Now here we have a very interesting new band from South East London. TRAINING ICARUS is a female fronted band playing the typical modern day ff melodic metal style, delivering high class songs that sound damn catchy and quite bombastic. They seem to add a lot of AOR melodies, including hooks and choruses straight out of the 80s HEART/PRIVATE LIFE/WITNESS book, mixed with massive 80s Soundtrack Synths of the HANS ZIMMER/ALAN SILVESTRI/VINCE DICOLA kind and beautiful melodic precise guitarwork (Martin Eldon is the name of this superb guitarist) and strong vocalwork of Leigh Turner. 9 songs are included on their debut album ‘Stand aside’, which features a lot of great uptempo Melodic Hardrock/Metal pieces, such as “Nightmares” and “Now or never”, but also a song that I would almost dedicate to become a classic in the future, namely the wonderful semi-ballads “No chance for life” and “Inamorato”. This band is definitely a huge surprise and one to watch out for! Let’s hope they are able to come over for a European tour soon, because they have got something interesting to offer! Check them out at: 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)


‘Shield of faith’ is already the 3rd album of the German band HIGHLIGHT KENOSIS, but the first one I get to hear and I must admit that it is a very strong record. The music might not be that original, the performance is quite excellent, with strong vocalwork by female singer Marina La Torraca. 8 songs are included and if I have to draw a comparison it would have to be the bands LUNATICA, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, EDENBRIDGE and such. I think I am safe to say that we have here a high quality release that will easily be loved by the fans of mentioned acts. Not a single weak moment on this album and therefore I can definitely give it a huge recommendation. Check them out at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


CRIMSON CHRYSALIS is a band from Pretoria, South Africa and they are a female fronted band (Rene van den Berg is the name of the singer). Although they are compared to NIGHTWISH, the music is a lot softer and more radio based, while also the production is definitely less massive and bombastic than the standard bands in this genre. Nevertheless, we can hear some nice material here and there on the band’s latest album ‘Crimson passion cry’, such as the semi-ballad “Epilogue”, which is almost an AORish ballad. And also the cool “Fuck off and die” is a catchy uptempo tune that is actually Melodic Hardrock orientated and reminds me a bit of DORO and LULLACRY and also “Letters from the edge” is an intering semi-rocker with AOR influences. Somehow the album gets better after a few songs and despite the radio-ready sound, I do feel that this is a nice album to listen to if you’re a fan of female fronted aor/melodic rock, although I would not call this a classic or an outstanding album, because therefore it sounds a bit too safe. However, there’s still enough to enjoy here and for more info I recommend to check them out at: 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)


RAVENHEART MUSIC is a very interesting UK based company, which is focused on promoting and taking care of the distribution of anything that has to deal with female fronted symphonic and/or progressive melodic rock/metal. We received a batch of their latest albums and especially HIGHLIGHT KENOSIS and TRAINING ICARUS were quite sensational albums to fully review. From the other releases a little less interesting are the albums by the Mexican band NOSTRA MORTE and the Toronto/Canada based band UNDER HEAVEN. Those 2 albums were clearly under budget and also vocally not as strong as all the other releases in this overcrowded genre. The new album by the legendary UK band LEGEND is titled ‘Spirit’ and this is definitely an interesting record. The music is actually pure Progressive Rock with a 1970s touch and vocally it sounds quite good. 5 lengthy tracks are included, with a lot of cool synths and keys and especially the song “Wood for the trees” is a superb song that almost can be labelled a Pomprock song! More info on these 3 releases at: RAVENHEART MUSIC at:

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


Although coming out of different European countries, the band BODYPOLITICS is settled in the Dutch city of Utrecht, where they were formed in 2010. In 2012 the debut album ‘The Space Of A Jump’ was released and now there is the follow-up ‘Inner nil’. The band consists of Giuseppe Valenza (voice, guitar and keys), Thanos Fotiadis (guitar and fx), Tim Lamballais Tessenshon (bass) and Art Pinto (drums). They have played at several festivals, supported THE GATHERING and in Italy they made it onto the national TV (RAI), so they are clearly on the rise and with this new album ‘Inner nil’ hopefully the next step will be taken. Although described as Noise Pop a la THE NATIONAL and RADIOHEAD, I think the music of BODYPOLITICS is actually more going into a Gothic Rock direction, including the very low way of singing the verses and dark slow rocking background. Unlike many other European Gothic bands, BODYPOLITICS are not so much synth driven and are definitely aiming for a somewhat Guitar pop direction, with still the clear Gothic undertone. It’s interesting to see if this band is able to produce this sound live as well, because ‘Inner nil’ sounds like a very strong record for sure. There’s enough diversity going on here to keep you interested and listen from start to finish. Check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


Now here we might have the next sensation to hit the European market. The band is called IN THE VALLEY BELOW and they are coming out of California. It is actually a duo formed around ANGELA GAIL and JEFFREY JACOB, whom met each other in Los Angeles, but they already had plans to form a band together down at the famous SXSW festival. The French independent label OSKAR RECORDINGS were the lucky ones to have this band on their roster first, but as they seem to become huge soon, SONY MUSIC USA eventually took over and from then on the ball started to roll in the right direction, such as a performance at the DAVID LETTERMAN show and a supporting tour for WHITE LIES and COLD WAR KIDS. IN THE VALLEY BELOW is making their debut on the major label with this EP titled ‘Peaches’, which will be followed by a full-length album later this year. The sound is not too far away from HAIM, but definitely less poppy and radio orientated, sounding much darker actually and there is the combination of male and female vocals, which makes it quite interesting. 4 songs are included here and the romantic pop/rock with 80s synth touch and lots of great hooks and catchy choruses is sounding very pleasant to the ears. Especially opener and titletrack “Peaches” is a very strong that could easily become a huge hit worldwide. The 80s vibe is definitely there and I am sometimes reminded of DEVICE and ANIMOTION here, although less bombastic and adding some more Indie Pop influences, making it a true band for the modern age. There’s something about this band while listening to their EP, because it grabs you and doesn’t let go, so the high hopes for a sensational full-length record soon and a successful European solo tour is definitely possible for 2014. Keep your eyes wide open for this band at: 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)


