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HOT NEW REVIEWS
 UPDATED ON FEBRUARY 24 - 2014

VARIOUS RELEASES ‘LIMB MUSIC’ (LIMB MUSIC)

LIMB MUSIC has 4 releases on offer, starting with the UK based band ASCENSION is playing typical European Melodic Power Metal in the style of DRAGONFORCE, POWER QUEST, HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY and such. Not very original and really dangerously close to DRAGONFORCE most of the time. The result is a nice debut album titled ‘Far beyond the stars’, but on the other hand I’m afraid this record will not become a major-selling record. Fans of mentioned bands definitely need to check out this release, but it all sounds a bit too cliché tingled and the sentence ‘has been done before’ can easily be mentioned here. The only standout track is the ROXETTE cover “Listen to your heart”. (Points: 7.6 out of 10). Also in the Power Metal direction is the album ‘Back with a vengeance’ from the band MASTERS OF DISGUISE, but this is Power Metal the way it needs to be done, in a classic 80s US tradition of bands like FATES WARNING, HEIR APPARENT, SAVAGE GRACE, LIZZY BORDEN… No wonder, because this band is actually formed out of the ashes of the legendary US band SAVAGE GRACE. They are indeed back with a vengeance, releasing a strong classic 80s sounding US Power Metal album! Well done, with as highlights “Never surrender”, “Liar” and “Into the unknown”. Must-have for fans of mentioned bands! (Points: 8.2 out of 10). LUCID DREAMING is the typical German Power Metal band and their first album is titled ‘The chronicles part 1K 0’, so a follow-up will probably be released in the near future. The included music is very standard Power Metal like countless other bands have done and with the typical German accent, only really of interest for people who are into bands like HUMAN FORTRESS, IRON SAVIOR, MAJESTY, METALIUM, etc. only not as good as them I’m afraid. (Points: 7.3 out of 10). And the 4th release on LIMB MUSIC is the re-release of the JACK STARR classic ‘Out of the darkness’, with the late RHETT FORRESTER on vocals. Now this is a real classic, with as highlights “I can’t let you walk away” (a classic ballad), the fast “Chains of love” (Power Metal at its very best) and the midtempo “Eyes of fire” (how real Metal should sound). The combination of Rhett’s fantastic vocalwork and Jack’s superb guitar licks (listen to the beautiful instrumental “Odile”), that is what is making this album a classic! In addition we can find 6 bonustracks, so all together this is a must-have if you want to hear classic Melodic Metal like FASTWAY meets WASP meets RIOT meets VIRGIN STEELE! (Points: 8.9 out of 10).

(Points: -)

RHYTHM OF MARS ‘WINDOW OF DESTINY’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

Out of Springdale, Arkansas, USA comes the 3-piece instrumental band RHYTHM OF MARS. Although instrumental bands have never been a trendy topic, RHYTHM OF MARS is definitely a band you don’t want to miss. We reviewed a previous album of them ( http://www.angelfire.com/ma/strutteraor/HOTNEWREVIEWS175.htm  ) and what we have here is another fantastic instrumental melodic progressive rock adventure with superb precise guitarwork by AARON STRAUB and subtle keyboards from composer PATTI UNRUH. 8 tracks are included on their new CD ‘Window of destiny’ and without a doubt, this is a perfect album to play from start to finish without ever touching that forward button. A song like “Pleiadian” for example starts off so beautiful, a classical piece with an emotional melody, while the rocking “Love spell” offers a lesson in guitarwork! All together this is a very nice document what we have here and hopefully RHYTHM OF MARS will be able to be heard by more people in the future. Check them out at: www.rhythmofmars.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

LUCID DREAMS ‘LUCID DREAMS’ (ROCKWORKS RECORDS/NORWAY IMPORT)

