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FIRECRACKER is a Swedish band formed by VINDICTIV guitarist STEFAN LINDHOLM. That band already released 2 albums on ESCAPE MUSIC the past few years and now with this new project/band CD release, Stefan continues to explore his music skills. However if we have a closer look at this CD, it seems like it was already recorded in 2004! Nevertheless, the music of FIRECRACKER still sounds up-to-date and could best be described as semi-progressive melodic metal and despite the fact that SEVENTH WONDER vocalist TOMMY KAREVIK handled the vocals, there are not many comparisons to that band actually. FIRECRACKER is a little less complex and more straight-forward than the average Progmetalband. They remind me of the band EVIL MASQUERADE actually. Anyway, their first CD ‘Born of fire’ is definitely a nice album to check out, because what we get to hear is quality music that thanks to the superb vocal and guitarwork is lifted above the masses. “Back broken” is the absolute highlight on the CD, a very strong chorus can be heard in this midtempo piece. So I am not sure if this will also be the final CD of FIRECRACKER, because it is actually an old project/band from the time before it’s members had found their way of fame and fortune in the bands SEVENTH WONDER and VINDICTIV. Nevertheless, check out more at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


BRIAN DALE is an American singer/songwriter (and drummer!) who clearly shows on his CD ‘Sticks and stones’ he is a professional musician. The included music is of a very high level, although not really heavy. This is typical American soulful Westcoast-Poprock with a Jazzy touch here and there, sorta like CHICAGO/BILL CHAMPLIN and some TOTO circa ‘Tambu’. Brian has a really great voice and the featured 10 songs are perfect laid-back pieces with some beautiful soulful melodies, but like mentioned before, this is quite soft music that is not recommended to the fans of pure AOR, Rock or Metal. BILL CHAMPLIN, TIM FEEHAN, AMBROSIA, CHRISTOPHER CROSS, AMERICA and even PAUL CARRACK fans might on the other hand enjoy this quite a lot! It has a clear 1970s approach, with some jazzy and soul moments here and there… More info at: 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


2 years ago the debut CD of the Californian band SNEW was released, but somehow we never heard and likewise reviewed the album. Anyway, now in 2010 the band releases the follow-up ‘We do what we want’, which musically is pure BON SCOTTish AC/DC meets KROKUS meets DIRTY LOOKS. So this is pure raw to the bone original traditional Hard Rock with no nonsense. OK, the band does not sound unique or bringing something new to the scene, but what they do they are doing very well and fans of mentioned bands can easily swallow this up in an instance. Ballsy Hardrock the way it should be played… raw, loud and proud! Make sure to check out these guys at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


PICTORIAL WAND is a project formed around the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist MATTIS SORUM. A few years ago we reviewed the first album and now the new album ‘Face of our fathers’ has been released and the 7 included lengthy tracks show that this is a semi-masterpiece. Melodic Progressive Rock is the name of the game here, although I can definitely hear some classic STYXish Pomprock influences as well and here and there GLASS HAMMER and MOSTLY AUTUMN also come to mind. For an independent release, this sounds like a very impressive record, which actually is an understatement, because the 65 minutes of playing length flash by in a split second. This CD really grabs you and doesn’t let go before the final track “Circle’s end” fades away. A song like “Prince of war” is almost a late 70s sounding Pomprock Classic, reminding of STARCASTLE in so many ways, while at other times the band moves into almost Progmetal area with “The wasteland”, while “Struggle of autumn leaves” has a lot of MOSTLY AUTUMN similarities. Overall, it also sounds a bit like PENDRAGON at their very best, yet like already stated before, this album will not only attract the progfans, also AOR/Pomprock fanatics might really like this record. Be sure to check out this surprise at: 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)


