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HOT NEW REVIEWS
 UPDATED ON DECEMBER 6 - 2009

HANGAR ‘INFALLIBLE’ (DYNAMO RECORDS/TWISTER DISTRIBUDORA/BRAZIL IMPORT)

Only out in Brazil so far, but hopefully in 2010 also in Europe, the new album of the Brazilian band HANGAR. ‘Infallible’ is the name of this disc and to me this sounds like a super sensational Melodic Italo-Power Metal record at first sight (first 2 songs) reminding of LABYRINTH (‘Return to heaven denied’), VISION DIVINE (‘Stream of consciousness’), WONDERLAND and THY MAJESTIE. However, when listening to the whole CD, one can also find a lot of pure Melodic Rock orientated songs on this new CD of HANGAR and the band also goes for some dark Progressive Metal here and there (“Handwritten”), so all together this is a very diverse CD. This is their 4th CD so far and I do believe we have reviewed each of their previous releases in the past 10 years, but this is by far their finest release. Hooks and melodic choruses are combined with lovely instrumental keyboard and guitar duals, while the vocalwork of singer Humberto Sobrinho is top-notch and like already mentioned the material is very diverse, going from Italo Power Metal to dark US Progmetal to polished super melodic A.O.R. The CD was mixed and mastered in Germany by the legendary TOMMY NEWTON (VICTORY/HELLOWEEN) and really sounds perfect from start to finish. Songs like especially “The infallible emperor (1956)”, “Colorblind” and “Some light to find my way” are all excellent melodic power metal (with neo-classical and symphonic influences) tunes that sound like the perfect mix of VISION DIVINE and THY MAJESTIE. Like mentioned, between the 12 tracks included, we can also hear a bunch of calmer pieces, such as the lovely “Solitary mind”, which is an almost A.O.R. kinda song, the melodic rocker “Dreaming of black waves” or the semi melodic rockballad “Time to forget” and especially the amazing midtempo A.O.R. Ballad “Based on a true story”, all reminding of PLACE VENDOME and HARTMANN, with superb melodies an AOR fan will absolutely fall in love with! Finally also the Progmetalfans can here and there enjoy a little tune in the DREAM THEATER style, all done very well and basically HANGAR is good in doing all these genres, but the absolute highlights are the Italo Power Metal of the opener “The infallible emperor (1956)” and the A.O.R. of “Based on a true story”. A huge surprise this release and definitely the finest Brazilian album release of 2009, a must-have for fans of both Italo Power Metal and Melodic Rock (and some Progmetalfans of course!). More info at: www.hangar.mus.br 

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

WHISPERWOOD ‘WHISPERWOOD’ (INDEPENDENT)

Now for something different... WHISPERWOOD is a band formed back in the late 80s, making music that seems timeless as it sounds like it could have been created in nearly every decade! WHISPERWOOD comes out of San Diego and they are playing a sort of Folk style a la JETHRO TULL, yet vocally somehow the singer has a 80s Hair Metal voice, really can’t help saying that. I don’t mind at all, but I can already hear him belt out a cracking Hair Metal sing-a-long tune after listening to this very calm 2-CD set of WHISPERWOOD. So, this double-CD does not rock at all, however that does not mean you can not check it out, because the included songs are a nice collection of calm tunes that combine elements of folk, prog and popmusic. JETHRO TULL is really the best comparison here, with most of the songs being acoustic little tunes. More info at: www.whisperwood.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

BLAZING CLASS ‘BLAZING CLASS (PRINCESS OF ROCK)’ (INDEPENDENT/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

When it comes down to pure heavy Metal, Italy has never been the best country to search for sensational acts in that genre. Italy delivered of course sensational acts in the AOR, Prog and Power Metal genre, but real classic Heavy Metal a la IRON MAIDEN was not really something Italian bands could deliver at a high level, with here and there an exception, such as DOMINE. However, now an EP landed on my desk from this small Italian band called BLAZING CLASS and by far this is the best pure Melodic Heavy Metal record from an Italian band I have ever heard! The song “Made up to be a monster” sounds like a pure Classic Heavy Metal song from 1985, yet still sounding fresh and up-to-date for today’s standards. The band sounds like a 80s German Teutonic Metalband trying to do faster NWOBHM type of material and succeeding completely on all 4 songs. They are not that far away from the Swedish WOLF actually. Also the production and sound quality is excellent, so I think it will only be a matter of time before this BLAZING CLASS will be signed to a major Metal label! More info at: www.myspace.com/blazingclashmusic  and e-mail them at: blazingclash@gmail.com 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

T. CLEMENTE BAND ‘ILLUSIONS’ (CLEMENTE MUSIC)

Here we have a really high quality independent recording from a band out of San Francisco, USA. They are called the T. CLEMENTE BAND, formed around excellent guitarist TEDDY CLEMENTE (a la RICHIE BLACKMORE), who is also the songwriter of all 10 songs on this album. THOM DUELL (a la IAN PARRY and JEFF FENHOLT) takes care of the vocals and he happens to be blessed with a superb voice, so we are talking about something really interesting here. Musically taking a bit of RAINBOW, URIAH HEEP, ZENO, Q5 and especially QUEENSRYCHE meets JOSHUA meets TRIUMPH with some Metal riffs added, mixing this all together with awesome vocal- and guitarwork, you basically end up with this awesome CD titled ‘Illusions’. Especially the songs “Life”, “Come fly away” and “Prisoner of war” are very impressive tunes to check out asap if your heart belongs to quality Progressive Rock/Metal with a Classic Hardrock vibe like a mix of mentioned acts and you want to hear beautiful melodies in all arrangements as well. The CD has a huge sound, partly thanks to the legendary GEORGE HORN (a Soul/Funk/Jazz legend!), who mastered the CD and also a special mention also needs to made for ROBERT BERRY (3, HUSH, solo, etc.) who played guitars, keys, did back-up vocals and took care of the recording and sound/mixing/engineering of the record, thumbs up to both for doing a great job here! More info at: http://www.tclemente.com/home.html  and e-mail at: tclemente@tclemente.com 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

EYE RHYME ‘SOUL’ (SMALL DOG RECORDS/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

Originally released way back in 1997, this Canadian band now gets a sort of re-release of their album ‘Soul’. They released 2 albums all together and musically they were quite experimental Progressive Rock, like a QUEENSRYCHE meets KING’S X meets 90s RUSH meets SAGA, yet this ‘Soul’ CD has a clear 90s approach, including the Industrial Metal hi-hats. SAGA guitarist IAN CRICHTON makes a guest appearance here, so does STEVE SHELSKI of CONEY HATCH. It’s a typical 3-piece Canadian progrockproduct, which will never sound dated, although it has a pure 1990s touch. The songs have also very strong lyrics and actually ‘Soul’ is a real grower you have to listen to a few times before it grabs you. More info at: www.eyerhyme.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

BROTHER APE ‘TURBULENCE’ (PROGRESS RECORDS)