‘Raise the curtain’ is the first solo-album by lead vocalist JON OLIVA, who is best known for his adventures with SAVATAGE, JON OLIVA’S PAIN and DOCTOR BUTCHER. I received the vinyl version of this record (thanks Theo/Rock Inc), which makes it a bonus to listen in more detail to the latest effort from this legendary musician. It concerns a double-LP record, consisting of a black and a red vinyl record. Musically speaking it is a little softer than the usual projects of Jon, although one can easily tell that this is Jon, but unlike his past, this time Jon himself took care of most of the instruments (lead vocals, piano, guitars, keyboards, drums, bass), apart from a few guitar riffs by his late brother CHRIS OLIVA, who by the way died exactly 20 years ago, so a nice memory to release it now. It is like already mentioned less Metal based and more Orchestral and Bombastic orientated, with even a few pure Progressive Rock/Prog Metal parts. Of course there are still the SAVATAGE similarities, but still it all sounds a bit more friendly and polished than his previous Metal records. His best work will always be the legendary records he released with SAVATAGE, without any doubts! Nevertheless, I do feel that this new solo-album ‘Raise the curtain’ is his best effort in years, because it contains a bunch of really great material. It is also quite a diverse album that contains uptempo Melodic Metal pieces, theatrical light SAVATAGEish songs, Progressive Metal and Poppy Piano-led (semi) Ballads. If we run quickly through the tracklisting, it starts with the proggy “Raise The Curtain”, then the classic uptempo metal of “Soul Chaser”, followed by “Ten Years” (theatrical style, midtempo, kinda like AEROSMITH meets QUEEN meets SAVATAGE), “Father Time” (best song by far, fantastic Progmetal a la SAVATAGE), “I Know” (Classic SAVATAGE style ballad), “Big Brother (uptempo Metal), “Armageddon” (strong Progmeta), “Soldier” (calm ballad a la ALICE COOPER), “Stalker” (another theatrical bombastic song), “The Witch” (great Progmetal”, “Can't Get Away” (interesting semi-ballad with a bluesy touch) and closing track “The Truth” (a bonus track, calm acoustic song). Jon’s voice still sounds amazing and he can do anything with his voice, both in the low and in the high range (DEE SNIDER, ALICE COOPER and JOHN LENNON are a few of the singers I am personally reminded of when listening to Jon and that is a big compliment I think!), which makes him a very interesting vocalist. All together a very strong return of JON OLIVA and for more info go to: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


1 year after the debut release ‘Legacy of life’ of IMPERA, a sort of semi-supergroup of Swedish musicians, the 2nd album ‘Pieces of Eden’ is released. The band members are all KISS fans, so a cover of the PAUL STANLEY classic “Goodbye” is not that suprising, although on the other hand it is quite interesting to see them cover a song from probably the best KISS related album ever released, as it is actually taken from the legendary PAUL STANLEY solo record from 35 years ago! Anyway, vocalist Matti Alfonzetti is definitely a top-notch singer, who shines here on this record and as usual, guitarist Tommy Denander is showing off with his skills on the guitar. The music is as close to 1980s American Melodic Hardrock as one can get, so nothing new is brought here, but it is done at a very high level and therefore fans of HEAVEN’S EDGE, DOKKEN, XYZ, ICON, VALENTINE, KNOW ILLUSION, FIREHOUSE and such will be dancing and singing along to excellent tracks like “Since you’ve been done” and “You and I”. If you call yourself such a dedicated fan, then this release is a must-have!

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


TOMMY DENANDER’s project RADIOACTIVE gets a facelift through a triple-CD release that covers all the work of this AOR project. 6 bonustracks that were previously unreleased are included and some of the songs are re-recorded with other vocals, which in the case of especially the classics “Love is on your mind” and “Premonition” didn’t make it sound better than the original version. Nevertheless, it is clear that this song and all the other tracks of the 3rd record ‘Taken’ belong to the finest RADIOACTIVE material ever recorded. “Love is on your mind”, “Forgivness”, “This I promise you”, “Shattered”, “Premonition” and “Easy’s get harder” are all AOR classics and despite the bonustracks (such as the superb “The darkness inside”) are quite nice tunes to have in your collection, it really is that ‘Taken’ record that made RADIOACTIVE such an interesting project and that album is definitely TOMMY DENANDER’s finest effort ever! As usual, ESCAPE MUSIC delivers a beautiful package here that you can easily pick up and enjoy, because the included 43 songs are definitely pleasant for the ears!

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)


WINTERSTORM is a band from the UK playing the typical Female Fronted Melodic Power Metal in the style of EDENBRIDGE, DELAIN, EPICA, NIGHTWISH, STREAM OF PASSION, etc. etc. ‘Within the frozen design’ is their 2nd release and of course this kind of music is huge in Europe, so countless bands are active in this subgenre and therefore there is a lot of competition out there. Nevertheless, WINTERSTORM are doing things quite well actually, with a strong singer HANNAH FIELDHOUSE, who also happens to play the lead guitar! The songs are very melodic, with catchy hooks and memorable choruses, packed in a Symphonic Melodic Metal setting. It might not sound really original, we have to admit that it does sound very pleasant. 12 songs are included and fans of mentioned bands will absolutely love this record from start to finish. Although there could have been some more diversity in the material and the production is not as massive as the major label releases in the female fronted symphonic melodic metal genre, I can honestly recommend it to fans of mentioned bands. Check out more at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