Already 3 years ago we reviewed the debut CD of the Finnish band THE GIANT LEAP and now they release their follow-up, which is simply titled ‘The giant leap’ and after a few spins it becomes clear that this might well become the finest Poprock record in ages! The band sounds a lot like SUNRISE AVENUE, yet vocally going for a more classic 80s approach and sometimes this new record fits perfectly between the classic Melodic Poprock gems of NELSON’s 'LIFE' and RICK SPRINGFIELD’s 'WORKING CLASS DOG', so this is basically picture perfect Melodic Poprock, hooky, catchy and super melodic. Even LOVERBOY comes to mind here and there, thanks to the excellent vocals of SEBASTIAN REJMAN, who sounds quite a bit like MIKE RENO. The songs do also capture a certain BRYAN ADAMS touch, although the whole CD really has an up-to-date sound, fully ready for Radio and TV broadcasting, so do not expect a pure 80s record here. If we go through the track listing, we notice 11 tunes. The CD starts with “Unbreakable” (a modern ish uptempo poprocker), which is followed by the excellent catchy radio-ready classy midtempo aorish tune “Like the first time”. “Beautiful goodbye” is a very catchy uptempo melodic poprocker, modern a bit, but with a classic early 80s touch (PRISM meets SUNRISE AVENUE), yet also sounding so much like NELSON’s 'LIFE' and RICK SPRINGFIELD’s 'WORKING CLASS DOG' PERFECT MELODIC POPROCK. Up next is the BON JOVIish ballad “I don’t wanna drive alone”. Then comes the semi modern ish poprocker “Best time of your life”, followed by the excellent semi uptempo AOR rocker “Open all night”. “One shot” is a really great uptempo THE RASMUS/modern RICK SPRINGFIELDish uptempo melodic rocker with a nice guitarsolo and “War of love” is a good semi AOR ballad that sound a lot like JUST IF I and LOVERBOY somehow, very melodic and actually this is pure AOR! The last 3 tracks are “Save me” (catchy midtempo AOR), “Alive” (semi poprocker) and “Something to believe” (calm ballad). Concluded, this new THE GIANT LEAP record is a real Melodic Poprock gem with some songs that can easily be labeled as Classics in the style of mentioned acts. More info at: 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)


LEGACY is not a very original band name, because we have heard and reviewed about 10 bands with the same name in the past, but the new CD release on EONIAN RECORDS does bring us a new LEGACY that might just as well be the best LEGACY in music history. This LEGACY was active in the late 1980s in Columbus. Ohio, USA and sadly only managed to release a couple of demos. Happily, now 20+ years later EONIAN RECORDS release a CD with all the LEGACY material, making the band more than just a legacy. The CD is filled with excellent classic 80s Hair Metal with a touch of Melodic Metal, sounding like a cross between GUARDIAN, JOSHUA, STRYPER, DOKKEN, CRY WOLF, FIFTH ANGEL, RAIL and CHASER. The guitar work is excellent and from start to finish we can hear nothing but strong tunes, with as highlights “It’s real” (fantastic), “Red, white and blue”, “Change of a broken heart”, “Soldiers unite”, “Live it” and “Vision of perfection”. Most of the songs are uptempo and very catchy and it’s a damn shame this band did not make it big 20 years ago, because this CD shows they had the potential to become another memorable band in the scene. Gladly they are now forgotten and this CD gives a new twist to the LEGACY history, because now many people across the world can experience the wonderful sounds created 20 years ago by the Christian Metal band LEGACY! More info at: 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)


CHARLOTTE is another band name I have noticed a few times in the past, but here we have a CD release of the CHARLOTTE which was active in the late 1980s somewhere in California. 20+ years later EONIAN RECORDS gives a new chance for this band’s music with the release of a CD. The included material was recorded back in the late 80s, but thanks to the label it sounds crystal clear, despite being just demos originally. CHARLOTTE’s music was not the instant catchy straight-ahead Hair Metal, as they were more well-thought and reminded one of a TESLA or LILLIAN AXE, so actually groovy Melodic Hardrock was the name of the game. The CD sounds very strong and could well be a new album release of some new band, but we really are listening to something that was recorded in the late 1980s. Not as good as EONIAN’s other release of LEGACY, but still something worth tracking down if the mentioned bands are your cup of tea! More info at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


