Friday, 24 October 2014

ALLEN / LANDE - The Great Divide (2014)

Genre - Hard Rock / Melodic Rock / Progressive / Melodic Metal
Label - Frontiers Records.
 
Track listing:
01. Come And Dream With Me
02. Down From The Mountain
03. In The Hands Of Time
04. Solid Ground
05. Lady Of Winter
06. Dream About Tomorrow
07. Hymn For The Fallen
08. The Great Divide
09. Reaching For The Stars
10. Bittersweet

Norwegian Jorn Lande and American Russell Allen will release the fourth ALLEN / LANDE collaborative album, "The Great Divide".
Arguably two of the greatest singers progressive / melodic metal has had in the last 20 years, they started this collaboration back in 2005, in a melodic context to better highlight their far-reaching vocal abilities. Now, nine years later and three critically acclaimed albums, the duo comes back with a collection of ten pieces forged in a mould of passion and grandiose.
"The Great Divide" is a logical continuation of the previous effort from 2010. The guys are focusing on their trademarks, which are melodic metal anthems with heavy guitars, spacious keyboard arrangements and amazing hook lines.
However, the backing band has changed. Timo Tolkki, of Stradivari's fame, replaces Magnus Karlsson on guitar, bass and keyboards. And like Magnus previously, he also holds songwriting duties. Last but not least, Jami Huovinen, of Ring of Fire fame, is now the drummer.
But the music, the spirit and the thrill of ALLEN / LANDE is still present as ever.
As was the case with the previous albums of the duo, Jorn Lande delivers stunning vocal parts. His timbre is often compared to David Coverdale (Jorn started his musical career with a band covering Whitesnake songs), the match is particularly obvious with regard to the rasp of his voice.
The other feature of his voice is the passionate rage with which he performs the choruses, here making the comparison with the late Ronnie James Dio quite fair.
The first thing that strikes us when listening to his vocal delivery on this new record is how amazing it sounds nearly twenty years after his debuts. Jorn keeps indeed the rage and the enthusiasm of his earlier days. His mate Russell Allen shares the vocal duties in his elegant way. His theatrical and less 'throaty' performance is a great counterpoint to Jorn‘s aggressive notes.
The voices complement each other in such a way that it is sometimes hard to say who songs when (the opening track is a good example). Russell seems to be more often present in the chorus and backing vocals than in the verses (“Dream About Tomorrow” for example), which is a pity because his performance on “In the Hands of Time” makes it one of the best songs on an overall good album.
The newly hired multi-instrumentalist Timo does a really good job with his fiery guitar solos, and some classically-oriented keys (orchestral on “Solid Ground”, neo-romantic on “Lady of Winter”, baroque on “Dream About Tomorrow”). Besides, with his proven experience in power/neo-classical metal realm, Jami provides the right pulse to the songs.
The Allen / Lande project creates, in a constant way, records on a high level. And "The Great Divide" is another great one from the duo.
With its fair balance of melodic metal anthems, mid-tempo AORish songs and heart-breaking power ballads, "The Great Divide" is a killer release that will appeal all audiences.
Highly Recommended to all.

Rating - 10/10

OZZY OSBOURNE - Memoirs Of A Madman (2014)

