Thursday, 30 July 2015

ZARK - Tales of the Expected (2015)

Genre - Progressive Rock
Label - Self Released
Track listing:
01 - Lord Rat
02 - Mask
03 - LV-426
04 - One Eye Open
05 - Hollow Shells
06 - Carnival Of Souls
07 - The Robber
08 - Megaer
ZARK are a progish retro rock metal band and hail from Evesham Midlands. Their influences include pretty much a who's who of the stoner, doom, proto rock , most 70's rock and prog scene's, such as Black Sabbath, Rush, Tool, Russian Circles, kyuss, King Crimson, Latitudes,  Trouble and so on.
Zark were formed in early 2014 when ex smoke pilot guitar player Sean Bindy Phillips started a little jam with his chums in Simon Spiers (sontaron experiment, baron greenback) and Andy Kelley (baron greenback) to try a little some different to their usual stoner groove doom background. Putting in some progish undertones. Quickly realising that they had something special but they needed extra guitars for harmonies and atmospherics, and also a singer. So Simon introduced Josh Tedd (majin) to the band and we got Stuart Lister (expedestrian) for vocals.
Having already got the songs in place, it was left for vocalist Stuart Lister to come up with the lyrics and vocal melodies, and then put out the debut album.
Tales Of The Unexpected is that debut album, and what a stonking album it is to. Oozing power and confidence, the band wearing their influences on their sleeves but never simply plagiarising them, Zark have become a great, solid, if complex at times, band with a brilliant debut album with which to show case their wears.
Opening with 'Lord Rat', the album is quick to showcase the bands prog rock roots, with its twisting riffs and varied tempo changes, setting the scene for what is to follow perfectly. In fact what does follow is almost a master-class in what was glorious about the seventies prog / stoner rock scenes. tracks such as 'Mask', 'One Eye Open', 'Carnival Of Souls', and 'Hollow Shells', proving the band are a band to be reckoned with!

Zark are great band and with Tales Of The Unexpected they have a great debut, proving that the future of prog rock in the UK is in good hands!

Very Highly Recommended

Rating - 9/10

 Listen to 'Lord Rat' here on the bands soundcloud page

Tales Of The Unexpected is available for the bands bandcamp page here

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

City Of Thieves - Incinerator (EP) (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock
Label - Townsend Records
Track listing:
01 - Incinerator
02 - Lay Me To Waste
03 - Buzzed Up City
04 - Here Comes The Shot
05 - Mr 50/50 (Live Acoustic)

"Since making their live debut at Camden Rocks Festival in May, the buzz is spreading about City Of Thieves – no frills, no messin', no gimmicks – it's heavy rock in its purest form and will send you straight to the front of the stage with sledgehammer riffs, hooks and melodies."
"With producer Toby Jepson at the helm, Mike Fraser on mixing duties and mastering by Simon Francis (Kodaline, Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream) the vision of this new material was in the best of hands. When asked what he thought about City Of Thieves, Mike Fraser simply replied "Killer band...Killer songs". This is not a throwaway comment, this is from a true craftsman whose worked on albums for Metallica, AC/DC, Slipknot, Aerosmith and more."

City Of Thieves are a new band hailing from the UK, playing that good old fashioned British Hard Rock the way that it should be delivered, with heart and passion! No frills, no bullshit, just good solid songs and a great band, a simple and perfect formula if you ask me.

The EP's title track, 'Incinerator', opens things up, with a groove and a swagger expected more from a long established band as opposed to new kids on the block so to speak. A great start, good solid track that oozes confidence.
Next up we have 'Lay Me To Waste', another great track that changes things up a little. More melodic this one, yet still with plenty of meaty riffs. Toby Jepson has done a great job of capturing the bands real essence on these songs. 'Buzzed Up City' follows, and this track has to be my favourite on offer here, its such a great song, full of energy and passion, together with a riff AC/DC would kill for.
'Here Comes The Shot' closes out the studio recordings on offer here, and does so in style! A monster of a track, that once again see's the guys mixing things up a little.
The EP closes out proper with the live acoustic recording of 'Mr 50/50', yet another great song, capturing the raw energy and spirit of the band.

