Monday, 5 November 2012

DEVILICIOUS – The Esoteric Playground (CDdigi)



Bearded rockers Devilicious made their debut not that long ago, and now follow it up with yet another slab of raunchy, diesel infused heavy rock. I liked the debut and the follow-up does not disappoint me. This one feels a bit more rock ‘n roll and a bit looser. The band reminds me quite a bit of Volbeat with a touch of Hellacopters and Motörhead in a threesome with Mustasch. Mikael Jacobsson has quite a personal voice which fits the style perfectly, but it may not be for each and every one. Just like Volbeat, it sounds like Elvis has been an inspiration, especially in a song like Red Heat In Bed. Good and solid production!
Janne Stark
Label: Rambo
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
Link: www.devilicious.se

CAPTAIN CRIMSON – Dancing Madly Backwards (CDd)



With a band name like that and an album title taken from a classic old Captain Beyond song, I was pretty sure what to expect from this album. Well, opening track Lonely Devils Club proved me correct within its first five seconds. We are of course talking hard rock sounding like it was recorded in 1972, both regarding the songs and sound. Transubstans is Sweden’s number one label in digging out these bands with previous find such as Gin Lady, Blowback, Ambramis Brama, The Brimstone Days, The Graviators etc. I must however say if you’re expecting the perfect blend between Captain Beyond and King Crimson, you’ll be disappointed. To me Captain Crimson sounds more similar to bands like Bull Angus, fully comparable to Swedish bands like Witchcraft and Graveyard. Not overly distorted guitars, a very ambient and dynamic sound very similar to the good old days. Props to Jocke Frisö for his mix. The singer also sounds very authentic, and reminds me a bit of Spice of Band Of Spice/Spiritual Beggars. Listening to the songs, there’s no doubt these guys have been breastfed liquid vinyl and given nothing but analogue toys. The songs give me no reason to complain either. This is really good stuff! When I read the final track was named Dancing Madly Backwards I was of course 100 % certain this was a cover, showing where they got the name from. Wrong was I. The band had written their own Dancing Madly Backwards. Hmm… I’m a little bit split here. For us fans of early seventies hard rock, it’s like penning your own song and name it Smoke On The Water or Stairway To Heaven. Confusing. Still, it’s a great track so I won’t complain. Fans of authentic seventies hard rock should not miss this one!
Janne Stark

Label: Transubstans
Country: Sweden

THE GRAVIATORS - Evil Deeds (CD/LP)



Karlshamn based stoner rockers The Graviators released their excellent debut two years ago, on Transubstans Records. They have since been picked up by (a bit surprisingly) Napalm Records and now the first fruit of this collaboration has been unearthed. The band’s second effort is entitled Evil Deeds and was produced by experienced stoner (among others…)  producer Berno Paulsson, who has put his mark on bands like Spiritual Beggars. The Graviators could be placed in the same category as the Beggars, but topped with a classic Count Raven doom feel. Great retro sounding riffs, well-played and great sounding. Singer Niklas Sjöberg sounds a bit like a mix of a young Ozzy and Count Raven singer Chritus Lindersson, which may not be for everyone, but to me it fits the music perfectly. I also really like guitarist Martin Fairbanks Iommi-style soloing, and of course the band’s tight rhythm union consisting of bassist Johan Holm and drummer Henrik Bergman, who reminds me a bit of Ludwig Witt at times in his groovy loose playing. The song material is really strong and doesn’t just rely on simple riffing or chord plodding, but cool rhythmic variations and great intricacies that take the songs to a new level. Just listen to the swing style of The Great Deception, a killer song indeed! There’s also a bit of vintage Sabbath in songs like Häxagram. The Graviators manage to bring, if not new, but at least exciting things into a long running and pretty overexploited genre. Buy Evil Deeds and Sideburn’s IV Monument and you’re set for the time being (there are actually a few more you should check out). The album is also available in a limited beautiful double-LP version.
Janne Stark
Label: Napalm Records
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden

SIDEBURN - IV Monument (CD)


Fuckin’ hell!! I was just run over by a riff! Sideburn really show they mean it when opening their new album with the tank-like riffing of Diamonds. What a kick in the nuts! Great feel of vintage Sabbath and a production that moves mountains. Can’t help thinking singer Jani Kataja reminds me a lot of former The Quill singer Magnus, which is a really good thing indeed. Not your ordinary low tune vocalist, but more melodic and high register, which compliments the dead heavy riffing of songs like Fire And Water just perfect. Sideburn could easily be labeled a stoner band, but they are so much more. In some moments they remind me a bit of Spiritual Beggars, then there’s some good old Black Sabbath and in the slower and cooler number, Crossing The Lines they remind me of Swedish retro colleagues Siena Root. Tomorrow’s Dream is not a Black Sabbath cover, but ironically the intro reminds me a bit of Mob Rules. Awesome tune! Guitarist Morgan Zocek is a killer guitarist, actually with some hints of John Sykes in his vibrato. When the slow and concrete heavy riffing of The Last Day starts, Candlemass immediately comes to mind. This is doom at its finest. Next up, in Silverwing, they return to the slightly psychedelic vein of Siena Root, but with a touch of Grand Magus. This is really great stuff, I must say! Versatile, yet consistent, heavy, yet melodic. I really love the band’s sound in general, the vocals, the instrumental performances, the sound and the song material. I did like the band before, but this time all the boxes are ticked! Well done!
Janne Stark

Label: Transubstans
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden 
 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

PETER MARTINSSON GROUP – Guitar State Of Mind (CD)


 
I found Swedish guitarist Peter Martinsson when googling his old 70s/80s band Plebb. I found Peter had not only continued playing guitar, but also become one hell of a player! Now his first solo album has finally hit the streets. What you find here is an outstanding collection of instrumental guitar music, ranging from heavy rock to blues to folky rock to countryish playing. Peter is an outstanding, versatile guitarist, who at times remind me of the outstanding Thomas Larsson. Songs like Groove In My Backyard draws a bit towards vintage Joe Satriani, while Shoot makes me think of Greg Koch wacky blues rock. Made It is a cool melodic thing with a slight folky touch. I can’t continue without mentioning Peter’s outstanding musicians, bassist Per-Martin Pettersson and drummer Ulf Becker, who really know how to groove. In J.M.H (which I guess stands for James Marshall Hendrix) he does show some Hendrixy overtones, but I actually come to think more of Stevie Ray Vaughan, who of course was influenced by J.M.H. Besides playing some really mean licks and being a crazy good player, Peter can also write great songs. These are no guitar wanking backgrounds, but actually great songs with melodies that can hold their own and riffs that really rock! Speaking of Greg Koch, the solo in Walk With Me reminds me a bit of his style in the way he explores scales that really raises your eyebrow. I love it when people push it outside the box and make it sound crazy and cool. Guitar State Of Mind is true guitar mojo of the highest order! Get it!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
Label: Grooveyard Records

BADGE – Demo 2012 (4 track CD-R)