Genre - Hard Rock / Heavy Metal
Label - Legacy
 
Track listing:
01 - Crazy Train
02 - Mr. Crowley
03 - Flying High Again
04 - Over The Mountain
05 - Bark At The Moon
06 - The Ultimate Sin
07 - Miracle Man
08 - No More Tears
09 - Mama, I'm Coming Home
10 - Road To Nowhere
11 - Perry Mason
12 - I Just Want You
13 - Gets Me Through
14 - Changes (feat. Kelly Osbourne)
15 - I Don't Wanna Stop
16 - Let Me Hear You Scream
17 - Paranoid (Live at The Roundhouse, London 2010)
(Previously unreleased)
"Memoirs Of A Madman" serves as a great reminder of Ozzy's career, spanning audio release featuring 17 of OZZY OSBOURNE's greatest hit singles remastered and compiled in one place for the first time in his career.
This set offers fans of the multi-platinum recording artist, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Grammy winning singer and songwriter the ultimate collection from Ozzy's distinguished solo career.
In 1979, after a ten-year journey, Ozzy and his band mates - hard rock/metal pioneers Black Sabbath - parted ways, which opened the book to an amazing new chapter as Ozzy embarked on an incredible solo career.
From the first notes of Ozzy's 1980's solo debut 'Blizzard Of Ozz' and follow-up 'Diary Of A Madman' to classic albums 'Bark At The Moon' and 'No More Tears', no hard rock / metal solo artist had quite the same reach as Ozzy, whose distinctive vocal delivery and larger than life onstage persona quickly endeared him to millions of rockers.
Ozzy's influence never stopped as the years went on, from the creation of the successful rock event Ozzfest to an unlikely turn as a television star on MTV's hit series The Osbournes.
For Ozzy, though, his heart remained in the music: his tenth studio album, 2010's 'Scream', debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and featured the No. 1 Mainstream Rock smash "Let Me Hear You Scream", included here of course.
This is the audio only package with all songs sounding wonderfully remastered.
It is highly recommended to get as well the two-disc DVD set which includes classic music videos, along with unreleased and out-of-print live performances, plus interviews.
This is definitely a long-awaited collection of Ozzy's visual material that, up until this release, has never been available in one place and much less in digital media.
"Memoirs Of A Madman" is an almost perfect compilation, the only complain it's the omission of one of Ozzy's best songs ever; "Shot In The Dark".
Apart from that, this is a must have.
Rating - 9/10

THE QUIREBOYS - This Is Rock 'n' Roll II (2014)

Genre - Hard Rock / Classic Rock / Rock N Roll
Label - Off Yer Rocka
 
Track listing:
01 - This is Rock 'n' Roll
02 - Show Me What You Got
03 - Searching
04 - Six Degrees
05 - C'mon
06 - Seven Days
07 - Taken for a Ride
08 - Coldharbour Lane
09 - Turn Away
10 - To Be
11 - Enough for one Lifetime
12 - It's Alright
13 - Never Let me go
14 - Hey You (2014 bonus track)
15 - Misled (2014 bonus track)
16 - 7 O'Clock (2014 bonus track)
17 - There She Goes Again (2014 bonus track)
Originally released in 2001, This Is Rock 'N' Roll was THE QUIREBOYS first album recorded after their untimely split back in 1993 (the band's third actual album). With the current run of fortune the boys are currently experiencing worldwide (and a tour starting in November), it has become quite clear that the album needed a reissue, as went out of print long time ago.
The result is the imminent release (next week) of "This is Rock 'N' Roll II", re-packaged, re-styled and with 4 bonus tracks recorded this year.
If you ask me, This Is Rock 'N' Roll was even better than their platinum first albums.
The material is more straight ahead, louder. In a word; more 'rocking' than before. There's very solid songwriting and well oiled playing. It's one of those albums that seems to be over all too soon, packed with good foot tapping sing along rock 'n' roll songs.
The focus is put in a traditional Bristish Rock sound on cuts like "It's Alright" and title track "This Is Rock 'n' Roll" which pretty much indicate what the up-tempo tracks are like, but the Quireboys always had an American influence as well, and the gypsy power-ballads "Searching" and "To Be" bring to mind Guns N' Roses / Cinderella / Aerosmith melodies.
The remaster of sounds million bucks, and I think they have been clever to re-name the reissue as "This is Rock 'N' Roll II", because the album really comes out sonically refreshed.
In addition you have newly recorded versions of their classics "7 O'Clock" or "Hey You" as bonuses.
The Quireboys "This is Rock 'N' Roll II" is a high value reissue for the fans of the band, but also for all rockers looking for something done in the traditional, classic way.
If you did not liked The Quireboys first era and never heard this album, I strongly recommend you to give it a chance with a proper listen, it's a very solid Classic Rock record.
Rating - 10/10

