HOT NEW REVIEWSUPDATED ON FEBRUARY 6 - 2006

MIND’S EYE ‘WALKING ON H20’ (LION MUSIC/BERTUS)

This could well be the best Progressive Metal of 2006 in 11 months from now! The new record of MIND’S EYE is a superb piece of high class Melodic Progressive Metal that may be put next to STRIDE, VANDENPLAS, VANISHING POINT, PAGAN’S MIND and ARENA. The band around drummer and keyboard player Daniel Flores (who has also played on a dozen of other releases recently), vocalist Andreas Novak (fantastic singer who also had a side project called NOVAK if I’m correct) and bassist/guitarist Johan Niemann deliver their best work with ‘Walking on H20’. Last year we saw 2 re-releases of their earlier records, but this ‘Walking on H20’ is their official new CD, which is their 4th CD so far. The band is playing the typical Melodic Progressive Metal style which is comparable to so many bands in this genre (THRESHOLD, SHADOW GALLERY, VANDENPLAS etc. etc.), so not really original, but who cares if the material is of such a high level as on this record! Songs like “A rabbit in the hat”, “Equally immortal”, “Sahara in an hourglass” (even a big KANSAS style), “Sacred rules”, “The Nazca lines” and “Heal my Karma” are all superb near-classics in the progressive metal genre. A very impressive record, which is the best LION MUSIC release in a long time. Most definitely a must-have if you appreciate high quality Melodic Progressive Metal!

(Points: 8.9 out of 10)

XENN ‘THE ELEVENTH HOUR’ (XENN PRODUCTIONS)

American band with an independent release. Musically XENN is playing good modern American Melodic Rock with some Metal riffs. Pity is that the lead vocals of guitarist Nigel Khan are not really strong. 13 songs are included and due to the weaker lead vocals it is hard to make up a good judgment, because the songs are definitely quite good and very melodic. A song like “Trials of life” is very impressive, but like I said the lead vocals need to improve. More info at: http://www.thebandxen.com  and e-mail at: TheBandXen@yahoo.com 

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

KING LEORIC ‘THUNDERFORCE’ (INDEPENDENT)

It’s been 3 years since the debut CD of the German band KING LEORIC, but now the new album ‘Thunderforce’ is released. The album contains classic 80s Teutonic German Melodic Metal like a mix between ACCEPT, STORMWITCH, AXXIS and STEELER. It’s definitely a high quality album, which clearly represent the style I just described, so fans of mentioned bands will absolute love this. The band is of course also influenced by MANOWAR (“Thunderforce”), but I guess any die-hard 80s Metalfan will love this record. 11 songs are included and none of them is a filler, so if you call yourself a True Metal believer then better go to: http://www.King-Leoric.de  and e-mail at: Akim@King-Leoric.de 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ENDERS GAME ‘DEMO CDR’ (DEMO CDR)

Typical American Metal with aggressive thrash like vocals, but classic melodic 80s metal riffs and guitars, kinda like a mix between METAL CHURCH, ARMORED SAINT, DISTURBED, PANTERA and DEATH ANGEL. 3 songs are on the demo of this Atlanta, Georgia based band and actually having sit with the songs of the band I think a mix between ANNIHILATOR and NEVERMORE is a better way to describe the music of ENDERS GAME, so if interested then better go to: http://www.endersgametheband.com  and e-mail them at: info@endersgametheband.com

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

WINTERVILLE ‘EVERYTHING IN MODERATION’ (DEMO CDR)

Not much info on this band, but WINTERVILLE hail from the UK and they sent me a demo cdr with 11 full-length tracks. The music sounds modern, but with a retro vibe, well something like THUNDER comes up in my mind, so classify this band as a modern day sounding bluesy melodic hardrockband with strong soulful lead vocals and catchy melodic choruses. Especially during the uptempo melodic rockers “My angels” (a la 90s FM) and “Idle hands” (THUNDER meets BLACK CROWES) the band sounds quite good. Finally a great new UK band with a Classic Rocksound, much better than the overhyped THE DARKNESS. More info on WINTERVILLE at: http://www.winterville.co.uk 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

TRUE HEARTS ‘THE LAST CHANCE’ (DEMO CDR)

If there ever was a typical Italian Melodic Rocksound then this TRUE HEARTS would perfectly fit the description, because their melodic rock is in the exact same style as legendary Italian melodic rockbands like GLAS, HEAVENS TOUCH, CRYING STEEL, PAVIC, RACHEL… Especially the catchy “Deep in the night” (with nice keyboardsoilo) is a really good uptempo melodic rocker in classic 80s style. 4 songs are on their demo and definitely something worth checking out if you’re a fan of bands like DOKKEN, HEAVENS EDGE, DANGER DANGER… More info at: http://truehearts.altervista.org  and e-mail at: truehearts_theband@email.it 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

SINAMORE ‘A NEW DAY’ (NAPALM RECORDS/ROUGH TRADE)

Another new band in typical Finnish style, so dark melodic gothic rock a la HIM/THE RASMUS. The band has released their debut CD on NAPALM RECORDS and it definitely sounds very good, although nothing new is brought here. The band has a very good male singer, who definitely comes close to the HIM singer and it’s a pity I don not know where this band comes from, but I assume they hail from Finland. 10 songs are included on their first CD ‘A new day’ and I guess if you like one song you will like them all, because they are all in a same vein, with no real drastic changes in tempo or sound, so do no expect anything big instrumental parts here, but still there’s enough guitar here for the rocker. Songs like “Crimson leaf”, “Sleeping away”, “Misery carnival” and “A new day” are very strong tunes with catchy melodic choruses which are a must-have for HIM fans, but also any melodic rockfan will probably dig this a lot as well.

