HOT NEW REVIEWSUPDATED ON JULY 25 - 2005

BLANC FACES ‘BLANC FACES’ (FRONTIERS RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

Finally a complete new AOR band out of the USA (New York to be exact) with a really good CD release that reminds one of the classic 80s. The band comes out of nowhere, because I had not heard anything of BLANC FACES before, so it’s a big surprise when hearing their pure 80s influenced AOR record. The band is made up of 2 brothers, Robbie and Brian La Blanc. Robbie sings and plays guitars, while Brian is playing bass, guitar, percussions and keys, so he is the multi-instrumentalist. Robbie’s voice is very impressive, coming across like a mix between DENNIS DE YOUNG, BOBBY KIMBALL, DAN HUFF and TOBY HITCHCOCK (PRIDE OF LIONS). The music is pure AOR, can’t get any closer than this album nowadays and thanks to the great ‘polished’ production of DENNIS WARD (PINK CREAM 69) we have a winner on our hands here. The songs are representing everything that made AOR one of the most popular rock genres in the 1980s, so you have here the big sounding midtempo rockers, the emotional (semi) ballads and the fun uptempo rockers. Although I mentioned this is a new band, the members (read; the brothers La Blanc) have been playing and recording with a lot of well-known artists the past 20 years, such as RUPERT HOLMES, RONNIE SPECTOR and BOBBY KIMBALL. What you basically get on the first BLANC FACES CD is a collection of classy 80s AOR tunes, such as the wonderful songs “We’ll make the best of it” (midtempo AOR), “Stranger to love” (semi AOR ballad), “Beneath the heart” (uptempo AOR) and opener “Here’s to you” (uptempo AOR). Not saying this is a true AOR classic in the sense of mentioning them alongside SIGNAL, ALIAS, SHERIFF, PRIDE OF LIONS and ROXUS, but I still rank them quite high, despite the fact that it is AOR by the numbers. Nevertheless, this CD of BLANC FACES is definitely a must-have for the AOR fans, especially those who want to hear something like FINAL FRONTIER, but then better, especially in the vocal department and the arrangements. All together a great classic 80s AOR sounding album you need to check out asap, although I think BLANC FACES is able to make an even better record in the future if they will concentrate on some imp rovements in the songwriting process, but for a first album definitely an impressive record.

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

ICON ‘NIGHT OF THE CRIME’ (ROCK CANDY RECORDS)

ROCK CANDY RECORDS is a new UK based label started by 2 famous rock journalists, namely DEREK OLIVER and DANTE BONUTTO. The label is focused on re-issues and re-releases of long lost classic albums from the 70s and 80s. It is expected that the label will release some long overdue albums onto CD finally, such as STORM and CONEY HATCH. The first batch of releases however are already a step into the right direction. For example 1985’s classic ‘Night of the crime’ of ICON, an unbelievable melodic rockalbum that simply blew away the likes of BON JOVI and DEF LEPPARD, but apparently nobody noticed back in the glorious mid 80s Hair Metal period. This album has been re-issued before by the German label ATM RECORDS, which I also reviewed, but I have my doubts if that release was legal. Anyway, now ROCK CANDY RECORDS has re-issued it on to CD, with some really nice extensive liner notes, artwork and pictures from the past. Much work has been done to make this the ultimate CD release of one of the most underrated albums of the 1980s. I am after all these years still breathless when listening to this album, because it sounds so damn good. It goes beyond me why this record didn’t become a seller 20 years ago, because who can ignore such strong melodic rockers like “Missing”, “Danger calling”, “Shot at my heart”, “Frozen tears” and “Hungry for love”. This is HIGH CLASS 80s Melodic Rock, as good as DOKKEN at their very best, so better get this re-issue asap in case you didn’t hear it the first time.

(Points: 9.3 out of 10)

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING ‘A LEGEND OF THE ELVES’ (MKM PROMOTION)

Here’s an Italian band and finally they don’t play typical Italo Power Metal, because musically we get to hear a sort of 80s inspired Symphonic AOR Rock. The band also has a female singer, which is very rare for an Italian band, but it does sound quite good actually. ‘A legend of the elves’ is the first CD they have released, which musically reminds me of a cross between SARAYA, SAHARA and LANA LANE. Actually it’s a mini-CD, because there are only 7 short songs included, which together resemble an epic rock opera. The band was formed 5 years ago, and with this release the Italian band THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING has put themselves on the rock’n’roll map. Especially the uptempo AOR Rockers “Red dragon” and “Warrior’s lullaby” is a very strong song. Listen to mp3s and find out more on THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING at: http://www.mkmpromotion.tk or visit the website of the band at: http://members.xoom.virgilio.it/felofthering 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

THE VOID ‘REMEMBER’ (MKM PROMOTION)

The Italian band THE VOID has already released a couple of promo CDs, so this new mini-CD ‘Remember’ is not their first release. Musically they play a sort of dark gothic metalstyle, which reminds me a lot of SAVIOUR MACHINE, and I have never been impressed with that band, so you can imagine I wasn’t too excited about THE VOID. It’s not that this band is really bad or something, but I think the music is just not strong enough to make any impression. Coming across like an amateuristic mix between HIM and SAVIOUR MACHINE, this band is only interesting for absolute die-hard dark metal fans. More info at: http://www.into-thevoid.com and http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

SNEM ‘SNEM’ (MKM PROMOTION)

Out of Italy comes the band SNEM and their 6-track mini-CD is musically going strongly to the current US Nu-Breed style of acts like SR 71, MARVELOUS 3, BLINK 182 and whatever they are called. The band nevertheless has some nice pleasant melodies to offer on their mini-CD, although it gets a bit boring after a while. After a while bands like SONIC YOUTH, SMASHING PUMPKINS come to mind when listening to this SNEM and then it starts to get a bit too Alternative for us . More info at: http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 6.0 out of 10)