BROTHER APE is a 3-piece band from Sweden, which already started in the 1980s, however their first releases were done in the 2000s. Their debut ‘On the other side’ was released in 2005 and since then the band has been very busy with album releases, making this ‘Turbulence’ their 4th album so far, all released on the Swedish label PROGRESS RECORDS. Musically they are a mix of a lot of prog genres, with SAGA and RUSH being main comparisons, although the structures are sometimes a little more complex and experimental due to unusual rhythms that seem to come out of different genres (such as the slight trip-hop drums in opener “Welcome future” or Jazz/Fusion pieces instrumental speaking in some of the other tunes. 9 tracks are included here, some very lengthy and for the open-minded progfan this might be a challenge to check out, although I am quite convinced the real progfans will already be aware of ‘Turbulence’. Happily the band also knows well when to insert a great melody, making this a very accesable record as well. More info at: www.myspace.com/brotherape 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

BULWARK ‘VARIANCE’ (INDEPENDENT)

BULWARK is a band formed around guitarist/producer THOMAS FASSLER from Switzerland. He surely can play the guitar well, but sadly every song on his album is featuring an Extreme vocal that mainly makes the music go in a Thrash/Death Metal style. The vocalists featured are all from rare obscure Swiss bands and in the end this album is only interesting for fans of the more Extreme Metal genre. More info at: www.bulwark.ch 

(Points: 7.2 out of 10)

KIMBERLY DAHME ‘CAN’T A GIRL CHANGE HER MIND’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

OK, this is a much-talked girl, especially due to the fact she is signed to ESCAPE MUSIC, on which her CD ‘Can’t a girl change her mind’ has been released. The label that is not really known for releases with a female singer. Of course they did a great JOSETTE record 10+ years ago and a superb re-issue of the TANTRUM classics, but most of the time their releases do not feature a female vocal and also musically ESCAPE MUSIC always kept strictly to their AOR format. This year however they have stepped out of the AOR Box and after a few Metal releases, such as the new album of Aussie Power Metalband ILIUM, they now release something completely different, because the solo debut CD of female singer KIMBERLY DAHME sounds like a cross between SHANIA TWAIN and ROBIN BECK, AORish country with a Nashville touch all over. Kimberly looks amazing, especially all the pics that have been put in the CD booklet is already making you consider to purchase the CD! Although the music is not bad either and she is able to sing well, the lightweight melodic country/poprock/aor a la CONNIE SCOTT/ROBIN BECK/LISA HARTMAN/LISA NEMZO never really gets sensational. Still songs like “Rock you like a baby’, “You make me believe” and “Love don’t leave me now” (nice AOR melodies) are good radio ready tunes, but despite the fact that musicians like TOM SCHOLZ (of BOSTON), GLEN BURTNICK, TIMOTHY GAINES, etc. are playing on this album and Kimberly is a part of the BOSTON family, her CD is only for die-hard fans of female fronted pop/rock. Hopefully this signing had more to do with ESCAPE MUSIC being able to secure a deal with BOSTON, because I have been waiting for a real sensational new BOSTON album since their 1994 ‘Walk on’ release, because their 2002 release ‘Corporate America’ was a real let-down. 2010 will probably be the year for a new BOSTON album, because another 8 years have passed and that has been since 1978 the constant ‘overcome period’ for a new BOSTON album. One way or the other, this KIMBERLY DAHME CD is not recommended to BOSTON or AOR fans, as it is really a more Country/Poprock affair like a rockier JUICE NEWTON, a slower JAIME KYLE, but is perhaps a hit for fans of SHANIA TWAIN and also people who like to see a beautiful girl who can actually sing too!

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

OVERLAND ‘DIAMOND DEALER’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

STEVE OVERLAND is one of the most underrated singers in Rock and Roll history, because he did so many recordings in the past and he never reached superstardom with any of these releases, despite the fact his voice is by far one of the greatest!!! Also the music was always prime-time AOR or Bluesy Melodic Rock, but somehow Steve never made it to the absolute top. The 1980s gave us FM and WILDLIFE Classic AOR stuff, while the 1990s saw him going in a more Bluesy Rock style with FM, then it became a little quiet, but in the 2000s he has been singing on many new records, thanks to his label ESCAPE MUSIC, who gave him the chance to do pure AOR all over again on albums by THE LADDER, AOR, SHADOWMAN and his solo ventures, which now reaches it’s highlight in this 2nd solo release titled ‘Diamond dealer’. This new solo-album is his best album since the first 2 FM records from the 1980s. Steve listened to the fans who demanded him to sing pure AOR again and indeed on this new solo CD he is giving them a pure Classic AOR sounding record, which contains nothing but hits from start to finish. Especially the beginning is really classic 80s FM all the way, with such lovely uptempo AOR rockers like “Train, train”, “You lift me up” and “Where is the love” and the semi AOR ballad “Brave new world”. Other highlights on this fantastic CD are uptempo AOR Rockers like “City of dreams”, “I’m still breathing”, “Bring me water” and “After the storm” and the semi AOR ballad “Hearts don’t lie”. It’s a pleasure to hear Steve singing such Classic AOR again (and really a lot of uptempo AOR pieces!) and his voice sounds as good as it sounded on his WILDLIFE debut from 30 years ago! The man is a legend and should have been of course much more well-known than the AOR Stardom status he know has. Any AOR fan should get this album soon, because it could well be one of the AOR highlights in 2009! Personally I have listened to it 4 times in 2 days and I am already looking forward to the next time I can put it on loud and proud, so go figure…

(Points: 9.1 out of 10)

GARY BROCKHOFF ‘VARIOUS ALBUMS’ (4468 PRODUCTIONS)

Not sure how I discovered this guy, but he was kind enough to sent me his 3 CDs. I am glad he did, because Gary has a really SUPERB voice and his music is very much going into the classic late 80s singer/songwriter-AOR style. Gary is a singer/songwriter from the US State of Georgia and he plays guitar, but also produces and I think he even played all the instruments on his record. His music has a positive Christian message and reminds me a lot of HALO, JOHN ELEFANTE, WHITE HEART (Gary sounds identical to their singer!), DAVID KUHN, VAN STEPHENSON, ALLIES/SWEET COMFORT BAND, RON COLLINS, early 80s PETRA, NOUVEAUX (Gary sounds also identical to their singer!) and such mixed with a little JOURNEY/SURVIVOR for good measure. His 1998 album ‘Higher purpose’ has a frontcover that makes you immediately think of the 1980s and the 6 included tracks are basically picture perfect X-Ian 80s AOR tunes (mostly semi-ballad orientated) in the best 80s spirit of mentioned acts. Songs like “With Jesus’ love”, “Stand up”, “Remember the name”, “Discovery” and “Forever’s not so long” will be absolutely loved by fans of mentioned acts. It really comes across like a mix between the 2nd NOUVEAUX, WHITE HEART, RON COLLINS and also BOB HALLIGAN JR., so put it somewhere in between those acts and you’re close to the sound of this very impressive and very rare independent mini-CD from 1998, definitely one to hunt for if you’re a fan of that classic singer-songwriter 80s AOR. Although the songs are mostly semi-ballad/midtempo orientated, it has a pure AOR feeling written all over and is therefore a must-have for fans of this genre (Points: 8.8 out of 10). It took Gary a few more years to release a follow-up, but in 2005 and 2006 2 more CDs followed, namely ‘Wide awake’ and ‘Clear blue’. Musically a slight change, pure 80s X-Ian AOR has been put aside a little, although not that much, because most of the material can still be classified as AOR, but compared to his first CD it all sounds a little more fresh and much more diverse thanks to various song arrangements, with even some KANSAS similarities here and there (just listen to the song “Wide awake”). ‘Wide awake’ from 2005 (Points: 8.3 out of 10) contains 9 songs and right from the start also this album sounds very impressive and one to check out if you’re a fan of lighter AOR (heavy on the ballads), sometimes reminding a lot of the sound of JOHN ELEFANTE and JOHN TAGLIERI’s solo records and also MICHAEL W. SMITH comes to mind on a few occasions. ‘Clear blue’ from 2006 (Points: 8.2 out of 10) follows closely and is yet another good release, although the only thing you start to miss after a while on all the records are some uptempo rockers (although on this album there are a few, such as opener “Caught up”, “Front page news” and “Fade to black” that remind all somehow of PHIL VINCENT and closing track “Break the cycle” which is the best song on this last solo-album of Gary), just to throw in some more diversity. So please be aware that there are not that many rockers on any of Gary’s albums (except the latest record, which then again sounds less AOR than the earlier records due to a slight more modern indie rock production), but on the other hand you really get value for your money, because Gary has a great voice and his semi-AOR Ballad/Midtempo based music is very melodic and memorable, recommended to fans of WHITE HEART, RON COLLINS, RICK CUA and even VAN STEPHENSON, especially his 1998 solo debut CD! More info at: http://www.myspace.com/garybrockhoff  and www.4468productions.com 