PINK FLOYD - Louder Than Words (2014) single

Genre - Prog Rock
Label -
 
Track listing:
01. Louder Than Words

The Endless River, the forthcoming album from Progressive Rock greats PINK FLOYD to be released next month, is the band’s first since 1994′s The Division Bell, and the band’s David Gilmour says it will be their last.
The first single “Louder Than Words,” with lyrics from Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson, has surfaced today, October 9th.
The song is a lovely piece of work, a slow prog-rock elegy with an gospel choir and some classic Floyd guitar. And it’s a tribute to both the band’s internal dynamics and to multi-instrumentalist Richard Wright, who passed away in 2008.
Great song.
Rating - 10/10

BILLY IDOL - Kings & Queens of the Underground (2014)

Genre - Hard Rock / Pop / Punk
Label - BFI Records via Kobalt Label Services
 
Track listing:
01 - Bitter Pill
02 - Can't Break Me Down
03 - Save Me Now
04 - One Breath Away
05 - Postcards From The Past
06 - Kings & Queens of the Underground
07 - Eyes Wide Shut
08 - Ghosts in My Guitar
09 - Nothing To Fear
10 - Love And Glory
11 - Whiskey and Pills
12. Hollywood Promise (Bonus Track)

Iconic '80s singer BILLY IDOL will release his first new album in almost a decade with "Kings & Queens of the Underground".
It's mostly produced by the legendary Trevor Horn, so you can expect a big, bombastic sound and a CD plenty of anthemic tracks.
At his 59, Billy Idol is still more than capable of making a very good album, just like this one, if he find the right people to work with. Trevor Horn was the man properly chosen, providing the bombastic sounds, the bubbling synths and those stabs of '80s sounding keyboards. Greg Kurstin was responsible for tweaking two tunes, and both have done a good job by giving the album a dynamic and energetic sound.
"Kings & Queens of the Underground" is a very easy-listening FM Rawk album and no different to the rest of Billy’s solo output.
And Billy has an 'ace': 'atomic playboy' Steve Stevens on guitar, and you are guaranteed of superb riffs and killer solos.
Musically, Stevens is the driving force on the record, which is great news.
"Kings & Queens of the Underground" rocks much more than I expected, and there's even space for acoustics and string arrangements on the title track, a semi-ballad where Billy revisits his past on the lyrics.
Of course there are no mega hits like 'Rebel yell' or 'White wedding' to expect, this is a much more mature record. We have 11 solid rock (at places bordering hard rock) songs on the album that are dominated by Idol's unique vocals and Stevens' screaming guitar.
The start with "Bitter pill" couldn't be better. Stevens' guitar rocks already from the beginning and Idol's throat are as we know it from him, the man is still in good form. A great driving song well chosen as opener for the album.
With "Can't Break me Down" it gets even better. A song with all Billy Idol trademarks, with a catchy chorus.
"Save Me Now" is a more silent tune that reminds with its melody to the Eighties. The sound gets more venturous with "One Breath Away". The sphereful tracks shows a new side from Billy Idol which fits very well.
A song that reminds to the good ol' times is "Postcards from the Past". I think that 'Rebel Yell' was the blueprint for this song. At least a lot of elements incl. Stevens excellent solo reminds me the THE Idol anthem. I love the track.
"Whiskey and Pills" is the hardest song on the album, a pounding speed train that mercy less kicks you out of the album. This song rocks.
If you thought that the good ol' Billy was finished, you are terribly wrong.
"Kings & Queens of the Underground" Rocks greatly, and it's among Idol's best records of his career. The songs are all entertaining, while production is shiny, pumpin', vital.
And we have Steve Stevens... what a genius.
Much, much better than I expected, "Kings & Queens of the Underground" is a very, very recommended new CD from the rustless Billy Idol.

