippy shake). All together a very sensational record that definitely deserves much more attention! Meanwhile, now 28 years later also a CD with all kinds of rare unreleased songs as well as a couple of new tracks is made available to the public. The CD 3 Chords and a cloud of dust was released in 2012, but still sounds very fresh today. Although it is nowhere near as good as the classic 145 record from 1988, it is nevertheless showing a strong band. Finally, there is also a 1995 record available from the follow-up band to 1.4.5., namely the album Over the top by The Richards. A lot of fun and strong powerful melodic pop/rock can be heard on this album. Dangerously close to bands like The Joneses, The Knack (circa Serious fun), Rick Springfield, the Outfield and such, this album is another recommended one to check out. Concluded, the 1988 record from 1.4.5. is sounding like a classic and I would definitely recommend everyone to check it out a.s.a.p. Thank you to Paul for sharing his great musical past with me and for more information you should go to: https://www.facebook.com/The-Flashcubes

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

           

Blue Canoe ‘Blue Canoe Vinyl’ (Liquid Records/USA Import)

 

An undiscovered gem is what this Blue Canoe is all about. Recorded in April,1985 at Axe Tracks studios in Reno, Nevada, the album was officially released on September the 26th,1986. The band from Minneapolis, Minnesota consisted of Arnie Rode on Lead Vocals, Guitars, Carey Lifson on Keyboards, Guitars, Back-up Vocals, Randy Davis on Bass, Back-Up Vocals, Greek-born Vlasis on Guitars, Drums, Back-Up Vocals and Rich Merriman – Drums. Multi-instrumentalist Vlasis was kind enough to send me this wonderful same titled debut album of Blue Canoe. The included music, especially side-B with such fantastic songs like Rain and River Of Love, it is feauiring high quality melodic progressive rock with an AOR/Symphonic feeling, kinda like Starcastle (very much), Journey, Styx, Mystery (Canada) and such, but also sometimes with a slight memory of Blue Oyster Cult, Ashbury and Wishbone Ash. The vocals are very laid-back and relaxed, so not screaming or reaching high notes, just plain, but really good and remarkable for its time is the somewhat 1970s sounding keyboardwork, almost giving it a Pomprock feeling a la Touch when we hear those beautiful melodies. It is quite a rare album that really needs to be re-released. I have not been able to hear the follow-up record from the 1990s yet, but this 1986 release of Blue Canoe is one of those records you play over and over again to keep on hearing wonderful melodies. Vlasis himself went on doing both solo-work and playing with the band Brule. However, this record from 1986 on which he plays is one of those albums you once might call a classic…. Highly recommended o any fan of 1970 AOR/Pomprock! More info at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bluecanoe, https://www.facebook.com/BLUECANOEMUSIC and http://vlasismusic.com

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

New York Flyers 'New York Flyers' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Syracuse, New York during the 1970s/1980s was a very good time to discover new bands in the aor/melodic rock direction, because back then many bands played the popular style and quite a few sensational ones emerge from that area. Not so strange if you consider the fact that singers and musicians like Benny Mardones, Alec Star, Joey Belladona, Joe Bonamassa, Ronnie James Dio, Lou Reed, Garland Jeffreys, Lou Gramm, Buck Dharma, Todd Hobin and many more were at one point in their careers active in this part of the New York state. Rochester, New York is another place that unveiled many great musicians, but the band New York Flyers came out of Syracuse, New York and they were a very active band in that city. Most of their material is classic uptempo melodic rock orientated like only the Americans did in the late 1970s and early 80s, with as best songs (on the CD that was sent to me by their bandleader Chris Tso) Talk to me Marie, Don’t turn away, the fabulous The record song (Prism style somehow, lovely AOR tune, super catchy, starts calm, but gets uptempo with dut-dut keys), Strangers (Aviator/Agent style superb uptempo catchy AOR as hell, also Prism circa Beat street), The girl can’t stop it (classic classic classic AOR sound!) and Crack the whip! (Night Ranger circa early 1982). Now this should be re-released on vinyl, because it captures that classic early 80s Northern American AOR sound like we know from bands such as Cheater, Prism, Mayday, Charlie, Todd Hobin, Champion, Agent, Aviator, etc. etc. Uptempo, big sound, rich keys, soaring guitarsolos, perfect vocals/harmonyvocals, catchy hooks and memorable choruses, it’s all there in the pure rock and roll American sound from the early 1980s and this CD could well be one of those classics!!!!!!!!!!!! More info on this band that reunites every now and then to perform in the Syracuse area, it can be found at: http://www.reverbnation.com/newyorkflyers

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Neon Alley 'Neon Alley' (DMW Music/USA Import)

 