There are vocalists out there who simply can not do anything wrong and DANNY VAUGHN is definitely one of them! Whenever his name shows up on a record then rest assured that it is an interesting album, because this man has got a golden voice and now he is part of the Spanish band BURNING KINGDOM. This band is formed around guitarist MANUEL SEOANE (MAGO DE OZ, ARS AMANDI) and members of CRAZY LIXX, CARNIVAL SUN, NARITA and FATE . The album ‘Simplified’ is filled with high class uptempo Melodic Hardrock the way we want to hear it Danny sing! Danny wrote the lyrics and Manuel the music, combined it sounds very strong. 10 tracks are included and if you’re familiar with FROM THE INSIDE, then you know what to expect, as it is along the same lines, but also TYKETTO fans will of course love this. Catchy hooks and memorable singable melodic choruses are the ingredients in each and every song, with Manuel’s flashy guitarwork and Danny’s high notes as finishing touch. “Watching as it burns”, “From on high”, “The one that almost got away”, “Skeleton tribe” and “Falling down” are the kind of 80s uptempo hookladen Melodic Hardrocksongs we all love so much (and let’s not forget the keyboard driven 80s AOR based titletrack!). Yeah it might sound cliché tingled and by the numbers, with clear similarities to DOKKEN, FIREHOUSE, VALENTINE and such, but the job is done perfectly and fans of mentioned bands will be dancing all night long to such material. If only the production would have been a bit better, because it sounds quite raw here and there, then the rating would even be higher. Anyway, go check out this great album at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Out of Miami Beach, Florida comes singer/songwriter J.J. CROWNE, who has released his new full-length album, which is a self titled independent release. The big name involved here is the guy who mastered, mixed and engineered the recording, because that is JEFF SILVERMAN (RICK SPRINGFIELD, PRINCE, NICK GILDER, JOHN EDDIE… The music on the CD is clearly influenced by the late 1970s Westcoast/Singer-Songwriter movement. There’s some Folk-Rock to be heard as well, but it starts with a sorta Westcoast-AOR direction in songs like “Only time”, and “Everything about you”, both very relaxing laid-back tunes that even recall memories of PLAYER and DAKOTA. Things get more folksy during “Another day of love” and several other songs where JOHN FOGERTY meets TOM PETTY might be a good description. Towards the end of the album it all gets a little more back-to-basic acoustic tingled, so the singer-songwriter idea is then becoming a fact and we are drifting into JIM GROCE territory. All together a nice diverse album that showcases the talent of JJ CROWNE, who definitely deserves to be heard. More info at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


24 years of age and coming from Missoula, Montana , USA, KAPPA OIE is a talented female singer-songwriter, who has a very pleasant voice and some beautiful melodic music on her very first EP ‘Love, loss and happy thoughts’. She lived in Australie for a while, but is now settled in a small town, where she is working her way up and after hearing the 4 songs of her debut EP she could well become the next big thing, although the competition is of course huge! She reminds me a bit of NINA NESBITT, but with a slightly sweeter approach that even recalls THE PIERCES sometimes, which is a good thing for sure. This is summer-breeze kinda acoustic driven pop/rock, making you feel happy and in a good mood, no matter the fact that it is actually closer to Winter outside. Check out Kappa at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Singer-songwriter ERYN SHEWELL is coming out of East Windsor, New Jersey and she has without a doubt an incredible voice that should easily gain her a lot of attention all over the world. I am surprised she has not had her big break, because her voice is really amazing. A range that can go anywhere and with an own style that fits somewhere between EVA CASSIDY, JONI MITCHELL and LUBA. The music is a mix of Jazz, Pop/Rock, Blues and Soul, with a clear link to the past. After listening several times to Eryn’s latest CD, I am convinced she could be the next BETH HART, ANA POPOVIC, SUSAN TEDESCHI, DIANA KRALL or DANA FUCHS. I truly hope she will have luck on her side, because with a voice like that, there is a world out there waiting to discover this enormous talent. 10 songs are included and am madly in love with especially the bluesy ballad “Relax to sleep”, which also contains some excellent guitarwork by PATTY RUH. Something to check out asap at: 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)


ROZANNE GEWAAR is a very talented singer-songwriter from South Africa, who currently lives and works in the USA. She released a few albums and ‘Kleine Gode’ is her latest effort. Musically speaking it is pure Singer-Songwriter orientated in the style of all the other female singers out there, but the thing that sets her apart is the fact that she sings most of the time in the South African language, which is called Afrikaans and for a Dutchman like me a very understandable language, but probably for most others hard to follow. She can sing very well too, singing in different ranges quite easily and the music does also feature some African vibes here and there, so actually Rozanne is doing something different than the countless others in the female fronted singer-songwriter direction. That should be enough to get the attention she deserves. More info can be found at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Pure AOR is really hard to find these days, because most bands in this genre are actually Melodic Rock or Hard Rock based. Here and there we do have exceptions and especially in Sweden a lot of pure AOR bands are active, but not all of them are interesting enough to check out. HIGHER GROUND is definitely a band you urgently need to hear if you call yourself an AOR fan, because their new album ‘Gravity’ is a very decent high quality record that does reflect the AOR sound the way we want to hear it. This is well-thought AOR for the Adults, so no wimpy cheesy AOR by the numbers here, but more in a TOTO style like only the Swedish acts can deliver. There’s similarities to RADIOACTIVE, FERGIE FREDERIKSEN and PROMOTION, but then again a bit less rockier and I have to admit that it does work quite well most of the time, because now we are able to call this a real AOR record, with a few Westcoast influences. The vocals of singer PETER LINDBERG are a pleasure to listen to, the hooks are quite beautiful and the only pity might be that only 9 songs are included. We covered HIGHER GROUND in the past a few times, but somehow I feel that ‘Gravity’ is their finest release so far, with such excellent AOR tunes like “Fate,”, “Waste of time”, “Supernatural” and the laid-back ballads “Again” and “Remember me”. This is real music and this is the AOR sound which should be promoted all over the radio. Time will tell if this will become a classic, but compared to the standard cliché tingled FRONTIERS RECORDS releases, this independent release is by far more interesting to listen to. Another spin will follow shortly I feel and fans of AOR/Westcoast need to urgently look for the new HIGHER GROUND album. More info at: 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)