SEVEN CIRCLES ‘SEVEN CIRCLES’ (MKM PROMOTION)

Many good things are coming out of Sweden, but SEVEN CIRCLES is clearly one of the few exceptions, because this is a very average band. They try to sound like a mix between HIM and MAIDEN, but unfortunately fail in every attempt. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 4.5 out of 10)

MONKEY BUSINESS ’LOOKING BACK AT ME’ (MKM PROMOTION)

Out of Italy comes a really great new Melodic Hardrockband, whom have a 3-track mini-CD available. They can be compared to the glorious Melodic Hardrock of bands like HEAVEN’S EDGE, DOKKEN, SKID ROW, GOTTHARD, WHITESNAKE, etc. Of course it is almost impossible to reach such a high level, but their first CD is definitely a step into the right direction, because the 3 songs show these guys can write great fun melodic hardrocksongs with strong vocals and also fantastic guitarwork in the best 80s style. Fans of mentioned bands should definitely check out this MONKEY BUSINESS, because what they offer is very impressive at times (especially the song “Waitin’ by the crossroad”). More info at: http://www.monkey-business.tk and http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

AURA ‘NEW LIFE’ (MKM PROMOTION)

Already 10 years active, but still no official CD releases have been done by the Italian band AURA, but this new promo CD definitely shows they are making high quality melodic Progressive Metal. 5 songs are included, and although the vocals are not the most positive thing about AURA, it is acceptable when listening to their music. I hear quite a lot bands in this genre nowadays, but this AURA is clearly above many other bands in the independent scene, because they sound like if they are on some prog metal label. The 5 long songs on their promo CD have a total playing time of 37 minutes and a prog metal fan will absolutely love this band. Who knows what the future will bring for this band, because AURA shows on this promo CD they are able to produce high quality progressive metal and 1 Italo Power Metal tune (“The power to be”). More info can be found at: http://members.xoom.it/auranet and http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

DISCIPLES OF CHAOS ‘IN CHAOS WE TRUST’ (MKM PROMOTION)

Not many Italian bands play the kind of Power Metal like this band does, because usually Italian bands play Italo Power Metal with tra-la-la choruses and bombastic sounds. DISCIPLES OF CHAOS is playing high quality technical Melodic Power Metal in the style of ICED EARTH and DOMINE. 4 songs are on their promo-CD and it does sound very impressive actually. There seems to be a quite a lot new bands in Italy that could easily be signed by a label, because they are bringing their Metal at a high level. Of course the lead singer has a slight accent, but the instrumental back-up is from such a high level that any fan of ICED EARTH type of Power Metal will love this band. More info at: http://www.disciplesofchaos.da.ru and http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ROSSOMETILE ‘ULTIMARIA’ (MKM PROMOTION)

A female fronted band from Italy and they play 80s influenced melodic rock with influences from both AOR and Alternative Rock. Actually they sound very impressive, because lead singer Tiziana Nucera has a good melodic voice, although some people might think it’s a problem she sings in Italian, but it actually sounds very good. It’s quite strange the band hasn’t released a full CD yet, because they were formed almost 10 years ago. However, their new promo CD should wake up the labels, because ROSSOMETILE can definitely good clean quality Melodic Rock. Although Alternative Rock is also being mentioned as an influence, this band is clearly closer in being a good melodic rockband and the combination of melodic female vocals, good bluesy guitarplaying and strong songs is making them an interesting band to check out. The only negative point might be the fact that a few more rockers wouldn’t hurt, although still the featured songs are all very nice in their own right being the semi-ballads they are. Recommended to fans of 80s female fronted aor/melodic rock, yet with Italian lyrics. More info at: http://www.rossometile.it and http://www.mkmpromotion.tk 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ROBIN BECK ‘DO YOU MISS ME’ (FRONTIERS RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

It is clear after a couple of spins that the new ROBIN BECK CD is her best effort since she started her career back in the 70s. Robin, the girl who scored a massive hitsingle worldwide in the late 80s with her Coca Cola theme song “First time”, a song which even nowadays is remembered by everyone as one of those pure 80s classic songs. Well, now we are 15 years further and Robin makes a fantastic comeback with this new CD. Actually it’s not a really comeback because she has been releasing records between the 1989 so-called AOR classic ‘Trouble or nothin’ (which was actually an album made by a bunch of session musicians and songwriters from the AOR scene – Bolton, Child, Warren, etc) and the present day. In fact, her studio CD from last year ‘Wonderland’ was actually a very disappointing poppy release, so the new album on FRONTIERS RECORDS is clearly a surprise, because it simply rocks and is as melodic as her debut. The album is filled with 80s type of classic AOR hits from start to finish, and then I mean really like the 80s BOLTON – CHILD – WARREN era, so big hookladen catchy choruses AOR songs with fantastic vocalwork of Robin. Robin’s voice hasn’t changed a bit, because it actually sounds like if all 12 songs were recorded at the same time as the 89 record ‘Trouble or nothin’. Not sure, but it could actually be true, because the songs were written by Michael Bolton, Desmond Child and Marc Jordan, who all haven’t written a decent AOR song since the late 80s, so who knows the recordings of this CD took place in the late 80s. It doesn’t matter, because what we get to hear is high quality AOR and I’m a sucker for this kind of perfectly polished AOR, especially with those wonderful vocals of Robin it makes it worth listening over and over again. Robin scored big time in the 80s with one song, but this new CD of hers could actually also have been huge in the USA if it had been released in 1985 and HEART wouldn’t have existed, because basically this album is containing some amazing pure AOR that sounds like HEART was doing in the mid/late 80s. There are so many highlights between the 12 included tracks, but I should definitely mention the superb AOR ballad “The safest place” (hello HEART!), the uptempo AOR rockers “Do you miss me” and “Coming back for more” (fantastic catchy tune, perfect summer radio hitsingle, radiostations make this a big hit for God’s sake!) and the semi-AOR ballad “I wanna hear it from you” (VENUS & MARS style). The musicians whom ar playing on the CD are not really known, but as backing vocalists we can hear Robin’s husband JAMES CHRISTIAN and legendary female singer DALBELLO, while Fabrizio Grossi (the Italian multi-instrumentalist and producer of many FRONTIERS releases) took care of the production an the bass. Concluded, a terrific pure 80s AOR album with wonderful emotional vocals of Robin.