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

MEGATTACK ‘SAVE THE NATIONS’ (INDEPENDENT)

20 years ago the US band MEGATTACK released their debut ‘Raw delivery’, which gave them quite some success, although it sadly was never followed by another album, but now 2005 is the comeback of MEGATTACK. The band still plays high class 80s US Melodic Power Metal with raw DEE SNIDER type of vocals. Most of the 10 new songs included here are midtempo with a very big 80s touch, sort of DIO/ASTRAL DOORS/WARRIOR type of material, yet the band’s bio mentions they are as good as HEEP and DIO, but maybe that’s a bit impossible to reach. However, songs like “Save the nations”, “Watching you”, “Bad enough”, “Earthshaker” and “Where do we go now” are quite impressive. The CD has a big sound and instrumental it all sounds perfect, vocally sometimes great, sometimes not, kinda like STEVE GRIMMETT (of GRIM REAPER) when it’s not and DEE SNIDER a lot when it goes well, but still singer Rick Jackson pulls it off very well most of the time, so in the end this is a highly recommended CD to fans of –raise your hands in the air and shout it out loud- 80s guitar riff orientated pure Metal a la WARRIOR, 80s DIO, GRIM REAPER, ACCEPT, ROUGH CUTT… (of which I am a huge fan of course!). More info at: http://www.megattackrocks.com  and e-mail at: LADYJOFAVELON@YAHOO.COM 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

ERIC MANTEL ‘THE UNSTRUCK MELODY’ (HOLISTIC MUSIC RECORDS)

Here’s an undiscovered guitarist from Chicago who has been active in the music industry for almost 30 years now, but this new CD of him is my first introduction to the man’s skills. Eric is a fantastic highly skilled musician, who plays the guitar extremely well, but also sings quite good. The CD has a playing time of 80 minutes and should actually be seen as an old time double LP as it is split in 2 acts. Musically we can hear instrumental songs which explore the man’s guitar skills, while the vocal tunes are of course more based on vocal melodies and these are also much calmer but very impressive bluesy aor/prog kinda songs. The instrumental songs go in a more progressive hardrock kinda style (read: RUSH). There’s absolutely nothing bad to say about this CD, because it basically is a very impressive high quality album which will please any musicfan I think… More info at: http://www.ericmantel.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

FIGURE OF SIX ‘STEP ONE’ (ALKEMIST)

This is a very Extreme modern sounding Metalband which combines Nu-Metal and Industrial Metal with some slight Progmetal as well and happily not forgetting a few melodies sometimes. However, unless you’re a fan of SYSTEM OF A DOWN or RAMMSTEIN or SLIPKNOT, this band is definitely not interesting, as it is simply has too less to offer for the more melodic metal/prog fans, although the melodic chorus in the song “Go away” shows the band is able to do at least something more melodic. Maybe for people who dig PAIN OF SALVATION something worth checking out as well. More info at: http://www.alkemist-fanatix.com 

(Points: 6.0 out of 10)

CHAOS CONSPIRACY ‘OUT OF PLACE’ (COPRO RECORDS/ALKEMIST)

Music is getting weirder and more and more experimental, especially this CHAOS CONSPIRACY is trying to make the music sound even more darker, experimental and extremer than what SYSTEM OF A DOWN is doing. Sadly the Italian band forgets melodies are very important to make a real good impression, so that’s why this Nu-Metal kinda band should have a better listen to DISTURBED…. More info at: http://www.alkemist-fanatix.com 

(Points: 5.0 out of 10)

AQUEFRIGIDE ‘UN CASO ISOLATO’ (SUBSOUND RECORDS/ALKEMIST)

Nu-Metal meets Hardcore sung in the Italian language, which means there’s nothing of interest on this disc. . More info at: http://www.alkemist-fanatix.com 

(Points: 3.0 out of 10)

KEENANTS ‘LET’S START WITH THE BEGINNING’ (ALKEMIST)

Screamo-Metal (Hardcore meets Nu-Metal) is what this Italian band is doing and they might do it well, but sadly the screams are getting annoying after a while, which is a pity because the band is able to make good songs with strong melodies such as on the song “Waiting for God”. . More info at: http://www.alkemist-fanatix.com 

(Points: 5.5 out of 10)

MOLLOUW ’00:56/KAUTOKEINO DESPERATION’ (ALKEMIST)