(Points: mentioned in review)

H IS ORANGE ‘THRILL OF ESCAPE’ (ONE IRON RECORDS)

A rather unusual bandname, but musically H IS ORANGE from Los Angeles, California is doing things quite well, because at first sight they might sound the next typical American Modern Rockband whom are combining classic melodic rock melodies and anthems with today’s Punk/Nu-Metal riffs, but after listening to their first CD ‘Thrill of escape’ a couple of times it becomes clear this is a very impressive band. The band sounds as melodic as HAREM SCAREM, as modern as GREENDAY and vocally/melodies/choruses are somehow reminding me of classic 80s AOR/Poprock (a little Canadian style – GLASS TIGER). So mix up these 3 bands and you have yourself a H IS ORANGE. 10 songs are included and especially “Company you keep”, “Nothing all the time” and “Thrill of escape” are deadly catchy tunes that combine melodies with hard hitting Rock riffs, really sounding like a mix between GLASS TIGER, SIMPLE PLAN, GREENDAY and HAREM SCAREM. If this sounds interesting to you, better make sure to get this CD asap. More info at: www.hiomusic.com 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

BRAVE ‘LOST IN RETROSPECT’ (FEMME METAL RECORDS/GORDEON MUSIC)

BRAVE should not be confused with some similar named bands from the past, because this BRAVE is coming out of the US State of Virginia and they have delivered a very strong female fronted Melodic Heavy Rock/Metal album in the shape of ‘Lost in retrospect’. This is however not their debut, as apparently the band already exists for 10 years now and this new album is a sort of 10-year anniversary album. In those 10 years they released 6 studio-albums and now for the first time I am able to hear this band thanks to the release of ‘Lost in retrospect. This CD happens to be a sensational release filled with SUPERB female fronted Melodic Metal with a touch of today’s femme Gothic Power Metal (EPICA/DELAIN). Incredible it took 10 years for me to review BRAVE, because this is really an amazing sounding band with many fantastic songs on this CD, such as the big sounding Melodic Metal tunes “Something to this” (even a little DANTE FOX!), “Driven”, “Hold on” and “Dark waters” as well as “Before nightfall” (which is a beautiful calmer piece a la MOSTLY AUTUMN), which sound as good as for example EPICA, DELAIN, XANDRIA… Mostly uptempo and sounding quite huge, both instrumental and vocally, because singer MICHELLE LOOSE has a rather excellent strong voice. The second part of the CD is lighter and less uptempo than the beginning, with tunes that go in a MOSTLY AUTUMN style, although EPICA and AFTER FOREVER also sometimes have such semi-acoustic tunes. So somehow this CD has a pure uptempo Melodic Metal part and a calmer semi-acoustic Folk-Rockish part that also reminds me a bit BLACKMORE’S NIGHT. I truly hope the next 10 years will bring BRAVE right upfront in the female fronted rock/metalscene, because judging on the release of this album alone, this is a band to check out asap if you’re into mentioned bands. Imagine a mix between EPICA/DELAIN when the band goes for uptempo rocking stuff and BLACKMORE’S NIGHT/MOSTLY AUTUMN when they go for a smoother semi-acoustic folkrock approach. One way or the other, BRAVE deliver the best of both world! More info at: www.FemmeMetalRecords.com 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

SEASONS LOST ‘AFTER THE STORM’ (INDEPENDENT/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

SEASONS LOST is a band from Florida/USA, whom are delivering a great piece of Melodic (Power) Metal with ‘After the storm’, an independent release. Despite some growls/screams a few times (on a few songs), this is mainly a very melodic album happily with some great uptempo catchy tunes like “To hell and back”, “Confession” and “Borrowed time”. Mix up ICED EARTH, STRYPER, TRIVIUM and TEER, then you’re close to the catchy hard hitting Melodic Metal sound of SEASONS LOST. The band somehow delivers very impressive big harmonyvcoal driven choruses, which can especially be heard in mentioned tunes. Choruses that could be straight out of the 80s STRYPER Book, but are played with the intensity and energy of TRIVIUM and ICED EARTH. In the end, they remind me a lot of that legendary Florida cult based band TEER, who basically did the same thing in the mid 1990s. Besides a great singer (SHALE MASON), the band also has a great guitarist in their line-up (PARKER TINDELL), who surely can deliver the goods here and so we have here a little winner for the fans of Melodic Metal as this band has one foot in the 80s (the melodies) and the other in the present (the overall sound). Some really memorable tunes can be heard on the band’s debut CD ‘After the storm’, which you can check out www.seasonslost.com  and e-mail them at: Booking@seasonslost.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

HELIX ‘VAGABOND BONES’ (HELIX RECORDS/UNIVERSAL MUSIC CANADA)

They are unstoppable, the guys from HELIX, because this year they celebrate their 35th year anniversary! What better way than to release a new album! The CD is titled ‘Vagabond bones’ and musically they sound exactly like … HELIX ! Although I still think the band’s finest albums were released way back in 1979 and 1981 when they were more Melodic Hardrock based. Still one can not deny this band has changed their style much after that. HELIX are the Canadian equivalent to QUIET RIOT (USA), KROKUS (Switzerland), DIRTY LOOKS (France) and AC/DC (Australia), meaning they are True Rock and Roll band, which can clearly be heard in songs like “Go hard or go home”, “Vagabond bones”, “When the bitter’s got the better of you” (very catchy tune with nice melodic guitarwork) and the THE CULTish “Make ‘em dance”. Somehow this new HELIX record sounds like their best in ages, so make sure to check out this crankin’ rock and roll record at: www.planethelix.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