Recently I discovered on a Boston compilation record a great 80s AOR band called Capital Gain, with their song Book of rules. Afterwards I got in touch with one of their members, David Vaccaro, who after all these years had a new band called Neon Alley, with whom he just released a self-titled debut CD, so quite a timing actually! However, it is even more a coincidence if you consider the fact that I was already in contact with David many years ago when he was active in the band/project V-Project. On their 2 releases (Lost demos and New machine) there were collaborations and vocals by Robin McAuley (Grand Prix, McAuley Schenker Group, Survivor, Raiding The Rock Vault), James Christian (House of Lords), Christopher Post (Dillinger) and Dennis Gresham. Now it’s 2016 and via Captial Gain’s rare song Book of rules I am in touch again with David and welcome his new adventure Neon Alley. The band features besides David on Lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, also Mike McDonald – Bass, Vocals and Scott Marion – Drums & percussion. The music is 1980s orientated AOR/Melodic Rock, with 8 songs in total included on the CD. The sound/production quality is impressive and this could well have been one of those 80s hair metal products. That's How It Is, Piece of the Pie and 'Til I'm Done are nice uptempo melodic rockers, but the absolute highlight is All I Want, which is classic 80s midtempo AOR in the Night Ranger/David Victor style, sounding big on the harmonyvocals, a tight rhythm section and great vocalwork, so this is classic style AOR/feel good music the way we want to hear it. Hopefully more songs in this style in the future, because this is picture perfect AOR! The other songs are the Elvis cover Jailhouse Rock, I Only Want to Be with You (a nice semi ballad/rocker), Let Your Lovin' Come Down (ZZ TOP meets Travelling’ Wilburys sorta Status Quo ish boogie flavored rocker) and Got to Rock (Van Halen boogie rocker, like Hot for teacher). Pretty good album, although not all the songs are really convincing, because I could live without the boogie flavored tracks. Nevertheless, 80s melodic hardrock/US hair metalfans will like this a lot! More at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/neonalley

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Adrenalize 'Adrenalize' (Independent/Germany Import)

 

Formed 10 years ago, the German band Adrenalize was keen on making 80s melodic hardrock, influenced by the likes of Pink Cream 69, Queen, Guns n‘ Roses, Poison, Queensryche, Bonfire, Gotthard und Bon Jovi…  Now a decade later their debut CD is released, so it took them some time to release an official record. The band is formed around Andreas Ellner (lead vocals, guitars, piano on Sirens Cry), Michael Horn (guitars), Christoph Schmidt (bass) and Markus Schrufer (drums) and the result of their debut album is more or less nice standard melodic hardrock in the style of Bonfire, Victory and such. Only 9 songs are included, including an intro, so it is a rather short and sweet affair, but what we get to hear is good clean quality songs. Not really sensational and due to the thick German accent in the vocal department (think Frontline), sometimes sounding a bit awkward and also the simple uptempo 1-chord driven tunes are forgettable, but still there are some good moments to be heard. The melodic hardrock of songs like Rock `n Roll and Ship of fools (catchy faster uptempo a la Mad Max), With you (a pretty good semi melodic rockballd a la Frontline) and Keep holding on (a pretty damn good uptempo catchy melodic rocker) are making it nevertheless a nice album to listen to from start to finish. Closing track Bitter pill however is the weakest song on the whole album, so it is recommended to Adrenalize to work on their sound in the future, because they are showing here and there it is possible to create some great music. Meanwhile check them out at: http://www.adrenalize.de/history

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Dust 'Soulburst' (Attitude Recordings)

 

And we are once again heading over to Sweden where we find yet another impressive band that could easily become huge. They are called Dust and their new album is titled Soulburst. Now this is Classic Hardrock the way it needs to sound, with lead vocals that come across like a mix between Ronnie James Dio meets David Coverdale meets Paul Rodgers. Roger Solander is the name of this fantastic singer and he sounds like a true Rock God! Together with guitarist Johan Niskanen, drummer Örjan Dr Rock Englin and bassist Bernt Ek he recorded a really great album that sounds picture perfect if you want to hear 70s classic hardrock as in a mix between Dio (Sun rising), Free (King is Coming) and Whitesnake (Come On and Bad boy). Their previous album dates back to 2014, but Soulburst definitely should become their big breakthrough, because it sounds super professional and picture perfect at all aspects. Waiting for you and Blind are for example basically pure Whitesnake classic bluesy type of ballads, but then done in a way David Coverdale himself is not able to do anymore. Sensational stuff and despite it might not all sound original, because after all you can hear the similarities allover the place, the final result is a very impressive record and a must-have for fans of aforementioned bands! More at: http://www.dustband.se

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Kitt Chapman 'This must be life' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Californian singer/songwriter Kitt Chapman has done quite a lot in the acting, singing, theatrical, film and television world, but music is her greatest love of all. She writes songs almost non-stop, both instrumental and with lyrics, and This must be life is a full-length CD she released. The music is calmer folk orientated and she has one of those voices you need to get used to, although without a doubt, this is quality stuff for sure. The material is mostly quite calm and after a while it might get repetitive to some, but Kitt is doing a great job here in presenting a healthy mixture of singer/songwriter and folk music (a la Joni Mitchell). However, the instrumental After shows her best side, because this is a really beautiful piece of work. Check out all on Kitt at: http://www.kittchapman.me

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Merlot Embargo 'Don't look back' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Don’t look back is an album of L.A. based Merlot Embargo, a duo formed less than 2 years ago. In December 2014 songwriter/producer pair (and husband/wife) Scarlet and Geoff had an automobile accident that completely changed their lives in their way of thinking, because they survived and started this duo together, which now results in a fantastic debut album. Along with bassist Jeremy Burgan and drummer Lonn Hayes and video game composers David and Ben Stanton they delivered an album filled with music that takes elements from westcoast/aor, Americana, poprock, singer/songwriter and some country/blues as well. Scarlet’s vocals are quite fantastic and the material is quite sensational actually. The sound/production is huge and there is a lot of potential to be heard here, especially during the lovely first 3 songs, which are Head Above the Water (midtempo soulful westcoast/pop/aor, fantastic soulful vocalwork in the Adele/Amy style), We All Fall Down (catchy midtempo melodic poprock/aor) and How to Survive an Apocalypse (excellent midtempo southern flavored bluesy melodic rocker a la Alannah Myles/Sass Jordan and such). Freaks on a Train follows and is a nice radiofriendly Americana Westcoast tune, while Storms is a calmer ballad ish tune, almost a country crossover ballad. All Who Are Lost takes on a different path, as this is a sorta Caro Emerald ish semi ballad with even a lot of Rufus and Martha Wainwright similarities. The CD closes with 3 calmer singer/songwriter pieces (In the End, These Are the Best Days of Our Lives and Billy the Kid) that are sounding like a mix between Brandi Carlile, John Mayer and Sara Bareilles. There’s a lot of soul here, with still enough moments that make it rock or slow things down, so something for everyone! Check it out for yourself at: http://www.merlotembargo.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Arda & The Stolen Moon 'Minutes into years' (Jasmin Road/Cyprus Import)

