Saturday, 24 January 2015

JORN LANDE & TROND HOLTER present; Dracula - Swing Of Death (2015) Japan Edition

Genre - Hard Rock / Melodic Rock / Melodic Metal / Rock Opera / Concept
Label - Frontiers Records / AVALON / MARQUEE Japan
Track listing:
01 - Hands Of Your God
02 - Walking On Water
03 - Swing Of Death
04 - Masquerade Ball
05 - Save Me
06 - River Of Tears
07 - Queen Of The Dead
08 - Into The Dark
09 - True Love Through Blood
10 - Under The Gun
11 - Hands Of Your God (Exclusive Japan Bonus Track)

Norwegian Rock Stars, singer JORN LANDE and guitarist TROND HOLTER (aka Teeny of WIG WAM), have created a new Rock Opera concept album about the life of Count Vlad the III, Prince of Wallachia, widely known as Vlad, The Impaler or by his patronymic name Vlad Dracul(a).
"Dracula - Swing Of Death", to be released this weekend via Frontiers Records (available today in Japan), explores the inner struggle inside the multifaceted and engorging character that this mysterious 15th Century personality was, while also taking into account some of the metaphysical aspects that passed into literature, forming the whole basis of the vampire mythos.
"Dracula - Swing Of Death" is an album detailing the story of Dracula (combining factual and fictional aspects).
What makes this different from many previous rock operas is that there are no monologues, no interludes and no orchestral forays to create an atmosphere.
This collection is an album of ten anthems of varying styles pulled together as a musical narrative.
Where many concept albums over the years have been caught up on delivering a convoluted storyline that easily became the prime focus of the artist, Holter and Lande already had one of the greatest stories ever told and all they had to do was adapt the epic struggle of eternal love into their classic Hard Rock compositions.
“Walking On Water” and “Save Me” carry strong melodic sensibilities alongside Thin Lizzy harmonies. The title track is the real curveball as it is more vaudevillian than metallian and the flow of the album benefits from its ingenuity. The grotesquely gargantuan “Masquerade Ball” allows Dracula/Lande to bellow forth about his insatiable need – 'Tonight on you I’ll dine'.
The vocal of Lena Fløitmoen who covers both Mina and Lucy is a succulent highlight on the album as her voice brings a crisp and sharp contrast to the gravelly rasp of Lande.
Their trade-offs on the aforementioned “Save Me” and “Into The Dark” are what defines the album and brings the story to the forefront. “Queen of the Dead” could slot into the Jorn live set let alone the theatres to which the stage production is already being lined up.
Holter’s guitar work throughout and notably on "True Love Through Blood" is clinically organic with a rich tone that lets his stringed voice be as much a character in the story as that of Lande’s or Fløitmoen’s.
"River of Tears" and the album curtain call "Under The Gun" are old school Euro classic rock anthems that feed the lifeblood of the story that true love never dies.
This Japanese version of the album includes the excellent bonus "Hands Of Your God" that deserved to be included into the regular release; it's a dark, moody and somehow charming semi-ballad plenty of rich (and terrifying) atmospheres.
With "Dracula: Swing Of Death", Lande and Holter have delved deep within themselves, stoked the fires of inspiration and created their own chapter in the artistic mythos of the lovelorn Prince.
“Listen to them, the children of the night, what music they make”...
Rating - 10/10

Level 10 - Chapter One (Japanese Edition) (2015)

Genre - Melodic Metal
Label - AVALON / MARQUEE Japan
Track listing:
01 - Cry No More
02 - Soul Of A Warrior
03 - When The Nighttime Comes
04 - One Way Street
05 - Blasphemy
06 - Last Man On Earth
07 - In For The Kill
08 - Voice Of The Wilderness
09 - All Hope Is Gone
10 - Demonized
11 - The Soul Is Eternal
12 - Forevermore
13 - All Hope Is Gone (Acoustic Version) *
* Japan Only Bonus Track

Level 10 features vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob), bassist Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner), guitarist Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween), guitarist Alex Beyrodt (Silent Force, Primal Fear), drummer Randy Black (ex-Primal Fear) and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Voodoo Circle, et all).
As if that weren’t enough, the album also boasts guest appearances from Magnus Karlsson, Carsten Schulz, Sander Gommans and Amanda Somerville. This is 'top shelf' talent in every spot, so expectations are quite high for the band’s debut, appropriately titled "Chapter One".