Badge is the perfect psycho-blues-power-trio-from-Hell. Raunchy, explosive, dirty, mean and raw to the bone. The band consists of guitarist/singer Matti Norlin (Ninja, Wizard), bassist Gustaf Hielm (Meshuggah, Pain Of Salvation, Charta 77) and drummer Fredrik Haake (Meldrum, God Is My Co-Pilot). I’m not sure what bands to compare them to, as I simply can’t find any. Basically Badge plays hard edged, wild-eyed blues with Norlin playing the shit out of his acoustic guitar or dobro, while Haake bangs the shit out of his drum kit. I think this band would actually be too heavy if you added distortion as well. It’s really cool that a trio playing acoustic instruments can make it sound this heavy. Calculated Moves is dangerously close to psychobilly with its up-tempo craziness with Norlin going slide crazy and Haake going totally wild with Hielm is doing an excellent job backing them up. It’s actually totally impossible to sit still listening to this musical eruption. Bloody great stuff! The band has an album finished and I sure hope they will get it out. This needs to be heard!
Janne Stark
Label: None
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden

ALLOY - The Path So Frequently Trodden (CDR)


Alloy is a new Swedish combatant on the battle grounds of classic heavy metal. To quote themselves they are on a path frequently trodden. Alloy plays classic sounding eighties heavy metal, showing quite obvious traces of Iron Maiden and Manowar, but also US metal band Brocas Helm. They place themselves alongside newcomers like Enforcer, Steelwings, Helvetets Port and Evilseve, and they do pretty well. There are some flaws here and there, but nothing major. The songs have all the necessary elements with good vocals, a great guitarist and a solid rhythm section. The recording is liberatingly free of autotune and trigged drums, and relies on a classic analogue sound. The vocals are often the band’s Achilles’ heel, and Jonas Edström may not be any Bruce Dickinson, but he does a really good job. The songs are also good and solid with my favourite being the slightly heavier Sea Of Lies with its of gloomy riffing. A really good start, boys!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Label: none (demo-CDR)

CORRODED - State Of Disgrace (CD)


Corroded is one helluva force to be reckoned with. I’ve always liked their records, but after seeing them live the feeling was enhanced. This band is no studio product. They deliver, and they deliver with confidence and power. Corroded are for real! State Of Disgrace proves it even more. Twelve songs, twelve statements, twelve melodic hard rocking songs that kick ass. From up-tempo rockers like I Will Not, to heavy crunchy, yet melodic numbers such as I Am God, the beautiful balladry of Beautiful Revolution, to the powerful Pantera:iash riffing in Believe In Me. Throw Pantera, Shinedown and Sevendust in a blender and add some Swedish originality, and you have Corroded. A great powerful album that’s just another proof of this band’s greatness. A killer album indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: NineTone
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden

TORBEN SCHMIDT - Long Story Short (CD)

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Ok, now I’m quite far outside my musical comfort zone. I’m a metal head, hard rocker, thrash fan, and generally don’t listen to westcoast or pop. However I do have a soft spot for a few artists, one being Brett Walker, which is sort of where this one lands. Even though Torben Schmidt used to sing in Danish AOR band Skagerack, Long Story Short could be compared to the stuff Joey Tempest did when Europe folded (or took a break), or, Brett Walker. This is very poppy, very melodic, but I actually really like this! Torben manages to keep it on the right side of the slimy wimp-fence. First and foremost, he’s a great singer, reminding me a bit of Alien’s Jim Jidhed, with a very pleasant voice that doesn’t sound irritatingly buttery. He also adds some rock attitude to the brew. Sure, tracks like All Is Said could probably make it well into the American country rock chart, but when Mattias Ia Eklund adds his guitar to it all, it takes a different turn. Luckily Torben hasn’t fallen into the trap Mark Spiro fell into on his last album, using programmed drums and f***ing auto tune overload. Long Story Short sounds alive and nicely dynamic in its sound and approach. Real musicians playing – check. No audible autotune – check. He’s also using musicians not immediately intimately associated to this genre, such as Mattias Ia Eklund, Chritsian Alsing and Björn Fryklund. I also love the solos in It’s The Fire by Simon Rabenhöj. Great tone and firey style. It took some soul searching to admit for a narrow minded rocker like myself, but here it is - I actually, honestly, really like and enjoy the album! Ok, there are a few tracks that are a bit too cheesy even for me, like You (one of the the only two with some programming involved) and.., well, I guess it’s actually the only one. Not my style in general, but I must say this was a nice surprise.
Janne Stark
Label: Thunderstruck
Country: Denmark
Year: 2012

Monday, 27 August 2012

MAGNUM - On The 13th Day (CD)


Wow, Tony Clarkin, Bob Catley, Mark Stanway and their crew are definitely back with a vengeance. I was a big fan of the band’s early albums like Kingdom Of Madness, II and Marauder. Great stuff indeed, still is. I don’t think the band ever raised the bar over these albums, even though Vigilante and On A Storyteller’s Night are good efforts. Later day’s Magnum has also kept a pretty decent level of quality even though I’ve rarely revisited the newer albums that often. Well, I’m happy to say On The 13th Day proves this band can still surprise me. The album kicks off with heavy hitter All The Dreamers showing a glance of older days, but with a more updated and quite heavy sound. Blood Red Laughter continues in the same vein and Bob Catley actually sings better than ever. No sign of weakness or weariness. The man can still SING! The mix is full, fat and solid, reminding me a bit of the latest Uriah Heep album. The best part of it all, the songs are really great memorable pieces with nice hooks and ballsy riffs. Blood Red Laughter is a song that will pop up in my iPod quite often I feel. The same goes for the title track. Well, the same actually goes for the major part of the album. Dance Of  The Black Tattoo has some of the chunkiest and heaviest guitars I’ve heard from the band in a long time, plus a chorus that sticks. Another killer track. There are however a few songs that may not be in the top league, such as So Let It Rain (a bit too pop for comfort) and… hmm… well, I guess that’s the only one, and it’s not even bad, just a cut below the rest. So, conclusion, this is without doubt the best album Magnum has produced since their heydays! Congrats, boys!
Janne Stark
Country: UK
Label: Steamhammer/SPV
Year: 2012

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

SKULL PARADE - First Four (MCD)


Skull Parade is a new and pretty exciting four-piece from the Gothenburg area. Bassist Magnus Lind has previously played in bands like Treasure Land and Calilio. Skull Parade plays heavy, grinding groove metal drawing some influences from various places and managing to blend it all together into a really fresh sounding musical cocktail (closer to strong merciless moonshine than any fine bar umbrella crap). I think I’d label the band modern retro, as they succeed in incorporating good old heavy riff rock into their quite modern sounding crunchy metal. Anell has a cool raspy voice, not sounding like anyone else, but still with hints of Ralf Gyllenhammar, Zakk Wylde and even some Ronnie Dio. I don’t remember him sounding this great in Art Rebellion (a much more melodic band). The band’s first EP features four songs, plus a radio edit of I Rise For No One, a song that reminds me a bit of Corroded, which ain’t a bad thing. All four songs are really great and my only complaint would be that there should be more of them. Looking forwards to that, I am!
Janne Stark
Label: private
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden

EVIL MASQUERADE - Requiem (CD)


Evil Masquerade have delivered quite a bunch of high class albums leaning on the legacy of late seventies/early eighties bands like Rainbow and Deep Purple. Think Rainbow Rising mixed with Perfect Strangers with a heavier edge at times. Singer Apollo Papathanasio is also found in bands like Firewind and Spiritual Beggars, and he does an equally great job here with a voice that fits the style like a glove. Guitarist Henrik Flyman has also played in bands like Moahni Moahna and ZooL, bands that also had hints of the same style, especially the latter. Great, tasteful guitar playing is his forte. Not forgetting the excellent rhythm section featuring bassist Thor Jeppesen and drummer Dennis Buhl, who both provides a really solid and quite groovy foundation. Don’t expect no bells or whistles, this is classic hard rock the way it’s supposed to be played. This is the type of album I always tend to fall back to after having been enchanted by some technical wizardry for ten minutes. You know what you get, but what you get is a good and solid album that you can listen to beginning to end and each track just makes you feel good. Like I said, classic hard rock played and sung great with a fat and solid production.
Janne Stark
Label: Dark Minstrel
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden
Link: www.evilmasquerade.com

BLOODLIT - Take What's Mine (MCD)


Bloodlit is another new Swedish act releasing a ton of bricks in the shape of a six-track MCD. The band kicks off with Take What’s Mine, which sets the pace with its steamroller riffing in the vein of colleagues Mustasch. Serf In USA continues in the same brutal vein, but adding a touch of good old Pantera brutality. The singer is quite similar to Ralf Gyllenhammar of Mustasch which fits the music just fine. Still I Feel takes it all down quite a few notches, to a ballad level. A really good track with a bit cleaner vocals showing a nice melodic feel. A great track, indeed! Atrocity kicks the nuts back in place again with its full throttle four to the floor up-tempo battering ram style rockin’. The last two tracks just adds to the brew and makes this a really good debut from this Swedish five-piece.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Label: private

STERBHAUS - Angels For Breakfast... And God For Lunch (CD)

The title alone made me interested in this album. Cocky! The debut album by Swedish death merchants Sterbhaus, Hits For Dead Kids, was pretty cool, but for some reason failed to catch my attention. I did however love the video for House Of The Dead Dwarf. After having listened to Angels For Breakfast… God For Lunch three times non-stop, I definitely feel this is quite captivating. Sterbhaus successfully balances on the fence between thrash, death and progressive metal. Catchy, fast and brutal yet full of technical brilliance, great musicianship and lots of cool twists and turns. These guys are not afraid of thinking outside the box and stretching the boundaries, which they show in one of my favourites, the high-speed thrasher Frogboiler, which reminds me a bit of F.K.Ü. Here they suddenly throw in a short piece of country out of the blue. Some tracks, like Deathwizz, are just crammed with cool riffs, carefully knit together into a fully comprehensive musical weave, a big thrashy plaid. Here they also throw in a surprisingly clean funk interplay. Insane, but fucking brilliant! Marcus’ vocals are also more in the thrashy vein and not of the growly death sort, which fits my taste better. The killer production by Jonas Kjellgren is just the icing on the cake. A bloody brilliant album that definitely should attract fans of classic US thrash as well as melodic and technical death metal.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
Label: Killhead
Link: www.sterbhaus.com

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

SKY OF RAGE - SoR (CD digi)

Metalville is a really interesting new label keeping their ear to the ground and picking up new and great acts as well as some classy older bands, The Quill being one prime example. Here’s another new Swedish act well worth checking out. Sky Of Rage, based in Borlänge, features  Astral Doors member Joachim Nordlund and Mika Itäranta, plus former Thalamus guitarist Jan J Cederlund. The band also features the outstanding powerful and melodic vocal talents of Staffan “Stiff” Carlsson. Musically Sky Of Rage plays quite classic powerful heavy rock/metal with hints of both this and that. Reclaim The Rights and Soldiers In A Line sound a bit like a successful mix of Black Sabbath and Nocturnal Rites, while opening track Stardust offers an almost proggy touch with heavy and powerful riffing. Here Staffan reminds me a bit of Mike Andersson of Cloudscape. Countdown actually has a touch of Cloudscape, but with more emphasis on the guitars. The guitars, I must say, are a WALL of sound. Powerful, chunky and hits you like a brick. Great production by former Astral Door member Martin Haglund. The song material is strong and powerful, and I really like the perfect balance between the aforementioned chunky guitars, the subtle but very effective keyboards and Staffan’s excellent vocals on top of it all. An excellent debut well worth picking up!
Janne Stark
Label: Metalville
Country. Sweden
Year: 2012

DOWNSPIRIT - Bulletproof? (CDdigi)

Downspirit is another nice Metalville release. This German unit are more in line with modern melodic rockers like Alter Bridge and Shinedown with singer Steffen Lauth sounding a bit reminiscent of Pretty Maids Ronnie Atkins at times. Heavy on the guitar side, with nice detuned riffing going on, and melodic on the vocal side not falling into the post-grunge pit. Ok, it’s by no means original, but it’s a nice platter with some good hit potential in songs like Human Gift and the punchy Hellyeah. That said, the track Overload does come across pretty original mixing ultra heavy riffing with a cool southern rock style verse, plus the slightly sleazy What A Way To Die. Two songs I didn’t really see coming. I also can’t say I expected the band to do a heavy rock cover of The Roxette’s The Look. They however do get away with it. Nice one.
Janne Stark
Label: Metalville
Year: 2012
Country: Germany
Link: http://www.downspirit.com
http://www.esetscandinavia.com/

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

MORTALICUM - The Endtime Prophecy (CD)


Swedish doomsters Mortalicum returns with their second effort. I was really impressed with the debut, but when listening to the follow-up I realize I definitely have to pick it out again. Damn, this is good! The band name may sound a bit death:ish, but Mortalicum draws influences from classic Black Sabbath with a touch of Swedish doom colleagues Sorcerer, especially when it comes to singer Henrik Högl’s clean excellent vocals. Great guitar work, tight and heavy rhythm section and killer songs with riffs that cut glass. The band does play doom, however not the slow Candlemass style, but more mixed with classic seventies hard rock and a bit of 80s UK doom such as Witchfinder General, actually a bit reminiscent of Grand Magus at their best. There’s honestly not a weak track on the entire album. This is one of the rare cases where I say: Buy or die! This kicks major butt!
Janne Stark
Label: Metal On Metal
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden

CHRIS BICKLEY -Tapestry Of Souls (CD)