THE COLOURPHONICS is a band from Australia and musically they are playing pure Funkrock as if it was still the 1970s. There’s a lot of slappin’ bass going on here, a groovy funky guitarsound and almost Soulful Disco hooks and choruses, but still with a rocking sound here and there. In fact even progressive influences can be heard. I’ll bet JEFF SCOTT SOTO would be a huge fan if hears this band! What they are doing is at a high level and their album ‘Cooler than hungry’ is clearly showing a quality act that could easily write a big summer hit. For the rockers it might all sound a bit too groovy and funky, but the open-minded musicfans, who also appreciate SANTANA might want to check out this band. They offer some interesting original music here that covers a lot of genres, Fusion Rock might perhaps the best description! More info at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


THE NAMELESS TRIO is an interesting trio from Shelton, Connecticut, USA playing original pure Americana, in which we can trace influences of all traditional American genres (Folk, Bluegrass, Rock, Pop, Blues, etc.). Their 2nd album is called ‘Explore!’ and it features a nice set of tunes, mostly uptempo with a honky-tonk rocking approach and as finest tracks we need to add “Hillside”, “Anxiety”, “Explore’ and “Cruel love”. While listening to this album you find yourself definitely all the way in the middle of the USA, right in the desert somewhere in a lonely town under a bloody red hot sun. And then in a local bar 3 musicians are playing pure traditional music as if we are back in a 1900s Western setting. That is the feeling you get when listening to the NAMELESS TRIO. They could easily be part of the line-up of the famous Dutch festival  Forget MUMFORD AND SONS, because this is the real deal! More at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Out of Brooklyn, New York comes the exciting project THE KNELLS. This act is formed around composer/guitarist ANDREW MCKENNA LEE. He is a very talented musician, who already released a couple of albums, but is making his debut with the new project THE KNELLS here. Their same titled record contains very original music that melts together influences from several genres, such as Classical Music, Progressive Rock, Indie Pop, Electronic Music, Post-Rock and a lot of Celtic music. Andrew has 3 female singers (Nina Berman, Amanda Gregory, Katya Powder) on board and all of them are in the Soprano range, so you get a lot of high pitched vocalwork that does remind most of the time of TARJA of NIGHTWISH, but musically THE KNELLS are of course calmer and could best be described as a Celtic Progressive Rockband with Classical Music influences, sounding like a mix between CLANNAD, YES, PINK FLOYD and STEVE REICH. Quite an original record that will stand the test of time for sure, because it explores new paths with some very interesting arrangements and instrumental passages that you don’t hear too much nowadays. If you’re looking for a catchy top 40 hitsong, then you will gladly not find it here, because this is music you need to listen to over and over again. Somehow I do think that live on stage it will have even more impact! For now, check out more info at: 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


Out of L.A. comes singer/songwriter JOHN ISAAC WATTERS, who releases his 3rd album with ‘Campanas’. The included material is not far removed from LEONARD COHEN and BOB DYLAN, although John is a quite adventerous during the song “Ragman”, which is almost pure New Orleans Jazz. However, most of the time, it is a very laid-back affair that will absolutely be loved by the fans of DYLAN/COHEN. All done very well, but nothing new is brought here on the other hand. Check out more at: 

(Points: 7.3 out of 10)


SUE YOUNG is settled in Texas, where she has built up a reputation in the singer/songwriter scene the past decades. Her latest album is titled ‘Gliding’, where she is helped by several musicians, including Bradley Kopp (additional acoustic guitars, bass). The music is typical American singer-songwriter music with a traditional Folk touch and a lot of strong catchy melodies (even a touch of THE CARPENTERS during a song like “Futher down the road”). Sue has got a fantastic clean voice which give the words extra meaning and memorable melody. 11 songs are included and it is a pleasure to listen to Sue’s melodic calm acoustic pop/rock. Definitely a great singer/songwriter who you should see live on stage. More at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Here we have a nice JOHN LENNON tribute band called THE NUTOPIANS. They recorded a CD filled with THE BEATLES and JOHN LENNON covers. Thankfully not sounding like the originals, because when doing a THE BEATLES cover you have to make it your own and if I look back in the past, the JADED HEART version of “Help” is my favorite THE BEATLES cover of all times. THE NUTOPIANS also create original covers of all those THE BEATLES classics, with as highlights “You’re gonna lose that girl”, , “Beautiful boy”, “I’ll be back” and “Please, please me”. The band has various lead singers, but it is clear that TOM DEAN is the best singer on board. This guy has got a very strong clean voice, which somehow reminds me of the late 70s/early 80s American AOR/Pomprock vocalists. Anyway, a great covers album here. More at: 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


American singer/songwriter TOM MANK has worked with Cello player SERA SMOLEN for many years and their latest effort they did together is the album ‘Swimming in the dark’. Musically it is a peaceful adventure that finds it’s roots in the Folk, Americana and Bluegrass tradition. LEONARD COHEN is a clear comparison due to the harsh raw vocals of Tom, but the cello and beautiful additional female vocals make it sound a little bit differently and more interesting at times. “Green apple” is one of the songs that shows the bluesy slightly rocking side of the 2 musicians and without a doubt this is a very strong tune. Recommended to check out further at: 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)


