Jorn – Over The Horizon Radar

Over The Horizon Radar Album Cover Art

Jorn – Over The Horizon Radar
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 17/06/22

Running Time: 58:28
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Norway’s Jorn Lande is one of the most hardworking vocalists on the Hard Rock circuit – not to mention one of the most well-respected. I first came across him in Avantasia, where he is a vocal keystone having performed on most of their expansive rock opera studio projects, but more crucially has been a part of their touring backbone from the get-go. His rough, powerful and charismatic delivery brings a wonderfully soulful counterpoint to the more clean and operatic delivery of Tobi Sammet and live he is an unstoppable force of nature, so I grabbed the chance to listen to his latest solo effort with open arms. I’ve waffled about Avantasia for a reason and that’s because Sammet is a master at bringing the best performance possible out of his guest vocalists, capturing their essence and letting it flourish. 

Now, the challenge I have is this solo piece isn’t what I expected and does not achieve that.

OK, musically this is by the numbers Hard / Melodic Rock, but the problem I have with it is that it’s lacking the song-writing and performance edge that I have come to expect from Lande’s usual projects. I suspect that this is because as with so many Frontiers efforts of late, there’s a bunch of session house musicians involved, who are doing these projects on an almost daily basis (at least judging by the number of disks that cross my desk that have the same Italian names on them). It’s all very well running a music factory, but the means you don’t always get the drive when everyone is equally invested in the project in the way a band that’s fought for its existence from the ground up. Now don’t get me wrong, Frontiers have done well by Lande in the past, as the Allen Lande project testifies, particularly the later ones where former Stratovarius maestro Timo Tolki wrote, produced and performed, because that guy is an absolute perfectionist and like Sammet, brought the absolute best out of both Lande and Symphony X front man Russel Allen and in general I’m a supporter of the label, because they get it very right, very often. Just not always…

And there’s the rub, because throughout the majority of this album I’m struggling to find much that scales the heights I expect of projects with Lande’s name on them. For the most part the songs are formulaic and Lande’s heart does not seem to be into the performance either. Well … almost. Tucked in at the end is a song that bucks that trend and sees the man firing on all cylinders. ‘Faith Bloody Faith’ is Lande at his best – roaring delivery, great charisma and melodic soaring and a damn fine and catchy song-structure. But then there’s a reason for this one being stand out, and that is it was not part of this studio session and was originally written for the 2021 Melodi Grand Prix, which is the Norwegian Eurovision pre-selection national heat show. When the best thing on an album is effectively an extended extra of something written for another purpose, you know you are in trouble….

Sadly the rest of the album is just OK. But with Lande, I have come to expect excellence, because that’s what he’s delivered on each and every other project I have heard him on. I guess you can’t win every day…

‘Faith Bloody Faith’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Over The Horizon Radar
02. Dead London
03. My Rock And Roll
04. One Man War
05. Black Phoenix
06. Special Edition
07. Ode To The Black Nightshade
08. Winds Of Home
09. In The Dirt
10. Believer
11. Faith Bloody Faith (Extended Album Version)

LINE-UP:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Tore Moren – Guitars
Adrian SB – Guitars
Nik Mazzucconi – Bass
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards
Francesco Jovino – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Graham Bonnet Band – Day Out In Nowhere

Day Out In Nowhere Album Cover Art

Graham Bonnet Band – Day Out In Nowhere
Frontiers Music s.r.l
Release Date: 13.05.22
Running Time: 47:14
Review by Dark Juan
9/10

Well, it’s been a funny few weeks. Remember when I told you all that I was quitting wrangling recalcitrant young gentlemen in favour of being in charge of people wrangling recalcitrant young ladies?

Turns out I fucking hated it. So I quit. And then went crawling cravenly back to my old manager and asked for my old job back. Surprisingly, considering Dark Juan (even in his professional capacities) is not known for mincing his words and had uttered a home truth or two on his way out of the door, my old manager was very receptive to my coming back to work for her, which means on May 27th I return to wrangling the same young gentlemen I wrangled before. That should be interesting, especially considering I have only got my old job back on the understand I fucking apply myself to the academic aspect of the job this time and become a senior wrangler like what I said I would when I blagged my way into the job for the second time. So, I’m actually going to have to do some work instead of drag the lads off to Alton Towers and to Manchester Storm ice hockey games in Sheffield, where Dark Juan would gleefully embarrass the fuck out of the plastic gangster teen with him by being incredibly noisy and chanting and generally being a total arsehole because I really REALLY like ice hockey.