Incinerator proves that City Of Thieves have a lot to offer, and when paired together with the likes of Screaming Eagles, BlackWolf, Rank Berry, Rusted Hero and Cage The Gods, they show that the UK's Hard Rock scene is truly alive and kicking!

"With Planet Rock Radio playlisting 'Incinerator' and show announcements happening NOW - City Of Thieves will release their EP 22nd September 2015 via Townsend Records, with the debut album scheduled to be unleashed in 2016.
These guys aren't just here to steal your soul for the love of rock n' roll...they're here to DEVOUR it. Tune in, turn it up...we'll see you down the front."
Very Highly Recommended!

Rating - 10/10

City Of Thieves are:
Vocals/Bass - Jamie Lailey
Guitar/Backing Vox - Ben Austwick
Guitar/Backing Vox - Adam Wardle
Drums/Backing Vox - Will Richards
 Pre-Order the CD:

. Free 'Incinerator' mp3 download:

. Incinerator (EP) teaser:

Skintrade - Scarred For Life (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock
Label - AOR Heaven Records

Track listing:
01. Scarred For Life
02. Goodbye
03. Wide Awake
04. Lay With Me
05. Find A Way
06. Lovehate
07. Leave A Scar
08. Broken
09. Storm Will Come
10. 15 Minutes Gone

Fronted by great vocalist Matti Alfonzetti, SKINTRADE are quickly hitting back with their fourth studio record "Scarred For Life" released by AOR Heaven Records.
Following the more than adequate comeback album of last year these Swedes consistently deliver in the melodic hard rock genre - and this new CD is no different.
The 10 songs in "Scarred For Life" are infectious, energetic, and bubbling from a bluesy perspective while the vocal harmonies and delivery out of Matti Alfonzetti remains top class, as he has been ever since I first heard him all those years ago on the debut EP from defunct UK rockers Jagged Edge, moulding the best of David Coverdale and Eric Martin in shimmering grace and gritty textures.
You can expect certain songs to have a cross between the '80s Sunset Strip scene and a little bit of '90s alt hard rock edge like "Storm Will Come" and "Goodbye", especially in terms of the guitar tone Alfonzetti and fellow Skintrade guitarist Stefan Bergström choose to employ.
At other times the band choose to go for more of a simplified, stripped down groove arrangement, which for the case of "Lay With Me" emphasizes the entertaining musical interplay between guitarists and rhythm section, and allow Matti a chance to dig deeper into his natural bluesy, playful melodic register.
Occasionally throwback elements come into play, the main riff for "Leave a Scar" has a bit of Aerosmith meets Ratt going on, while Skintrade also tackle a left field cover with Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" that works - much more hard rock oriented while the spacey elements are given a heavier, guitar fused charge up.
These are bountiful times if you are a melodic hard rock fan - and Scandinavia seems to be hitting pay dirt when it comes to exemplary songwriting and performances while understanding the need for memorable hooks, melodies, and choruses.
Skintrade with their second go around aren't living on nostalgia - and "Scarred for Life" proves their desire to keep the genre potent and worthwhile in current times.

Very Highly Recommended

Rating - 9/10

Sunday, 19 July 2015

ESTRELLA - We Will Go On (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock
Track listing:
01 - Here I Am
02 - Wheels Keep Turning
03 - We Will Go On
04 - This Heaven
05 - Hard To Get
06 - Reason
07 - Hold On
08 - Rock City
09 - Be There
10 - Undercover Lover
11 - My Own Way