The CD of the Italian band MOLLOUW starts with a bunch of noise, while the remaining 18 minutes show a very bizarre semi-instrumental ambient meets garage rock/psychedelic kinda band with even a COLDPLAY touch, very original and unable to categorise, so better check it out for yourself at: http://www.alkemist-fanatix.com 

(Points: 5.5 out of 10)

GARGAMEL ‘WATCH FOR THE UMBLES’ (TRANSUBSTANS RECORDS/RECORD HEAVEN)

Classic 70s Krautrock/Progressive Rock from Norway, but the band is truly a new one, as GARGAMEL was formed in 2001 and this is their very first CD. From the first few seconds you’re positive that this will be a great album and after almost 60 minutes I can only conclude we have a true winner on our hands here when it comes down to real classic 70s Progressive Rock. Fans of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, early GENTLE GIANT, but also any other progfan, wether that be the early GENESIS, YES, KING CRIMSON or THE FLOWER KINGS fan, this CD of GARGAMEL is a must for all of you, because it contains superb high quality semi-instrumental 70s Progressive Rock and even some mid 70s BLACK SABBATH type of slow Doom in a song like “Strayed again”, so this GARGAMEL has a lot to offer and therefore is very interesting to track down. More info at: http://www.recordheaven.net 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

JET SET SATELLITE ‘BLUEPRINT/VEGAS’ (NETTPRINT PRODUCTIONS/INDEPENDENT)

I had not heard of the Canadian band JET SET SATELLITE, but apparently they released their debut in 2000 on NETTPRINT PRODUCTIONS. This first CD titled ‘Blueprint’ was quite succesfull in their home country of Canada, where they managed to score 4 Top 10 hitsingles, with the album eventually selling 10,000+ records, so I guess you can say a very good start, but somehow things went wrong, band broke with their label and it took them 5 years to finish the follow-up ‘Vegas’. Their debut from 5 years ago was filled with a sort of updated classic rocksound that was catchy and in a sort of Canadian Rock tradition, but still radio-ready for the 00s and also the new record continues this style, so a nice mixture of tough rockers and calmer melodic songs. The new CD ‘Vegas’ rocks a lot more than the debut, which of course is a good thing. Combined with a strong production by DUANE BARON (KIX, OZZY, QUIET RIOT) it is a record to check out if you’re into real classic rock n roll with a modern approach, something I don’t hear GUNS’N’ROSES ever making again, but JET SET SATELLITE from Canada does it quite impressive. Rockers like “Vegas” (mix between AC/DC, THE CULT and DANKO JONES, “We’re above this”, “Remover” and “Walk away” are definitely the best songs on the CD. Recommended to the fans of real Rock N Roll, the way it should be played. More info at: http://www.jetsetsatellite.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

JOLLY ROX ‘DEMO CDR’ (DEMO CDR)

I hear a lot of demos of bands that try to sound like a pure 80s band, but most of the time they completely fail. JOLLY ROX is a band that comes close to the classic 80s LA Glam/Melodic Hardrocksound. The 4 songs on their demo sound like a pure 80s Hair Metal band, including good lead vocals and strong melodic chorurses as well as nice guitarwork. Definitely a band to check out if you’re a fan of catchy 80s fun hair metal/melodic hardrock. Best song is the uptempo melodic rocker “Twisted room”. Hopefully an official full-length CD someday soon. More info at: http://www.jollyrox.com and e-mail at: ramangus@yahoo.it 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

WEINBAUER ‘HEAVY METAL SUPERSTARS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Instantly I was thinking of the rare 80s Picture LPs of guitarist KEVIN WET when witnessing the cover artwork of the CDs of the Finnish band WEINBAUER. A completely naked lady in a porn pose, not an awful thing to watch, but I am afraid the included music is a lot less interesting. Instrumental WEINBAUER sounds ok, pure 80s Glam/Metal, but vocally it is quite painful. The singer sounds like he did the voice over in the Muppet Show (!), so unless you don’t mind that kinda voice this might be nice to check out, but I am afraid we can not take this serious. What this band needs to do is finding a real vocalist, because their current singer is really one of the worst I have ever heard in all my years of writing reviews and I can guarantee you that I heard a lot (straight up to 100,000 bands at least!). More info at: http://www.weinbauer.fi 

(Points: -)

BEYOND THE LABYRINTH ‘SIGNS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Belgium is a very poor country when looking at the rock and metal genre, because so few really good releases have been done in the past. IRON MASK was an exception and also BEYOND THE LABYRINTH with their official first CD, which has been released independently, is an album which can be classified as a high quality release. The music is very melodic and progressive, so best description would be Melodic Progressive Rock/Metal in the style of VANDENPLAS, MIND’S EYE, SUNCAGED, THRESHOLD… I am very surprised actually that this is an independent release, because without any doubts what we have here is really beautiful music which should be heard by all Rock and Metal fans. However, Prog/Sympho and AORMelodic Rockfans will be most pleased with the album. The CD has a running time of almost 80 minutes and out of the 12 included tracks the best ones are “Icons” (a great semi progressive melodic rocker like THRESHOLD and VANDENPLAS with a very strong chorus), the uptempo melodic rocker “Tomorrow is gone” (with 80s keys and strong AOR chorus reminding me of MAGNUM and TEN), “Freak show” and closing track “In perputual motion” (which happens to be a very sensational THRESHOLD like song). The band consists of 6 members, but we can also note guest appearances by none other than drummer Daniel Flores (MIND’S EYE), Marcel Coenen (SUN CAGED) and members of THRESHOLD, ARABESQUE and ex-SHADOWKEEP. Definitely a highly recommended CD. More info on BEYOND THE LABYRINTH at: http://www.beyond-the-labyrinth.com  and e-mail at: beyond.the.labyrinth@telenet.be 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