None of which has absolutely anything to do with the fact that I am listening to the new release from one of the greatest rock and metal vocal gymnasts who has ever lived, the incomparable Mr. Graham Bonnet, wearer of metal’s sharpest suits, most impenetrable sunglasses and proud owner of metal’s most incongruent coiffure, being as his barnet has always looked like it belonged on an accountant from Bognor Regis, rather than a howling rock colossus who has bestrode world stages with Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz and Impellitteri as well as his own band – the band that contains the fragrant and divine Beth-Ami Heavenstone on bass. Dark Juan had a bit of a telling off from Mrs. Dark Juan about his adoration of Beth-Ami Heavenstone when I reviewed Graham’s last release, so I will merely content myself with stating she is a superb bass player. 

And that’s all I’m saying this time because I don’t want I don’t want my balls sawn off with a blunt tin lid. Which was one of the more minor threats to my person. Corkscrews, bits of four-by-two in an anal interface and tearing my arms off and beating me to death with the wet ends were mentioned in passing.

“Day Out In Nowhere” opens with the quite stupendous “Imposter”, a song about Graham (why the fuck has this man not been made a Knight of the Realm for his services to music? He even had to overcome coming from Skegness, for fuck’s sake!) understanding that age is slowly catching up with him and how it affects him and his life and performance, which has a pathos that’s almost touching, however, his vocal channels the anger against ageing (believe me, as I approach my fifties, I feel the man deeply) and what could have been a bit moany turns into a massive battle cry for us greying hordes to pull our fucking socks up. The chorus is sublime – “Who are you, pretender? Now I can see, the man that’s reflected, that man is me…” sums up everything us gentlemen and I daresay a few ladies and other genders feel every time we drag ourselves out of our beds of pain and stare blankly at the tired and no longer flawless faces gawping back at us in the bathroom mirror. 

How the hell this man manages to consistently write such monolithic choruses is beyond me. “Uncle John” is a stand out here, with its story of a possible paedophile, with a short intro reminiscent of a musical box before some absolutely incendiary riffing from Conrado Pesinato kicks you in your lazy-ass pants and shocks you into attention. Graham’s voice soars effortlessly over it all – the man just can do no wrong. He is another one of my pantheon of musical gods – Graham Bonnet and Andrew Eldritch being top tier gods, anyway. “Uncle John” is one of the more aggressive songs and one of the most metal – The Graham Bonnet Band have always angled to the more melodic side of heavy metal, but this is a spitting firebrand of a track. “David’s Mom” is a song about a lady the  young Graham had a bit of a thing for, with yet another massive chorus in a paean to young mothers taunting gauche and tumescent teenage lads, touching an almost sleaze metal vibe before going to a middle eight with what can only be described as the most trad metal solo I have ever heard in modern music. This isn’t a criticism, it reminds me of good times, as does the keyboard solo by Alessandro Bertoni.

I’m lost. I can’t criticise this record. The man can do no wrong. Dammit, Graham Bonnet. Why do you have to be so amazing? I adore the man’s voice and have done so ever since I heard “Since You Been Gone” for the first time when I was 10 years old. I gently tease him about his haircut but he has always dared to be different, and as he gets older his voice, although rougher around the edges, still grabs me by the throat and shakes until I’m a gibbering mess. 40 fucking years he’s done that to me, the Skeggy git. The musicianship is top fucking notch, the production absolutely perfect for the music (who’s responsible for it? Conrado Pesinato and the superb bass player Beth-Ami Heavenstone. Hopefully I’m off the hook, now…) with every instrument easily discernible and Graham’s voice exactly where it needs to be, forward in the mix but not overpowering the music. The musicians sound hungry and like they are enjoying themselves and the record is notable for some fucking big names guesting on it – Mike and John Tempesta of Powerman 5000 and White Zombie respectively, Jeff Loomis of Nevermore and Arch Enemy and Roy Z of Bruce Dickinson’s solo band and Halford to name them…