Rating - 10/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND - Z² (2014)

Genre - Hard Rock / Alternative
Label -
 
Track listing:
CD1: SKY BLUE
01. Rejoice
02. Fallout
03. Midnight Sun
04. A New Reign
05. Universal Flame
06. Warrior
07. Sky Blue
08. Silent Militia
09. Rain City
10. Forever
11. Before We Die
12. The Ones Who Love
CD2: DARK MATTERS
01. Z²
02. From Sleep Awake
03. Ziltoidian Empire
04. War Princess
05. Deathray
06. March of the Poozers
07. Wandering Eye
08. Earth
09. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through the Wormhole
11. Dimension Z
One of the most prolific cats in the present music biz, DEVIN TOWNSEND is unstoppable. Approaching the creation of his new album "Z2" to be released on October 27 - somewhere around his 30th recording and a double CD at that - Townsend said he created 50 songs.
Thankfully, for us (or perhaps not if you're a hevydevy demonoid), he used only 23.
And what an interesting music he has packaged into this double CD.
is divided between CD1 "Sky Blue" and CD2 "Dark Matters".
"Sky Blue" is akin to recent material found within The Retinal Circus and is likely made for one of Townsend's audio-visual extravaganzas. The music is epic, lavish and overwhelming built upon Townsend's wall of sound riffage, immense orchestration, and hymnlike vocal arrangements, all wrapped up in groove and basic heaviness.
The vocal arrangements include include Anneke Van Giersbergen's lilting vocals fighting against the riffage like a drowning man trying to reach the surface for air. To be fair, "Sky Blue" has some lighter moments as within the title track.
Yet, and here's the thing: Townsend has this uncanny ability to fuse his massive layers of heaviness with a keen sense of melody. It makes for an interesting listening experience indeed.
As does "Dark Matters", where Townsend revisits the tale of his ironic and sarcastic space alien Ziltoid (the Omniscient) the puppet / alien / comic creation/alter ego of Devin Townsend and, in true sequel fashion, Z² sees him returning bigger and badder than before.
Whereas the first album of the same name was low budget and nearly lo-fi, in "Dark Matters" our quirky alien visitor gets the Cecil B. DeMille treatment, but in a modern sense. More like Lucas and Speilberg wrapped up in J.J. Abrams.
With some elements similar to "Sky Blue", this CD probably travels a more progressive metal road.
But it's equally dense and immense in composition and, again, built more for both audio and visual elaboration in a concert venue near you.
It's also filled out with some voice parts of Ziltoid, of course, and some narration to keep the story moving. You have to listen carefully to some of this, especially if you want to catch the humour in Ziltoid's character.
All in all, both "Sky Blue" and "Dark Matters", the two parts of Z2, are elaborate adventures embellished by Devin Townsend's vivid musical imagination and inherent sense of theater.
It's intense, sometimes dark, sometimes poppy, always interesting and different.
Quite Recommended.
Rating 9/10

THOR - Thunderstryke II (2014)

Genre - Hard Rock / Heavy Metal
Label - Rock Saviour Records (via Iron Pegasus Records)

Track listing:
01 - Coming Of Thor
02 - Megaton Man Returns
03 - Rock 'n' Roll Dream
04 - Metal Mya
05 - We Live To Rock Again
06 - New York City
07 - Thor (Rock Warrior)
08 - Graveyard
09 - Thunder
10 - Back For Blood
11 - Energy
12 - Accept The Challenge Again
13 - When The Hammer Falls
14 - Mirror Man Power

