Wednesday, 5 August 2015

OZONE – Self Defence (CD)



On paper this looks like the perfect melodic rock album! Two excellent singers: Steve Overland (FM, Wildlife) and Chris Ousey (Heartland, Virginia Wolf, Snakecharmer) and on of my all-time favorite guitarists Mike Slamer (City Boy, Streets, Steelhouse Lane) team up to make melodic rock magic. Tommy Denander is also part of the project, as songwriter and guitarist. I don’t have an info sheet, so I don't know who’s written what, so it guesses on my part. The album starts with the Slamer sounding “Tiger By The Tail”, which would fit perfectly on any Steelhouse Lane or Seventh Key album. The vocals give the song a different touch, though. I can’t help it, but every time I hear Ousey sing I think of Eric Martin (which is not a bad thing in my book). “Let The Good Will Out” starts off with a simple, but perfectly ok guitar riff, while the song itself feels quite “safe”. “So Blind” is a classic AOR semi-ballad where the outstanding vocals really lift the track. “Destiny” starts off with a cool guitar riff and continues in a more classic British hard rock vibe, with a touch of Overland’s home turf, with a Slamer-sounding chorus. A great track indeed.  “Shadow On The Sun” continues in the same vein, and also makes me think classic Slamer riffing, but with a chorus very close to Kenny Loggin’s “Danger Zone”. As much as I think Denander is a great lead guitarist and he is heard on the most part of this album, I really miss Slamer’s light, funny and highly personal solos. Not sure why he’s not featured more, and I think it’s a real shame. It’s something I actually looked forward to. “Save My Soul” is another classic melodic rocker with a pre-chorus dangerously close to Foreigner’s “Feels Like The First Time”. “Smile Before You Lie” also sounds very classic Slamer and the interplay between Ousey and Overland really works great in this track (well, it’s not “bad” in any sense in any other track, just a notch better here). “Lifetime” is a big, bluesy ballad where the vocal twins really make a home run. “Practice What You Preach” is another solid melodic rocker with some nice riffing and a very Slamer-sounding chorus.  But, where are Slamer’s solos? The album closes with the up-tempo rocker “Visionary Man”. All in all this is a really good, albeit quite a “safe”, melodic rocker, with a production close to Seventh Key and Slamer’s solo stuff, which feels quite secure. There are some typical Slamer riffs here and there, but I really miss his soloing (as you may have gathered...). Steve and Chris really shine and their voices mix very well together. Works fine for me!
Janne Stark
Label: Escape
Country: UK/US/Sweden

Year: 2015

BOHEMIAN LIFESTYLE – Madame Libertánah (CD)



Wow, this new Swedish quartet really kicks off with an outstanding powerful retro style hard rocker! Great vocals, powerful delivery, great production by Sator man Chips Kisbye! Unfortunately there’s a power drop in second track “Fool’s Mask”, where they sound more like a modern pop/rock band, and it spirals even more downwards in “A Brigher Day”, which sounds closer to The Ark (a good band, but not really my cup of tea. The Swedish band, not the Norwegians, that is). In “Woodlands” the guitar is back in action! Cool and heavy riffing kicks this one into gear, even though the chorus sounds a bit too streamlined for my taste. “Coming Back Around” moves back into the pop/rock territory and they lose me once again. “Wake Up Call” has a pretty cool quirky riff, and the song works pretty good actually, but the following tracks continue the hit and miss affair. Half the album works great for me, while the other half just don’t cut it at all. When they’re good, they’re really good!
Janne Stark
Label: Attitude Recordings
Country: Sweden

Year: 2015

IDORA – Above The Law (MCD 5tr)



American melodic heavy rockers Idora features singer Brian Colkitt, guitarist Mike Floros, bassist Mike Talanca and drummer Rob Duran. The band mixes good old 80’s tinged melodic hard rock with a touch sleaze, sort of Dokken meets Quiet Riot. Brian Conklitt is a good singer with a touch of Kevin Dubrow, but not as raspy. My favourite track is “Stand” with its nice melodic hooks and classic pumping rhythm parts, along with the title track, with its slightly Van Halenish touch. The mixing could use a skilled helping hand to take the production to the next level, but this is a good start!
Janne Stark 
Label: self-released
Year: 2015

Country: USA

Friday, 22 May 2015

STERBHAUS – New Level of Malevolence (CD)