Also, DON FUCKING AIREY is playing on this album. Keyboard legend, mate…

“Jester” is another heavier song referencing climate change and ecological damage and the soloing of Jeff Loomis on this song is so tasty Dark Juan is salivating. No, not over Beth-Ami. Stop that, you’ll get me in trouble. I’m already on thin ice…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards the Graham Bonnet Band 9/10 for yet another stonking album. I have deducted one mark for “Suzy”, but that is because I FUCKING HATE BALLADS! I don’t care whether it’s Graham Bonnet or anyone doing a ballad. You do a ballad, The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is deducting a mark, end of. That’s the law. I don’t care how overarchingly splendid and epic it is, what with the full orchestra and all. Ballads suck. Ballads are the musical equivalent of a butcher doing a vegan fucking chorizo sausage. Or American Football versus proper football. They should be forbidden and the perpetrators shot, with only Graham Bonnet, the Wilson sisters of Heart, and Andrew Eldritch excepted. But that’s only because I like those musicians that much. Then again, however, if the superb bass player Beth-Ami wrote “Suzy” then it is the best tune ever and she should be applauded… 

Oh, boy, this time I’m fucked!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Imposter
02. Twelve Steps To Heaven
03. Brave New World (ft. Roy Z)
04. Uncle John
05. Day Out In Nowhere
06. The Sky Is Alive
07. David’s Mom
08. When We’re Asleep (ft. Mike Tempesta, John Tempesta)
09. It’s Just A Frickin’ Song (ft. Don Airey)
10. Jester (ft. Jeff Loomis)
11. Suzy (Orchestra)

LINE-UP:
The man, the legend, the improbable haircut – Mr. Graham Bonnet – Vocals
The fleet fingered king of the fretboard, Conrado Pesinato – Guitars
The superb bass player, Beth-Ami Heavenstone – Bass

Guest musicians:
Don Airey – Keyboards
Alessandro Bertoni – Keyboards
Levi Dokus – Drums
Shane Gaalaas – Drums
Jeff Loomis – Guitars
Takanori Ozaki – Acoustic Guitar
John Tempesta – Drums 
Mike Tempesta – Guitars     
Roy Z – Guitars

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Big Deal – First Bite

First Bite Album Cover Art

The Big Deal – First Bite
Frontiers Records s.r.l.
Release Date: 13/05/22
Running Time: 40:03
Review by Simon Black
8/10

A new day, and a new country to review (at least for me). If you wonder what I’m talking about, then don’t forget that the vast majority of European Metal that hits my desk hails from German, the UK the Nordics and the Mediterranean countries, with far too little coming from more Eastern shores. Enter The Big Deal, who hail from Serbia and pump out very Radio Friendly Melodic Rock with a Progressive Metal tinge. Whilst most of Frontiers Records output is re-platforming stars of old – either by packaging a well-known name with the house studio and session player team filling the slots, or creating Super Groups or what I call The Blues Brothers records (putting the band back together). Tucked in amongst this sometimes repetitive fodder are some genuinely strong new bands that make ploughing through all the cookie cutter material thoroughly worthwhile. 

This is one such example.

This label produces a lot of Melo-Metal, but what makes this one distinctive is it’s clearly a cohesive band project with their own sound and identity, rather than something that Serafino Perugino has assembled as a project. The band are a five piece and are built around husband and wife team Srdjan Brankovic (guitars, song-writing and production) and Nevena Brankovic (vocals and keyboards). Vocal duties are shared with Ana Nikolic, creating a wonderfully richly layered set of harmonics – predominantly clean, but with a little bit of edge when needed, which makes the band sound a lot fuller than many a debut record. The only Frontiers house stamp is the addition of label stalwart Alessandro Del Vecchio on bass, although he can play practically anything in any style (and indeed has given how many of the label’s releases he’s contributed to).

Musically, what gives it an interesting edge is the subtle but incredibly skilful Progressive touches that turn up on the two Brankovic’s guitar and keyboard instrumental parts. It has the kind of fluidity, skill and flourish that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dream Theater or Nightwish (circa Olzen) album on the occasions when they manage a genuine radio friendly hit – so the virtuosity is subtle and restrained, not screaming in your face. Add this to some catchy melodies, well-layered harmonies (actually way more musically complex than they sound on the surface) and you have music that works across the aisles – like Danger, Danger but with infinitely better players. I’m normally less bothered by the obvious attempt at a hit material, but even the very commercial single ‘Sensational’ works well because of this restrained technical virtuosity and the sheer power of the dual vocal delivery.

I do wonder if Frontiers played safe here, because I get the feeling that this is a band with the potential to really punch high, as although restraint works when you’re trying to pull in the radio-friendly Rock rather than Metal crowd I do feel that a little more of that technical skill can still go a hell of a long way without breaking the commercial appeal. A damn fine start nonetheless.

