Recent Reviews

27.07.14

20.07.14

13.07.14

06.07.14

[ More Music Reviews ]


May 2007

Bloodbound: Book Of The Dead

Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 4.0/5.0

I've been looking forward to Bloodbound's sophomore release ever since their fine first work, 'Nosferatu' in 2006. Since then they have enlisted a new front man, Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Bonfire). His vocals have that harmonious coarseness that easily fits into Bloodbound's style. The music itself has matured into a more melodic, yet still heavy, power metal.

After one listen through, forget that, after only three songs you discover there is a singular theme pulsing through this album. Bloodbound should have entitled the work something like, 'Songs About The Devil and Everything Evil,' or 'Psalms To The Prince of Darkness.' I know some believe that there is a necessary relationship between metal and the Lord of the Underworld, but a whole album dedicated to Beelzebub? With growls for vocals, severely down-tuned guitars, and less melody, this could have been a black metal album from the same region. With this devilish subject matter, it's almost as over the top (with a tendency to be dangerously laughable) as the blood, battle and gore of a Manowar album.

However, it's the music that is compelling. This is premier power metal in a genre drowning in mediocrity. With it's fine arrangements, fiery fret work, and catchy choruses, you never had so much fun listening (and singing along, if you dare) to the music about Old Scratch himself.

[top]

Meatloaf: Bat Out Of Hell III

Melodic/Symphonic Rock
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Nearly 30 years ago we were introduced to Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman on 'Bat Out Of Hell.' As I recall in my youth, this was a revolutionary project that brought both instant recognition and fame. It was a great album that was revolutionary enough to turn the jaded music industry on their heads. Equivalent success didn't return to Meat Loaf until Bat II sixteen years later. Yet, the II was as fresh as the original. Now, in 2006, Meat Loaf brings us more tales in Bat Out Of Hell III. The third time is more than a charm; it's fantastic.

Meat Loaf recruited some impressive personnel to create his third adventure. Lyrics and music were provided by Jim Steinman, Desmond Child (also producer), Nikki Sixx, and John 5 (Marilyn Manson). Todd Rundgren provides lush vocal arrangements. Steve Vai, John 5 and Brian May make special appearances on guitar. And that beautiful voice you hear on 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now' is relative newcomer, Marion Raven. For himelf, Meat Loaf proves that age only refines and matures a voice. His vocals are superb and soaring.

I found the songs to be superb as well ranging from straight ahead rockers like 'The Monster Is Loose' to ballads like 'Cry Over Me' to symphonic metal masterpieces such as 'Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King' (possibly the heaviest song on the album and my favorite). When you think of Meat Loaf, you also think of those majestic sweeping arrangements that include all these elements: 'Seize The Night' and 'The Future Just Ain't What It Used To Be' are fine examples. As for the ballad 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now,' we all know that Steinman gave this song to Celine Dion to record in 1996 (causing more than a little consternation with Meat Loaf) and it became a major hit for her. But I will tell you now, Meat Loaf's version in duet with Ms. Raven is far superior musically and emotionally.

This is an impressive work by Meat Loaf. It leaves you well entertained and immensely satisfied. I just wish we didn't have to wait so long between years for the Bat to soar out of hell.

[top]

Perpetual Fire: Endless World

Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Perpetual Fire is another band I stumbled upon by happenstance. Hailing from Italy, Perpetual Fire delivers guitar driven power metal. Guitarist Steve Volta's desire was 'to start a band that can fuse the attitude of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force with influences from power metal bands like Stratovarius, Angra and Symphony X.' Perpetual Fire successfully accomplishes his goal without the progressive metal characteristics of Symphony X.

'Endless World' thunders along with the traditional power metal double bass drums, fantasy lyrics and some very fine shredding from Mr. Volta that would impress his idol, Mr. Malmsteen. Roby Beccalli's vocals are well suited to this metal style: clear and controlled. Also, there are some subtle, yet well placed, keyboard elements as found in 'Shadow Call' and 'Castle of My Soul.' Overall, this is a great initial offering by some very skilled musicians with a passion for their music.