Most of you know I’m not a big fan of death metal, but there’s one band that I just fucking LOVE!! Ever since I saw the video for The House Of The Dead Dwarf, which proved the level of self-distance and humor this band possesses, I just love their quirky boundary-less technical and quirky, yet quite melodic death metal. Their previous album, Angels For Breakfast… And God For Lunch really rocked my world for a long time. So, I’m happy to say that with the follow-up New Level of Malevolence, they have even stepped it up. This is bloody outstanding! I even have a soft spot for Marcus Hammarström’s evil sounding, screechy, but not painful vocals, which actually fits the music perfectly. I don’t think you’re supposed to fell happy when listening to death metal, but I have a smile on my face every time I listen to this band. The album is full of little surprises which just throw you off in all directions without warning, and I love that. Predictable? No way in hell! There are traces of classic heavy metal, death metal, thrash, prog metal, doom, polka and… you name it, and that is just in the title track alone! There’s actually one band that sometimes comes to mind, and which I also love, and that’s F.K.Ü. They both have the same level of intensity and power. Also, tell me the last time you heard neck pick-up Stratocaster being played in a thrash/death tune? This is a new level of excellence!
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden
Label: Killhead

SEAN BAKER ORCHESTRA – Game On! (pro-CDR)


Shredguy Records is providing us with yet another top-notch guitar oriented release. This is definitely not your ordinary shredding metal album. Besides the orchestrated and quite interesting intro, just check out songs like D.T.O.C., the groovy and detuned Hercules Box, the almost Journey sounding Coming Up Roses and Ruth Ann, and of course Sean’s interpretation if Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, actually featuring horns. To be honest, the latter is my least favorite on the album. I really like the song to begin with, and I think Sean could’ve done something more exciting with it, plus the horns sound quite disconnected from the song at times. It could be the mix, where this song doesn’t sound as good as the rest. A minor flaw, though. Of course all shredding fans with get their ears full. The track Shrapnel In Your Ear presents, besides the outstanding Sean Baker himself, shredding colleagues Marc Rizzo, Toby Knapp and Bruce Bouillet. A slice of shredding heaven indeed! Despite being a guitar album, there are two vocal tracks: The grindingly heavy Necessary Evils featuring Racer X man Jeff Martin and the soft Spooky handled by Ronny Munroe. Another Shredguy release to check out!
Janne Stark
Label: Shredguy Records
Year: 2015
Country: USA


KINSKIN – Kinskin (CD)



Here’s another prime example of first class heavy weight rock from Sweden. If you’re into bands like Mustasch, try mixing it with some Spiritual Beggars and a touch of vintage Alice In Chains, and you may get Kinskin… or Ground Mower, they are actually in a similar vein, both equally great. You may also get headache… if you turn it up too loud and play the album through twice, which I did. But, it was damn worth it! This is a killer debut! Heavy, grinding, yet groovy and quite melodic heavy rock with nice raspy vocals. Fat, rich and powerful production, too. Highly recommended, verging on a must have!
Janne Stark
Label: private
Year: 2013
Country: Sweden


AGONY OF CHOICE – In The Red (MCD 6tr)



Swedish modern heavy rockers Agony Of Choice make their debut with a 6-track MCD. Modern sounding heavy rock with a touch of bands like Shinedown, Theory Of A Dead Man and Alter Bridge. Unfortunately there’s not much info on the CD, but the band has a really great singer. The sound is well-produced and fat. Slightly odd drum sound that sounds more 80s than 2015, but it kinda works. Opening Mannylee is a strong potent rocker that hits nicely. My only complaint is that the lead guitarist needs to make sure he’s playing in the correct key. Tattooed Skin continues in the same vein with a nice catchy chorus. Really good and dynamic arrangement, too, with a cool acoustic interlude that enhances the sound. Wallstreet Dance is another decent track, not as direct as the previous ones but still a nice one. Friendly Fire keeps the momentum going while Going Bad has a slightly different style to it. Here the drum sound unfortunately works against the song, sounding way too un-dynamic and “loud”, especially in the more laidback parts. Same thing here with the guitar leads. They do need to work with the chords of the song. The final track, Parashoot (not sure if the misspelling was deliberate) is probably my favourite on the CD. A heavy detuned riffster with a cool verse and great vocals and a guitar solo that this time works for the song. A promising debut.
Janne Stark
Label: private
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015

Link: www.facebook.com/agonyofchoice