Friday, 30 December 2011

CROWDBURN - Confronted (CDR)

I first saw Swedish technical thrashers Crowdburn at the excellent Rock Out Wild festival in August 2011. I was really impressed with the energy and level of musicianship from this young bunch. Well, live is always a bit different. You’re overwhelmed by the sound, the feel and sometimes when you listen back it may not have been that great. Well, now this foursome have sent me their first demo. F***in’ hell! I did like them a lot live, but this sucker rocks!! There are only three tracks here, but I hear a wide range of influences, from Pantera to In Flames, to Lamb Of God to more melodic death metal. They are not afraid to mix in some clean melodic vocals, which really lifts the chorus of the track Burning Crowd. Singer Aron Andersson has a really powerful voice, but also with a nice variety. Guitarist Christoffer Lindmark also impresses with his cool technical chops, which is something that goes for drummer Andreas Grehn as well. Of course, heavy bass player Jonathan Holmgren needs to be mentioned as well, especially for his technical shredding in Pictures, a song that really mixes styles. This is a really competent and well oiled machinery that produces something I find quite innovative in this musically crowded world. I’d be surprised if they weren’t picked up by some label soon. This is really good, I must say! Plus, they really shine live, as well.
Janne Stark
Label: D.I.Y pro-printed CDR
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.crowdburn.se/

TAKLA MAKAN - Mummyfied (CDR 5tr)

Malmö based heavy bluesrockers Takla Makan caught my attention last year when I heard the band’s demo. Sweden does have some really great bands in this genre such as Sky High and the long lost Blues Bag, but most of them are playing it a bit safe in my opinion. What I mean is that they stick to the standard blues formula and lack that rough edge and they stick within the standard formula. What I really like about Takla Makan is that they stick out and they take the side road. Just listen to a track like House Of Pain, a heavy steamrolling track with some really mellow moments where they really use dynamics the way they’re supposed to. It also contains a nice harmony solo with a touch of southern rock. I really like Tomas Luburic’s guitar style. Cool, slinky, heavy and bluesy without sounding like a copy cat. The vocals are another chapter of my liking. Singer Bobby Djordjevic isn’t your standard blues singer either, but reminds me a bit of JB in Grand Magus. Great power in that throat I’d say. Takla Makan also does some cool low tune riffing in songs like Respect, low down and dirty, and where bass player Ulf Hedlund and drummer Stefan “Stiss” Lundvall show their groovy heaviness. When a song is named Romeo And Juliet, you almost expect a sleazy ballad. Nope, here it’s a driving mid-tempo rocker with a cool guitar riff as the icing on the cake. My tip to you labels: Sign this band and get an album out there with more of this stuff! This band rocks!
Janne Stark

Year: 2011
Label: D.I.Y
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.reverbnation.com/taklamakan

COLORSTONE - Into The Garden (CD)

With their roots in westcoast/AOR-oriented Malmö band Time Gallery, Colorstone attacks from a totally different angle. The band’s self-financed debut kicks off with heavy funk-oriented rocker Into The Garden Of Destruction which reminds me a bit of Dan Reed Network, but with a heavier bottom edge. When I come to think of it, it’s actually more similar to Stevie Salas Colorcode, but with vocals more similar to Dan Reed. Well, whatever, this is right up my alley! Killer song indeed! Second track, Silverspoon, is less funky but more driven and rocks out really well. Another killer track! Intoxicated keeps it up, and starts of with some bluesy harmonica. This one is actually more bluesy with cool neck pick-up Strat work going on. Things then mellow out a bit in Show Me The Way and Flowing, before the heavy rocker One Of A Kind pick it up again. I won’t go into all the tracks, just say that there are 17 tracks on the album. For me personally, I would remove 4-5 tracks I feel don’t really belong there. The Secret, for instance, feels like somewhat of a filler. The same goes for popster Solitude Waiting, which feels a bit misplaced but will probably appeal to fans of Time Gallery. Reducing it to 12 strong tracks would have made this one of the best Swedish releases of 2011. Well, it still is, of course, but that’s just me. However tracks like Silverspoon and Tonight's The Night are the type off stuff that gives me a musical hard-on! also, just realized I need to point out a few things. The band is so solid it's scary, plus I'm totally in love with guitarist Fredrik Bergengren's bluesy, funky and Hendrixy style of playing and singer Johan Dahlström's equally bluesy vocals. Killer stuff!

Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Label: Self-release
Year: 2011

ANGELINE - Dis Con nec Ted (CD)

Swedish melodic rock veterans Angeline returned last year with one of the better comeback albums. The follow-up is now here. To be honest I’m not really sure what to say about this one, but one thing – if you liked the last one, I don’t see no single reason not to like this one. It’s more of the same, but slightly different. Great melodic hard rock with an edge, but still something that will appeal to AOR fans. What I really like about this band is that they balance on the edge of being very commercial and poppy, but they land on the right side with nice rough edge guitars and a singer in Jocke Nilsson that has the proper roughness in his voice. The song material is just as strong on this album. It’s simply a bloody great melodic rock record.
Janne Stark
Label: Avenue Of Allies
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

THE HELLFIRE CLAN - Hellbound (CD)

Pedal to the metal, fists in the air, heads down, no nonsense beer drenched hard rock ‘n roll! That’s the short description of Swedish newcomers’ The Hellfire Clan’s debut album. The Hellfire Clan could at times be easily mistaken for sleaze, but don’t be fooled. There are some brutal riffing, closer to Hellfueled or even Zakk Wylde coloured touches, going on. At times I even get a hint of Corabi-era Crüe. I think it’s the combination of the sleaze-oriented vocals and the detuned, crunchy guitars that brings it a bit between the boxes. I really like it, I must admit! The energy is really breathtaking at times and the songs are really well-arranged with some cool twists and turns. It’s by no means your straight ahead, no brains rock ‘n roll. I also do hear some hints of Hardcore Superstar, but this band takes it all to new levels. Highly recommended for fans of high octane, wall of guitar hard rock!
Janne Stark

Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Label: private
Link: www.thehellfireclan.com

JOHNFISH SPARKLE - Flow (CD)

Nope, Italy is not the first country that would’ve come to mind when hearing Johnfish Sparkle. On the other hand I had a similar epiphany when hearing their countrymen Smoky Fingers for the first time. This band has vintage UK written all over them. Opening track Hard Times Goin’ On sounds like updated seventies Zeppelin riffing. Ballsy drumming, awesome riffing, great vocals and cool arrangement! Niiiice! The best thing about is… they keep it up! This is a cool riff-rock record that keeps tossing and turning on the chunky crooked road of rock ‘n roll, on-beat, off-beat. This band doesn’t take any shortcuts. In Downhill Blues there’s even some bluesy phychedelica infused. Spiral Confusion is a cool dynamic thing with Dave Perilli furiously working the bass over the cool guitar plucking in the verse, while the bridge brings it all over the acidy hard rock edge. I needn’t say the album has the word vintage written all over it, do I? It sure does and this band sure stand their own against fellows like The Answer, Rival Sons, Tracer and of course many of Transubstans Records’ other artists. This is a fine complement to an already impressive roster. Killer stuff indeed!
Janne Stark

Label: Transubstans
Country: Italy
Year: 2011 

SABRE TIGER - Decisive (CD+DVD)

