HOT NEW REVIEWSUPDATED ON AUGUST 8 - 2005

JOURNEY ‘GENERATIONS’ (FRONTIERS RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

The label that was named after one of the best 1980s AOR records (JOURNEY’s ‘Frontiers’) recently signed the ultimate AOR band JOURNEY to it’s roster. The EP release ‘Red 13’ was a first release of JOURNEY on FRONTIERS RECORDS, but it was kinda disappointing, because it saw the band changing it’s wonderful AOR sound of ‘Arrival’ into a groovy Hardrocksound. A couple years later the band promised a return to their AOR roots of ‘Escape’ and ‘Frontiers’, the wonderful 80s AOR Classics. The result is ’Generations‘, an album which is actually not that much different from the band’s 1996 ‘Trial by fire’ or 2001 ‘Arrival’ releases, because you can still clearly hear it is a high quality pure JOURNEY record. On the other hand it is obvious that NEAL SCHON is the leader and he decides now what direction JOURNEY is heading into. The difference with ‘Arrival’ is that the songs are less appealing after a first listen, because each song offers something else. The diversity in styles is very strong throughout the CD, instead of the ‘Arrival’ record, which was an uptempo, midtempo and ballad affair, all clean BAD ENGLISH type of AOR melodies. This time Neal decided to throw in some other influences as well, because you can also hear elements of prog, psychedelic, groovy hardrock and even some boogie stuff into the AOR sound of JOURNEY, which they still have captured. In that light of day you might call this a true JOURNEY record, because ‘Frontiers’ and ‘Trial by fire’ also offered these other influences. In fact ‘Arrival’ was their only real commercial safe record they have made, but still even after listening to ‘Generations’ more than a dozen times I still think ‘Arrival’ was a better record, because it simply offered more catchier memorable tunes than on this new record. Not saying ‘Generations’ is a bad record, because it still is a high quality typical JOURNEY record, but I would rather rate it as a great JOURNEY album in the tradition of ‘Trial by fire’ or STEVE PERRY’s ‘For the love of medicine’. All the elements needed are present, even some classic JOURNEY type of songs, but what I miss is some more classic AOR, because the album could have used another ‘Don’t stop believin’” and “Separate ways” classic, which is simply missed on the new record. That doesn’t mean you should avoid the record, because that would be a pity. JOURNEY has released a great record, which starts really well, classic AOR can be heard on “Faith in the heartland”, “The place in your heart” and “A better life”. However, the problem is that there are some weaker moments to be heard throughout the CD, which in the past didn’t happen. I am talking about the songs “Every generation”, “Butterfly”, “Believe”, the NEAL SCHON sung “Self defense”, “Better together” and the ROSS VALORY sung “Gone crazy”, songs that are really nothing special, so why include them instead of some more catchy uptempo AOR rockers in the style of “Separate ways” and “It’s never too late”. You should wonder why I mentioned this last track, well, it is the European bonustrack of ‘Generations’ and to me this sounds like JOURNEY at their best. Surprisingly drummer DEEN CASTRONOVO sings on this ‘Arrival’ type of classic 80s fun uptempo AOR rocker, which already sounds like a crowd pleasing rock anthem to sing-a-long to. Why didn’t they put more of such uptempo rockers on the album instead of the mentioned weaker songs? Also I don’t understand that Neal, Jonathan and Ross needed to sing a track, because none of them can compete with STEVE AUGERI. The only surprise is Deen’s voice, which is remarkable good and even very close to STEVE PERRY. Nevertheless, STEVE AUGERI is a great singer, so I would have rather heard him singing the full CD. This is one of the first JOURNEY CDs that truly rocks and has only 2 (out of 13 included tracks) ballads, namely “Knowing that you love me” and “Beyond the clouds”, both pure “Open arms” type of classic JOURNEY AOR Ballads. The only song I haven’t mentioned yet is another AOR highlight, namely “Out of harm’s way”, which is together with the first 3 songs and the European bonustrack “It’s never too late” JOURNEY at it’s very best. In the end I can conclude that you must not expect an album a la ‘Arrival’ or ‘Escape’. I would rather compare it to ‘Trial by fire’ and maybe ‘Frontiers’, yet without a song a la “Separate ways”. Nevertheless it still is a great record which will please all AOR and JOURNEY fans. It surely is an album that needs to be heard a few more times before it grabs, so nothing like the direct catchy material of ‘Arrival’. Now there’s only thing left for JOURNEY and that’s the fact they need to grab their bags and visit Europe. We also want to see a 3-hour show, just like they did in the USA, we can only hope this ‘Generations’ CD will sell enough units to make them indeed come over. I can only conclude saying it is worth purchasing this great new JOURNEY record…

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

TERRA NOVA ‘ESCAPE’ (FRONTIERS RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

Almost 10 years ago TERRA NOVA released a classic debut CD, which features awesome 80s type of fun AOR in a period when darker music was very popular. They wrote Dutch history, because in Japan they were superstars, selling tens of thousands of records. ‘Livin’ it up’ was that particular album, a very good record which was also reviewed in one of our earlier issues. In the years to follow it went slightly less sensational, because the following record wasn’t that good, it also sold less than the debut. Eventually they broke up, releasing records under the moniker ALQUIN, bandleader Fred Hendrix (vocals) suddenly decided last year to reform TERRA NOVA with his brother Ron. The new record ‘Escape’ is the result and musically nothing has changed, so we can once again hear classic catchy 80s AOR/Melodic Rock. It sounds very cliché and it surely isn’t as good as their legendary debut, but still ‘Escape’ (named after JOURNEY’s classic LP) offers some great material. The material is divided in uptempo rockers and ballads. From the rockers I need to mention “Hold the line”, “War on war”, “Lonely is the night”, “Back in the eightees” and “Part of the game”, while from the ballads the best ones are the lovely “Heaven knows” and “You are the one” (both very much like JOURNEY). All nice songs, not too sensational and therefore I am afraid this record will go unnoticed, despite the fact it is a reasonable AOR record.