Oooo a guilty pleasure!
With the commercial might of Disney behind an already iconic brand, the name of Thor is pretty much household this decade already, the sight of a blonde, muscle-bound God fronting a series of Marvel movies while clutching a fuck-off hammer inspiring young boys to fight the good fight.
For boys of a certain age, however, the name THOR stings the mind with thoughts of a different kind of God: a Rock God, a blond, muscle-bound God fronting a series of Metal musicians while clutching a fucked-up hot water bottle and letting the blood run red...
So if you were a cool boy in the '80s and used to enjoy hard rock and related music, you should have listened or heard about Canadian heavy metaller and muscle rocker Jon Mikl aka THOR.
If you witnessed Jon Mikl Thor wrapping a micstand around the neck of a portly milkman at the culmination of a shredding 'Thunder On The Tundra' on a Saturday morning in the mid-eighties then, surely, you realised that your weekend television viewing and, ultimately, your taste in music would never be the same again...
Jon Mikl Thor was the first Canadian bodybuilder to win both the Mr. Canada and Mr. USA titles. Combining body strength feats with searing rock music, Jon formed a band, originally named Mikl Body Rock, then Thor and the Imps, before settling on the simplistic yet standout, THOR.
The debut album, 'Keep The Dogs Away', appeared in 1977, and THOR would continue to thrill audiences for the next decade until, in 1987, he decided to retire from live performances to concentrate on a promising movie / TV career.
The promise delivered. Movies such as 'Zombie Nightmare' and 'Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare', once seen, were never forgotten. That was a cheesy, B-movie, B-music feast.
THOR, though, never forgot the lust for live metal, returning after a decade out in 1997, continuing to release albums, including a 30th anniversary reissue of the debut and a re-release of 1985's 'Live In Detroit', albeit with a slightly lesser profile.
That profile deserves to be raised somewhat in 2014, however, with the release of "Thunderstryke II".
Rock Saviour Records (via Iron Pegasus Records) are doing a fine job in resurrecting the legend of THOR, following up the release of Part 1 of 'Thunderstryke' in 2012 with the 'Energy' EP, a 7" vinyl three-tracker featuring the title track, taken from 'Thunderstryke II', and a pair of non-album tracks.
Limited to 555 copies, this extended player primed ears nicely for what was to follow, the fourteen-track album that features both new and old, yet previously unreleased, songs rearranged and reworked from the '70s and '80s.
With the promise that old school and long term fans of THOR will rejoice in the album's wares, "Thunderstryke II" opens with the suitably bombastic 'Coming Of Thor', a frenzied fusion of spoken word, air raid sirens and chugging riffage.
What follows, though, will astound: haunting '80s synths introducing 'Megaton Man Returns', a heady mix of electro muscle rock, scuzzed-up crazy guitar and humungous chorus. This, my friends, is classic THOR.
And we're only on track two. There are a dozen more winners to contend with.
'Rock N Roll Dream' and 'Metal Mya' sound like the polished '80s metal standards that they ultimately are, 'We Live To Rock Again' a clarion call to hard rockers everywhere, massive of riff and hook. 'New York City' is a throwback to pop-infused rock times - muscle pop? - while 'Thor Rock Warrior' sounds exactly as the title suggests.
'Graveyard' slows things down, for around twenty seconds, before unfurling into a moody love letter to The Doors. I actually own a DVD copy of a 2003 Canadian movie of the same name centred around a pair of bookstore clerks and starring none other than... Jon Mikl Thor!
'Thunder' is another typically crazed slower paced hard rock pot boiler, 'Back For Blood' an anthemic raging tornado of a tune. 'Energy' is a timeless '80s rock classic, keys tickled by skeletal fingers, gang vocals shouted out by a legion of boom, while 'Accept The Challenge' checks every box on the vintage metal requirements application form.
The listener is almost spent 'When The Hammer Falls', chugging guitar going for the throat, before 'Mirror Man Power' brings a sense of déjà vu to the record, being a re-worded working out of 'Megaton Man Returns'.
If every vintage rock star and heavy metal hero is on the comeback trail in one sense or another then Jon Mikl Thor is more than deserving of a second stint in the spotlights. This is, remember, a man who once battled the Devil himself...
No, seriously, this is a lot of fun. Cheesy lyrics, epic riffs, clichés everywhere... but funny as hell.
Well worth checking out!

Rating 7/10