Japanese metal veterans Sabre Tiger are back with their claws out! The new album Decisive is a full on heavy metal onslaught! Great production and a big dose of classic metal in the same vein as bands like Primal Fear and Dream Evil, but with some heavier and more brutal moments, such as killer track Avenger with its fierce riffing. The album is really packed with great tracks and a production which hits you like a brick in the face. My only slight complaint is the singer’s big, and in the long run quite irritating, vibrato. If he would only keep it straight, I would have no complaint at all as he has a really powerful rock voice, which fits the music perfectly. Well, maybe that’s just me. Besides this slight flaw the band is tight, the songs rock and the album is really consistent all through. So, I definitely recommend a closer listen. The album also comes with a great bonus live DVD recorded in Sapporo.
Janne Stark
Label: Edge Trax
Country: Japan
Year: 2011 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

WRAPTORS - Held High (CD)

Now here’s a band I can’t make heads or tails of. It’s actually quite funny, since I haven’t heard anything like this in a long time… actually never I guess. Wraptors mixes so many different elements, from seventies hard rock, sixties rock to quirky pop to pure musical insanity. Sometimes I hear a little touch of Them Crooked Vultures or Foo Fighters, but with a totally different sound, mostly in the way they turn rhythms and riffs around. There’s almost a touch of Devo mixed with Zappaesque weirdness, but all held together with a hard rock attitude and a powerful delivery. The guitar sound is quite clean, but still edgy enough to sound rough and raw. It’s very dynamic, but if you’d try to dance to a track like Stoked On Stakes you’d only last for four bars before you’d get stuck in a twisted rhythm pattern and fall over. It’s by no means music for the faint hearted and I don’t expect Wraptors to be on the radio’s A-list, but I really enjoy the album. I can’t even seem to skip to the next track as I can’t wait to hear what will happen next, which is a good thing. This is definitely an album that will grow by every listen, and I assure you it’ll take quite a few to get to grips with the Wraptors’ musical schizophrenia.
Janne Stark

Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Label: Rakamarow 
Link: www.wraptors.se

GUITAR PETE - Raw Deal (CD)

This is the second Grooveyard release from guitarist/singer Peter Vincent Brasino. To be honest I felt the name Guitar Pete sounded a bit cheesy. Well, an easy way to get the smirk outta my face was to put on the CD. Pete produced heavy, gritty riff-based blues rock with guitars thick as a brick wall. He reminds me, both his musical style and vocals, a bit of Michael Katon, which is really good in my book. The songs are really well constructed in a genre that can sometimes get a bit run of the mill. Pete is a great guitarist with a great bluesy flow in his playing. Pete also does a great heavy rendition of Skynyrd’s old Gimme Back my Bullets. My only complaint would be the boring and unbluesy drummer who unfortunately just can’t get his playing to groove. This flaw aside it’s a damn fine album for fans of gritty, balls-out heavy blues rock.
Janne Stark

Label: Grooveyard Records
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Link: www.grooveyardrecords.com 

GUGUN POWER TRIO - Solid Ground (CD)

I just loved the first Grooveyard release by Indonesian Gugun Power Trio. Power trio certainly being the label of the day here. Gugun is a killer guitarist and an awesome bluesy singer, which he and his fellows drummer Bowie and bass player Jono, immediately proves in the opening title track. Groovy, bluesy, rockin’ and something it’s totally impossible not to play air guitar to. Holy crap, this rocks!! It’s got the classic riff-oriented Hendrixy vibe to it that I love. The album grooves, it sways and it swaggers. It’s a versatile album within the limits of blues rock. There’s the funky vibe in tracks like One Heavy Night and Vixen Eyes, the shuffle groove in Mission, the cool blues in Trampled Rose, the up-tempo strut in Silent Rider, yes, Solid Ground has it all. What I also love is that Gugun adopts his sound to fit the songs. It’s not just one album-one sound. He turns the distortion up when it’s required, adds some wah when it fits and keeps it quite clean when the song needs it. This is definitely one of my favourite blues rock albums of the year!
Janne Stark 

Country: Indonesia
Year: 2011
Label: Grooveyard Records
Link: www.grooveyardrecords.com 

THE FLYIN' RYAN BROTHERS - Under The Influence (CD)

American quintet The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers may sound like it, but it’s by no means a circus act. But… If you, however, would compare music to a circus The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers would be people on the trapeze, flying weightlessly back and forth through the air, doing somersaults and all types of daring tricks that makes you gasp for air. This is what their music sounds like. Instrumental, guitar-driven bluesy rock with things happening all over the place, but still so graceful and with immense beauty. Harmonies to the left and right, intense drumming from the late Johnny Mrozek and outstanding bass playing from William Kopecky. I, of course, can’t help comparing the band to Wishbone Ash. I love Wishbone Ash, but to be honest I don’t think they have ever recorded an album as consistent as Under The Influence. There are usually a couple of tracks I don’t really care for, but this one is 13 out of 13. Great melodies, really soulful and tasteful guitar playing ranging from soft melodic passages to full on bluesy shredding. Also, Wishbone Ash, besides being a vocal band, tends to become a bit too pop at times, whereas The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers always spice things up a bit. This is definitely one instrumental album where I don’t miss the vocals at all. No need for them whatsoever. The guitars more than well make up for them. The songs are well-written with great arrangements and they are anything but one-dimensional. There are lots of nice layers with things popping out here and there, like the effects in Loco Motive which just adds a subtle layer that doesn’t meddle with the great build up and trade-offs of the guitar harmony work. This is one album that I will have a hard time getting out of my CD player!
Janne Stark

Label: Grooveyard Record
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Link:  www.grooveyardrecords.com

Monday, 14 November 2011

JARLE H OLSEN – Quadrasonic (CD)

Norway hasn’t really provided that many international shredders, besides Ronnie Le Tekro and a handfull others. Now, young stringsman Jarle H Olsen is here to change that. His first solo album Quadrasonic is a really impressive affair. It’s actually been some time since I found an instrumental progressive album this interesting. With Jarle it’s not just the shredding that is in focus, it’s just as much about the songs. What I really like is that this actually feels more like a band effort, than a regular guitarist-shredding-his-ass-off album. Sure, there is tons of great soloing, but the songs are structured more like songs with vocals. You have your verses, choruses and bridges, although quite a lot of bridges here. The songs, like Dark Matter for instance, have great build ups, with nice dynamics happening. Here Jarle also shows a softer and more balanced side, without any overpowering distortion. There’s also a great explosive technical part in the end, where things happen all over the place. I also love the fact that he’s using real live, and outstanding, musicians to back him up. They do need to be mentioned, so here it goes: the outstanding technical drummer Bjarte K. Helland, Norway’s answer to Mike Portnoy, bass player Rodrigo Garcia who lays down a great foundation, plus proves he’s quite the technical player as well, and finally keyboard player Alex Argento whose playing may not be highly noticeable in some songs (you would definitely notice if it wasn’t there, though), while he really shines in songs like Event Horizon. Quadrasonic is a great album, at times in the same vein as George Bellas, before he started experimenting too much. Great songs, great playing, great production, a sure buy!
Janne Stark
Label: private press
Year: 2011
Country: Norway
Link: http://www.jarleholsen.com/

Thursday, 3 November 2011

JÄRNET (CD)

Heavy rock in Swedish? Oh yeah, it’s been done since the dawn of time, meaning November did it already in 1970. That worked. Since then there’s been quite a few and right now there are Horisont, Abramis Brama, Gudars Skymning, and of course S.K.U.R.K, who uses their secret weapon, called “brutal skånska”. Järnet grew out of heavy rock trio AMP, lead by singer/guitarist Per Nilsson. I was expecting the same heaviness, but sung in Swedish, which would’ve worked fine for me. However, Järnet draws from a different musical source. This is leaning more towards garage rock, at times almost new wave. I’m not really sure if I like that. Gata upp & gata ner reminds me quite a lot of Nationalteatern’s Livet är en fest, which I did like… back then, and it has its nostalgia value today. Sorry, but this doesn’t work well for me at all. It feels way to puberty for me. Punkish football choirs just don’t do it for me anymore. It worked ok at parties in the late seventies, but even though I’m a huge fan of the seventies, this is something I don’t really wish to bring back. Sorry boys, but I liked it better the old way, the AMP-way.

Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Label: private
Country: Sweden
Link: www.facebook.com/jarnetsweden

CORE OF NATION - Septor Of Doom (MCD)

Swedish doomsters Core Of Nation have been at it for a while, but only released one CD prior to this. Septor Of Doom is a 6-track MCD in a cardboard cover. The choice of cover, Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral, definitely shows the musical direction of the band. This release also marks the debut for new singer Andreas Hedman, formerly with Scaar. The CD opens with Black Temple, a doomy riffster in the vein of classic Candlemass. It sets the direction of the record and also shows Hedman is a singer well suited for the heavy riffing, similar to the way Johan Längquist fit into the first Candlemass album. Not in the same class, I should add, but still ok. I wish he would let loose a bit more, as he tends to sound a bit stiff in the long run. There can be feeling in doom as well. Musically it’s heavy and it’s slow, but it’s not boring. They do succeed in keeping it interesting enough to keep listening. Nice guitar harmonies spice it up a bit here and there. The cover of Electric Funeral then? Well, first of all, having the balls to take on such a classic gem is ballsy! The result? Well, I’ll give it 2.5 out of 5. It’s just a regular “let’s-play-a-Black-Sabbath-song-coz-we-like-it” version. No personal touches or re-arrangements worth mentioning. Plus the vocals are not really up to par with the original, again because of the lack of feeling. Still, I don’t mind listening to it. The closing track Two Suns is a pretty cool semi-ballad type song adding a bit of spacey experimental seventies effects, which makes it a bit more interesting. The tempo change in the end also adds some new textures to the song. Like I said, not bad at all, but I think the next one will be more interesting!
Janne Stark
Label: Doom Dwarf Records
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.coreofnation.com/

HELLSPRAY - Part Of The Solution (CD)



Jönköping’s Hellspray released their debut a couple of years ago, a really great melodic rocker. They are now back, armed to the teeth and with a new singer. Anders Moberg is more of a gritty rocker, which fits the bands down and dirty hard rock in a perfect way. At times he reminds me of Zakk Wylde, but with more finesse and a wider vocal range. There are some similarities with Black Label Society when it comes to opener Spinesless as well, but like with the vocals, there’s the variety and dynamics I sometimes miss in BLS. The adopt a pretty doomy aura in some tracks, such as Count Your Blessings, where the intro feels like the soundtrack to a nightmare. They however add a melodic feel which changes the picture as it moves on. In Mr Hyde the scene is totally different, almost moving into some high speed power metal territory with a neo-classical touch to the riffing. Interesting. Part Of The Solution is a really great follow-up to the debut, showing a band that has indeed taken their style and sound a step further. This is some heavy shit, man!
Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Label: Perris
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.hellspray.com/

GRAND ILLUSION - Prince Of Paupers (CD)


Already after the first track Gates Of Fire I was totally blown away by Peter Sundell’s vocals! I mean, I have heard him before and I do have the band’s previous releases, but either I’ve forgotten just how good he is or he’s brought it up a notch here. He truly sings his ass off, bringing out notes higher than Mount Everest! Grand Illusion is nothing for fans of metal, 70s heavy rock or stoner. If you on the other hand have a soft spot for bands like Journey, Airborne, Sheriff, Trillion, Touch, Styx (from whom I presume the band name was taken – one of the best pomp albums ever) or high class pompy AOR in general, this one’s for you. Grand Illusion is a Swedish trio comprised of musical multi-genius Anders Rydholm, singer Peter Sundell and backing vocalist Per Svensson. At their hand on this album they have killer musicians such as drummer Greg Bisonette and a bunch of really great guitars from Steve Lukather, Tim Pierce, Jay Gradon and Muris Varajic. The songs are very well arranged with lots of twists and turns, still with infectious choruses. Even though we’re talking melodies all over the place, there are some quite biting guitars. Just check out the awesome riffing in the title track. I won’t go into every track, it’s kinda no point since there’s not a weak track on the entire album! If you intend to purchase only one AOR album this year, well, no need to look further!

Janne Stark
Label: AOR Heaven
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.grand-illusion.se/

Monday, 31 October 2011

FASTWAY - Eat Dog Eat (CD)


Ok, I will confess I haven’t really listened to Fastway since the first, outstanding, album was released. After that I thought they went too commercial and I lost interest. Now Fast Eddie Clarke has returned with a vengeance. Eat Dog Eat really takes us back to the classic back to basic hard rock resting on the traditional British bluesy foundation. Toby Jepson sings his ass off and I truly love his vocals. The album kicks off with Deliver Me, which almost makes me think of what would happen if Led Zeppelin and AC/DC had a baby. It’s a very consistent, but still varied ten track collection, incorporating some good old boogie based hard rockers like Leave The Light On, cool acoustic balladry in Dead And Gone and tons of classic hard rock. Great production, great songs, and all in all one album I didn’t know I had been missing until I heard it. It isn’t original, it has no bells or whistles, but it’s a damn fine album, on I will probably wear out.
Janne Stark
Label: Steamhammer
Year: 2011

S.K.U.R.K - Häxa (CD)


Fuckin’ hell! This is brutal! Not sure if this will fully appeal to or be appreciated by non-Swedish speaking listeners, as the vocals are sung in the most brutal Swedish “skånska” dialect. This is the second album by S.K.U.R.K, and this album sure takes the sound and style of the band a few steps further. The lyrics are really raw and brutal, dealing with bitterness, injustice and drug addicted mothers. Lindhe’s vocals are crude and raw, but fits so well with the heavy, rough edged metal this band produces. Nidvinternattens Sorg brings out some touches of vintage doomy Sabbath with Lindhe whispering the lyrics. Songs like Brinn Malmö Brinn and Ku Klux Kerub also have a doomy touch, but with a higher tempo, where the latter reminds me a bit of Children Of The Grave in its tempo. I do hear some touches of Candlemass’ Messiah when Lindhe hits the higher notes as well. The band’s view of today’s night time scene Disco Grotesque is quite melodic in its crudity. The lyrics really grab you and I can find no better way of presenting them than in this way. This is a really good album, both musically and with the fitting vocal presentation. Me like!
Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Label: Denomination
Link: www.facebook.com/skurk666

KRUX - III He Who Sleeps Amongst The Stars (CD+LP)