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

CARPTREE ‘MAN MADE MACHINE’ (FOSFOR CREATION)

‘Man made machine’ is the third CD of the band CARPTREE, a Swedish band whom are playing progressive rock in a sort of 70s style, not really far away from THE FLOWER KINGS. In contrast to their previous albums, this new CD sounds a little darker and heavier, which has resulted in some very good songs like the very impressive “This is my home”. In total 10 tracks are included, which have a combined playing time of 60 minutes. Without a doubt, this is a much-recommended Progressive Rock release. The vocalwork has that typical old 70s English style of singing, so a bit like PETER GABRIEL. I think progfans should check out this release asap. More info at: http://www.carptree.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

STEVE WALSH ‘SHADOWMAN’ (FRONTIERS RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

Although I am a big fan of STEVE WALSH’s KANSAS’ material, I was never that impressed with his solo records, because they were obviously way too experimental. Also his new solo CD is definitely not an album I would play over and over again, although maybe it is a record to live and learn with for some time. It certainly isn’t an album that can compete with KANSAS, because the 8 included songs simply miss beautiful melodies we hear Steve singing when with KANSAS. Anyway, the new solo CD of Steve is being released through FRONTIERS RECORDS, and with as guests drummer Joe Franco (TWISTED SISTER), David Ragsdale (KANSAS) and Michael Romeo (SYMPHONY X) it definitely is a quality record, but after a few spins I still didn’t hear anything really sensational. The CD is filled with experimental progressive rock, which sometimes sounds quite heavy, but the melodies are missing here. Just listen to opening track “Rise”, which really has a very average chorus and maybe the rest of the album is better I still do not consider this new STEVE WALSH album as something really remarkable, especially if you compare it to the fact he released some of the best records made in the 1970s (KANSAS – LEFTOVERTURE) and the 1980s brought 2 fantastic STREETS albums. Therefore I rather look forward to a new KANSAS record, but if you’re really a die-hard STEVE WALSH you might find something of interest here, but do not expect anything sensational.

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF ’10 STORIES DOWN’ (CYCLOPS RECORDS)

Recently a limited edition album titled ’12 stories down’ of this UK band was snapped up by the fans, but now ’10 stories down’ is the real new CD of this band, because it contains 60 minutes of mostly newly recorded music, although some songs also appeared on that limited edition record, but they have reworked into much better sounding versions. Musically this band is drifting away from progressive rock on each new album release, and particularly ’10 stories down’ is far removed from what we call progressive rock. The band sounds like a mix between RADIOHEAD, COLDPLAY and 90s MARILLION, so this is more 90s British Rock (or should I say Britpop), not bad at all, but on the other hand less interesting I am afraid for progressive rockfans. However if you have followed this band’s career, you might really enjoy this new album, because it is their best record so far.

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

DREAM OR NIGHTMARE ‘LIGHT BURNING BRIGHT TILL THE DAWN’ (INDEPENDENT)

The Ohio/USA based band DREAM OR NIGHTMARE returns with a new EP. The CD contains 4 songs, which musically is dark aggressive 80s orientated US Power Metal, a little like a mix between SAVATAGE and PANTERA. Without a doubt, the best song is “Tomorrow aside”, although I think the band is able to produce much better material, because individual they have the necessary qualities, but somehow the songs are just not strong enough. Especially the gang vocals driven choruses do not work really well, because they belong on an ANTHRAX record and not on an album of a band playing a sort of SAVATAGE kinda Metalstyle. Neverheless, check out this band at: http://www.dreamornightmare.com 

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

NEKTAR ‘DOWN TO EARTH’ (ECLECTIC DISCS)

Released 31 years ago, this particular NEKTAR album was a very experimental record, which did not reflect the band’s progressive rockstyle, because it contained influences from other genres like Jazz and BigBand Music, and overall this album was supposed to be a very humoristic album, especially compared to the band’s other more serious records of that period. Nevertheless, the album has been re-issued onto CD, with the addition of 7 bonustracks. Musically still interesting, despite the fact it’s a very experimental record and the lyrics are about an animal circus. Best song has got to be the 70s melodic rocker “Show me the way”, but this definitely is not the best record NEKTAR has recorded in their career. It’s the 8th CD on ECLECTIC DISCS and I truly hope it’s not the end, because the band has recorded more albums, especially their early 80s record saw them moving into a more commercial AOR direction, which definitely also deserves to be re-issued on CD.

