"Brand New Morning" is Magnum's much-anticipated follow-up to their 2002 comeback album "Breath Of Life", and the British melodic Rock stalwarts have outdone themselves yet again! While "BOL" was a fine effort, the album was more of a tentative, at times hesitant, first step back into the game [not that the individual members were sitting on their arses during the band`s 7 year hiatus; most had solo and/or other projects going on]; "BNM" is a much looser, more Rockin` affair, showcasing a band at the peak of their talents! Sure, some of Magnum`s fair-weather fans will complain that the band didn`t record "On A Storyteller`s Night, Part 2", but TRUE fans wouldn`t want Magnum to repeat themselves. If anything, "BNM," recalls the "Vigilante/Wings Of Heaven" era, running the gamut from melodic AOR to bluesy, harder edged. The title track kicks things off nicely with a Dio-style riff. This cut, as well as the rest of the album, benefits from a more sparse production than the last release, which tended to sound a bit OVER-produced. This is followed by the uptempo, soon-to-be-Magnum-classic "It´s Time To Come Together", and the Doomsday scenario "We All Run". "The Blue And The Grey" has an almost mid-`70s` Blues Rock vibe to it, while "I´d Breathe For You" is a sure-fire Arena Rock crowd pleaser if ever I heard one! In fact, this song, as well as the next 3 cuts, are the albums highlights, as is "The Last Goodbye". "Immigrant Son" and "Hard Road" are two riff-heavy tracks that are among Magnum`s best, esp. "Hard Road", with a main riff that`s MORE than a little reminiscent of Cream`s "Tales Of Brave Ulysses". [yes, this is a GOOD thing!] The 10 minute closing track "The Scarecrow" nearly succeeds as a neear perfect end to a near perfect album, but the band kinda goes overboard with the Pomp Rock thing during the last 3 minutes or so. Oh well, can`t have everything! And the disc scores high marks for creating mood and atmosphere within the songs. The Tony Clakin songwriting well has most definitely not dried up by any means; Tony`s crafted some of the best tunes [as well as guitar riffs/licks] of his career! And vocalist Bob Catley has surely drunk from the same fountain of youth as R.J. Dio and Biff Byford; the man`s voice has only improved with the years! Former Thunder drummer Harry James has provided a given Magnum a rock-solid foundation to soar over; hell, the whole band shine here! Is this a perfect album? No. Is this a "true" [whatever THAT might mean!] Magnum album? Yes! Is this a band of aging Rockers just coasting towards retirement on their past glories? Not by a long shot!! It`s a "Brand New Morning", indeed!
With the release of his latest, "Master Of The Moon" Cortland, NY native Ronnie James Dio continues the winning streak he started with "Killing The Dragon" (2002) and "Magica" (2000). Those fans [like me!] who loved "Holy Diver", "Last In Line" and "Dream Evil" will NOT be disappointed. Naturally, Dio has surrounded himself with the best players; guitarist Craig Goldy returns to the fold once again, and we also have former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson [who played on the album but is NOT touring with the band; Rudy Sarzo is now part of the touring lineup] as well as drummer Simon Wright and keyboardist Scott Warren. The album harkens back to the aforementioned classic Dio discs, and perhaps a bit of his Rainbow days, as well. Sonically, no new ground is broken here but hey, it`s Dio! You KNOW you`re gonna get your money`s worth. The somewhat darker [but not dreary] sound only enhances the 10 tracks presented here. "One For The Road" kicks the album into high gear right from the get-go, and is certainly right up there with the many other Dio classics. The title track has something of a late Seventies`/early Eighties` Hard Rock feel to it, while "The End Of The World" and "Living The Life" could have come off his first two albums. "Shivers" is definitely one of the heaviest cuts while the politically charged"The Man Who Would Be King" is dark, Sabbath-esque. These are among the standout tunes, but really the whole damn thing`s a winner, full stop! The Man has delivered once again; even on his less-than-stellar releases, you were always assured quality. No matter what, Ronnie James Dio has always given his audience 100 percent, and "Master Of The Moon" is NO exception! \m/Two Horns up!!!\m/