SOUTH NORMAL ‘NO MORE SONGS ABOUT GIRLS’ (INDEPENDENT)

Out of the Michigan/USA area we welcome a very strong new band called SOUTH NORMAL, which sounds like the latest new sensation. Their CD ‘No more songs about girls’ starts with a high class uptempo catchy melodic rocker titled “No more songs about girls”, while next track “Perfect daughter” mixes 70s BLACK SABBATH riffs with JEFF SCOTT SOTO and LENNY KRAVITZ vocals. In fact the band has a fantastic lead singer called Nathan MacKinder who sings the melodic songs perfectly. The rest of the CD has more similar songs in the classic 80s influenced melodic rockstyle (“Ashamed”) and the groovy Kravitz/Soto style (“King&Queen”), so Classic Rock with a modern edge, perfectly suitable for American radio. Concluded, a highly recommended CD to any Melodic Rockfan! More info at: http://www.southnormal.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ONE OF A KIND ‘ONE OF A KIND’ (AZIMUTH RECORDS)

Experimental Metal from America, sounding like a cross between DISTURBED and COHEED AND CAMBRIA, so not as experimental as SYSTEM OF A DOWN, although some slight Industrial Metal influences can also be heard on their same titled debut CD. The band is clearly at their best during the more melodic songs such as “Golden arm”, “Under my skin” and “U gotta know”. Sadly most of the time the band drifts into a modern experimental (almost Nu-Metal) kinda sound which is a pity, because these 3 afforementioned songs are definititely quite good. For more info go to: http://www.azimuthrecords.com 

(Points: 7.3 out of 10)

SOLEWIRE ‘THE MOURNING AFTER’ (AZIMUTH RECORDS)

Swedish band with their debut CD release on the American label AZIMUTH RECORDS. Musically this is very sensational, but what else would you expect from a Swedish band, a country which has brought us so many rock and metal sensations the past 10-15 years. SOLEWIRE is another high class band playing superstrong Melodic Progressive Metal. The band has a great singer and the songs are very melodic. It is not far removed from EVERGREY, with a bit of THRESHOLD and RA thrown in for good measure. Take it from me that this SOLEWIRE is a very sensational Melodic Progressive Metal band based on good strong heavy metal riffs, catchy melodies and impressive choruses in which the powerful vocals of Johannes Thernstrom easily come best to life. All 10 songs are sensational and therefore you better check out this band asap at: http://www.azimuthrecords.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

ALL THE BRIGHTNESS ‘LOST IN THE SOUL DEPOSIT’ (BRIDGE THE GAP ENTERTAINMENT)

I have no clue if HAREM SCAREM is big in Canada, but fact is that the past few years many similar sounding new bands have emerged from Canada. ALL THE BRIGHTNESS is the latest addition, playing modern catchy melodic rock that sounds dangerously close to the last couple of HAREM SCAREM records. The CD of the band contains 10 tracks, ranging from uptempo melodic rockers like the very catchy “Beautiful massace”, “Come a long way”, “Frozen” and “Never you” to more midtempo groovy Hardrocksongs such as the TALISMAN type of opener “Soul deposit”, while a strong radio ready ballad like “’Till it’s over” can also be found. The result is that we end up with the fact that all 10 songs contain catchy memorable choruses, so this is definitely a band to check out asap if you like the current North American catchy melodic rocksound, especially fans of the last couple of HAREM SCAREM records. More info at: http://www.allthebrightness.net  and e-mail at: info@allthebrightness.net

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

LOVEBONE ‘BARE BONE DEMOS’ (DEMO)

Here we have a demo from a New York based band called LOVEBONE, which features ex-members of FOUR LARGE MEN (a band we reviewed in one of our earlier issues) and BANDIT as well as musicians whom played with RAVEN and VIRGIN STEELE. Musically the demo LOVEBONE recorded is catchy 80s US orientated Melodic Rock/Hair Metal (with bloody awesome guitarwork) in the style of POISON, CRUE, DIRTY BLONDE, HERICANE ALICE, JAILHOUSE, etc. The band does it so well you would honestly believe this is one of those typical major label signed releases from 1985 or something. 5 songs are included, with as best songs the uptempo rockers “B.O.N.E.”, “Can’t drink you off my mind” and the catchy “Inside out” (80s RATT style). Better check it out if you’re a 80s LA Sunset Strip Hair Metal fan. More info at: http://www.lovebonerocks.com  and e-mail at: lovebone@adelphia.net 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

