Thursday, 25 March 2010

Jack In The Box - Live at Gamla (Concert)

Reviewed by: Janne Stark
The bill: Jack In The Box
City: Oslo
Venue: Gamla
Date: March 19, 2010

Jack in the Box, a Norwegian band probably quite unknown to the majority of the metal fans. Hopefully not for long. The band released one EP entitled "Rockjumping" in 1993 and one CD, "Stigma", two years after. When I first heard the album I though it was pretty decent, put in the CD shelf and forgot about it for a few weeks. After a while I decided to give it another try. This time it hit me quite hard, and it just kept growing and growing. I was in quite a King's X phase at the time, and Jack in the Box was the perfect complement. They were sort of in the same genre, but at the same time had something completely different. Heavy, quirky hard rock with great and pretty odd harmonies. Being a musician and a guitarist myself, I immediately fell for the way they arranged the songs. It often meant the song was based on a riff, which at times was played in unison, bass and guitar, but in the verse the guitars played something completely different, with the bass keeping the riff going, like in "Butterfly" or "French Fries For Breakfast". I longed for the second album, which unfortunately never came as the band parted ways with singer Erik Si, changed their name to Autopulver and changed their style to an easier accessible, and to me way less interesting shape of rock/hard rock. I however never grew out of "Stigma", on the contrary. It was, and still is, one of my top 10 albums EVER. So, when I read Jack in the Box was re-uniting for a show in Norway I booked the trip, hotel and bought the ticket in a split second. I just HAD to see them.

Gamla is a small, but nice club in the centre of Oslo, only a few blocks from the central station, and only a three minute walk from our hotel. Perfect! Never been there before, but I'd sure like to back. I was a bit worried about what it would sound like when I saw the seemingly under-dimensioned sound system and the, after a while quite annoying intro tape which was more like synth noise increasing in intensity to finally decrease... and then start again. It kept going for over an hour and it didn't sound good over the PA. I was concerned. However, as the band entered the stage and the first tones of the excellent "Challenge Chamber Champagne" entered my ears, all doubts were totally blown away. The sound was surprisingly enough - Outstanding! I had forgotten my earplugs, but there was no need for them. The sound was well balanced, fat and heavy and with every single instrument, AND vocals, coming over crystal clear and at a perfect level. Hell, I can't even remember when I said that the last time! All hails to the soundman!

So, re-unions can go either way, sound really good, or sound dated, lame and like the band is fighting to remember the songs and moves. Forget that, Jack in the Box looked and sounded like this was a couple of gigs into their first tour after the release of "Stigma". Every T was crossed, every i dotted and the band looked as relaxed as ever. These guys were well rehearsed, that’s for sure. They had also made some really cool re-arrangements to some of the songs, which really surprised me in a positive way. The place was packed, these people were fans, and most of them even knew all the lyrics and would follow all the hints of singer Erik, who, besides sounding slightly strained at times, has a killer voice. Like the intro of the outstanding "Butterfly", where he had the audience scream the intro-scream. In my humble opinion the "Rockjumping" EP was really good, but the album way better. However, when the band played the tracks from the EP, like “Incapable”, “Funeral Fake” and "Dancing With Ethel", I realized they now sounded as they had been raised to the level of the album.

Jack in the Box was missing guitarist Espen who had broken his elbow in a snowboard accident, but had instead been reinforced with guitarist Bjørn Rummelhoff-Hansen, who had only been rehearsing with the band for three weeks. Well, I didn't notice and I don't think anybody else did either as he did a killer job. The remaining members were Lars “Eric Si” Eikind on vocals, Victor Borge on bass, Frode Lamøy drums and Rune Lamøy on guitar.

Of course there were encores, two of them. One being the really cool track “Cascades Of Light” from the band's first demo, even before the band was blessed with singer Lars. Well, it was no different in sound and quality from the rest, pure Jack magic! If (when) they come to Sweden, I’ll be there again, banging along and singing along!