 

The Stolen Moon is the name of the band that accompanies singer-songwriter Arda G. on her album Minutes into years. She is currently raising money to release it on vinyl, which is of course very cool and interesting, since only vinyl is the real deal in music, but she did already sent me in advance a copy of her album on CD. The included music is poprock orientated, sounding sometimes quite catchy melodic poprock ish, but also here and there alternative, also due to the somewhat original vocals. The best songs are the uptempo 1 (Pretenders style), 2 (nice melodic midtempo tune a la Alanis Morrisette), 6 and 9 (most rockiest tunes, midtempo melodic poprockers, quite catchy, once again a la Alanis Morrisette) and 10 (haunting midtempo altrock with a nice guitarsolo). There’s a good diversity going on here, because there are also quite a few calmer tunes. Definitely one to check out and soon available on vinyl, can’t wait to play it in that format! Meanwhile check out more at: http://www.ardaandthestolenmoon.com

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Rachael Sage 'Choreographic' (Mpress Records/DGR Music)

 

The American singer/songwriter Rachael Sage has already released 12 studio-albums, which is quite an achievement, because she is still quite young of age, but she started releasing records when she was in her teens, so now 20 years later she has built up quite an impressive catalogue of songs. Choreographic is the latest release and once again a pretty good album featuring 14 tracks in total. The vocals remind me of The Cardigans/Cranberries, while the music is more singer/songwriter meets folk pop based and also here and there I hear comparisons to Suzanne Vega and even Bjork, yet with sometimes a more commercial approach, as the music goes most of the time in a lightweight poprock direction, with a typical modern day female fronted singer/songwriter approach (Heaven and Loreena) and especially the second half of the record offers some laid-back jazzy piano pop a la Norah Jones. Highlights on the album are Try try try (almost early classic 80s poprock tune with a sorta Pat Benatar riff, vocally like The Pretenders, a very impressive cool tune, but one of the few rockers), Home (very nice ballad ish), I don't believe it (uptempo original pop/rock song a la The Cardigans), French doors (great jazzy more polished melodic singer/songwriter semi pop ballad), Clear today (sorta lightweight pop/rock a la Suzanne Vega), Learn to let you go (calmer semi balllad, more polished radio orientated, could be a hit), Five alarms (calmer sorta celtic semi-ballad, somehow Irish sounding like Enya meets Bjork) and closing track So far away (calmer singer/songwriter, beautiful tune with a lovely melody!). Another nice new record of this talented singer/songwriter from the New York area. More info at: http://rachaelsage.com/

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

I Heart Sharks 'Hideaway' (ADP Records/DGR Music)

 

Out of Berlin, Germany comes I Heart Sharks, a band that sounds like it is still 1981, but on the other hand nowadays this kinda Indie-New Wave is also produced, so they fit right in the retro-genre. Think of a combination of Depeche Mode and The Editors when looking for a description of this band. The line-up consists of Pierre Bee - Synthesizer, Vocals, Simon Wangemann - Guitar, Synthesizer, Vocals, Martin Wolf - Drums, Synthesizer and Craig Miller - Bass Guitar, Vocals and their latest album Hideaway offers a bunch of great synth orientated tunes, of which the highlights are the uptempo
danceable tunes Hideaway and Walls (a la White Lies), the lovely midtempo Walk at night (very 80s new wave ish, also reminding of newcomers Blossoms, now this song has got all it takes to become a huge summer hit!) and the catchy uptempo poprockers Lost Forever and Used To Talk. Recommended album to fans of The Editors, Blossoms, Depeche Mode, White Lies and everything in between musically speaking! More at: http://www.iheartsharks.net/

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Eileen Carey 'Let it go' (RolleyCoasterMusic/USA Import)

 

Out of Altadena, California, USA comes singer/songwriter Eileen Carey, who releases her debut CD with Let it go. The album is a typical American country-poprock crossover album that touches the classic traditional country and typical catchy radio-ready US Poprock, reminding a lot of classic Juice Newton, Ellen Shipley and early Shania Twain. She is clearly also into 80s female fronted poprock, because 3 80s classics are covered on the album (Don't get me wrong - The Pretenders, Only the lonely - The Motels and Walking on sunshine - Katrina and The Waves), all done in a new country sorta direction and sounding pretty good, especially Only the lonely, which is almost a pure AOR tune a la Pat Benatar. Most of the songs are uptempo pieces and without a doubt the strongest original tune is the catchy Let it go, but also the midtempo AOR of opener Bring on the big will please the fans of 80s female fronted poprock/aor. Although some might find it sound lightweight, the result is quite good and recommended if you want to hear fun poprock to sing-a-long to. The country twangle is almost put to the back during some tunes, so don't expect a country affair here, because as already mentioned, it is basically typical classic female fronted poprock like only the Americans can make 'em, with a strong 80s approach, but I guess you already understood that! On the other hand the country influences are almost always present, so you don't have to mind that. Her great new midtempo AOR song In the air is also available now as a single track. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.eileencarey.com