PROZAC DAISIES ‘KRAZZY’ (OUT OF THE BOX RECORDS/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

PROZAC DAISIES is a band from Florida, USA who sent me a little 5 tracks counting mini-CD they released. Musically a mix of 80s Party hardrock and today’s modern rock, with a surprising cover as a start on the album, namely the TOMMY TUTONE poprocker “867-5309/Jenny”. Most of the other songs are more midtempo and groovy based hardrocksongs. Not bad at all, but I think a full-length CD will tell us more what this band is able to do, because now the best song is a cover! Still, check them out for yourself at: www.prozacdaisies.com 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

PORT OF SAINTS ‘NO SLEEP FOREVER’ (BLUE TOPAZ RECORDS)

PORT OF SAINTS is a Swedish Rock and Roll band whom release their debut with this album titled ‘No sleep forever’. The sound of the album is huge and is actually showing what Rock and Roll is all about. This is raw, mean, dirty, sleazy Rock from start to finish, uptempo and as raw sounding as for example the BACKYARD BABIES or THE HELLACOPTERS. Fans of these bands will eat this PORT OF SAINTS alive! Next to 9 own songs, the band added a surprising cover of the old ROBERT JOHNSON classic “Hellbound on my trail”. More info at: www.myspace.com/theportofsaints 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ELDORADO ‘ELDORADO’ (DEJAME DECIRTE/IMPORT SPAIN)

ELDORADO is a band from Madrid, Spain and judging on this 2nd album alone, this band could easily be the next big thing. They play pure Rock/Hardrock with superstrong vocalwork (JESUS TRUJILLO) and perfect guitarwork (NANO PARAMIO), sounding as good or perhaps even better than other new Rock sensations, such as WOLFMOTHER and AIRBOURNE. Their debut was produced and recorded by RICHARD CHYCKI (AEROSMITH, MICK JAGGER and RUSH) and mastered by MIKA JUSSILA (STRATOVARIUS, NIGHTWISH, SONATA ARCTICA) in Finnvox Studios, while their new album was mastered at the legendary Masterdisk in New York. All together this Spanish band has been working with some legendary people and also did their recordings in even more legendary studios. The result is that this English sung follow-up to their 2008 Spanish sung debut is a must-have for any Rockfan out there! WOLFMOTHER meets AIRBOURNE with a touch of AEROSMITH (like in the great semi-ballad “Atlantico”) is definitely the best way to describe ELDORADO, although they have their own identity for sure. Songs like “The house of the 7 smokestacks”, “The rocket song”, “Free” and “Tarot TV” are sounding like the next big thing in Rock and Roll. Make sure to check out this band asap at: www.eldoradorockband.com and http://www.myspace.com/eldoradorockband 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

MARGATE ‘ON THE OTHER SIDE’ (ROOM57 RECORDS/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

Out of California comes the band MARGATE, whom are playing modern Powerpoprock and roll not far removed from JIMMY EAT WORLD, WEEZER and FOO FIGHTERS, although they also remind a lot of the MIKE TRAMP solo albums. 10 songs are on the band’s 2nd CD ‘On the other side’ and most of them are fun uptempo Powerpoprockers with catchy melodies all over the place. Any of the songs could be played on the American College Radio stations, because this is the kind of music one is hearing when attending a school or university in the USA. This kind of Melodic Poprock has always been very popular at colleges throughout the USA, ever since THE KNACK in the late 1970s, THE CARS in the 1980s, WEEZER in the 1990s and now in the 2000s there are countless bands playing this kind of melodic poprock, of which MARGATE is another fine example to check out at: www.margatemusic.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘STF RECORDS VARIOUS ALBUMS’ (STF RECORDS)

3 new albums will be released through STF RECORDS in November 2009, the German label which started as a pure Metal label, but is now also delivering other genre releases. This time we have a band called BARONS BALL, whom deliver a nice Melodic Hardrockalbum in the shape of ‘Push’. Not as good as WIG WAM, THE POODLES, BONFIRE or SHAKRA due to weaker vocalwork, this band from Germany still fits right in between these acts, especially on songs like “When push comes to shove” (best song), “Give me a sign’ and “Give me all your love”. Guitarwork is melodic and the choruses are pretty catchy sometimes during the 12 included songs. Vocally it is not that good and therefore this CD is not a must-have, it actually reminds me a lot of early 90s German bands like GLADSTONE and DEAD BANG, anyone actually remember those bands??? Nevertheless, die-hard fans of mentioned bands might still wanna check out this band at: www.baronsball.de  (7.9). CALIBRE ZERO is the next band with a new CD release on the STF RECORDS label. They play classic 80s Spanish Melodic Heavy Metal a la MURO, BARON ROJO and such. They do it quite well actually, although one can not helping thinking this was recorded back in 1983 or something. Still fans of mentioned bands will absolutely love this record. ‘Inmune’ is their 2nd album and without a doubt, the 13 included tracks are a must to hear if you like MURO, BARON ROJO, NU and all those other 80s Spanish Metalbands whom were doing NWOBHM in Spanish sung songs 25 years ago, but CALIBRE ZERO is now doing the same century later on their new CD, which you can check out at: www.calibrezerorock.com (8.2). 3rd release on STF RECORDS in November is from a German band called REAPER. They are not a new band, because they were formed way back in 1984 and already deliver their 6th album with ‘Gardens of Seth’! This is Teutonic german Heavy Metal at it’s best, although some 80s US Power Metal influences can be heard as well! GRAVE DIGGER meets RUNNING WILD, with a touch of JAG PANZER and CANDLEMASS, that is what this REAPER has been doing for century now! Their new album shows they are good in what they are doing, playing True Heavy Metal with very strong guitarwork and super raw vocalwork… making this a must-have for especially GRAVE DIGGER fans! More at: www.reaper.de  (8.3)

(Points: mentioned in the review)

BLACK DAWN ‘AGE OF REASON’ (SUICIDAL GROOVE RECORDS)

BLACK DAWN are a band from New York and they released this CD back in 2004. It really sounds like an independent record, so not a huge sound. However that is not that important, because it is the music that counts and the included material is basically a bit aggressive sorta 1980s US Power/Thrash Metal with a slight touch of 90s PANTERA. Actually they remind me a lot of ARMORED SAINT, with as best song “Lost again”, which is a little more melodic than most of the other midtempo groovy metal tunes. ARMORED SAINT meets PANTERA is a very good description, interested parties should go to: www.myspace.com/blackdawnband 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

HAZY HAMLET ‘FORGING METAL’ (INDEPENDENT)

Beautiful artwork, a great sound/production and musically True Heavy Metal a la MANOWAR, that is what to expect when listening to the debut CD ‘Forging Metal’ from the Brazilian band HAZY HAMLET. The band was formed in 1999 and throughout the 2000s they released several demos, singles and EPs. However now they have released their first full-length CD, which sounds quite big for an independent release and is a must-have for fans of MANOWAR, MAJESTY, GRAVE DIGGER, REBELLION… 10 songs are included and not a single one is a miss, no matter if you listen to “The beginning of the end”, “Black masquerade”, “Metal revolution” or “Funeral for a Viking”. This is True Metal the way it should be played. Go see for yourself at: www.hazyhamlet.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

