Sarayasign – Throne of Gold

Throne of Gold Album Cover Art

Sarayasign – Throne of Gold
Melodic Passion

Release Date: 24/06/22
Running Time: 36:53
Review by Laura Barnes
9/10

We are currently in the presence of courage far greater than any lion or dragon-slaying knight. Step aside snake tamers, deep sea adventurers, people who bungee-jump for fun. This is bravery like you’ve never seen it before: Sarayasign’s debut album is a concept album. A bloody concept album!

For those of you who don’t follow music as obsessively as I do, a concept album is one of the riskiest things a band can do. Even for bands with a massive, quasi-religious following, the concept album can be a double-edged sword bathed in flame and venom. Even Judas Priest haven’t fully recovered from the unholy reaction to “Nostradamus”, and they’re Judas Fucking Priest for God’s sake (note: please do not take this as Nostradamus slander. I would not dare slander Nostradamus). Since then, culture has gotten even less concept album friendly. In an age of algorithm-tailored running playlists and Spotify shuffle mode, concept albums can easily get lost within the ‘I-have-no-time-right-now-so-I’ll-listen-to-this-abum-when-I-have-time’ folder because – you guessed it – there is never enough time. To this I say: move some shit around and make some time, because this debut album is unmissable. 

Swedish Hard Rockers Sarayasign deliver banger after banger in the vein of Kamelot, Queensrÿche, Coheed and Cambria (with just a sprinkle of Dream Theater for a dramatic flourish, of course) that is guaranteed to have you singing your heart out whether you follow the story or not. Despite the strong and effective focus on storytelling, “Throne of Gold” never once forgets that it is an album and not a one thousand page Ken Follett novel. Expository monologues and incomprehensible interludes are nowhere to be seen and no song exceeds the ten-minute mark. Instead, the storytelling is built into Sarayasign’s song writing in a way that feels natural, authentic and compelling. 

According to Sarayasign’s website, “Throne of Gold” kicks off an epic fantasy narrative that will be told over the course of four albums. In this album, Sarayasign have laid down the building blocks of this narrative with two interweaving story threads. The first thread introduces the world of Saraya to the listener, where chosen heroes are searching for a book that will vanquish the Darkness that is encroaching on the land. One problem: the pages have been torn out of the book and separated across distance and time. The second thread is much less far-reaching: a woman is stricken by grief after her husband dies in a car crash. Eventually, these narratives will connect in some unexpected ways. Although these two story threads seem wildly opposing in tone, Sarayasign maintains a consistent yet varied tone throughout. 

That said, whilst songs in each storyline are all fantastically written, it is the second, more down-to-earth storyline that showcases Saraysign’s magical talent for sonic storytelling. Take ‘Distant Memories’, for example. The slower, foreboding verses fill the listener with the same dread felt by the widow as she waits anxiously for her husband’s return; the melodic chorus conveys the beauty and tragedy of lost love; the gentle piano bridge frames the moment of the husband’s death. As powerhouse vocalist Stefan Nykvist spins the yarn, the attentive listener will pick up on sound effects that propel ‘Distant Memories’ into goosebump territory: car radios, police sirens, and the husband’s fading heartbeat in his last moments of life. ‘Distant Memories’ is followed by ‘If Only For A Moment’, an unflinchingly earnest ballad that manages to look grief right in the eye without cloaking itself in bleakness. The lyrics are simple, but effective; Nykvist belts out lines like ‘Home is not where the heart is / All the memories are turning black’ with unwavering conviction and weeping guitars from Daniel Blohm and Jesper Lindberg (who, by the way, is the mastermind behind the vast story-world of Saraya) bring the song to its dramatic conclusion. 