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

POWER QUEST ‘MAGIC NEVER DIES’ (MAJESTIC ROCK RECORDS)

The switch from label doesn’t have any affect on the music style POWER QUEST from the UK is playing, because just like on their previous album we can hear a mix of faster STRATO/SONATA type of Euro Happy Power Metal and 80s Melodic Rock a la SHY. Although nothing new is brought here, I can definitely mention here that POWER QUEST is doing it very well, bringing forward some really awesome melodies. From the fast Power Metal tunes I think “Find my heaven” and “Galaxies unknown” are the strongest songs, while from the more AOR/Melodic Rock kinda songs I prefer the lovely “Hold on to love”, “Strike force” and “Children of the dream”, which remind me of SHY, and also the beautiful AOR ballad “The message” (JOURNEYesque). The band is best comparable to SUPREME MAJESTY, the Swedish band that follows the same concept as POWER QUEST, so a mixture of Melodic Power Metal and AOR/Melodic Rock. Of course people will call this is a very cliché record, but I think POWER QUEST has released a very impressive record, which brings two worlds together (metal and aor community). Highly recommended to both SONATA and TNT fans!

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

MIDNIGHT CIRCUS ‘MONEY SHOT’ (PERRIS RECORDS)

If anyone remembers, I reviewed an awesome high quality independent Melodic Progressive Metalband called AZRAELS BANE not that long ago. Well, apparently some members of this band as well as the band DISTANT THUNDER were originally in a typical 80s type of LA Glam Melodic Hardrockband called MIDNIGHT CIRCUS, which now after it started back in 1992 has it’s first official CD release titled ‘Money shot’. The band is coming out of Texas and you can clearly hear that, because from that US state we have seen so many new bands coming to play good old 80s straight-forward guitar riff orientated uptempo Melodic Glam Hardrock like a mix between RATT, DOKKEN, FIREHOUSE and DANGER DANGER. Most of the songs are very catchy and definitely a must-to-hear if you like this simple catchy pure 80s style. It’s like we have stepped into the back to the future vehicle back to 1985 when Hair Metal was the most popular style in the USA. The production is amazing (thanks to producer Gregg Gill who worked with DISTANT THUNDER and Z LOT Z) and most of the material does sound very catchy. Highlights are “Don’t wait for love”, “Tonight”, “Only one” and “Alive”. It may sound cliché as hell, but it does sound really good actually, fun 80s Hair Metal in the best tradition of DOKKEN, KEEL, DANGER DANGER, POISON, CRUE, FIREHOUSE, HEAVENS EDGE, RECKLESS and the list is endless, like only the Americans can make ‘em! Another must-have for fans of this genre, just like that other recent PERRIS’ release of BLIND DATE.

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

ZAN CLAN ‘WE ARE ZAN CLAN, WHO THE F**K ARE YOU’ (PERRIS RECORDS)

The Swedish band is playing the kind of Sleazy LA Hardrockas if it was 1989 all over again. These guys surely must have been in late 80s LA Sunset Strip Hair Metal Heaven when recording their album, because it damn sounds like FASTER PUSSYCAT, BRITNY FOX, KIX, DIRTY LOOKS, ALICE COOPER, GUNS’N’ROSES… Americans would have loved it if it was 1988 or something, but I am afraid nowadays it might sound dated. However, on the positive note I can add that it all sounds very professional and the reason why it reminds me so much of a band called SHOTGUN MESSIAH (whom sold 500,000 copies 15 years ago with their debut in the USA) is that both bands have the same lead singer. Former SHOTGUN MESSIAH shouter Zinny Zan is namely the leader and singer of ZAN CLAN. So he didn’t change musically and maybe for the better, because the CD he has delivered sound quite good, despite the fact it is a pure 1980s LA Sleaze Hardrock record. Dated or not, the straight-forward 80s LA Sleaze sounds good enough to check out if you’re a GUNS’N’ROSES or ALICE COOPER fan, because that’s where ZAN CLAN’s influences come from.

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

BAD AMBITION ‘STORM SIGNAL’ (INDEPENDENT)

5 years ago the Italian band BAD AMBITION released their debut CD, which I even reviewed, but it completely slipped my mind if it was a good review back then, so actually I started from scratch with BAD AMBITION’s ‘Storm signal’ album release. Anyway, their 2nd CD starts promising with the great 80s influenced melodic rocker “Storm signal”. The following tracks and actually the whole CD indicates a pure AOR/Melodic Rock direction in the best 80s tradition (kinda like AFTER HOURS, FM, MAGNUM, BON JOVI) and it sounds nquite impessive sometimes, such as the catchy uptempo AOR rockers “Out from your life”, “Destination unknown”, “Where is your heart?” and “Sea of emotion”. Although we get to hear some great 80s AOR/Melodic Rock it isn’t as good as the absolute top in Southern European AOR (which were the bands GOLDEN FARM, EVA, LA FASE).Nevertheless it is of course great to hear such good quality AOR from Italy, because that country has been bringing forward more Power Metalbands than all of Europe has eaten pizzas for the past 5 years! Concluded, this CD should definitely be checked by every AOR/Melodic Rockfans, especially if you also liked the recent DEADLINE release, because that album is not far away from this new BAD AMITION CD. More info at: http://www.badambition.com and e-mail them at: info@badambition.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

LOUD’N’NASTY ‘TOO MUCH AIN’T ENOUGH’ (PERRIS RECORDS)

Just listen to the great guitar riffs on the new CD of the Swedish Glam/Partyrockband LOUD’N’NASTY and it’s like you’re back in 1985 walking down the Sunset Strip. OK, it’s not original, because we have heard the kind of music LOUD’N’NASTY is playing on the albums of RATT and CRUE 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid this band, because they do it quite well. In fact, I enjoy this CD even more than what RATT and RUE have been doing in the 1990s. ‘Too much ain’t enough’ is the 2nd CD of LOUD’N’NASTY, although the material is made up of a 12”inch vinyl released in 2002 and a few bonustracks from 1999, also not released on CD before. The 6 songs from 2002 are an absolute must-have for fans of 80s CRUE and WASP, just listen to the great 80s Party/Glam LA Hardrocksongs “Me and the boys” and “You better run”. The 2 bonustracks (“Sweet sixteen” and “Hellbound”) are sounding so much like 80s RATT, I actually thought I was listening to Steven Pearcy and co. Anyway, it’s a pity the CD has a playing time of just 30 minutes, but on the other hand the 8 uptempo party rockers are definitely giving you a good time and bringing back memories of the days when RATT, WASP and CRUE ruled over LA.

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

DREAM ARIA ‘IN THE WAKE’ (INDEPENDENT)

Original band from Canada, because they have a sort of own style on their CD ‘In the wake’, which is a sort of experimental progressive rockstyle that features the vocals of female singer Ann Burstyn. I think the band is trying to combine classy progressive rock with ambient music, which sometimes work, but not always. For example, a song like “Snapshot” is a very nice semi-ballad that has a great strong melodic chorus, but on the other hand a few songs like “Blue lady” (breakbeat!) and “Pacis” have a disco-beat, which sounds really annoying and that’s a pity, because DREAM ARIA surely proves they can make good music. Other songs that have a normal progressive rock kinda approach are “Promise”, “11th hour”, “Raindrops” and “Spanish nights” (reminding me of QUEEN OF SPADES if anyone actually remembers that band), all very good songs, but the band scores a lower rating due to the use of a disco/breakbeat in a few songs, which I hope on a next record will be left out. Recommended to the open-minded progfans, who don’t mind a little Ambient Music into their Prog. More info at: http://www.dreamaria.com and e-mail them at: dstagg@cogeco.ca 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

XYZ ‘RAINY DAYS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Going back to 1984 when XYZ recorded their debut album, which somehow was never released to the public, and that’s quite unbelievable if you listen to the material on this CD which has just been released. This ‘new’ CD of XYZ contains that lost album with the addition of a few bonustracks recorded in the following years. Actually I enjoyed this CD much more than the recent XYZ CD on MTM MUSIC, because it has a superb strong 80s Melodic Hardrocksound which combines the best of DIO/WHITESNAKE (vocally/songwise), DOKKEN (the sound) and SCORPIONS (the ballads). The band clearly had an own sound, thanks to the wonderful vocals of singer TERRY ILOUS and while listening to the songs on this CD you wonder why XYZ never became big, because musically they had so much more to offer than the standard CRUE or RATT, who only became famous because of their show. XYZ offered some awesome American Melodic Hardrock which can all be heard on the 12 songs from the mid 80 which have now finally been released on CD. Highlights include uptempo melodic rockers like “Where did we go wrong”, “High life” and “Lonely without you” (big 80s with keys, almost AOR, very strong song) as well as wonderful ballads like “Rainy days”, “Never too late”, “Souvenirs” (later re-recorded) and “You belong to me” (semi-ballad actually). Sound quality is very good and of course any XYZ/Melodic Hardrockfan should check out this release a.s.a.p. I vaguely remember that in the past a French release has been done that also contains rare XYZ material (including a fantastic song called “Straight in the night” – which is not on this new CD), but ‘Rainy days’ is an official CD with the original 1984-1986 recordings of XYZ. The CD has been released independent, so you have to go to the band’s website for more info on purchasing the wonderful CD at: http://www.oneflightupguitars.com/xyz-rainydays and -mail at: XYZ-BP@SBCGLOBAL.NET 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘HOLLYWOOD HAIRSPRAY 4’ (PERRIS RECORDS)

In the 1980s LA was the place to be for new Glam, Party and Sleazy Hardrockbands, but 20 years later we have to look for these kind of bands in Europe, to be exact Sweden and Italy, where we have seen many new bands playing CRUE/RATT type of LA Glam/Party Hardrock. The 4th compilation CD of PERRIS RECORDS contains in total 14 songs, of which 7 were made by Swedish bands. The others come from Italian, Norwegian, English and American bands, although these countries are represented with only a few songs. Sweden is definitely the place to be when looking for new Glambands. The best Swedish Glamband (GEMINI 5) is then not even included, but there’s still enough to enjoy here. If you’re a Glam/Sleaze fan this is the best way to discover the new bands in the genre, because there’s still a lot out there in this genre. Featured bands on the CD are ZAN CLAN, MIDNIGHT CIRCUS, UNITED ENEMIES, THE NEW ROMANTICS, ON PAROLE, COSMIC BALLROOM, VAINS OF JENNA, TRASHCAN DARLINGS, ENEMIES SWE, TEENAGE CASKET COMPANY, SLOWPANIC SWEETHEARTS, BABY RUTH, CATHOUSE and last but not least, there’s also a new song of the legendary UK Glamband TIGERTAILZ! So all fans of GUNS’N’ROSES, CRUE, FASTER PUSSYCAT, RATT, etc need to check out this CD asap!

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

BROKE’N’BLUE ‘THE WAITING’ (MTM MUSIC/SUBURBAN)

A few years ago the Swedish band BROKE’N’BLUE released their wonderful debut CD ‘Northern light’. Now 5 years later there is a follow-up titled ‘The waiting’, which once again contains good quality AOR in the best 80s spirit. Although comparisons to JOURNEY are being made, I definitely need to inform everyone that it’s not that sensational, but that’s not something to be ashamed for, because nobody will ever reach the high JOURNEY level. Anyway, like I mentioned, musically this is pure AOR/Melodic Rock which should do well during the summer. The band has a male and female singer in their line-up and I might have said it before, but the female singer (Eva Abrahamsson) is definitely the better singer of the 2. Her songs are also going into classic HEART, WITNESS, first 2 TONE NORUM, DANTE FOX territory, so high class 80s hookladen AOR. Therefore the best songs are “Perfect match”, “Heaven is all”, “Never the same” (very strong song) and “This time”. Anyone who liked the recent other Swedish Female Fronted AOR releases (COASTLINE, ALYSON AVENUE, TWO PIECE PUZZLE) will love the songs on this album that has Eva singing. This album shows once again that Sweden is one of the few countries that is able to compete with the American AOR releases these days…