If there are flaws in this work they are two. First, the bass line is hardly distinguishable in the songs, a victim to a mix that favors the guitar over other instruments. Second, Mr. Beccalli attempts to weave some 'dirty' vocals into the mix as on 'Superstitions' and 'The Calm Before The Storm.' Frankly, it doesn't work. 'The Calm Before The Storm' is one of the best songs on this album, but it is degraded because of the dirty vocals. On the bonus track, a cover of Blondie's 'Call Me' the dirty vocals are a clever, but laughable, addition.

With the aforementioned caveats, I still believe this is a fine effort and worthy of consideration by those who love guitar-driven metal of any kind. I do and that's what keeps me listening. I look forward to more from Perpetual Fire.

[top]

Manticora: The Black Circus Part 2

Progressive Metal
Rating: 4.5/5.0

I reviewed the first part of Manticora's Black Circus in January of this year, several months behind it's release (read review here.) Now Part Two is upon us and I'm not so late. The tales of the wicked traveling spectacle continue (based on a tale by H.P. Lovecraft) and so does the strength and intensity of Manticora's metal style: power metal flavored richly with the strong spices of thrash and very heavy progressive metal.

If you have or heard Part One, then there is nothing new here, only consistent and exceptional arrangements and musicianship. Manticora maybe the most underrated metal band in the genre in their home country of Denmark and the whole of Europe as well. This is classic and refined power metal.

The continuing tale begins with the requisite prelude before kicking into 'Beauty Will Fade,' and all our greatest expectations are satisfied: this is high octane power metal. There is fiery guitar work throughout this number accentuated by some lush keyboard work. 'Gypsies Dance Part 2' gives you a taste of the prog spice about halfway through the song. This progressive feel is also found on 'Of Madness In Its Purity' and 'All That Remain.' Not counting the 'Intuneric' interludes (which are all very good), the best cut on the album, 'Haita Di Lupi,' is also the shortest: a musically rich instrumental of precision and beauty. I wish it was longer.

Yet, there is one weak point in this work. Karin Brom's gorgeous vocal contribution found on Part One are missing here. They could have easily found a place for her on this recording. Manticora and the Black Circus, Part Two, would have been better for it.

Before I wrote this review, I reread my comments on Part One. I made clear my reservations about Lars Larsen's vocals. Honestly, Mr. Larsen has grown on me. Even though I still struggle with the ever present raw and rough nature of his voice, I've become a true believer in the sheer stamina of his voice. I can't imagine Manticora without him.

If you have The Black Circus Part One and were pleased, then you must finish the story and pick up Part Two.

[top]

Rush: Snakes & Arrows

Progressive Rock
Rating: 4.5/5.0

I remember when I bought my first Rush album '2112:' my senior year in high school (yes, I am that old). The pentagram on the cover made my mother suspicious and the music certainly drove her crazy. From that point I acquired their back catalog and many subsequent releases. I've been a fan of this consistently innovative trio ever since.

'Snakes & Arrows' is the first new studio album of original material since 2002's 'Vapor Trails.' Rush shows no signs of age or lack of creativity. This is a thoroughly consistent and mature work by the masters of progressive rock. Geddy Lee voice is stellar and strong. Alex Lifeson's guitar is sharp and innovative. And Neal Peart is still a master craftsman behind the drums. Everything you expect from Rush is here: complex arrangements, thoughtful lyrics from Mr. Peart, lush production and, as mentioned, superb musicianship.

It is a very difficult thing to choose favorite songs on this work; there are too many good ones. Yet, standouts include 'Armor and Sword,' Spindrift,' 'The Way The Wind Blows' (which begins with a clever bluesy intro), 'Faithless (outstanding fret work by Mr. Lifeson),' and 'Malignant Narcissism' (an impressive ensemble instrumental with a hard edge). With all these words of praise, I must admit I found some songs a bit uninteresting including 'Workin' Them Angels' and 'Good News First.' However, they do not take away from the simple fact that this, without a doubt, a superior album by Rush. You should buy it!

[top]

Night Ranger: Hole In The Sun

Melodic Hard Rock
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Face it, if you're only a fan of the 80's Night Ranger, you're probably going to hate this new release. If, however, you are a fan and are willing to permit a band's evolution, you will find this work both enjoyable and challenging. Fortunately, I do not fit into either category. When I heard there was a new Night Ranger release my first thought was, 'Now what was there big hit single? Wait, don't tell me. Oh yeah, 'Sister Christian!' Except for the fact that they were a pop/hair/metal band, that's pretty much all I remember. Therefore, I'm not so jaded that I live in the past. Good for me because I like 'Hole In The Sun.'

One listen will tell you that it is an obvious departure from their 80's catalogue. There is immense variety on this album. Yet, the single defining thread throughout is that it rocks heavy in a melodic style with just enough drops of modern rock thrown in to confuse the old fans. Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy's vocals enthusiastic and strong. Brad Gilles and Jeff Watson's guitar work is at once refreshingly different and thrilling. Mr. Watson has since left, under some controversy, only to be replaced by veteran Reb Beach (recently Whitesnake).

Except for the closing ballad 'Being' (yawn!), I like every song on this album especially 'Drama Queen,' 'You Are Gonna Here From Me,' 'Rockstar,' White Knuckle Ride,' and 'Revelation 4am:' all are kick ass rock n' roll numbers. 'There is Life' is the new song that could easily surpass 'Sister Christian.'

Frankly, Night Ranger fans face a dilemma: face the future and embrace change or live in the past and become extinct like the dinosaurs. Fortunately for all us, Night Ranger themselves have chosen the former course.

[top]

Mob Rules: Ethnolution A.D.

Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 4.0/5.0

I have never been a big fan of Mob Rules. I tried listening to some previous works like 2004's 'Among The Gods.' For me, it seemed like generic power metal in the usual German style. But, even when ambivalent, I'm always willing to give any band a second or even third chance. I'm more impressed with their latest release 'Ethnolution A.D.'

Two things hooked me from the start the sweeping and magnificent arrangements of several songs and the vocals of Klaus Dirks. Regarding the former,' 'Unholy War,' 'Ashes To Ashes,' 'Last Farewell,' and 'Day And A Lifetime' are powerful symphonic power metal songs thanks to the steady drumming, versatile guitar solos and the bombastic keyboards. 'Last Farewell is probably the highlight on the entire work with smooth melody and memorable chorus. Concerning Herr Dirks vocals, he reminds me of Rick Emmett (Triumph) with a tinge of Tobia Sammett (Edguy) and that is good thing. I found his vocals pleasurable and well-suited to the metal of Mob Rules. However, at times, he appeared to struggling to soar or keep up as on the 'Fuel To The Fire.'

The best thing about this album is the arrangements particularly on the songs I mentioned above. There is an interesting instrumental with a raw and gritty feel in 'Veil of Death.' I could do without the concluding track, 'Ain't The One; though interesting, I found myself bored as I waited for it to end.

Without I doubt, I'm happy to have Mob Rules latest work. If you are a big fan, then you must have it. If you are ambivalent as I was or Mob Rules is unknown to you, you should consider giving it a spin.

[top]

Two Of A Kind: Self-Titled

Melodic Hard Rock
Rating: 5.0/5.0

Two Of A Kind's self-titled debut album is fantastic! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Hailing from The Netherlands, Two Of A Kind is a new project from Fred Hendrix (Terra Nova, Aquila). He formed his new band around two relatively unknown female vocalists, Esther Brouns and Anita Craenmehr. However, unknown does not mean untalented. After one listen you will discover that these ladies can sing. They have strong voices that can easily belt out a rock and roll song or croon a ballad. Mr. Hendrix handles much of the songwriting and production and his brother Ron plays the keyboards (as he did in the former bands.)

It will be inevitable that comparisons will be made to 1980's Heart and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is obvious that TOAK drew inspiration from them. Therefore it is a worthy comparison and compliment.

I found every song on this work to be immensely satisfying. Things kick off with the rocker 'Light In The Dark' and continue in this style with a few ballads thrown in for good measure. 'Give Me A Reason' is by far my favorite cut on the whole album. It has a definitive bass line that hooks you from the start and draws you into the excellent vocals, harmonies, chorus, and simple guitar solo. It has single written all over it. And now that I have listened to it, it is the one song that reminds of Heart. Yet, there are many other great songs on this release like 'The Longest Night,' a rocker with a great catchy chorus and crafty keyboard work. 'Unbearable' and 'In Your Arms' utilize sweet acoustic guitar work to present emotional and sweeping ballads. Every song is great and there is no filler to be found.