Set list:
Challenge Chamber Champagne
Funeral Fake
Dancing With Ethel
In2 1000 Pieces
Not Yet
In Tune


Cascades Of Light
French Fries For Breakfast
Check out the band at:

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Treat - Coup De Grace (CD)

In the eighties Swedish melodic rock scene there was Europe, there was 220 Volt and there was Treat. First one out to re-unite was Europe, soon followed by 220 Volt, both returning with a vengeance and still rocking, even though the latter has been a bit more in the quiet. Well, a few years ago it was time for Treat! Most of the original line-up, reinforced with ace bassist Nalle Påhlsson set out to return, do some shows and release a compilation with a couple of highly promising new tasters. Shows were played and the interest kept growing. Finally, a new, pure and fresh sounding rocker of an album has been released. The return of Treat now has a proper statement. I did like the early works of the band, but I really fell in love with the band on “Organized Crime”, when the guitars were sharpened and the skills were honed. “Coup de Grace” is like the perfect mix of the two styles, still as melodic as the early works, but with the guitars in the forefront. The sound is anything but dated, but they haven’t gone as far as Europe did to update the sound. Treat indeed stays more true to their legacy and I feel that was definitely the right thing to do. However, as I stated, it doesn’t sound dated, and what it does, thankfully, lack, are the 80s sing-along football choirs, which would really have killed the album (“Tangled Up” has some tendencies, but it still passes with flying colours). Instead it sounds like a Treat that has been rolling with the years, accepting that times are actually changing, but still staying true to the legacy. I think this album will definitely attract new and young listeners of melodic rock. Just like with returning bands such as label mates Giant you immediately recognize the band’s sound and style, but at the same time it doesn’t sound like any repetition of lost glory. Fresh and vibrant, as Gordon Ramsey would’ve put it. I was also a bit afraid Anders/Gary Vikström would bring in some of the vibes from his song writing skills unually aimed for some of the international modern pop/rock acts (N'Sync etc). Thankfully he’s recognized the difference and left these tendencies out of the picture. This is a really nice slab of great sounding melodic rock/AOR that I can highly recommend for both old fans and new.
Janne Stark

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

CRAZY LIXX - New Religion (CD)

Boy, this sure feels like a nice step-up! I’d lie if I said I was a big fan of this Swedish sleaze/glam unit. However, this time they have really got a tight and great sound, songs that work and a singer that don’t promise more than he delivers, and he really does deliver! Crazy Lixx is by no means inventive or unique. Opener “Rock In A Hard Place” reminds me a bit of Bon Jovi’s “Dead Or Alive” here and there, while the subsequent “My Medicine” starts of with a riff that could be a cousin of Poison’s “Unskinny Bop”. “Blame It On Love” may as well have been a lost power ballad by Pretty Maids and the choruses on the album oozes of John “Mutt” Lange’s classic Def Leppard production. Well, it sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m actually not, as this is a really good album! It doesn’t sound like anything Swedish. My guess, without knowing, would have been a lost gem from the mid/late eighties with unusually great production (especially the pleasant lack of the horrible BIG drums). What surprises me is that this album is less glammy than I expected, that there’s more AOR in the choruses and that this is closer to classic melodic hard rock, than glam. It actually wasn’t until the cowbell entered in “Lock Up Your Daughter”, not that the track is any less good because of that. “She’s Mine” is however a bit too poppy for me, almost sounding like something Bryan Adams could have written. The album of course has the classic powerballad in “What Of Our Love”, which could have become a huge hit if the almanac read 1986, instead of 2010. A short, but sweet, slide thingy opens the road for my favourite track on the album, the stomping riffster “Voodoo Woman” which closes the album in the perfect manner. This album was a nice surprise and I suspect this may well be THE party album of 2010.
Janne Stark

Category: Melodic hard rock
Label: Frontiers
Year: 2010
Country: Sweden