‘Never Say Never’ Official Music Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Never Say Never
02. I Need You Here Tonight
03. Sensational
04. Top Heaven
05. Wake The Fire
06. In The Dead Of The Night
07. Rebel Lady
08. Power On
09. Bad Times, Good Times
10. Fallen
11. Lady Of The Night

LINE-UP:
Srdjan Brankovic – Guitars
Nevena Brankovic – Vocals And Keyboards
Ana Nikolic – Vocals
Marko Milojevic – Drums
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

L.A. Guns – Checkered Past

Checkered Past Album Cover Art

L.A. Guns – Checkered Past
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 12/11/21
Running Time: 44:48
Review by Simon Black
8/10

L.A. Guns have no small place in Rock ’n’ Roll history, with Tracii Guns leaving his name behind in one half of the biggest band the 80’s L.A. scene ever produced, before going on to found an act that would prove to be the seminal Sleaze Metal sound, which many skinny sallow kids are still trying to look and sound like thirty years later, even if they never achieved anything like the success they should have. They have definitely proven to be one of the most influential acts of the period.

L.A. Guns though have become the classic example of why going legal when band mates fall out is a really, really stupid idea, because some old Republican-voting circuit judge is not going to see what is wrong with allowing two versions of the band to compete in the same marketplace. This is why every time I see the name come up on a new recording I have to check whether it’s the Steve Riley version or the Tracii Guns & Phil Lewis version. I mean for Pete’s sake, they both use the same logo, so how’s a fan supposed to tell the difference?

Having reviewed examples of both in the last eighteen months I have to say that so far the one that actually has Mr Guns and his original debut album’s singer is winning hands down so far. Riley’s version released ‘Renegades’ last year and quite frankly annoyed the socks off of me in the process. Not only did it not really bear any relation to the L.A. Guns sound I remembered, but it was also a flat, lacklustre and limp affair. ‘Checkered Past’, however, is doing the complete opposite and ticking an awful lot of boxes.

First off, it absolutely sounds like an older and wiser version of the band that cut seminal tracks like ‘Sex Action’, ‘One More Reason’, or ‘Electric Gypsy’ back in 1988. Opener ‘Cannonball’ would feel right at home on that first record, as it bubbles with energy, down and dirty mood, and that old L.A Guns ‘tude. The bluesy ‘Bad Luck Charm’ keeps the foot-tapping mood going nicely and the energy stays there until the first of several slower pieces. The moody, semi-acoustic ‘Get Along’ is clearly an attempt at something a little more mainstream, without losing the essential feel of the band through Guns simple but effectively haunting lead break.

The slower songs are peppered throughout to be honest. ‘If It’s Over Now’ takes a moodier and darker tone, with Lewis’s vocal melody making this one of the highlights of the record, although ‘Let You Down’ isn’t far behind it. The album bounces back and forwards between the lively and the slower effortlessly and manages to pretty much hold your attention throughout. For me it feels like a much overdue and very welcome return to form for an act that really have deserved better at history’s hands over the decades. Now all they need to do is get the sole use of the name back…

‘Cannonball’ – Official Music Video:

TRACKLISTING:
01. Cannonball
02. Bad Luck Charm
03. Living Right Now
04. Get Along
05. If It’s Over Now
06. Better Than You
07. Knock Me Down
08. Dog
09. Let You Down
10. That Ain’t Why
11. Physical Itch

LINE-UP:
Tracii Guns – Lead Guitar
Phil Lewis – Vocals
Johnny Martin – Bass
Ace Von Johnson – Rhythm Guitar
Scot Coogan – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Between Worlds (Featuring Ronny Munroe) – Between Worlds

Between Worlds Album Cover Art

Between Worlds (Featuring Ronny Munroe) – Between Worlds
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/10/21
Running Time: 52:14
Review by Simon Black
6/10

It does seem a few months since I last tackled any of the output of the crazily prolific Frontiers label. For those not aware of them, this is an Italian label that specialises in supergroup projects (usually featuring a key figure from either a defunct much bigger act, or an act they are now no longer a part of), assembles a mostly Italian musical and Production team, and cranks the handle. A lot… It can be a bit hit and miss – sometimes careers are spectacularly revived, and decades old rusty hatchets are well and truly buried, even if Frontiers don’t always directly benefit from that (although to be fair they also break a few new faces that deserve a wider audience, more often than not from South America). And sometimes not…

I’m generally a hugely positive supporter of the approach, but can be quite critical of the sometimes repetitive nature of the almost factory-like part of their process, relying as it does on a large, but shared group of in-house session players, and producers, working back to back on projects to keep up with the insane releases schedule. All of which means that unless the guest artist at the centre doesn’t take an active role here, and put their own stamp firmly on it, a lot of the material can sound a bit samey. And that is precisely my frustration with this one.