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Daring Greatly 'Cornerstones' (Independent/Canada Import)

 

Canada and rockmusic have always been of great interest for me personally and Daring Greatly from Calgary is yet another fine new band to check out as they offer high quality original rockmusic that combines influences of alternative rock, bluesy rock, Americana and Classic Rock, but also with clear Californian westcoast influences. The result Cornerstones is a strong diverse album that could have easily been on a major label. Highlights are the somewhat calmer tracks, such as Big things are comin', Reflections of me, Find your serenity (Black Crowes meets Venice!) and the beautiful Venice ish Save you from and Neverland. They remind a little of the early to mid 1990s in-between styles period, meaning the more melodic alternative rock and the pure grunge rock of the Seattle bands, but still with one big step in the classic 70s westcoast/classic rock territory. Hard to compare Daring Greatly, because they have somewhat an own identity, which is a good thing of course, but the closest thing is definitely Live, because both the music and especially the vocals of singer/bassist Dail Croome sound dangerously close to Ed Kowalczyk, while the harmonyvocals of his brothers Liam Croome (keys) and Patrick Croome (acoustic guitar) give it a real Californian touch (westcoast ish a la Venice and CSN&Y). In fact, after a while the CD completely grabs you in a classic westcoast kinda vibe, yet with a classic rock touch in the form of lovely guitarsolo's, so it is best to compare Daring Greatly with the bands from the 1970s like Venice, America, Poco, Little River Band and such, yet they have a singer who sounds like Live meets Black Crowes and the guitarolo's make it rockier. All together a highly recommended album you don't want to miss, but don't let the Californian sound fool ya, because this band hails from Canada and you can check them out at: http://www.daring-greatly.com/

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Stolen Rhodes 'Bend with the wind' (Teenage Head Music)

 

Here we have a sensational band from New Jersey called Stolen Rhodes, whose main members are singer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Pillion and bassist/guitarist Dan Haase. They grew up a stone’s throw away from Bruce Springsteen’s adopted hometown of Asbury Park and while listening to Bend with the wind, we can hear some clear influences of The Boss, yet Stolen Rhodes has more to offer. Matt is a fantastic singer and the band's music is close to 70s Classic Rock, with a strong Southern Rock kinda approach here and there. There is a nice diversity in tempo, because you have uptempo rockers and smooth almost westcoast ish tunes. Mix Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruce Springsteen, Eagles and Bad Company, then you might get this Stolen Rhodes. Highlights are the excellent uptempo classic rocker Sunshine prophet, the semi-ballad Devil from above, the lovely Mr. Big ish ballad Save me (could be a massive radio hit), the Westcoast ish calm ballad Makin' money and the Bruce Springsteen cover Rosalita, which sounds a bit like Thin Lizzy somehow. Without a doubt, a highly recommended band you urgently need to check out if you long back to the classic 1970s traditional American (Heartland) Classic Rocksound! More at: http://www.stolenrhodes.com/

 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

 

Radio Birds 'Contemporary American slang' (Teenage Head Music)

 

Contemporary American slang is the new album of the American band Radio Birds. They hail from Atlanta and are making a sound that fits somewhere between stoner rock, americana rock and swamp rock, all in classic traditional American style. The vocals are somewhat raw sounding and not always really appealing, but the music is quite nice to listen to. Some groovy rocking material is included, but also more melodic radio-ready material like the catchy uptempo Your favorite part that sounds like a cross between Thin Lizzy ish 70s classic rock and modern day Mumford and Sons, a weird combination, but somewhere you can hear it in the rocking sound of Radio Birds. Other highlights are the uptempo classic rocker Dirty rags, the melodic rockballad Time ranger (Aerosmith ish) and the groovy rocker Red wine, hard liquor. Not a bad record at all, but still the band needs to decide wether they want to be a real rockband or a more indie/americana ish band, because now they might fall in between these genres. On the other hand, that makes them even more interesting to check out at: www.radiobirds.net

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Forest Field 'Lonely desert' (Rock Company)

 

Already the 4th album of Forest Field, which is a project by Dutch multi-instrumentalist Peter Cox. He does everything by himself except the vocals, which are provided by Phil Vincent, who recorded them in the USA. The result is more or less close to Phil Vincent's releases, so if you're familiar with his music, then you will understand how this sounds like. This time it all starts with a very strong song titled Valley of pain, an uptempo AOR/Melodic Rock tune with a deadly catchy chorus. This is definitely one of the finest songs of Forest Field so far. The rest of the album isn't that as strong as the opening cut, but still a nice melodic heavy rock affair, with a few instrumentals and a couple surprising calmer tunes, such as Doomed in the desert and the epic lengthy closing track Fear that reveals progrock influences. All together a nice new record by Forest Field. More info at: www.rockcompany.nl