This isn’t to say that the songs following Saraya and its battle with the mysterious evil are subpar however. Whilst tracks like ‘Distant Memories’ and ‘Throne of Gold’ pack a spectacularly emotional punch in a way that surpasses earlier tracks like ‘Book of Wisdom’, every track delivers something unique. ‘Stranger in Ice’, for example, is one of the coolest tracks (pun intended) on the album. It features a guy on HORSEBACK galloping across a ‘blood red sky’ and contains enough euphoric ‘YEEAAAAAAHS’ to destroy your vocal chords twice over. What more could you possibly want?

Regardless of whether you’re a fantasy nerd or a high-flying executive metalhead who has no time for such far-fetched things, Sarayasign’s dramatic entrance into the Hard Rock scene will make you pay attention. With such a sprawling world laid out before them and the quiet confidence with which they write their music, it is clear that Sarayasign’s journey – much like their chosen heroes –  has only just begun. If you follow my advice and give “Throne of Gold” a spin, then I guarantee you’ll want to see it through with them till the end. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Book of Wisdom
02. When World’s Collide
03. Distant Memories
04. If Only For A Moment
05. Sandman
06. Run
07. Stranger In Ice
08. Throne of Gold

LINE-UP:
Stefan Nykvist – Vocals
Daniel Blohm – Lead Guitar
Andreas Axelsson – Keyboards
Daniel Lykkeklev – Bass
Jesper Lindberg – Drums / Rhythm Guitar

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Steel Rhino – Steel Rhino

Steel Rhino Album Cover Art

Steel Rhino – Steel Rhino
GMR Music
Release Date: 20/08/2021
Running Time: 42:34
Review by Simon Black
8/10

Now this is an interesting project.

The name Steel Rhino evokes motes of New Wave of British Heavy Metal loudly and clearly and the music absolutely fits that mould, albeit with a good dollop of Melodic Hard Rock on top. Being the child of Swedish drummer Mikael Rosengren; hard, solid and heavy rhythms are the backbone of this three piece project. I say project as in ‘solo’ because the guitar and bass work is all the product of versatile session musician Filip Vilhemsson, with vocals supplied by the incredibly flexible Herbie Langhans. Flexible, in that every project this man contributes to, sounds like it may have been delivered by a completely different singer – such is his range. The only time I’ve seen him live, he was part of the Avantasia circus, where clean screams were more the order of the day, with the exception of his very Sisters of Mercy-esque solo spot on ‘Draconian Love’. This project sees him taking a totally different sounding rough and ready Rock ’n’ Roll turn on the mic which fits the tone of the project perfectly, being more akin to early Udo Dirkschneider in style, but whilst still giving him a few moments to scale up to the rafters and surprise you with the breadth of his vocal spectrum.

Opening with the anthemic and aptly titled ‘Rhino Attack’ this album fires high energy Traditional Metal with a rich and modern production sound. The songs could have been written in the early 1980’s, but the sound is very much of the moment. Not overtly technical in nature, but rich, fat and crisp with every contributor sounding clear in the mix and a cohesive overall band sound and feel to support it. I’m a great believer that a clear and distinct bass guitar in the mix is what truly gets heads nodding in the pit and bassist Vilhemsson clearly agrees and uses this to good effect, with that instrument tending to dominate over the guitar sound on many occasions. It works, as this album is all about the rhythms. Thundering, stampeding and unrelenting rhythms, straight out of the NWOBHM era, but not crazily speed obsessed as the sounds that followed it a few short years later. The song-writing focuses on catchiness with those solid rhythmic riffs laying the cornerstone of each song, but with good catch vocal and guitar melodies to keep an audience fist-pumping. I will be curious to see if this project ever gets the opportunity for a live outing, as these songs all feel like they would work really well in the flesh.

A cracking album, which deserves life beyond the confines of a studio project.

‘Boom Boom’ (Official Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Rhino Attack
02. Arrival
03. Lovin’ Easy
04. Steel Rhino
05. Bells Of Midnight
06. Fire & Ice
07. Ghost From The Past
08. Sands Of Time
09. Life We Choose
10. Boom Boom
11. New Tomorrow

LINE-UP:
Mikael Rosengren – Drums
Herbie Langhans – Vocals
Filip Vilhemsson – Guitar, Bass

LINKS:

Steel Rhino 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.