Well well well! Now here we have a sensational female vocalist/guitarist called LISA LIM. This American musician has released a great self-titled album, which shows an enormous talent, both vocally and on the guitar. Not all of the songs will become a classic, but without any doubts, Lisa is an amazing guitarist, who can easily rip like JOE BONAMASSA, while her singing has a strong 80s Hair Metal vibrato, which fits somewhere between JOAN JETT and LITA FORD. The music is heavy bluesrock, with a huge Rock and Roll approach. In fact, sometimes it reminds me a bit of a bluesier version of the much praised DEAP VALLY. Highlights on the album are “Broken promise blues”, “Superstitious mind”, “Denial” and “Let go” (a cool catchy straightforward melodic rocker a la JOAN JETT!). Mindblowing guitar playing is the name of the game here and I am absolutely thrilled to ever see this girl live on stage, but so far she hasn’t performed outside of the USA. It’s time to get her perform in Europe, because she has the potential for sure. The only remark I would like to add is that her songwriting might need a boast on a future album, because here and there we can hear some simpler tunes (“My perfect world” and “Perfect fit”) that sadly invites one to push the skip button. Nevertheless, there’s huge potential here and with the right team and experience in the coming years, Lisa is definitely a musician to keep your eyes wide open for. More info at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


The Californian duo GENNA AND JESSE consists of multi-instrumentalists/vocalists GENNA GIACOBASSI and JESSE DYEN. They recorded a CD together entitled ‘Give and take’, which musically is a mix of singer-songwriter, westcoast and smooth pop/rock, with even a commercial touch (“You’re on to me”) here and there. The jazzy shuffle of “Terrible lies” reminds me a bit of CARO EMERALD, while the male sung songs have a sorta 1970s memory (think KRIS KRISTOFFERSON meets JESSE COLIN YOUNG). “Your little whore” is somehow despite it’s songtitle a very interesting and nice little tune that easily sticks in your head and is a pure Bluegrass tune that should be a huge hit among fans of that genre (IMELDA MAY might be a good comparison!). The catchy “Love wobbles” breathes a classic 70s American soft-rock vibe and so in the end this is a very diverse record that offers something for everyone. Check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)


The German band HUMAN FORTRESS has been active for quite some time now and their latest record is titled ‘Raided land’, which is their 4th release so far. The band’s music is typical European Melodic Power Metal, with a massive sound that includes huge hooks and catchy choruses, making it sound very melodic. FREEDOM CALL, BLIND GUARDIAN and also MASTERPLAN and ICED EARTH come to mind while listening to this high quality record, especially during the beginning of the album. Somehow it also has a sorta Swedish Melodic Metal touch (such as during the midtempo “Evil curse”, which reminds me of a band called LAST TRIBE!). The band’s lead singer is none-other than the Brazilian vocalist GUS MONSANTO, who of course has got a very strong voice (listen to his excellent performance during “Restless souls”, which is a really wonderful tune that has got a late 80s/early 90s MALMSTEEN/PELL vibe). Gus is of course best known for his adventures with ADAGIO and REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE and recently joined HUMAN FORTRESS, which gave this band an extra dimension. Of course there are a lot of Melodic (Power) Metal releases done each year, but it is very clear that HUMAN FORTRESS is a record you don’t want to miss if you’re into any of the mentioned bands, because the 13 included tracks are all definitely worth a listen!

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Out of Lancashire, UK comes the band SHARP PRACTISE, which happens to be a Classic Rockband formed around lead singer/keyboardplayer NIGEL CLOTHIER. There are some AOR influences to be heard, such as during the slowtempo bluesy semi-ballad driven “Hard heart” and the AOR ballad “Maybe”. However, most of the time SHARP PRACTICE is playing plain-old British Classic Melodic Rock, reminding me a bit of the bands ALKATRAZZ and RAGE (UK). There are hints of light NWOBHM and a bluesy touch as well, but despite it is all done nicely, I am afraid this release is not reaching the level of mentioned bands. Strangely enough the best track by far is kept until the end, because the midtempo melodic rocker “Justice” shows the band at a more energetic level, with also Nigel singing much better than on the other tracks. Recommended for next time to write some more uptempo material and Nigel stretching his lungs a bit more like in that last track, because there he sings with more enthousiasm. Check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: 7.0 out of 10)


Here’s a sensational band from Toronto, Canada. They are called BREACHED, were formed in late 2010 and have recently released their debut album, which is an ep titled ‘Left behind’. Although the included 5 songs are typical Northern American sounding and move dangerously close in the modern American Melodic Alternative Hardrock direction of ALTER BRIDGE, SHINEDOWN, CREED, STONE SOUR area, the result is still very strong. The band has a great lead singer (Bobby Noakes) and the melodies are very catchy. Opener “Left behind” has got ALTER BRIDGE written all over and is definitely a great song, but following tracks “Piece by piece” and “All we need” are more interesting. These 2 songs are more uptempo and feel very Canadian, almost pure Melodic Rock, with even guitar solos, sounding like a cross between MY DARKEST DAYS and HAREM SCAREM. The other 2 songs are called “Brighter days” and “Here with me”, which offer more Modern Rock at it’s finest! Although not original, these guys surely know how to create something that can live up with the big names in this genre. Check them out at: 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


Out of California comes singer/songwriter JONATHAN FOSTER, who released a very strong melodic traditional American singer/songwriter album titled ‘Sabbatical’. There is a slight Country touch as well, such as the JOHNNY CASH orientated “Sevens”. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by none-other than BRUCE TURGON, who of course is a huge name in the AOR scene, having worked with FOREIGNER, PRISM, SHADOW KING, DARBY MILLS, KISS, LOU GRAMM, PLACES OF POWER and much more. Jonathan has got a very interesting voice (JOHNNY CASH similarities sometimes), which you don’t hear often and after listening to a couple of songs you feel comfortable with his way of singing and I have to admit that he actually has an own style. Of course there is a lot of competition out there, but Jonathan has got something to offer here that here and there stands out between the rest of the singer-songwriter world, so who knows we might be looking at the next big star here. More info at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