CRYSTAL BALL vocalist MARK SWEENEY releases his 2nd solo-CD with All-in’. Although it is not a bad album at all and the ROBIN BECK duet-ballad “Moments” could well be a BRYAN ADAMS hitsingle, I feel the modernish Melodic Rock on this album is not really memorable and goes in one ear and out the other sadly. Not saying it is a record you should avoid at any cost, it is just that there are so many other (and better) releases in this genre at the moment, it will be hard for Mark to make a huge impact. Nevertheless, if you’re an absolute die-hard Melodic Rockfan you might wanna check out this lighter VICTORY/SHAKRA style album. More info at: 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


SHINING LINE is a new project put together by bassist AMOS MONTI and drummer/songwriter PIERPAOLO MONTI. Together with some of the AOR scene’s biggest names they recorded a wonderful album that combines the best AOR and Melodic Rock elements. 75 minutes full of high class AOR energy is what you get here and with singers like MICHAEL BORMANN, SUE WILLETS (DANTE FOX), BOB HARRIS (AXE), HARRY HESS, ROBIN BECK, ERIK MARTENSSON (ECLIPSE, W.E.T.) and ROBBIE LABLANC you can’t possible go wrong! Songs like “Highway of love”, “Strong enough”, “Heat of the light” and “Still in your heart” are really memorable tunes you will be singing and humming for days after hearing them the first time. Prime-time AOR/Melodic Rock of the highest level is what you get here, so if you’re a fan of the genre, please make sure to get a copy of this release asap! More info at: 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)


The Swedish AOR band GRAND ILLUSION returns with a new CD and especially the start of the record is showing the band is still able to produce superb high class AOR. Fans of JOURNEY, W.E.T., H.E.A.T. etc. will absolutely be amazed by sensational AOR songs like “Never find her alone” (midtempo), “All out of love” (uptempo), “Evil and pain” (uptempo), “Sacrifice” (a bit more proggy melodic heavy rock), “Emily” (semi ballad), “Brand new world” (semi rocker) and closing track “Forever with you” (beautiful AOR ballad). GRAND ILLUSION remain to be one of the very few Swedish AOR bands that can really compete with the legendary 80s US AOR acts, such as JOURNEY and SURVIVOR. Still, the reason why the rating is not reaching the 9.0 points is due to a couple of weaker tunes (“157th breakdown”, “I’m alive” and “Burning bed”). Nevertheless, it is still an AOR CD you must own if you call yourself a fan of the genre! More at: 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)


MECHANICAL ORGANIC sent me their CD in DVD lay-out package. Musically they bring sorta Progressive Rock/Metal. 1 song is included on the record, the 25 minutes counting “Cut hunter theory”, which is part of a much bigger story they have to share with us. All is played very well and for prog fanatics definitely worth checking out. Sometimes it is going into a slightly experimental direction and PORCUPINE TREE or OZRIC TENTACLES are then perhaps good comparisons. For more info go to: 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


‘Cranial feedback’ is already the 3rd solo-CD of multi-instrumentalist STEVE CICHON from Florida, USA. It has been released on NIGHTMARE RECORDS and it definitely shows we are dealing here with a very impressive musician, who does everything on his own. This is instrumental Progressive Metal at it’s very best, like the instrumental parts of DREAM THEATER at times, yet Steve has an own kinda sound definitely. Check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


The British band STAIRWAY started back in 1993 with the release of their debut album ‘No rest no mercy’ and despite the whole music climate changed several times the next 17 years, they are still going strong in the same music direction. We welcome their 5th CD titled ‘Interregnum’, which is once again filled with traditional Melodic Heavy Rock, just like their previous records. Although the production and vocal performance could have been a little better, the material included here is at a decent level and reminds sometimes of SAXON, MAGNUM, PRAYING MANTIS and such, so we get to hear pure 80s UK ish Melodic Hardrock. Together with excellent album artwork by RODNEY MATTHEWS (MAGNUM, ASIA), this is a nice return of a band that actually never went away! More info at: 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)