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

BLACK MAJESTY ‘SILENT COMPANY’ (LIMB MUSIC)

The Melodic Metal heroes of BLACK MAJESTY from Australia are back with a new CD. Without a doubt, they are together with DUNGEON 2 of the best bands at the moment in the Melodic (Power) Metalscene. Both bands have a fantastic new CD out on LIMB MUSIC and the fact they both come from non-Metal country Australia is making clear there are bands in this genre coming out of that continent. Both have some really sensational Melodic Metal to offer on their new CDs. BLACK MAJESTY has released their 2nd CD ‘Silent company’, which is the follow-up to 2003’s Silent company’. How does it sound? Well, it’s a great album that sounds like a mix between 80s QUEENSRYCHE and BALANCE OF POWER, so you should definitely like high-pitched vocals and twin-guitars (but we all love that, so that shouldn’t be a problem!). Anyway, the band has come up with a very strong record, which contains mostly uptempo Melodic Power Metal pieces, such as the fantastic “Silent company”, “Firestorm”, “Visionary” and “New horizons”, but they didn’t forget a few midtempo Melodic Progressive Heavy Rockers (“Darkened room” and “A better way to die”) that has QUEENSRYCHE ‘Empire’ written all over… To me this sounds like a very impressive Melodic Metal record that is a must-have if QUEENSRYCHE/PAGAN’S MIND/FATES WARNING/BALANCE OF POWER are your kinda bands.

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

DAMSEL FLY ‘DEMO CDR’ (DEMO CDR)

This 3-track CDR is actually a sneak preview of the upcoming full-length debut CD of the Canadian band DAMSEL FLY. This is a female fronted band who combine the beautiful melodies of bands like EVANESCENCE, WITHIN TEMPTATION and XANDRIA with heavy modern guitar riffs. It’s a perfect mix between 80s aor/melodic rock, 90s groovy metal and today’s gothic rock. The 3 songs I heard so far sound very impressive and this could well be a winner in the big Female Fronted Rock/Metalscene of today. It’s nice to even call it a scene at the present day, because when Strutter’zine started about 10 years ago there were only a few female fronted rockbands (DANTE FOX being the very first of a whole new scene) and especially the last 2 years new female fronted bands have popped up over and over again, Many of them are even quite popular (like the enormous popularity of WITHIN TEMPTATION in Holland and the rest of Europe, NIGHTWISH in Finland, VANILLA NINJA in Germany and EVANSCENCE worldwide). This all made it possible for many more new bands with female singers in the underground scene to start recording material. DAMSEL FLY out of Canada is one of those new bands and with fantastic songs like “Let you go” and “No way out” they definitely sound very promising. Their first full length CD should be out soon and fans of catchy female fronted melodic rock with a Goth Metal approach should check out this band asap. More info at: http://www.damsel-fly.com and e-mail them at: contact@damsel-fly.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

FIGHTING WARRIORS ‘DEXTERA DEI – THE TALES OF ICARUS’ (INDEPENDENT)

This female fronted band from Italy has positive and less positive things to offer on their demo. The 4 included songs are not really sensational, just a bit standard Italo Power Metal with many keys and of course a strong comparison to RHAPSODY, but on the other hand the band does have something special to offer, because FIGHTING WARRIORS has a very good female lead singer with the name Cinzia Di Martino. She can easily sing her high notes and it is good to see she also formed this band, because therefore the future for FIGHTING WARRIORS looks promising. However, work needs to be done on the sound/production and also the songs, because with the exception of “Stop the crying”, the material is not really impressive. However, with such a great singer I think a future release will definitely see some improvement in the songwriting. For now, e-mail the band at: fightingwarriors@supereva.it 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

RAISING SAND ‘RIDING THE BLINDS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Not many good new classic rockbands come out of the UK, but RAISING SAND is clearly an exception to the rule, because this band is playing high class British Classic Rock with Bluesy Rock influences. It strongly reminds me of the 70s, with similarities to FREE, BAD COMPANY, TEAZE and even a bit THE STOOGES. Production is good, vocalwork is very impressive actually and songwise they offer good strong original 70s Rock/Hardrock that might not only attract fans of mentioned bands, but also people who are into TURBONEGRO, WHITE STRIPES, JET and that sort of Punky Rock’n’Roll. For more info on this band please go to: http://www.raisingsand.co.uk and e-mail them at: e.khaled@catfishentertainment.co.uk 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

JULY FOR KINGS ‘NOSTALGIA’ (WARNER USA)

Anyone else noticed that the so-called Emocore/Punkstyle in America are slowly moving into a more mature Melodic Rocksound. Major labels sign bands that are for 80% actually pure Melodic Rock. Others call it Powerpop, with acts like SR-71, BOWLING FOR SOUP and MARVELOUS 3 being a few of the many new popular bands in the USA. Here in Europe there are not many people who are familiar with this band, but believe me when I say there are some great bands out there, such as this Ohio based JULY FOR KINGS. This band released a CD on a major label (MCA RECORDS) a few years ago, and are now back with a new mini-CD titled ‘Nostalgia’. The big masses will call their music typical modern melodic melancholic Pop/Rock like U2, NICKELBACK and CREED, but I think JULY FOR KINGS has more to offer. Surely they sound up to date for the American market, but their catchy melodic rock has more to offer, because in the arrangements we can hear some surprised (cello) and the vocals are very melodic. This band has taken a bit of everything, which has resulted in a great diverse melodic rockalbum that will not only attract fans of U2 and CREED, but also the regular melodic rockfans that are on our site regularly, although somehow JULY FOR KINGS also has a sort of 80s British Alternative Rocksound (THE ALARM, THE MISSION…) and I even recalled a slight A-HA comparison here and there. Best songs are definitely “Blue eyes” and “One by one” with their strong catchy AOR choruses. Concluded, a band that has many good things to offer in their melodic rock. More info at: http://www.julyforkings.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