LUCID DREAMS is a band from Norway, formed in 2007 and now releasing their debut album, which was mixed and mastered by TOMMY HANSEN (HELLOWEEN, PRETTY MAIDS, TNT). Thanks to Tommy the album sounds quite good and musically speaking it is very diverse, which is something positive, although I do feel that the band should be able to release an even stronger record if they develop their own style on future records. It now sounds a bit lost sometimes due to the mixture of so many different styles, which on the other hand are all belonging to the good side of rock and hardrock. We can hear Melodic Metal, Power Metal. Melodic Hardrock, a touch of 80s Glamrock and Progressive Metal. It is absolutely an album you can listen to from start to finish without ever touching that forward button. But as I already mentioned, LUCID DREAMS is a band that can grow in the not too distant future and release an even better album, but for now, they show on songs like “For your love” and “Daisy duke” a nice 80s Hair Metal sound, which might just be the style the band needs to focus on instead of the power/prog metal on some of the other tunes. Check them out at: www.luciddreamsband.com

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

RAFE PEARLMAN AND JONATHAN PLUM ‘DUST AND GOLD’ (DUST AND GOLD RECORDS/LONDON TONE RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

A sorta secret is the album ‘Dust and gold’ by singer/songwriters RAFE PEARLMAN and JONATHAN PLUM. They created a beautiful little album that contains perfect singer-songwriter music that actually should easily appeal to a lot of people. 11 songs are included and here and there we can hear something that could perhaps in the not too distant future become a classic in the singer-songwriter world, such as the songs “Dove” and “Shade”. There’s a lot of great material to be heard here and I can highly recommend it to anyone into singer-songwriter music, because it definitely should not become a well-kept secret! More info at: http://www.rafepearlman.com  and https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.plum.16‎ 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

COLIN GILMORE ‘THE WILD AND HOLLOW’ (WOOBIETOWN RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

OK, JAKE BUGG might be the latest new kid on the block to storm the charts all over the world, but personally I am more interested in the rocking singer-songwriters with a slightly cleaner voice than the somewhat raw voice of Jake. COLIN GILMORE is a perfect example of singer-songwriter rock and roll style the old fashioned way, with not just a bunch of semi-ballads, but also uptempo rocking tracks and a sound that resembles the classic 1970s days. A song like “Wake me in the night” for example is a song that could easily be a classic recorded in 1971 or something. However, when things get rocking such as during the uptempo “Raging eyes” (NICK LOWE cover sounding like RICK SPRINGFIELD somehow!), “Feel like falling” and “Wait” (with a touch of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s “I’m on fire”), we are actually heading into classic early 1980s US Retro Americana Power/Poprock in the style of JACK GREEN, JOHN COUGAR, TOM PETTY and TOMMY TUTONE. A nice mixture here by a great vocalist, who blends together perfectly two worlds, singer/songwriter and Americana powerpop/poprock. Without a doubt, an artist who should make it really big! More info on Colin at: http://www.colingilmore.com/ 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

REVERSE ORDER ‘MADE IN AMERICA’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

Released on the 1st of January 2014, the new album ‘Made in America’ of the Boston based band REVERSE ORDER kicks off the new year quite nicely for this young exciting new band which focuses on making catchy infectious melodic poprock that combines 80s melodic rock/aor with elements of modern poprock, like only American bands are able to create. If you are familiar with the bands THE CLICK FIVE and 7TH HEAVEN, then you can put this REVERSE ORDER right in the middle of those bands! The midtempo melodic aor/poprock of “Waiting” and “Everything beautiful” are almost sounding like DEF LEPPARD, LOVERBOY and BRYAN ADAMS, yet with a typical American Punk/Emo way of singing, which might not always work for the regular melodic rockfans out there. This band could easily be labelled as a Melodic Rockband, but with a touch of the modern way of doing Rock. Without a doubt, this album contains 9 fresh sounding radio-ready poprockers and if these guys are lucky enough they will become huge and of course this is fastfood for the teenagers across the world, but who knows in a few years they will grow into a mature full Rockband. Check them out at: http://reverseorderonline.com 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

JOHN GILMOUR SMITH ‘THE STORY WE’VE BEEN SOLD’ (AQUARIAN NATION/SCOTLAND IMPORT)

The Glasgow based singer/songwriter JOHN GILMOUR SMITH has an incredible voice, sounding crystal clear and natural and without a doubt, he has the kind of voice that could easily bring him to higher places. This was also recognized by the old IT BITES singer Francis Dunnery, because he signed him to his own label AQUARIAN RECORDS, on which the debut album of John was released. In the meantime we are 4 years later, but nevertheless it is still very interesting to mention this release. I have to say that I feel that John is better off with a different arrangement regarding the rhythm section, as it now sounds like a drumcomputer was used. This makes listening a bit harder, which is a pity, because John has such a fantastic voice and a song like “Nobody people” is absolutely beautiful. I would love to hear John with either a full rockband backing him up or just him and an acoustic guitar. He has the perfect voice for AOR and Progressive Rock music and despite the fact that the included music on this album is not pure progressive rock orientated, overall the mix of singer-songwriter and sympho-prog and John’s superb voice is making it sound like FOR ABSENT FRIENDS, ALIAS EYE, CAMEL and ELEGANT SIMPLICITY. Only next time please use a real drummer, because that makes it sound much more natural than the somewhat hi-tech approach it now captures. On the other hand as mentioned the voice of John should be enough to keep anyone interested to listen to anything he does! Check out more at: http://www.johngilmoursmith.com/ 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

THE LIFT ‘THE LIFT’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

The American band THE LIFT is the latest discovery in the world of peaceful relaxing Indie Pop with a female singer. In this case it concerns the collaboration between singer-songwriter Amber Ojeda and piano-player/music director Davy Nathan (who worked for CHRISTINA AGUILERA, TONI BRAXTON and X-FACTOR!!!). Together with 3 other musicians they recorded an excellent 5 tracks counting EP. The Indie Pop sounds very melodic and basically the included material is of major label level, not far removed from acts like DAUGHTER, LORDE, THE XX, BOY, AGNES OBEL, ELLIE GOULDING, AUSTRA and such. Amber has got a superb voice and the 5 songs are all beautiful masterpieces, with as highlights the first 2 songs (“Lost in the middle” and “Why I stayed”). Hopefully we will hear much more in 2014 of this exciting band THE LIFT! Check out all on this sensational new band at: http://www.wearethelift.com/ 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

VITNE ‘NEON’ (RELECTRIC RECORDS/HART AS A ROCK MUSIC/NORWAY IMPORT)

JOSEPH KIMBRELL is the man behind VITNE, a Norwegian act which released their debut release ‘Neon’ in late 2013. Actually Joseph is originally from the USA, but fell in love with Norway where fronted the band SEKS a few years ago and now starts a new journey called VITNE. Musically it is pure 1980s orientated, mixing Melodic Hardrock, AOR and Glamrock. 10 songs are included and “Destroyer” opens the album as if it was still Sunset Strip 1988 style, while “Nasty habit” goes more into the Melodic Hardrock direction and the semi-ballad “Silhouette” goes once again in a complete different direction, because here we can even hear a touch of QUEENSRYCHE’s “Silent lucidity” mixed with a bit of THE CULT/BILLY IDOLish vocals. Most of the time this is 80s American orientated Hardrock/Hair Metal, done very well and for fans of let’s say SONS OF ANGELS, BEAU NASTY, HERICANE ALICE, TINDRUM, MAD MARGRITT, NOIZE TOYS, etc. etc. actually a must-have! All info at: www.vitne.net and www.facebook.com/VITNEOfficial 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

GERRY GRIFFIN ‘THE PASSAGE OF TIME’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Canadian singer/songwriter GERRY GRIFFIN has a long history behind him, starting by playing in several rockbands during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s before going solo in the 1990s. He sadly also spent time in prison, which was for something he didn’t do, which was possession of drugs. Anyway, now in 2014 there is a new CD, which contains old and new material, which musically speaking is a mix of Alternative Country, Blues, Americana and Singer-Songwriter. CAPTAIN BEAFHEART, RY COODER, TOM WAITS and such similarities are possible to mention here. This is the voice of a man who has lived a tough life, with ups and downs and through his music he tells his stories. It might not sound uplifiting, it does bring a sort of feeling while listening to these heartfelt songs. More info on Gerry at: http://www.gerrygriffinmusic.com/ 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ALIAS MEANS ‘LIGHT MATTER’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

ALIAS MEANS is a young singer-songwriter from California and he sounds like a runaway fom the Geenwich Village late 1960s period, so a very strong comparison to BOB DYLAN is easily possible to mention here. Of course we have heard this more than a few times recently, with as best examples JAKE BUGG and the LLEWYN DAVIS movie. However, Alias is definitely someone who might become the next big thing, because he is without a doubt a young man with a soul and a vision. Absolute highlight is the beautiful DYLANesque closing track “Thor’s scene”. Check out more on this on this upcoming talented musician at: http://www.aliasmeansmusic.com/ 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

ESQUELA BAND ‘ARE WE ROLLING?’ (BOVINA MUSIC/HEMIFRAN)

Wow! Now this is what I call a voice! The ESQUELA BAND is coming out of Bovina, New York and they feature an amazing female singer called Rebecca Frame. She sounds magical and possesses a voice which you do not hear very often. BETH HART and DANA FUCHS might be good comparisons, but actually Rebecca has an own identity and while listening you might really think she’s a black Gospel singer from the 1960s or something! Anyway, thankfully the music is also quite good, rocking harder than expected, this Americana/Bluesy rootsy rock and roll band offers some serious high quality rock and roll, with great guitarwork by lead guitarist Brian Shafer. The first 3 songs are very strong uptempo pieces, while the following pieces are slightly calmer, but “Out of sight” picks up the uptempo style again. That is one of the strongest songs by the way, even musically it reminds me a bit of 1970s HEART with vocals that sound like JANIS JOPLIN and GRACE SLICK. I have absolutely no idea why this band has not been discovered yet, because they would definitely do well across the European Summer Music Festival scene. Check them out for yourself at: http://www.esquelatheband.com/ 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

EASTWICK ‘BEYOND REASON’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

EASTWICK is a Swedish band with a fantastic new CD titled ‘Beyond reason’, which musically is Folk-Pop orientated with actually typical melodies out of the big black Swedish book. “I will stand” and “Wrong will be right” for example could even be stripped down AOR songs in the style of THOMAS VIKSTROM/TALK OF THE TOWN and actually they even remind a lot of MIKAEL ERLANDSSONish Melodic Poprock. On the other hand, the band also has a lot of Rootsy Americana type of songs, such as the TOM PETTYish “Up for the ride” and “Grind you down”, while JOHN MELLENCAMP is a major influence on the catchy “Your decision”. Anyway, this is actually their first official full-length album with own material, because the previous debut album contained a bunch of cover songs. Definitely a band to watch out for in the near future, because this sounds very impressive and should give the band a lot of attention internationally. More info at: http://eastwick.se/ 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

ELAINE MAHON ‘RISE’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Singer/songwriter ELAINE MAHON offers on her latest album ‘Rise’ 14 peaceful late 60s/early 70s Woodstock style Singer-Songwriter acoustic guitar tingled music with beautiful Gospel like harmonyvocals. It reminds one of a JOAN BAEZ, JUDY COLLINS, EMMYLOU HARRIS, MELANIE, JONI MITCHELL and such. Elaine has a truly wonderful clean voice and there’s a not single weak moment on the CD to be found. One of the absolute highlights is the calmer “One by one”, a haunting melodic ballad that captures a retro early 1970s feeling that is rarely heard these days. Also “The selkie bride” is a song you don’t want to miss, because this is almost sounding like KATE BUSH, so Elaine can even go up very high vocally! If only the rest of the world discovers the talent of Elaine, well you can start by checking out her site at: http://elainemahonmusic.com/ 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

CHAUNCEY BOWERS ‘RUMORS OF REASON’ (BACK 9 RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

‘Rumors of reason’ is the debut album of singer/songwriter CHAUNCEY BOWERS, who once was working as a professor (!) at the prestigious Harvard University. Now working on his solo career, the first album offers a nice mix of singer-songwriter and traditional American Poprock, with raw vocals by Chauncey and additional backing vocals are delivered by Lisa Turner. The best songs are the rockier “Demon”, “Red alert” and “Last thing I remember”, the darker acoustic “Something to cry about” and the strongest of them all, the uptempo catchy rocker “Wild and wooly”, which sounds like NEIL YOUNG’s heydays. Nice start in the music business and let’s hope for Chauncey it will be succesfull! More at: http://straytrombone.com/ 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

THE COALS ‘A HAPPY ANIMAL’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Actually the LA based band THE COALS delivers a mini-album with ‘A happy animal’, because only 8 short songs are included. Nevertheless, it is a nice record with typical Americana Folk that is mixed with a sorta 1950s piano-shuffle / swing style. Sometimes it sounds like we are really in a bar somewhere in New Orleans, but with a playing time of far below 30 minutes it is hard to make up a good mind on this band, so check for yourself at: http://www.thecoalsmusic.com/ 

(Points: 7.6 out of 10)

DANA POMFRET ‘FLOAT’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Born in New York, singer/songwriter DANA POMFRET spent most of her musical career in New England, although her new album ‘Float’ was recorded at various locations and with a couple of well-known music business people, such as the legendary guitarist DANNY KORTCHMAR and the involvement of GREG CALBI, who mastered the album at Sterling Sound. Those are 2 names that have popped up on many AOR records of the 1970s-1980s period. Now back to Dana, who already released 3 albums before ‘Float’. Her new album offers only 8 tracks, hardly reaching the 30 minutes, but on the other hand, the result is very impressive. The included music is relaxing singer-songwriter pop/rock with even a dash of AOR in songs like “Light switch”, “Gone before I go” and “Bird in a cage” that remind me a bit of JAIME KYLE. During other moments 1970s LINDA RONDSTAD passes by and without a doubt, it is very clear that Dana has got a great voice. Hopefully the next album will be a bit longer, because we want to hear much more music in the style of the material on ‘Float’. More at: http://www.danapomfret.com/ 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ERIC SCOTT ‘WHERE THE WATER RUNS DEEPEST’ (ITZALL GOODE MUSIC/HEMIFRAN)

It is the first time I get to hear an album by singer/songwriter (and bass player!) ERIC SCOTT, although he already released 3 albums in the past, starting with ‘Divine static’ in 1999. Without a doubt, Eric is an excellent vocalist, with an amazing Soul vibe in his voice, a range that will make a lot of people jealous. JOHN MAYER and even MARVIN GAYE are mentioned by some of the press and that is definitely something to be proud of. The songs are not always amazing, because the “la la la” parts in quite a few songs are really not necessary and ‘Where the water runs deepest’ is mainly an acoustic album. On the other hand, I am safe to say that live on stage and acapella, Eric will already have the crowd focused on him, because that is his main strength. Nevertheless, I would love to hear Eric singing some rockier songs as well, because with a voice like his, he can do no wrong and so a slightly more diverse album would be very interesting. Strangely enough, the beautiful acoustic “Everybody” and also the midtempo “Loneliness is speaking to me” remind me so much of JEFF PARIS and JUNO ROXAS, so those are the finest tracks! Definitely someone who deserves to breakthrough someday soon, because 15 years in the music business is long enough to step out of the shadowzone. More info at: http://www.ericscottmusic.com/ 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

TERRY EMM ‘LOVED AND NEVER LOST’ (AZEZ/HEMIFRAN)

Only one song can be found on the promo CD of TERRY EMM, a British singer-songwriter, but the included song “Loved and never lost” is a beautiful calmer singer-songwriter piece and makes you wanting more, which will hopefully happen later in 2014. In the meantime check it out for yourself at: www.terryemm.co.uk 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

DAVID COSGROVE ‘GIFT OF TIME’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

DAVID COSGROVE is a talented musician, who has already released a bunch of albums since 1996. David is a multi-instrumentalist, who plays keyboard, bass, guitar, mandolin, flute, sax, kazoo and also writes, records and produces his own music. ‘Gift of time’ is one of his solo recordings. It is an instrumental record that crosses the best of Symphonic/Progressive Rock and New Age Music. It takes you on a journey through another dimension, in which we feel like we are in space somewhere, with some excellent keyboardwork by David. He does his thing very well and I can urgently recommend it to any progfan out there to check out his solo album ‘Gift of time’, but David was also kind enough to sent me some of his other work, such as ‘Space toucan’, another instrumental album he recorded with several other musicians and especially the excellent Progressive Rockalbum ‘His name is nnnnn’ of his band MAKHIWHIPDIES took me by surprise. Although this album is actually 18 years old, it sounds very interesting and I am glad to have heard it now after all these years. This album is an experimental adventure through sounds far beyond the standard progressive rockzone. I would be quite nice to see a follow-up to this release, but in case you missed it, do check it out as well as David’s solo work. More at: http://www.davidcosgrove-music.com/ 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

IRENA HART ‘DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE TONIGHT’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

Originally from the Ukraine, singer/songwriter IRENA HART and her family moved to the USA when Irena was 12 years old. Rapidly she began to develop a music talent and shared the stage one day with the then unknown JOHN MAYER. Now a decade later and one album release titled ‘Heartstrings’, she is working on a second album titled ‘Alone’. This record will be released this year and the first single is “I don’t want to be alone tonight”, a beautiful singer-songwriter/AOR ballad with superb vocals of Irena. She is truly a talent with a spectacular voice and I can’t hardly wait for the full-length album to be released. For now only one song, but without a doubt, a promise for the future. Check out her music at: www.irenahart.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

RIOTGOD ‘DRIVEN RISE’ (FULLBELLY MUSIC/METALVILLE/ROUGH TRADE)

‘Driven Rise’ is the 3rd CD of the band RIOTGOD, a New York based band formed by drummer Bob Pantella and bassist Jim Baglino of MONSTER MAGNET. The music of RIOTGOD is not that far away from MONSTER MAGNET, so a mix of Stoner Rock and Classic 70s Hardrock, like BLACK SABBATH meets LED ZEPPELIN meets QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, but then with an own twist. When the band goes for the uptempo Monster Guitar Riff drive, they sound pretty awesome, such as on “Davos”. However, they also are sounding like a complete different band when they throw in an almost Doom Metal sound in a song like “Melisandra”. All together a strong new album of RIOTGOD and as this kind of Rock is at the moment quite popular, who knows they might have their big break now! More info at: www.riotgod.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

RHAPSODY OF FIRE ‘DARK WINGS OF STEEL’ (AFM RECORDS)

The Italian band RHAPSODY has come a long way since they started in the mid 1990s. It all started back in 1997 with ‘Legendary tales’, which was one of the first albums I reviewed actually. Now 17 years later the band’s sound is still the same as it was in the beginning and that is for the better, because it is their signature and the RHAPSODY sound should never change, no matter the line-up, which changed through the years and therefore RHAPSODY OF FIRE has now been the name for quite some time, to avoid a conflict with LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY. Musically speaking ‘Dark wings of steel’ offers once again high class Italo epic Power Metal, sounding even more bombastic than on the past few records and Fabio Lione singing at the top of his lungs. Although some might say that nothing new is brought here, RHAPSODY OF FIRE still stands proud and will forever be the number one Italo Power Metal band! They were the inventors of this sound and have been doing this for 20 years now, very succesfully and hopefully we will see them active for at least another 20 years!

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

UGLY KID JOE ‘STAIRWAY TO HELL CD+DVD’ (METALVILLE RECORDS)

The band UGLY KID JOE came up with their bandname after playing support to the legendary Glamrockband PRETTY BOY FLOYD. Little did they know they would score a string of major hits in a very short period during the early 1990s. Everybody will remember “Everything about you”, “Cat’s in the cradle” and “Neighbor”, but it was all over in a minute, because the following years new material of the band didn’t repeat the success and so in 1997 they quit. 17 years later they are back with a very strong new album titled ‘Stairway to hell’, which is actually a mini record that also contains a DVD that features the full concert from their performance at the Download Festival on the 10th of June 2012. Opener “Devil’s paradise” is a very strong slow rocker that contains elements of Doom and Stoner Rock, but also reminds me of ALICE IN CHAINS. Whitfield Crane is a very strong vocalist and instrumental UGLY KID JOE is a damn serious rockband that probably live kicks major ass. Although they will always be remembered for their 15 minutes of fame in the early 90s, give these guys a chance, because a midtempo tune like “No one survives” is quite a superb midtempo Melodic Heavy Rocker! Hopefully a new full-length record will follow in the near future!

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

VALKYRE ‘OUR GLORIOUS DEMISE’ (VALKYRIE RISING)

The Belgian band VALKYRE was formed 10 years ago and released a few demo CDs during the 2000s, but actually this new album ‘Our glorious demise’ clearly sets the record straight, because this is a superb typical female fronted melodic Symphonic Power Metal album in the style of EPICA, AFTER FOREVER, NIGHTWISH and such. Although it may not sound that original, the result is quite stunning and offers songs of a very high level. This band’s new album is without a doubt a must-have for anyone who is a fan of this type of Metal. The vocalwork of singer CLAUDIA MICHELUTTI is very strong and isntrumental everything sounds massive, as if we are listening to a major label release. Songs like the fast uptempo “Call of the Valkyre” and “Mother” and the terrific piano-led Melodic Rockballad “Walk my love” are all very sensational and VALKYRE now shows on this new album what they are able to do, which is releasing a very strong female fronted Melodic Metal record. At the moment VALKYRE might just be one of the best Metalbands active in Belgium! Hopefully they will be able to bring their live shows throughout Europe in the summer of 2014! More info at: http://www.valkyremusic.com/ 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

MIDNITE SKY ‘BLOOD, SWEAT AND A LITTLE MORE’ (INDEPENDENT/GERMAN IMPORT)

If I am correct, I reviewed this German band’s debut CD ‘Rock the planet’ 10 years ago! Time flies by quickly and now MIDNITE SKY releases their follow-up ‘Blood, sweat and a little more’. The included music is as 1980s orientated as you can get. Partly it sounds like the typical German way of Melodic Hardrock, so then you must think of legendary bands such as BOYSVOICE, MAD MAX, BONFIRE, CASANOVA, CRAAFT and such. On the other hand if we listen to the song “Feels like heaven” it feels like we stepped into a time machine and went back to the USA of the late 1980s, because this is Hair Metal at it’s very best, a sing-a-long song in the tradition of SLAUGHTER, TINDRUM, SLYBOYZ and such. And how about “Where are the angels”, another 80s Pomp Metal driven song with lovely melodic guitar riffs straight outta the DOKKEN book! Vocally MIDNITE SKY is leaning towards the Glamrock side of life, with a German accent, but if you like BONFIRE, VICE and the other mentioned bands of the Classic German MHR sound, then this MIDNITE SKY album will also please you a lot. I have to say that the guitarwork is quite phenomenal and also the production of the album is very impressive. Highly recommended to fans of mentioned bands! More at: www.midnitesky.de 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

