Latest Albums Reviews (Magnum, W.E.T, House of Lords, Heart, AOR, Overland, Fate, EZ Livin)

Magnum Escape From The Shadow Garden SPV
· Produced By: Tony Clarkin


· Running Time: 63


· Release Date: March 19-24


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock


· Links: Magnum

96%
For the second time in a row I find myself rearranging a Magnum album to enhance my enjoyment of it, but that aspect cannot alter the fact that there are some delicious classic Magnum songs on offer here.
Sound and style borrow from the last couple of outings and also from the likes of Rock Art and even some Storyteller’s Night. It’s a long and complex album with a lot of different approaches within the songs. Moody, hard rocking, epic…melodic too of course.
Bob Catley sounds a little rougher around the edges these days, but there is still something very special about the way he sings and the delivery of the always impressive lyrics of Tony Carkin.
The rhythm section of Al Barrow and Harry James provide an important foundation throughout the album, giving it the necessary power boost.

Track by Track:
Live ‘Til You Die is a storming riff heavy opening track with a swathe of keyboards underneath and Bob Catley’s usual powerful voice taking command. In many ways the song is a statement of the sound the band has carried since reforming – the hard edge guitar of Clarkin taking prominence and the chorus hook being the secondary thought. But it works – due to the song’s own strength, a theme which carries through the whole album.
Unwritten Sacrifice is a nod to the older Magnum sounds, where keyboards took center stage. Unfortunately I wouldn’t have placed it here after the faster moving opening track. The chorus is there, but it isn’t an obvious one, which is typical of the reborn Magnum. It’s still wonderfully moody and powerful track, I think it would have been better later in the album.
Falling For The Big Plan rolls along with equal power and the same subdued chorus structure of the opening tracks. The changing pace within the song makes for interesting listening. At 6 minutes in length there are a few different aspects to the track and it takes several listens to learn them all.
Crying In The Rain is another slow starter, making the front portion of the album a little sluggish. The song itself is a slow hard rocker with a good, yet simple chorus, led by a Clarkin’s guitar riffing and a stop-start thumping drum beat which is attention grabbing from the get go. Great song.
Too Many Clowns is a fast riffing, fast moving groover, which to me sounds like it could have come right off the Rock Art album. The bridge-chorus arrangement works well, with the chorus itself the most immediate from the first half of the album.
Midnight Angel is simply brilliant. This to me is old school melodic Magnum with a heartfelt vocal and a thumping beat that drives the song through to the very commercial chorus. I would have placed this higher up the chain. And it runs 7 minutes no less!
The Art Of Compromise is another commercial rocker with an uptempo beat, some harmony vocals and a feel good chorus. Mark Stanway’s piano also shines through on this track, giving it a familiar classic Magnum feel. Another highlight for me. The endless cymbal crashing is a bit distracting though.
The ballad Don’t Fall Asleep runs about 6 minutes and features a really special Bob Catley vocal and a more pompish chorus.
Wisdom’s Had Its Day is a similarly paced track, but features a more intense orchestral sound and a dark brooding chorus. Another one that isn’t very obvious, but grows upon getting to know it more.
Burning River is a pretty straight forward Magnum rocker really. Again, the chorus isn’t huge like the old days, but it’s there.
The Valley Of Tears is one of the best songs from this band in recent memory. What a beautiful orchestral ballad with an amazing Catley vocal. The verse is as melodic as the chorus and the sentiment impossible not to get caught up in. This is classic Magnum through and through. The perfect closing track.

The Bottom Line

Another winner without doubt and probably once again, their best since reforming. The band keeps lifting their own bar each release and this album is no different. The most consistent and engaging record from their second stage career.
Now, for my alternate track sequence – this one was really hard – 01) Live ‘Til You Die 02) Too Many Clowns 03) Midnight Angel 04) Crying In The Rain 05) Don’t Fall Asleep 06) Unwritten Sacrifice 07) Falling For The Big Plan 08) The Art Of Compromise 09) Wisdom’s Had Its Day 10) Burning River 11) The Valley Of Tears

 

W.E.T. One Live – In Stockholm Frontiers Records
· Produced By: W.E.T.


· Running Time:


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: World


· Musical Style: Melodic Rock


· Links: Frontiers

98%
How can you tell that a band has unbelievable talent, charisma and ability? When a band such as W.E.T. perform their only their second ever live show together and yet, sound as good as this. How on hell is it possible to sound THIS good, this tight, this polished after just one other show? When you are Jeff Scott Soto, Erik Martensson, Robert Sall, Magnus Henriksson and Robban Back. That’s how.
What’s even more impressive is that the band were at the time playing on the back of their debut album and previewing songs to the audience from their yet to be released second album. Yet, the crowd laps it up as it’s delivered with a powerhouse performance.
For the rest of the folks hearing this album, you’ve had the luxury of living with the band’s second album for several months now, so there isn’t a song here that can’t be sung along to and cranked loud.
Add in a few gems such as the classic Talisman tracks Mysterious and I’ll Be WaitingWork Of Art’s wonderful The Great Fall; and Eclipse’s hard rocking masterpiece Bleed And Scream and the heartfelt ballads Comes Down Like Rain and Love Heals alongside the band’s own perfect anthems Walk Away, Rise Up, Brothers In Arms, Still Unbroken and Invincible and you might just have one of the best live albums in recent memory.
Did I mention the soaring feel good AOR of If I Fall and I’ll Be There?
How about the additional two extra studio tracks that didn’t make the last album? Both those tracks were deemed to be tipping the balance of the last album too heavy, so here they are now. And yes, both are heavy rockers.
Poison is a fast moving hard rocker with a kicking drum beat and a slew of guitars.
Bigger Than Both Of Us has an epic feel to it – it’s slow, but it’s heavy and the chorus is another winner for the band.

The Bottom Line

Essential for all – this is how it’s done – both in the songwriting department and the performance. Electric atmosphere and a stunning set of songs make this an incredible live set.

 

House Of Lords Precious Metal Frontiers Records
· Produced By: James Christian


· Running Time: 50


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: World


· Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock


· Links: Frontiers

90%
The latest album from House Of Lords is their 5th since the World Upside Down release, which saw singer James Christian enlist a new lineup to take the band name forward after the ill-fated Power & The Myth release. The 8 year run with this lineup has been quite prolific, especially considering some bands have barely managed 1 or 2 albums in that time frame. Each of the 5 albums have had their fans and their detractors as the band treads a fairly consistent path musically, with songwriting the only real changeable factor each album.

For Precious Metal, things have changed more than the past 4 albums. In comes a heavier and more direct approach, with the pomp/anthemic qualities the band is best known for somewhat left behind. I’m completely stumped by promotional claims the band returns to its roots here, as really, they never left behind their sound (apart from The Myth release) and this album is probably the furthest away from their core sound. Confusing indeed.
I’ve seen some outstanding reviews for this album around and it seems to be getting a mostly positive response from fans.
I’ve had the album 3 or more months now and initially struggled to get into it – more than any other album before it. I guess the emphasis on just rocking out in a heavier fashion instead of delivering the usual style of song structure I expect from the guys is the reason behind that.
But that’s not to say I’m not enjoying the album – I am. And it does indeed rock and I know fans will love it. But it is a different beast to the band that delivered World Upside Down or Come To My Kingdom.
If there is a weakness within for me it is the choruses – a couple don’t work and a couple of others are a bit annoying. I don’t like Raw at all and Turn Back The Tide and I’m Breaking Free haven’t warmed on me either.
Other than those points, the album fits into a pretty hard rocking path, led by the always shred-tastic Jimi Bell and backed by the powerhouse rhythm section of McCarvill and Zampa.
The album rocks with a pace not previously seen from House Of Lords, so if its tempo you crave then Jimi Bell is all over this album and drummer BJ Zampa is given a platform to deliver his most energetic performance yet. It’s a shame the drum sound is so thin compared to that of the bass guitar.
Where the album works best for me is on such tracks as the opening pomp/metal blast of Battle, Action, the frantic Epic and the beautiful ballad Precious Metal.
The darker Permission To Die and the rollicking Swimming With The Sharks are also solid.
Turn Back The Night has a good hook and You Might Just Save My Life ends the album in the same way it started – with a bang.

The Bottom Line

Louder, heavier and more in your face – it’s a less pompous and more direct House Of Lords here. Definitely their highest octane release to date, but perhaps missing a little of the glorious pomp finesse that their past has delivered. Love to hear some more keyboards into the mix of whatever comes next for the guys.

 

Within Temptation Hydra BMG
· Produced By: Daniel Gibson


· Running Time: 49


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: World


· Musical Style: Symphonic Melodic Metal


· Links: Within Temptation

94%
I adore this band’s sound and style. And the vocals of Sharon den Adel are to die for. Following up on their breakthrough critically acclaimed and fan appreciated epic The Unforgiving was going to be no mean feat, especially for a band that has evolved from release to release.
I don’t think this is quite as strong as that last album – it really was wonderful – but the band has managed to capture the energy of that release and some of the commercial feel employed there, and still managed to move it forward a little here.
Much has been said of the many collaborations used on Hydra. But for the most part they are relegated to the background and don’t impact he individual songs too much.

Let Us Burn carries all the power and musical intensity of Within Temptation’s sound that fans could hope for. An infinitely powerful and soaring opening track that gets the album off to a perfect start.
Dangerous ups the ante even more with a furious pace. Growler Howard Jones (from Killswitch Engage) guests on vocals without too much distraction.
And We Run is perhaps the most controversial collaboration, with rapper Xzibit doing his bit mid-song, but I can get past that due to the high quality of the song itself and the powerful musical backing. I love the chorus and lead vocals here.
Paradise (What About Us?)(featuring Tarja) is quite possibly the symphonic metal song of the year. Just perfect in every way. I can listen to this over and over again. The production power is immense and lead riff is simply brain altering.
Edge Of The World is another wonderful track. Taking a step back to give the listener a break, the symphonic, orchestral ballad is a beautiful track with an epic chorus.
Silver Moonlight features some growling backing vocals, but actually fit the intense nature of the song – it’s another barnstorming metal track with soaring vocals. Love it.
Covered By Roses features another stunning vocal performance and another memorable set of hooks.
The heavy and intense darker Dog Days is another pace changer. Another strong track if not a highlight.
Tell Me Why is fast, furious and everything that makes this band great.
Whole World Is Watching (featuring Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum) is a reflective, yet power metal ballad to close the album in style.

The Bottom Line

Essential of course! Power (melodic) metal fans and those that love symphonic hard rock won’t find better than this. Maybe not quite as marvelous as The Unforgiving, but still a compelling album from a band at the top of their game.

 

Heart Fanatic Live Frontiers Records
· Produced By: Ray Volkema


· Running Time: 67


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: World


· Musical Style: Hard Rock


· Links: Frontiers

75%
I’m no fan of the Fanatic album or any of Heart’s recent output despite being a pretty passionate fan of the band since 1985. So the idea of “Fanatic Live” really didn’t interest me in the least, save to hear the might Ann Wilson belt out a few of my favourite Heart classic mid-set.
So the 14 track set features half a dozen tracks form the last album and a few deep cut classics that are featured on all Heart concerts (and accompanying CD/DVDs) – Barracuda, Crazy On You, Dog & Butterfly.
The gals manage to squeeze in a few 80s mega-hits, almost begrudgingly, but it’s a joy to these ears to hear the still wonderful Ann & Nancy sing and perform What About Love, These Dreams and Alone.
I will give them this – the Fanatic tracks do rock and in a live setting they do carry a little more life than on the studio recordings.
However, overall, it’s just not a set list that interests me personally although the band kicks ass and the recording is very clear and well captured.

The Bottom Line

One for the die-hards and those that loved Fanatic (I know there are plenty).

 

Axel Rudi Pell Into The Storm SPV
· Produced By: Axel Rudi Pell


· Running Time: 57


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: World


· Musical Style: Hard Rock


· Links: SPV

92%
I can sum up the very latest Axel Rudi Pell album in three words: Axel. Rudi. Pell.
Ok, so I had better expand on that a little. You all know the format by now. You also know the style by now. The sound and the performance quality also! It’s Axel Rudi Pell!
The only variable that needs reviewing in an ARP release is song quality. And I’m pleased to say that this album is packed with high quality melodic hard rock tunes that Johnny Gioeli sings with his usual gusto.
Once we get the obligatory mood-inducing intro out of the way, Tower Of Lies is a storming opener as per usual and Long Way To Go and Burning Chains sees Gioeli at full stretch and Axel’s Deep Purple nuances in full blown riffing glory.
The epic 6 minute ballad When Truth Hurts is brilliant and the 7 minute slow burning Touching Heaven features also impresses.
The Neil Young cover of Hey Hey My My is really well done in Axel/Johnny’s unique moody delivery and the closing 10 minute epic Into The Storm is just perfect.

The Bottom Line

No surprises as per usual, but if there ever was, that would be akin to the first sign of the apocalypse surely? It doesn’t take a lot of words to sum up a ARP release, but safe to say that this one is a very quality release. We have 2 veteran performers that know exactly what’s required and execute that plan perfectly. A massive sounding record that will please ARP fans no end.

 

Fate If Not For The Devil Avenue Of Allies
· Produced By: Fate & Jacob Hansen


· Running Time: 55


· Release Date: 2013


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock


· Links: Avenue Of Allies

88%
This review is long overdue, but if you have not yet heard the new Fate album, give it a chance. It’s their most melodic friendly release in some time. It gets off to a pretty hard rocking start with the double time Reaping and the also powerful title track If Not For The Devil.
The first sign of a more melodic Fate comes with the fast moving Bridges Are Burning that surprises with a very commercial chorus. Feel Like Making Love sees the very easy to listen to vocals of Dagfinn Joensen adding melody over the guitar driven track.
Gambler is an old fashioned, keyboard filled 80s rock anthem which leads into another 80s friendly tune in the ballad Hard To Say Goodbye.
Made Of Stone and the faster paced Man Against The Wall are both cool European styled melodic hard rock tracks with strong choruses.
The balance of keyboard and guitar, coupled with a catchy chorus make My World another highlight while Gimmie All Your Love is arguably the most commercial track of the whole album, closing with another touch of 80s rock (and synth) for good measure.

The Bottom Line

A very consistent and enjoyable European melodic hard rock record. Well worthy of the Fate name.

 

Linda & The Punch Obsession Escape Music
· Produced By: Michael Voss


· Running Time:


· Release Date: March 21


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Rock


· Links: Escape Music

89%
Modern meets melodic with this newcomer debut from Linda & The Punch. The young female lead uses her charm and energy to deliver some catchy moments on this album, produced by veteran Michael Voss, who has been mentoring the singer for several years.
This is a pretty consistent debut, with the catchiest tracks stacked towards the front and the deeper cuts closing the album. All in all, it’s bit of good fun.
The modern punk infused hard rock stomper What A Shame opens the album with a touch of latter day Rick Springfield about it.
Cold Cold World not only features an outstanding vocal, but also a great chorus hook and some tasty riffing.
Welcome To London features a slightly left of center verse, but another knockout chorus.
Elsewhere on the album, Nothing Of anything is a fine modern rocker; Bite fails to sink its teeth into a decent melody; Kill The Lights gets hard and heavy and Love Kills Me features the best chorus on the latter half of the album; Looking Out For Number One is a catchy pop/rocker.
Closing up is a sonically intense and heavy cover of the Springsteen written/Patti Smith sung Because The Night. Interesting take on the track.

The Bottom Line

Diverse, contemporary and well produced. Ultimately it’s a very likable and fresh sounding album with a bit of spunk.

 

Berggren Kerslake Band (BKB) The Sun Has Gone Hazy AOR Heaven
· Produced By: BKB


· Running Time: 51


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Classic Blues Rock


· Links: AOR Heaven

60%
The welcome return of Swedish vocalist Stefan Berggren on the wonderful Revolution Road album is bookended with his appearance here with classic rock drummer Lee Kerslake.
Kerslake’s years in Uriah Heep are carried through to this old school 70s rock release, which to be honest, it’s made infinitely better with Berggren there on vocals.
Without him, this release would have been far less appealing.
As it is – it struggles in places anyway, not least with an extremely muddy, bass heavy production sound that fails the songs featured.
Track highlights include the groove filled opening rocker Walk Tall; the more melodic My My; the very classy and most melodic-chorus friendly song of the album Free; the soulful and blues drenched As Time Goes By; and the acoustic based closer Born Again, featuring another very good vocal.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for Snakes In Paradise style melodic rock or commercial AOR, then check out Revolution Road. If classic rock in the vein of Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are more appealing, then check this out, but be ready for that muddy sound and several plodding tracks.

 

Johnny Lima My Revolution Indie
· Produced By: Johnny Lima


· Running Time: 57


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Rock


· Links: Johnny Lima

94%
The always reliable and dependable Johnny Lima returns with a fan funded release that is currently available in limited numbers from Johnny’s website and some retailers. The 15 track album is chock full of classic Lima driven melodic rock – hands in the air anthemic hard rock, mixed with a few high quality sentimental ballads for good measure.
As usual Johnny mixes the best of classic 80s melodic rock with a slightly more contemporary sound, but perhaps not quite as modern as some tracks Johnny has delivered in the past.
This, I think, is going to be the definitive Lima release folks.

Its sometimes good fun, feel good hard rock (You’re The Drug I Wanna Get High On); at other times, the biting lyrical content (Happily Ever After You, Tell Me Lies) and then the ballads take you to another place altogether. I Can’t Love You Any More and Maybe You’re Right, Maybe It’s Wrong are wonderful.
When you are talking moody melodic rock anthems, Blame It On Love, Deeper Into You, Naturally Beautiful and Into The Light take the prize.
Johnny even delivers one of the sleaziest tunes of all time in Fill You Up. Eat your heart out Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley!
Production is first rate – balanced and easy to crank loud.

The Bottom Line

At 15 tracks and 57 minutes, it might feel as if the album was a couple of tracks too long, but not here. No fillers in sight and awesome energy here! Fans will want to get the limited edition before they run out.

 

Daryl Braithwaite Forever The Tourist Sony Australia
· Produced By: Not Listed


· Running Time: 30


· Release Date: 2013


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Rock


· Links: Daryl Braithwaite

91%
Another long short player here or short long player… Aussie pop/rocker Daryl Braithwaite had recorded this long play EP (that’s how it is being marketed here in Oz) that seems him step back into the melodic rock game for the first time in a while.
This is Daryl doing his classic melodic rock style, modernized in the same way the likes of Brian Howe and Rick Springfield have done in recent years.
Quite simply – this 8 track release is the best thing I have heard from Braithwaite since the early 90s. The utterly fabulous commercial radio anthems Not Too Late, Is This Love and Forever The Tourist are some of his best songs ever. The modern feel doesn’t betray his pop/rock roots.
The only stinker is the horrible reggae track Perfect Day. Otherwise it’s perfect for Braithwaite fans!

 

EZ Livin Firestorm LZ Records
· Produced By: Hans Ziller


· Running Time: 41


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Hard Rock


· Links: EZ Livin

68%
David Reece is one hell of a singer, and as expected he’s in pretty fine voice again here. Always good to hear him sing straight ahead hard rock with a melodic edge. But on this occasion, the material in question isn’t going to further his career all that far. EZ Livin’ “return” after more than two decades away.
Founding member Hans Ziller (guitarist of Bonfire) has gathered a new crop of musicians to carry the name, but rather than a fresh all-new album the group instead manage to cover three tracks from the 1991 debut album and include 2 covers – Uriah Heep’s Easy Livin and a truly horrible version of the great Bangalore Choir track Loaded Gun. This version sounds almost cabaret compared to the hard rocking original, which holds a special place in my heart.
That leaves just 3 new tracks out of the albums 9 songs (Let’s Fly Away appears twice!)
The production is average too – and it just doesn’t seem like a genuine attempt at a new start. More like a promo piece to get the ball rolling.
I hope they record a genuine full length album next time and make up for this extended-EP of sorts.

 

Royal Hunt A Life To Die For Frontiers Records
· Produced By: Royal Hunt


· Running Time: 50


· Release Date: 2013


· Released: World


· Musical Style: Melodic Symphonic Metal


· Links: Frontiers

95%
This is a wonderful hard rock record and among my favourite of all Royal Hunt releases. I just wish there were more than 7 songs. Yes, the length of the songs makes the album’s playtime as long as a normal 10-11 track release, but with 7 songs there are only 7 original ideas to get your head around. And when the quality is as it is here, the listener is left wishing for more.
Upon my first listen to this album I found 1 song that jumped out immediately. On my second run through it was two, and third….well, you get the idea.
The musical depth of the album is such that it takes some listening, but each of the 7 tunes here has their own life and personality and each has its own beauty.
The production on this album is fantastic, and the performances every bit as good as the caliber expected of these seasoned musicians.
A special mention has to go to vocalist DC Cooper, whose efforts on this album are nothing short of brilliant. Powerful, emotive, melodic and in command at all times, Cooper drives the songs on this album to the next level.
The near 10 minute Hell Comes Down From Heaven is a divine epic opener, with the all the power and swirling keyboards expected.
One Minute Left To Live has to be one of the best melodic metal songs you’ll hear this year…what a chorus!
On Sign Of Yesterday Cooper takes on a Phantom of The Opera persona to deliver one of the vocals of 2013.
And the closing A Life To Die For simply flies by, even though it clocks in over 8 minutes in length. My favourite of the album.

The Bottom Line

It may be a couple of months old now, but don’t let this title slip by…invest in this fabulous slice of melodic metal as a matter of urgency! Great performances, massive production and plenty to draw the listener back in over and over.

 

Overland Epic Escape Music
· Produced By: Mike Slamer


· Running Time: 47


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Rock / AOR


· Links: Escape Music

94%
Steve Overland and Mike Slamer. There’s not much more I can add really! Either name conjures up unnatural levels of excitement from AOR anoraks, but join them together and it’s a virtual pleasure overload. Epic is just that – essential AOR for most readers of this site.
Add in the additional personnel of Christian Wolff – guitars; the Unruly Child rhythm section (Larry Antonino – bass and Jay Schellen – drums) and how could they go wrong?
Well, they couldn’t and they don’t.
With the two Billy’s on backing vocals (Greer and Trudel), you can bank on this album featuring all the same wall of sound elements that make all Mike Slamer productions essential.
Mike joins in himself with additional guitars, bass, keyboards.

Radio Radio might be a pretty simplistic (but very catchy) way to start the album, but I challenge anyone to find a better pure AOR song than the double dose of classics in If Looks Could Kill and the glorious Stranded. Wonderful! And layers upon layers of vocals.
Rags To Riches is almost Seventh Key toughness and is one song I could perhaps live without – the chorus isn’t doing it for me; while Liberate My Heart is pure FM bliss.
The uptempo anthemic Down Comes The Night is both moody and uplifting at the same time.
If Your Heart’s Not In It has some cool drum work and a varying beat; Rock Me is a groover and So This Is Love is straight out of the 80s with harmonies everywhere.
Wild is high-tech 80s AOR and The End Of The Road is another class song, a mid-tempo song that builds via a moody and twisting arrangement and great chorus.
Time For Letting Go is for whatever reason – not included on the promo version of the album.

The Bottom Line

Simply put, the guys live up to any possible hype and deliver a great album of pure AOR that showcases the best of all involved and shows there is still much to offer is the world of classic old school AOR. You’ll need to be a member of the Steve Overland vocal fanclub of course – his tone isn’t for everyone, but you can’t argue with the man’s talent or the superbly produced record before us.
Seventh Key meets FM.

 

Revolution Road Revolution Road Avenue Of Allies
· Produced By: Alessandro Del Vecchio


· Running Time: 48


· Release Date: 2013


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Bluesy Melodic Rock


· Links: AoA

94%
He hasn’t been seen for years, and suddenly Snakes In Paradise lead vocalist Stefan Berggren appears twice in two months. The best of his two new releases is easily Revolution Road.
The project is the brain child of Avenue Of Allies owner Gregor Klee and man of the moment Alessandro Del Vecchio, who co-writers, produces and performs on this album.
Revolution Road is everything I loved about Sweden’s Snakes In Paradise – the strong melodic vocals and moody edge, and twists it into a more bluesy hard rock direction, with an emphasis on sounding fresh while still paying homage to the 70s and 80s.
It took a few listens for several of the songs to grow on me, while others were more instant. But the outcome was the same in the end – quality melodic rock with a fresh twist.
And for Snakes In Paradise fans, there are two new songs from the band’s founders Berggren and guitarist Thomas Jakobsson included!

Wings Of Love is the perfect opening track – uptempo, uplifting and glorious vocals and chorus. The uptempo, but warm and moody Shooting Star might be even better and is the most Snakes In Paradise sounding track of the album (the first of the two Berggren/Jakobsson co-writes). Stefan’s vocals here really warm the heart. I just love his tone.
The title track is the listener’s first taste of the bluesier side of the album, with a slower, darker and heavier style that just oozes class.
Whether it be on the more traditional style melodic rock tracks like Hold On; the gloriously sweet AOR of Pretending Hearts (the other Berggren/Jakobsson co-write) or mid-album run of heavier, blues soaked 70s rockers like Ain’t Gonna Give My Heart Away, Love’s Got A Hold On Me, Losing You and Take Your Love To Town and the organ drenched Balloon; one thing is for certain – this is a classy release with a knockout vocal performance.
An musically speaking, full credit to main writer Alessandro Del Vecchio for stepping outside the usual circle of musical influence to deliver a really special album.

The Bottom Line

This album has been around a few months now, but I can’t recommend strongly enough for folks to check this out. Simply awesome bluesy melodic rock with a commercial twist on a few anthemic AOR songs, but overall, a simply sublime vocal performance from Stefan and something truly different to listen to amongst the regular tones of normal AOR releases.

 

Lover Under Cover Into TheNight Escape Music
· Produced By: Martin Kronlund


· Running Time: 45


· Release Date: 2014


· Released: 


· Musical Style: Melodic Rock


· Links: Escape Music

90%
The second LUC album follows the successful debut of yet another Swedish melodic rock project. You can never have too many right? Well, not when they are as good as this at least.
The band features Last Autumn’s Dream vocalist Mikael Erlandsson, Martin Kronlund on guitars and (very a very solid, hard hitting) production, ColdSpell drummer Perra Johnsson – who delivers a smashing sound here; and Mikael Carlsson on bass, adding to the solid rhythm section.
Stepping things up another notch from the debut, this second album sees the guys deliver a familiar slice of Scandi melodic/hard rock, with all the trademark hooks and elements from that part of the world we love.
Erlandsson’s raspy vocals are a thing of beauty and the performance here coupled with the songs makes this album now stand above that of recent Last Autumn’s Dream output.
There are no fillers in sight, but to highlight a few tracks, I particularly like the tough talking opener A Fight and the rolling melody of Into The Shadows; Toy Solider is an interesting choice of song to cover, but the Martika 80s hit is reworked nicely here with a raspy moodiness perfect for it.
The uptempo ballad Life Is Easy is a breezy interlude before fast moving rockers Playboy No 7 and The Game Is On, with a hammering beat driving both songs.
Closer To The Truth is a classic Scandi 80s style melodic rocker with a fine verse and chorus, making it an album favorite.
The breezy quality ballad No Place Like Home closes the album.

The Bottom Line

Like Scandi melodic rock? Enjoy Last Autumn’s Dream? Sweet AOR with a punch? All pay attention to this album then, you can’t go wrong.

 

AOR The Secrets Of LA AOR Heaven
· Produced By: Slama/Denander


· Running Time: 49


· Release Date: 2013


· Released: 


· Musical Style: AOR


· Links: AOR Heaven

75%
Secrets Of LA is amazingly AOR’s 12th album and basically sees main man Frederic Slama repeat the formula of the previous albums. Secrets features the highest profile guest stars to date with the likes of Fergie Frederiksen, Jeff Scott Soto, Jim Jidhed and Bill & Tamara Champlin all involved.
It’s a fairly consistent album and the songs themselves are good quality throughout.
But the programmed aspect of the base sound is simply out of date in 2014 and that and overall production style takes away from the (mostly) excellent vocal performances and the songs themselves.
Slama teams again with guitarist/producer Tommy Denander and a whole slew of guest vocalists, mirroring Denander’s own Radioactive series. As with Radioactive, the guitar and production sound here is very much the Denander stock and trade guitar driven/programmed feel which is the album’s weakness. The tinny and repetitive cymbal and drum programming and all too familiar guitar tone is something I personally don’t need to ever hear again.

But Slama seems to have got the best out most of the vocalists appearing, which is a plus.
Lead track Deep Whirlpool is sung with gusto from the now late, great Fergie Frederiksen. Good song and great, but a little too much programming going on.
The tougher, heavier approach of the JSS sung Stage Struck is good – always good to hear a new JSS vocal, but again, programmed drums takes away a little.
My favourite track of the album is the absolutely blinding AOR of the Journeyesque Secrets In The Shadows, with Alien frontman Jim Jidhed on vocals. Again, it’s programmed to the hilt, but the song’s vocal is just too amazing.
Back To San Francisco features Bill Champlin in a raspy uptempo vibe.
Unfortunately the normally ultra-reliable Bob Harris (Axe, Ede Of Forever) turns in a couple of really off vocals for Out Of The Past and The Main Attraction. I’m not sure what went wrong here, but the vocals really are a struggle to get through.
The Name Of The Game is a pretty easy listen with the wonderful Robin Beck in full control.
Web Of Lies is a Gцran Edman sung recut of another Chasing Violets song. Prefer this version as Goran is unbeatable.
Hollow Triumph is a pleasant AOR number sung by Last Autumn Dream / Lover Under Cover singer Mikael Erlandsson.
Voices In The Wind is a laid back Westcoast number that features Tamara Champlin and some nice guitar work.

The Bottom Line

Some entertaining uptempo AOR here and something to enjoy for fans of the assigned vocalists. A few stand out tracks, but as discussed, the over-programmed nature of the record and repetitive sound that comes from the Tommy Denander production sable is something that takes away from the positives. 

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