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

John Hickman 'Remnants' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Although the debut album Remnants by Hawaii based singer/songwriter/keyboardplayer John Hickman starts a bit calm and sorta quirky poprock based in late 1970s style with opener Hello hello, the following track Escape rocks the way we want to hear it, because this is midtempo pomprock/melodic rock based a la Styx. It all sounds very massive for an independent release and when reading that John's influences come from Styx, Rush, Beatles and David Bowie, it also becomes clear that we can hear all the time this kind of classic 70s pop/rock. John has a great voice and indeed David Bowie similarities are very clear sometimes, such as during Paris is burning. The keyboard/piano work is close to John Lennon as well, so during the calmer tunes David Bowie meets John Lennon meets John Miles is a nice description, while the few rockier tunes give it a more pomp/symphonic rock approach. Hopefully next record will go for a more rock orientated direction, because John is definitely showing that he is able to produce some sensational rock ish material like the already mentioned Escape, the big symphonic pomprocker Cascade (80s Rush ish) and the AOR/Pomprock anthem Talk (massive synths and a true early 80s Northern American sound a la Magnum, Russia, Arc Angel, etc.) besides the singer/songwriter pop direction which now wins most of the time (also sounding very good, especially during the What have you done? that sounds like Rufus Wainwright meets Billy Joel). Anyway, it nevertheless all sounds pretty good no matter which direction, so check out John at: http://www.johnhickmanmusic.com/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Handful Of Rain 'Three days to come back' (Independent/Spain Import)

 

Handful Of Rain is a band from Cadiz, Spain and their debut CD sounds like a high quality typical melodic hardrockalbum that will be loved by the fans of Gotthard, Jaded Heart, 80s Bon Jovi, Firehouse, 80s Dokken, Hardline and such. The guys have done a great job to create a bunch of mostly catchy uptempo tunes in the style of mentioned bands, with as highlights Saints and sinners, Burning hearts, Eagles and Without you. The vocals of lead singer David Requejado have a slight accent, but he nevertheless sounds pretty good (a la Michael Bormann) and especially the guitarwork is quite sensational (Niko Delgado and Dave Lago). 5 songs are mixed by Wyn Davis (Dokken,Dio,John Norum,Great White) in the All Access Studios in Redondo Beach-California (USA), so it isn't a coincidence that this Spanish band has a strong professional classic American Melodic Hardrocksound. Definitely recommended to the fans of true Melodic Hardrock! More info at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/handfulofrain2 and https://www.facebook.com/handfulofrainrocks/

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Larry Dane 'Just let it ride' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Only one song on the CD of New Jersey musician Larry Dane, but the particular song Just let it ride is a good typical 80s sorta rocker that sounds like a cross between Benny Mardones and Robert Tepper. Hopefully soon a full-length CD of Larry. More info at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/larrydane3

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Half Past Four 'Land of the blind' (Nineteen 73/UK Import)

 

Land of the blind is the 3rd album of the Canadian band Half Past Four. What we get to hear is high quality progressive rock with strong female vocals (Kyree Vibrant). At first sight they sound like a typical relaxing progrockband when opener Mathematics kicks in, because this is quite a melodic tune that even sounds a bit like Renaissance and Lana Lane. However, next track Mood elevator is taking a different path and introduce some experimental moves, while the Max Webster cover of Toronto tontos goes into very weird and wicked experimental directions. Not bad at all, as this band sounds quite original, although secretly I hope for some more tunes like the first and closing track next time, as the somewhat theatrical quirky art-rock of a song like One eyed man is a bit over-the-top. The mini-album closes with the lovely melodic calmer progrock song Mirror eyes that also has some jazzy improvsations and great keyboardwork as well as fantastic crystal clear vocals of Kyree. Without a doubt, Half Past Four is an interesting band to check out at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/halfpastfour3 and https://halfpastfour.bandcamp.com/

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Johnny Barnes 'Plan B from outer space/Known offenders' (Nightcrawler Music/USA Import)

 

Out of the Boston area comes vocalist/guitarist Johnny Barnes, a musician with a long music history that goes back to the 1970s. I once saw a vinyl record of him in a local store here in Rotterdam, but I didn't bought the record because I simply didn't know him. Little did I know that about 10 years later I would get in touch with Johnny himself. He sent me 2 of his CDs he released, both containing a collection of songs from his long musical past. I re-discovered Johnny after buying a rare vinyl compilation record from the late 1970s that featured Boston based acts and Johnny was one of them. Anyway, Johnny Barnes sang and played guitar in all of the famous nightclubs in Boston with many of rock and roll's legends, producing and releasing a dozen records throughout the years. Local airplay and intense record company interest led to a hit song in England and work with legendary producer, Jimmy Miller (The Rolling Stones, Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Traffic with Steve Winwood). Although Johnny was a successful musician in the 80s, eventually he became a full time Police Officer since 1991 as well as an FBI trained Hostage Negotiator, and a Detective. Now back to those 2 CDs he sent me, because they contain a wide diversity of music styles, although it all sounds like 1970s and 1980s recordings, but in a good way. This is high quality music and with Johnny you can go anywhere, (short) uptempo early 80s poprockers a la Eddie Money (I got plans for you, Can't stop and Young girls know), uptempo melodic rockers (Hook, line and sinker, Roll me and Let's slip away) a la Benny Mardones and Billy Squier, but also some more experimental spacy and funky tunes in an almost 70s progrock direction (Starships in transit and Didn't know before) and then again typical 70s Aerosmith bar-room boogie rockers like Shot in the dark an Ruby, but also a lovely laid-back AOR ish ballad like Days of sorrow can be heard and let's not forget the bluesy guitar licks of Johnny. He also has a great typical New Jersey kinda voice (Tepper, Jovi, Mardones, Springsteen...) and the music on these CDs show the enormous diversity in styles he was able to do throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Known offenders is the best out of the 2 releases. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jbarnes and http://www.johnnybarnes.com  