It’s great to see melodic shred ain’t dead. Chris Bickley definitely proves this. What I like about this record is that there are actual well constructed songs, not just musical excuses to shred over. Furthermore it should be notes this is not a 100 % instrumental album. Chris uses the talents of Cactus singer Jimmy Kunes who adds his great bluesy feel to the track This Time It’s Gonna Hurt, while Baton Rouge/Norum/Schenker singer Kelly Keeling sings on Crying Shame and Yngwie Malmsteen/Obsession singer Mike Vescera adds his voice to A Step Behind, not forgetting the excellent Outloud singer Chandler Mogel, who sings the melodic metal track Lead You Astray. The vocal tracks are nice interludes between the instrumentals. Bickley is more of a melodic pentatonic player than an all out shredder. I really like his use of bluesy licks and nice melodic riffs. The production, by Bickley and Vic Steffens, is not flawless but good enough. I like Chris solo style where he plays with the song as apposed to play over it. I however notice there’s slight lag in some places, like as if there was a slight latency in the lead guitar channel. It may be my ears playing tricks on me, but I reacted to this a couple of times. Well, minor thing. A really good and solid record.
Janne Stark
Label: Shredguy Records
Country: USA
Year: 2012


HOUSE OF LEAF (CD)


To be honest, this was actually the type of album I was expecting and even hoping I would hear from top notch singer Leif Sundin. Leif has been heard in bands like John Norum Band, Michael Schenker Group and Great King Rat. I truly love Leif’s rough edged bluesy voice when he does heavy rock, but I’ve also really heard him shine in ballads. House Of Leaf is all about singer/songwriter style melodic pop/rock with a slightly bluesy vibe. Not being the authority in this genre I would however compare House Of Leaf to the stuff I know and like such as John Waite on Temple Bar, Mark Spiro and the excellent underrated CD by Micke Nord Andersson and Johan Norberg. What I didn’t know and really surprised me was that Leif is also an excellent lead guitarist! Very tasteful playing indeed! Bluesy, sensitive and with great accuracy! The ending solo of Broken Old Record is really outstanding. The song material is really strong with great catchy choruses, but without being in any way cheesy or overly commercial. I’ve spun this CD at least ten times already and it’s just keeps getting better with no sign of being worn out so far. Highly recommended, indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: self-released
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden
Link: www.houseofleaf.com

SOUL SIGN - Life In The Dark (CD)


Yngwie Malmsteen’s excellent bass player Björn Englén formed the band Soul Sign way before he teamed up with the Swedish guitar hero, and he released a MCD with the band ages ago. A good effort it was. Now he’s decided to give it a new shot. Besides Björn handling the bass, the band is an all American unit featuring guitarist Rob Math, drummer Mike Taylor and former Leatherwolf singer Michael Olivieri. Soul Sign plays heavy guitar driven metal with a touch of Black Label Society at times, but also a bit similar to bands like Black Water Rising and Brand New Sin. Modern heavy rock with some good solid riffing going on. I’m unfortunately not really a big fan of Michael’s vocals in this context. He did a great job in Leatherwolf, but to me he doesn’t fit this genre as well. Probably a matter of taste though. Great bass playing from Björn who works great together with drummer Taylor while Math delivers on the guitar parts as well. The song material is good, but at times a bit generic and without any real highs, or lows for that matter. A good album, but I think there’s room for stepping up the game a bit on the next one.
Janne Stark
Label: Grand Mercy Records
Year: 2011
Country: USA/Sweden

Sunday, 27 May 2012

HASSE FRÖBERG & MUSICAL COMPANION – Powerplay (CD)


Hasse Fröberg is foremost known as lead singer of eighties melodic metal band Spellbound and lately as lead singer of progressive band The Flower Kings. When Hasse now puts his name on his own product, it’s closer to the last, but with hints of the first. The band’s first effort proved he was definitely on the right path. A strong debut indeed. The follow-up, Powerplay, starts off with My River To Cross. I totally love the way this track builds up. It starts out quite gentle, pop-symphonic and in the vein of The Flower Kings, to suddenly burst into some really heavy intense powerful guitar riffing, to move into the melodic, almost pomp-oriented chorus. All of it ornamented with Hasse’s killer vocals. The World Keeps Turning goes in another direction, uptempo melodic rock with an almost AOR:ish touch, at times a bit reminiscent of Asia. Guitarist Anton Lindsjö is a new bright star to keep an outlook on! Great, soulful yet technical playing, which he also shows in The Final Hour. After the soft ballad Waves, the album continues with Venice CA which reminds me of early Toto meets Starcastle meets Trillion. A great melodic track with an almost poppy chorus part. On of my favourites is the heavy, hard rocking Is It Ever Gonna Happen with an almost Purple:ish touch in the verse. In The Chosen Ones I also hear a bit of Styx, especially in the synth melodies. Without going in too much in detail, I can tell you this is a versatile, yet composed, great sounding melodic prog/symph/rock album which should appeal to fans of anything from The Flower Kings, to Styx, Kansas, Asia, Yes etc etc. Great stuff indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: Reingold Records
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden
Link: www.hassefroberg.com <http://www.hassefroberg.com/>

BLINDSTONE - Greetings From The Karma Factory (CD)


Every Swedish kid who went to Copenhagen in the eighties know what Danish Dynamite is. Well, Blindstone is here now to teach the kids of today a new meaning to the term Danish Dynamite. This time we’re not talking strong intoxicating Danish beer, now we’re talking strong intoxicating Danish riffs! “The Blindstone groove is here to stay”, sings main man Martin J. Andersen, and damn it he’s right. The band has never failed to make a strong release in the past, and this time it’s no different. Well, I actually think, which I may have said every time, this IS the band’s strongest release to date! The band has such and incredible swagger and groove it’s totally infectious. There’s no way in hell you can sit still listening to this Karma Factory Greeting. I mean, from the first riff to the last, this power trio bursts out one hook after another, one groovy beat after another and one fat riff after another. Bassist Bunk and drummer Hvidtfeldt paves a strong, funky and groovy foundation for singer/guitarist Andersen to just spread his wah-wah infused bleeding riffs all over. He’s also got a perfect vocal capacity for the whole thing to melt together. Some of the riffs may be meat and potatoes, but in this case that’s what makes it such a great album. To add bells and whistles would be all wrong. This album bursts on like an old steady locomotive, breaking down any barrier, kicking out the jams and mows all over any modern sissy pop melodies. This is the blues meets hard rock, in it’s purest form and shape. Fans of Mountain and Mahogany Rush, your prayers have been answered.
Janne Stark

Label: Grooveyard Records
Country: Denmark
Year: 2012
Link: http://www.grooveyardrecords.com/blindstonekarma.html 

Friday, 18 May 2012

AWAKEN – Awaken (CD)