Perhaps this is a side effect of the lock down influenced recording process, but the piece despite being very workmanlike, and full of robust performances, does not quite have the song writing welly that a vocalist of Munroe’s calibre deserves. That said, his performance is full on, energetic, and displays a range worthy of his reputation as a front man. I was expecting, nay hoping, that this project would be in the Progressive / Power mould of the material from his time in Metal Church or Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but song wise the material is much more in the Melodic Hard Rock vein (although there are nice flourishes in that more challenging direction from time to time). This is despite the presence of two of TSO’s musical team in the mix, and is no doubt down to the size twelve boot print of Producer Alessandro Del Vecchio, but fortunately this is saved from banality, because you can feel the tension between the mixing chair and Jack Frost’s guitar work and Munroe’s vocal lines.

I am hoping this leads to more work, but musically a slightly less Melo-Metal direction, and a bit more drive and variety on the song style would have made this a more diverse, and therefore interesting piece. But enjoyable nonetheless.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Between Worlds
02. These Walls
03. Life Enough For Me
04. Times Of Change
05. No Escare
06. Soul Chaser
07. Scent Of An Angel
08. Beautiful Disaster
09. Flip The Script
10. Beneath The Surface
11. Calm Before The Storm

LINE-UP:
Ronny Munroe – Vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Pete Alpenborg – Rhythm Guitars
Jack Frost – Lead Guitars
Alex Jansen – Bass
Michele Sanna – Drums
John Lee Middleton –  Bass On “No Escape”
Joel Hoekstra – Lead Guitar On “Soul Chaser”
Chris Caffery – Lead Guitars On “Angel” And “No Escape”

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Blood Red Saints – Undisputed

Undisputed album cover art

Blood Red Saints – Undisputed
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 06/08/2021
Running Time: 48:30
Review By Mark Pritchard
6/10

For over a month now, while I have been under the weather, and the weather outside has been changeable at best, the one thing that has been a constant is my listening to “Undisputed”, the most recent album by Britain’s own Melodic Rock band Blood Red Saints. Recently, I went to London to meet up with a friend and on both the long train journey there, and back, this album was soothing to listen to and helpful to pass the travel time. So, who are Blood Red Saints, and what’s this album like? Well, let’s find out.

Blood Red Saints were founded back in late 2014 and hail from the U.K. city of Manchester. “Undisputed” is the band’s 4th album release with “Speedway”, “Love Hate Conspiracies” & “Pulse” being released in 2015, 2017 & 2019 respectively. Alongside the Melodic Rock sounds, there’s also a large dose of Heavy Metal, Pop-Metal and Hard Rock, that make up Blood Red Saints sound. Personally, to me, they have a sound similar to that of Bon Jovi, and Whitesnake, with a little Aerosmith.

“Undisputed” is a calmer laid back album in comparison to other albums I have reviewed over the last few months. It’s one of those albums you can sit back and relax with. I will be honest and say this album isn’t too bad, but with sounding so similar to the bands I mentioned before it isn’t mind-blowing. Don’t get me wrong, the songs are alright, but when I listen and instantly think how much a song sounds like another band, it takes something away from the work Blood Red Stains put into the album themselves.

With all the time I have had while listening to this album, gradually a single song stood out more and more to me, that I did really like listening to. This was track 6, “Karma”. While it reminds me quite a bit of Whitesnake, it’s a very easy listening song, that can be listened to in any situation. This was an enjoyable album. Not ground-breaking, but definitely worth a listen. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. This Ain’t A Love Song
02. Love Like War
03. Heaven In The Headlights
04. Breathe Again
05. Caught In The Wreckage
06. Karma
07. Come Alive
08. Alibi
09. Undisputed
10. Complete
11. All I Wanna Do

LINE-UP:
Pete Godfrey – Vocals
Lee Revill – Guitars
Rob Naylor – Bass
Andy Chemney – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Mark Pritchard and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.