Interesting… I didn’t even notice I had listened to the same album three times in a row. It just keeps on and on without getting boring. Krux is the boiled down who-is-who of Swedish metal featuring singer Mats Levén, guitarists Fredrik Åkesson and Jörgen Sandström, bass player Leif Edling, keyboardplayer Carl Westholm and drummer Peter Stjärnvind. No use going through what each and everyone has been doing, mentioning names like Opeth, Candlemass, Entombed, Yngwie Malmsteen and Therion is enough. Such line-ups can easily become fuck-ups. Well, not in this case. Krux have delivered since their first self-titled release. On their third release they do it again, now more than ever! Three of the members also formed part of the band Abstrakt Algebra and the similarities are many. For some reason Krux however hits me way harder. It’s all about simple melodic riffing with doom written all over it, but without becoming drony and boring, despite the songs being quite long. Plus, Mats’ voice really fits this genre. This is a highly recommended CD, also available on vinyl from High Roller.
Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Label: GMR (CD), High Roller (LP)
Country: Sweden
Link: www.krux.se

Monday, 24 October 2011

STONELAKE – Marching On Timeless Tales (CD)

Swedish melodic metal merchants Stonelake are back with their fifth album. The band is and have always been, really good, but what I’m not convinced by is the mix. There’s a lack of balance with the drums sounding horribly digital and sterile, and also overpowering the sound, making the guitars lack. It feels like things have been recorded in different studios, mixed separately and then just pieced together without really thinking about the sound gelling together. I do have a hard time getting past the horrible drums, both the sound and performance. The guitars probably sound great on their own, but the lack power in the overall sound. Singer Peter Grundström often makes me think of Poodles vocalist Jake Samuel, which is fine by me. The songs are pretty good, and at times remind me of Lynch Mob in their better moments, mixed with Masterplan or Circle II Circle. Some really nice guitar playing from Jan Åkesson, but I think he should concentrate on the guitars and let someone else handle the mix. It’s always good to have an outside opinion (wish someone had forced Yngwie to take that advice, too...). The first half of the album is quite varied and really good, while the second half doesn’t offer as much diversity and it feels a bit too standard to be of greater interest unfortunately. Still, well worth checking out for fans of melodic metal with a touch of power metal.
Janne Stark
Label: Massacre
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011

SILVERDOLLAR - Morte (CD)

Swedish band Silverdollar I remember from the beginning of 2000, when they used to play covers. Their first CD Covers From Hell contained renditions of Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, WASP etc. This actually feels quite evident when listening to the band’s third album Morte. There’s a bit of Judas Priest here, a bit of Maiden there, some Helloween inbetween, topped with a bit of Zakk Wylde-harmonics and a singer that sounds like mixing Kai Hansen, Udo Diskschneider, Rob Halford and adding Bruce Dickinson’s vibrato. I’m not saying this is bad, because it asn’t. It’s just, well, lacking personality. I hear a lot of influenced but very little originality, or even their own spin. Everything sounds like something I’ve heard somewhere before. Like I said, what they do, they do do great, but I have heard it before, and I’m not sure I’ll be listening that frequently.
Janne Stark
Label: Massacre
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011

OPETH - Heritage (CD+DVD)

I just love the way Opeth have developed. I didn’t care for their old death metal records, but did felt they had a lot of great potential musically. Then, when things started going towards the more progressive side I started listening. Deliverance, I think was the album that made me really listen. After this they have just started growing album by album. The last one, Watershed, as as close to perfect as they had ever come in my book. Now, Heritage is here, and they have dropped the growling altogether, the music is as intricate as ever and there are so many moods and feelings floating around on this album it would make even Ingemar Bergman jealous. The album starts off with a soft piano piece that could have been written by Jan Johansson back in the seventies. Soft, tender and lovely. The piano is played by guest musician Joakim Svalberg. They move into the multi-layered The Devil’s Orchard, which touches on fusion, jazz, but still rests on a heavy, slightly dissonant, proggy/symphonic foundation which brings it forward without stopping. I Feel The Dark starts off softly with just acoustic guitar and vocals, adding piano, mellotron and later on drums and electric guitar, but still not in an overpowering way, not until halfway through when the pandemonium enters. This is definitely an album you just don’t put on and wash the dishes to. It’s quite demanding and challenging, and I really like that! This is an album that gives me something new each time I listen to it. It’s all so well thought out, each part and instrument has a meaning. Nothing is random. What I also like is that the album goes though so many different moods and styles, from the aforementioned piano piece, to fast paced prog metal in Slither (recorded in memory of Ronnie James Dio), to the soft and gentle acoustics in Häxprocess and Famine, where Björn J:son Lindh adds his flute magic against a pretty heavy backing. The Lines In My Hand shows another different, very melodic side, still highly progressive and odd rhythmic, but with nice melodic harmony vocals. This is in my opinion the band’s strongest effort so far, the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. Finally, I must give credit to the cool 3D cover, which really adds an extra dimension, plus the bonus-DVD containing the 5.1 surround mix, bonus tracks and a documentary.

Janne Stark
Label: Roadrunner
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden

BELLFAST - Insula Sacra (CD)

Now, here’s an interesting combination. A Japanese band playing Celtic influenced hard rock! Intriguing indeed! Another interesting detail is that the album was mixed by none other than Andy LaRoque! Looking at the band photo, these guys and girls mean business! Musically, yes, they do mean business in that department as well. This is actually really really good! Think heavy Jethro Tull meets Thin Lizzy meets Horslips, but with an aggressive and modern metal touch. They also blend in flute and violin in a very well-balanced manner. However, don’t be fooled by this, Bellfast are heavy and more metal than folk when it comes to the sound. The mix also enhances the heavy edge. Great guitar-playing with tons of nice harmony-work, thunderous drums and heavy plodding bass that at times gives it a touch of Steve Harris, but a bit more subtle. The vocals fit in well with the music and the whole package works really great. The songs are very well arranged and you definitely hear this bunch have been at it for a long time. Yes, the band was formed already in 1993, even though this is their debut album. Well worth checking out indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: King Records
Country: Japan
Year: 2010

Saturday, 24 September 2011

RENAISSANCE OF FOOLS - Fear, Hope & Frustration (CD)

Now here’s the return of a long lost great musician. Daniel Magdic was in the first line-up of Pain Of Salvation, but then disappeared into obscurity. In the new unit Renaissance Of Fools we also find singer and guitarist extraordinaire, Kjell Bergendahl, who is also found in heavy rockers Thalamus. The band is completed by bass player Björn Tauman (Without Grief, Chainwreck) and drummer Magnus Karlsson. Daniel, Björn and Magnus actually had a previous band together, called Cudfish, which unfortunately never really lift off. Hopefully this will. Trying to describe what you will find on this band’s debut I can use the first two member’s former and ordinary bands – Pain Of Salvation and Thalamus. Here are songs like opener Precious Life and Ordinary Man’s Diary which both possess the heaviness of Thalamus, but also the progressive, slightly melancholic side of Daniel’s past adventures. In songs like Polarized Round they lean more towards the progressive side. I also want to point out, it’s not progressive as in Dream Theater-like technical cold overload, but more the King Crimson and even Pink Floydish side of that genre. The sound is heavy and think, but still very dynamic with akiller mix by Pelle Saether and mastering by King’s X Ty Tabor. The detuned guitars give it an extra crunch and Tauman’s heavy bass playing really lays the album a powerful foundation to rest upon. Even in ballads like Leave It All Behind they manage to give it an aura of heaviness and power. Here Tauman’s bass playing also really shine through. I truly love Kjell’s voice and the way he embraces the songs and takes the melodies to a new level. The harmony language sometimes makes me think of bands like Anekdoten or The Flower Kings. Fear, Hope & Frustration is an album highly recommended for fans of heavy progressive/symphonic rock.
Janne Stark
Label: Metalville
Year: 2011