ALIEN AGENT ‘DIAMONDS ARE FOR BREAKFAST’ (PORCHFIGHT RECORDS)

Somehow I stumbled on this band from Oregon, USA called ALIEN AGENT. They play Classic Rock with influences from AOR/Pomprock/Progressive Rock and such, basically sounding like the classic days of bands like STYX, RUSH, KANSAS, SAGA and even a little LE ROUX, ROADMASTER and such. This CD was released in 2006 and although I am not sure if the recordings took place in the 1980s, it all surely sounds like 1983 or that period. Especially during the fantastic catchy uptempo Pomprocker “Victim of circumstance” that almost reminds me of the legendary RATHSKELLER meets AVION or the STARCASTLEish semi prog/pomp ballad “This feeling” that goes a bit into the late 70s style, but by far the best tracks are the pure AOR tracks “Take another look” and “Bye bye Mary” and the SAGAish “Neon nights”. Here and there we can also hear some bluesy Classic Rock material or more straight-forward Hardrock, but in the end this is a recommended 80s AOR/Pomprock ish sounding album from this little band called ALIEN AGENT. I am sure fans of STYX, ASIA, RATHSKELLER, ROADMASTER, HEAD EAST and such will really like this band a lot. More info at: www.porchfight.com  and http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/alienagent 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

SENTENTIA ‘THE CENTER IN THE SAND’ (SENTENTIA MUSIC)

SENTENTIA is a band from Boston, USA whom are playing dark melancholic Progressive Rock that sounds a bit experimental and actually reminds a lot of PORCUPINE TREE and OZRIC TENTACLES, with smooth calm melodic vocalwork of the band’s female singer. 11 songs are included on their CD ‘The center in the sand’, which is not an album one will instantly fall in love with, because it really needs a few listens before making up a good judgement, as the songs are all very slow and experimental, yet still melodic and for the open-minded progrockfan definitely an album to check out asap. The production is a bit dark and underground ish, very independent sounding actually, but fans of mentioned bands might wanna check out this SENTENTIA at: www.sententia-music.com 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

ARBOGAST ‘CERTAINTIES AND DOUBTS’ (INDEPENDENT/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

ARBOGAST is a Swedish rockband whom remind me of HANOI ROCKS and IGGY POP somehow, a bit depressing at times actually. They do not rock hard enough to be called a Hardrockband, so they are a real Rockband, with a very 1970s approach, sometimes even reminding of NEW YORK DOLLS or THE STOOGES. When they go for a more melodic approach they sound at their best such as during “Once the tip of the spear”. With some really bizarre lyrics and also rather unusual rockstyle, this Swedish band is a nice original rockband to check out, especially if you’re into any of the mentioned bands. More info at: www.arbogast.se 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

MOB ‘THE GREATEST ENEMY’ (INDEPENDENT/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

In the past we reviewed several releases of the band MOB from Sweden, but somehow we missed the 2008 release ‘The greatest enemy’. Happily, we received a copy after all and I must say I am glad to now hear this album, because MOB’s latest record is a very nice sounding Melodic Metal album, with some Progmetal influences here and there, some straight-ahead Hardrock as well and superstrong melodies throughout each of the 14 included songs. This is their 5th album and by far their greatest release, with such tight songs like “In my dreams” (with VANDENPLAS melodic chorus style, almost Progmetal), “The greatest enemy”and “Stone cold” (Both Melodic Hardrock a la PINK CREAM 69) and “Inside the fire” (uptempo Melodic Metal, with even a touch of 80s US Power Metal!). Quite a diverse album actually, because the band goes in different directions on ‘The greatest enemy’, sometimes Melodic Hardrock, then suddenly almost Power Metal ish, however always melodic and in the end sounding like a mix between PC’69, VANDENPLAS, PAGAN’S MIND and AXXIS. Check them out asap at: www.mobrockz.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

GRAND PRIX ‘GRAND PRIX’ (ROCK CANDY RECORDS)

30 years ago the NWOBHM scene brought us thousands and thousands of new UK wanna-be Metalbands and looking back now only a few of them managed to come out clean out of this period. Now we are in the year 2009 and actually only SAXON, DEF LEPPARD and IRON MAIDEN survived the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s, all 3 of them kept on releasing albums and have always kept their popularity. Anyway, back in 1980 there were also a couple of bands whom never made it that big, although they should have been, because they were also part of the NWOBHM scene, but were actually doing something completely different. In particular the bands RAGE, PRAYING MANTIS, ALKATRAZZ and GRAND PRIX were playing pure American AOR/Pomprock/Melodic Rock like a JOURNEY meets STYX meets BOSTON meets FOREIGNER style. In the mid 1980s more and more UK bands were adopting this style, yet GRAND PRIX was one of the first to really play and reach the high level of the late 70s/early 80s US AOR/Pomprock style at the beginning of the NWOBHM movement. Their debut ‘Grand prix’ from 1980 is now almost 30 years later re-issued onto CD by ROCK CANDY RECORDS. I have not listened to this album for a long time, but hearing it now again made me realize that this was a really sensational album that sounded like a perfect American AOR/Pomprock record from the late 1970s. KANSAS, TOUCH, STYX and JOURNEY all came to my mind when hearing such SUPERB songs like “Waiting for the night”, “Thinking of you”, “Which way did the wind blow”(a real classic!) and “The very last time”. These songs still sound very fresh today, partly thanks to some wonderful remastering JON ASTLEY, but also because they sound timeless with rich harmonyvocals, hooklines all over the place and superb sensational catchy choruses, sounding like the perfect mix between JOURNEY, STYX and KANSAS. The band’s lead singer BERNIE SHAW of course went on becoming the URIAH HEEP lead singer eventually, but on this record he sounded really amazing, reaching a STEVE PERRY vibrato. This album is really one of the most underrated albums, because it is an AOR/Pomprock Classic in the best American tradition, but GRAND PRIX came out of the UK! Their following albums were definitely less interesting, so make sure to first check out this re-issue, which also comes along with 3 unreleased tracks (including the Pomprocker “Room 155” and a demo version of “Somewhere tonight”) and some excellent artwork/liner notes about this undiscovered album from 1980! More info at: www.rockcandyrecords.com 

(Points: 9.0 out of 10)

TEAZE ‘ONE NIGHT STANDS’ (ROCK CANDY RECORDS)

Canada exploded in the 1970s with many new bands at the time playing Hard Rock. APRIL WINE, TRIUMPH, RUSH, MOXY, STREETHEART, TROOPER, MAX WEBSTER, MAHOGANY RUSH and BTO were of course the leaders and the bands that started it all, paving the way for a bright future that lasted all through the 1980s that brought us many great Canuck Rockbands, with HAREM SCAREM actually closing the book in the early 90s, because the 1990s were a very weak period for new Canadian Rockbands. However in the 1970s TEAZE was one of the newcomers playing pure Hardrock, not far removed from APRIL WINE (their leader MYLES GOODWYN also produced the original album). The band released a couple of albums, of which this ‘One night stands’ is by far their finest album, a really strong Melodic Hardrockalbum with fantastic guitarwork and some really excellent material in the shape of rockers like “Back in action” (pure 70s Hardrock), “Heartless world” (a classic), “Through the years” (big harmonyvocals) and “Stay here” as well as the beautiful URIAH HEEPish semi-ballad/rocker “Touch the wind” (A 70s style classic). This re-issue on ROCK CANDY RECORDS of this 1979 TEAZE album sounds very impressive thanks to the remastering job of JON ASTLEY and it shows that this album is definitely an important release in the Canadian Rock Music History. The album has once again excellent liner notes, written by MARTIN POPOFF and with the addition of 1 bonustrack really a must-have! More info at: www.rockcandyrecords.com 

(Points: 8.9 out of 10)

CORRODED ‘ELEVEN SHADES OF BLACK’ (NINE TONE RECORDS/UNIVERSAL MUSIC SWEDEN)

DISTURBED is of course the first thing that comes to mind when listening to the first album of the Swedish band CORRODED. It’s dark, it’s heavy and it’s modern, but if you listen a little more carefully, then you can hear that CORRODED is also about melodies and should actually be called a Melodic Metal band with a modern edge, so therefore the DISTURBED (and also SHINEDOWN) comparisons. It all sounds very American the modern rock/metal way, which also means great melodies and even melodic guitarwork happily. The band has a great lead singer (JENS WESTIN) who sounds like a mix between SAMMY HAGAR and the DISTURBED singer and some of the songs on their debut CD ‘Eleven shades of black’ even remind me a bit of DREAM EVIL, so there’s your touch of European Melodic Metal. The sound is huge and without any doubts, this CD could become huge in the USA where they practically eat this kind of Metal. Highlights are songs like “King of nothing”, “6ft. of anger”, “All the voices”, “Bleed” (a very melodic ballad) and “Token” (best song). If DISTURBED, SHINEDOWN, SEVENDUST, THREE DAYS GRACE, etc. are your face acts, you are gonna love the debut CD of this Swedish band for sure, more info at: www.corroded.se  and http://www.myspace.com/corrodedsweden 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

RAM-ZET ‘NEUTRALIZED’ (ASCENDANCE RECORDS)

RAM-ZET is a band from Norway formed way back in 1998, but this is the first time I am hearing something of the band. They released 3 albums in the early 2000s and now after 4 years are releasing a new CD titled ‘Neutralized’. The band is mixing all kinds of Extreme Metal genres, yet thanks to the superb vocalwork of female singer SFINX it all sounds a little more melodic and is giving the band a sorta gothic metal touch a la AFTER FOREVER. However guitarist ZET screams a lot through each and every song and then RAM-ZET sounds like a Black Metalband. Nevertheless, Sfinx is really shining in quite a few songs, with her angelic voice, such as in “Beautiful pain” and “Requiem”, still making this an interesting release for fans of AFTER FOREVER, EPICA and such, although the band also drifts into pure Black Metal meets Industrial Metal here and there. Anyway, check out this band for yourself at: www.ram-zet.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ELIS ‘CATHARSIS’ (NAPALM RECORDS)

The Swiss/Liechteinstein based female fronted Gothic Metalband ELIS was formed back in 2003 out of the ashes of ERBEN DER SCHOPFUNG. They released 2 great albums in 2003 and 2004, then starting working on a new album during 2006 after tragedy struck the band, because frontlady SABINE DUNSER died of a brain haemorrhage just after finishing her vocal duties for the new album ‘Griefshire’. The album was released later in 2006, but of course this had a big effect on the band and it’s future. Eventually they decided to continue, with new singer SANDRA SCHLERET (ex-DREAMS OF SANITY) at the front and now 3 years later the band’s new CD ‘Catharsis’ has been released. Musically nothing has changed and after repeated listens it is clear that this is a really strong typical modern day Gothic female fronted Melodic Metalalbum a la EPICA, AFTER FOREVER, LEAVES’ EYES… yet sometimes a little smoother and more melodic a la DELAIN, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS… Especially on songs like “Core of life” and “I come undone” the band sounds quite sensational and so in the end nothing stands in my way to give this new ELIS album a rather high rating! More info at: www.elis.li 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

DIRTY BELOVED ‘LETTERS FROM A BROKEN HOME’ (SPUDBOT RECORDS/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

DIRTY BELOVED is a Canadian band playing 90s influenced Grunge Rock a la SOUNDGARDEN with some modern Rock and a lot of Prog Metal riffs mixed into their style. 10 songs are on their CD ‘Letters from a broken home’ and although it sounds very professional it is not really interesting for the ‘melodic’ fans, because it all sounds pretty raw and as mentioned ‘grungy’. Fans of ALICE IN CHAINS, SOUNDGARDEN and such will definitely like this a lot, then go to: www.dirtybeloved.com 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

HARDLEIN ‘DOWN TO THE FIRE’ (CANYON PRODUCTIONS/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

Pronounced as HARDLINE, but not to be confused with the past bands called HARDLINE, the Louisville/KY based 4 musicians decided to call their band HARDLEIN and now releases their debut CD ‘Down to the fire’. Musically HARDLEIN is all about uptempo in your face Hardrock a la KISS, KEEL, KIX, SKID ROW, DIRTY LOOKS and such, so pure 80s orientated, with some crushing guitarwork and raw to the bone vocalwork. 20 years ago probably snapped up by the major labels whom were looking all along the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles for quality bands playing this style as good as HARDLEIN is now doing, this lot will now probably mostly be enjoyed by fans of the PERRIS RECORDS releases. It has the same quality as most of their releases and for fans of mentioned bands, this is definitely a highly recommended band to check out at: www.myspace.com/hardlein 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

CIRRUS BAY ‘STEP INTO ELSEWHERE’ (INDEPENDENT)

Out of the US state of Washington comes a female fronted Progressive Rockband called CIRRUS BAY. They have a very English type of style that reminds a lot of KARNATAKA, MOSTLY AUTUMN… but also GLASS HAMMER comes to mind here and there. Anyway, the CD sounds very impressive, both instrumental and vocally, thanks to singers SHARRA ACLE and ANISHA GILHAM and multi-instrumentalists MARK BIASCO (drums, bass) and BILL GILLHAM (guitars, keys, mandolin) whom together form the band CIRRUS BAY. They are settled in the US State of Washington, were formed not that long aga and ‘Step into elsewhere’ is their 2nd release within 2 years. 6 long songs are included and it is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and especially fans of mentioned bands will absolutely love this release. More info at: www.cirrusbay.com  and www.myspace.com/cirrusbay 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

BIG MAMA SCANDAL ‘BY YOU’ (BULGARIAN NATIONAL TELEVISION/EUROINS/IMPORT/TSM/SLW PROMOTIONS)

BIG MAMA SCANDAL are a Bulgarian band playing classic 80s catchy Melodic Hardrock in the style of so many US bands from the period 1986-1990. Bands like KNOW ILLUSION, FIREHOUSE, DOKKEN, HEAVEN’S EDGE, ROCK CANDY, etc. etc. all come to mind when hearing this band. They do it very well, especially for a Bulgarian band, because we do not review bands from that country that often, however with catchy uptempo melodic rockers like “She”, “I’ll take you” and “All this time”, BIG MAMA SCANDAL offers perfect material for fans of mentioned bands. Although they do not look like a classic 80s Hair Metal band at all, they surely sound like them during the 15 included songs of their CD ‘By you’, yet a bit more moving into Melodic Rock (a la BONFIRE) with a very slight modern approach. Highly recommended to fans of mentioned bands. More info at: www.bigmamascandal.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

FRAGMENT OF SYMMETRY ‘BEYOND THE DREAMS’ (INDEPENDENT)

It surprises me how many female fronted (Gothic) Symphonic Melodic Metalbands are out there! If you look at the 2000s one can only come to the conclusion that this was the decade of this genre, which THE GATHERING created during the 1990s, but bands like NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION, AFTER FOREVER and EPICA made it really popular throughout the 2000s, resulting in thousands of new bands to emerge during this decade. It is quite easy to make a whole list of bands that released equally sensational CDs in the style of mentioned bands the past few years, but we continue to look at yet another new band in this genre. They are called FRAGMENT OF SYMMETRY, were formed in 2003 and are coming out of Switzerland and right from the start of their debut album ‘Beyond the dreams’ it is clear that this is another band to have in your collection if you are into this genre. The sound/production is huge, the songs are superb, the melodies and vocals are among the best this genre has to offer (hello EPICA/WITHIN TEMPTATION/ELIS…) and also instrumental this band is in excellent shape. It is almost unbelievable that this is an independent release, because it sounds as sensational as any major label release. Fans of mentioned bands will absolutely be stunned by this band and with songs like “Break the noise”, “Dark horizons”, “Drowning”, “Forces” and “Inmate” they offer some of the best female fronted melodic metal of 2009! Almost right up there with the DELAIN and EPICA releases of this year, so make sure to check out this release asap at: www.fragmentofsymmetry.com 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

DOMENICA ‘THE LUXURY’ (C12 RECORDS/EMI MUSIC CANADA)

DOMENICA are a Canadian band signed on C12 RECORDS, which is distributed through major label EMI MUSIC in Canada, and they have just released their debut CD ‘The luxury’. The band has one of the best looking female singers called BEKKI FRIESEN, who happens to be a superstrong lead singer as well. The band is playing modern Hardrock, very punchy and quite heavy at times, with guest appearances of STEVE SALAS and MARCOS CURIEL (P.O.D.). They are not as polished as for example HALESTORM, so maybe more interesting for the fans of a little rougher and more raw based Hardrock, but on the other hand they also have some classic HEADPINS/LITA FORD/LEE AARON/CHRISSY STEELE influences in the melodies/vocal department. Quite groovy and mostly slow to midtempo, DOMENICA have released a very strong album that has it’s highlights in Melodic Hardrock songs like “What goes around” (one of the few uptempo tunes), “Above me” and “No matter what you say”, all sounding like a cross between SHINEDOWN/DISTURBED and some THE DONNAS and SLUNT, with still a touch of today’s American female fronted sounding rock genre (HALESTORM, DAMONE). Without a doubt, a must-have for the fans of the female fronted rock/metal sound! More info at: www.domenica.ca 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

THE STEVE GRIMM BAND ‘HISTORY OF A BAD BOY’ (AVENUE OF ALLIES/BERTUS/ROCK INC)

Nostalgica all the way here, because way back in the early stages of Strutter’zine, around 1995, we did a full cover story on BAD BOY and THE STEVE GRIMM BAND. BAD BOY was a Milwaukee/USA based Rockband that released a bunch of major label releases in the 1970s and some independent releases throughout the 1980s. Towards the end of the 80s bandleader STEVE GRIMM took the AOR sound of the final BAD BOY releases into a new project called THE STEVE GRIMM BAND. This venture lasted about 10 years, with 3 independent releases and I remember well reviewing the 3rd and final STEVE GRIMM BAND record back in 1995, when the included AOR music was at that time basically completely dead. However we did a review, a story and a full interview with Steve talking about the past, present and future. Now in 2009 all STEVE GRIMM BAND have been put on 1 CD by the German label AVENUE OF ALLIES MUSIC. The result is heard throughout 21 great AOR tracks, of which the highlights are “She’s ready”, “Vacant eyes”, “Running out of tomorrows”, “How many times” and “Heaven's in your heart”, which all sound dangerously close to classic 80s SURVIVOR, JIMMY DAVIS, PRISM, SHOOTING STAR, HARLEQUIN, etc. etc. This is definitely a must-have for the dedicated AOR fans, because the 3 seperate albums of Steve have always been hard to get. More info at: www.avenue-of-allies.com 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

STARGAZER ‘STARGAZER’ (AVENUE OF ALLIES/BERTUS/ROCK INC)

STARGAZER is a new Norwegian band formed around ex-members of TNT and STAGE DOLLS. The result is a very strong debut CD, released on the German label AVENUE OF ALLIES MUSIC. Musically speaking we are drifting into 80s Scandi Melodic Hardrock with sometimes when going for the catchy way a song a la THE POODLES, such as during the uptempo melodic rockers “Brother against brother” and “Keep the good times” or the lovely midtempo “This is the night” with it’s WHITESNAKE moves. However, STARGAZER is most of the time playing pure Melodic Hard/Heavy Rock that sounds a bit like MADISON, 220 VOLT, PRETTY MAIDS, early EUROPE, 80s MAD MAX, 80s TNT and such, so quite good sometimes and very 80s European Melodic Metal based (with excellent guitarwork by the way). Not all songs are impressive and the vocals are also sometimes a let-down (nasal and monetary), but during mentioned songs it all does sound quite good actually. This STARGAZER is by the way not related to the same sounding German band from the early 80s! More info at: www.avenue-of-allies.com 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

FIRE ‘THRILL ME’ (AVENUE OF ALLIES/BERTUS/ROCK INC)

In the 80s there was a great female fronted AOR/Melodic Rockband called FIRE and I had hoped it was this band that had emerged onto CD finally, especially since the German label AVENUE OF ALLIES is specializing in rare AOR, but sadly this is a different FIRE. Happily, this band’s debut CD ‘Thrill me’ is a quality release, featuring ballsy 80s Hardrock a la KROKUS, KIX, BRITNY FOX, LA GUNS and such. Raw, dirty, mean and a little Sleazy! The band is coming out of Malta (!), so comparing them to KROKUS (MARC STORACE is also born on Malta!) is quite easy and the album sounds pretty good. OK, maybe it’s not sensational, but on the other hand fans of no compromise straight-ahead uptempo Hardrock will like this a lot! More info at: www.avenue-of-allies.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ORPHEUS ‘ORPHEUS’ (SIDEHORN RECORDS/TSM PROMOTIONS)

At first sight I thought this was going to be a weak Thrash Metalband, but none of that is the case here, because the Norwegian band ORPHEUS deliver high class Melodic Metal, traditional with superb MAIDENish twin-guitarwork and also very strong vocalwork of female singer INGRID GALADRIEL. The 8 tracks on their same titled CD sound very promising and perhaps this is going to be a band to watch out for in the future! PHANTOM BLUE meets MAIDEN could be a well description here, with as highlights on their first album the uptempo “Constructing”, the midtempo groovy “Bloodflow” and closing track “The plan”. Did not expect it to be this good and who knows what the future will bring for this band! More info at: www.myspace.com/orphmo 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