Vega – Anarchy And Unity

Anarchy And Unity Album Cover Art


Vega – Anarchy And Unity
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 17/09/2021
Running Time: 48:39
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

Vega have been a staple for me since seeing them live at Amplified in 2017. They deliver a fabulous early Bon Jovi-esque sound, which is right up my street. So, every time a new release from my favourite British Melodic Hard Rockers pops up, I grab it without a second thought. And here we are chatting about them again, in the shape of their seventh studio album, “Anarchy And Unity”. This album brings with it two new band members, Billy Taylor (ex-Inglorious) on guitars and Pete Newdeck (Nitrate, Midnite City) on drums, and for me, their arrival has reinvented and rejuvenated Vega’s already excellent sound, which I’m very happy about.

This album is a voyage into more ambitious territory I feel. They’ve taken the already highly set bar, and raised it a little more (ironically, this is a lyric in ‘C’mon’). This is their most complete and well-rounded album to date. Everything from the actual songwriting, to the playing, and production, seems to have hit the sweet spot here, and I really can’t fault it. So, I’m going to give you a rundown of some of the highlights for me.

The album opener, ‘Beautiful Lie’, is a hard-hitting up-tempo track, which is delivered with ferocity musically, and Nick Workman’s vocals are just fabulous. Gravelling, gritty lower end tones, and then impressive richness in the soaring higher vocals. He has a fabulous range. This track is also full of great vocal harmonies, and classic 80’s Hard Melodic Rock sounds, and an awesome guitar solo.

‘End Of The Fade’ is an absolute banging power ballad. It’s got a sinister minor undertone in the verse, and the chorus throws in a minor cadence, which I just love. Again, I am in awe of Nick’s vocals, as well as the fullness of the instrumentals. It’s a really satisfying track, which I keep going back to.

‘Welcome To Wherever’ is completely Bon Jovi through and through. I don’t really need to say anything else, but it’s a great track. It’s got some superb keyboard moments too. ‘Live For Me’ is another great standout ballad to start, but with a hard edge, that moves everything to a more up-tempo middle section, with a properly good guitar solo.

I’m loving the mix of upbeat and ballad tracks on the album as well. It makes it really easy to listen to and get lost in. And the production is crystal clear throughout, with everything balanced and placed masterfully.

Track 10, ‘C’mon’ explores new territory, switching between Jazz and Rock in an ingeniously smooth way. Groovy! And why the hell not – it’s exciting and alive. Honestly, there is nothing not to like about this album. Every track is a banger. If you like Melodic Rock, and are partial to a bit of Bon Jovi (I should probably point out that I LOOOOOVE Bon Jovi, and one of my favourite ever gigs was seeing them in the Etihad Stadium in 2013) then you will love this album, and Vega in general. They should be huge. They should be playing stadiums around the world. End of. LOVE IT!!

‘Ain’t Who I Am’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Beautiful Lie
02. Sooner Or Later
03. End Of The Fade
04. Ain’t Who I Am
05. Welcome To Wherever
06. Bring The Riot
07. Live For Me
08. Kneel To You
09. Glow
10. C’mon
11. Had Enough
12. 2Die4

LINE-UP:
Nick Workman – Vocals
Tom Martin – Bass
James Martin – Keyboards
Marcus Thurston – Guitar
Billy Taylor – Guitar
Pete Newdeck – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Hardline – Heart, Mind And Soul

Heart, Mind And Soul Album Cover Art

Hardline – Heart, Mind And Soul
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/07/2021
Running Time: 49:40
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Hardline have been at this game a while. Launching in L.A. with a juicy major label deal, no doubt, facilitated by Bad English/Journey guitarist Neal Schon’s presence in the project just before Grunge wiped out the whole scene. Actually, Schon quitting is what took the major’s out of the picture as they promptly ditched anything with a Melodic Hard Rock sound like a hot brick, but Hardline hung in through that period and their anthemic ‘Hot Cherie’ still managed a palpable global hit over the long term even though it was a slow burner on release. After flogging the dead horse uphill for too long, like many in the late 90’s they took an extended hiatus until the world was ready for them again and to be fair have been producing strong and consistent albums since stabilising with what’s become known as ’The Italian Line Up’ properly in 2011. Definitely one of Frontiers relaunch success stories, this line-up is now on its fourth album under that label’s wings and frankly I can’t see it slowing down.