BENEDIKTA ‘PUNKY DUMKY’ (INDIES RECORDS)

Experimental but quality music is what we can hear on the CD of the band BENEDEKTA, whom are coming out of Czech Republic, just like most of the other bands on the label INDIES RECORDS. It sometimes is very experimental, with all kinds of influences (Jazz, Alternative and World Music), but we can also hear some good rocksongs on the album, such as “Zapalte svici” and “Jabko”. However, most of the time this female fronted band has something quite different to bring on their CD, but with the help of some nice violins here and there it does sound quite nice. Also the strong lead vocals of singers Petra and Misa Vanova (sisters?) work really well with BENEDIKTA’s music, which is best described as jazzy punky alternative rock with folk and world music influences and some nice melodic choruses, if that makes any sense, because BENEDIKTA actually has something to offer for everyone. For more info go to: http://www.indiesrec.cz 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

MARACA AND ZIMBOVA ‘KRVAVE BALADY – BLOODY BALLADS’ (INDIES RECORDS)

Jazzy Traditional Folk Music is what female lead singers Marta Vavrova and Gabriela Vermelho and their backing musicians of their bands MARACA and ZIMBOVA. They sing in their own Czech language, The 14 included songs contain strong vocals and good melodies, really bringing forward a sort of medieval Eastern Europe kinda Folksound. Best songs are definitely tracks 5, 6 and 7 (I will not bother you with the songtitles as they not many people speak the Czech Republic language. These kind of songs really are strong back-to-basic melodic songs which might even be interesting for the fans of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT and WITHIN TEMPTATION (if they would throw away their big Metalsound), because basically MARACA and ZIMBOVA are doing what all these other bands are doing nowadays, with as simple difference the fact that MARACA and ZIMBOVA is doing it like it was done some 200-300 years ago, which sounds nice as well. For more info go to: http://www.indiesrec.cz 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

ZVA 12-28 BAND ‘HRUBA MUKA’ (INDIES RECORDS)

This Czech Republic based band is playing pure Blues in the good old BB KING/MUDDY WATERS style, yet a bit less adventurous, because it is all less electric guitar orientated. It does sound like the sort of stripped Bluessound you hear when entering a Bluesbar. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of these kind of Blues artists you will definitely love this band. Then for more info go to: http://www.indiesrec.cz 

(Points: 7.4 out of 10)

THE CHANT ‘SIGHS’ (SOLISTITIUM RECORDS)

Of course the big breakthrough of HIM and THE RASMUS has resulted in a lot of new Finnish bands playing the same kind of Melancholic Melodic Gothic Rock/Metal. The band THE CHANT is one of the latest bands in this genre, although they have been active since 1999, so you can’t call them a new band actually. However, their mini CD ‘Sighs’ is the first record I get to hear and I must say it sounds very impressive. The songs are slow, dark, but very melodic and sound like a slower version of HIM, sometimes as good as their big brothers. Tracks like “Momentary joys” and “Repeating dream” are beautiful slowtempo melodic goth rock/metal songs in a sort of HIM style. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.thechant.cjb.net and e-mail at: jussi.tt.hamalainen@helsinki.fi 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

PEGAZUS ‘THUNDER DOWN UNDER LIVE!’ (BATTLEGOD PRODUCTIONS)

The Australian band PEGAZUS returns with a new CD, although this is actually a live CD, which consists of 15 live recorded songs on CD 1 and 6 unreleased demo songs on CD 2, so what we have here is a double CD. The CDs proof that PEGAZUS is one of the better bands out of Australia at the moment, because in their catalogue they have so many fantastic Melodic Metal songs, with as highlights “Wings of steel” and “The headless horseman”, both of course played live. The sound is very impressive, so definitely a high quality release is what we have here. On disc 2 are 6 unreleased demos, although the actual songs are for the greater part known with the fans, because these are more rough mixed versions of album tracks, except the cover “Ballad of a thin man” which makes its premier on this double disc. Fans of PEGAZUS will be pleased to hear that this new Live CD of their favourite band is a must-have and definitely not just a cheap cash-in.

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

BALTAK ‘MACEDONIAN WAR’ (BATTLEGOD PRODUCTIONS)

Ok, so this is Black Metal, not bad, but certainly not interesting. The fact that it comes from a German band is making it rare, because there are not that many German bands playing Black Metal.

(Points: 3.5 out of 10)

BUIO OMEGA ‘PANDEMONIUM UNLEASHED’ (BATTLEGOD PRODUCTIONS)

Also Black Metal from Italy is rare and BUIO OMEGA is therefore one of the few to play it. Unfortunately it sounds terrible with absolutely zero control over the music. I haven’t heard such a weak record in ages. Basically everything sounds horrible on this record. Even a Black Metal fan should avoid this record.

(Points: 1.0 out of 10)

SAXORIOR ‘NEVER ENDING BATTLES’ (BATTLEGOD PRODUCTIONS)

German Black Metal. Good quality production. Music typical Black Metal, so not interesting except for some instrumental musicianship of the bandmembers.