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

CLARK LANE – Bedroom Sessions (CDR)

Clark Lane live
Suck me sideways! The name doesn’t really say anything, the demo “layout” looks like it’s made by a kid, no contact info or song titles, but holy crap this band sounds good! The opening track made me think of Dizzy Mizz Lizzy meets TNT with a modern twist. Next up is a melodic modern riff-oriented rocker which really kicks ass. I’m not really sure what band to compare this to, as they do have a twist of their own. Great vocals, awesome musicians, killer guitarist and a really cool mix. At times the sound and style of the guitars makes me think of a mix of Ronnie Le Tekro (TNT) and Pete Lesperance (Harem Scarem). Next track makes me think of my favourite Norwegian band Jack In The Box with its quirky riffs and great harmonies. This is by far the best unsigned Swedish band I’ve heard this year! Awesome stuff! The songs have so many layers, with a simple melodic line on top and really complex rhythmic musical patterns underneath. This is music you can find new stuff in every time you listen to it. Stuff I truly love! The closing track follows in the same style and I am truly in love! This band should be signed sooner than as soon as possible! I NEED an album, I DEMAND an album!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Label: none
Link: http://www.clarklane.se/

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

THALAMUS - Subterfuge (CD)

Borlänge-based heavy rockers Thalamus’ debut album was one of the releases that really knocked me out when it arrived. It was one hell of a debut, filled to the brim with fat riffs and heavy grooves. As a small taster for the follow-up the band released a very nice MCD entitled Sign Here For Nothing. When the second full length album Subterfuge now arrives it’s no thunder and lightning and no brutal riff that pleasantly smashes your forehead. Nope, the album opens with almost three minutes of soft, almost jazz/folky, but still quite heavy prog using only vocals, guitars, keyboard, and halfway through also bass, but no drums. It’s definitely a great song, but very surprising. Furthermore it’s only entitled Intro. Well, have no fear, in second track Bring Down Mary they prove the riffs and groove is there! After this When Goblins Cheer brings it all into a dead heavy doom territory, but with a very melodic chorus, which I also didn’t expect. I like that the boys dare to explore new territories, it makes it all a bit more interesting. Blind actually brings in some vintage Purple overtones, distorted Hammond and all, and with a chorus that sounds very much Purple Perfect Strangers era, but with Kjell’s bluesy vocals taking it in a totally different direction. Still Dancing On My Grave brings another dose of ultra-potent riffing which is something of a trademark of this band. The track I Hope You Understand is the only survivor off the intermediate MCD, here re-mixed by Daniel Bergstrand to fit the rest of the disc, and it sure does both musically and soundwise. One of my absolute favourite tracks is the ultra-groovy and almost funky Shot To Hell, which makes it impossible to sit still. The riff fest continues on the She Sells Desolation, which kicks off in quite an unorthodox way with a guitar riff and drums that suddenly stops, like the drummer forgot the rhythm, but soon picks up. Very funny indeed and with another memorable riff. Love Is Shining On The Dead Man almost draws near singer/guitarist Kjell Bergendahl’s side project Renaissance Of Fools with its cool, slightly psychedelic feel. The album finishes with the cool stomping cool riffster Through The Fields, where the riff almost sounds like ugly ogres walking through a stony field, lifting their feet and stomping down hard and firm. Is it better than the debut? I kinda see them as two totally different entities as they are quite different, even though the basic formula is still there, and I feel one completes the other. You can easily play the two back to back without feeling any sense of repetition. Killer stuff!

Janne Stark
Label: Transubstans
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.thalamusband.com/

HEAVEN'S BASEMENT - Unbreakable (CD 7tr)

Sid Glover, Chris Rivers, Rob Ellershaw and Aaron Buchannan. Five young English guys who sound as American as Jack Daniels. Well, since they sound great and they actually give it their own spin, I’m not complaining. Heaven’s Basement sounds like a grittier, earthier and a lot less sterile bad young cousin of Nickleback. To be honest, they don’t sound like Nickleback at all, they just belong in the same genre, but I do think they will appeal to their fans as well. Heavy, modern, melodic and loaded with crunchy guitars. They do have some cool heavy riffing going on as well, like in Close Encounters. Great choruses, too. Yepp, all the necessary ingredients are there! Destined for success? Well, they do deserve it from the seven tracks presented on this CD.

Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Country: UK
Link: http://heavensbasement.com/

BLACK WATER JAMES - Vol 1 (MCD)

Retro is the word of the future! Well, at least that’s what’s currently hot, and I do not complain. Growing up with, and still loving, bands like Mountain, Montrose, Stray Dog, Skynyrd, Pat Travers etc., I really love the younger bands giving the classic seventies hard rock a new spin and their own touch. Black also seems to be the word of today with new bands like Black Water Rising, Black Country Communion, Black Stone Cherry, The New Black, Black Tide, Black Robot, you name it. Well, I don’t mind that either (as long as I don’t mix them up). Black Water James is a new black retro band, and, yepp, I really enjoy these guys as well. The Nashville foursome rocks it with a southern bluesy touch, mixing touches of vintage Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynrd and AC/DC giving them a well deserved spot alongside bands like Silvertide, Buckcherry, The Answer and Black Stone Cherry. The songs deliver, the musicians deliver and the sound is ambient, dynamic and in your face. Great stuff, indeed! A band to check out! This is just a six track promo EP, but it rocks!! After reviewing this I checked out the band’s self-titled debut and I tell you, this one’s well worth laying your hands on, too!
Janne Stark
Country: USA
Year: 2011
Label: private
Link: http://blackwaterjames.com/

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

GUDARS SKYMNING - Mörka Vatten (CD)

I’m not sure why, but it seems Swedish bands have a certain knack for interpreting, reinventing and rejuvenating the classic old seventies hard rock and elevating it to a new level. Abramis Brama, Graveyard, Magnolia, Mangrove, Blowback, Siena Root, well, they are many and they are good. Now Gudars Skymning presents their second release and they made me a happy man again. Mörka vatten (dark waters). It starts out with a pleasant kick in the joint with the riffster Jag är en trollkarl (I’m a wizard) and continues with the heavy and doomy Södersläntsblues, which actually reminds me a bit of Black Sabbath’s Hand Of Doom. What I like about Gudars Skymning is that the song material is not just plowing down one row, they spread the seeds pretty well. The songs range from straight ahead riffing to some more chords based bluesy stuff, even with some folky overtones in songs like Hyfs och fason. I älvens svarta djup is another cool thing with lots of dual guitars, solos both right and left. One of my absolute favourite riffs is found in two versions on this album, first in Swedish and then in English. Well, not the riff, but the lyrics. Aldrig har jag vetat is a Swedish version of Mountain’s classic Never In My Life, which appears as the last track in its original format. A cool version staying very to the original (except the Swedish lyrics). Another Swedish retro gem to keep a lookout for!