Musically Hardline have stuck to their guns and if you’ve missed the intervening years then this album is a great opportunity to renew the acquaintance. Johnny Gioeli’s voice sounds exactly like it always did and his emphatic and charismatic delivery stands him out as one of the strongest contenders in the sub-genre. You always know you’ve got a cracker on your hands when after two listens you are struggling to find your stand out tracks. Now sometimes that’s a very negative problem, but the song consistency is so tip top here that it’s difficult to pick a winner easily. If I have to, I’m going to go with ‘Like That’, as it’s the closest to an anthemic floor-filler of the ‘Hot Cherie’ variety. Starting gently with a well-paced back beat, this song delivers one of the catchiest chorus lines I’ve heard in a while – the sort of chorus that has a memorable melody line and then goes up a level halfway through it’s catchy, memorable and a master class in how to write a Hard Rock hit.

Song wise ‘Heart, Mind And Soul’ is mainly mid-tempo rockers, but being Melodic Hard Rock/AOR there are the three obligatory power ballads, of which album closer ‘We Belong’, with its slow, careful acoustic build up feels of this moment, as well as the period that birthed this band. Given that Producer, keyboardist and bass player Alessandro Del Vecchio is a rather busy chap, since he’s playing the same backbone roles for a vast swathe of Frontiers roster (at least two of which I have reviewed in the last month or so alone), he manages to pull a blinding job when it comes to the song-writing here. Perhaps it’s that he’s been involved with this project a while, but I get the sense that the Hardline sound is a comfortable one to step into. Either way this album is Hardline on fire and achieves what everyone trying to emulate them can only hope for.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Fuel To The Fire
02. Surrender
03. If I Could I Would
04. Like That
05. Heavenly
06. Waiting For Your Fall
07. The Curse
08. Heartless
09. Searching For Grace
10. ‘80s Moment
11. We Belong

LINE-UP:
Johnny Gioeli – Lead Vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Mario Percudani – Guitars
Anna Portalupi – Bass
Marco Di Salvia – Drums

LINKS:

Hardline Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Chalice Of Sin – Chalice Of Sin

Chalice Of Sin Album Cover Art

Chalice Of Sin – Chalice Of Sin
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Running Time: 48:38
Review by Simon Black
7/10

Now I’m quite fond of Italian label Frontiers Music. They have a habit of assembling some quite fascinating projects and rebooting careers, so I watch their output with interest. This particular Frontiers project is a new vehicle for Wade Black (no relation) – a man who has cut his quite significant vocal chops with the likes of the rebooted Crimson Glory, Seven Witches and Leatherwolf over the years. As ever with recent Frontiers projects, this one has been assembled remotely with Black presumably cutting his tracks in the States and the rest of the band in Europe.

There’s very much a house style creeping in with a great many of these projects though, as the pandemic forces this remote way of working on musicians, but the risk with this is the that they can become potentially a little too formulaic. This isn’t helped when so many of the recent ones crossing my desk have all been produced by Frontiers in-house producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (who also takes on bass and keyboard duties here). Now don’t get me wrong – he’s a bloody good producer and gets a consistently rich production quality out of his artists, but when so many of them blend Classic, Melodic and Power Metal sounds and styles as a matter of course, it’s often difficult to tell where one project ends and another begins. He might be feeling the same way, given how many of these projects get thrown at him by the label boss Serafino Perugino who is nothing if not persistent and prolific in the projects he encourages from his artists.

Fortunately, Wade Black has such a distinctive voice and range that this project is saved from some of the pain recent label contemporaries have suffered from. That said, although the vocals are firing on all cylinders, the backing band feels like just that – rather than this being a cohesive band in and of itself. The beauty of remote delivery is that it doesn’t stop you working (and this project had its inception in 2019 before COVID hit), but the challenge is it sometimes robs you of the spark of Promethean fire that can turn a good set of musicians and songs into a truly great album. It’s a case of great ingredients, but a cake that doesn’t quite bake to its full potential in this instance – a potential that might have happened quite naturally had the players had the opportunity to work in the same room for a little longer and build their natural chemistry a teensy bit more.

The song structures are all pretty robust and well crafted, with dazzling moments of technical flourish in the arrangements that keep the attention nicely (as Del Vecchio’s proves to be quite nifty and progressive on the keyboards), but the music side does feel a bit too ‘by the numbers’ in general. What this album does demonstrate brilliantly is Wade Black’s quite exceptional voice. If you’ve not come across him before he has a high and wide range, but plenty of guts and gravel to go with it – think Jørn Lande with an extra two octave range and you will quickly get a sense of what he can do. It’s powerful, gutsy, loud and completely holds your attention. Take a proper band and keep the Producer in that role alone, and this might have sounded a whole lot more distinct. Either way, Wade has now been added to my list of cracking vocalists to watch, and for that reason alone this is worth a spin.