After three years of waiting, the long awaited follow up to Scottish four-piece ESTRELLA stunning debut album is finally upon us.
Since the band's first album Come Out And Play way back in 2012, the boys from Thurso have played the UK from top to bottom alongside some of the biggest name’s in rock and they have amassed quite the following as a result as well as making a few trips across into Europe supporting the likes of Robin Beck and they’re just back from a lengthy tour with Enuff Z’Nuff.
Anyone familiar with the band’s previous album will have some idea what to expect but to borrow a greatly overused analogy, "We Will Go On" takes everything we know about the Estrella formula and turns it up to 11.
The new record has a nicely rocked up sound with a classic feel to it all. By 'classic feel' I mean classic rock feel a-la 1970s/1980s edges. On listening it’s not surprise that the band is being mentioned highly by the likes of Classic Rock magazine with 'Here I Am' (first single) awarded track of the week.
For people new to Estrella, their music is in the mould of Def Leppard, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Thunder, some Bon Jovi, and it’s nothing if not good fun.
And 'Here I Am' opens the album as well. From the very beginning with it’s 'na na na na na na' chorus you can tell it’s a real crowd pleaser. There are some great guitar elements and singer Paul Gunn has grown in stature and experience since the first CD. He reminds me often of Def Leppard's Joe Elliot, always enjoying himself but also a complete frontman, making sure everyone is having a good time.
Title track 'We Will Go On' is all about how much the band enjoy playing live and seeing the crowd enjoying themselves. It’s another song that comes across as a perfect live track.
'Reason' and 'This Heaven' are strong contender’s for being named best song on the album and are quite possibly the best tracks the band have penned to date. 'Reason' in particular could be amazingly realised in a cheesy '80s power ballad music video set in a dusty airfield with some strong wind effects and a setting sun before heading into a deserted aircraft hanger for the final chorus. Also, a mountain top solo wouldn’t go amiss!
A standout song for me is 'Hard to Get', where the guitars take on a fuzzier tone, and the melody is slower. Paul’s voice is given a chance to shine amongst some great solos and the rhythm section playing at the low end really come to the fore.
Special mention also to 'Rock City', a great classic rock track, and 'Be There', more of a ballad (akin Bon Jovi) and a total sing-a-long track.
Estrella, comprising brothers Paul, Luke and Nathan Gunn, and Leo McPherson have gone all out with this album, putting together a production team who have worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including pre-production and mastering by Pete Shoulder (The Union), Luke Morley (Thunder), and Pete Mayer (Rolling Stones) and production by Nick Brine (The Darkness, Thunder).

Highly Recommended!

Rating - 9/10

The V - Now Or Never (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock
Label - Frontiers Records
Track listing:
01. Again
02. Now or Never
03. Rollcoaster
04. L.O.V.E
05. Line in the Sand
06. Love Should Be to Blame
07. Kiss My Lips
08. Spellbound
09. Starshine
10. Below Zero
11. Ready to Run
12. King for a Day (feat. Tony Martin)
Released by Frontiers Music, "Now Or Never" is the debut solo album from reputed vocalist Veronica Freeman (Benedictum) under the mysterious moniker of THE V, where she ventures away from her traditional metal style of lead vocals over a (melodic) hard rock material.
Helping Veronica out musically we have a varied cast of hard rock icons such as Michael Sweet (Stryper), Jeff Pilson (Dokken), Jerry Dixon (Warrant), Mike Lepond (Symphony X), Tony Martin (ex- Black Sabbath) and more. "Now Or Never" shows that The V can wrap her tonsils around a wide variety of hard rock tunes where she displays some unexpected qualities and successfully try to stretch herself out with different singing styles and different approaches (check "Starshine").
Opener"Again" starts off like most songs in Freeman’s catalog, but the vocals soon shift gears and give this more of a hard rock/melodic feel that her typical heavy metal fare. Title track "Now Or Never" kicks off with strong bass & drums, then soon morphs into a cool melodic rock based track with searing leads and riffs that accompany Veronica’s rocking vocals.
"L.O.V.E." is one of the tracks that take on a different sound and feel compared to others on the disc, and a personal favorite. The vocals really stand out, especially when the chorus comes in. The drums are big on this track, as are the guitar riffs.
“Love Should Be To Blame” chugs along and gives the disc an edgier sound. The lower range of Veronica’s vocals in the chorus give her a sultry vibe that adds to the delivery of the emotionally charged lyrics. 
“Spellbound” takes on a darker, more straight sound that is very reminiscent of early '80s recordings from labels like Metal Blade. The bottom end is full and adds punch to the track in a hard rock / US metal vibe.
“Below Zero” has a heavy bass line that runs through it, even when the guitars are lighter and the vocals are charging from verse to chorus and back. The different bassists featured on the disc include Jeff Pilson, Mel Brown, Garry Bordonaro, Aric Avina, John O’Boyle and Mike Lepond.
“Roller Coaster” comes charging out of the gate and doesn’t let up from first note to the last. The drums, played by Derek Kerswill on the entire disc, keep the track anchored and the tempo steady. 
Line In The Sand” is a melodic gem that stands out on this disc. The guitars soar and build the mood of the track and allow Freeman to run rampant with some of the best arranged vocals here.
“Kiss My Lips” is one of the highlights too, as it is totally upbeat and full of rockin' energy. The guitars are full, the drums blast and the bass lines strong and steady. Throw in a cool duet between Veronica and Chastain's lead vocalist Leather Leone and you have a killer song.
Producer John Herrera utilized several guitarists to put this disc together, including Pete Wells, Michael Sweet, Peter Tentindo, Jimmy Durkin, Mick Tucker, Jordan Ziff, and Michael Harris.
“Starshine” shifts the mood of the disc with a lighter rock track (semi-ballad) that moves further from Freeman’s comfort zone, but allows her vocals to take the spotlight and run. The acoustic guitars and additional vocals from Meliesa McDonell give the song a little something extra at the chorus.
“Ready To Run” opens up like Motley’s Wild Side, but soon takes its own lead and direction, giving Freeman room to show off her vocals in a hard rock / melodic twist that gives the song a little depth.
Disc closer “King For A Day” features a heavier and bluesier groove that carries the track while Veronica and the great Tony Martin trade off verses and duet at the chorus.

What started out as a mad experiment has turned out to be proof positive that Veronica Freeman has the chops to handle anything thrown her way. As 'The V', Veronica proves she's not just a metal singer, she is a Rock singer. And she is drop-dead sensational in this role!
Rating - 10/10
The Players :
Veronica Freeman - vocals
Leather Leone – duet vocals on ‘Kiss My Lips’
Tony Martin – duet vocals on ‘King For A Day’
Meliesa McDonell – add vocals on 'Star Shine', acoustic guitar
Derek Kerswill – drums
Jeff Pilson, Mel Brown, Garry Bordonaro, Aric Avina, John O’Boyle, Mike LePond – bass
Pete Wells, Michael Sweet, Peter Tentindo, Jim Durkin, Mick Tucker, Jordan Ziff, Michael Harris – guitars

Produced by John Herrera
except for:
'King for a Day' (produced by Kenny Lewis)
'Love Should be to Blame', 'Again' (produced by Michael Sweet)


JONO - Silence (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock
Track listing:
01 - Man of Misery
02 - Wasting Time
03 - Can We Make It
04 - Turn Around
05 - Your Bread
06 - In My Life
07 - Clear
08 - The One to Blame
09 - Opus
10 - Josefina
Jono's music, vision and inspiration marry up the best of early Queen, Kansas and even Toto into a magical recipe that transcends any genre or classification. But if you want it, call it Pomp meets Progressive meets Melodic Rock perfection. And I truly mean that! Jono are the best, pomp rock band that I have heard since Queens classic first two albums!
Jono already set the bar very high with the terrific "Man of Misery". Dynamic, articulated, plenty of nuances and although no Freddie Mercury,a vocalist to die for.
2nd track "Wasting Time" and it does not justify its title, believe me. If the opener was great, this is simply awesome. Jono is melodically perfect, but they go much more beyond with elastic instrumentation, superb arrangements and clinical performances.
"Can We Make It" and the extremely beautiful "Turn Around" are next in line, and the top quality continues. Think like a mix of the rocking Queen, Supertramp, Saga, ACT and City Boy.
But forget the 'Jono sounds like' preconceived opinion... Jono sounds like Jono and like no-other. They take the influences and mash-up everything into something unique.
Their extremely polished sound is pompous, bombastic and sometimes overblown, but never pedestrian.
I could mention all tracks on "Silence" as highlights, because this record is pure gold. Yes, it's close to perfection. Even the cover artwork is magnificent.
JONO are the real deal, quite possibly the most talented Rock band emerged in the last fifteen years (and more).