Janne Stark
Label: BloodRock
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.gudarssymning.se/

Thursday, 18 August 2011

FULLFORCE - One (CD)

Swedish power metal all-star constellation Fullforce have been in the starting blocks for some time, but finally the debut has now been released. If the start by revealing the line-up you may get a picture of what this is all about. Vocals are handled by Cloudscape/Planet Alliance singer Mike Andersson, which secures that that department is well taken care of. The guitar department is run by former Hammerfall/Fullstrike stringsman Stefan Elmgren and Narnia/System Breakdown/Grimmark shredder CJ Grimmark. So, guitars: check. The bass work was initially handled by former Hammerfaller Magnus Rosén, but before the album he handed that task over to his Hammerfall replacement Tommy Larsson, and I’m not complaining here either. The drums are handled by none other than Hammerfall, former Silver Mountain, Malmsteen, Planet Alliance, Johansson drummer Anders Johansson, which seals the deal when it comes to musical talent in the band. Well, talent alone doesn’t make a great band. There have to be songs. So, how does the band do in this department? Album opener Mythomaniac actually didn’t fully convince me. It’s by no means a bad song, it just felt a bit – ok, good song, but I do expect some more from this bunch. Well, fear not, second track None Of Your Concern shatters all the previous doubts with it’s driving and heavy riffing, great chorus and powerful delivery. I think fans of Cloudscape, Planet Alliance and even to a certain extent Hammerfall, will feel pretty much at home. We’re talking melodic power metal here. It’s no reinvention of the wheel, but it’s a nice change of tyres I’d say. Songs like Oblivion throws in some nice oriental vibes, which makes a nice change. There’s also some more straight ahead classic hard rock riffing thrown into the mix, which is nice. The album is full of strong choruses, but fortunately not the type of major scale stuff where you’d end up in the Eurovision Song Contest if you remove the distorted guitars. Good solid stuff! I also like the mix by Grimmark. Powerful and with great separation. The song-writing has been shared between Andersson, Elmgren and Grimmark, which I also think contributes to the nice diversity in the songs. This is a good solid debut from a collection of great names, which proves this is not just a product that looks good on paper, it does sound great as well.

Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Label: Steamhammer/SPV
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.fullforce.se/

Monday, 15 August 2011

ROCK OUT WILD, Nalovardo August 12-13 - Festival review (Swedish)


Vem vid sina sinnens fulla bruk drar igång in ny hårdrocksfestival i Norrlands inland, femton kilometer utanför Sorsele, vid foten av ett skidfjäll? Bodil och Maria, två modiga tjejer som älskar hårdrock och festivaler. Det som är desto mer förvånande att trots att det är första gången de arrangerar en festival känns det som de inte gjort annat. De har första året lyckats komma upp i en kvalité som det tagit andra festivaler fyra-fem år att nå upp till vad gäller organisation, band, ljud och allt runtomkring. Jag är mäkta imponerad. Allt bara flyter. Banden börjar på minuten utsatt tid, mat finns där det ska och när det ska, inga bråk, inte en enda sur min och desto mer fascinerande - inte en enda mygga! Visst ligger festivalen lite avsides, men det finns gott om parkeringsplatser och campingmöjligheter. Dessutom går det festivalbussar mellan Sorsele och ut till festivalområdet. Som sagt, allt är väl planerat. Första dagen inleds med det officiella öppnandet av festivalen. Eftersom det är mitt på dagen och en fredag är väl inte publikuppslutningen den största, men vad gör det när Jan-Erik Sorsén drar igång motorsågen för att såga av invigningsstocken. Nu är vi i Norrland och här klipper man inte några fjolliga jävla snören! Jag kommer att återkomma till Jan-Erik lite senare. Festivalen öppnas av att Storumans enda metal band, Vanity Insanity spelar låten de fick äran att skriva: Rock Out Wilds temalåt, naturligtvis döpt till – Rock Out Wild. Jag fick äran att vara med och gästa på låten, så jag är nog lite part i målet, men det är en riktigt bra stänkare till låt. Festivalen var nu officiellt öppnad. En sak jag först måste avhandla är ljudet på festivalen. En sak som förhöjt hela upplevelsen och som jag kommer att återkomma till flera gånger, är just ljudet. Umeå Scenteknik skall ha en eloge av gigantiska mått. Anläggningarna var perfekt anpassade och ljudkillarna i världsklass. Dessutom var de trevliga och ödmjuka grabbar, något vissa andra firmor borde lära sig av. Jag har ofta upplevt att utomhusscener kan sakna botten, men inte här. Det hade likaväl kunnat vara en inomhuskonsert. Bra botten, bra separation, sången hördes perfekt och det var en högst njutbar nivå. Jag är imponerad.

Blackrain 

Först ut på stora scen var Örnsköldsviksbandet Blackrain. Jag hade aldrig hört dem förut och namnet sade mig inte så mycket om stilen. Men, snacka om positiv överraskning! Blackrain levererar ganska modern melodisk metall med den riktigt stark sångaren Daniel Söderberg i spetsen. I och för sig har den eminente gitarristen Ronnie Blylod figurerat lite här och där innan. Det låter riktigt tungt, tight och välrepat. Dessutom har de bra låtar, där några fortfarande sitter i bakhuvet.

Vanity Insanity 

Jag kanske är part i målet eftersom jag fick nöjet att vara med och lira i bandets festivallåt Rock Out Wild, men Vanity Insanity är en stark konkurrent till band som Crazy Lïxx och Crashdïët. Bandet levererar sleaze-influerad melodisk hårdrock med tyngd och precision. Låtmaterialet är även det riktigt bra och det är även här riktigt tight och välrepat. Bandet har dessutom i Viggo Vain en sångare i yppersta klass. Definitivt ett band att hålla ögonen på!

Assailant


Från Umeå kommer festivalen första riktigt hårda band. Assailant, som hittills släppt två plattor. Stilmässigt är de lite svåra att placera. Jag hör inslag av så väl melodisk dödsmetall som teknisk thrash och melodisk power metal. En blandning som gör det till ett riktigt intressant band. De levererar dessutom rejält live och låter lika bra som på platta. Så här långt bådar utbudet riktigt gott.


Fourever 

I ryggen hade de tre tjejerna en resa på 15 timmar och dryga 130 mil, från Olofström till Nalovardo. Någon trötthet visade de dock inga prov på. Fourever har alltid levererat live och fortsätter göra så. Nu har de äntligen spelat in sin debutplatta också. Flera i publiken höjde på både ett och två ögonbryn i positiv förvåning över de späda tjejernas musikalisk leverans och förutom de egna låtarna bjöd de på egna tolkningar av Kiss Detroit Rock City och Europes Scream Of Anger, där publiken fick gissa upphovsbandet och vinnaren belönades med en t-shirt.

Shade Of Grey


Även om Umeåbandet Shade Of Grey inte är några debutanter, så var detta bandets första spelning. Sångaren Leif Grabbe har tidigare hojtat i Angeline och Ramm, basisten Mattias Bernhardsson har varit med i Nocturnal Rites, (förre) trummisen Mikael Ludvigsson i Live Elephant (nu ersatt av Örjan Lundmark - rättelse) och gitarristen Johannes Forsberg i Planet Storm. Trots att det var första spelningen märktes ingen nervositet och det hela satt som en smäck. Stilmässigt fick de mig att tänka på Cloudscape, lite småproggig och melodisk metall med två kanongitarrister, en stark sångare och en rytmsektion som levererar den rätta tyngden. En regnskur (den ena av festivalens två) fick varken bandet eller publiken att lätta på gasen. Även här – kanonbra ljud från Umeå Scenteknik!