If I have any exceptions it is found in the ballad 'Unbearable:' I cannot get my mind around a lonely love song that uses this word. It just seems strange to me. However, I still think this is superb song and my quirky caveat should not hinder you from considering this album.

I played my hand at the beginning: this is a fantastic album! It proves once again that the best melodic rock comes from our friends across the Atlantic. Additionally, if you've grown tired of the female fronted goth/symphonic bands that have come to the forefront in the last five or more years, you will find Two Of A Kind a breath of sweet, fresh air.

So, three words: buy this album!

[top]

Joe Lynn Turner: Second Hand Life

Melodic Hard Rock
Rating: 4.5/5.0

I'll admit at the start that this is the first Joe Lynn Turner solo work that I have ever bought or listened to. I'm more familiar with his early work with Rainbow and Deep Purple, yet also with the recent 'Sunstorm' studio project (yet to be reviewed). After listening to 'Second Hand Life,' I've obviously been missing a great deal of a good thing in Mr. Turner's solo projects. This is a great melodic hard rock album.

I've always been impressed by Mr. Turner's steady, strong and often bluesy vocals. They shine on this album. Even better is the strength of song composition. Turner surrounds himself in creativity with songwriting help from Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, and Jim Peterik among others. Add to this some sterling production and musicianship, which includes killer riffs throughout and a superb and strong rhythm section, and you have a fine album.

My favorites include 'Love Is Life,' which sets the tone for the album from the start, 'In Your Eyes,' Blood Red Sky,' and 'Over The Top,' a hard rocker that turns Mr. Turner's lungs inside out. After this listen, I'm sure I'll be increasing my back catalogue with his previous works. You should include this one in your current catalogue.

[top]

Porcupine Tree: Fear Of A Blank Planet

Progressive Rock/Metal
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Two years have passed since Steve Wilson and Porcupine Tree released their phenomenal masterpiece, 'Deadwing.' In 2007, we are treated to another fabulous work in 'Fear Of A Blank Planet. Listening to a Porcupine Tree work requires two things. First, you must suspend your expectations of what progressive rock or metal can be. Second, you need to listen carefully, preferably with no distractions. There is great skill and craft in every song. Again, PT delivers an album of a imagination, creativity and complexity.

On their website, the album title describes 'the lyrical content of the song-cycle on the album: a 21st century cocktail of MTV, sex, prescription drugs, video games, the internet, terminal boredom, and subsequent escape.' Wilson and company nail this theme on the head. The ethereal quality of the songs, particularly 'My Ashes' and many of the movements in 'Anesthetize,' emphasize the lyrics and evoke a Valium-like state or a least a trip into Pink Floyd's universe. 'Anesthetize' is the longest and most complex song on the album clocking in at over seventeen minutes. Yet it keeps your attention with it's mixture of subtlety in keyboards and heaviness in bass and guitar. When it's over I found time moved to quickly and I wanted to hear more. By far my favorite cut on the album is the title song which defines both the lyrical theme and musical content. Up there in a close second with 'Anesthetize' is 'Way Out of Here,' a song that has some ripping guitar work and vigorous bass lines.

All in all, with the exception of 'Sentimental' which I found to be mundane, this a creative and wonderful work. It should easily be found near the top in the year's ten best of the genre. Highly recommended!

[top]

Megadeth: United Abominations

Heavy/Thrash Metal
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Finally, I get to say a good word about American metal, and that word is simply, Megadeth. Not only has Dave Mustaine breathed new life into the oft troubled and ignored band, but Mr. Mustaine and company have brought fresh air to the myopic and stale American metal scene. 'United Abominations' kicks some serious musical metal ass! Bands such as Lamb of God, Mastodon, and, yes, even Metallica should take note: this is how metal is done in America.

The key features for me on this album are the stunning guitar work of Mr. Mustaine and Glen Drover and Mr. Mustaine's compelling socio-political lyrics. To the former, the solos are enthusiastic and thrilling, and never seem old or formulaic. Regarding the latter, Mr. Mustaine delivers blistering critiques of culture, politics and society in 'Washington Is Next' and war in both 'Gears of War' and 'Amerikhastan.' I recently read an article where Mustaine stated he did not write religious lyrics. Yet, there appears (at least to me) some suspicious overtones to his Christian(?) faith and knowledge. Irregardless of this, it's great to see thoughtful lyrics and heavy metal working together.

A prominent song on this release is the re-recording of 'A Tout le Monde' as a duet with Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil sharing in the vocals. This arrangement and Ms. Scabbia's velveteen, near bluesy, vocals add a new and fresh dimension to an excellent song with wonderful lyrics. If a single is to be culled from this album for radio or video play, this is the song.

'United Abominations' puts Megadeth on top of American metal. Their resurrection puts other bands on notice: get over your self absorption and angst and play music of this caliber.

[top]

Private Line: Evel Knievel Factor

Melodic Hard/Glam Rock
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Scandinavia is a hotbed for the revival of melodic hard rock and metal genre of the Eighties taking their historical cues from much of the glam and sleaze style of that era. Bands like The Poodles, Wig Wam, Brother Firetribe, Vains of Jenna, and Hardcore Superstar are but a few examples. Private Line hails from Finland and brings us another fine dose of this venerable formula.

To put them in context, Private Line is harder at times than The Poodles or Wig Wam, but not as rough and raucous as Vains of Jenna. For Private Line, the emphasis seems to revolve around one thing: Sammy's vocals and presence. His voice is strong and versatile and, boy, can he scream. However, when Sammy screams (or sings) he sounds (with some exceptions) more angry than enjoyable and fun like Glam of Wig Wam. Other admirable features include some clever and quirky keyboard elements and a throbbing rhythm section. Notably absent is some singular lead guitar work. The title cut gives you a good taste, but it is not until you get to 'Prozac Nation' and 'Uniform' do you hear a standout solo. For someone who loves a thrilling solo, I found disappointing the trend to mix or overlap the lead guitar into the whole song arrangement. My other caveat is, though every song can stand on its own, I did not find these songs as catchy and irresistible to listen to as those on The Poodles' 'Metal Will Stand Tall' or Wig Wam's 'WigWamania.'

Having said all these things by way of comparison, I still think this a very good album by Private Line. Indeed, I believe they have their own style which can separate them from the pack of their Scandinavian compatriots. I enjoyed 'Evel Knievel Factor' and think you might too.

[top]

Freedom Call: Dimensions

Power Metal
Rating: 5.0/5.0

Let's get right to it! With 'Dimensions,' Freedom Call has done two things: first, they have produced their finest work to date, and, secondly, they have established themselves as the German power metal to contend with in 2007. With skill and experience, Freedom Call has excelled beyond expectations. This is an excellent album and you should buy it today!

Everything you love about Freedom Call and power metal is here. I will not bore you with the components because you know what they are. Yet, I will mention a few of them. The vocal arrangements are incredible: harmonious and epic; the keyboards are vibrant and sweeping; and, of course, the fret work, whether lead or rhythm are compelling. The production is clear and vibrant. This is great stuff.

It's hard to pick stand out songs because I enjoyed the whole album. However, my favorite cuts include 'Mr. Evil' (shades of Helloween), 'Queen of My World' (a power metal love song?), and 'Words of Endeavor.' Additionally, 'Magic Moments' is a unique song that mixes melodic hard rock with traditional power metal. Yet, as I said, everything song is excellent.

The bottom line: this a superior power metal metal album by an exceptional band. Bravo Freedom Call!

[top]

Excalion: Water Lines

Power Metal
Rating: 4.0/5.0

I'm going to be frank here: it took me a long time to consider buying and reviewing Finnish power metal band Excalion's latest release 'Waterlines.' I must have visited their MySpace site ten times to listen to excerpts. I was ambivalent: I could not decide if I liked this work enough to spend my hard earned dollars. My single reservation was Jarmo Pääkkönen's vocals.Mr. Pääkkönen appeared to have no range or versatility; he seemed to be straining to scream on every song. Or maybe it was that I could not understand him. But, I can excuse any vocalist when English is not their native tongue.

However, after repeated listening (especially to 'Delta Sunrise' and 'Soaking Ground'), I have discovered that Mr. Pääkkönen has two unquantifiable characteristics: passion and integrity. He sings in his own style and he sings from the heart. He has a strong and passionate style. That is worthy of recognition and laud. But I digress, for there is more to 'Waterlines' then the vocals.