I am not sure, but ANDROBB is definitely one of the very few bands from Liechtenstein with a professional high quality sounding full-length CD. The album is titled ‘Still on the run’ and the included music is good strong Melodic Hardrock in the style of MAD MAX, CASANOVA, BONFIRE and such. Nothing new under the horizon, but thankfully done quite well and enjoyable to listen to. The band exists since 2001 and they already released a record in the past, but are now back on track with this new album. The production is very impressive for an independent release and despite the level of mentioned bands is not reached, if you’re into the typical German Melodic Hardrocksound of mentioned bands, this might well be interesting for you to check out. More info at: 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)


Wow a little bit of nostalgica here, because lead vocalist/bassist DAVID KUHN was featured by us in the late 1990s and early 2000s, firstly as member of the legendary Pomprockband CITADEL, whom released a one-off record in the late 1970s. The second time we extensively did a write-up on him was during his solo venture, which not only included a review of his excellent AOR CD ‘Talk it over’, but also an interview with David. Then it became quiet around this talented musician, but suddenly in December 2013 I received an email from David himself. It appears that he is back on track with a new band called THE KUHN BROTHERS, which besides David also features his brother KEVIN KUHN on guitars and Sean McDaniel on drums. They released a very strong CD titled ‘Ironhead’ just recently and the included original material is a mix of Classic Rock, Melodic Hardrock and AOR, with a slight heavy bluesrock touch. At times it sounds like a mix between CONEY HATCH, USA and Y&T, with a dash of AOR. It is really a strong Classic Rock kinda album with perfect vocalwork of David, who sounds so much like CARL DIXON, so therefore the CONEY HATCH comparison. He absolute highlights are the early 1980s US uptempo AOR/Radiorockers “Summer again” and “Wasn’t counting on it” that both sound a lot like 707 during their first couple of albums. The other 9 tracks fall into the earlier on mentioned Classic Hardrocksound of CONEY HATCH, TALAS and SANTERS, and I have to admit that it does sound very impressive. Although the production doesn’t have the high quality of the major label releases, it has a sort of charmness which makes you truly feel this is authentical Classic Hardrock album. Without a doubt, recommended to check out for sure. More info at:

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


Out of Canada comes singer/songwriter NICHOLE MANN, who released a CD titled ‘Bitter truth’. Nichole has got a great voice, her songs are very melodic and catchy enough to be played on the radio. 11 tracks are included on the album and musically speaking it is a mix of radiofriendly AOR/Poprock tunes (such as the awesome ROBIN BECKish “Let go” and “Back again”), some bluesier rock a la ALANNAH MYLES (“Dreaming”, “Angel” and “On my way out”) and a little bit of modern singer/songwriter kinda material, which sounds a little poppier (“More through this”, “Starry sky” and “Circus”). The album ends with a real traditional sounding Americana/Country piece titled “I tried”, but overall the material falls in the melodic pop/rock category and I am quite convinced that fans of ROBIN BECK, DONNA CRISTY, LENITA ERICKSON as well as the Canadian girls of ALANNAH MYLES, AMANDA MARSHALL, ALANIS MORISSETTE and also HEATHER NOVA will find something to like here for sure. NICHOLE MANN is a name to keep your eyes open for, because this is a talented female singer/songwriter, who can easily breakthrough someday soon. More info at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Now this is more like it! As soon as the first song of the same titled debut CD of the band COUNTER VOID gets on it’s way and the vocals kick in, I am convinced that this is going to be an interesting adventure. For an independent release, this sounds damn good and that particular opener “Ultimate betrayal” is a highly sensational midtempo semi-progressive AOR/Melodic Rocker with phenomenal guitarwork and superb vocals, while the song itself is quite awesome and reminds me a bit of CITA meets MARA meets FAIR WARNING meets 1990s FORTUNE (the Boston band) and among the 11 tracks we can find a lot more sensational songs, such as “Fool”, “Raspberry super nova” (FANTASTIC!), “Blind corner” and the ENCHANTish “Don’t wake me”. The band comes out of a suburb of the city of Minneapolis and consists of 2 musicians, Ben Hafeman on Lead Vocals, backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, instrument programming and Brad Miller on Lead Guitar, backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, instrument programming. Although I hear a lot of new voices, usually I am not that impressed anymore, but here we have a singer who is without a doubt sounding like the greatest undiscovered AOR singer of the past decade! BEN HAFEMAN is his name and if you listen to the song “Fool” you will understand that he is just amazing, with a range that will make any singer jealous. He is the kind of crystal clear sounding singer I personally dig a lot, reminding me of FREDDY CURCI (ALIAS, SHERIFF), BOB VOSE (FORTUNE), MARTY FARRIS (MARA), IAN PARRY and DANNY MARTINEZ (CITA), but let’s also not forget that BRAD MILLER is a brilliant shredding guitarist as well, who completes this duo’s rise to fame and fortune within the AOR/Melodic Rock/Prog world. The CD has recently been released and when the word comes out, this act will definitely get a lot of attention. The only pity is the lack of real drums, because drum programming is being used, so the drums should definitely be played for real next time, as now during a slightly off the grid kinda tune such as “Never know” it sounds a bit flat. Nevertheless, such talented as these 2 guys sound together is quite rare nowadays, so do not miss this and go check it out for yourself at:  and in a few years this could turn out to something huge in the Prog/Melodic Rock world, mark my words!