(Points: 5.5 out of 10)

DOOMED AND DISGUSTING ‘SATAN’S NIGHTMARE’ (BATTLEGOD PRODUCTIONS)

Dave Slave used to be bassist in a band called SADISTIK EXECUTION, but for this little project called DOOMED AND DISGUSTING he did everything on his own. Although I really Doom Metal of the BLACK SABBATH/CANDLEMASS kind, I am less positive about this DOOMED AND DISGUSTING, This is a very average Doom Metal record, which is only interesting for the die-hard fans out there.

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

ALEC STAR ‘FULL CIRCLE’ (SMART ALEC RECORDS)

Good to see that the 25-year old ALEC STAR recordings have now finally been released on CD. After their DVD release last year, work was done in order to release a full length CD that contained all the recordings of the band. Now it is time to present ‘Full circle’ to the audience. Without a doubt, a great collection of classic early 80s type of AOR/Melodic Rock. Songs like “Give me the time to change”, “Man behind the wheel”, “Wheel of fortune” and “So long to Hollywood” represent that timeless classic melodic rocksound which was so popular in the USA back then. Obviously a great band from the past that sadly never made it big, but therefore this CD is bringing you everything ALEC STAR did in the past. More info at: http://www.alecstar.com and e-mail them at: alecstar@yahoo.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SONIC PULSAR ‘OUT OF PLACE’ (MELLOW RECORDS)

The Portuguese Progressive Rockband SONIC PULSAR returns with a new CD. There are only a few Portuguese bands active at the moment, but happily they are all bringing forward some great quality music. TARANTULA is probably the best known band, but also SONIC PULSAR, a band formed around guitarist-vocalist Hugo Flores. Musically the band is calmer than DREAM THEATER, but heavier than IQ, so you can fit them in somewhere between, and that’s when a band like ARENA comes to mind when hearing some of SONIC PULSAR´s material. The 12 songs form together a sort of storyline, because each song is divided into several different parts. Without a doubt, this CD is a great high quality album which should be checked by every Progfan out there. More info at: http://www.sonicpulsar.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ANGEL ‘A WOMAN’S DIARY: CHAPTER 1’ (BLACK LOTUS RECORDS/ROCK INC)

Vocalist Helena Iren Michaelsen is of course known as the former lead singer of the band TRAIL OF TEARS, but she also recently released an album with the band IMPERIA. Now she has another project called ANGEL, not to be confused with the legendary US act. Prior to this full-length CD release, a mini-CD was released, of which I was not really impressed. Happily, the first full-length CD is much better and is actually a strong album that is a mix between Melodic Heavy Rock and Gothic Metal. Of course there are the obvious similarities, but ANGEL has managed to release a very good album. The best songs are “A woman’s diary”, “Little princess”, “Lead you through fire” (very good song) and “Flames of desire”. Another winner for the fans of the current female vocal rock/metal trend.

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

CHRIS CAFFERY ‘WARPED’ (BLACK LOTUS RECORDS/ROCK INC)

The BLACK LOTUS RECORDS label is an example of a label that releases loads and loads of albums, sometimes forgetting the qualities of a certain release, so every now and then they come over as a quantity label. Most of their Black Metal releases are forgettable, but also some of their regular metal releases are not really interesting. Of course there are exceptions, because CHRIS CAFFERY (ex-SAVATAGE) is one of their most interesting signings. Now there is a second CD available of the vocalist/guitarist, although it’s not really a new CD, because it is made up of a mini-CD with the addition of a bunch of unreleased bonus tracks. Musically it doesn’t matter, because from start to finish this is high quality slow melodic Doom Metal in the best SAVATAGE style. Highlights are “God damn war”, “Erase”, ”I” and “Iraq attack”, and as you can imagine lyrically this album is about the current wars. Although not all songs are impressive, because there are here and there some weaker spots, this is clearly a high quality Melodic Metal album spread on 15 songs. Better check it out asap if you’re a fan of SAVATAGE, CIRCLE OF SILENCE, CHRIS CAFFERY, etc.

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

BLUE DRIFT ‘MARINER’ (INDEPENDENT)

Here’s some great high quality instrumental Progressive Rock for ya. The band is called BLUE DRIFT and they come out of the UK. This 3-piece band has managed to release a very impressive full-length CD that combines strong guitar melodies with complex songstructures, not very far away from RUSH. The only thing you might wonder after listening to this album is how it would have sound if vocals were added. Anyway, the 50 minutes of playing time will definitely please any progrockfan out there. More info at: http://www.bluedrift.net and e-mail at: jlod@supanet.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

NEURAXIS/CROTCHDUSTER/ARSIS/ALARUM ‘TRUTH IMAGERY PASSAGE/BIG FAT BOX OF SHIT/A CELEBRATION OF GUILT/EVENTUALITY’ (EARACHE/ROUGH TRADE)

All 4 new releases of EARACHE RECORDS are filed under Death Metal, but there’s clearly a difference between all 4 bands. For instance CROTCHDUSTER has actually not much to do with real Death Metal, as it contains influences from many different music genres, but is best described as a cross between SYSTEM OF A DOWN, TENACIOUS D, DEATH, PRONG, EXTREME, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and well, basically any pop or rockband ever existed is being mixed into their superexperimental sound. You are thrown in one song from Death Metal into 70s Disco, Movietalk and even Melodic Rock It’s hilarious when listening to the songs of this band, because it so weird. It might do well in the USA, but it surely isn’t taken serious here in Europe. NEURAXIS and ARSIS are more Death/Black-Metal orientated with not really anything to offer at all. 4th band is called NEURAXIS and they are actually playing a Thrash Metal style with aggressive vocals/screams and some awesome guitarwork. Recommended to KREATOR fans and the best of these 4 new releases. On the other hand, you will not find any decent melodies on any of the 4 new EARACHE releases, which is not surprising because the label is mainly focused on Death/Hardcore/Extreme-Metal.

(Points: 3.0-5.5 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem) 

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