In terms of overall style, Level 10 sounds exactly like you’d expect it to given the players involved: this is catchy melodic metal somewhere between Primal Fear, Sinner and Allen-Lande.
However, there's more groovy material in between: “Soul Of A Warrior”, the ballad “All Hope Is Gone” and “One Way Street” sound like they came off a Rocky Soundtrack. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but that’s the feeling I got. These songs' foundation are in the '80s Hard Rock / AOR vein, done now with heavier guitars and more balls.
Of course there’s certainly a 'Metal' edge and a dark side to some songs as well like “Blasphemy” and “Demonized”, but the motto in "Chapter One" is catchiness.

Given the players involved, you know what you can expect from each position on the album. The guitar work is impeccable, merging heavy and melodic sides perfectly.
The rhythms show just how much chemistry Sinner and Black have together, and of course Russell Allen sounds like the vocal titan he is. We hear a lot of the more melodic side of his voice from the Allen-Lande collaborations, but there is also a good dose of 'Angry Russell' plenty of power.
There isn’t a single individual performance that you could find fault with here.

On paper "Chapter One" should be one of the albums of the year. In reality it’s a really good rocking album that at the end of the day isn’t equal to the sum of its parts. As good as it is to have these stellar performers in one place, the songwriting – good as it is – perhaps isn’t up to the task.
Don't get me wrong, "Chapter One" is a completely enjoyable album and one that grabs your interest throughout, but there are no instant classics here that you know you’ll be listening to a decade later, like you do with Allen-Lande songs, as example.
Again, this is a really strong album, and Level 10 sounds awesome as unit. I just miss that 'memorable' tune.

Rating - 9/10

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Genre - Post Hardcore, Melodic Hardcore, Alternative, Punk
Label - Self Released
Track listing:
01 - Sleep Paralysis
02 - Ariadne (acoustic)
03 - Cellardoor (acoustic)
04 - Karma Never Sleeps (acoustic)
05 - Philophobia pt 1 (acoustic)
06 - Philophobia pt 2 (acoustic)

Portuguese Post Hardcore titans ASH IS A ROBOT return with their second release in the form of SYMPATHETIC VIBRATION, an acoustic themed EP.
ASH IS A ROBOT started in 2012 in Setubal, Portugal and has gained the labels of a Post Hardcore / Melodic Hardcore / Alternative / Punk band. As a newly formed unit, the band wasted no time in delving into the local underground scene to play live and get their name out to new fans. All the members came from other bands allowing them to dive into making their first Self-Titled album with ease. The band went on to playing more than 100 shows following the album release playing with acts like BURY TOMORROW and MORE THAN A THOUSAND.
After the success of the album and the sheer amount of fans the band received in such a short space of time, they wanted to quickly show an alternate side to their musical abilities and that’s where the new EP – SYMPATHETIC VIBRATION steps in. The EP features acoustic reworks of songs from the first album along with a brand new song that is being released as a single. Vocalist Cláudio Anibal said “We not sure if this EP will be a challenge for the fans that might be used to what we have done so far but for us it’s a challenge in itself, maybe a bigger challenge for us than the fans. Sometimes limits help you to stretch the boundaries and find new ways. That’s what we wanted by imposing the acoustic element
It really is great to hear bands pushing themselves and showcasing different sides to themselves as opposed to just repeating the formula that has previously worked for them. Sympathetic Vibration
 really does show the delicate side of Ash Is A Robot and makes for a really enjoyable 20 minute distraction from their usual blend of angst fuelled onslaught.

This is a great little EP and well worth checking out, specially for pre-existing fans of the band who might be surprised has to just how good songwriters they are!

Well worth checking out!

Rating - 9/10

Catch Ash Is A Robot on tour next month!

