'Lessons learned' (INDEPENDENT)

This is a very cool band. HANK AND THE HARDKNOX is formed around lead singer Hank Dean. They come out of Macon, Georgia, USA and are playing pure early 80s oriented Melodic AOR/Radiorock. There are 7 songs on the CD and they are all rockers. The band is very much reminding me of bands like TRIGGER, THE B'ZZ, HOLLAND, STEALER and even 38 SPECIAL.

The best song of the whole CD is "Streetsmart", a fantastic early 80s AOR rocker with a classy chorus, hooklines and wonderful harmonyvocals. The song has very melodic lead vocals too and features a great guitarsolo. The song reminds me a lot of STEALER (a band that released one wonderful LP in the early 80s). But the rest of this CD is also pretty good.

Songs like "Trust Mellisa" (cool early 80s guitar oriented Radiorock/Melodic Rock like 38 SPECIAL), "Love what is happening to me" (TRIGGER/STEALER styled rocker) and "Ain't takin no more" (another early 80s Radiorocker like BILLY SATTELLITE, 38 SPECIAL) are very fine to listen to.

This HANK AND THE HARDKNOX is a great band to check out if you want to hear the early 80s AOR/Radiorock of bands like STEALER, THE B'ZZ, HOLLAND, TRIGGER all over again. More info at:

Rating: 8/10



GHERNA GANG is a band out of Illinois, USA and features the brothers Dan (Bass, Guitar, Lead Vocals), Doug (Drums) and Johnny (Guitar) Gherna of which Johnny used to play in the Classic AOR/Pomprockband RATHSKELLER. Musically this GHERNA GANG is not that far away from those AOR legends who came out of the same area. There are 6 songs on their mp3 CDR.

Opener “Fine line” is a fantastic classic early 80s uptempo AOR/Pomprocker like RATHSKELLER and PASSENGER, yet with Rick Springfield typed lead vocals. The following track “Temporary slump” is a slightly poppier but still good midtempo melodic poprocker that moves very much into RICK SPRINGFIELD territory.

Then we get to hear a song called “Karen” and this is catchy early 80s uptempo melodic poprock. This song could have been on the RICK SPRINGFIELD record ‘Success hasn’t spoiled me yet’ (like “Kristina”). The lead vocals and the early 80s vibe are so close to that RICK SPRINGFIELD record, you can’t believe it isn’t Rick himself here performing the song. Next track “What’s in it for me” also has the RICK SPRINGFIELD all over it.

Closing two tracks are a bit weaker than the other songs. “Don’t open up that wound” is a weird quirky poprocker like DONNIE IRIS and MOON MARTIN. And the final track of this CDR is a song called “Loo doo”, a simple party poprocker that sounds like RICK SPRINGFIELD meets CHEAP TRICK with a POISON guitarsound.

If you like RICK SPRINGFIELD in his early 80s Melodic Poprock experience, then you should go for this GHERNA GANG. This band really captures the classic early 80s melodic poprocksound which was so popular in the US back then. Visit their website at:

Rating: 7,5/10



EXHIBIT A comes out of Essex, UK and they have been on the scene since the late eightees, but I believe they haven't got much press although they put out two releases so far. A shame they didn't get that much attention before, because they are sounding very professional on their 2nd release 'Out there'. This CD features 8 songs and musically I would describe it as Symphonic AOR with some Pomp influences.

The band sounds like a mixture between ASIA, STYX , RUSH and SAGA. So you get parts in which the band sounds like a pure AOR band, but also some progressive parts, though the band is always sounding very melodic and especially the keyboards are pushed upfront which makes the songs sound very fine to listen to. The band members do have a direct connection with WALK THE WIRE and NIGEL HOBBS because most of them play together in a cover band called ARIZONA.

Putting that aside, I can also easily recommend this band to anyone that liked the NIGEL HOBBS record, because the two are pretty much in the same Symphonic/Progressive AOR style. My favourite songs are "On the edge" (semi progressive pompous AOR with STYX influences), "Within these walls" (semi progressive AOR with a pompous part during the middle of the song which sounds like ASIA), "Against the flow" (progressive AOR) and "Hindsight" (another semi progressive pompous AOR song).

The rest of the CD is a little more Progressive Rock oriented and sometimes goes into the direction of bands like MARILLION and IT BITES. If you're interested in purchasing this record, then sent 5 English Pounds + P&P to: Mr D. Foss, 67 Somerset Gardens, Horchurch, Essex, RM11 3AT, U.K. The band also released a cassette album and hopefully I can hear and review that album also in the near future. For a copy of that tape, sent 4 English Pounds to the mentioned address.

Rating: 7,5/10



This band has been on the scene since the early 80s and got their bandname from an ACCEPT album, so they are called BREAKER and now they have released a mini-CD which is titled 'Accept'. It's all a bit confusing and reminds me of the confusion of bandname-CD title WARRANT had years ago with their CD 'Dog eat dog', when a band called DOG EAT DOG put out a CD titled 'Warrant. Anyway back to this BREAKER, a band out of Ohio, USA and musically influenced by ACCEPT, although they also have some more melodic rock oriented songs.