Caliber 69


Ännu ett Umeåband, Caliber 69 äntrade den lilla scenen och tog den i besittning direkt. Även här levererades sleaze-osande hårdrock av klassiskt snitt. Lite Guns ’N Roses-touch med Slash-influerade riff och även här en sångare som levererade med övertygelse. Att trummisen Jimmy Borgström även lirat dödsmetall var inte fel. Grabben kunde slå både hårt och tight. 


Maryscreek 

Även här ett hyfsat långväga band, Linköping närmare bestämt. Jag hade tidigare bara hört debutplattan Some Kind Of Hate och gillade det jag hörde. Jag kunde glatt konstatera att även detta band levererade med klass och övertygelse live. De gjorde definitivt plattan rättvisa och även här imponerade sångaren Mats Nilsson stort. Det är inte många festivaler där jag vid sjunde bandet konstaterat att allt hittills varit bra!

Crowdburn


Crowdburn
, ett ungt band från Umeå. Var det dags för en kvalitetssänkning månne? I helvete heller. Crowdburn lirar hård elak metall, med en frontman i Aron, som har energi som ett kärnkraftverk. Det är tight och tekniskt men sitter som en pannbiff i en marmorvägg. Ännu ett band att hålla ögonen på.


Crucified Barbara 

Fredagens final signeras Crucified Barbara. Stockholmskvartetten ger som vanligt allt och levererar låtar från såväl första singeln som senaste plattan Till Deaf Do Us Part och naturligtvis schlagermetalhitten Heaven Or Hell. En klart värdig avslutning på festivalens första dag. En liten besvikelse angående publiktillströmningen, som dock växte framåt kvällningen. Dagen höll sig hyfsat varm, medan kvällen bjöd på lite kyligare luft och temperatur nedåt 6-7 grader. Dock inget som avskräcker en hårdrockande publik och något som satte fart på Assailants försäljning av hoodies.

Lördag morgon och solen överfaller min säng! Hade jag försovit mig? Icke, klockan var 05.15. Vad är detta? Vi sörlänningar är inte vana vid sådant. Väl på festivalområdet börjar en sömn- (och i vissa fall alkohol-) drucken publik vakna upp. Dags för nya tag. Jag kan inte låta bli att åter häpna över den fantastiska inramningen, med Nalovardos skidpister som kuliss och utsikten över Vindelälven som utsikt från stora scen.

Coldspell

 Lite förvånande kan jag nog tycka att lördagen öppnas av ett band som släppt två högklassiga plattor. Men, ett drag att locka folk ur sängarna och komma till festivalen tidigt kan jag förstå. I vilket fall osm helst, en spelning jag verkligen sett fram emot och som definitivt inte gjorde mig besviken. Tvärt om. Coldspell leverarade till fullo och även de med samma kvalité som på platta. Vad gällde ljudet, inget nytt, fortfarande kanon!

Exciter 

Jag ska erkänna att jag lyfte på ögonbrynen när jag läste att Exciter skulle spela här ute i naturen. Nå, nu var inte detta den kanadensiska patrullen utan ortens lokala coverband. Jag skall erkänna att de såg ut som en brokig samling i högst varierande åldrar, lite som en musikalisk släktträff. Döm inte hunden efter håren. När de levererade var det med övertygelse och riktigt bra. Två samspelta gitarrister som axlade så väl Purple som Judas Priest-riff med bravur, en sångerska med bra pipa och resten av bandet inte att förglömma. 

Lucid Legend 

Ännu ett långväga besök, närmare bestämt från Vara. Bandet såg rätt ut och lät bra, men lyckades inte riktigt nå fram till och få med sig publiken. De jobba de dock hårt på det med sin 80-talsinfluerade, lite sleaziga hårdrock. Bandets sjulåtars CD är väl värd att kolla in.

Blackout Metal


Om jag inte minns fel hade vi tre band bara i Blekinge som hetat Blackout. Även om inte namnet kanske var det mest fantasirika så var musiken desto roligare. Jag tyckte mig höra lite drag av klassiska Metallica ibland från detta Ume-gäng, men de små taktmässiga finurligheter de kastade in ibland tog det hela ett snäpp upp. Bra och tight band som levererade tung metall med övertygelse.


Absorbing The Pain

Här var ett band, hemmahörande i Örnsköldsvik, som jag sett fram emot. Bandets senaste platta Songs Of Hate With Love ligger högt på min gilla-lista. Här snackar vi nedstämda gitarrer och tunga riff. På grund av att sågaren var i slutet av en förkylning (vilket definitivt inte hördes det minsta) så kastade de in några instrumentala saker som tyvärr drog ner takten en aning. Från mitten till slutet var det dock fem poäng av fem möjliga.

Shadow Of The Room 

Piteå/Luleå-baserade episka metal-bandet Shadow Of The Room (inte Moon, som jag höll på att säga) överraskade med en späd gitarrspelade tjej som growlade i klass med Angela Glossow. Nu var det dock ren sång som dominerade och growlet var mer en effekt, men en fräck sådan.

Helltrain 

Death ’n Roll? Dödsmetall möter rock ’n roll med growl och nästan poppiga melodier emellanåt. Förvånande nog med en dröse backingtracks som uppbackning också. Dock, klart intressant och innihelvete tight. Utan trollkarlen bakom mixerbordet hade detta kunnat låta skit, men nu blev det precis den perfekta tighta, tunga och feta ljudmatta detta band behöver och som fick dem upp till den niva de förtjänar. Jag är inget fan av growl, men jag ryckes med som ett asplöv.

Summoned Tide 

En kul detalj på denna festival är att de förmodligen hade fler tjejer på scen än resterande svenska hårdrocksfestivaler ihop. I Summoned Tide var detta i form av basisten Jennifer Sikström. Bandet dompteras av sångaren och gitarristen Rickard Thelin som styr det hela likt en hårdnackad sjökapten. Vi snackar episk metall med lite drag av såväl Crimson Glory som klassiska Helloween med en stark medeltids/folk-vibe. Robertsfors är hemstaden.

Dia Psalma


En bra festival måste ju ha en värdig festival. Dia Psalma, som dessutom lockade ut en månghövdad publik ur gömmorna, bidrog med just detta. Jag ska erkänna att jag inte är eller har varit något större fan. Inte riktigt min stil helt enkelt. Men, jag ska erkänna, detta var riktigt bra live! Medryckande till max, inlevelsefullt och energiskt till max. Bandet drev verkligen Rock Out Wild till sitt klimax! En kanonavslutning på en helt fantastisk festival som kan sammanfattas med tre ord – hjärta, kärlek och hårdrock.


Om nu inte publikuppslutningen var vad den kunde ha varit i år så har detta i alla fall varit ett bevis på att det går att anordna en riktigt suverän hårdrocksfestival i Norrlands inland och det är bara att hoppas att folk inser det, att tvivlen skingras och att nästa år ser en publik med 2-3 gånger så många huvuden. Det förtjänar den utan tvekan. Vi har Muskelrock i södra Sverige, Norrland har nu Rock Out Wild. Gemensam nämnare? Hjärta – kärlek – hårdrock! 2012, då är jag där igen!