I do not really see the reason why anyone would be interested in another best of CD of a band that only released 4 studio-albums. Of course a few new tunes could make the best of more interesting, but these include the MICHAEL BOLTON classic “Fool’s game” and CHER’s “I found someone”, which of course were written by DRIVE SHE SAID leader MARK MANGOLD, but do not really add something new to the original versions. The other new tracks are really a let-down, very average rocktunes. The remaining material is mostly taken from the band’s classic first couple of albums, but if you own these already, then do no bother this release. I am much more interested personally in a new TOUCH record than anything related to DRIVE SHE SAID, which had it’s peak on their first 2 records only, as all the other stuff they did was quite average to say the least. Now, TOUCH was a classic and will always be in the top 10 records of all times, so continue that project and we can actually look forward to something of interest, because that is not the case here…

(Points: -)


IMPERATIVE MUSIC is a Brazilian label and the compilation CD (with 18 bands from all over the world included) they sent me contains mainly Extreme/Death/Thrash Metal bands, but happily there is light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of EVER DREAM (female fronted Melodic Metal, very good band from Spain), BARBEARS (Hungarian heavy Rock and Roll/Metal band) and the Power/Progmetal band MYSTRIA from France. More info at: 

(Points: -)


FADEOUT is a band from Finland, formed in 2001, they are now working on their debut CD, which will be an interesting release, because this 3 tracks counting demo CDR offers great melodic gothic sorta melodic rock/metal. The band actually has an own sound, although the choruses do feel a bit like the old THE RASMUS, but there are some aggressive twists in their overall sound to make a comparison to that band almost impossible. FADEOUT is offering some interesting stuff here and let’s hope their upcoming debut CD will be a surprise. For now, check them out at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


The early 1980s in the UK was a period in which NWOBHM was the style to adapt when starting a band, but by the mid 1980s only a handful of bands were left that actually played Heavy Metal. By that time, already 25 years ago now, the UK music scene was hugely influenced by the American AOR sound and despite some Swedish, Dutch and German bands of the European continent trying to play at the same level, the British bands were actually the only ones to be able to really compete with the American (and Canadian) bands. The FM debut album 'Indiscreet' was and still is 3 decades later the best AOR album that has ever been released outside the North American area. However, the UK offered many more excellent high quality AOR releases during the 1980s, but sadly none of them made any impact in the USA, so by the mid 1990s the AOR scene in the UK died and never picked up again after that. Happily, we can still enjoy all those wonderful 80s AOR sounds and especially new re-issues (fully remastered) of the old classics make them sound better than ever! VIRGINIA WOLF was a short-lived band, best known for featuring drummer JASON BONHAM, who besides being the son of the legendary LED ZEPPELIN drummer JOHN BONHAM, also played in that other legendary short-lived Classic AOR band called AIRRACE before VIRGINIA WOLF. Just like AIRRACE, also VIRGINIA WOLF's AOR was of a very high level, but despite 2 wonderful records it didn't became successful. Jason left the AOR scene after VIRGINIA WOLF split, but recently returned to play with the reformed AIRRACE. Anyway, for the AOR fans, his best work was already published in his very early days, when Jason was in his 20s. Now ROCK CANDY RECORDS has re-issued both VIRGINIA WOLF albums on CD and as always they did the perfect job, because they remastered sound is fresh and clean, making these 2 CDs a must-have for any AOR fan. This is the way how AOR was handled in the 1980s in the UK, basically picture perfect here! The same titled debut from 1986 is the better of the two, with such glorious AOR tunes like "Are We Playing With Fire", "Make It Tonight", "Only Love", "Livin' On A Knife Edge", "Don't Run Away", "Take A Chance" and the absolute highlight "Goodbye Don't Mean Forever". Now 24 years later it shows that AOR really had it's prime-time back in the 1980s. Despite we have seen some great AOR releases the past few years, none of them will ever be able to match the incredible high level of the 1980s. I personally think the 1980s was a time when all involved people of a certain record were pushed to deliver something that sounded better than anything released in the genre. It could be that the money involved was a reason that it sounded better, but perhaps the combination of the will of the musicians, the efforts of the producer (QUEEN's drummer ROGER TAYLOR in VIRGINIA WOLF's case) and the pressure of the record company made these records timeless albums. Who knows! More info at: 