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Heartbanger 'Through the dark' (Rock CD/Spain Import)

 

Xavier Mendez comes out of Barcelona, Spain and he recently started the project Heartbanger. Xavier played guitar and wrote all the songs on the first album Through the dark, while guest musicians are from other Spanish bands. For the vocals he hired several guest singers, including Tony Mills (Shy/TNT) and Gabriele De Val (The Val), both sounding great of course. The other singers are less interesting, which is a pity, because the music itself is high quality AOR with massive keys upfront, catchy hooks and memorable choruses. Not counting the intro, the CD contains 8 actual songs, of which the highlights likewise are the ones with Tony and Gabriele on vocals. You came on time for example is an excellent midtempo AOR/Melodic Rocker a la Witness and Through the dark is a wonderful Shy ish uptempo 80s AOR rocker, but also the beautiful instrumentals Always remembered and Night drive need to be mentioned. The production could have been better and with only Tony and Gabriele as singers, with the addition of some more songs, there is a bright future for Heartbanger. The first result of Xavier's work is already interesting to check out for the AOR/Melodic Rockfans among us at: www.facebook.com/Heartbangerspain/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Blind Ego 'Liquid' (Gentle Art Of Music/Soulfood)   

 

Blind Ego is the project of RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner and without a doubt this is a very interesting German project, because their 2 previous releases were already among the great progrock releases of the new century and now with 3rd record Liquid they hit the bullseye once again, because this is progrock/progmetal the way it needs to sound like. 9 tracks are included in total and right from the start you know you are onto something really good. Opener A place in the sun is a massive sounding melodic progressive metal anthem that sets the record straight here that this new Blind Ego is one of those prog must-haves! Next track Blackened is calmer, but even more sensational, as this slightly laid-back melodic progressive rock track smells like Threshold a lot, so we are in the upper level of prog now. The lead vocals here are magnificent and the subtle guitarwork of Kalle just perfect. There are 3 different singers to be heard (from the bands Subsignal, ex-Seven Thorns and Simeon Soul Charger), and they all sound superstrong, while the other musicians are from bands like Panzerballett, ex-Dreamscape, Subsignal and Sylvan. What if take things into a more uptempo melodic metal approach (with a tiny bit of Queensryche here), while from the remaining 6 tracks the highlights are Never escape the storm, Tears and laughter and Speak the truth (Enchant meets Threshold ish semi-ballad, superb vocalwork!). However, the whole album is a highlight and delight to listen to from start to finish, so all progheads needs to get this new Blind Ego record a.s.a.p. More info at: www.blind-ego.com

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

Oddland 'Origin' (Sensory Records/Laser's Edge/Bertus)

 

The Finnish band Oddland were formed in 2002, but it took them 10 years before a debut album was released in the shape of The treachery of senses. Now 4 years later the follow-up Origin is released, which marks a switch in label, because they signed with Sensory Records/Laser's Edge, while the previous album was released on Century Media. The album was mixed and mastered by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Devin Townsend...) and overall it is a very impressive record that contains darker melodic prog metal with great low pitched vocals and a big massive sound that sounds like a cross between Evergrey, Tool and Pain Of Salvation. This is definitely high quality stuff, with as highlights Unknown and Faraway. Despite the dark metal sound, the band is still quite melodic and memorable and fans of mentioned bands need to listen to this great new record Origin. More at: www.oddlandband.com/

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Cathubodua 'Opus 1: Dawn' (Independent/Belgium Import)

 

The Belgian band Cathubodua makes their debut with the mini-CD Opus 1: Dawn. 4 songs and an intro are included on this rather typical female fronted gothic power metal release. Without a doubt, it's of a high quality the material we get to hear, although not really original, since a song like Scarecrow is dangerously close to Nightwish and AFter Forever. However, the result is nevertheless very impressive and therefore recommended to fans of this genre. More at: www.cathubodua.net

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Jessica's Theme Band 'Matter of time' (Independent/Greece Import)

 

The Greek band Jessica's Theme Band was formed all the way back in 1991, but after 3 years the original members John Goudoulas - vocals, Jim Karahontzitis - guitars, vocals and Nick Agathos - guitars, vocals decided to quit the band and each went their own way. In 2013 they reformed and now after all those years a first album is releasec titled Matter of time. The material has a somewhat bluesy groovy classic rock sound, which doesn't sound bad at all, but things get moving during Everything goes, a nice uptempo melodic rocker, with great guitarsolo and a nice catchy chorus a la 90s Dakota. It happened again is an excellent semi melodic rock/aor ballad, definitely the best song here. Although the music is different from Dakota, the vocals are very similar to Jerry Hlduzik. Final highlights among the 9 included songs are Matter of time, which is a nice uptempo classic rocker and closing track Station to station, which is a rather cool 70s funkly tune. Quite a diverse record actually and despite it isn't a classic, fans of 70s classic rock will definitely like this band, so go check them out at: http://www.jessicasthemeband.com/

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Jimmy Martin 'Berlin' (Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