The Tour dates for the SLEEP PARALYSIS UK tour are

February 2015
5th Mcleans Pub, Deeside (Wales)
6th Club 85, Hitchin (England)
7th Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa (England)
8th Picture House, Stratford on Avon (England)
9th Aberdeen TBC (Scotland)
10th Opium, Edinburgh (Scotland)
12th Firefly, Worchester (England)
13th Fortytwo, Worthing (England)
14th The Bridge, Shefford (England)
16th Southsea Live, Sheffield (England)

Profane And The Sacred - Chapter 1 - A Long Time Coming (2015)

Genre - Stoner Rock
Label - Cargo Records

Track listing:
01 - Bench
02 - Bleed That Stone
03 - You Know
04 - Weather The Storm
05 - From The Top
06 - All For None
07 - Just A Little
08 - Words
09 - A New Leaf
‘Chapter 1 : A Long Time Coming’ is the debut studio album by stoner rock band PROFANE AND THE SACRED.
Featuring gigantic doom laden riffs that unashamedly smother you in nostalgia but waste no time in lacing prog tinged instrumental breakdowns into a 9 song musical journey. Showcasing time progressions that shift gears but never let up on the momentum - allowing the raspy, gritty vocals of singer Luke Alleeson to cover the organic soundtrack.
'A Long Time Coming' is an album specifically recorded to sound alive and not manipulated to the point of sounding ‘cookie cut’ -  the warm acoustic notes of album opener ‘Bench’ gives way to down tuned riffing with ‘Bleed That Stone’ and ‘You Know’ demonstrating the armoury of this band. First single ‘From The Top’ showcases Profane And The Sacred in a 5 minute classic stoner rock track, with the latest single 'Words' demonstrating fast pace and groove that hits you right between the eyes during its chorus.
The subtle tones of closer ‘A New Leaf’ captures the melodic side, with keyboards, acoustic and bass complimenting each other in this instrumental piece, leaving the listener in a soothing,  melancholy reflective mood.

Now I have to be completely honest, I am not the greatest fan of heavy stoner rock / southern metal bands, finding many of them to be just heavy for the sake of being heavy, with vocalist's that just shout scream and growl as opposed to singing, but this album is different. Profane And The Sacred are not only talented musicians with a penchant for heavy bone crushing riffs, but they also have an ear for a great melody, that together with their ability to pen some great songs makes this a great album!
 The riffs come thick and strong courtesy of guitarist Rick Spooner whilst the rhythm section of Rob Taylor and Kieran Smith keeps everything nice and tight, but the real highlight here is vocalist Luke Alleeson. This guy has one hell of a set of pipes on him! He has the range and power in his voice to really make the songs come to life, as can be heard on tracks like "Weather The Storm", "Bleed That Stone" and "From The Top".
This exciting debut album showcases Profane And The Sacred as one of the best UK based heavy music bands out there at the moment, and proves that they can more then hold their own when compared to their international contemporaries.

Very Highly Recommended

Rating - 10/10
Profane And The Sacred will release a new single / music video 'Words' in February.
Cargo Records Release: 23 February 2015

SERIOUS BLACK - As Daylight Breaks (2015)

Genre - power metal / melodic metal
Label - AFM Records

Track listing:
01. I Seek No Other Life
02. High And Low
03. Sealing My Fate
04. Temple Of The Sun
05. Akhenaton
06. My Mystic Mind
07. Trail Of Murder
08. As Daylight Breaks
09. Setting Fire To The Earth
10. Listen To The Storm
11. Older And Wise