(Points: 9.2 out of 10)


'Push' was the second album of VIRGINIA WOLF, also now re-issued on ROCK CANDY RECORDS, but slightly less rocking than the debut. American producer KEVIN ELSON of EUROPE's "The final countdown" fame brought in a more keyboard orientated sound, kinda like FOREIGNER had also done during the 1980s, although LOVERBOY is probably the best comparison to make here. Just like the debut, also this release remains to be a classic in the AOR field. Like mentioned, it is a poppier record than the debut, but with songs like "Don't Break Away", "Standing On The Edge Of Time", "Let It Go", "You Don't Know What You've Got" and "Can You Feel The Fire" once again offering classy AOR as it sounded in the 1980s. This 2nd album has 2 bonus tracks, namely "Tearing Me Down" and "Matter Of Time". Together with the debut, these 2 albums of VIRGINIA WOLF once again show us the incredible high level AOR music experienced 25 years ago, something we sadly will never witness again. It all had to do with money making record labels, producers who delivered the best they could and musicians that gave their lives to create nothing but sensational material. More info at: 

(Points: 8.9 out of 10)


DETECTIVE were the next band to conquer the world in the 1970s, as they were signed to the LED ZEPPELIN label SWAN SONG RECORDS. They just had to achieve the success of label mates BAD COMPANY and of course LED ZEPPELIN themselves. The band was formed around lead singer MICHAEL DES BARRES (who sang with the glamrockers of SILVERHEAD and later launched a solo career with a lot of acting involved a la RICK SPRINGFIELD during the 1980s, but also recorded a great album with the band CHEQUERED PAST), ex-YES keyboardplayer TONY KAYE and STEPPENWOLF guitarist MICHAEL MONARCH. Despite the high hopes, the album did not reach the success it was destined for, neither did the follow-up released in the same year. Musically it was a pure LED ZEPPELIN meets MONTROSE affair, with a huge drumsound that even made people think at the time of release back in 1977 the drums were actually played by JOHN BONHAM (which was not the case!)! 9 songs were included on the album, which now has been re-issued onto CD, with a crystal clear remastered sound, making it sound better than ever! I would not call this a classic album, but I definitely can recommend it to anyone who is a 70s Hardrock fanatic, because the record is almost up there with MONTROSE, YESTERDAY AND TODAY and even LED ZEPPELIN. More info at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


DIE ON MONDAY is a French band and their debut CD sounds very impressive. It could easily be a CD of a US or UK band on a major label. This band is playing dirty mean rock and roll, with some Stoner Rock influences a la QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and they sound as good as FOO FIGHTERS or WOLFMOTHER, just to throw in some comparisons here. This is high quality stuff from start to finish, retro 1970s and 2000s modern rock combined, so any fan of the mentioned bands will dig this a lot! More info at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Incredible heavy, very modern and still the band HEADCHARGER offers something of interest, although the melodic rockfans can easily look away here. They play a mix of Stoner, Screamocore, Hardcore, groovy Metal and some Southern fried Rock and Roll. It actually does not sound bad at all, but I am afraid this will be a little too heavy, modern and distorted for most of us…

(Points: -)


Stoner Rock is the name of the game here… but also Southern US Hard Rock influences can be heard here and there, although the whole sound also clearly shows big Metal influences. METALLICA is something one can clearly hear in the sound and even in the vocal department. KYUSS, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and MONSTER MAGNET are easy comparisons, meaning this is raw to the bone groovy Hardrock, but like mentioned also a lot of the material can even be called True Metal, so in the end what we have here is a mix of the deepest groovy sounds of Stoner and Southern Hardrock with a big Metal approach. It is not bad at all actually and it is even more striking that this is my first experience with this band, because CORRUPTION is a Polish band that has already been active for 2 decades now and ‘Bourbon river bank’ is their latest effort. Anyway, better late than never, check them out at: 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