METAL STEEL ‘TASTE THE SIN’ (INDEPENDENT)

I have not reviewed many bands from Slovenia, so METAL STEEL came as a surprise, because their debut (?) CD is filled with high quality Melodic European Metal in the style of MAIDEN, EDGUY, PRETTY MAIDS, DUNGEON, BLACK MAJESTY, DOMINE and some typical 80s Teutonic Metal influences as well (read: STORMWITCH, VETO, GRAVESTONE, NOISEHUNTER…) The band has a good strong singer and their independent CD looks and sounds very professional (production, artwork and instrumental are all in a very good shape). The band is not bringing anything new to the genre, but who is nowadays, so that is not a problem, especially if you consider the fact that Melodic Metal songs like “The curse of love”, “The eye of the pyramid” and “Trapped in the nightmare” all sound very strong. There’s a mix of English lyrics and songs in the band’s own language. Nevermind, this is a must-have for any Melodic Metal collector. More info at: http://www.metalsteel.net  and e-mail at: rock.shock@email.si 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

NEKTAR ‘SOUNDS LIKE THIS’ (ECLECTIC DISCS)

Originally recorded back in 1973, this is somewhat of a rare new NEKTAR CD, which contains recordings from the band done in 3 days in february 1973 at studio Dierks in Germany, without any overdubs, so the sound is raw and more like a live recording without audience. In total 16 tracks are included on the 2-CD set of this new NEKTAR release, of which the songs of CD 2 were not available before, so definitely a must-have for the fans of the band. More info at: http://www.eclecticdiscs.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SUSPYRE ‘THE SILVERY IMAGE’ (SUSPYRE MUSIC)

Here we have a sensational new band out of New Jersey playing superb high class European/Brazilian Melodic Neo-Classical Progressive/Power Metal in the style of ANGRA, SYMPHONY X, BALANCE OF POWER, VANDENPLAS… Out of nowhere their CD landed on my desk and I must say that it sounds very impressive. This is one of those must-have CDs if you’re a fan of the genre, because everything sounds (instrumental, songs, vocals, etc) and looks perfect with this SUSPYRE release. 12 songs are included and just like the recent STRIDE release, this album is one of the absolute top US releases in the Progressive/Power Metal genre you instantly fall in love with if you’re a fan of mentioned bands. Songs like “Father of hate”, “Waterburns”, “Last of the survivors” (SUPERB!!!) and “The city under sands” (BLIND GUARDIAN meets RHAPSODY) are very sensational Neo-Classical Prog/Power Metal songs that contain everything you need to hear in this subgenre. Also the AOR ballad “The breath of Gloria” is worth mentioning, a truly beautiful song with very strong emotional lead vocals of singer Clay Barton. Better check out this band asap at: http://www.suspyre.com  and e-mail them at: gregg@suspyre.com 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

DEAF PEDESTRIANS ‘DEAF PEDESTRIANS’ (DOTPOINT RECORDS)

A Texas based band with the typical current US Modern Melodic Rocksound. The band offers 13 tracks on their same titled debut CD, which was released on the New York based label DOTPOINT RECORDS. Of course similarities to bands like SUM41, SWIRL360, BLINK182 and even GREENDAY are very clear, so fans of such typical American Rockbands will probably also like this DEAF PEDESTRIANS, because everything seems to sound very professional on this band’s first CD. Songs like “Splatter”, “Super nice guy” and “Walk out on me” are all very catchy. The band also has a few less interesting Post-Grunge moments (CREED/LIVE), but overall this is a typical modern day US Melodic Rock/Nu-Breed record. More info on this band at: http://www.deafpeds.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

THE GUARDIAN ‘OPEN YOUR EYES’ (INDEPENDENT)

The Belgian band THE GUARDIAN has a new CD out, which reminds us musically of the Classic 80s European Metal sound of acts like PICTURE and KILLER. 10 songs are included on the CD, as well as a videoclip and short documentary of the making of the CD, both added as multimedia portion on the CD. The band has a good singer and it all sounds quite professional. Some might call it cliché or dated, but it truly sounds like a classic 80s Melodic Metal record, which I think is a good thing, because most of the Metal records nowadays are filled with big rich keys, harmonyvocals and tra-la-la choruses and hooks, so a back-to-basic approach is nice to hear. THE GUARDIAN offers some really great pure 80s Melodic Metal like PICTURE meets SAXON with a bunch of MAIDEN riffs. Especially the titletrack “Open your eyes” is a very strong uptempo classic Melodic Metal song, but also the midtempo “So long” is a memorable song. Better check out the band at: http://www.TheGuardian.be  and e-mail at: TheGuardian@TheGuardian.be 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

IKINAE ‘ALFONS&CO’ (DEMO)