The new year is upon us, and we already have a contender for 'best album of 2015' with "As Daylight Breaks", the debut album from SERIOUS BLACK to be released tomorrow, January 16th.
This is a new band – not just a one-off project – formed by some very familiar names in the melodic /power / progressive metal scenes. Serious Black features guitarist Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween), drummer Thomen Stauch (Savage Circus, ex-Blind Guardian), bassist Mario Lochert (Emergency Gate, ex-Visions of Atlantis), guitarist Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge), keyboardist Jan Vacik (ex-Dreamscape) and vocalist Urban Breed (Trail of Murder, ex-Bloodbound).
The collaboration between Grapow – one of the best songwriters in melodic metal – and Breed, one of the nest new vocalists in genre, alone should be enough to get most fans’ attention, but Serious Black is more than just these two individuals, and "As Daylight Breaks" doesn’t simply sound like a Masterplan album with a different vocalist.
The songwriting was collaborative, so you can hear elements of each member’s past bands on this album. Overall, the band found a perfect meeting point between power metal and melodic metal with this album.
And as happens lately with these genres, all is very accessible and quite catchy, reaching wide audiences.
"As Daylight Breaks" is just a fantastic melodic album all around.
Stauch and Lochert keep things fast and heavy, but between Grapow’s melodic lead guitar work and Breed’s powerful soaring vocals this album is all about huge melodies.
Breed has been something of a journeyman of late, but he fits so very well here. So much so that it feels like Serious Black is where he truly belongs. Having Grapow – a very capable singer in his own right – on backing vocals adds even more layered harmonies.
It’s hard to call out specific songs when the whole album is this good, but if you’re looking for an idea of Serious Black’s overall sound, you’ll want to sample leadoff single “Sealing My Fate”.
Also remarkable are “I Seek No Other Life”, “Akhenaton” or the powerful “Setting Fire to the Earth”. A proof that Serious Black has a very commercial approach is the fact that title track “As Daylight Breaks” is a ballad (and a wonderful one).
Aside perhaps from the brief instrumental “Temple of the Sun”, you won’t find a forgettable song on this CD.
If you're a fan of melodic and catchy 'new' power metal, particularly bands like Masterplan, Avantasia, Allen-Lande, etc, "As Daylight Breaks" is your first must-have album of 2015.
This is melodic metal magic, and with any luck this will be the first of many albums from Serious Black.

Rating - 9/10

The Players:
Urban Breed (Project Arcadia ex-Bloodbound) - Vocals
Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween) - Guitars
Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge, Shadows' Grey) - Guitars
Mario Lochert (Emergency Gate) - Bass
Jan Vacik (D-Vision, ex-Dreamscape) - Keyboards
Thomen Stauch (Savage Circus, ex-Blind Guardian) - Drums

ICE BLUE - Back To The Light (2015)

Genre - Melodic Rock / AOR
Label -
Track listing:
01. The Light Of This World
02. For Loving You
03. Don't Stop Dreaming
04. Tears In The Dark
05. Give Me Action
06. Don't You Break My Heart
07. Turn On The Night
08. Always Be In My Mind
09. Never Surrender
10. Secret Time
11. Far Away From You

At the beginning of the century, the was a flourishing AOR movement in Spain with bands like Airless, 91 Suite, Eden Lost, Nexx, Hardreams o Elyte releasing very good albums.
In the lot there was also ICE BLUE which debut is still regarded by fans of the genre as one of the finest from the era. Now after 12 years Ice Blue is back with the second effort "Back To The Light".
The only remaining member from the original line-up is Miguel Bravo (guitar, backing vocals) accompanied by young bandmates making clear that AOR is still alive and kicking in the blood of new generation of musicians.
Female singer Elena Cintora owns a really sweet vocal timbre, Guillermo Gutierrez delivers a varied arsenal of keyboards / pianos and the rhythm section is solid, all orchestrated by Bravo's polished riffs and solos.
While the sound of Ice Blue 2015 is much more Melodic Rock oriented than before, the AOR melodies still spring throughout.
"Back To The Light" offers a bunch of lovely crafted (with a strong appreciation of details) melodic songs.
Opener "The Light Of This World" is plenty of keys, punctuated guitar riffs and a catchy chorus. The vocal phrasing is suave and Bravo's solo - as on the entire record - really interesting.
Other highlights include the mid-tempo Melodic Rock of "For Loving You", the rocking, broken "Give Me Action" and the moving "Never Surrender".
More smooth are the modern AOR of "Don't Stop Dreaming", "Don't You Break My Heart" and "Far Away From You".
Of course there's nice ballads in "Always Be In My Mind", and the best, called "Tears In The Dark", orchestrated with lots of synths and where Cintora showcases her sugar-coated vocals.
Smooth Euro Melodic Rock / modern AOR is what delivers Ice Blue on their 2nd effort "Back To The Light", a highly enjoyable collection of carefully crafted and performed tunes.
A singer that at places reminds me of Julianna Regan from All About Eve, lots of keyboard textures and a guitar player with a great feeling are the order of the day on "Back To The Light", wrapped by a warm production.
Very Recommended.
Rating - 9/10