It's been 20 years or so since Jimmy Martin made his debut in Strutter'zine with a pretty decent solo CD on the now defunct Long Island Records. In the meantime he made several comebacks, but as far as I know he never released a follow-up full-length CD with let's say 10-12 originals, as also this new album Berlin consists of actually only 6 new original tracks, as the rest is covers and remixes, including again the Rick Springfield cover Love somebody. Anyway, Jimmy is doing 80s choruses in the style of Bon Jovi, so it is catchy radio-ready safe melodic rock what we get to hear and with Live your dream he has a hit guarantee if radio starts playing it. A song like Superhero is over-the-top produced dance pop that could easily make it onto the Eurovision song contest! Much better is the AOR ballad I wish you were here tonight, but that is partly due to the fact this is a duet with the legendary Robin Beck. Without a doubt, this is the absolute highlight of this rather average release, because this is the way it all needs to sound like, with of course the superb vocals of Robin! Break free is one of those songs that would be massive if it was still 1986, so catchy big-bang melodic rock anthem style that somehow reminds me of Treat. Anyway, if you're interested in more info on Jimmy, then please go to: www.jimmymartin.de

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

The Furious Seasons 'Look west' (Stonegarden Records/USA Import)

 

In the 1980s there was an underground kinda movement in the LA music scene, the so-called jangle-pop/pop-art style that was mostly bombed as indie music that didn't breakthrough to a wide audience before the 80s ended, as it was REM who were one of the first acts in that genre to become a huge act around 1990 when they released Losing my religion. Pop Art was also such an act, but they never made it big, which is a shame, because they were quite an interesting act. Many years later and many recordings have been released by it's members, both with bands and solo and now there is a new album of The Furious Seasons, which is an act that features former Pop Art leader David Steinhart. He is a gifted singer/songwriter who makes beautiful poetry music that is pure singer/songwriter based and together with Jeff Steinhart (bass) and Paul Nelson (guitar/vocals) he already released 4 Furious Seasons albums since 2008 and now there is the new album Look west. From start to finish this is really wonderful calmer acoustic tingled melodic singer/songwriter popmusic. This is one of those records that deserves it to be heard by many more people. David has a fantastic voice and let's just hope this band will be discovered soon, because the material is right up there with Jim Groce and James Taylor musically speaking, which means high class singer/songwriter of the highest level. Check it out for yourself at: http://thefuriousseasons.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Magic Car 'Meteorites' (Tiny Dog Records/Dolphin House)

 

Out of Nottingham comes the female/male duo Magic Car whom deliver a very nice record titled Meteorites. Opener Frits beach grabs you right away, thanks to the wonderful vocalwork of Hazel Atkinson. She doesn't sing all the time, because bandleader Phil Smeeton sings lead on a lot of songs as well. Secretly I prefer Hazel on lead vocals, which can be heard in full at best during the beautiful Summer storm. She has got a sorta own identity and everytime she sings you can't stop listening. The music itself is calmer singer/songwriter based, with folk influences as well. Recommended record for sure, especially thanks to the wonderful female vocals. More info at: http://tinydog.co.uk/magic_car.htm

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Redeem 'Awake' (Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Sometimes you know right away you're onto something good, because when the song Insanity kicks in loud on the speakers, it is clear that this Redeem is an interesting band. They hail from Switzerland are playing straight-ahead catchy melodic rock with a modern approach. The vocals are quite strong, like most Swiss bands, but it's especially the incredible catchy choruses of songs like Insanity and Chanson d'amour Lovesong (WONDERFUL!) that make this a highly recommended original melodic rockband. Without a doubt, the last mentioned song could easily become a radio-baby if there's someone picking this gem up for airplay. Besides those super catchy first couple of tracks, other highlights on the band's third album Awake are the uptempo Awake and the midtempo Borderline. The catchy melodic rock with it's lovely memorable choruses and lovely soaring guitarsolos makes it almost sound like classic Harem Scarem (just listen to Awake and you will completely understand what I mean!). Definitely a band to check out a.s.a.p. at: www.redeem.ch

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Montage 'Metamorphosis' (Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Metamorphosis is the 2nd album of the Finnish band Montage. They have a new lead singer on-board (Vessa Paavonen), although I can not compare with the previous singer, because this is the first album I get to hear. The vocals are not that strong, but overall the sound of Montage is pretty decent melodic progressive rock that sounds like a rougher Pallas, with the prog influences mostly hearable in the rhythm section, as the guitarwork and songs itself are in a melodic rock setting. Not groundbreaking and sometimes a bit average, Montage nevertheless delivers a quality recording, but it's best to check for yourself at: www.montagefinland.com

 

(Points: 7.4 out of 10)

 

Battalion d'Amour 'Fenix' (Echozone/Sonic Records/Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Fenix is the fifth album of the female fronted Polish band Battalion d'Amour, a very melodic sounding band that draws inspiration from the 80s gothic rocksound (probably named after the Silly song, because they sound quite close to that German band), but one can also trace clear melodic rock and progrock influences in their sound. They were formed in 1989 and the lyrics are in Polish, but somehow this has it's charm, especially when listening to the beautiful opener Bez nas, which is basically a lovely melodic rocker. They remind me a bit of Mari Hamada, the legendary Japanese female singer. The vocals sound very good, the melodies are pretty good and instrumental/production wise this Battalion d'Amour delivers quality stuff. Other highlights are Moje remedium (feat. Thomasz Grochola), Dwie prawdy and Zaklety. More info on this band at: https://www.facebook.com/BataliondAmour