VANITY INSANITY - Drop Dead (printed CD-R)

I had the great pleasure of getting acquainted with Vanity Insanity at the Rock Out Wild festival. A bunch of nice and great sounding guys live. The band’s first four-track demo proves the songs are just as strong when listening without the live experience. It kicks off with sleazy rocker Better Without You with it’s cool riffing and Skid Row-attitude. Viggo is a great singer with the perfect attitude and vocal tone for the musical direction, with a bit of Sebastian Bach tone actually. The song written for the Rock Out Wild festival is a great groovy rocker with some detuned riffing going on. Drop Dead starts out a bit like Still Of The Night but takes its own path, just as heavy though. Dented Halo is a straight ahead rocker in the vein of classic Poison meets Crüe. Songs that should attract any fan of good old sleaze. The demo was recorded very quickly, which unfortunately shows in the mix and delivery. Give this band a proper studio, a great engineer and I’m sure they will give bands like Crashdïet, Crazy Lixx and Loud ‘N Nasty a run for their money!
Janne Stark
Label: self-released
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.myspace.com/Vanity.Insanity

Monday, 8 August 2011

DISDAINED - Kill My Only Enemy (CD)

Judging from the band picture this is “yet another band with a beautiful front woman and a bunch of ugly guys”. Well there are a zillion bands with only ugly guys and no one complains about that so I’ll leave it at that. It may be a new band, but parts of the band are no newcomers but have been found in bands like Insania (Stockholm) and Satanic Surfers. Disdained are describes as a “female-fronted doom band”, which I however do not agree with. Female-fronted, yes, but doom? No way! Ok, the riffs are heavy, but the songs are generally many many bpm too fast. I’d say they sound like a heavier relative of Within Temptation, but with their own identity. Singer Therése Thomsson has great vocal capacities and she thankfully avoids the Nightwishian opera style wailing, but adds a few well placed growls instead, and they are few and far between. The musicians are also top notch and I’m happy to say here I can actually hear what the bass-player is playing as well. The song material is well-arranged and balances perfectly between the melodic side and the detuned riffing. The mix, by Peter Norlinder and Dan Norman, is dynamic and ambient and at the same time brick-breakingly heavy. It gets pretty theatrical at times, especially in songs like “Numb”, which I really like. It may not be unique, but the competition here in Sweden is pretty slim. Well worth checking out!

Janne Stark
Label: Rambo
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.disdained.se/

Monday, 25 July 2011

ERIC GALES - Transformation (CD)

Eric Gales stunned me back in 1991 when he made his debut with the self-titled The Eric Gales Band CD. He was a young and innocent guitarist with an incredibly explosive guitar style, like a re-born Hendrix on steroids. Much have happened since, numerous albums and a long personal journey. Eric is quite fresh out of prison for drug charges, where he starts the album by claiming his innocence in the song Railroaded. He talks about being framed. If it’s true story, well, what do I know. If it’s so, it of course sucks, but what really matters is that he once again delivers 100 % guitar magic! He has, on some of the previous albums, strayed away a bit and tried using loops, some more jazzy bits, some more traditional blues, some almost poppy stuff, but Transformation is Eric in the zone. Just check out killer riffage á la carte stuff like Tortured Mind, Railroaded, the heavy funkster Altered Destiny, the slightly ZZ Top:ish I Pity The Fool and the heavy rockers Catchin’ Up With The Past and closing track I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog That Way. Even though Eric’s work on the latest 2-3 albums has been pretty consistent, I think this is his best album in years. His guitar-playing has that perfect mix of feel and edge. At times you can almost see the sparks flying. His vocals are like always pretty laid back, but it fits the songs, so I won’t complain. I also must mention his outstanding backing musicians who really help ignite the sparks: bass player Aaron Haggerty and drummer Steve Evans, to guys who really play a big part in making this rocker roll!
Janne Stark
Label: Provogue/Shrapnel
Year: 2011
Country: USA

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

CAPTAIN BLACK BEARD - Captain Black Beard (CD)

I can’t say the name really excites me, but luckily enough the music does. The album kicks off with a couple of high class party oriented mood raisers. High octane major scale straight ahead hard rock ‘n roll. Third track Rock Is My Life kicks the ball in a whole different direction bringing in some very pop-oriented touches in the verse, with a highly AOR-oriented bridge and chorus. American Dream continues in the same direction and I do feel a little bit confused about what type of the band these boys aim to be. Concrete Jungle also features a lot of pop-oriented melodies, but here in a bit more modern way. Singer Sakaria has a clear, clean and really good voice which fits the style perfectly. By Ex-Convict the picture is now quite clear Captain Black Beard is actually more of a pop-oriented melodic rock band than a bunch of party rockers. The first two tracks fooled me a bit there. They do have a highly personal touch to their sound and music and I can’t really say they remind me of any other band. I do get some vibes of long lost band Superfly 69 in some places, like in No Worries, but apart from that I’m a bit lost for comparisons. True Love has some really nice heavy guitar playing, but the vocal melodies screams summer pop. The album ends like it started with some straight ahead party rock in Rockin’ Body. The verse riff gives it a sleazy metal feel, but apart from that it doesn’t really fit the genre. This is actually good, but I can’t really figure out where to place the band. The hard rock approach mixed with the very poppy melodies does confuse me a bit at times. My absolute favourite tracks are the two opening tracks and I sort of wish they would have kept that spirit up a bit more.
Janne Stark
Label: Self-released
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

BEARDFISH - Mammoth (CD+DVD)

This band is definitely as weird as the name inclines. And, it’s not a bad thing at all. I’ve actually had something of a time-out when it comes to prog as I got tired of staring at my own navel (or at least listening to bands who were). I’ve however discovered some new bands that have made me get into prog mode again. Beardfish is one band that really intrigues me. They have quite an unconventional sound, with a singer that is not just an excuse for having someone wail over some disrhythmic complex musical patterns. Rikard Sjöblom is a damn good singer for starters. The music draws from lots of different areas, but the foundation is firmly based in the aura of the seventies. There’s some touches of Anekdoten meets The Flowerkings, or Gentle Giant meets King Crimson for that matter, in songs like the instrumental And The Stone Said – If I Could Speak, while there are some more heavy rock overtones in opener The Platform. The boys really mix it up which shows in third track Tightrope which sounds more like a re-visited late 60s pop-tune with touches of Camel and some jazzy passages. Green Waves showcases some pretty cool heavy and intense riffing with more of a heavy rock attitude, while next track Oustide/Inside is a short almost classical piano piece. Akakabotu enters a more jazz-fusion oriented landscape and reminds me a bit of Swedish progsters Fläsket Brinner meets Samla Mammas Manna, mixing distorted Hammond organ and saxophone. Album closer Without Saying Anything on the other hand starts off sounding quite a lot like vintage Kansas mixed with more current band Magellan, but when the vocals come in I instantly come to think of Swedish seventies band Blåkulla. This is truly an interesting musical journey I will most likely embark many more times. The bonus-DVD contains the traditional “The making of…” as well as seven tracks recorded live in De Boerderij in Holland of outstanding quality both sound and picture. I’d go for the deluxe edition, it’s worth it!
Janne Stark
Label: InsideOut
Year: 2011