RAWKFIST ‘GARDENS OF ELYSIA’ (DANSE MACABRE/ALIVE/GERMAN IMPORT)

OK, we might have heard this kind of typical Female Fronted Melodic Gothic Metal many times before, but the German band RAWKFIST deliver it at a very high level. The band’s 2nd CD ‘Gardens of Elysia’ is even equal in quality to similar bands like XANDRIA, EPICA, DELAIN, ALL ENDS, WITHIN TEMPTATION, KRYPTERIA and such. The vocals of singer BINE sound a little like KATE BUSH and most of the 10 included tracks are in the same style, which is the midtempo WITHIN TEMPTATION/XANDRIA style, so big bombastic with modern sounding (distorted) guitars, while the angelic female vocals give you some really pleasant melodies, especially during tracks like “Through the night”, “Whatever they preach”, “Scared to breathe” and “The princess and the dragon”. Definitely a must-have for fans of mentioned bands, also due to the huge sound/production of this small label release! More info at: www.rawkfistmusic.de  and www.myspace.com/rawkfistmusic 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

DARK ILLUSION ‘WHERE THE EAGLES FLY’ (BATTLEFIELD RECORDS)

WOW!!! That is all I can say after hearing the first song on the new album of the Swedish Melodic Metalband DARK ILLUSION. We are getting close to the end of 2009 and it seems like we have the winner here when it comes down to the MELODIC METAL OF THE YEAR AWARD! From start to finish, this sounds like the perfect Melodic Metal record. DARK ILLUSION was formed in 1982, but called it quits in 1985, was relived in 2003 with one of the best Swedish singers ever on vocals, THOMAS VIKSTROM. After an EP and CD release in the following years it become once again a little quiet, but now at the end of the 2000s decade DARK ILLUSION releases their finest work! The album ‘Where the eagles fly’ is Melodic Metal at it’s very best, fast, catchy and super melodic, thanks to of course THOMAS VIKSTROM in the first place, because he has that extra melody in his voice that lifts DARK ILLUSION way above any band in this genre, easily reaching the same high level as bands like DREAM EVIL, NOCTURNAL RITES, MYSTIC PROPHECY, HAMMERFALL and such bands. I also hear similiarites to classic RIOT and FIFTH ANGEL and like mentioned earlier, most of the songs are uptempo pieces, with some really lovely ones among them, like “Dark journey” (YES!), “My heart cries for you” (YES YES!!), “Epic” (YES YES YES!!!) and “Destiny’s call” (YES YES YES YES!!!!). Better make sure to get yourself a copy of this Melodic Metal Masterpiece! More info at: www.darkillusion.se 

(Points: 8.9 out of 10)

MARKONEE ‘SEE THE THUNDER’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

Mixed and mastered by the legendary and mighty BEAU HILL! Not many new European bands can say that about one of their first releases, but the Italian band MARKONEE just released their 2nd CD ‘See the thunder’, which features BEAU HILL helping them out. Everything Beau touched 20 years ago went Gold or Platinum in the USA, just think of WINGER, WARRANT, ALICE COOPER, RATT… and now just recently he has been getting back into the scene, because from the mid 90s until the mid 2000s it was a little quiet around the former HAIR METAL producer BEAU HILL. However, he now returns and delivers a great job for MARKONEE, because their debut ‘See the thunder’ is a superb piece of high class late 80s US Arena Melodic Hardrock a la FIREHOUSE, DANGER DANGER, 80s BON JOVI, DOKKEN, a little GOTTHARD and especially STRYPER! The best songs are “See the thunder” (excellent!), “Brand new day” (lovely 80s STRYPER melodies), “Way 2 Go” and “The cross between the lines”, all featuring very catchy hooks and very melodic choruses, 80s Melodic Hardrock the US way at it’s best, done by this Italian band called MARKONEE. Here and there are some groovier tunes added like “Shores of another sea” and “I believe in Father Christmas that sound like the simpler party hardrock of WARRANT. However, thanks to the excellent high pitched vocals of singer GABRIELE GOZZI (a la MICHELE LUPPI), the excellent sound of BEAU HILL and a bunch of great Melodic Hardrocksongs, this is a highly recommended album to fans of FIREHOUSE, SLYBOYZ, STRYPER…

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

JOEY HARRIS AND THE MENTALS ‘JOEY HARRIS AND THE MENTALS’ (DOUBLE BARREL RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

By accident I stumbled on JOEY HARRIS AND THE SPEEDSTERS. In fact it was me struggling through the biggest record store in The Netherlands (quite an obscure shop really, will not tell anyone where it is, because they are selling for 2 EUROS for each LP and they have a collection of 200,000 LPs!), until I saw this sealed LP of JOEY HARRIS AND THE SPEEDSTERS. Took the gamble, although I had never heard of it before, so bought the record and at home played it and their BRYAN ADAMSish Poprock from this early 80s record they released sounded pretty good actually. Well, 15 years ago it would have been one-helluva-job to get more info on Joey and his band, but the present day provides us google, youtube and myspace, so fast forward I got in touch with JOEY HARRIS and he sent me his current project/band. Now called JOEY AND THE MENTALS, they released a new CD this year, which musically is not even that far away from JOEY HARRIS AND THE SPEEDSTERS, although a little more Retro Classic Rock (TOM PETTY, GEORGE HARRISON come to mind on several occasions), but also leaving the room open for a little AOR/Poprocker here and there, such as the rather catchy ‘Don’t go”. It also has clear similarities to the BON JOVI sound of the past few years. 10 songs are included and I can really recommend it to the fans of American singer/songwriter Rock N Roll style music, yet with a touch of CLASSIC ROCK here and there, such as in the BLUE CHEERish “She’s on the Pill” or some STATUS QUO riffs here and there. So, not as good as his early 80s AOR record, nevertheless worth checking out if you’re into CLASSIC ROCK. More info at: www.doublebarrelrecords.com 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

CROSS ‘THE THRILL OF NOTHINGNESS’ (PROGRESS RECORDS)

The Swedish band CROSS already released 8 albums before ‘The thrill of nothingness’, their new album on PROGRESS RECORDS, but somehow this could well be their finest effort. I have followed the band closely, reviewing most of their releases and saw them changing from an Sympho-AORish ASIA style band in the late 80s to the pure British sounding Neo-Progband they are now. This new CROSS album is a fine piece of NeoProg work that is dangerously close to a IQ, EVERON, PENDRAGON and such. Maybe nothing new is brought here, it definitely shows CROSS are one of the better non-British Neo-Progbands out there. Most of the 7 long songs are calm relaxing Neo-Progsongs that will go down very well with fans of this never-ending genre. It is also a concept-album of the band that continues a story on a certain Dr. Wilden that started on their earlier 2000s released albums ‘Secrets’ (2000) and ‘Playgrounds’ (2004). Long instrumental passages are also part of the game here, making this one of those prog CDs you really have to take the time for. Recommended to the Neoprogfans for sure! More info at: http://www.progressrec.com/cross/ 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted) 

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