‘Sacred Shrine’ (Official Audio)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Chalice Of Sin
02. Great Escape
03. Whisky
04. Miracle
05. Sacred Shrine
06. Ashes Of The Black Rose
07. Through The Eyes Of A Child
08. I Stand
09. The Show
10. The Fight
11. Nightmare

LINE-UP:
Wade Black – Vocals
Martin Jepsen Andersen – Guitars
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass, Keyboards
Mirkko De Maio – Drums

LINKS:

Chalice Of Sin Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Enigma Birth

The Enigma Birth Album Cover Art

Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Enigma Birth
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Running Time: 58:49
Review by Simon Black
9/10

The Avalon project is now onto its fourth album, once again produced and co-written by Aldo Lonobile, and showing no sign of running out of steam. Both these guys seem like regular riders in the Frontiers stable these days, but this time Tolkki has outdone himself when it comes to the vocal guest contributions. These releases have always taken a leaf or two from the Avantasia Metal Opera for Dummies handbook, but in this case the guest list is quite the eye opener. In fact, albums like this require a special turn of phrase that I don’t use too often, so pardon me while I dust down “Holy cow, what a line up!” for your delectation and delight…

Let’s face it, there aren’t many records where you are going to get James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Jake E. (Amaranthe/Cyhra), Marina La Torraca (Phantom Elite/Exit Eden), Brittney Hayes (Unleash The Archers), Raphael Mendes (Icon Of Sin), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody/Angra/Eternal Idol) and Caterina Nix (Chaos Magic) on the same record and even Tobias Sammet normally only indulges in about four guests per release, making this something of a smorgasbord of Operatic tonsil tickling indulgence.

Opener ‘Enigma Birth’ is a dose of full on Symphonic Power energy, this time featuring Norwegian YouTuber Pellek on the microphone. I had not come across the man before, but here alone he demonstrates a quite spectacular range of octaves in his delivery. Catarina Nix takes ‘I Just Collapse’, which is a solid, moderately paced, rocker that would not have sounded out of place on Stratovarius’s “Destiny” album. In fact the production of this disk echoes that album’s rich fat sound rather a lot. That is no bad thing…

‘Memories’ gives us a Duet along with Unleash The Archers Britney Slayes, which given the presence of both voices is actually quite a restrained power ballad. Brazil’s Rafael Mendes delivers a strong Maidenesque performance on both ‘Master Of Hell’ and ‘Beauty Of War’ and as with his recent Brother Against Brother release from Frontiers, works best when he’s not in a duet, as he is on the former track, which allows him to release his safety locks and go for broke. Things go more Progressive for ‘Beautiful Lie’ to make James LaBrie feel a little more at home, as Tolkki demonstrates, although we know him best for his contributions to the Power and Symphonic genres, he is more than capable of pushing the boundaries into other genres and remains one of the most technically gifted song-writers around.

It’s easy to get distracted by the vocals, but the instrumental performances are pretty stellar as well, let’s face it we are talking about the man who carved Stratovarius’ reputation for melodic delivery and full on shredding when required and Tolkki has definitely still got his mojo in that regard.

I could go on and on about the individual songs, but in all honesty, I cannot find one duff or mediocre song on this near hour long slab of technical and vocal virtuosity. This has the added bonus of being one of those albums where the complexity subtly increases the further into it you get. Had they take the fuller, technical approach from the outset, it might have turned some listeners off, but Tolkki wisely opts for most catchy openers with stellar vocal delivery to reel you in, building to the more subtly crafted elements over time, and before you know it an hour has flow right by.

‘Beautiful Lie’ feat. James LaBrie (Official Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Enigma Birth (feat. Pellek)
02. I Just Collapse (feat. Caterina Nix)
03. Memories (feat. Caterina Nix & Brittney Slayes)
04. Master Of Hell (feat. Raphael Mendes)
05. Beautiful Lie (feat. James LaBrie)
06. Truth (feat. Jake E.)
07. Another Day (feat. Marina La Torraca)
08. Beauty And War (feat. Raphael Mendes)
09. Dreaming (feat. Fabio Lione)
10. The Fire And The Sinner (feat. Jake E. & Brittney Slayes)
11. Time (feat. Marina La Torraca)
12. Without Fear (feat. Fabio Lione)

LINE-UP:
Timo Tolkki – Guitars
Andrea Arcangeli – Bass
Marco Lazzarini – Drums
Antonio Agate – Keys & Orchestra

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.