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)


‘Slow hunch’ is the 2nd album of the Dutch band GODS MONKEY, whom are destined to become the next big rockband out of Holland. They are influenced by the 70s Classic Rocksound and what they are showing on the new 7 tracks counting EP is quite impressive. Both the vocals of Stephan van de Kimmenade and guitarwork of Chilco Dobbelsteen are good enough to lift them up above the huge competition out there. As already mentioned, the sound is pure 70s Classic (Hard) Rock with a dash of Stoner Rock, but on the other hand there is also a lot of diversity between the songs. Especially the songs “Fruits” and “Steal” sound a lot more modern, catchier and radio-ready than the other 5 tracks. Somehow both these songs are injected with a light sorta British Rock touch that should make it possible to get this band also familiar outside the Stoner/Classic Rock scene. Who knows in 2014 we will see them breakthrough thanks to a performance on one of the main summer festivals! In the meantime check them out at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


Although it might not have the massive production of the glorious days of the major label releases from the 1970s, the CD of KJ is filled with typical American Westcoast and Singer-Songwriter music. He reminds me of STEELY DAN, CSNY, JIM GROCE, AMERICA, HALL&OATES and such, but there are also clear influences of other music styles. OK, it doesn’t rock at all, but it nevertheless might be interesting to check out if you’re a fan of typical 70s American Soft Pop. The first couple of songs are definitely the best, such as opener “Rehabilitation”, while towards the end the songs get a little weaker. Check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: 7.1 out of 10)


UPSET are an all-girl band featuring the likes of former BEST COAST/VIVIAN GIRLS drummer Ali Koehler, VIVIAN GIRLS guitarist Jenn Prince and ex-HOLE drummer Patty Schemel, so this seems to be sort of a semi-superband or trio for that matter. The music is not far removed from the bands the girls were previously part of, so it rocks and is sometimes straight-ahead punky, although most of the time this is typical 1990s College Rock, the kind of stuff which could be heard in every High School TV Series of the 1990s and during legendary TV shows like BUFFY, CHARMED, ANGEL and such. Of course there are many new all-female bands out there doing this kind of rock again and UPSET is doing it quite well, so a band to check for sure. Highlights on their debut CD ‘She’s gone’ are the catchy melodic rocker “Queen Frosteen”, a song which is deadly catchy and a sure radio-ready hitsingle, and also the THE DONNAS soundalike punky “Game over” and “Don’t lose your dinosaur”, which are both definite crowd-pleasers! They might not enter new grounds with this record, but UPSET is a nice addition in the all-female rockworld! If you like the legendary SHONEN KNIFE or any of the other mentioned bands, then hurry up, because you don’t want to miss UPSET. More at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


European Power Metal from a band out of Townsend, Massachusetts, USA. They are called ARMORY and we did a review of their previous album ‘The dawn of enlightenment’ 6 years ago ( ). They are back with a strong new album titled ‘Empyrean realms’, which musically is really pure Euro Power Metal in the style of EDGUY, STRATOVARIUS, VISION DIVINE, HELLOWEEN and such, but also with a touch of KAMELOT. Vocally they are in the classic 80s American high-pitched direction of CRIMSON GLORY and QUEENSRYCHE, but the sound of the songs is very keyboard friendly and focused on strong catchy melodies that some might not even associate with Metal. Nevertheless, what they are doing is high class stuff and song like “Dreamstate” is a terrific uptempo classic Euro Power Metal song that STRATOVARIUS has not created the past 15 years! The only pity might be the fact that only 9 songs are included and the production could have had the typical FINVOXX touch. On the other hand, the band has done everything on their own and the overall conclusion is very positive from my side. It has been released on the label of the band’s guitarist/drummer JOE KURLAND, who is basically the leader of ARMORY. Also I must not forget to mention the excellent instrumental “Horologium”, which features some very cool keyboard vs guitar solo’s. You absolutely do not want to miss this album if you’re a fan of any of the mentioned bands! Check them out at: 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


‘Saltwater’ was the debut album of American singer/songwriter CHRISTIANE SZABO. She recorded and released this album back in 2006 and has actually been doing other things besides music the past few years, but a new album is on it’s way. Anyway, back to her debut ‘Saltwater’, this is definitely an album you may want to check out even now 8 years later, because it is a very nice typical American singer-songwriter, with a pop/rock approach. I can hear here and there some similarities to ALANIS MORISSETTE, especially during the album’s finest tracks, the fantastic midtempo melodic poprockers “And so I go” and “Come away with me”. Christiane has got an own identity in her voice, which sets her apart from the other female singers out there. The production leaves space open for some interesting arrangements, which especially thanks to the use of Cello and Piano gives it a sorta Classical touch sometimes. And of course it wouldn’t be an American album without a Country tingled tune and in this case it is the song “Jenny and Danny”. I look forward to her new album, which should hopefully see the light of day in 2014! In the meantime, check her out at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Out of a small suburb of the city Toledo in Ohio, USA comes a talented female singer-songwriter called LAURA SAILER. She released an album titled ‘Stop the tide’, which is basically Laura singing while playing the guitar or piano. JEWEL, SARA BAREILLES and ADELE are her influences, but I guess she is making the typical singer-songwriter music which is currently very popular amongst the youngsters out there. TORI AMOS, KATE BUSH, ANTJE DUVEKOT, JESCA HOOP, etc. etc., that is more or less the direction in which Laura could move in the next few years. She obviously has the talent to perform and also writing a great tune here and there is no problem (“Inside a melody”), but with a band backing her up on a couple songs it could turn out to sound even stronger. On the other hand, stripped down you can clearly hear Laura is very talented and let’s just keep our eyes open for her in the near future. In the meantime check her out at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


The L.A. based band BEACHWOOD SPARKS is actually a sort of cult band, because they were active in the early 2000s, with 2 releases on SUB POP, both being received very well, but a major breakthrough didn’t happen, so it became quiet around them. However, after being inactive for most of the 2000s, in 2012 a new album was released and now another album of the band is released. The record is titled ‘Desert skies’, but it is not a brand-new album, as this concerns actually their original debut album from 1997. The included material is very strong and should be described as pure Californian style Popmusic that mixes elements of Westcoast, Neo-Folk, Psychedelic Pop/Rock and Indie Pop. THE BYRDS is so close sometimes as reference, but BEACHWOOD SPARKS has definitely created their own style through the years and on this debut album from 17 (!) years ago you can already hear that this was a band with a future. Although they are still in the underground, if they are lucky, they can easily hit big time. MIDLAKE, MY MORNING JACKET, FLEET FOXES and such bands are more or less doing the same thing, although BEACHWOOD SPARKS rocks just a little more! Songs like “Sweet Julie Ann” and “Canyon ride” are quite brilliant actually, clearly breathing the classic Californian sound of Westcoast meets Psychedelic Rock and Folk harmonies, just beautiful! Hopefully a tour and perhaps spots on the major European festivals during the summer of 2014 could lift them above the masses!

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


Although at first sight the duo of PAINTED PALMS sounds like another typical modern electronic pop/rock band in a style we know from countless other bands, there’s something different about them. If you listen to for example a song like “Here it comes” on their new album ‘Forever’ I can hear THE BEACH BOYS influences and JOHN LENNON comes around during “Angels”. Although it is nice to have a fresh hi-tech flashy sound and production, the band actually sounds at best during the calmer material where they show their strength in writing a beautiful melodic song (“Soft hammer”), although the catchy uptempo 80s influenced New Waveish Poprocker “Spinning signs” and “Empty gun” will also please the fans of bands like JOY DIVISION and THE SMITHS. A very decent record and if this was British, then the whole of Europe would be all over them, but it was recorded in San Francisco and needs some time to make it over here. Hopefully we will hear much more from PAINTED PALMS in the future, because what they are doing here is pretty interesting…

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Another Californian band with the sound that currently is very popular, mixing Indie Pop with Hi-Tech Electronica and throw in classic Californian Westcoast/Folk harmonyvocalized melodies. GAP DREAM goes a little further, because the synths are pretty heavy sometimes and the psychedelic fuzz guitar sound is making them rock quite a bit sometimes. Personally I dig this new Californian sound a lot, because it mixes 60s (the fuzzy psychedelic guitarsound), 70s (the songs), 80s (the synths!) and 90s (TEENAGE FANCLUB/WEEZER) nicely in an updated modern format. Most people will label them as Alternative, but there is too much going on here that sets them slightly apart from most other bands. I’ll bet that this GAP DREAM has the chance to breakthrough, but the only thing which is missing on their latest record is a really standout tune, because they might have created their own little sound by now, the included 10 songs basically follow the same route most of the time. But there is still a best song to pick and choose and that is definitely “Immediate life sentence”, a rather catchy tune actually with THE BEACH BOYS kinda harmonies! GAP DREAM shows they are on their way up and therefore I would recommend to you to check them out before everyone else does soon!

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


The first 2 songs of the album ‘Persona non grata’ by the band COSMONAUTS are quite dark, slow and sounding very uninspired, but in a good way, like THE DOORS and IGGY POP also did somewhere in a forgotten past. However, personally I am more into melodic uptempo driven tracks and during the rocker “Wear our hair like a weapon” COSMONAUTS show more potential and remind one of THE JAM for example, but perhaps a little more Post-Punkish. It would be wiser to compare them to THE SMITHS I think, because 80s Alternative Brit-Pop is clearly the most obvious music style to detect here. If you want to hear something that is non-commercial, but still rocking, then do check out these guys!

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)


This new EP of American punk heroes NOFX is a sort of addition to their last full-length record, because the 6 short tracks included on this EP are more or less leftovers and are now released to the public. NOFX fans know what to do, although the songs are not the finest tunes of the band…

(Points: -)


LEAF HOUND was a legendary UK band whom released only 1 album in the very early 1970s before disappearing from the face off the earth. During the 1990s that album was re-issued onto CD and eventually the band reformed in the 2000s, releasing a new album and now even releasing a live CD/DVD. The original vinyl release is worth 4,000 UK Pounds (!), so it is pretty rare, but for anyone who still wants to play the band’s music at a normal price, this CD/DVD is a recommended release by the American label RIPPLE MUSIC, whom even released it as a vinyl record. The DVD is interesting to watch, because LEAF HOUND still does it very well, even 40 years later! Their music is typical Classic British Rock in the style of CACTUS, FREE, CREAM, BAD COMPANY, etc. etc. The professional footage of their concert in Japan is nice to watch, so you will not be disappointed here! More at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


The Polish female fronted Melodic Metal band CRYSTAL VIPER was formed in 2003 and has already released quite a lot albums by now. The latest album is ‘Posession’ is their 5th and once again filled with great strong Melodic Metal with powerful vocals of singer MARTA GABRIEL. DIO meets WARLOCK/DORO could be a pretty good description! There’s a vocal guest appearance by Harry Conklin of JAG PANZER and funnily enough JAG PANZER is also a band that must have influenced CRYSTAL VIPER. There’s a cool RIOT cover included as well (“Thundersteel”)! Songs like “Julia is possessed”, “Fight evil with evil” and “Mark of the horned one” are without a doubt perfectly resembling the DIO meets DORO description! In case that is your interest in True Metal, then look no further than this new CRYSTAL VIPER release!

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


Originally from the USA, the city of Alabama, singer/songwriter CELLIA ROSE has performed most of her life outside the USA, especially in Paris, where she was part of a duo called WRAPPED IN RAIN. ‘Stories’ is her 2nd solo-album, released already back in 2009, but musically nevertheless still interesting enough to feature here. The included music is typical female singer/songwriter pop/rock, with sometimes a light pop orientated direction (“Baby Oh Baby”), while also here and there quite serious in a sorta TORI AMOS style, including high pitched vocals (“I still have you”). Definitely a talented girl and a pretty interesting CD to check out. It offers 14 beautiful laid-back tracks that showcase her talent. Currently she is settled in Calgary, Canada and you can check out more info on her music at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted)