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

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

RICHIE KOTZEN - Cannibals (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock / Classic Rock / Funk / Pop / Soul / Blues
Label - Headroom Inc.
Track listing:
01 - Cannibals
02 - In an Instant
03 - The Enemy
04 - Shake It Off
05 - Come On Free
06 - I'm All In
07 - Stand Tall
08 - Up (You Turn Me)
09 - You
10 - Time for the Payment

After his awesome record with The Winery Dogs, Kotzen returns with another bunch of great songs from his own pen. Accomplished singer and songwriter as well, Kotzen possesses an inimitable guitar style that’s both instantly recognizable and immediately striking.
On his new album "Cannibals", Kotzen gets deeper into his inspirations. He has of course visited this territory before on past records, but on this new release, he managed to create a cohesive musical environment where heavy-funk, shred and blue-eyed soul co-exist in harmony.
This album also shows his evolution as singer/songwriter and as multi-instrumentalist as well (Richie plays all the instruments) and even have reached a new level as guitarist, playing most of his solos without a guitar pick, just with his amazing fingers.
Additionally, some song seems impregnated by The Winery Dogs' feel, a classic rock feel.
Title track opens the record with a jumping guitar riff and driven by a monster, pumping bass line. The chorus is hooky and melodic, and Richie plays one of his characteristic two-hands-on the neck solo.
Interesting lyrics too, relevant to today's society. Richie said that the title of the album (and the song) is basically his way of describing human’s condition.
Then we have the melodic, highly harmonized classic rocker "In an Instant", the uplifting mid tempo "The Enemy" (a highlight), a killer shuffle in "Shake It Off" (complete with organs) and a soulful tune in "Come On Free".
It's time for some blues on the groovy "I'm All In" and the ballad "Time for the Payment" (featuring awesome finger picking), and then some psych on the fuzzy "Stand Tall".
"You" is a very special track, composed by Richie's daughter, who also plays piano throughout.

 Richie Kotzen just keeps getting better and better.
A complete, talented multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and now skilled producer, his new solo "Cannibals" sounds great, honest, sincere. This is music made from the heart, with flesh & blood.
It all works. It all grooves. Production is clean, 'real', organic.
Containing a diverse collection of great tunes soaked in emotion, "Cannibals" is a master class in how to write and deliver quality Classic Rock music.

Highly Recommended.

Rating - 9/10

FRANCK CARDUCCI - Torn Apart (2015)

Genre - Classic Rock / Hard Rock / Pop / Prog
Track listing:
1. Torn Apart
2. Closer to Irreversible
3. Journey Through the Mind
4. Artificial Love
5. A Brief Tale of Time
6. Girlfriend for a Day
7. Mr. Hyde & Dr. Jekyll
8. Artificial Paradises
9. School (Supertramp cover) [Bonus Track]