A new Nightwish is ALWAYS cause celebre, and the recently issued "Once" is no exception! The Finnish 5-piece continues to refine and expand upon their unique sound, topping themselves with each release. The kickoff track, "Dark Chest of Wonders", is heavy, powerful, bombastic, grandoise; everything we`ve come to expect from the band, and a perfect opener. Next is the hit single "Wish I Had An Angel", followed by the absolutely breath-taking "Nemo", one of the BEST songs I`ve ever heard by ANYONE, period! Tarja Turunen`s vocal performance here is heart-stopping! "Planet Hell" is certainly one of the heaviest tunes Nightwish have ever put out; unfortunately, they`re still allowing bassist Marco Hietala to sing, something that detracted from the last album, "Century Child", just a bit. But this time, he`s being kept on a leash, and his drama queen vocal attempts are at a minimum. No offense to the guy; he`s a fine bassist and has added to the heaviness factor of the band, but his singing tends to ruin the songs. The Native American themed "Creek Mary´s Blood" deals with The Trail Of Tears and is easily a standout track on an album full of standouts! "The Siren" and the earth-shaking "Dead Gardens" prove to the nay-sayers that Metal, keys and guitars DO mix. But only Tuomas Holopainen could make it work THIS good! Next is the super heavy, downtuned "Romanticide", followed by "Ghost Love Score", a 10 minute epic that is surely destined to be one of THE highwater marks in the band`s career! Holopainen`s love for film scores is quite evident here, and the tune is flawless from start to finish. [Or should that be Finnish?;)] All that is great about this band is encapsulated here. "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan", sung completely in Finnish, joins the list of great ballads that Nightwish have given us over the years. Closing out the album is the rousing "Higher Than Hope". But it isn`t REALLY the end, as you`ll definitely wanna hit "Repeat" and start things all over again! But aren`t ALL Nightwish albums like that? "Once" is another Metal milestone that firmly stablishes this band as one of THE great Metal acts of today. And having just wrapped up [as of this writing] a successful US tour, maybe NOW clueless Clear Channel listeners here in the states will stop calling Nightwish an "Evanescense rip-off"! [yeah, riiiiiight!] Best album of 2004, hands down!!
Hailing from Bergen, NY [up around MY neck of the woods!] Scattered Ink is a Modern Rock outfit in the vein of Sevendust, A Perfect Circle, and perhaps a bit of Audioslave. While not a HUGE fan of the genre, there ARE a few who do it well. And this 3 track LTD edition makes it VERY clear that Scattered Ink should be added to that list! Featuring the stellar talents of vocalist Richard IV [the album was recorded at his studio], guitarist/bassist Matt Quistorf and keyboardist Johnny Cummings, this EP is but a taster for the full-length to be released around December 2004. And if this 3-track is any indication, we are DEFINITELY in for a treat! The songs ["The Other Half", "Merlot", and my favorite "Corners Of The Room"] are naturally of the Modern Rock spectrum, but with well-crated a sense of melody and composition that eludes most others mining the same territory. Richard IV is one of the best singers working today, and his lyrics are at once personal AND universal, unlike the I-was-raped-by-my-parents-and-I`m-ready-to-explode-f***you! silliness that passes for lyrics these days! And Richard couldn`t have picked 2 better musicians to work with; Quistorf and Cumings positively shine! Of course, a good dose of crunching guitar always helps things, and there`s plenty of THAT. as well. All in all, a first rate production that hints at even GEATER things still to come. So go to the band`s website and pick up this limited edition while you still can. Great job, guys!!
Ass kickin` Hard Rock from The great White North! Canada´s Uncle Sid have been plying their trade for over 10 years, that being traditional late `70s`/early `80s` inflected Hard Rock; HARDLY the mainstream`s Flavor Of The Month during those years. But such dogged determination in the face of desperate odds is what this kind of music was founded on! In better musical times, "Rock In The Universe" would have soared up the charts. Unfortunately, traits like melody, harmony, songwriting and feel are of no interest to today`s kOrN-fed kiddies. Damn shame, `cause Uncle Sid has a lot to offer! Sure, there ain`t much in the way of groundbreaking material to be found, but these guys play it with such panache, you can forgive `em! The band is Wolf on vocals, Henry Seto on guitar and bass and Dale Salive, drums. [Keyboards were supplied by Craig Zurba] The album is a raw, straight up, no frills production; no fancy-schmancy hi tech afffair, just a bunch of guys turnin` up and Rockin` out. From the opener "Break´n Free" to the balls-out "Dance For Me", as well as the seventies-style Metal of "Dream Machine", it`s quite obvious that Uncle Sid means business! To be honest, the less-than-original approach to the tunes is rather refreshing in light of all the phoney, down-tuned, dorm-room superstars currently peddling their poison wares to the masses! The winner for me is "The Story", a classy, almost UFO-like track that displays all the great qualities of this band. A future classic, to be sure. Listening to this album has given me new hope for the North American Hard Rock scene; maybe soon we`ll be spared having to hear the words "Canadian Rocker" and "Avirl Levinge" in the same sentence! Thumbs up!! [Many, many thanks to Wolf for sending me the disc!]