This is true power metal. Excalion knows their genre and craft well: they perform with precision and skill. I believe every member of the band worked long and hard to produce this worthy album. This is noteworthy considering the band's short history.

The arrangements are true to power metal: integrating great vocals with thrilling fret work, rich keyboards and a tight, thundering bass and drum section. I mentioned 'Delta Sunrise' above as the one song that convinced me of Mr. Pääkkönen's vocal skills, but there are other highlights on this work. Specifically, the first cut 'The Wingman' grabs you and draws you in and keeps you listening for more. Another stellar song is 'Between The Lines' because of the introductory bass line that forms a fast-paced rhythm section. Possibly the best song on the album is 'Soaking Ground' which begins slow but builds in versatility challenging every musical component in one song. It may be my favorite song on the album.

In the end, Excalion performs with determination and strength. Their hearts are in this work. You can not fault their passion and musicianship. To be sure, you may have heard this all before by a thousand other power metal bands. But I challenge you to give Excalion more than a sporadic listening. If you love power metal, you will be pleased. Check it out!

[top]

Saxon: The Inner Sanctum

Heavy Metal
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Thirty years is a long time in the music business. Most bands can't get past their 'one hit wonder,' and therefore crash and burn early. Others trudge on even though they or their music does not matter anymore. Then there are bands like Saxon who, despite the ebb and flow of industry trends, demonstrate the consistency of strength and creativity in their genre that most bands, young or old, only hope for.

'Let Me Feel Your Power' on The Inner Sanctum work is probably the one song that epitomizes Saxon in 2007: strong, powerful in-your-face heavy metal. 'Need For Speed' and 'I've Got To Rock To Stay Alive' (probably my favorite song) remind me why we've loved Saxon all these years. They produce gutsy, catchy and fun metal that rocks you from head to toe. Then there is song like 'Red Star Falling' that puts meaning of epic and anthem back into a metal song. And there are many more great songs on this album.

Considering the strength of composition and production on each song, you can tell that Saxon has an excellent work ethic. Maybe this is something that comes with age. I'm always amazed at Biff Byford's raspy vocals (he often reminds me of Bon Scott) which never seem to tire and always soar and extend beyond any mere mortal at any age. Additionally, Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt offer guitar work that is enthusiastic and formidable. I admit that I often hit the fast forward so I could listen to the guitar solo first.

I've only hit the highlights here and most, young and old, will probably cast off this Saxon release as too '80's and too old school. Yet, this is a fine metal work for any time and any age. I encourage you to buy it and enjoy.

[top]

Crystal Viper: Curse Of The Crystal Viper

Heavy Metal
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Let's go back in time circa the days of Iron Maiden and company. Let us remember screaming vocals and guitars supported by a stable and thundering rhythm section of bass and drums. Let us recall all that we loved about heavy metal, including NWOBHM. Welcome Poland's Crystal Viper! History and tradition is not forgotten. Hail Metal! Hail Crystal Viper! This is a great heavy metal album.

'The Curse of Crystal Viper' has it all: the bloody and beautiful album cover, epic and fantastical story line, piercing vocals, sterling guitar work, and thundering bass and drums.

Crystal Viper is fronted by Leather Wych who has the strength and fury of Doro and the consistency of Bruce Dickinson. She is one of the better female vocalist in heavy metal in this day. Believe me, she can stretch her lungs with the best! Yet, this is not all there is to Crystal Viper. There is also a strong dual guitar attack by Andy Wave and Vicky Vick. Golem (don't you just love the names) pounds the skins with strength and enthusiasm. Tommy Roxx is no slouch on bass either. Thanks to exceptional production, you can hear his work with clarity as found on 'Island Of The Silver Skull.'

I found this album to be exciting and refreshing. Every song is worthy metal (if I need to name favorites, I choose: 'Night Prowler,' 'Island of the Silver Skull,' and 'Sleeping Swords.'. This work keeps you captivated from the first song to the last. Many bands claim to be metal and the sons and daughters on a great heritage, but fail to deliver. This is the problem with much of American metal (there I go again: busting on my homeland). But Crystal Viper is the real deal! I admit I'm biased to this style, but, you know what, I don't care. You may call this 'old school,' but, hey, Crystal Viper puts many bands to shame.

Crystal Viper deserves recognition! From the musicianship to the arrangements to the production, they did an extraordinary job. If you are a fan of true heavy metal, find this album and buy it!

[top]

Talisman: 7

Melodic Hard Rock
Rating: 5.0/5.0

This is a fantastic work! Yet, I must admit that it took several spins to get my ears around it. From first to last every song is great. And, of course, Jeff Scott Soto's vocals are incredible: versatile, powerful, and engaging. It is easy to see why Journey recently recruited Mr. Soto to fill in for the ailing Steve Augeri on their recent tour with Def Leppard. He's got the power and presence of a great lead vocals.

The lead song 'Falling' orients you to what is come: great melodic hard rock. When you move into the second cut 'Nowhere Fast,' you know you're own to something unique. The introductory bass line has a groove that is funky and fun. Add to this Mr. Soto's vocal improvisations and you have a clever and incredibly enjoyable song. This style is repeated on my favorite song, 'Succumb 2 My Desire.' These songs only prove that melodic rock is alive and well, if only coming out of Europe. Yet the whole album demonstrates this: every song rings with melody and harmony, clever arrangements, strong vocals (aforementioned), catchy choruses, and great fret work.

This is a solid buy for fans of Talisman, Jeff Scott Soto, and melodic hard rock.

[top]

Last Autumn's Dream: Winter In Paradise

Melodic Hard Rock
Rating: 4.5/5.0

When I first encountered the name Last Autumn's Dream, my expectations were towards some kind of symphonic or folk metal hybrid. However, to my surprise, LAD is a melodic hard rock band made up of a mixture of Swedish and German musicians. Even better, I'm impressed with their expert combination of melody and hard driving rock and roll mixed with subtly of harmony in both the rockers and the ballads. Not everything that comes out of Sweden or Germany is heavy or power metal. LAD performs with precision and creativity in the craft and genre of melodic hard rock.

'Winter In Paradise' (another suspicious appellation) is incredibly listenable album. It has the drive and hooks which make you want to put the pedal to floor on a sunny day and drive: it is compelling and fun music. If I must make a comparison (and you know I dislike doing so), it fits with Finland's Brother Firetribe. Lead vocalist Mikael Erlandsson has the sweet and mysterious voice that makes you wonder about the extent of his capabilities. Mr. Erlandsson has great versatility and control.

There are great songs on this work. 'Love To Go' hooks you from the beginning. 'It's Alright' and 'Echoes From The Past' are better than compelling and keep you interested. By the time you get to the title track 'Winter in Paradise,' you're convinced of the caliber of musicianship and composition. I was, and I think you will be too. 'I Don't Want To Hurt You' demonstrates all the necessary elements melodic hard rock: strong vocals, a deep rhythm section, moving keyboard arrangements, and exceptional, if not minimal and unobtrusive fret work. And it get better; trust me.

This is a great album by Last Autumn's Dream. Listen and be impressed, I was. Did I mention the song, 'All I Want Is Rock And Roll?' A very cool song1 Buy this album and have some fun today.

[top]

Magnum: Princess Alice
And The Broken Arrow

Melodic Hard/Progressive Rock
Rating: 4.0/5.0

I must admit I'm new to the work of England's Magnum. Therefore, I find myself in both familiar territory and uncharted waters. At times, Magnum reminds of Marillion in terms of lyrics and arrangements. Again, when they rock they remind my of fellow Englander's Thunder. Yet, there is certain agreement with Pink Floyd that I can't put my finger on.

I enjoyed this album very much. With each listen I find intricacies and subtleties that I did not notice before. Much of this is do to the progressive rock elements evident in each song. Additionally, there is a remarkable use of acoustic guitar work and original and lush keyboard work on the album that distinguishes it from straight forward hard rock; this is evident on such songs as 'When We Were Younger,' and 'Inside Your Head.' Other notable and worthwhile cuts include 'Like Brothers We Stand' and 'Be Strong,' which rock with certainty and strength.

My only reason for giving it a 4.0 rating is my unfamiliarity with the band and their previous material. Overall, this a strong album and worthy of your attention.

[top]

Quick Links