American metal band Awaken opens their debut album quite carefully with the instrumental March Of Aachen. Melodic, fine tuned, not in any way offensive. Not the strongest opening I’d say, but still a good song. To be honest I would have ended the album with this one and opened with second track, As The Dark So The Light, a great powerful rocker. This actually brings me back a bit in time and reminds me of long lost bands like Powersurge and Seventhsign, plus a bit of Queensryche from back in the day when they were actually a great band. Singer Glenn DaGrossa however sounds no way like any Geoff Tate wannabe, but he instead has a harsh, gravely great powerful voice, reminding me a bit of Lee Ving (Fear, MD.45) with a touch of Biff Byford. Besides this, Awaken is equipped with two killer guitarists in Joe Todaro and Mike Delon, a bit different in style, but they complete each other really great. There’s some pretty intense and cool flashing soloing going on, I tell you. Furthermore the song material is highly interesting with great variation, nice vocal harmonies, and really good arrangements. Darker riffs, like in Bones To Dust, Death Of Me and Beneath The Surface are mixed with melodic uptempo stuff like The Inquisitor or ending track In This Circle which made me think of Crimson Glory. The soothing ballad My Silent Breath comes in like a breath of fresh air to lighten up the intensity of the album. A great beautiful thing, where Glenn again shows his vocal diversity. A really great album in a genre we don’t hear that often today, but I now realized I actually missed. Get it!
Janne Stark
Label: self-realeased
Year: 2011
Country: 2011
Link: www.myspace.com/officialawaken

 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

EUROPE - Bag Of Bones (CD)



”We have gone over the edge, we have lost our minds and we have started playing real rock ’n roll”, says Joey Tempest. I would like to suggest the contrary. Well, not that they don’t play real rock ’n roll, but that they have lost their minds. They are in my eyes wiser than ever! Of course the band will never be able to fully satisfy all their fans, old and new, but Bag Of Bones picks the best of the band’s new sound adopted on Start From The Dark, and mix it with good old classic hard rock, oozing of the seventies. The album kicks off with two mid tempo groove-oriented riff-rockers with a strong melodic feel. They are followed by the more intense Firebox, drawing a bit more towards Secret Society. The title track opens with acoustic guitar and a bit of slide from guest guitarist Joe Bonamassa, moving into a bluesy passage to the up-tempo verse and a heavy bridge. A cool and varied tune, indeed. The thirty second intro Requiem, opens for the lead heavy, but still quite cool, My Woman My Friend. Here Norum rips a solo with his inimitable feeling mixed with technique, and continues to slide in some cool solo licks in the chorus. I do love the guy’s tone, no doubt about that! Demon Head continues to bid you some heavy riff-oriented hard rock, without losing the melody. This is really good! After a break it’s Norum time again. It feels like he on this album has been compensated for the cut-short solos of the previous releases. Me like! I shall also point out that Tempest’s voice really fits the band’s bluesier vibe. Drink And A Smile is a slightly odd acoustic number, which made me think of old Swedish rocker Pugh Rogefeld’s song Grävmaskinen mixed with Joe Bonamassa. Cool on, maybe not for everyone, but still. Doghouse is straight ahead hard rock in the vein of Gotthard with a touch of Zeppelin, while Mercy You Mercy Me draws a bit from the modern riffage of the previous album. The album finishes with the cigarette lighter (now cell phone) ballad Bring It All Home, where Norum again gets to shine. All in all a really great album with a great nod to the old school, and even if Tempests sings they’re not supposed to sing the blues, they do it very well. A great album!
Janne Stark
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden
Label: Gain

Monday, 14 May 2012

MÅRRAN - Mårran (CD)


Talk about an unexpected musical constellation! Göran Edman, singer extraordinaire with bands like Madison, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kharma, Norum, Glory etc., Björn Inge, drummer with classic seventies hard rockers November and renowned keyboard player Max Lorentz, flanked by bassist Morgan Korsmoe (Larz Christerz) and guitarist Ludwig Larsson (Dynamite Sky). Well, if I would compare these guys to any of their previous outings, it would definitely be November. Mårran plays seventies oriented, blues, groovy, riff-oriented hard rock sung in Swedish. What differs from November is Max’s hot and fat Hammond organ, which gives it a bit of a good old Deep Purple touch. I really love the earthy, acoustic sounding mix. The drums sound like they were recorded live in a good size room and the guitar oozes of tube amplification. Ludwig Larsson, looks like a pretty young guy, but his guitar playing sure sounds like he’s been around as long as his older fellows. The solo the guy kicks out in Dina ögon är blå is just amazing, and the break after the solo-part is worth the price of the CD alone. The track Del av mitt liv, reminds me a bit of the classic Free track Mr. Big and here the band is reinforced with Björn Inge’s former November colleague, guitarist Rickard Rolf, who adds a really nice solo. The intro of Syster Blå brings back memories of the first Montrose album, and Denny Carmassi kicking off Rock Candy. Not the same rhythm I know, but the general feel of it. A cool riff, and a pretty unexpected very melodic chorus. Med Lena shows a slightly folk-oriented touch. This is one of the most interesting Swedish releases of 2012 so far. It’s nothing new, there is no flashy wizardry, there are no hits, it’s just an album filled to the brim with really great music, played by outstanding musicians that have the power to express and transfer feelings through their music. Authentic, dynamic, groovy, infectious and damn great!
Janne Stark

Label: S Rock Records
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
Link: www.mårran.se 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

HOUSE OF SHAKIRA - HoS (CD)

House Of Shakira may not be the most productive band in the world, but when they do grace us with an album they do do make a nice impact. On this album we find new, excellent, singer Andreas Novak. Andreas has previously been found in prog metal band Mind’s Eye and he has made a couple of much slicker, but still great, solo releases. Now he’s fronting AOR institution House Of Shakira, and I must say it’s a bit of a match made in heaven. His slightly raspy voice really gives the band that extra edge. The line-up also presents two more new faces, bassist Basse Blyberg and drummer Martin Larsson. This however hasn’t changed anything, I’d say, except that they have actually added a bit more edge to their sound. I would place House Of Shakira in the AOR category, but quite honestly they are more melodic hard rock. No fluffy keyboards and no over-sweeted sleaziness. They have always had a stroke of early Journey in their music, and they still do. We’re talking Journey in their edgy moments here. What about this album then? Well, it did actually take me a couple of listens to really get into the album, which for me is a good thing, since it tends to last longer then. I can only say – House Of Shakira has done it again. This is a really great melodic rocker and I really love the new spark of energy I see in the band. Old fans of the band will still recognize the great hooks, the big choruses and the general vibe, and if they can stomach a git rawer guitars, a less polished sound, you’ll love this one. For me, that’s right up my alley. After having given this album four-five spins, it has now actually become my favourite House Of Shakira release. Yepp, there you go! The House is back in da house!

Janne Stark
Label: Lion Music
Year: 2012Country.Sweden
Link: http://www.houseofshakira.com/

DAYS OF JUPITER - Secrets Brought To Life (CD)

Days Of Jupiter is a new Swedish unit featuring singer Janne Hilli, guitarists Jörgen Hellström and Jocke Grundström, bassist Janne Karlsson and drummer Magnus Larsson. The members have previously played in bands like Trace Of Lords and Destynation. What immediately comes to mind in opening track Bleed is Disturbed. Not only the musical delivery, but foremost singer Hilli who sounds like David Draiman’s long lost vocal cousin. The band was produced by Patrik Frisk, who has helped bands like Corroded and Takida find their sound. I’d say Days Of Jupiter fit in well together with these bands, a bit heavier than Takida, but not as heavy as Corroded. I also still stick by Disturbed as a strong musical comparison. Bury Me Alive also had a hint of Evanescence in the chorus. This one of the album’s potential hits. Silence is another. This is a good solid nu-oriented metal release from a promising band. Maybe a bit too late, I don’t know, but they deserved to be checked out.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
Label: Pantherfarm

SYRON VANES - Bringer Of Evil + Revenge (CDs)

Syron Vanes was one of the early Swedish heavy metal bands that received way too little attention (even though the booklet claims the debut sold over 100 000 copies). Back in the day they released two albums on Ebony Records. Now they have finally been re-issued on CD, nicely packaged and with bonus material. However, the best part is that it has been very nicely re-mastered. The Ebody releases often lacked from quite below par pressings with lots of hiss, pops and noises. Now guitarist Anders Hahne has managed to (from a vinyl original) restore and enhance the recordings to a quality which is way better than the vinyl originals, but without changing the sound (i.e. NOT bringing the levels up to the max and compressing the sound beyond recognition). It was a while since I listened to the original vinyls, but I was actually very positively surprised when putting on the band’s first effort, Bringer Of Evil. This is (and was) really really good stuff! Classic NWoBHM influenced heavy metal with great vocals, killer guitar playing and song material that still feels accurate. This release features the bonus tracks Violation (taken from the Skånsk Rock compilation 1981) and Steal And Run from the 1983 demo. A really strong debut album indeed! On Revenge the band had taken a slightly more commercial path. Not that it’s cheesy or anything, just a bit less classic metal and more melodic hard rock. I do feel the song material however was a bit stronger on the debut and I lack the energy on that release. There are however a couple of great tracks, like One Hell Of A Show and high-speed rocker Fire We Got. This release features the bonus tracks Lying Again and Taking Over from a 1987 rehearsal recording. The quality is however more demo than rehearsal, I’d say. It’s about time these releases saw the light of day. I should also point out the album the band has released since their reunion are killer and should not be overlooked!

Janne Stark
Year: Recorded 1984 + 1986, reissued 2012
Country: Sweden
Label: Steelheart Records
Link: http://www.syronvanes.com/

MATS SANNETORP - Wrong Side Of Town (CD)

This is blues rock guitarist Sannetorp’s third album. Mats is a really good blues rocker with songs in the vein of Bo Wilson, Gary Moore (the blues era), at times with a southern touch. Sannatorp is a Les Paul guy, so no Hendrix comparisons here. The music is quite classic blues rock with dark and quite depressive lyrics, half in English, half in Swedish. If his guitar playing is quite flawless, the vocals are unfortunately not. The voice is decent, but the English pronunciation makes me cringe, I’m afraid. Even though most blues players have a hard time letting anybody else interpret their lyrics, Mats would really benefit in doing so. It’s actually way better when he sings in Swedish, even though it’s all quite straight ahead with no real bluesy feeling in the vocals. As I said, the guitar playing is way more interesting, with a nice fiery tone, like in the excellent instrumental Ain’t Gonna Cry. The Darkest Hour is a really nice heavy rocker, which is only let down by the vocals. This could be really good with only some adjustments. The band is tight and good, the guitar playing kicks ass and the songs are not bad at all.
Janne Stark
Year: 2012
Country: Sweden
Label: private
Link: http://www.sannetorp.com/

Monday, 2 April 2012

ABSORBING THE PAIN - H3ads Up (CD)

Damn, someone put a big phat sledgehammer in my mailbox. It said “Absorbing The Pain – H3ads Up” on it. This is the third album from this Swedish power pack. In my review of the previousl album, Songs Of Hate With Love”, I compared the band to Black Label Society with singer Jonas a bit reminiscent of Band Of Spice singer Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand. I still stand by that statement. The band has simply written another bunch of ball-breaking tracks in the same tradition, but without repeating themselves. Despite the concrete heavy riffing there are melodies, and with melodies I don’t mean any cheesy pop-lines, but classic hard rock melodies. The track Dimetime reminded me a bit of the best tracks of the last B-Thong album (where Mustasch’s Gyllenhammar had taken over the vocals), but with a chorus that owes more to Pantera in their prime. There are riffs here that gives me goosbumps, like the phat seven string treatment in Bully and Basement. The latter has a really cool verse, with a quite unexpected floating style. Hollow adds some acoustic guitars to the platter. The song is quite cool, but I’m not really one hundred percent into the vocals on this one. Jonas’ vocals are otherwise one of the strong points on the album. Peo also gets to show some good solid guitar shreddding, here as well. No use going through all the songs, simply because they all rock, each one in its own way. Sure, it’s heavy as hell, but it’s still quite diverse. A killer album, again!
Janne Stark
Label: Samsound/Rambo
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
 

DARK NEW DAY - New Tradition (CD)

I really loved the first Dark New Day, released in 2005 and was awaiting the follow-up for years, until I heard it had been shelved. Too bad, I thought. Well, now it’s finally here! The album was recorded back in 2006-2007, but it feels very new and fresh despite this. It’s actually bit more direct than the debut, hard hitters like Come Alive, I Don’t Need You and the power-pack Straightjacket. Heavy, riff-oriented and angry, yet melodic. Ok, I can hear you screaming “it’s not true metal” from the wings. Well, it may not be, but if you, like me, are into bands like Sevendust, Shinedown, and Seether, this is right up your alley! Guitarist Clint Lowery is also in the aforementioned Sevendust, which is quite evident in songs like Take It From Me and Caught In The Light. I should also mention that if you are already a Dark New Day collector, all the tracks have already been released on the digital albums Hail Mary and B-Sides, as well as the Black Porch Sessions EP. Then consider this an awesome compilation!
Janne Stark
Label: Goomba Music
Country: USA

Saturday, 10 March 2012

STEVE THORNE – Crimes & Reasons (CD digipack)

I have a couple of albums by UK progster Steve Thorne and to be honest they haven’t visited my CD player that frequently. Not that they are by any means bad. When I listen to the new album I do understand why. This is very middle of the road, melodic prog with a touch of pop. At times it reminds me of Asia, but in comparison even they are “heavy”. It’s very smooth, a bit too smooth for me I’m afraid. But, like I said, it’s by no means bad. It works really good as background music for me. No thorns (no pun intended), no sharp edges and no outbursts whatsoever.
Janne Stark
Country: UK
Year: 2012
Label: Giant Electric Pea
Link: www.steve-thorne.co.uk <http://www.steve-thorne.co.uk/>

DEVIL’S TRAIN – s/t (CD)

Now we’re talking!! It was actually a long time since I started headbanging by the computer while listening to a CD. International collaboration Devil’s Train, featuring singer R.D. Liapakis (Mystic Prophecy), guitarist Laki Ragazas, bassist Jari Kainulainen (Stratovarius) and drummer Jörg Michael (Stratovarius) relay melts together in a highly interesting and powerful way. This is a pretty classic melodic metal album, but the songs have a drive and energy I miss in so many of today’s bands. I’d compare this to Victory’s album Voiceprint, which is another album which may not be an album full of bells and whistles, but it’s just a damn great album to rock out to. This album kicks out rocker after rocker with killer vocals, awesome guitar playing and a sound that really kicks ass. Yes, that’s is – this is an asskicker with a  capital A!!
Janne Stark
Country: Greece/Finland/Germany
Year: 2012
Link: www.devilstrain.com <http://www.devilstrain.com/>

SIENA ROOT – Root Jam (2CD)

Swedish retro rockers Siena Root have released a number of highly interesting albums and now it was time for a live album, of course it had to be a double CD to fit all the jams. This band sure doesn’t kick out any jams, nope, they bring them in stretch them out nurture them and really bring out the essence of what retro jamming is all about. The music ranges from heavy Mountain style riffing, to trippy psychedelic parts with a touch of vintage Jefferson Airplane adding odd instruments such as recorder, hurdy gurdy, mandolin and derbuka. In songs like Bhimapalast they go all oriental, of course adding sitar to the brew. Next up, in Into The Woods, they start out as heavy as if you would fuse Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in a melting pot, but slowly bringing it down to a soft almost folky vibe, while Words reminds me of Uriah Heep. This is actually one of the live albums, where I feel I wanna see the band live myself when the opportunity is there. Great stuff, indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: Transubstans
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Link: www.sienaroot.com  

SOLID FLOW - Was It Something I Said (digital)

Sometimes it’s really a pity that some albums just remain unreleased. In those cases it’s a great thing we have Spitify and CDBaby.com. Solid Flow is one of those cases. The band features former Locomotive Breath bassist Ulf Kronsell, former Locomotive Breath drummer Jimmy Lexe, now found in Unfaithful, former T For Trouble/Seven guitarist Magnus Ölander, singer extraordinaires Mija Holmquist and Daniel Frank. In opening track Change Mija reminds me a bit Alanis Morisette gone hard rock. The style is here a bit similar to Freak Kitchen, but without the craziness. Ölander is a great guitarist, shamelessly underrated and underexposed. This is however not a streamlined album (which may be the reason a label hasn’t picked it up), which shows already in the second track which draws more towards southern hard rock, but with a heavy and detuned edge. Next up, the music takes a more funky turn, reminding me a bit of Sass Jordan in her Rats era. Besides Mija, the band also has a male singer/guitarist who sounds killer as well, Daniel Frank, a guy who recently received the prestigious Birgit Nilsson scholarship. Yes, he’s actually in the opera, which definitely doesn’t show here. The dude rocks! Revenge is a great up-tempo rocker with Mija and Daniel sharing the vocals. In I Know we return to the Freak Kitchen oriented riffing, here adding a really cool melodic chorus. One of my favourites is the quirky Silence Is Broken which made me think of a Swedish sadly forgotten band Red Rocket in the verse in the aforementioned Freak Kitchen in the chorus. I realize I’ve mentioned Freak Kitchen a couple of times, but still, Solid Flow are by no means any copy cats. Hey, labels, it still isn’t too late to get this out on CD! If you’re into bands like Shiva, Red Rocket, Freak Kitchen, check this out!
Janne Stark
Label: private
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012

Link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/solidflow
 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

SOMEONELSE – The Doomed (CD)

New modern rockers Someonelse hail from New York. Two of the members were previously part of Juniper Sky. At a first glance I felt The Doomed was a bit too “modern” and slick for me, but after a few spins it did grow on me. Songs like Wake Up makes me envision what a threesome between Coheed And Cambria, Deftones and Hoobastank would result in. I think the offspring would be – Someonelse! They have energy and post-hardcore touch of the two latter, while I hear some vocals resemblance of Coheed And Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez at times. The, quite proggy, track Comatose also has some musical hints of the aforementioned. Maybe it’s the New York air. The title track does have it’s C&C vide as well. I love the powerful heavy riffing going on here. The overall melodic vibe is actually a mix of all three bands I mentioned, plus I do find some hints of later days Avenged Sevenfold, which is also great in my book. Someonelse is however by no means any copycats, but do have a touch of their own. The production, by the band themselves, is powerful, dynamic and nice. All in all this is a really nice album that I’d be happy to recommend to fans of modern, melodic, proggy and interesting metal.
Janne Stark
Label: D.I.Y
Country: USA
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.someonelserocks.com/

ETERNAL – Chapter 1 (CD)

Eternal produces really good high quality guitar dominated melodic metal, very similar to Nocturnal Rites on The 8th Sin. The band has an outstanding singer in Christer Gärds with a great, raspy, still very melodic voice, actually a bit similar to Johnny in Nocturnal Rites, which is just great in my book. In Scream Higher I also hear quite a lot of Graham Bonnet in Christer, which is yet another nice touch. The balance between keyboards and guitar is really good, with the great guitarplaying of brother Bosse Gärds never being overshadowed. Keyboardist Pontus Lekaregård also does his part with a nice touch, not only laying down carpets of sound, but actually adding some nice key-twiddling in the background, like in second track Human. The production should be credited Peter Tägtgren who proves he not only masters the heavier side of metal, but does a great job also when it comes to melodic metal. Come to think of it, the keyboard sound of Human actually made me think of Tägtgren’s Pain. The album offers a nice variety of songs, from faster stuff like Virus and Ray Of Light, to heavier stuff like Stay The Night and the Rainbow:esque The Thing with its oriental harmonies. All in all a really good solid heavy melodic rocker of an album, that should fit in well on the roster of labels such as Escape or Frontiers.
Janne Stark
Label: High Gear Music
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.eternalsweden.com/

OSUKARU – Salvation (CD)

Swedish melodic rockers Osukaru, formed around former EYE member Oz Osukaru, have now returned with their third release. The first one was a bit lacking in the vocal department, while this was solved on the second release. Now they are back with new singer Chris Tiann. At a first glance he sounds really good. The voice is there, no doubt. However, there are some pitch problems here and there that makes me cringe a bit, which is a pity. The production is fat and nice. The song material feels quite strong and good. A bit strange, abrupt ending on the otherwise nice track Highway To The Stars and I would have fixed the bum notes in the guitar solo of Hot Blooded Woman, though. Great intro riff of City Lights, which reminds me a bit of Giant. Good, solid melodies and an album that will attract fans of H.E.A.T, Dynazty, Danger Avenue etc.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2012
Link: http://www.osukarumusic.com/

Saturday, 25 February 2012

HUMAN COMETH - HCII (CD)