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.

Robin McAuley – Standing On The Edge

Standing On The Edge Album Cover Art

Robin McAuley – Standing On The Edge
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 07/05/2021
Running Time: 44:39
Review by Simon Black
8/10

I have to confess that my engagement with Robin McAuley is fairly limited, despite my predilection for the more Melodic end of the Hard Rock world. Somewhere in my vinyl collection is a battered copy of “Perfect Timing” – the original collaboration with Michael Schenker, which at the time I was slightly disappointed in, as it felt that the great axeman was very much in the background. Look at the cover if you don’t believe me, he literally is standing in McAuley’s shadow – or at least the shadow of his rather spectacular mid-80’s bouffant. The fact that during this period the MSG band acronym was physically branded as the McAuley Schenker Group, rather than the Michael Schenker Group probably tells us all we need to know about who was in the driving seat during this period and at the time it felt like a misfire and somewhat passed me by. Time, however, is great at pointing out that actions based on knee jerk teenage reactions are not always the right ones…Although music was about to do a complete body swerve not long after its release and this sort of Melodic Hard Rock rapidly fall out of favour with the major labels, over time it has proven to be a stone cold classic, if not a classic Schenker album. Clearly there were other MSG releases with this line-up, but when you are fighting against, or being pushed to follow the rise of Grunge and everything that followed it, these did not make an impact in the same way.

This is a slightly different direction than McAuley’s Black Swan project and as ever when Serafino Perugino at Frontiers assembles a project, there’s a particular era, ethos and feel that he is trying to capture in amber with an added modern take and “Standing On The Edge” is very much picking up where “Perfect Timing” left off – with deliberate precision. The opening track ‘Thy Will Be Done’, feels like it could have been a B-Side from those 80’s sessions, right down to the dated keyboard arrangements, but what saves it from being a retro footnote is the fact that McAuley’s voice is absolutely on top form and the song-writing beautifully crafted. The rest of the album has a slightly more modern sound to it, so I am taking this opening track for what it was probably intended to be – a message to the listener that this is where the album is starting from, but it’s not where it will finish.

To prove the point, the title track kicks things up a notch significantly with a catchy riff, solid mid-tempo beat and then steps back to let the man show how good a shape his vocal chords are actually in. Generally, there’s some really robust song-writing on here and the eleven tracks stand up quite well, with a bit of a slowdown in the middle as ‘Chosen Few’ feels a bit like a filler, but the power ballad ‘Run Away’, whilst pure Melo-Ballad in tone, is more Gary Hughes than USA 80’s in style, so does not feel dated. The record works because it varies the pace to demonstrate McAuley’s range, rather than going for the tried and tested formula of a record of belters plus a lone ballad or two (the fast and slow share equal billing here), but also because a lot of care has clearly gone into crafting a recording that has its back foot in the 80’s but its front foot forward a few decades. As always with these Frontiers releases the production melds the retro sound as we remember it in our heads with modern recording standards and values. I would be interested to see if this incarnation takes a live turn, or is just a studio project, but either way it works just fine.

‘Standing On The Edge’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Thy Will Be Done
02. Standing On The Edge
03. Late December
04. Do You Remember
05. Say Goodbye
06. Chosen Few
07. Run Away
08. Supposed To Do Now
09. Wanna Take A Ride
10. Like A Ghost
11. Running Out Of Time

LINE-UP:
Robin McAuley – Vocals
Andrea Seveso – Guitars
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass, Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Nicholas Papapicco – Drums
Howard Leese – Guitars on ‘Supposed To Do Now’

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.

FM – Tough It Out Live

Tough It Out Live Album Cover Art

FM – Tough It Out Live
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 113:00
Review by Simon Black
8/10

You know, I am lucky enough to get to review a lot of albums from new bands that missed out on the 80’s but try not to let it show. I spend a lot of time making comparisons to what came out at the time, whilst forgetting how different it was on the ears back then. A rich production sound was a dream for most bands, so consequently live recordings really had a lot of power, as the band frequently got to make their true intentions audible and clear in a way that couldn’t be done in the studio without the support of a major label. FM were amongst the lucky ones back then and often had a rich and lustrous polish in their mix that many other bands envied, thanks to the support of label Epic. None more so than 1989’s ‘Tough It Out’, which is probably the album and song the band are most well-known for, fortunately firmly establishing them in the Melodic Hard Rock market before Grunge came along and upset the apple cart.

So, this release is interesting for a number of reasons – firstly in that this is in fact the first time the band have played the full album in its entirety but mostly because they’ve done a superb job in recapturing the original studio sound on this live recording. Recorded over a couple of UK and German shows in 2019, this is a double disk set with the full studio running order retained for the first disk, plus a full second disk of classics and rarities. At the time I was not so fond of AOR, and let’s face it, they don’t come much more ‘classic’ AOR than FM – whether you like those tinkling insipid 80’s keyboard melodies from the likes of ‘Everytime I Think Of You’ or not. Despite the fact that a fair few of these tracks were firmly in the ‘filler’ category back in the day, they come off surprisingly well live, mainly due to the fact that the band’s delivery is tight, focussed and absolutely held up to the rafters by the support of a crowd who are clearly loving every minute of it – and tracks like ‘Burning My Heart Down’ in particular sound spectacular with the interaction of the audience.

The second disk is more eclectic, with quite a few tracks I am not familiar with, but clearly with a hard core following in the audience this is not slowing them down in the slightest. And I defy anyone not to boogie along to the cracking rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine‘ Steve Overland’s voice sounds remarkably good after all these years and although the recording skips much of the banter with the audience, you still get a sense of the immediacy of his contact with the crowd. For fans of the original album, this is probably a must, but for anyone looking for a good introduction to a band that can still deliver the goods after very long time then you can do much worse than this.

‘Tough It Out’ Live (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:

CD1
01. Intro
02. Tough It Out
03. Don’t Stop
04. Bad Luck
05. Someday (You’ll Come Running)
06. Everytime I Think Of You
07. Burning My Heart Down
08. The Dream That Died
09. Obsession
10. Can You Hear Me Calling?
11. Does It Feel Like Love
12. Feels So Good

CD2
01. Digging Up The Dirt
02. Tough Love
03. Hollow
04. Dangerous
05. Hard Day In Hell
06. Wildside
07. Breathe Fire
08. Only The Strong Survive
09. Blood And Gasoline
10. I Ain’t The One
11. I Heard It Through The Grapevine

LINE-UP:
Steve Overland – Vocals & Guitar
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass
Pete Jupp – Drums
Jem Davis – Keyboards
Jim Kirkpatrick – Guitar

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.

Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Running Games

Running Games Album Cover Art

Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Running Games
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 57:37
Review by Simon Black
7/10

This is a veritable supergroup. Although I’m not a particular follower of Hoekstra’s work, put the combination of Symphony X front man Russell Allen, legendary drummer Vinny Appice and former Dream Theater ivories man Derek Sherinian on a line up, and I’m gonna sit up and take notice. Vocally Allen is in clean mode, although anyone familiar with his work knows that he can turn that vocal chord on a six-pence when it comes to range, style and power – most other bands need at least two vocalists to get close to what he can achieve. But sing cleanly he can and delivers the goods with his customary sense of power and strength, because regardless of whether he’s going for clean or dirty, he can really belt it out loud. That vocal strength and his performance is top notch and the highlight of the record.

As you would expect from a musician who has trodden the boards with Night Ranger and is still a current member of Whitesnake and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, musically this is up tempo Classic Rock radio-friendly US style Melodic Hard Rock and although Hoekstra’s classically trained background does occasionally make itself visible with some of the technical flourishes and licks he throws in, you do have to listen out for them. That’s an interesting point, as when the man driving the project is the guitarist, you would expect the old six strings to be up front and centre in the mix, but it’s Allen’s voice that takes that spot. Musically, the instruments are all fairly evenly balanced, so the ear hears ‘band’ and ‘singer’ as the distinct elements. OK, it opens up for the odd blistering solo from either Hoekstra or Sherinian, but even these are not excessive or indulgent and the overall feeling is one of restraint.

The song-writing is pretty robust – you can pick almost any track and you will get a clear Melo-Metal structure, but that also means there isn’t anything particularly exceptional here either. I don’t know whether this is a symptom of lockdown, but despite all the ingredients being right, this cake hasn’t baked as well as it could have consistently throughout, which is frankly bizarre considering who’s contributing to the record. There are some high points, but they come quite late in the record which might be too late for the casual listener – ‘Reach The Sky’ being the case in point, a groovy rocker which flowed brilliantly, but you are three quarters of the way through the disk by the time you get to it. To be fair the more spins you give it, the more it grows on you but it’s lacking a couple of strong ‘gotcha’ tracks to hook you in and add to the old favourites playlist.

‘Finish Line’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Finish Line
02. I’m Gonna Lose It
03. Hard To Say Goodbye
04. How Do You
05. Heart Attack
06. Fantasy
07. Lonely Days
08. Reach The Sky
09. Cried Enough For You
10. Take What’s Mine
11. Running Games

LINE-UP:
Joel Hoekstra – Guitars
Russell Allen – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Tony Franklin – Bass
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Jeff Scott Soto – Backing Vocals

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.

Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio II – Executing The Classics

Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio II – Executing The Classics
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 24/01/2020
Running Time: 47:31
Review by Paul Monkhouse
3.5/10

Some records just make you ask “why?” Jorn Lande is a hugely talented singer and has released some truly excellent hard rock albums over the years that have won him fans all over the globe. His live shows too are the definition of hard rock masterclasses, a man truly at ease on stage and at the top of his game. “Heavy Rock Radio II” is, in fact, his fourth covers album and follows on the heels of volume one, released in 2016, which shares this theme as a compilation of tracks that influenced the Norwegian metaller. Again, the choices seem a mix of the obvious (‘Mystery’ by Dio) and the more off kilter (The Searchers ‘Needles And Pins’) but all hang together with arrangements and production that are tailor made to highlight the vocalist’s incredible range.

So far, so good but here’s the question: do these versions add anything to the originals? Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with some really benefitting from the new, heavier styling but others jarring and seemingly almost a pastiche. As mentioned, these are genuine heart felt tributes to some truly great songs but some can come nowhere near the magnificence of the primary recordings. Bryan Adam’s ‘Lonely Nights’, ‘Nightlife’ by Foreigner and a Celtic tinged ‘Winning’ by Russ Ballard all take away something positive from the treatment, the versions presented here sticking fairly close to source but adding some great little touches. Another couple of highlights are Jorn’s take on Deep Purple’s ‘Bad Attitude’, a great song choice and one where he shows flashes of the phrasing that Ian Gillan uses to great effect and a tilt at Santana’s ‘Love’ that’s filled with Southern Rock swagger.

Sadly though, there are some really huge misses that are either heavy handed or just utterly pointless. Given that ‘New York Minute’ by the Eagles and Peter Gabriel’s ‘The Rhythm Of Life’ are so iconic and perfect as they are, why tinker with them at all? Just as bad, ‘The Eskimo Quinn’, penned by Bob Dylan and made famous by Manfred Mann is needlessly turned into a Whitesnake style romp that does no-one any favours. As a whole, the album would be more enjoyable for the casual listener or Jorn devotee but for anyone acquainted with the original recordings it can be at times a frustrating or even teeth clenching experience. Done for the right reasons, this is a noble but very deeply flawed album that really does mix the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

TRACKLISTING:

01. Lonely Nights (Bryan Adams)
02. Winning (Russ Ballard)
03. New York Minute (Don Henley)
04. Needles And Pins (The Searchers)
05. Love (Santana)
06. I Do Believe In You (Pages)
07. Nightlife (Foreigner)
08. Bad Attitude (Deep Purple)
09. Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band)
10. Mystery (Dio)
11. The Rhythm Of The Heat (Peter Gabriel)

LINKS:

www.jornlande.com/
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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse 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.

Volster – Perfect Storm

Perfect Storm Cover Art

Volster – Perfect Storm
Rock of Angels Records
Release Date: 20/04/2018
Running Time: 52:16
Review by Dawn “The Metal Priestess” King
9/10

If there was ever a case of don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this instance by its name) then its Volster. When I was first assigned this to review, I must admit my heart sank a teeny tiny bit. I was certain that they were going to be a black metal band with a name like that, and although I know reviewing means stepping out of your comfort zone occasionally, I wasn’t in the mood for a black metal band.

So, imagine my surprise, and joy, when track number one “King of the Hill” came through the speakers!

No more of a black metal band than I am the Queen of Sheba, Volster are, in fact, a melodic, hard rock band from Sweden, and features ex members of Masquerade and House of Heavy.

The band was started by guitarist Ulf Anderson and bass player Henrik Lundberg, who were both members of the band Masquerade in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They met up in 1996 to record a four song demo, called Volster, but nothing much more happened.
In 2013 (17 years later!!) they decided to pick up where they left off and plans were made to start a band, performing the songs from the demo and also writing new ones. They kept the name Volster.

Says Henrik Lundberg: “brought up with music from the 70’s and 80’s the roots are deep. So, it is no surprise our music is built from these glorious decades even if we also involve some more modern flavours. The main ingredient is the melody, what else makes a great song other than the great vocals and interesting riffs, of course. With member having been active in the music business for decades, now is the time to make all our music dreams come true, playing the music we love. Volster is melodic hard rock as it’s supposed to be.

And I couldn’t agree more. I always preferred the heavy side to US glam rock with bands such as Skid Row and Motley Crue, but Volster offer a bit more. Throw in a bit of Aerosmith and a touch of Ozzy and you are the way to getting what this band is about.

As previously mentioned, the album kicks off with the infectious “King of the Hill” and it doesn’t let up until it finishes with the heavy “Ends With Me”. The album is full of stomping rhythms and heavy riffs, which mixed with clean and clear vocals, makes for an awesome hard hitting rock album.

Although this is the debut full length album for the band, they are by no means the new kids on the block. A wealth of experience to draw on and a passion to make the music they want to, how they want to, means they are at an advantage to other bands releasing their debut album.

Produced by themselves, the album is also co-produced and mixed by Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Lynch Mob, Armored Saint, Lizzy Borden, Megadeth and Y&T) and mastered by Thomas ‘Plec’ Johansson (Soilwork, Onslaught, Armageddon, Degradead, Dynazty) at The Panic Room Mastering.

“Breathless” is probably my favourite track on the album but there are plenty of others that I also enjoyed. The songs are well written and fantastically executed. These guys are great musicians on top of everything else, with their sound firmly stuck in the classic hard rock era.

This is a must have album for every modern hard rock fan and I certainly will be keeping my eye holes and ear balls open for anything new they do!

TRACKLISTING:
01. King Of The Hill
02. Heaven Or Hell
03. Perfect Storm
04. Breathless
05. Still In Love
06. Babylon
07. Hero
08. Games Of War
09. Easier Said Than Done
10. I Don’t Care
11. Drifting Away
12. Ends With Me

LINKS:

Volster Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dawn “The Metal Priestess” King 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.