A young band from Finland playing Progressive Metal. They do it quite well, although none of the 3 songs do really make a big impression, a bit due to the lack of strong vocals, because singer Tommy Niemi does not have the typical clean voice which normally fits the melodic progressive metal. Instead we get to hear raw vocals and even death metal growls, which should not be a problem if the songs would be catchy. Final track “Fantastica” is definitely the best song on offer here, because here we can hear some great guitarwork as well and the song itself is a pretty good Melodic Metal song. I think in the future we will see what this band is capable of. For now, interesting if a band like PAIN OF SALVATION appeals to you. Beautiful artwork by the famous Matthias Noren by the way! More info at: http://www.ikinae.com  and e-mail at: info@ikinae.com 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

MASTERMIND ‘BROKEN’ (INDEPENDENT)

Although released as a EP+CD-Single, this new album of the legendary New Jersey based MASTERMIND is definitely an almost full-length CD, with 8 tracks spanning 45 minutes of playing time. At one point during their long career, MASTERMIND featured keyboardplayer JENS JOHANSSON of MALMSTEEN, STRATOVARIUS fame). Now the line-up features the brothers Bill (guitars, vocals) and Rich (drums) Berends as well as bassist Laura Johnson and the fantastic female singer Tracy McShane. The included music on their latest release offers a very melodic rock orientated Progressive/Doom Metal approach, kinda like a mix between LANA LANE and BLACK SABBATH, especially on the song “Break me down” this can be heard very clearly and also the fantastic epic “The Queen of Sheba” which is a must to hear for any LANA LANE fan out there! Also worth mentioning is the lovely AOR/Melodic Rocker “A million miles away” with it’s deadly catchy chorus. Without a doubt, what we have here is a very stunning release, maybe the best MASTERMIND album in years, but I am told a complete new CD will be released soon. However, this (mini) CD is already a taster of many more great things to come from this underrated band. More info at: http://mastermindband.com  and e-mail at: mastermindband@yahoo.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

VAIN ‘ON THE LINE’ (LOCOMOTIVE MUSIC/ROCK INC)

The legendary US band VAIN was formed at the peak of the 80s LA Glamscene. However they were slightly different than the standard Glambands, because being situated in San Francisco they had to toughen up their sound, resulting in a sort of Sleazy Melodic Metal sound, which was perfectionized on their debut which was released in the late 80s and recently re-issued onto CD. Through the years several other albums have been released or found their way through the tape/cdr trading circuit. Now LOCOMOTIVE MUSIC, the Spanish label, managed to release an official CD which musically sounds exactly like the debut of VAIN, so this is definitely a very interesting release. Sounding pure 80s, filled with catchy hooks and memorable choruses, this band should have been big, because their sound was different, kinda like LA GUNS meets BLACK’N’BLUE. Original band and anyone who did not hear anything of them, this is also a good way to start, because this was and is VAIN at their best. The songs were probably recorded some 15 years ago, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is high quality stuff. Better check out asap if you want to hear how 80s American (or should I say Californian) Rock/Metal sounded in the late 80s.

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

JORN ‘THE DUKE’ (AFM RECORDS/ROCK INC)

Lead singer JORN LANDE sang on 2 of the best records released in 2005, namely MASTERPLAN and ALLEN/LANDE. Now 2006 has just started and Jorn releases his new solo-CD ‘The duke’, which is yet another high quality release, not as good as MASTERPLAN and ALLEN/LANDE, but still very impressive. The music is more groovy Melodic Hardrock with strong WHITESNAKE similarities. A song like “Burning chains” is basically pure WHITESNAKE on which Jorn shows he is able to sound exactly like David Coverdale. Furthermore the CD offers a lot of strong Melodic Hard/Heavy Rock with of course the wonderful vocals of Jorn. Some of the highlights include “End of time”, “We brought the angels down” and “After the dying”. This time as backing musicians we can hear DON AIREY on keys and Marty Black of TNT on bass. All together a very strong new solo-CD of one of the absolute top vocalists from the north of Europe!

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

ARTHEMIS ‘BACK FROM THE HEAT’ (UNDERGROUND SYMPHONY RECORDS)

The Italian band ARTHEMIS returns with a new CD, which despite some negative press reviews is a very good album actually which happily does not contain non-stop Italo Power Metal. Instead the band has a very diverse sound, which goes from pure aor/melodic rock up to straight ahead fast power metal. Songs like “Desert storm”, “Star wars”, “The wrath” and especially “Touch the sky” are very strong melodic rock orientated songs (kinda like a calmer HAMMERFALL/DREAM EVIL meets ROB ROCK), but the band also leaves room for typical Euro Power Metal (“Here comes the fury”, “The vampire strikes back” and “Only your heart can save us” – pure WONDERLAND/VISION DIVINE/90s LABYRINTH) and even a ballad is included (“Ocean’s call”). Definitely a great new album of an underrated band from Italy, which is actually a very strong diverse melodic rock/metal band. More info at: http://www.arthemisweb.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

HYPNOGAJA ‘BELOW SUNSET’ (UNION STATE RECORDS)

Another new American band with a typical modern Metalsound, which has clear similarities to bands like DISTURBED and RA, so big heavy groovy guitar riffs, melodic low clean vocals, catchy melodic choruses and most of the time a slightly depressing midtempo beat. 15 songs are included on this band’s CD and HYPNOGAJA has been featured in several US movies and TV shows the past few years. It is typical American modern Metal, which for some might sound too modern, but I can guarantee you that this band avoids the Nu- and Screamo-Metal boreness, because instead they sound very melodic and anyone who likes good modern melodic American Metal (in the DISTURBED style) will like this band a lot. It does surprise me they are not on one of the major labels, because their music is certainly perfect for the American radio stations. Most of the songs are quite good and memorable, especially the very catchy “The coming” which is a very sensational song with a really strong chorus, even reminding me of EVERGREY. I can easily recommend you to check out their site at: http://www.hypnogaja.com  and e-mail at: unionstaterecords@comcast.net 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

THE BUZZCOCKS ‘LIVE AT SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE 2003 DVD’ (MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

Recorded 3 years ago, now released as US DVD release, the concert the legendary UK Punkrockband THE BUZZCOCKS gave in London is one to see if you’re a true follower of classic late 70s Punk, because this band was one of the leading bands. In total 32 songs were played that night, which can all be seen on this professional DVD, which also contains a lot of bonus material, such as interviews, biographies and backstage footage. Definitely a must-have for any BUZZCOCKS or Punkrockfan in general. With a playing time of 205 minutes it will easily fill up an evening of good quality Punkrock. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

NEW YORK DOLLS ‘ALL DOLLED UP DVD’ (MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

If ever there was the ultimate NEW YORK DOLLS DVD, it should be this new DVD of the legendary Glamrockband. This DVD contain almost 4 hours of rare NEW YORK DOLLS material, ranging from performances to backstage footage of the band. Back in the early 70s they were the first band to look and sound like a Glamrockband, which would become huge in the LA scene of the 1980s, although some say they also started the Punkrock explosion in the UK in 1977. Nevertheless, the band’s music was basically simple rock n roll influenced by the 1960s Garage Rock of STONES/KINKS and some very early 70s New York/Chicago Rock N Roll of ALICE COOPER/MC5/STOOGES. The band was not really sounding professional and therefore they were ignored by the press, but the fans who liked the raw rock and lifestyle of this band were making them a legendary band. Selected from over 40 hours of material, this DVD offers some unique rare material of a very wicked and underground rock band which would become pretty huge in the following years after their split. The DVD is built around live performances and documentaries, all filmed in a sort of amateuristic kinda approach, so be aware that this is not a high quality profressional DVD, but nevertheless it offers a lot of rare unseen material of a legendary band which will be a pleasure to watch one a cold winter’s night. Definitely a must-have for any Glam and Punkrockfan. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

UFO ‘TOO HOT TO HANDLE DVD’ (MUSIC VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS)

The legendary band UFO are a very underrated band, because they were as important as DEEP PURPLE and LED ZEPPELIN in the 1970s, but somehow are only really huge among the Rock community, because IRON MAIDEN and DEF LEPPARD were influences by them. However in the popular music world they are just like URIAH HEEP one of those bands that never got into the major league of rock, despite their songs were as good as DEEP PURPLE and LED ZEPPELIN. Anyway now there’s another interesting DVD available, which concentrates on the band’s early period, although stated it features material from 1969 right up to 1993, the 1970s are definitely the most discussed period on his DVD. The DVD counts 90 minutes and is built up around a documentary with interviews and live footage of the band. Interviews were done with long time members PHIL MOGG and PETE WAY, as well as members of DEF LEPPARD and IRON MAIDEN and onetime UFO guitarist MICHAEL SCHENKER. This all combined makes this a very interesting documentary, comparable to the recent THE SWEET DVD documentary which also had this kind of structure. Without a doubt, a must-have for any UFO fan or anyone who wants to check out a legendary Classic Hardrockband that should have been bigger. Available through: http://www.musicvideodistributors.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

SARACEN ‘RED SKY/HEROES, SAINTS AND FOOLS’ (ESCAPE MUSIC/BERTUS)

What a pity that this digipack release of SARACEN does not contain their rare 2nd album ‘Change of heart’, because then this would have been a complete anthology release of a very underrated band. Nevertheless, the underground act SARACEN from the UK was formed in the 1970s and listening now again and again to their debut album ‘Heroes, saints and fools’ it is still unbelievable why this band never had their breakthrough. Their mixture of beautiful vocalwork, excellent harmonies, big rich keys, catchy hooks, smashing long guitarsolos and lovely choruses packed in a pure Melodic Symphonic Pomprocksound which combined the best of 70s KANSAS, 70s STYX and early MAGNUM. This new CD Digipack release consists of 2 CDs, of which disc 1 is the re-release of their 2003 release which was a sort of compilation of old songs but re-recorded, which sounded nice, but was actually nothing more than a good standard British Melodic Rock affair a la PRAYING MANTIS. The real interesting thing about this release is that disc 2, which contains the complete re-issue of the band’s debut ‘Heroes, saints and fools’ from 25 years ago. This album is an unbelievable classic that should be in the hands of every one appreciating the classic Pomprock of the 1970s from bands like STYX, KANSAS, URIAH HEEP, ANGEL, KAYAK, MAGNUM and a bit ASIA… Songs like “Rock of ages”, “No more lonely nights” (a minor UK hitsingle), “Horsemen of the apocalypse” (an absolute POMP ROCK CLASSIC a la KANSAS/SUGARCREEK/ SPY/SPYS/ARC ANGEL with huge keyboards) and “Ready to fly” (a classic for it’s 5+ minutes guitarsolo) are truly amazing. 3 bonustracks have been added to the 7 original album tracksa and all I can say is that this is a very underrated classic which now gets a second chance on CD and boy what a difference between SARACEN 2003 and SARACEN 1981. That disc 2 of the SARACEN release is a must-have for any Pomprockfan, sometimes even as good as classic 70s KANSAS. Together a nice packaging of 2 SARACEN albums, with nice pictures, lyrics, etc. although I hope their 2nd album will also be re-issued on CD someday soon, but that might be a label issue since it was released on NEAT RECORDS.

(Points: Red Sky: 8.3 out of 10/Heroes, saints and fools: 9.0 out of 10, average: 8.7 out of 10)

JORGE SALAN ‘FROM NOW ON’ (AVISPA MUSIC/BERTUS)

Guitarist JORGE SALAN from Spain released this new solo-CD actually sometime ago, but it has recently been distributed in several other countries (Benelux) so here’s a review. The album is filled with good 80s influenced Hardrock, both instrumental and vocal songs. Not really original and also no huge production, just a nice record where some of the vocal songs made a slight impression on me as they seem to move into a DANGER DANGER, AUTOGRAPH, MELIDIAN kinda direction, while the instrumental songs show a melodic 80s VAI/SATRIANI approach. Nice record, but probably will get unnoticed in the amount of other releases done these days. More info at: http://www.jorgesalan.com 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

REGICIDE ‘BREAK THE SILENCE’ (FAME RECORDINGS/ROCK INC)

From out of nowhere comes the German band REGICIDE. I thought they were a sort of dangerous RAMMSTEIN kinda band, but definitely not after hearing the first couple of songs on the band’s CD ‘Break the silence’, which happens to be a very impressive high quality record. The band is playing Folk meets Gothic meets Melodic Metal, kinda like XANDRIA/WITHIN TEMPTATION meets SKYCLAD meets SUBWAY TO SALLY, ending up sounding very melodic on the 10 tracks of their CD. The band has no less than 7 bandmembers (a male and a female singer, a violinplayer, a pianoplayer, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer), so the sound is really huge, also thanks to a good strong production. This is one of those CDs you simply have to rate high, because it all sounds very impressive. If the German press/radio/tv world wants to make a star then they can easily do it with this REGICIDE, because their sound is perfect in the present day where this kind of music is extremely popular. So in the end, nothing new, but still a very good CD, recommended to fans of mentioned bands.

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

WARCRY ‘?DONDE ESTA LA LUZ’ (AVISPA MUSIC/JAUS RECORDS/ROCK INC)

The Spanish band WARCRY has a new CD out, which is their 4th CD in 4 years time. I reviewed all their previous albums, so I can tell you this new album is in the exact same style as the previous records, alhough maybe a bit more leaning towards AOR/Melodic Rock here and there. Best description of WARCRY on their new record would be an AOR/Melodic Rock influenced Power Metal band singing in Spanish. Somehow this new album sounds better than their previous records, because we can find stronger songs with a bigger sound/production. If you don’t mind the Spanish lyrics, this CD is definitely recommended, because it contains some really strong memorable songs that combine the best of Melodic Metal, Power Metal and Melodic Rock/AOR into a big sound, kinda like MASTERPLAN, but then with a different singer and of course lyrics in Spanish, so nevermind that comparison! Still a must-have for fans of MAGO DE OZ, TIERRA SANTA, AVALANCH…

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

MEDINA AZAHARA ‘LA ESTACION DE LOS SUENOS’ (AVISPA MUSIC/ROCK INC)

Will they ever breakthrough outside Andalucia/Spain? Well I am afraid also the new CD of MEDINA AZAHARA will not make any impression on people outside the Spanish region. For almost 25 years this band has been on the scene and they never changed their style, which has always been Melodic Rock in the 80s style, with many keys, catchy melodies and choruses mixed with typical Southern Spain accent vocals and some Arabian influences. I own most of their records and even 2 DVDs, so I certainly know what they are all about, being a very famous band in their own region. The new CD is in the exact same style as all their previous albums, so good strong 80s Melodic Rock with Spanish lyrics, which I don’t mind, but with this band it is like you either like it or hate it, there’s no in-between. I like them, although I would rather recommend you to check out their DVDs which show the popularity of this band in their own region as well as the beautiful videoclips they made through the years. In the meantime, true fans of the band will love this new CD, which is a nice addition to the collection of MEDINA AZAHARA CDs available right now…

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem) 

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