Encouraged to record his own music by no-other than legendary Steve Hackett (Genesis), French multi-instrumentalist FRANCK CARDUCCI is releasing his second album "Torn Apart".
Carducci, who sings, plays bass, organ, keyboards, mellotron and guitar, has been part of various projects / bands from France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. But he also compose fantastic music.
"Torn Apart" is a marvellous 65 minute journey through the world inside Carducci's head - and as on most journey through unknown territory, there is room for joy and surprise.
The journey starts at full energy with a keyboard and guitar driven opening for the title track "Torn Apart". After the drums and the organ comes in, the classic, slightly high pitched rock voice of Carducci starts telling us about a character getting stuck in life, and apparently losing his or her lover at some point.
The song is short, lyrics wise, but since this opener is 10 minutes long, there's enough room for an instrumental part that first covers every instrument and chord that Uriah Heep and Deep Purple have ever used, until everything quiets down and a whistle like sound (is this your mellotron, Franck?) sets in a tune that resembles You Can't Always Get What You Want.
This lasts for a bit before leading back to an almost Rush-like instrumental part until the vocals come back in to continue the story, in a more dramatic tone this time. After the final verse, guitar and organ take turns playing good old classic rock solos to build a nice climax to the track.
This description of the first track on the album adequately paints what "Torn Apart" is all about.
Carducci's music embraces all the best things in Rock from the last forty years. There's Classic Rock, some Classic Hard Rock, a bit of Rock&pop, and some Prog of course.
Mentor Steve Hackett plays as guest in one track, but Carducci's style is pretty far away from Genesis or traditional Prog: "Torn Apart" is traditional Rock with a progressive, intriguing development.
The songs on this CD, even the longest (two are over the ten minute mark) are always focused in melody, in a 'song format' and are really easy listening.
Just check the video for the song of the previous album and it gives you an idea of the 'musicality' on this album.
There's more references to classic acts on songs to come, like "Journey Through the Mind" keyboards which immediately brings to mind a Styx, or the short piece (2 minutes) "Artificial Love" full of commercial Yes.
"Girlfriend for a Day" is a traditional rock ballad with piano and wonderful moog synths, while "Mr. Hyde & Dr. Jekyll" take us into a real classic rock piece, with lovely guitar and bass work. The Jekyll-Hyde theme is reflected in the song, which consists of two rocking parts interleaved by two more laid back parts before the full blown hard rocking outro (note the organ and the bass doing their job more than brilliantly!)
Franck and his band also does a very nice version of Supertramp's "School", more relaxed and progressive than the original.
Franck Carducci has delivered a great classic sounding album in "Torn Apart".
I hear a lot of influences from the past in his music, as mentioned; Styx, Rush, '80s Yes, Asia, GTR, Kansas and a lot more, but the great musical skills of Carducci and his many guest musicians make up for that and sound and production wise it is a vibrant, modern album.
"Torn Apart" is a very, very good album for starting this 2015. You won't be disappointed, believe me.
Highly Recommended.

Rating - 9/10

Monday, 5 January 2015

Ricky Warwick (The Almighty / Black Star Riders) - When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues) (2014/15)

Genre - Hard Rock / Classic Rock
Label - Pledge Music
Track listing:
01 - The Road To Damascus Street
02 - Celebrating Sinking
03 - When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues)
04 - Toffee Town
05 - That's Where The Story Ends
06 - Johnny Ringo's Last Ride
07 - Gold Along The Cariboo
08 - The Son Of The Wind
09 - If You're Not Gonna Leave Me
10 - Yesteryear
This is the second of the two brand spanking new albums released by Ricky Warwick, with this - When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues) - being the full blown rock album.

Again Ricky has enlisted the help of many of his celebrity friends to assist him with this album including the likes of:
Robbie Crane, Gary Sullivan, Andy Cairns (who also co-wrote Celebrating Sinking), Billy Morrison, Nathan Connolly, Mark Gemini Thwaite, Sam Retzer, Ginger Wildheart (who co-wrote Johnny Ringo's Last Ride), and Richard Fortus.
One of the first things that you will notice is that this album has more in common sonically with Black Star Riders than The Almighty with its rather polished production.
The album kicks off with a great mid-tempo rocker, The Road To Damascus Street which sets the scene for the rest of what is to follow. Celebrating Sinking follows, which slows the tempo down a little yet great song that was co-written with Andy Cairns of Therapy? fame. When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues) is up next and proves to another great mid-tempo ed rocker. So far so good!
Toffee Town is the next track and what a song it is. The tempo quickens for this fun track that really is one of the albums highlights that kind of brings to mind the Just Add Life era Almighty.
That's Where The Story Ends is up next, and my favourite track on the album, with its spaghetti western feel. This is destined to become a Ricky Warwick classic I'm sure!
Next we get Ricky's collaboration with one of my favourite artists, Ginger Wildheart, in the form of Johnny Ringo's Last Stand. The song which is a corker by the way, has Ginger written all over it whilst at the same time retaining all of Ricky's trademarks. Another album highlight.
The tempo slows a little for  Gold Along The Cariboo which proves itself to be another solid song, whilst The Son Of The Wind is a great song driven along by its drum beat and guitar riff. I do feel that this would of have made a great Almighty track with a rougher production, as I feel that the albums polished production does rob this song of a little of its power!
If You're Not Gonna Leave Me has a real Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders vibe whist album closer is a real stonker of a track.
With When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues) Ricky Warwick has delivered a great album that has many highlights (especially when taken together with the albums sister acoustic album Hearts On Trees!) despite writing and recording a brand new Black Star Riders
album and beinf heavily involved in the planned re-issue of The Almighty's back catalogue, (which is set to include copious amounts of bonus material!).
Ricky has been really busy as of late and 2015 is looking to be a huge year for him, and deservedly so!

Very Highly recommended!

Rating - 10/10


Ricky Warwick (The Almighty / Black Star Riders) - Hearts On Trees (2014/15)

Genre - Hard Rock / Acoustic
Label - Pledge Music

Track listing:
01 - Presbyterian Homesick Blues
02 - Tank McCullough Saturdays
03 - Psycho
04 - Hearts On Trees
05 - Said Samson To Goliath
06 - Way Too Cold For Snow
07 - Schwaben Redoubt
08 - The Year Of Living Dangerously
09 - Disasters
10 - '82

Hearts On Trees is the first of two brand spanking new solo albums from former Almighty leader and current Black Star Riders singer Ricky Warwick. This one is an acoustic based album, whilst its sister album, When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues), is a full blown rock album. The album features its fair share of guest musicians with contributions from Damon Johnson, Joe Elliot, Michael Beattie and Jake Burns, making for a truly special album, if not the longest (the full album only lasts 36 minutes!).
The album opens with Presbyterian Homesick Blues, with its decidedly southern blues feel, a great song making for a good start to the album.
Tank McCullough Saturdays is up next, upping the tempo a little and lightening the mood some what with its reflective and rallying vocal lines.
Psycho follows which has Ricky delivering a cracking version of the song originally written by Leon Payne. The albums title track, Hearts On Trees is up next and really ups the tempo, with the song itself reminiscent in feel of some of the songs on Ricky's previous solo album Belfast Confetti.
Said Samson To Goliath slows the tempo down again, but has a really powerful and rather epic feel about it, one of my favourite songs on the album!
Way Too Cold For Snow follows and what a song it is! This song is definitely my favourite on the album. A slow ballad dealing with heartbreak, but its really, really bloody awesome!
Schwaden Redoubt is up next, a great song that tells a great story about two guys from world war one! An up-tempo song that has tells a great tale of the putting aside of differences.
The Year Of Living Dangerously slows the tempo once again before Disasters picks it up a little with its statements of self independence and intent.
82 close out the album and finds Ricky in a rather reflective mood looking back at the year of 1982.

Hearts On Trees is a nice little album, sure its not ground breaking, but it does deliver 10 great songs, and well to coin a phrase, it does what it says on the tin, and demonstrates gentler side of Ricky's song writing.

A very worthy addition to the Ricky Warwick collection.

Rating - 9/10



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ginger Wildheart - G.A.S.S. Month 9 EP (2015)

Genre - Hard Rock / Rock / Punk / Pop
Label - Self Released
Track listing:
01 - Right In The Feels
02 - The Uninvited
03 - Friends Of Bill
Bonus Demos
04 - Wherever You Go, There You Are
05 - Lively Boy (Original Demo)

So here we are, three parts the way through Gingers awesome and hugely successful G.A.S.S. project, and the quality songs just keep on a coming!
This months new songs are probably among the most immediate of the G.A.S.S. releases to date, but lets not hold that against them, as once again we have three absolutely stonking tracks!
Right In The Feels opens up proceedings this month, featuring the talents of Chloe Marina Dance on vocals and Chris Catalyst (Eureka Machines) on vocals and guitar. this song is a nice little mid-tempo rocker. A really nice song with Chloe Marina's and Chris Catalyst's vocals complimenting Gingers perfectly. One of the best songs so far, and that really is saying something!
Next up we have The Uninvited. this song features the talents of Robin Guy (drums), Dave McPherson  (vocals), David Ryder Prangley  (vocals), Jason Knight  (vocals), Hollis Mahady  (vocals), Steve Strange (vocals), Thea Ford  (vocals) and Matt Nasir (Piano). This song is awesome! A slow track song with some great lyrics even if the subject matter is a little dark. The vocal delivery has a great eerie feeling at times.
The last of this months new tracks is the absolutely cracking Friends Of Bill. This song features the talents of  Jimmy Ashhurst (bass & vocals), Mark Gemini Thwaite (guitars & vocals), Robin Diaz (drums & vocals), Mike -Bull’s Eye- Bowen  (vocals) and  Kayla Parzynski ( vocals).
What can I say about this song, well firstly its awesome!. Its a nice fast track with a very fast vocal delivery. The songs opens with a bass line that reminds me a little of the lost and rather obscure Widhearts classic Wild Zero. Its a nice fast paced aggressive rocker. A realy great song that is guaranteed to become a live favourite. The musicians Ginger assembled here for this song are incredible, and I am hoping that we get to hear more from these guys as there seems to be a great chemistry on display here.
Once again all three songs are written by Ginger as well as being mixed by Kevin Vanbergen and mastered by Jon Astley @ Close to the Edge.

This months songs are great well worth the price of G.A.S.S. subscription alone!

Next up we have this months unreleased demo tracks:

In Gingers own words:

"WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE – One of the ‘Barnsley demos’ recorded by Jason Sanderson. I honestly can’t remember recording this one although I do remember exactly where I was when I wrote it. A friend from England moved to LA, became something of a social success and subsequently did nothing but complain about how much she missed being back home. Careful for what you wish for n’ all that, eh?
I’d forgotten all about this song until Kris Coverdale sent it to me for G·A·S·S· notes. I absolutely love this track, to the point where I don’t think a re-recording would do it any justice. I hope you enjoy it too.
LIVELY BOY – The bedroom version of the Mutation track. While the sonics are obviously under par in comparison I actually think this has a lot of charm that was lost in the all singing-all dancing Frankenstein Effect version. Originally planned as part of 555%, I think we made the right decision leaving it for a project that echoed its inherent weirdness.
I always liked this song, which was initially written when standing between three rooms of a record store listening to three different songs playing at the same time. Try it sometime, it’s brilliant fun."

Wherever You Go, There You Are is a beautiful song, a nice melodic track that truly deserves to be heard. knowing how much Ginger dislikes the idea of revisiting old songs this is probably the only chance that we are ever going to get to hear this song, which really is a pity as it truly deserves to have a much wider audience. This song showcases Ginger at his melodic best!
Lively Boy, this is an interesting version of the Mutation track that was destined to end up on The Frankenstein Effect. Obviously the sound lets it down a little, as its rather washed out and weak, but still its great to hear the origins of the song. Its also unbelievable that this song nearly ended up being apart of the legendary 555% sessions!

So once again Ginger has delivered with this months G.A.S.S. instalment. Its just going to be such a shame when all this comes to an end in April.

Speaking of April, Ginger plans a run of solo shows around April / May and has already launched a new project through pledge music, more details of which can be found here!

Baby Scream - Fan, Fan, Fan and The Worst Of... albums (2015)

Its been a little while since Baby Scream released an album of all new material, four years have passed since 2011's phenomenal Secret Place release, but they're back, well Juan Pablo Mazzola is anyway, kicking off 2015 in style by releasing not one, but two albums! I have to admit that I have had the privilege of hearing a few of these songs as they were being recorded and they sounded great, s its going to be interesting to hear the finished mixes at last. Firstly lets see what the press release has to say:
"After the release of “Greatest Failures” Baby Scream primary songwriter Juan Pablo Mazzola decided to record as many songs as he possibly could, so got together with his good friend Nick Schinder at his home studio.
With around 200 unrecorded songs Juan chose some of his favourites and set about a mammoth recording session.
After two years of recording and when tiredness set in, they decided that they had enough for not one, but two albums.

A lot of these songs were written whilst Juan was living in Germany, many of them pre date his life in Europe but still felt relevant and worth pulling out for the world to hear.
After the epic recording sessions, Juan didn't really know what to do, the idea of releasing a double album didn’t make a lot sense, especially in 2014 when everybody was basically releasing singles or eps.
After a while the idea of releasing 2 separate albums seemed to be the way to move things forward for Baby Scream.
Fan, Fan, Fan consists of 12 new originals, you will notice that the sounds here vary from each other (from Power Pop to Classic Rock and Roll to some kind of 2000’s ballads.)
The Worst Of….consists of 22 new originals + 5 covers (including all the songs the band had recorded for Time Lord Records, a label from Argentina that released a series of compilations based on TV shows, cartoons and movies)
This is the first collection of new songs since 2011’s “Secret Place” also, these are the first albums the band have released with no labels involved. - Wayne Lundqvist Ford (Ice Cream Man, Power Pop And More - Sweden)"

So after a four year wait we get two brand spanking new albums, over 103 minutes of power pop perfection in the for of 39 new tracks!
So here we go, first up we have Fan, Fan, Fan

Genre - Power-pop
Label - Self Released
Track listing:
01 - Everybody Sucks
02 - Back To Douche
03 - Loner
04 - Cheap Perfume
05 - A Human Being On Mars
06 - Captain Hook
07 - Haters Will Hate
08 - Just For A While
09 - The Girl Next Door
10 - The Kitty Song
11 - I Don't Wanna Wake Up From This Dream
12 - Blue In Berlin

The album opens with a short but sweet track in the form of Everybody Sucks, an up-tempo pure power-pop classic with a punk feel to it, great start!
Next up we have Back To Douche, here the tempo slows down considerably, with a slow Americana feel. This song is brilliant, kin of crawling along, but fed to the brim with emotion. The lyrics seem to be a little autobiographical but not in a negative sense.
Loner follows, picking up the tempo again. This tracks seems lie a really fun track, and I imagine that it will be a blast in a live environment. Cheap Perfume quickly follows, maintaining the tempo and energy of its predecessor, with a change in arrangements and instrumentation, here the piano driving the song along. Another great song!
A Human Being On Mars is up next, again mainly acoustic guitar and piano led. Another great song the slows the feel and tempo a little, this track is one of my favourites on the album!
Captain Hook is a fun song that once again picks up the tempo, whilst Haters Will Hate once again slows things down a little, with a dark and moody feel. A truly great song!
Just For A While is another mid-temp song that just seems to hit all the right spots if you know what I mean, another personal favourite for me. The Girl Next Door follows, which is a rather nice tune. The Kitty Song is one of this albums penultimate tracks,  with a really jazzy feel that proves to be a really fun song that truly captures that certain arrogance of out feline companions.
 Next up is I Don't Wanna Wake Up From This Dream, a real gem of the song that really showcases Juan's song writing perfectly
Fan, Fan, Fan closes out with Blue In Berlin, another short and sweet song that reflects up on Juan's time spent living in Germany.
Fan, Fan, Fan is a great album and a welcome addition to the Baby Scream catalogue!

Highly recommended!

Rating - 10/10

Genre - Power-pop
Label - Self Released
Track listing:
01 - Mistake
02 - Pieces Of Me
03 - Unicorns
04 - As Long As It Hurts (I'm Fine)
05 - Shooting Stars
06 - My Very Last Mistake 
07 - This Fucked Up World
08 - Overdosed
09 - Car (Upon The Stars)
10 - Politicians R Bullies
11 - In A Picture
12 - Wake Up Call
13 - The Sound Of Clacks
14 - Tear After Tear
15 - Words Like Knives
16 - Sparks
17 - Sparks (Acoustic)
18 - My New Dope
19 - Beers And Public Buildings
20 - Xmas Tree (All The Pain Is Left Behind)
21 - Ice Cream Man Theme Song
22 - Flirting With Disaster / Beatles Medley
23 - 20th Century Boy (T-Rex Cover)
24 - The Concept (Teenage Fanclub Cover)
25 - I'll Be There For You (The Rembrandts Cover and Theme To Friends)
26 - Cruella de Vil (From the motion picture "101 Dalmatians")
27 - Scooby Doo Theme Song (From Tv Series Scooby Doo Where Are You?)

Now this album really is an eclectic mix of songs. It has everything from the extremely short (Opener Mistake is just a single word song with Juan singing the word mistake), to the punkish Overdosed, to the chilled out sublime Car (upon the stars), to the beautiful In A Picture, it really does have everything. Yet don't make the mistake of thinking that this album is just filled with the left over substandard tracks that didn't make Fan, Fan, Fan. To be honest many of the tracks here are quite brilliant, Sparks, In A Picture, Pieces Of Me, My Very Last Mistake, Beers And Public Buildings, Flirting With Disaster, Words Like Knives, and Wake Up Call are amongst the best songs every Juan has ever written!
The five covers featured on this release are all excellent, from faithful renditions of 20the Century Boy, The Concept and the awesome I'll Be There For You, to the fun and quirky covers of Scooby Doo and Cruella de Vil.
this is a great album even if it is rather eclectic, but well worth investing both your time and money in!

Highly Recommended

Rating 10/10

Baby Scream - Fan, Fan, Fan available here
Baby Scream - The Worst Of... available here