Very, Very, Highly Recommended!

Rating 10/10

GEORGE LYNCH - Shadow Train [Deluxe Edition] (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock / Blues Rock
Label -
Track listing:
CD 1: 01. Vulture
02. Currency of Lies
03. Power and Resistance
04. Now It s Dark
05. Vulture (Slight Return)
06. I Am Weapon
07. Ghost
08. White Clay
09. Fight No More

CD 2:
01. Believe
02. Blinded
03. Fallen
04. Glitter
05. Prayer Mechanism
06. Sioux Wake Up
07. Trail of Tears
08. Under A Crooked Sky
09. World on Fire

Legendary Dokken guitarist GEORGE LYNCH's long awaited "Shadow Train" project finally comes to light in this all new 18 track Deluxe Edition 2 CD set.
George's stellar guitar work, along with vocalist Gregg Analla (a descendant of the Isleta Pueblo Indian tribe), bassist Gabe Rosales (Lynch Mob), keyboardist Donnie Dickman and drummer Jimmy D'Anda, create honest, soulful and meaningful bluesy-based hard rock, that makes this release a must have for all George Lynch, Dokken, Lynch Mob (et all) fans.
The music in "Shadow Train" also provides the musical support for Lynch's upcoming, thought provoking documentary that explores the trials and tribulations that face Native American Indians in our world today.
The deluxe edition two-CD, 18-track studio album highlights Lynch’s signature guitar style. And it should be noted that this band effort is not specifically a 'Lynch' solo excursion. The music is atmospheric at places, eclectic and explorative, and it taps into the Bluesy, Hard Rock genres with which Lynch thrives.
Lyrically, there is no hiding the social commentary; it voices the plight of Native American Indians as the United States deliberately diminishes the value of its historical narrative of the original strong, proud independent nations of North America.
While the imagery and the documentary sell the concept of the injustices done to the Native American Indian tribes, the lyrics also explore socioeconomic inequalities and touches on materialism, environmentalism, racism and elitism, among other issues.
Vocally, Analla provides the perfect complement to Lynch’s serpentine fretwork. His voice brings influences from the Rock genre, along with his own Native American cultural background, which invites listeners into the diverse multicultural experience of "Shadow Train".
The second CD offers music fans a glimpse into the creative exploration of a band looking for an identity. It tastefully combines years of collective experience among individual musicians and produces what is an eclectic soundtrack of music that became the definitive roadmap to the group’s musical soul.
The canvas leans on atmospheric arrangements highlighted by Lynch’s guitar, but it also is driven by the vocals, bass and drums and is polished by the keys.
CD No. 1 actually was recorded after the second CD. The newer set of songs is a collaborative effort of five guys who spent a whole lot of time knocking around together, working on the documentary, writing and performing.
Going back into the studio, the band created an additional nine songs that showcase a matured vibe, which is a tighter assimilation of the "Shadow Train" sound. These tracks are painted with words and music that are reflective and maybe controversial (depending on your point of view), but they most certainly are thought provoking.
The music on "Shadow Train" certainly sees Lynch reaching for the pinnacle of his career, where all the stars align and that one moment of clarity is achieved.
Built upon the backs of his early bands, including The Boys, Dokken, Lynch Mob, his solo work, instrumental albums and projects (KXM, Sweet & Lynch, Lynch/Pilson), Lynch never has stopped striving to attain the elusive carrot. Partnering with Gregg Analla, Gabe Rosales, Donnie Dickman and Jimmy D’Anda, Shadow Train’s self-titled studio album is a defining moment for Lynch and his fellow bandmates.
“I’ve spent more than four decades of my life pursuing elusive musical aspirations. But, for even longer than that, I’ve cared, studied and thought deeply about the human condition and how we interact with each other and the world around us. Fusing these two aspirations into one has been a challenge for me throughout my creative life.
This is my attempt at bonding the music and the message into one cohesive whole.”
– said George Lynch.
Here’s hoping that the new Lynch Mob is as good as this excellent "Shadow Train"!
Right now, "Shadow Train" offers Lynch fans some of his best written and recorded music to date.
Rating - 9/10