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Traumer 'Avalon' (Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Avalon is the 2nd album of the Brazlian neo-classical symphonic Power Metal band Traumer and with the help of the legendary Mika Jussila from Finnvox Studios they created a typical European melodic power metal album that is far from original, but for fans of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius a recommended album, because Traumer fits nicely between those Finnish acts. On the other hand, it's a very cliche tingled album that does not offer any surprised I'm afraid and after a while the high pitched vocals are definitely the weakest point in the band's sound, but also the songs are second rate Strato/Sonata tunes, but if you're a die-hard fan of those bands you might want to check it out for yourself at: www.traumer.com.br/band.html

 

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

 

Pos.:2 ' Circuits' (Echozone/Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Formed in 2013, the German duo Matthias Grod and Thorsten Krüger recreates the classic 80s synthpopsound of bands like Pet Shot Boys, Depeche Mode and Ultravox, with a sorta EBM sound that leans heavily on the synths (sometimes slight Trance influences), yet with almost Goth like vocals and a song like So lonely could easily have been a major club hit if it was released back in 1983. Anyway, Pos.: 2 are doing things perfectly if you're into this sound, because then you will absolutely love this album. The melodies in each and every of the 13 included songs are mindblowing and Ultravox comparisons are very clear in a fantastic song like Neoenlicht, but any of the songs will delight the fans of the 80s UK Synthpopsound. More info at: http://www.pos2-music.de/

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Arctic Sunrise 'When traces end' (Echozone/ Fastball Music/Germany Import)

 

Arctic Sunrise are another winner for fans of classic 80s Gothic Rock with Synthpop influences, because their album When traces end is quite close to legendary acts like Visage, Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, New Order, Joy Division ... Perhaps not original, the final result is very stunning and a must-hear for fans of mentioned bands. Arctic Sunrise is a duo from Mönchengladbach, Germany and formed around Torsten Verlinden - Vocals and Steve Baltes - Synths. Both grew up in the 1980s and you can clearly hear that in their sound. Sometimes quite experimental and complicated a la The Cure (Tell the truth), at other times uptempo melodic rockin' (Silent tears) and then again very calm and romantic sounding (Mine forever). They follow exactly the 80s sound of aforementioned bands and everytime you hear a different band's influences (you can hear Ultravox in Changing for example), so if you're into that style, then check out this band a.s.a.p. at http://www.reverbnation.com/arcticsunrise4

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Fenech Soler 'Kaleidoscope EP' (SO Recordings/DGR Music)

 

Fenech Soler is a British band formed in 2006 and they already have released quite a few records, with their latest full-length album Rituals on the major label Warner Bros. Anyway, the line-up reduced to the 2 brothers Ross and Ben Duffy, with the remarkable fact that original member Daniel Fenech-Soler left the band, although the bandname was named after him. Anyway, a new full-length release is on the way and this Kaleidoscope is a sneak preview EP of things to come. The music is typical indie dance pop of the current day, very polished and with big 80s synths that could easily become massive. The band already has had a lot of attention from Dutch and English radiostations in the past, giving them several hits so far and therefore the new material will probably also find it's way to the audience. Sometimes a bit too much synth disco pop driven as if it was still 1981, just listen to the song On top. Anyway, it all sounds pretty cool actually and well, you will love this if you're a fan of early 80s synth driven popmusic. More info at: http://www.fenechsoler.co.uk/

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Shotgun Bill 'The B-Sides Demo version' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Shotgun Bill is a band from New Jersey formed around Bill Anania- Lead Vocals, Background Vocals, Acoustic 6 & 12 string Guitar, Electric Guitar, Electric and Acoustic Bass, Mandolin, Ebow guitar and Percussion, Billy Anania- Drums, Percussion, Steve DeVito- Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Dobro Guitar, Mandolin and Catherine Wacha- Cajon, percussion. They sent me a nice album that contains traditional sounding singer/songwriter with a country/folk uptempo approach. 10 songs are included and this is one of those releases that captures the true American sound one might hear when going to a local club somewhere in the midwest, so actually typical bar room live music. Done very well and recommended to check out if you're into JJ Cale. More at: https://frankbill1.bandcamp.com/album/shotgun-bill-the-b-sides

 

(Points: 7.4 out of 10)

 

Michal Rutkowski 'Orient' (Independent/Poland Import)

 

Now here we have something very experimental and original sounding from the Polish musician Michal Rutkowski. It's dark, atmospheric and underground ish, impossible to compare to other acts, which likewise makes it interesting. Let's keep it on gothic alternative sorta rock/industrial with an almost ambient atmospheric approach and here and there even trip-hop-rave-dance rhythms (The Prodigy). You have to hear it for yourself before making up a judgement how this could sound like and also the background of the whole album Orient is a story on it's own. Musically it is hard to describe, but for the open-minded fans very interesting to check out at: http://www.rmichalrutkowski.com/

 

(Points: 7.1 out of 10)

 

Skyward 'Skyward' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Skyward is a sensational new band from Harrisburg, Virginia, USA with a very impressive professional sounding self titled debut album. The sound is huge, the material is lovely melodic modern rock with catchy hooks and memorable choruses like a mix between Three Days Grace, Delain and Paramore, with here and there some sliight Industrial Synth Pop influences (Animal). The band has shared male/female vocals, because both Jonathan Huang and Anna Breeding (who also plays synths) are doing the lead vocals. Both can sing very well, but I personally prefer Anna, who has an incredible voice, although when singing the harmonyvocals it sounds quite perfect. Many songs are radio-ready and have huge hit potential, with opener Casualty being one of the strongest songs on the album, but also Burn is a damn catchy tune. Skyward is definitely a band to check out at: http://www.skywardband.com and don't confuse them with the Finnish band from the past!

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


 

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