GORDIE TENTREES ‘NORTH COUNTRY HEART’ (YUKON/HEMIFRAN)

Although the included music on the 4th album of GORDIE TENTREES is as American as can be, this musician is actually coming out of Canada! The material is a mix of Blues, Country and Rock&Roll, which is best known as Americana, but in this case it is coming out of Canada! Gordie is a very talented musician and especially during the swinging uptempo pieces (such as “Wheel and wrench”, “North country heart” and “Hill country news”) he sounds quite strong. Gordie might easily breakthrough if he gets noticed by the media, as especially the already mentioned titletrack “North Country heart” makes Country Rock sound cool again! In Canada Gordie is quite well-known, because this album was the top 20 most played album over there! He’s also touring a lot every year, so make sure to catch him live someday and in the meantime, check him out at: http://www.tentrees.ca/ 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

GUS MCKAY ‘SALTFLAT BLUES’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Rootsy Blues is the name of the game here. GUS MCKAY is from Australia and in his voice you can hear he has a lot of stories to tell, which he also does through the 12 included songs. The finest track of them all is definitely the uptempo “Murchison”, which makes JAKE BUGG sound rather dull. Bluesy Rootsy Rock as raw as possible, that is what you basically get here and thanks to Gus’ unique voice it is very recognisable when you hear it. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.gusmckay.com.au/ 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

GARY HUNN ‘BREAKING BLUE’ (ALLIGATOR CREEK RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

If you’re looking for the good old polished Nashville Country, which has been there for more than 5 decades and was extremely popular during the 1970s in the USA, well then go for the ‘Breaking blue’ album of GARY HUNN, because this album contains 12 tracks that can easily be compared to the likes of KENNY ROGERS, GLEN CAMPBELL, BJ THOMAS, CHARLIE RICH… However, Gary himself is from Australia, but one only learns that when surfing on the internet. Nevertheless Gary is a highly recommended singer if you’re interested in this type of Country, which in Europe is seen as the American version of German Schlager and other traditional European Music (Dutch Volksmuziek). It’s done very well and therefore interesting to check out at: http://www.garyhunn.com/ 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

HOUSE JUMPERS ‘SURE FOOTED BABY’ (HOUSE RENT RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

Now this is quite original and done extremely well, the album ‘Sure footed baby’ by the American band HOUSE JUMPERS. This female fronted band is playing pure Rockabilly as if it was still 1956 and despite the fact that Rockabilly still has a cult large underground following, this HOUSE JUMPERS sounds really good and could perhaps reach a bigger audience if they are lucky enough to score a radio hitsingle. Nowadays there is no music style that is ignored and Rockabilly is a genre which recently in Holland got some attention and with a radio-ready song like “Chicken ain’t nothing but a bird” it should be possible to make this band the next big thing. If we would step into a time machine to go back 60 years in time, then perhaps HOUSE JUMPERS had already been picked up by every Radio Station! So go look for them here at: http://www.housejumpers-band.com/ 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

CHRIS PICKERING ‘CIRCLES’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Out of Australia comes the very talented singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist CHRIS PICKERING. He offers on his 2nd EP ‘Circles’ a nice collection of semi-acoustic tingled singer-songwriter melodic pop/rock material that sounds extremely strong, thanks to the superb clean vocals of Chris himself. He plays almost all instruments as well, so I guess you can say we have here a musician who needs to become bigger soon. However, we mentioned that more than once and it seems nobody listens, but just listen to a beautiful song like “Hold you to that” and even the average AOR fan will be interested in hearing more of Chris! There are some similarities to RUFUS WAINWRIGHT here, but just a little more polished and classic 70s singer-songwriter Pop orientated. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.chrispickering.net/ 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted) 

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