This is quite experimental stuff… ANDERS CHRISS is a singer/songwriter from Sweden, who has travelled around the world, lived in China for 7 years and now releases a solo-CD titled ‘Volatility’. Musically this has absolutely nothing to do with aor, rock or metal… Nevertheless, fans of bands like THE EDITORS, RADIOHEAD and COLDPLAY might find something of interest here. It also reminds me of experimental 80s Popmusic, like CHINA CRISIS for example. Not bad at all and I am sure there is a market for this kind of music, but the rockers have to wait for track five “Good lies” to hear some catchy uptempo rock, because most of the material is experimental Popmusic, with also a drumcomputer. Check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: -)


SKILL IN VEINS is a band from Italy with a CD release that sounds like some major label release from the US of the late 80s/early 90s. Comparisons to LYNCH MOB, SKID ROW, HEAVEN’S EDGE and such can easily be made, although the ballsy Arena Hardrock of SKILL IN VEINS do has it’s own approach and also a bluesy touch a la BLUE MURDER, BADLANDS… It is not a super sensational record as in being a real classic in the genre, but fans of mentioned bands will definitely like this band. The songs are groovy, hard hitting in your face and very guitar orientated, but when they do slow down they deliver a superb Melodic Power Ballad in the best 80s tradition (“I’m living my life” and “Don’t need you to cry”) and in the end SKID ROW is definitely the best band to compare this SKILL IN VEINS with, also with regards to the semi-ballads included here. A high quality band, with superb musicianship and excellent vocalwork, but songwise some improvements need to be done on a future record. However, for a debut record, these guys can be really proud of what they have accomplished with this CD. More info at: 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


MODENA is an American band that has adopted a sorta 90s Grungy Alternative Hardrocksound, yet still sounding fresh and more melodic than the bands from that era. 8 songs are on their same titled CD, which has been out already for a couple of years (2008). Most of the songs are midtempo orientated, groovy and very typical American orientated, so you can not pass by the similarities to NICKELBACK and such. It would be recommended to the band to deliver more uptempo rockers like “Hit & Run” next time, as they give MODENA a slight modern melodic rock touch. This songs truly shows that MODENA is able to deliver catchy uptempo melodic rock driven material as well instead of keep on bringing midtempo groovy standard American Rock. Anyway, check out MODENA at: 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)


There was a time in music history, not that long ago, there were only a handful of quality bands from Germany. Nowadays, it seems like Germany delivers is unstoppable in bringing us quality bands and HELLO BOMB is one of them. This could have easily been a US, UK or Swedish band for that matter, because this Cologne based band deliver classic modern Rock at it’s very best. If DANKO JONES, BACKYARD BABIES or any of the UK bands (KAISER CHIEFS) is up your alley, then do check out the debut CD of HELLO BOMB as well, because this band could well be the next big thing! From start to finish, this is Rock how it should sound like in 2010, which is raw, catchy and rocking! 14 songs are included on the CD and not a single miss, so go check them out at: 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


DAWNLESS is a Swiss band with a typical European Symphonic Melodic Power Metal sound. ‘While hope remains’ is their new CD and everything seems to sound at a high level here. Take a bit of HELLOWEEN, EDGUY, AVANTASIA and FALCONER, mix is up with some BRAINSTORM and even NOCTURNAL RITES, then DAWNLESS’ sound is crystal clear. Although they do not reach the high level of these bands, I am quite sure fans of the genre will like this band quite a bit. The band goes for a very melodic approach in the catchy “We’re all the same” (best song on the album) that even has some similarities to PRAYING MANTIS, PINK CREAM 69 and PRETTY MAIDS. In fact, PRETTY MAIDS is quite a good comparison too, because the band goes from 80s melodic metal to 00s sympho power metal with melodic and aggressive parts all throughout the CD. The only slight then bothering me personally is the fact that the lead singer here and there growls a bit, but happily only a few seconds, so it is not really that annoying. All is done with class and now it’s time for you to go check them out at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