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

BADHOVEN ‘BELIEVE’ (ATS RECORDS)

The Austrian band BADHOVEN returns with a new CD, which is their 2nd so far. Musically nothing has changed, because we still can hear catchy 80s AOR/Melodic Rock, which is not that far away from the upcoming new CD of TERRA NOVA actually, although it is slightly better here and there. The beginning is very good, namely uptempo AOR rockers like “Believe” (also included as videoclip on the CD) and “Bad bad badhoven”. The following 8 songs more or less follow a same path, sometimes more ballad orientated like “Black September rain” or bluesy melodic rock WHITESNAKE orientated such as “I’m your man”, but always with a strong 80s AOR/Melodic Rock approach. A very nice return from one of Austria’s best AOR bands of all times! More info at: http://www.badhoven.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

WINGDOM ‘REALITY’ (HIGH AND LOUD)

From out of nowhere comes the fantastic new Finnish Melodic Progressive Metalband WINGDOM. The band sounds like VANDENPLAS with some more AOR/Melodic Rock influences. Especially the superb lead vocals of singer Sami Asp (in the AOR school) make this band a new sensation. Also the melodic catchy hooks and choruses of the 10 songs are making them not only a winner in the Progressive Metalgenre, but also the regular AOR/Melodic Rockfan might enjoy WINGDOM a lot. They sound like BON JOVI meets VANDENPLAS, ending up sounding a lot like PHANTOM’S OPERA (remember them?), if that is possible! Songs like “Where do we go”, “The essence”, “Never stop” and “Tomorrow” are sensational high class progressive melodic heavy rocksongs. I am not joking here, because WINGDOM truly is a sensational new Finnish band, whom have released a great CD titled ‘Reality’. More info at: http://www.wingdom.org 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

THUNDER EXPRESS ‘WE PLAY FOR PLEASURE’ (RAZZIA RECORDS)

Guitarist/songwriter Robert Dahlquist is best known as a member of the band THE HELLACOPTERS, the popular Swedish rockband, but last year the band had a year off and therefore Robert formed another band called THUNDER EXPRESS. Musically it is slightly different from HELLACOPTERS, maybe a bit more 70s Glamrock orientated. Whatever you want to call it, the 10 included songs are high energy rocksongs. The frontcover and band logo reminds me a lot of classy late 70s/early 80s bandlogos, such as STARZ/HELLCATS if anyone can recall those album covers. Anyway, the 70s rock of THUNDER EXPRESS is similar in style to NEW YORK DOLLS, HANOI ROCKS… Best songs are “Off I go”, “Coming back”, ‘Always up to something new”, “Stupid lies” and the very catchy “In my mind”. Not only this CD is a must-have for the fans of HELLACOPTERS, but also interesting to check out if you’re a fan of typical 70s Rock. More info at: http://www.razziarecords.se

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ONE EYE SHUT ‘LAST IN LINE’ (VALLANKUMOUSTUOTANTE)

Out of Finland comes ONE EYE SHUT, a band playing good old Rock’n’Roll, tough and raw, but melodic and without a doubt, their 2-track CD ‘Last in line’ is an impressive quality record. The CD has a big sound and both songs (“Last in line” and “Crash’n’burn”) sound quite good. The band from Helsinki was formed only a few years ago, but already before their formation, it’s 3 bandmembers have experienced a lot in the Finnish music scene. A promise for the future, which you can check out at: http://www.oneeyeshut.org

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

FREE 2 FLY ‘FRAGILE’ (DEMO 2005)

Melodic Rock from Austria is what FREE 2 FLY is all about. Clearly influenced by the 80s rocksound, this band offers 6 tracks on their demo CD that musically go into a classy melodic rockstyle of BON JOVI, ZINATRA, WILD FRONTIER, WHITE LION… It’s pretty good stuff what we get to hear, although this is still a demo. Especially the harmonyvocals sound rather great, Best songs on the demo are uptempo melodic rockers like “Surfin’ on a sunbeam” and “Save me”. The band has also recorded a song in support of a promotional campaign of the Logistics Organisation of TNT. This 6-track CD offers some great songs, so it is recommended if you’re into classy catchy 80s melodic rock. More info at: http://www.free2fly.at 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

MC5 ‘KICK OUT THE JAMS’ (MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

MC5 was an important band out of Detroit Motorcity/USA in the late 60s. They played Heavy Rock’n’Roll in the THE WHO style, yet added something that made them interesting for the Flower Power generation. This was to be found in their political lyrics. The music itself was actually quite heavy and definitely a major influence on all the early 70s Glam/Glitter Rock (read: T-REX and NEW YORK DOLLS) and the later 70s Punkrock movement. In the end MC5 influenced many different music genres, but if you listen carefully they never released a really good record. They were just another loud rockband, but due to the fact that back in 1968 the real heavy rockbands only emerged from the UK, they became known as one of the first real heavy US bands. MC5 only released a couple of albums and footage of them is really rare, so this DVD is therefore interesting to watch. Sadly the footage is very weak and mixed in some sort of experimental documentary. With a playing time of just 35 minutes it’s also way too short for a DVD. This is one of those DVDs which is only interesting for absolute die-hard fans, because what we get to see is very short cheap material. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 6.5 out of 10)

SUPERGROUPIES ‘SUPERGROUPIES’ (INDEPENDENT)

The Swedish band SUPERGROUPIES is playing a back-to-basic 70s straight-ahead raw rock’n’roll style which has similarities to NEW YORK DOLLS, AEROSMITH, STARZ, STOOGES, HANOI ROCKS and even some CHEAP TRICK and THE CARS can be heard. The songs are catchy and radio-ready, with as highlights “Bouncin’”, “Low blue flame”, “’75””, “Tonight with love” and “Summertime”. They sound like if it was New York 1975, just before the big Punk explosion in the UK, so actually this is good old New York Rock’n’Roll, but SUPERGROUPIES are really a new Swedish band. This kind of rock has had a revival in the shape of HELLACOPTERS, TURBONEGRO, THE STROKES, THE WHITE STRIPES and of course DANKO JONES, but somehow SUPERGROUPIES are the closest thing you can imagine when thinking of the mid 70s New York raw Rock’n’Roll sound. The big surprise is kept until the end when the band does a cover of the 80s Glamrocksong “Come on come all” (made popular by MADAM X – the band that featured members of VIXEN and SKID ROW) that does sound like a heavier mix of GARY GLITTER and SLADE in this version. Better check out SUPERGROUPIES for yourself at: www.supergroupies.se 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

DANGER ‘KEEP OUT’ (INDEPENDENT)

Back in Sweden once again for a band called DANGER. Their CD ‘Keep out’ contains a mix of diverse classic 80s Metal styles (NWOBHM a la early MAIDEN and Teutonic Metal a la STORMWITCH) spread on 9 well produced songs. The singer could be better, because he now sings in the JAMES HETFIELD style. Most impressive about this band is the fantastic guitarwork. Without a doubt, this DANGER has released a high quality release which has it’s highlights in the shape of “The butchershop diaries” (a la SCORPIONS), "Another day in life” (strong chorus) and the epic semi-ballad “The fallen one”. Recommended to fans of WOLF and DOMINE. More info at: http://www.danger.se and e-mail at: info@danger.se 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

PRAYER ‘WRONG ADDRESS’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

Classic 80s AOR/Melodic Rock is what we get to hear on the debut album of the Finnish band PRAYER. Comparisons to TOBRUK, BON JOVI circa 1983-1985, AVIATOR, REFUGEE and TREAT are very clear when hearing the material on this CD. The band clearly has chosen for a pure 80s sound, with catchy hooks, memorable choruses and dut-dut keys, all packed in mostly strong uptempo melodic rockers. Vocally it is not that strong, although the material is good enough and the many harmonyvocals make that up, although some similarities to JON BON JOVI or MYLES HUNTER (from REFUGEE) and even BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN are possible here for lead singer Tapani Tikkanen, but some might also compare him to the singer of the Swedish band RETURN. Tapani is also guitarplayer and main songwriter for PRAYER. He started making music some 25 years ago, reaching some success in Finland during the 80s with a band called IC-ROCK and later with TANNA, but for me these are unknown bands, despite the fact I have a very large collection of 80s Scandi AOR/Melodic Rock. Anyway, this PRAYER sounds pretty good, combining the melodies of mid 80s BON JOVI, the Melodic Rock of REFUGEE and the twin-guitarsound of the 2nd FM classic ‘Tough it out’. I would not call this a classic record, but it definitely has a very strong 80s AOR sound, which I myself am very fond of. Highlights are catchy uptempo melodic rockers like “I’ve been loving you”, “Running wild in the night” (VERY CATCHY) and “Anyone with a broken heart”. It’s a pity there are some weak songs included as well, such as the ballad “I want you” which sounds like CHARLIE SEXTON at his worst. So, not a sensational release, but still recommended to anyone with a heart filled with 80s Classic AOR!

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

SAVAGE CIRCUS ‘ADVANCED SINGLE’ (DOCKYARD)

I am not really sure what this band is all about, but apparently they are a new band with a former BLIND GUARDIAN member. They will soon release their debut CD on the German label DOCKYARD RECORDS. This 2-CD single is just a sneak preview of things to come soon. It is without doubt something to look forward to, because the songs included (“Evil eyes” and “Ghost story”) are very sensational high quality Melodic Power Metal tracks like a mix between BLIND GUARDIAN, DEMONS AND WIZARDS, PRETTY MAIDS and MASTERPLAN. The sound is HUGE and I am quite sure this will become one of the better releases in the Power Metal genre in 2005, so better keep the name SAVAGE CIRCUS in your memory!

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

NICODEMUS ‘VANITY IS A VIRTUE’ (SONIC AGE RECORDS/TWILIGHT RECORDS/ROCK INC)

Out of the USA comes the band NICODEMUS, a band which is playing good clean quality Progressive Rock/Metal, yet with an independent sound recording, so do no expect anything as huge as RUSH or FATES WARNING, although it is clear that those bands had a major influence on NICODEMUS. Especially opener “Benighted” is a very strong song, with good vocalwork and some great instrumental backup. However in a world where hundreds of new progressive rock/metal releases are being released every month, a new CD has o offer something extra and I am afraid I miss that on this CD. Only interesting for die-hard fans!

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

UNDER EDEN ‘THE SAVAGE CIRCLE’ (BLACK LOTUS RECORDS/ROCK INC)

The USA brings us UNDER EDEN, a band with a release on the Greek label BLACK LOTUS RECORDS. Enough said I guess, because what we get to hear on their CD is boring Death Metal with zero melodies.

(Points: - )

NAER MATARON ‘DISCIPLINE MANIFESTO’ (BLACK LOTUS RECORDS/ROCK INC)

It’s every month the same ol’situation, because BLACK LOTUS RECORDS keeps on releasing Black and Death Metal releases which is only interesting for a select public. This is also the case with the Greek Black Metal band NAER MATARON.

(Points: - )

OCTAVIA ‘SPERATI’ (CANDLELIGHT RECORDS)

This is more like it, a very sensational release from an all-female band out of Norway. At first sight they play the typical female fronted Gothic Melodic Metal a la NIGHTWISH, AFTER FOREVER, EVANESCENCE, DELIGHT, XANDRIA… but a more closer listen reveals a much heavier almost Doom Metal orientated sound a la CANDLEMASS. This is definitely a very impressive high quality release and the fact that we finally have a really heavy all-female band is making it even more interesting. Songs like “Lifelines of depths”, “Icebound” and “Hunting eye” are very sensational songs. This band could easily become huge, because it all sounds very impressive. Without a doubt, something worth checking out if you want to hear 5 girls making a mix of heavy Doom Metal and Gothic Metal, like a mix between CANDLEMASS and AFTER FOREVER!

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

SEVENTH WONDER ‘BECOME’ (LION MUSIC/BERTUS)

Here I present you the latest sensational release from Sweden. The band is called SEVENTH WONDER and their debut CD ‘Become’ has been released on LION MUSIC. We reviewed their demos a few years ago, but now it all becomes official on a full-length CD release. The Melodic Metal of SEVENTH WONDER sounds very impressive, but the award goes to lead singer ANDI KRAVLJACA, a truly superb vocalist who has a voice that can easily compete with all those other sensational singers from Sweden (GORAN EDMAN, PETE SANDBERG, THOMAS VIKSTROM). The music is a sensational mix of Neo-Classical Metal, Progressive Rock/Metal and typical European (or should I say Swedish) Melodic Metal, ending up sounding like a mix between ROYAL HUNT, NOCTURNAL RITES, SYMPHONY X and MASTERPLAN. Maybe nothing truly new is brought here, but SEVENTH WONDER does it very well. Songs like “Day by day” (a la MASTERPLAN), “The damned” (pure ROYAL HUNT, SUPERB SONG!), “Temple in the storm” (SYMPHONY X meets SILENT EDGE), “Binding my eyes” (hello SYMPHONY X!!!) and “In the blink of an eye” (the sensational songs just keep on coming!) are just a few examples of this fantastic album. Somehow it all reminds me so much of SILENT EDGE, the sensational Dutch Neo-Classical Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal band, if anyone can recalls them, so if you liked them, you will absolutely love this SEVENTH WONDER, but also SYMPHONY X fans must check out this release asap! In fact, I think this CD is a must-have for any true Melodic Metalfan!

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

CASUS BELLI ‘IN THE NAME OF ROSE’ (LIMB MUSIC)

Formed 8 years ago, this Greek band makes their debut with the album ’In the name of rose’. Without a doubt, this is a quality release, but still something ain’t right with them, because it all starts with some pure MANOWAR TRUE METAL before going suddenly into an almost AOR/Melodic Rock kinda direction on songs like “Holy gates” (lovely tune by the way), “Edge of a knife” and “Naked king”. Very weird, but it is definitely the truth. You will not hear me complain, but it´s a bit strange to turn your musical direction that much on a single record. However, in the end the Metal wins and therefore I think this record will be worth checking out for fans of PRIEST/MANOWAR, but there are at least that may even be called Melodic Rock. Speaking of a PRETTY MAIDS situation here…

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

MALA MEDICINA ‘MALA MEDICINA’ (ICARUS MUSIC)

Out of Argentina comes the band MALA MEDICINA, who are singing in the Spanish language, but I don’t think that’s a problem, because the music remains to be strong AOR/Melodic Rock like BON JOVI, GOTTHARD, DHAMM… The best songs out of the 10 included are the catchy uptempo melodic rockers “3 tiros 2 muertos y 1 destino”, “Agua y aceite” and “Con el Corazon” (best song). Also very nice is the semi-ballad “Puedo ser amor”. This band offers some great melodies in their rockmusic, while they also have a very good lead singer. Their release was done on one of the biggest Metal labels in Argentina, so better check out their site for more info at: http://www.icarusmusic.com.ar or visit the website of the band at: http://www.malamedicina.com.ar 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

JUNIOR VARSITY ‘WIDE EYED’ (VICTORY RECORDS)

Here we have another release in the ongoing series of emo-core albums from the USA. This time the band is called JUNIOR VARSITY and they play this so-called emo-core or Nu-breed, sounding a lot like SR-71. However, if you listen to their music, it is actually a sort of early 80s melodic rockstyle with some New Wave synths added, a punky attitude and catchy early 80s poprock rhythms. The catchy hooks and melodic choruses are there and on some songs (like “Everyone’s got something they’re running out of” and “ I said I try”) even remind me of THE POLICE and THE OUTFIELD, so the bridge between melodic poprock and punky Nu-breed emocore is in the hands of JUNIOR VARSITY, but then again hundreds of bands sound like this. Can’t we just call it rock’n’roll? Well, basically, this is something worth checking out if you’re a melodic rockfan with a modern taste as well, because then this JUNIOR VARSITY might wet your appetite for sure!

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN ‘LIVE!! DVD’ (DREAM CATCHER/MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

A video or DVD from the guitar master himself, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, is always a pleasure to watch. It’s always a surprise who is in the band, because this particular DVD from a few years ago features as singer MATS LEVEN, who is currently fronting AT VANCE, but sang in bands like TREAT, SWEDISH EROTICA and even CANDLEMASS. Anyway, this DVD contains recordings from 1998, in Brazil to be exact. Of course most of the time it’s YNGWIE in full up front, especially towards the end when classics like Black star” and “I’ll see the light tonight” are being played. Therefore it’s a pity MATS LEVEN could not convince, because everything is focused around YNGWIE. Absolutely no surprises here, just a nice performance in which YNGWIE like always gives everything he got, so playing his best and he is very good in doing that. No comments on the performances, so a good DVD to check out, although the short playing time is a slight negative point. Nevertheless a must-have DVD for the Guitar and MALMSTEEN freaks out there. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

JAMES BYRD’S ATLANTIS RISING ‘CRIMES OF VIRTUOSITY’ (LION MUSIC/BERTUS)

Guitarist JAMES BYRD has released a lot of solo CDs since he left FIFTH ANGEL, the legendary Classic 80s US Melodic Metalband. One of the albums was ‘Crimes of virtuosity’, which was released in 1997 in Japan, but has now recently been re-released with the addition of 2 bonustracks. Musically it is a nice guitar orientated Melodic Metal affair which will please all fans of MALMSTEEN, AXEL RUDI PELL, IMPELLITERRI, ROB ROCK… The material is diverse, semi rockers, ballads and uptempo rockers are being presented. I am not sure who sings, but it does sound quite good actually. Some highlights include “3” (catchy uptempo melodic heavy rocker) and the epic semi-ballad “4”. What can we say about James’ guitarplaying then, because it is of course phenomenal. Although this album is not a classic, it is good to see that it gets a clean freshup in the form of this re-release.

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

HELLFUELED ‘MIDNIGHT LADY’ (BLACK LODGE RECORDS/SUBURBAN)

Back in Sweden again with something very sensational, namely the band HELLFUELED, a band that is playing pure OZZY fronted BLACK SABBATH type of Melodic Heavy Metal. In fact, this 3-track mini-CD with videoclip sounds much better than anything BLACK SABBATH and OZZY have done in ages! I am not sure when this band will deliver a full-length CD, but I can bet it’s gonna be a great record. The CD was produced and mixed by FREDRIK NORDSTROM (of DREAM EVIL fame) and I am safe to say we have a winner on our hands here. Especially the titletrack is a very impressive tune, sounding like a song BLACK SABBATH never made with OZZY. Definitely a promise for the future!

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

MIND’S EYE ‘A WORK OF ART’ (LION MUSIC/BERTUS)

Released not that long ago (late 90s), but for LION MUSIC good enough to re-release it. Happily, this MIND’S EYE record was a fantastic Melodic Progressive Metal album that will please all fans of VANDENPLAS and TRHESHOLD. This new re-release contains 2 bonustracks, which were not released before. These are the songs “I will remember” and “End of the line”, both very melodic almost AORish songs. Without a doubt, the whole album is a very strong impressive Melodic Progressive Metal record which is a must-have if you’re into this kind of music, but the fact it is very melodic at times, it might even be interesting to check out for the AOR fan. Be sure to not miss this awesome release again, in case you missed the original release a few years ago.

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

BAI BANG ‘BEST OF’ (SWEDMETAL RECORDS)

The Swedish band BAI BANG has performed everywhere in front of thousands of people, being aired on TV for millions of viewers, but somehow they are not as popular as we all want to believe, The reason might be the fact their Melodic Hardrock is just nice, but nothing that special. Expect catchy songs a la WIGWAM, SHA-BOOM, THE SWEET and 80s ALICE COOPER, so not too complicated, but just simple sing-a-long 80s catchy guitar riff orientated uptempo rockers. They have release a lot of albums since the late 80s, and now in 2005 a best of CDhas been released. 20 songs are included on a single CD, and highlights are uptempo rockers like “Rock’n’roll city” (wasn’t this a SWEDISH EROTICA feat. MATS LEVEN original), “Run to the end” (very catchy, but very much like early TALISMAN, HUMAN CLAY, DAVINCI, DALTON, so classy Scandi AOR), “Get off”, “X-Ray specs” (previously recorded by SHA-BOOM and THE SWEET), “Welcome to the real world” and “Don’t stop”. Without a doubt, something worth checking out at: http://www.baibang.cjb.net  Especially if you aren’t familiar with the band.

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

WALTHAM ‘WALTHAM’ (RYKO DISC)

Not that long ago we reviewed a CD and a DVD of the US band WALTHAM, Well, apparently they got signed to RYKO DISC, on which they now have released their official debut CD, which also includes a 45 minutes counting DVD as bonus. Musically we are listening to an updated approach of classic early 80s US Radio based catchy Melodic Poprock. This record sounds like he perfect mix between RICK SPRINGFIELD and BLINK 182, which actually is pure Melodic Rock. Definitely an album to check out if you’re a melodic rockfan. Most of the 12 included songs are catchy uptempo poprockers that could easily become huge in the USA, where they love this kind of music a lot. Highlights include “Cheryl”, “So lonely”, “Joanne”, “Don’t say it’s too late” and “Nicole”, all very catchy uptempo poprockers. I need to add that this release is closer to melodic rock than anything else in the so-called Nu-Breed genre. It would not surprise me if this is gonna get big in the US someday soon, but in the meantime it’s time for us Europeans to discover this great new sort of melodic rockstyle from the US, which is WALTHAM bringing on their official label debut CD. More info at: http://www.walthamtheband.com and http://www.rykodisc.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

PLANET 13 ‘ONE WAY TICKET’ (PLANET 13 RECORDS)

The US band PLANET 13 returns with a new CD in 2005, which musically is very different from their progressive rock debut, because ‘One way ticket’ is a pure 80s AOR/Melodic Rock affair a la JOURNEY, first DANGER DANGER, PROPHET… The CD is not that lengthy (30 minutes if you don’t count the JOURNEY cover “Separate ways”), but the 8 included tracks are all very catchy pure 80s AOR/Melodic Rocksongs with as highlights “Hearts of steel”, “Hold you through the night” and “Till the end of time” (best song, Pomptastic AOR a la SURVIVOR/ARTICA, especially the guitarsolo gave me some chills). The band reminds me a lot of that mid 90s US band FORTUNE (so not the 80s US band or the Swedish bands with the same name, I am talking about the band with the song “See I’m not the same”) and also SAVANNAH, TOUR DE FORCE (the US band from the late 80s/early 90s), LORD TRACY and even a tiny bit SHY and TNT. It all sounds quite good, very impressive, but still not as good as the mentioned bands, because the songwriting lacks a bit, the vocalwork sometimes disappoints and the choruses should be stronger, but nevertheless definitely something worth checking out if you’re a fan of 80s type of AOR/Melodic Rock. Available through: http://www.targetrecords.de 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

MATREX ‘I’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER’ (RENEGADE SOUNDS)

On the same label that brought us the wonderful AOR pearls by the Canadian band RENEGADE, we can also welcome the release of another Canadian band. The band is called MATREX, and the recordings actually took place in the 80, which doesn’t mean it sounds dated, because the 80s type of melodic rock/aor sounds still very fresh. The beginning of the CD is very sensational. The band’s sound was similar in style to BON JOVI, AVIATOR, AIRKRAFT, TOBRUK, SHY, AGENT, HONEYMOON SUITE, LOVERBOY…, so catchy hooks and memorable choruses all over the place, put into a uptempo rockformat with melodic vocals and big harmonyvocals. Like I said, the start of the CD brings us some wonderful AOR/Melodic Rock in the shape of classic 80s uptempo rockers like “I don’t want anybody” and “You won’t see the tears” and the semi-ballad “Broken hearted man”. Following tracks are a bit less sensational, probably due to the fact that songs like “Long distance kiss” and “Move the fast” are just nice groovy Hardrocksongs. Towards the end songs like “Looking for No.1”, “She’s a stranger” and “Nothing is real” deliver some more classic 80s AOR/Melodic Rock. Definitely a must-have if you’re a fan of that classic 80s AOR/Melodic Rocksound of bands like TOUR DE FORCE, TOBRUK, AIRKRAFT, AVIATOR, DANGER DANGER… More info at: http://www.MATREX.ca and http://www.renegadesounds.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

PENDRAGON ‘LIVE… AT LAST AND MORE DVD’
(METAL MIND PRODUCTIONS/MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

These are the kind of DVDs that make it all worth investing you money. PENDRAGON’s DVD ‘Live… at last and more’ contains 130 minutes of footage. As the title predicts we get to see a live concert and some footage like interviews (with singer/guitarist NICK BARRETT) and a rare video clip of the song “Red shoes” (as mentioned on the sleeve notes, but it is actually a song called “Saved by you” (a very commercial melodic poprocker that reminds me of a cross between GLASS TIGER and IT BITES, with a little SAGA). However, the main part of the CD is the concert, which was filmed almost 10 years ago in Poland. In total 12 long songs were played that night and without a doubt, PENDRAGON is one of the best Progressive Rockbands (on stage and in the studio), so this particular concert is just one of the many excellent performances this band has been given all over Europe the past decades. The filming is very professional and I can definitely give this DVD a must-have recommendation, although the sound is not that impressive due to the fact that this was originally released as a video in 1997, but has now been restored on this new DVD. Still it is a high quality DVD released on the Polish label METAL MIND PRODUCTIONS, whom are well-known for their excellent DVD releases. Any prog/PENDRAGON fan should own this release. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

THE MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP ‘LIVE IN TOKYO 1997 DVD’
(METAL MIND PRODUCTIONS/MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

There have been a lot of DVDs release of Mr. MICHAEL SCHENKER, but sadly all of them concern the last 10 years, in which he didn’t release a single decent album. Also the change of lead singer irritates, because the new singers are always weaker than ROBIN MCAULEY, with whom Michael recorded some great record during the later 1980s. I would have loved to see DVD releases from that period, or maybe from the early 80s MSG performances, because back then not only Michael’s singers and backing band were stunning, but also Michael himself played guitar like nobody else could. Anyway, back to 2005, because that it the year in which we can welcome this new MSG DVD, which contains 40 (!) live songs, recorded in Tokyo – 1997 and in Japan during a tour in 2000. Of course that is very impressive and it definitely makes it a worthy DVD to get, BUT it’s just a good performance from Michael, nothing too sensational, because we all know that he has been struggling with alcohol problems the past couple of years (resulting in not even playing on own CDs and average performances during concerts). Nevertheless, his Japanese performances broadcasted here are nice to watch, with a song collection that covers his entire career (SCORPIONS, UFO, MSG). Almost 4 hours of playing time is making this DVD therefore a must-have for any fan of MICHAEL SCHENKER, but just like other guitar heroes (read: MALMSTEEN) new material isn’t interesting and therefore the string of DVD releases containing concerts where mostly old material is played are being released constantly. Big difference with MALMSTEEN is that Schenker isn’t playing guitar as well as in the past, while MALMSTEEN is still a master on the guitar. But this DVD is still of course a must for the fans, because you don’t see that many DVDs nowadays with a playing time of 230 minutes on a single disc. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

JADIS ’VIEW FROM ABOVE DVD’ (METAL MIND PRODUCTIONS/MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

One of the better Progressive Rockbands to emerge from the UK is JADIS, a band around vocalist/guitarist GARY CHANDLER, drummer Steve Christey (JOHN WETTON), bassist John Jowitt (IQ) and keyboardplayer Martin Orford (IQ). Together they have recorded a few albums under the moniker JADIS during the 90s, performed a lot as well, especially in Holland and Poland. The DVD ‘View from above’ was recorded in Poland in 2003. It contains a nice selection of JADIS’ material, spanning almost every record, from their early 90s releases until the recent ‘Fanatic’. 10 long songs were played that night and now we can all enjoy them, just watching and listening the excellent performances of these progressive rock classics. JADIS truly has created an own sound, which is very melodic and still progressive at the same time. It’s very relaxed music, very calm and peaceful. Influences from the band do not only come from the regular prog acts like YES, IQ, PINK FLOYD and GENESIS, but also from poppier acts like ALAN PARSONS PROJECT and CROWDED HOUSE. Together melted into an own style, which sets JADIS apart from the rest of the progscene. This DVD truly captures the JADIS sound and performance. Running time is a bit short, because the extra’s are not really interesting (except for the 1994 bonus video of the song “Holding your breath”). Nevertheless a must-have DVD for any decent progfan out there! Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

HELIX ‘NO REST FOR THE WICKED’ (ROCK CANDY RECORDS)

Hot on the heels of WASP and QUIET RIOT came the Canadian band HELIX with their famous hitsingle “Heavy Metal love”, which put them on the Metal map of North America. One should not forget this band had started many years before “Heavy Metal love”, because already in the 1970s they had a couple of LP releases, which sadly are still untouched nowadays (when will they be re-issued, because these are all really great melodic rockalbums!). Anyway, in 1983 the band released one of their most popular albums, ‘No rest for the wicked’, which musically sounded like the LA Heavy Party Metal of WASP and QUIET RIOT with a Rock’n’Roll overdose taken from the likes of AC/DC, KROKUS and APRIL WINE. They rocked hard and had some great Hardrock cuts on this album, although the best songs came from outside writers, because it is clear that “Does a fool ever learn” (written by poprocker EDDIE SCHWARTZ) and “Don’t get mad get even” (written by female poprocker LISA DALBELLO) were the finest tracks on offer here, apart from the band’s classic “Heavy Metal love” (a song very similar to QUIET RIOT’s “Metal healh”) and also the catchy “Ain’t no high like rock’n’roll” (the best own composition on ‘No rest…’). Also worth mentioning was the ballad “Never want to lose you”. 22 years later it is clear that ‘No rest for the wicked’ was the best effort of HELIX, because after it’s release in 1983, all following albums were average records that lacked the great music of the album ‘No rest for the wicked’. The re-issue of the 1983 HELIX album onto CD by ROCK CANDY RECORDS is definitely a great job, because this release comes along with extensive liner notes, artwork and pictures like we had not seen before on CD. Another must-have CD for anyone who thinks there weren’t any more Classic Hardrock releases from the early/mid 80s besides QUIET RIOT, WASP, KEEL, ICON, RATT, KROKUS…

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

RIOT ‘NARITA’ (ROCK CANDY RECORDS)

RIOT’s 2nd album ‘Narita’ from 1979 was immediately a classic on the day of it’s release, especially in the small European Hardrock/Metal press the album was regarded as one of the first ‘Metal’ releases. Just listen to a song like “Narita” and you hear pure Metal, even heavier than that of the likes of BLACK SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST. Actually RIOT sounded like the upcoming New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, but the weird thing was that RIOT came out of New York and had already started a few years earlier, ‘Rock city’ being their debut LP in 1978. The Melodic Metal on ‘Narita’ was for that time groundbreaking, because Metal in the USA didn’t exist, so RIOT were definitely the first Metal band. OK, there were some Californian based acts like YESTERDAY AND TODAY and MONTROSE active, but somehow this RIOT was heavier, but still melodic. Songs like “Waiting for the taking”, “Kick down the wall”, “Here we go again” and “Hot for love” might sound a bit dated now, but in 1979 these were the first attempts of US Melodic Metal, which would burst in the following years. Let one hear this album in between albums by RAVEN, JAGUAR, MAIDEN, WITCHFYNDE, SAXON, early DEF LEPPARD and I’ll bet nobody would notice that it’s a US record. Definitely a classic, which has been carefully re-issued now onto CD by ROCK CANDY RECORDS, who added extensive liner notes, artwork and pictures of this legendary band. Hopefully we’ll also see a re-issue of ‘Rock city’ and several other early 80s RIOT records soon, but in the meantime their best album ‘Narita’ is available now.

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

MEDINA AZAHARA ‘EN GIRA DVD’ (AVISPA MUSIC)

Not too many people outside Spain will be familiar with the band MEDINA AZAHARA, but this legendary band has been releasing successful records for over 20 years now and they are extremely popular in Spain (I believe Galicia is the province where they are popular, but I am not sure). Most of their records are strong impressive AOR/Melodic Rockalbums with a sort of 80s MAGNUM approach. Vocally it is different, because sung in Spanish with a very strong southern Spain accent this band has created an own sound, which you either like or hate. I like their music a lot and enjoy the albums they have released. Now there’s a DVD available which contains a full concert of the band, recorded in Madrid in front of 2000 people, celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the band. Almost 2 hours of high class Spanish Melodic Rock can be heard and seen on this DVD, which was done very professional and is a good start for people to check out MEDINA AZAHARA, a band which is extremely popular in Spain, but is not known in the rest of the world, which is a pity, because they are a very good Melodic Rockband (with catchy hooks, keyboardwork, harmonyvocals, etc.). More info at: http://www.avispamusic.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

NEKTAR ‘THE LIGHT SHOW TAPES VOLUME 1’ (ECLECTIC DISCS)

The band NEKTAR was huge in Germany back in the mid 70s, but also in the USA they had some success. During the 70s they performed many times and most of the time those concerts were taped. Now ECLECTIC DISCS is starting a new series of NEKTAR releases which will feature legendary 70s NEKTAR concerts. This CD\ is therefore actually an official bootleg release The first one in the series is from 1974, taken from several German concerts they gave that year. The sound quality is surprisingly good, although you simply can not compare it to the high standards of their studio albums. 12 sings can be found on this CD, which is definitely something worth checking out if you’re a dedicated 70s progfan. More info at: http://www.eclecticdiscs.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

DIMITRIS PANTAZIS ‘WAYFAIRER’ (SECRET PORT RECORDS)

Here we have another new talented guitarist from Greece. He has already been compared to GUS G. ‘Wayfairer’ is his debut CD release, on which this Greek multi-instrumentalist has done everything on his own. He definitely did a good job, although the drum programming should have been replaced by real drums. Nevertheless, his guitar laying is indeed very impressive. The production is a bit thin, but I guess the guitarfreaks and people who like instrumental Neo-Classical Melodic Metal might want to check out the first CD of up and coming Greek guitarist DIMITRIS PANTAZIS. More info at: http://www.secretport.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

OMNIOUS SKY ‘ADVANCED PROMO CDR’ (PROMO CDR)

The Doom Metalband OMNIOUS SKY will release a full-length CD very soon, but in the meantime this is a sneak preview CDR, which consists of 3 songs. Musically this is prime-time Melodic Doom Metal a la CANDLEMASS, TROUBLE, SABBATH… The only thing is that I didn’t think lead singer Chris Papakadis was a really strong convincing vocalist, but on the other hand all 3 songs sound nice, and it is clear that this Greek band could deliver a good record in the near future, but for now check out the band’s website at: http://www.omnious-sky.tk 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

SOLEMNITY ‘SHOCKWAVE OF STEEL’ (SOLEMNITY MUSIC)

The German True Metal band SOLEMNITY left their label REMEDY RECORDS after 2 releases. Now they have started their own label, SOLEMNITY RECORDS, on which they will not only release their own releases, but also other newer acts in the Progressive/Power metal genre. Without a doubt, the 13 included songs are very good strong Melodic Metal songs in a sort of 80s spirit, kinda like DOMINE or JAG PANZER with some LIZZY BORDEN and very early FATES WARNING influences as well. SOLEMNITY have done a good job in releasing an even better record than their previous releases. The production is very well and most of the songs will appeal to fans of mentioned bands. Definitely a release to check out if you’re into the mentioned bands. Check it out at: http://www.solemnity.de and email them at: info@solemnity.de 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

SECRET SMILE ‘HURRY UP AND WAIT’ (METAL MAYHEM RECORDS)

SECRET SMILE have succeeded in releasing their best record so far. The new CD ‘Hurry up and wait’ is a very strong impressive catchy 80s Melodic Rockalbum with some true anthems in the style of DANGER DANGER and 80s BON JOVI. Most of the 12 included songs are uptempo sing-a-long catchy rockers with instant memorable melodic choruses. On backing vocals we can welcome guests like JEFF CANNATA and TED POLEY. Production is very good and so are the songs, so everything looks bright on this new CD of American melorockers SECRET SMILE. It was actually pretty hard to choose favourite songs, because right from the start the band performs catchy uptempo melodic rock at a very high level. Songs like “Tears in the sky”, “Runaway”, “When we were young”, “Feels like forever to me” and “Here with you tonight” are all very strong uptempo Melodic Rockers. I think this CD is one of this year’s highlights in the Melodic Hardrockscene. Better check out the band at: http://www.secretsmile.net

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

REBELLION ‘SAGAS OF ICELAND VOLUME ONE’ (MASSACRE RECORDS)

This is the third release of the former GRAVE DIGGER members Uwe Lulis and Tomi Göttlich. With this release they are going back to the concept albums like the first one was. This new album is the first part of which will be a trilogy about the Viking sagas. This first part is about the history of the Vikings. Musically REBELLION is developing an own style which is a mixture of GRAVE DIGGER (riffing) and ICED EARTH (singing and composing).Especially the singing is more diverse than GRAVE DIGGER. The vocals of Michael Seifert are very similar to Matt Barlow (ex ICED EARTH). The album is filled with good Metal songs, none of the them becoming cheesy or boring. But the real killer songs can be found at the end of the album like “Blood rains” and “Ruling the waves”. Recommended to fans of ICED EARTH and BRAINSTORM.

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

WIZARD ‘MAGIC CIRCLE’ (LIMB MUSIC)

Wizard is one of the many TRUE METAL combos from Germany. But they belong to the better ones in this genre. You can say that they are in the Bundesliga concerning Power Metal. MANOWAR is a big influence for WIZARD, you can clearly hear that for example in the song “Call of the wild”. Just listen to the lyrics and you know what I mean. This song could easily stand on one of the last albums from MANOWAR. The whole album is full of TRUE METAL anthems, except two. “No way out” begins with a slow BLACK SABBATH riff, but after a minute it burst out into a fast metal track. And the final track is an epic ballad in the vein of “Masters of the wind” (from MANOWAR of course). Not an original record, but what is original? To scream like a pig or play the same simple guitar chords over and over again. Definitely not, we like our Metal Heavy, Melodic and with strong vocals. Wizard got them all.

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

DIVING FOR PEARLS ‘TEXAS’ (ATENZIA RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

Much talked about, but now finally released, the new DIVING FOR PEARLS. After an absence of over 15 years this melodic rockband makes a return with a CD that at first sight musically is completely different, because back on their debut we had the legendary opener “Gimme your good lovin’” which now 16 years later is still an AOR Classic Rock Anthem. This new record starts with a very average modern rocker titled “Thinking about things that will never be”, which has absolutely nothing to do with the classic DIVING FOR PEARLS. Happily, the rest of the CD reveals some classic DIVING FOR PEARLS melodies such as in the wonderful semi-ballad “The truth is”, which is definitely the best song, reminding me of NIGHT RANGER. Although much of the material on this CD is sounding modern and almost Nu-Breed, it definitely is a pure Melodic Rock album, with as other highlights besides the already mentioned “The truth is”, rockers like “I thought about you”, “If I only knew”, “The colours show”, “Heaven only knows” and “I will get over you”. Not as good as their legendary rare debut, but still good enough to check out if you like strong Melodic Rock.

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem) 

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