In 2010 the first Human Cometh album, Evolution, was unearthed. A very promising release indeed. Human Cometh is actually an on-line collaboration conducted by great guitar shredder Morgan Pettersson. Some of the recordings were done in Sweden, while the drums were recorded in the USA. Now the follow-up is here. Well, I’ve done the on-line collaboration thing myself with Constancia and I know how hard it is to make it glue together and sound like you were actually recording together. Morgan and the boys have succeeded very well. HCII is one solid sounding album. Great performances, great mix and a very coherent album in all areas. Morgan is a really great and interesting guitarist with a nice tone and impeccable technique. Singer Kaj Roth has been in the shadows for years, never really getting to shine on record. Here he does a great job indeed! The bass work is handled by Björn Pehrson, keyboards by American Jay Shankman and drums by fellow country man Jon Robbins with Rob Coney handling backing vocals. The style is classic hard edge melodic metal/hard rock, sort of the same file I’d put Ozzy Osbourne and Hughes/Martin era Black Sabbath, but there are songs that deviate from the formula. One being the cool melodic rocker Challenger Deep, which gets a nice vocal facelift by Josefin Bäck. There are also some proggy moments here and there mixed in with straight ahead heavy riff-rockers such as Supervolcano. A great album, well worth checking out!!
Janne Stark
Label: Self-released
Country: Sweden
Link: www.humancometh.com

 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

BULLETSIZE – The Apokalypse (CD)

Swedish metallurgists Bulletsize bring the apocalypse. Musically that is. The Apocalypse is quite a mixed bag of styles, forging death metal and thrash with quite technical overtones. The opening title track really brings the hammer down. Second track Out Of Silence however feels a bit messy. It could be the production, but at times it almost feels a bit untight. This is something I hear here and there in other tracks as well. It’s powerful and it’s heavy, still they mix in nice touches of more melodic and classic metal. With so many great death metal bands out there it’s quite hard to reach above the noise. Bulletsize have a couple of things going for them, with one being the musical mix and there are some pretty good songs on the album. The vocals are within the traditional death metal growl formula and the energy sure is there. On the downside the sound could be a bit tighter and I’m not really into some of the guitar solos which are slightly below par, like the end part of Eyes Of The Blind, while others are quite good. All in all a pretty decent release if you’re into death metal.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Label: Happy Minds/Cosmic Whale
Link: www.bulletsize.se

 

FREDRIK PIHL – Silhouettes (CD)

Swedish guitarist Fredrik Pihl now releases his first solo effort. The six track CD starts off with the track Above The Surface. It immediately strikes me that the main riff used is an Indian scale often played by Freak Kitchen’s Mattias Ia Eklundh as an exercise. The aforementioned guitar hero is making a guest appearance on the track so I presume it’s fully legit. Fredrik has a good tone and his playing is fine, but the production is actually quite poor. Quite bad sounding programmed drums, at times overplaying quite a bit, and a mix that sounds like it was done in a laptop with no monitors. I’m sorry, but in this day and age when the possibilities are endless and you can find someone to mix your recording at a fair price. A bad production is not a good excuse. The Demonic Masquerade has a nice melodic verse. I’m a bit surprised the keyboards are so dominant for a guitar album. The track features nice soloing from Fredrik, showing a melodic side as well as a more technical flare. Most of the songs have a fusion-oriented touch with odd rhythms which is nice. The title track, which at times has an almost folky feel, features a guest solo from Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (now in guns ‘N Roses). It’s however a bit too long to keep the interest intact without having any major changes. By The Blue Horizon is a nice melodic keyboard based piece with a guest appearance by keyboardist Lalle Larsson. Unfortunately the programmed drums are again overplaying quite a bit. Nice acoustic guitar melodies, though, while the electric guitar solo feels a bit too jazzy and scale-based to really fit the song. All in all, some nice guitar playing going on, but the songs are in my opinion a bit too dissonant to really catch my attention. I do like fusion, but I still want some nice hooks and melodies, and sure there are, but they come and go quite quickly. Also the production is an issue that really should be put in focus next time around.
Label: self-released
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: www.fredrikpihl.com <http://www.fredrikpihl.com/>
 

Monday, 6 February 2012

NEVEREVEN - The progress Of Disaster (MCD)

I love discovering new talented band. Today’s discovery goes under the witty anagram Nevereven and is an American four-piece. I immediately hear some really nice King’s X overtones, and while doing this I read the name Ty Tabor on the cover. Well, the fact that the band used the talents of King’s X guitarist/singer Tabor to master the disc was probably no coincidence. The opener on the MCD, The World Of Tomorrow, has a bunch of King’s X in the main riff, but apart from that they do have a sound and touch of their own. Strong melodic chorus and a great sound. Gary Pickard has a great voice, too, the guitar work is great and I really like bass player Damian Peters’ intense playing. Remainder keeps the flame burning and is another great melodic piece, only small grains of the X-men here. Third track Give continues in the same vein, also with some really nice harmony vocals. They actually remind me of another excellent American band, .end of story, which is a good thing. Winterkill is a slightly darker and heavier track, but still with the really nice harmony vocals. This is a really enjoyable release that will spin a lot in my player. Finishing track Orpheus leaves off in the same vein. I like the tempo change, which is a nice touch and makes the song a bit more interesting. Great stuff indeed! My only criticism would be that if the band makes a full album they should add some tracks that varies a bit more from the format. On this release the opening track is the strongest one, while the other four tracks are great, but a bit too similar in shape and form. Highly promising, though!
Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Label: Self-released
Link: http://www.neverevenmusic.com/

Sunday, 5 February 2012

BLACKRAIN – Into The Black (CD)

It all started under the name Just A Quick Stop, at the time as a duo featuring guitarist Ronny Blylod (Destynation) and singer Daniel Söderberg. They released a pretty promising CD. The band was reinforced by bass player John Vigebo and drummer Henrik Söderqvist and they now became – Blackrain. I first saw the band at the Rock Out Wild festival in 2011, and was truly blown away by the band’s live performance. Into The Black is an outstanding debut, I must say! If you’re into melodic hard rock with a touch of King’s X meets Alter Bridge, but with classic hard rock elements in the mix, this is a must. Heavy, groovy and melodic with singer Söderberg really taking it to the next level. The sound is very organic, in your face, honest and may as well have been recorded live in the studio with some additional overdubs added afterwards. It’s by no means over-produced and even though I really like it, I think it’s here it shows it’s a self-produced production. The song material is really great with lots of cool groovy riffs and nice hooks. The band sounds tight and they really deliver on all levels. It’s very even album with no low points, and no extreme highs either. This is however not a bad thing. I much rather have an even, strong album, that one with 2-3 killer tracks and the rest below average. This is an album you can fully enjoy start to finish. Well done! Already looking forward to the next one!
Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Label: JAQS
Country: Sweden
Link: www.myspace.com/blackrainsweden <http://www.myspace.com/blackrainsweden