SWEET & LYNCH - Only To Rise (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock
Label - Frontiers Music
Track listing:
01 - The Wish
02 - Dying Rose
03 - Love Stays
04 - Time Will Tell
05 - Rescue Me
06 - Me Without You
07 - Recover
08 - Divine
09 - September
10 - Strength In Numbers
11 - Hero-Zero
12 - Only To Rise
"Only To Rise" is the debut album title, and SWEET & LYNCH is the name of the newest super-group to come together to make some old fashion, ass kickin’ classic US Hard Rock.
This pairing only seems awkward upon first glance, but there's a perfect logic to these guys hooking up.
Michael Sweet himself has stated on record he'd considered Lynch a 'bucket list' musician to work with and, straight outta the Eighties, SWEET & LYNCH was born.
Bringing along with them awesome skin basher Brian Tichy (Foreigner, Whitesnake, Billy Idol) on drums and James LoMenzo (White Lion, Megadeth, Lynch Mob) on bass, the unit's debut "Only to Rise", is, well, pretty durned cool.
"The Wish" rings precisely like you might expect, an amalgam between Stryper and Dokken with a hair more toughening up. As a mid-tempo power jam, Michael Sweet pounces upon the straight-laced lines and for the most part soars overtop George Lynch's steady riffs.
The song is written in the classic verse-chorus hard rock format, hitting Lynch's solo precisely where expected and the tune wraps up nice 'n' tidy as "Like a Dying Rose" struts out from it.
This track carries more Lynch Mob influence as Lynch chucks some bluesy plugs amidst the bobbing bass and floating keyboards. Sweet sounds relaxed as he molds his pitch to fit the lowdown groove of the cut.
The same can be said of the dirtier blues rawker "Rescue Me".
"Love Stays" could've been a predictable power ballad, but there's a heavier swing to this track even as it tails at a leisurely pace. This song is louder and chocked full of George Lynch's peals and rips where he can get away with them, but otherwise, it has far more oomph than meets the eye.
"Me Without You", features a gorgeous intro and threading melody by Lynch to compliment Sweet's harmonious croons. Sounding a bit like the Scorpions as the would-be ballad winds along, "Me Without You"'s biggest strength is the stellar vocal harmonizing aside from George Lynch's stress-free solo.
"Time Will Tell" changes the pace as Lynch and James LoMenzo ride hard upon Brian Tichy's crashing march. Reverberating chords and a determined bass channel thickens up this stout tune that carries an '80s action film verve about it. Accordingly, Michael Sweet reserves his best octaves for this one and the song blazes. The backing vocals are particularly great, one of the most uplifting songs Lynch or Sweet has ever put his name behind.
As much as this album stays in a low-rolling tempo, "Recover" finally steps on the gas with James LoMenzo's bass driving what becomes a Stryper-based rocker with more of a blues base to it. Sweet lets his falsettos fly free with "Recover"'s banging groove and lofting choruses. Appropriately, George Lynch, who delivers mostly tempered solos on the preceding tracks, cuts loose on this one.
Dipping back to mid-tempo, the band jams like beasts on the crawling "Divine". Only on the appositely sugary choruses does this song ease up, and Michael Sweet seizes those opportunities to remind his listeners to avoid letting the sins of the world swamp their lives.
There's classic choruses on "September", hot riffs in "Strength in Numbers" and "Hero-Zero" gimp more than move, but all that's come before them is enough to compensate, and the title track closing the album has enough sweat and hump (including a quick, bitchin' drum solo by Brian Tichy) to call it a good day in this camp.
Whether you get the soundness of this union or come to it with a glaring question mark, Michael Sweet and George Lynch answer their own call and "Only to Rise" is a killer Hard Rock record.

Well worth checking out!

Rating - 9/10

The Players:
Michael Sweet (Stryper) – Vocals, Guitar
George Lynch (Lynch Mob) – Guitar
James Lomenzo (ex White Lion, Megadeth) – Bass
Brian Tichy (ex Whitesnake) – Drums