If you’re tired of waiting for a new MOTORHEAD album, well then look no further, because THE FYREDOGS deliver 12 MOTORHEAD sounding tracks on their new CD ‘Hellfyre rock and roll’. Nothing new and nothing shocking, just MOTORHEAD is the name of the game here at: 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)


CONCEPT INSOMNIA delivers a high quality CD that sounds massive and huge, but the only minor issue I have are the constant aggressive growling throughout each and every song. If this had been left out, we would have a superb sensational Melodic Progressive Metal album of the DREAM THEATER kind, but now we have the CHILDREN OF BODOM influences added most of the time. Still not saying this can not work, because we have seen it work with several bands in the past, but CONCEPT INSOMNIA could be so much better, because songs like “Mountains falling” and “Chapter one” show their incredible talents. However, when you appreciate OPETH, you will love this band as well! More at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Out of Arizona, USA comes a superb female singer called LAURIE ROX, who has been performing and recording for 25 years now, but this is the first time I able to hear her voice and that is a damn pity, because Laurie has an excellent Classic 80s Rock/Hardrock voice that reminds me so much (also musically) of FEMME FATALE/LORRAINE LEWIS, LEE AARON and HEADPINS. Laurie sent me a cool 45” single she recorded as FOXY ROXIE 22 years ago and a demo CDR with several recording she did through the years. If only someone had the balls (and the money) to give her a fair chance and let her sang and record a full CD filled with classic Melodic Rock, then we could look forward to something really sensational. For now, we have a bunch of great demos Laurie sings on and especially the song “Story book” is a beautiful semi Melodic Rockballad in the style of HEAT, WITNESS, HEART, LAOS, IF ONLY, RAQUEL, VIXEN and all the wonderful female fronted melodic rockacts from the late 80s! She is currently working on new material, so let’s keep our eyes open for that, but in the meantime check out this superb singer at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


CATEGORY 5 is a band from Detroit whom are delivering their debut with this mini-CD titled ‘Off the ivory coast’. Musically it contains Melodic Progrock that sometimes remind one of bands like CAIRO, ENCHANT… so this means clever AORish melodies are being brought during the verses, hooks, bridges and choruses, making it a real pleasure to listen to each and every song from start to finish. The 5 included tracks show that the band has potential to become a well established act. The guitarwork is also very impressive, so who knows within a few years we could be looking at one of the better acts in the American progscene! More info at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Already volume 10 of one of the finest compilation series of the past 10 years, the MUNICH’S HARDEST HITS collection. It keeps growing and with volume 10, one more great compilation CD has been added. This time we dive into some Classic AOR territory with songs by STILETTO (“Freedom” is their finest tune, a superb JEFF PARIS style midtempo AOR tune), JOSEPH CHANDLER (“Bad move” is prime-time SURVIVOR/JOURNEY/FORTUNEish 80s AOR, hard to find anywhere else), TITAN (hot new Swedish band playing pure 80s AOR), THRILLS (the legendary Pompous melodic rockers deliver “You don’t remember me”), VISHUSGRUV (THE STORMish AOR can be heard in “Missing you”) and a lot of 80s style Melodic Rock of mostly independent bands. That means this CD contains songs you probably will not have in your collection, because it is not easy to get songs of rare acts like UNBREAKABLE, METAL SCENT, LAST CRY, FREE SPIRIT, ROTTEN ROSE and NINE T NINE. It’s all included here and together with excellent liner notes written on each of the 17 included bands, also this MUNICH’S HARDEST HITS Compilation CD is a must-have for any Melodic Rock/AOR fanatic! More at: 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)