The CD starts with the ACCEPT cover "Breaker". The following two songs ("Still life" and "10 seconds in") are nice melodic heavy rockers in the AXEL RUDI PELL style. "Action" follows in a pure 80s tough melodic hardrocksound and is one of the best songs here. The song reminds me of ROUGH CUTT and RECKLESS. "Life of crime" is next up and is a weak metalish song.

Closing track "Sleepless nights", a demo recorded back in 1982, is the best song of the whole CD. This song is a good melodic rocker in the old 70s SCORPIONS style. I would like to hear more songs in this style on a future release. Anyway, more info at:

Rating: 7/10



This Christian rockband comes out of Bethlehem, Pa., USA and they have released a CD which contains 10 songs. ARMOR OF LIGHT is hard to place in a category, because many different musicstyles can be heard on their CD. Opener "Come unto me" is a very good early 80s typed uptempo midwest AOR/Pomprocker, kinda like HEAD EAST, early PETRA and AXE. But this is the only song on the record which reminds me of those acts, so don't go hunting rightaway and read on.

For example the next track, "Armor of light", is a bit poppy epic song. "Blind" follows and is a nice 70s inspired semi pomprockballad that sounds very much like early KANSAS, especially the pure Pomp chorus. Then we get to hear a filler in the shape of "Love not the world", a terrible popsong which totally falls out of place between the rest of the material. After "He is risen", a nice calmer ballad, the CD continues with a nice late 70s styled pomprocker titled "Slip away" which also features some very good melodic lead vocals. Then we get to hear another song which totally is different than anything else on this CD.

The song is called "Do you know the joy" and this is awful 60s styled rock'n'roll, kinda like the second SILVER CONDOR album. Happily, the following two tracks are moving into the 70s KANSAS territory and things starting to get better again. The closing track "Before your time is through" is a fine rocker which has an own style.

This ARMOR OF LIGHT is very diverse in music approach and so hard to recommend to anyone from a particular rockstyle. However if you don't mind such a diverse band or like all styles, then check them out because they have a lot to offer. More info at:

Rating: 7/10


NEIL ZAZA 'Staring at the sun'


Staring At The Sun is the brand new album from guitar virtoso Neil Zaza, the record features JOURNEY's Ross Valory on bass. The first thing that hit me with this record was the amazing production sound, the second thing I noticed is how razor sharp the guitars are, the guitar mix is very high and very thunderous and in your face. Yes it's safe to say that the opening track "Spy" left me completley stunned as I have not heard a guitar track this cool since perhaps Nuno Bettencourt burst onto the scene with EXTREME in the early nineties. This track is actually quite similar to the funky foundations of EXTREME and is just an amazing musical statement.

"Lift" is a tasteful run of note bending which bring to mind PAUL GILBERT and GARY HOEY. "Lost In Your Dream" is a good one and a standout track, this follows a delicate path and is like a JOURNEY song but without Perry's vocal, a very touching song that is played with subtle beauty from Neil and features a suprising orchestral section, this is a drop dead gorgeous song. A nice suprise that in a way could break Neil into the same league as NEIL SCHON, STEVE VAI and JOE SATRIANI.

"Zen, Karma And Other Good Things", goes for an indian approach, and "The Wonder Of You" is another JOURNEY inspired song with some amaziing lead wrok from Neil and some cool jazzy moments from the rest of the band that consits of JOURNEY drummer Steve Smith and Timothy M. Bradford on keyboards. This is another hugely satisfying song played with elegance and feel, "New New Math" then rips open into fire fulled shredding which is played at a breathtaking pace, I urge you turn the volume switch up with this one and prepare to be dazzled!!

"Rain" is a beautifully exquisite song that shows diversity in Neil subtle playing, very rarely do you get a guitar player who can make such an impact, this tune is very dark and subtle and mix together some fine piano, cello and axe work, "Every Thought" moves into country territory but it still very beautiful and reminds me of players like SHAWN LANE and GREG HOWE, plays will real feel and passion for their music, "Baking 350 Degrees F" is also well cool and featuring a rather tasty southern shuffle in the style of the late ROBIN TROWER and early STEVE VAI.

"Fargo" has a distinctive tone and is almost like a movie theme, it's a brilliant played and hugely enjoyable, and is perhaps the most mainstream track on the record, "Angel" is another tender moment, that is led by a classical piano piece, before Neil's playing burst or rather elegantly warms itself into the song, this is the type of thing that would grace any MARTY FRIEDMAN solo cd, also again this is very JOURNEY sounding and simple begs for STEVE PERRY's voice, awesome and the top trakc of the cd!!

The next track "Definition" has some nice passages and then your in for another suprise with the last song "Purple Rain" check out the gorgeous heartwrenching violin intro, this song reminds me of RESTLESS HEARTS "Don't Ask The Reason Why", but without the vocals, Neil's paying here is esquiste and remind's me of VITO BRATTA and STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN this is a timeless collection of music. Simply awesome and filled with beautifully structured songs, utterly essential. Contact

Rating: 8,5/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)


VENDETTA 'Vendetta re-issue' (REALITY RECORDS)

Originally released in 1993 California's Vendetta are back, this is a tasy hard rock album full of all the normal eighties cliches, actually it's very good and reminds me of ARCADE, ATELLO, GREAT WHITE, TESLA etc, and the production by Wyn Davis who produced albums for DOKKEN and GREAT WHITE compliments the bands music very well.

The songs feature speedy guitar work from Pete Blackwell and vocalist Ron James is a deadringer for Stephen Pearcy of RATT, and John Corabi when he was in THE SCREAM.
Songs such as the arousing "Sex", the chunky riff laden "Welcome To The Real World", and the brilliant "The Night" all have enough charm to delight any lover of eighties melodic hard rock, "The Night" is a nice keyboard driven aor/rock song in the style of RESTLESS, WINGER, 8084 and CRYSTAL, and ends up being the albums best cut. This is a great album that should hopefully see the band securing a record deal from one of the big four labels. Contact or visit

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)


NETWERK9 'As it should be' (AMS RECORDS )

Anyone remember Californian rockers ARTICA? Well they are back under the moniker of NETWERK9 and as debut albums go "As It Should Be" was one of the finest of 1995, an album which took on commerical mainstream aor/hard rock with majestic keyboards from Bobby Moore which allowed the record to breath fresh air into what was the height of the grunge scene, songs like "Take Me All The Way", "It's Over", "Youre Still On Your Own" and the amazing "Hold On" are all high octane aor rockers that remind me of SURVIVOR and JOURNEY.

I'm still suprised that this album didn't go mainstream as it was awesome and above all the songs are very catchy and singeable and latch onto you for days, take the ballad "(Your Love Will) Carry Me Home", a magnficent piece that almost sounds like HARLAN CAGE, HUGO and MARK MANGOLD thanks to John David Martin's subtle voice, five years on and this album is still an instant winner, if you haven't heard this already then my god you really are missing out on a special record of musical finesse.

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)


NETWERK9 'Demos January 2000' (INDEPENDENT )

These brand new songs were recorded on an eight track system, but you can hardly tell, which just goes to show what a unique talent Newerk9 are. The first brand new cut is "Seeds Of Change", a very good subtle piano led song which is kinda like a mix of SURVIVOR, SPOCKS BEARD and JOURNEY, John David Martin's vocals have improved so much, that if the band could get another chance with a record company and get these tracks polished up then I really think that Netwerk9 could be massive.

With the MTM guys taking on the power metal/progressive rock scene Newerk9 would be the perfect choice for the label to take on, and if this happened then the band could easily carve a nice little niche into the market for themselves. "Time To Push" is brilliant and very catchy with some lush axe work from Mark Adrian, and the last song "System Of Justice" is the best song and is an aor lovers wet dream, swirling atmospheric keyboards and huge dynamic vocals in the style of HUGO and KEVIN CHALFANT, somebody sign 'em fast. Great stuff. Contact or visit for more info

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)



This record has been out for a number of months now, and is still selling very well and has gained the band support slots with the mega DREAM THEATER here in the UK in the next month or so. I'm not sure how many albums S.B have recorded but my first tase of the bands music was via the song "The Light" which was featured on one of the old Frontiers magazine samplers back in 1996.

I was immediatley hooked at the bands familiar progressiviness towards the mighty DREAM THEATER, at the time D.T. were getting alot of slack in the press and S.B came at the right time with and were a breath of fresh air. "Day For Night" is a wicked album, full of sonic playing from all the band, there's tons of musical pieces to be heard, this is very much a musicans album, alot of the average rock fans could find this a bit boring, but if you give it the chance it clicks and you discover a genuine modern progressive masterpiece.

Admirable songs to listen out for are the amazingly complex "Gibberish", it took me ages to get into this song. Guitarist Alan Morse has a style and technique which in effect is beautifully controlled thanks to his simplistic and memorable instumentation during the songs, "The Distance From The Sun" , is a peaceful and beautiful piano led ballad, this is a typical relaxing ballad where vocalist Neal Morse sings with amazing depth and passion.

"Can't Get It Wrong" is another terrific chocolatey flavoured ballad, the listening instructions for this album are simple, turn down the lights, close your eyes and sit back and let yourself go, and you will find the music very inspirational. "The Healing Colours" is one of those complex progressive extravaganzer's and every song you listen to on this album has it's own identiy and strength that will leave you totally bewildered with excitement. A very complexed piece of musical genius, it'll be intersting to see if the Beard can top this one. Email their label at: and visit the website:

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)