Italo Melodic Power Metal is the name of the game here… VISION DIVINE and LABYRINTH immediately come to mind when listening to the first CD of the Italian band HELLCIRCLES and actually they are doing it very well. In fact, sometimes they can easily compete with mentioned bands, because this mini-CD they just released contains some bloody awesome material, such as the very catchy “Let us unite”. Formed in late 2008, they recorded this CD in 2009 and who knows how fast it will go for them, because they could well become the next Italo Power Metalband with a sensational full-length CD. For now check out for more info on their debut mini-CD ‘Stilness’ their site at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


Although I haven’t followed the Spanish/South American Melodic Metal scene for a few years, I am aware that there must have been many great releases in this genre. RENACER’s latest CD ‘Hijo del viento’ for example is a very strong example of how impressive melodic Power Metal can sound with Spanish lyrics. Of course there are the obvious comparisons to AVALANCH, SARATOGA, RATA BLANCA, TIERRA SANTA, etc. but RENACER really released a superb album with high class Spanish sung Melodic Metal. From start to finish, the Argentinean band delivers a bunch of great catchy songs on their 4th full-length CD ‘Hijo del viento’. This is easily an album that will do well within the Spanish speaking community, but any Metalhead should appreciate this band, because their new CD is filled with 10 catchy Melodic Metal pieces in the style of aforementioned bands. More info at: 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)


JOHN MILSTEAD is a singer/songwriter from Tupelo, Mississippi, USA, who releases a really impressive debut CD titled ‘Sides of the soul’. John’s vocals are incredible, reminding of SAM COOKE, PAUL RODGERS and such Soulful singers. The music is Pop/Rock with a Soul/R&B Touch, so you won’t find any hard rocking tracks here, but on the other hand the 15 included tracks showcase a huge talent and perhaps John could well become the next big sensation in the Pop business, who knows! One way or the other, this CD should be praised by every Music dedicated media format, because this is the kind of music so many people out there seem to enjoy and just looking at national Dutch TV one is seeing many artists in this music genre being praised (like a BORIS, ALAIN CLARKE or ), while this JOHN MILSTEAD easily blows away any of them with this first record. Just listen to the song “Easy goodbye” and you would swear this is PAUL RODGERS going back to his Soulful bluesy rockballad roots a la FREE/BAD COMPANY! Definitely a CD to check out asap if you are a music fan! More info at: 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)


FIGHT THE QUIET is an Arizona, USA based band with a typical modern American melodic pop/rock sound. Sounding very melodic, catchy and radio-ready, this band could easily be on Radio or TV in the USA where they love these kinds of bands. 6 tracks are on their mini-CD ‘Let me in’ and although they did some releases since their formation in 2004, this new record is considered to be their finest effort so far. The Melodic Poprock of FIGHT THE QUIET sounds really good, especially when they go for an uptempo rockier approach, such as during “This is the moment” or “Dancing the night away”. Recommended band to check out at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


Although STYX producer GARY LOIZZO helped Chicago based band MEN WHO LISTEN, formed around musician DAN POKORNI, the included music on the same titled CD and a recent 2010 recording do not have anything in common with STYXish Pomprock or AOR at all. Instead we have some sorta middle-of-the-road ish American Midwestern pop/rock that even reminds one vocally of a JOHN DENVER, although the lightweight Poprock has some similarities to JOHN COUGAR here and there. Not a sensational release and also not really rock orientated, but it’s best to check it out for yourself at: 

(Points: 6.8 out of 10)


M BIRD stands for MEGAN BIRDSALL, who is a musician born in Motown and releasing now her 3rd CD. Although she is a Jazz musician in the first place, this new record takes her a little more into a Pop/Rock flavored direction. Not based on rocking guitars, but mostly situated around the beautiful clean vocals of Megan and the acoustic guitar, this is a nice record to listen to from start to finish. ALISON KRAUSS is a good comparison for sure, but Megan has definitely created an own sound here. She has come a long way, because in 2008 she had to replace her jawbone and joints, which was possible due to the help of the Kansas City Jazz community. Now fully returned to the scene with a high quality record, M BIRD is ready for a new challenge, which should bring her more popularity. More info at: 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted)