Thursday, September 21, 2017





Someone you know will always deliver a solid album is Steve Newman, better known in the rock world simply as Newman. 'Aerial' sees him eleven albums into what is ostensibly a solo career with a little help from his friends, and I can sincerely say he has yet to deliver a duffer to his fans. Multi talented and with a voice that's all his own, Newman can be seen as a person, a band or simply a sign of quality.

Quality is certainly the watchword of 'Aerial', as I am pretty confident in saying this may just be the best Newman release yet. A solid twelve tracks over fifty minutes, not an instant is wasted. Perhaps the best thing about it is the sheer amount of catchy melodies that are stuffed within, married to some crunchy riffs and plenty of smooth guital solos. Vocally, Newman has a distinct voice that is always solid and tuneful, and as usual all the right notes are hit in all the right places. The songs themselves are consistently of a high standard, and it doesn't take long for the likes of 'High Tonight (Aerial)' or 'Don't Wake The Lion' to get stuck in your head. It's great to realize that Newman can still write an insanely catchy chorus after all this time, and there's plenty to choose from here. There's even a song to sing to your other half (if yer a bloke), as 'I'm Your Man' has one of those choruses that will soothe a partner who has had to do the washing up you left in the sink AGAIN. Hmmmm... that might just be me...

It goes without saying tha fans of Newman will get a kick out of 'Aerial', but I must say that this is a perfect album to tempt in new followers, it's so well crafted and aimed straight between the eyes of the discerning melodic rock fan. A real selling point is that it's not interchangable with a dozen other AOR groups, as is so often the case. Another fine release from the Newman camp, 'Aerial' builds impressively on what has come before, cementing his place in the Premier League of the genre.

Official Site

Wednesday, September 20, 2017





When it comes to blasts from the past, hearing an album from Lionheart is like a barrel of TNT straight between the eyes. It was over 30 years ago that they released their only album, the much loved 'Hot Tonight', and like many others it's an album that I still enjoy today. Much like FM at Firefest, their appearance at the Rockingham Festival inspired them to reform and record new material, and as you can see from the high rating above it was a cracking idea.

There's a coupleof absentees from the original line up, although Guitarists Dennis Stratton and Steve Mann remain, as does Bassist Rocky Newton. Clive Edwards now warms the drum stool, whilst respetced covalist Lee Small takes centre stage. Thise who have heard Lee in the past will know what a good fit he is to this sort of AOR, and a safer pair of hands (and lips) is hard to imagine.

Openers 'Give me The Light 'and 'Angels With Dirty Faces' easily dispel any doubts the listener might have about the ability of the lads to knock up a sequel to a 33 year old album. Both have the same Lionheart vibe as 'Hot Tonight', containing beautiful melody backed up by bouncy keyboards and strong guitars. They set the 80s vibes twanging, and they remain for the whole album, as thankfully there's no attempt whatsoever to drag anything kicking and screaming anywhere. The third track is one that's got a bit of scrutiny, probably because it's a Chris De Burgh cover! Thankfully, it's not 'Lady In Red', but instead the already brilliant 'Don't Pay The Ferryman', and I'm genuinely impressed by the way Lionheart treat it with respect whilst also putting in enough touches tomake it their own version.

From these roots, the album grows and spreads it's melodic tendrils through your brain, meaning as soon as it finished you are hard pushed not to just put it straight back on again. Not counting the short, rather pointless intro there's 11 quality AOR tracks contained within, plus a dramatic outro that will most likely be skipped more often than not. Even at the arse end of the album the quality level is maintained by the likes of 'Heartbeat Radio' which sounds exactly like a song with that title should do, with a bouncy chorus and a brilliant guitar break in the middle. It's followed by a track that bears the band's name, and although it's a little heavier than most it's a fast paced belter of a track.

'Second Nature' will delight anyone who still loves the debut after all these years. Not only that, but anyone who likes melodic rock should check it out as it's a wonderful example of exactly what kind of delights the genre can produce. If Lionheart were once merely hot tonight, 'Second Nature' sees them go supernova.

Official facenbook Page

Friday, September 1, 2017


Rating: RRRR
Label: Avenue Of Allies Music
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The album number three from Sweden’s Coastland Ride is their strongest effort so far. It’s still smooth AOR but there’s a new kind of intensity in these songs. In my review of their previous album I hoped that they ”stay away from the yacht and crank it up” and that’s what they’ve done! I’m not pretending that they’ve done it because I said so but I’m happy they did, for whatever reason.

The album kicks off with ”Winds”, a classy AOR song that has echoes of Toto and Journey in it. Layered vocals, strong chorus and enough crunch, I like it! The next highlight is ”Love Is On Your Mind”, a very Toto-influenced track but with a great chorus. With ”Dead For Seven Days” the band really crank it up and come up with an excellent, gritty melodic rocker.

”Eye Of The Storm” is a smoother, westcoast-style AOR song but it works for me, as does the dramatic ”Nation Of Grace”. It’s dark, pompous and epic, something that I can’t recall this band having attempted before.

The last highlight I want to mention is the closing track ”Reasons To Try”, which is a fine AOR track that reminds me a bit of Alien. One of the best tracks of this album no doubt, and I think this would be a good live track too.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

BOULEVARD: ”Luminescence”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

During the last few years, there’s been several comeback albums by AOR bands who made their mark in the eighties. Some of them have been good, but some of them have only raised the question ”why?”. ”Luminescence” isn’t one of those. It showcases a band that still has the fire to create new music, faithful to their roots yet sounding very up-to-date. This might actually be my favourite Boulevard album!

The first song released from this album, ”Life Is A Beautiful Thing” is one of the best pure AOR tracks I’ve heard lately. It’s moody, melodic and… well, beautiful. Vocalist David Forbes proves that he’s still a superb vocalist and the sax/guitar solo is intense and brilliant. The production is faultless and the arrangement keeps on giving - you’ll find new, nice little details even after several plays. After hearing ”Life Is…” the expectations regarding the album went through the roof…

To be honest, there aren’t too many songs on this album that can match the sheer brilliance of ”Life Is A Beautiful Thing”, but then again, it’s an almost impossible task.  I have to hand it to them though, ”Runnin’ Low”, ”What I’d Give” and ”I Can’t Tell You Why” come pretty close and I like most of the others too. Interestingly, the opening track ”Out Of The Blue” doesn’t work for me at all, it reminds me of Spandau Ballet or some other 80ies slick pop acts, but apart from that and a couple of others this album is rather fine, perfectly crafted AOR. You can hear that it's been meticulously written and arranged and every note has its' place.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The VIRGINMARYS: "Sitting Ducks EP"


LABEL: Self Release

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

I remember seeing The Virginmarys some years ago, possibly supporting Terrorvision. Whoever it was, I was certainly impressed by this powerful young support act, and I'm quite surprised they never broke through and became a more major act. Seemingly back at the bottom of the ladder, this EP has been funded through Plege Music, and will hopefully serve togive the band another crack at the elusive rock market.

They still sound pretty much like I remember, with powerful beats and bass heavy grooves, drawing from the Blues as well as the more growly punk acts of old. The four tracks arte a good representation of the band, with the standout being the instantly catchy 'Sweet Loretta'. 'Through The Sky' plays with the formula to good effect, whilst they close with an acoustic handclap piece called 'Sleep'. To be honest I'm not that keen myself and would have preferred a fourth rocker, but it's understandable that they want to show off what they can do here, to remind those with money that here is a band worth investing in.

If, like me, you saw the name and had some fond memories and a desire to see what's what with this band, then give them a go. Solid, heavy, a little different and a lot of fun, here's hoping The Virginmarys continue to make music.

Official Facebook Page

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : ”In The Hot Seat”

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

In 1992 Emerson, Lake & Palmer celebrated their come back with the album Black Moon and only two years later there was a follow up called In The Hot Seat. Originally the ninth studio album of ELP was called The Best Seat In The House, but they changed it to In The Hot Seat for no really obvious reason. In The Hot Seat is the last ELP studio album and the 10 songs on the album are a blend of mainstream rock, classic ELP progressive music, melodic pop and ballads. Black Moon was a far better album as In The Hot Seat in fact only features two great, ELP worthy tracks, namely the opening track Hand Of Truth and the emotional song Daddy. The latter, a heartfelt narrative ballad, was based on a true story and the song was composed by Greg Lake. Hand Of Truth, originally entitled We Have The Power, features an excellent classical ELP overture played by Emerson, followed by Lake’s excellent vocals and Palmer’s outstanding drumming. The other eight tracks do not really impress me as they are mainly too poppy or too soft. CD2 of this remastered version features 12 songs from the Now Tour of 1997/1998 and among them are excellent pieces of ELP highlights like Knife Edge, Lucky Man, Karn Evil 9 and a superb version of Fanfare For The Common Man/Rondo which clocks over 22  minutes. Therefore this album is still a must for ELP fans!!

Jack STARR'S BURNING STARR: “Stand Your Ground”


LABEL: High Roller

REVIEWED BY: Alan Holloway

It's funny how you can know a famous name but know nothing about them. I've been hearing the name Jack Starr for many years now, but this is genuinely the first time I've had one of his albums to sit through. From the gruesome fantasy war cover I was expecting Manowar type macho bullshit, but it turns out Jack Starr has much more than that to offer.

'Stand Your Ground' is an unashamedly classic style metal album, with speed and melody walking hand in hand throughout, much like Striker. To be fair, if you like Striker then Jack Starr is a must buy, as the two share an affinity and ability for powerful riffs married to merry melodies, resulting in a continuous cacophony of fast, exciting and above all catchy tunes. It's the sort of album you'd expect to be filled with three and a half minute wonders, but only three tracks in the title track rolls in at over 10 minutes, with the average elsewhere being about five minutes. This results in an album that's a whopping seventy minutes long, and blow me if it doesn't seem like it at any point. The title track itself is a wonderful piece of music, reminding me of both Rainbow and Iron Maiden at their best. Vocalist Todd Michael Hall (Riot) has a superb vocal style for this sort of thing, all high screams and low power but always melodic. Starr himself provides excellent guitar, though if yer name is on the cover that's to be expected. He doesn't take over the songs at all, though, which is a massive plus in my book.

If this had been chucked out in the early to mid eighties it would be hailed as a classic today. The songwriting is so strong, the playing so perfect, the melodies so sweet that two old ladies who wandered in whilst I was writing this review both said it sounded very good! Jack Starr nails that sweet spot of making an album that couldn't be called anything but metal that will still appeal to people who don't like metal. Yes, the style is retro, but don't let that put you off, as 'Stand Your Ground' feels fresh and feisty throughout. This may well be the best melodic metal album this year, so do yourself a favour and check it out.

Janet GARDNER: "s/t"


LABEL: Pavement Entertainment

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Remember when Lita Ford made an album with her husband? If you're lucky the answer is 'no', because it was a bit of a car crash, so I wasn't jumping for joy when I learned another 80's rock legend was making an album with her husband. Luckily, Vixen's Janet Gardner has made it with her own husband Justin James, and not Lita Ford's.

Fans of Vixen, and there are still many, may be disappointed that this self titled effort doesn't make any attempt to be 'Rev It Up Part 2', and if love is still a killer then it's now a psycho killer with severed heads in the fridge. This is obvious from the first two tracks, 'Rat Hole' and 'Hippycrite', which substitute sugary AOR for hard edged riffage and a metal edge. By rights they should sound a bit tired, but after a few spins they really do grow on you, the raw power complimenting vocals that still shine all these years later. 'If You Want Me' is a track that will be more enjoyable for those frightened by big guitars, whilst 'Candle' sits nicely between the two styles. Throughout, Justin James provides some excellent guitarwork that lifts each track without taking over, and it's clear that this marriage may just be a match made in musical heaven. For example, the middle of the album sees a 'What have we done to the world' type track called 'Let It be Over', that just manages to sit on the right side of preachy/cheesy, mainly due to a scorching solo from Mr James. The song itself has a very different arrangement that works well, and it's nice to see the duo gambling a little and winning.

After reading some very negative comments based on the preview samples, I wasn't expecting to like this this very much, but it only took a few listens to really start enjoying it and appreciating the talent involved. It's more on the heavy side than some may have wanted, but is no less of an album for it. Gardner sound great throughout, displaying real power and attitude combined with the expected melody, and if you're a fan there's no reason not to check it out.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Emerson, Lake & Palmer : ”Black Moon”

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

After a couple of progressive, experimental masterpieces like Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition and Brain Salad Surgery, the super group Emerson, Lake & Palmer split up in 1978. Fourteen years later ELP decided to make a comeback and they released Black Moon, their eight studio album which was officially released in 1992. Now, 25 years later you can enjoy the remastered version of Black Moon, an album that cannot be compared with their experimental albums like Tarkus or Pictures, as most of the ten features songs are ìjustî mainstream rock tracks with lots of vocals. The title track was released as a single, which deals with the first Gulf War and Sadam Hussein, and it is probably the best track of the entire album. Other musical delights are Paper Blood and Farewell To Arms. Keith Emerson shines in the classical interpretation of Prokofiev's  Romeo And Juliet. Black Moon is at least a much better album than the previous (14 years ago) Love Beach and on this remastered version you can also enjoy a couple of bonus tracks, while CD2 features the 1992 live show at the Royal Albert Hall, featuring classical ELP songs like Tarkus, Lucky Man, Knife Edge and Fanfare For The Common Man.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

RIAN: ”Out Of The Darkness”

Rating: RRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Must be something in the water… Here’s yet another melodic hard rock band from Sweden! And what’s more, they aren’t half bad!

Rian is a trio from Stockholm, featuring vocalist/guitarist Richard Andermyr, drummer Jan Johansson and bassist Jonas Melin. Their sound isn’t exactly that of basic power trio though, because there’s a lot of keyboards and layers of guitars on the album. The producer of ”Out Of The Darkness” is Daniel Flores (Find Me, The Murder Of My Sweet), so it’s no surprise that the album sounds like a million bucks.

So why only 3R’s? It’s hard to say, there’s nothing particularly wrong in these songs but somehow some of them just don’t click with me. They’re melodic but not fluffy, arranged well and Andermyr impresses both as a singer and as a shredder, but… There’s plenty of very decent songs here, most of the in fact, but I think the album is maybe a couple of killer songs short of 4-R rating.

My favourite songs are early in the track listing, ”Out Of The Darkness”, ”Out Of My Mind”
and especially ”In A Dream” which is somehow very ”Swedish”-sounding. The legacy of Abba mixed with modern hard rock sound - that works for me!

If you’re into the contemporary Scandi-AOR sound of Art Nation, latter-day Bad Habit, One Desire and such, do check this band out!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

H.E.A.T.: ”Into The Great Unknown”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Gain/earMUSIC
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”Into The Great Unknown”, the new H.E.A.T. album is one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the melodic rock genre this year. The first single was released on 11th of August and it has recieved mixed reactions, as has the album from those who have had the access to it. Some say it's the greatest thing the band has released while others have been highly critical. I personally like it, but not quite as much as their previous two albums. Those I rank as modern day classics.

The "controversial" first single "Time On Our Side" doesn't represent the whole album, it's one of the more contemporary, pop-oriented tracks. I like it a lot; haunting keyboards, great vocal from Erik Grönwall and plenty of melody. Given the right exposure it might become a crossover hit. But those of you who are worried that the band has sold their souls for possible chart success, hold your horses... some of the tracks on this album rock harder than ever before. Whether you like it or not.

"Bastard Of Society" and "Shit City" are just as angry as their titles suggest, definitely not "AOR". "BoS" is a pretty standard turbocharged H.E.A.T. rocker with a shout-along chorus, a decent opener for the album. "Shit City" then... I don't like it at all, it's a bit of a plodder and the hook could use some, or make that a lot of sharpening. Between these two you'll find "Redefined", a modern pop rock track and a relative of "Time On Our Side". I like it but is it a future H.E.A.T. classic? I don't think so.

"Best Of The Broken" is a harder-edged track again, and while it has its' moments, I don't rate it as one of the better tracks. The balladic "Eye Of The Storm"  is among them though, as is "Blind Leads The Blind", possibly my favourite track of the album. This is the H.E.A.T. I love, powerful yet melodic!

"We Rule" is an interesting, very Queen-like anthem. I'm still on the fence when it comes to "Do You Want It", there's something terribly annoying in it yet it's terribly catchy too. Maybe I do want it.

The title track closes the album and does it in grand fashion. I rarely like this kind of slow-paced  songs, but this one is rescued by a chorus that's pure gold.

That was the track-by-track review... Overall I'd say the album sounds great, and Erik shines on every track. I don't mind the modern influences, but I do mind that aren't as many great tracks as on the previous albums. Apparently there's a bonus track on the Japanese version called "F.Y.I. Miley", but somehow I don't have great hopes for it being a massively melodic hard rock anthem.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

TEN: ”Gothica”

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

After a few years elsewhere, Gary Hughes has brought his TEN ship back to Frontiers. The initial hype was that ”Gothica” would be a milestone album for the band. I don’t know about that. It is a good album but not necessarily among their best ones, not in my books anyway.

I have no complaints about the production or performances and I understand that a lot of time and effort has been put into these songs. I admire Hughes’ poetic style of lyric writing, he’s clearly a well-read man and most of these songs have more to offer than the usual AOR relationship lyrics. There are a couple of songs that stand out as future Ten classics, namely the nostalgic, light-hearted ”In My Dreams” and the epic ballad ”Paragon”. I like many of the others too, but there are a few tracks I just can’t connect with, namely ”Jekyll And Hyde”, ”Welcome To The Freakshow” and ”La Luna Dra-Cu-La”. Especially the choruses don’t work for me.

RRR would not be enough for this but I’m not sure it deserves RRRR either… so let’s make that fourth R a small one.


Rating: RRRRR
Label: Frontiers Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

2017 has been a very good year for melodic rock fans when it comes to new releases. Especially the Scandinavian bands have released superb albums, and this one is definitely one of those.

Formed by guitarist, Reckless Love producer/co-writer Ilkka Wirtanen and vocalist Sami Hyde in 2015, The Nights comes across like a blend of modern melodic pop/rock and 80'ies influences. Think Sunrise Avenue on speed with crunchier guitars and razorsharp hooks! There's definite crossover potential and I can only imagine what kind of damage these songs would do on the airwaves if the band had a major label backing them up. Here's hoping that The Nights will appeal to a few radio programmers or other gatekeepers...

If you liked the ”pre-view” tracks, you’ll enjoy the rest of the album too. You’ll actually discover gems like ”In A Blink Of An Eye”, a fine example of powerful modern-day AOR. Not to mention the more balladic moments like ”You Belong To Me Tonight” and ”Elegy (You Should Be Here)”. The Reckless Love connection is evident on some of the tracks, I could imagine a song like ”Welcome To The Show” on an album of theirs. Wirtanen has played a major part in their success, no doubt about it. He’s also a bit of a shredder! A special mention to Sami Hyde too, I wasn’t that keen on his vocal style at first, but I’ve grown to like it a lot. In fact, there’s not a weak song on the album, the production is fresh and crispy and the performances are outstanding… what’s not to like?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

RPWL: ”A New Dawn"

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Gentle Art Of Music
Review by Martien Koolen

The best German (Bavarian) prog rock band RPWL celebrates their 20th anniversary with the release of their new album called A New Dawn. Their last concept album Wanted (2014) is played from the beginning till the end and the spectacular show is completed with The Fisherman and Unchain The Earth (only on CD) from the album Beyond Man And Time (2012), Still Asleep (bonus track on Wanted)  and Hole In The Sky from The RPWL Live Experience (2009) (also only on CD).

A New Dawn was recorded in RPWL's hometown Freising in October 2015 and this amazing concert is now released as double CD, double LP, Blu-ray and DVD. A New Dawn is a truly amazing live show of one of the best prog rock bands on this planet and the musical highlights for me are: The Fisherman, the longest song on the CD and probably one of the best RPWL songs ever, Misguided Thought, with a spectacular guitar solo from Wallner, who is by far the most underrated guitar player of the world! The Attack, another rather long song, is again dominated by the guitar work of Wallner and A New Dawn, the last song, is also one of my favorite RPWL tracks, a fascinating power ballad with great lyrics. Hole In The Sky, the oldest song on the album is again a superb piece of prog rock music that only RPWL can produce, as these guys really are a brilliant band.

As I said in earlier reviews about RPWL, these guys are the future of modern prog rock and on this spectacular live album Lang, Wallner, Jehle, Taus and Turiaux musically peaked again! A must for fans of melodic prog rock music, one of the best live albums I have heard this year!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

URIAH HEEP: "The Magican's Birthday"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

The fifth Uriah Heep studio album called The Magican's Birthday is my personal favourite  Heep studio album (the live 1973 album being my overall favourite Heep CD) and that is mainly due to three tracks, being Sunrise, Sweet Lorraine and the epic title track. Now, 45 years later this great album is re-mastered and I really have to say that listening to The Magican's Birthday again is still a pleasure, proving that Uriah Heep was and still is a great rock band.

Following their highly acclaimed Demons And Wizards album, The Magican's Birthday was commercially not so successful, although it reached number 1 in Finland! Musically it is a slightly more experimental and heavier album than its predecessor and therefore it is more to my liking than the notorious Demons album. The MB opens with one of Heep's live staples Sunrise, a beautiful rock ballad with top notch vocals of Byron, followed by the "simple" straight forward rocker Spider Woman. Sweet Lorraine, another live staple is also a nice rock and roll track with great keys from Hensley.

Absolute highlight of The MB, and also one of my favourite Heep tracks ever, is the epic title song, a very progressive and experimental track featuring excellent guitar work by mister Uriah Heep himself Mick Box. The chorus of the MB is very catchy and the guitar riff is extremely strong and recognisable. The Magican's Birthday is an excellent album, a must for Heep fans and this remastered version also offers a bonus CD with 15 alternative, never before released versions of Heep tracks. Notice the rare tracks Silver White Man, Crystal Ball, Happy Birthday and Gary's Song; the booklet is also worth mentioning and the cover, again designed by Roger Dean, is a beauty. So, again a great re-release by BMG, however if you are a Heep fan, you also need a healthy bank account to buy all these "new" Heep albums.

URIAH HEEP: ”Demons And Wizards”

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

Some people call Demons And Wizards Uriah Heep’s best album ever and it certainly was a very important album for the band itself. Heep’s fourth album featured the most talented and most accomplished line up of the band for the first time; so with Gary Thain on bass and Lee Kerslake on drums. Demons And Wizards was also the first Heep album for which the band wrote fantasy lyrics and it was the first Heep album with a cover designed by Roger Dean (Yes).

Demons And Wizards contains their biggest hit Easy Livin’, a song everyone has once heard before in his life. However the album features better tracks like Traveller In Time, The Wizard, Circle Of Hands and The Spell. Traveller In Time and Circle Of Hands became live staples for the band and one can say that the entire album is a classic of its genre.

Demons And Wizards was also a commercial success, making the UK top 20 and earning a gold record in the USA. This remastered edition features a bonus CD with 14 never before released alternative versions of Heep songs, of which All My Life, Home Again To You, Why, Proud Words and Green Eye are the most interesting. The extended booklet contains lots of extra information about the songs and also contains notes of Box and Hensley about Heep’s most notorious album. Demons And Wizards is an absolute essential album for any fan of this musical genre; a very influential album that cannot be overlooked or ignored.

URIAH HEEP: ”Look At Yourself”

Rating: RRRr
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

The third album of British Uriah Heep called Look At Yourself is a seventies rock masterpiece with a couple of classic Heep tracks. The album opens with the more than excellent title track which fuses heavy metal with progressive rock in a stunning way. Another classic Heep song is Tears In My Eyes, an up tempo rock track with southern styled slide guitar per excellence. But of course the highlight of the album is the longest and most well-known track called July Morning, as this song is the perfect representation of the classic Heep sound; Byron sings top notch and the organ riff and guitar solo are truly amazing. By the way Manfred Mann plays a bit of mini-moog on July MorningÖ.. Shadows Of Grief, also a long track, is very dark and What Should Be Done can almost be seen as a jazz/blues crossover track. Look At Yourself is a classic Heep album and a must for the fans.

This remastered edition also features a bonus CD with 11 tracks of previously unreleased material with alternative versions of July Morning, Look At Yourself and the other songs from the album. The songs Why Fourteen Minutes and What's Within My Heart (also on the remastered version of 1996) are "real" bonus tracks.

Look At Yourself remastered also features a very nice booklet with lots of information and ìinterviewsî with Box and Hensley, so: a must have for Heep fans.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DON BARNES: "Ride The Storm"




There will be plenty of you out there, I am sure, who nrecognize the name Don Barnes as the vocalist in 38 Special for many, many years now. What you may not know (as I didn't) is that in 1989 he made a solo album, encouraged by thwe record company. the thing is, after making the thing the record company went tits up and the album got swallowed in buy outs and politics, never to be heard by the public until now.

Melodicrock Records are certainly giving fans what they want recently, with the second album from Jimmy Davis & Junction seeing the light of day as well as this little gem. It comes in two versions, one of which is a full on rock album, with the other a more smoothed out version. The one I've got is the rockier version, but if you buy it you get the other anyway. Personally, after hearing this version I have no interest in anything with any of the bite taken out. The best part is that this is the first time anyone has heard this mix outside the studio, as Barnes found the only copy when preparing for this release.

So let's get down to the music, which most certainly isn't the southern rock vibes of 38 Special. No sir, 'Ride The Storm' is a full on, energetic melodic rock album with all the neccessary hooks, melodies, keyboards and fun. 'Fun' is possibly the most apt word, as this is an album that is absolutely joyous in every way. This is the stuff that we loved from Stan Bush, the aforementioned Jimmy Davis, Bryan Adams (the good stuff) and maybe with a little Glen Burtnick in there as well. Barnes has a voice that contains a little bit of a rock croak when needed, but is smooth and tuneful everywhere else, and my Bod he certainly suits this style of music.

Unsurprisingly, 'Ride The Storm' is at it's best when it's in full on AOR mode, such as on third track, the irrepressable 'I Fall Back', the irresistably bouncy 'Maybe You'll Believe Me Now' or 'Everytime We Say Goodbye', the sort of track that Bryan Adams used to make before his balls fell off. Whilst there's obvious highlights for me, I have to say there's not a bad track on here. There's a couple of slower ones that don't hit the spot the way that the rest do, but they're still good tracks worth listening to.

It was a crime against rock music that this album was never released. When you hear it I know you'll agree, because it's one of those records that gets under your skin straight away. Great riffs combined with cool melody, with everything turned up to ten and a big fuck off grin that won't leave your face every time you play it. An instant classic, only 28 years too late.

Article and Pre Order

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Rating: RRRR
Label: Escape Music
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The 13th album from the very profilic Last Autumn’s Dream provides a breather for the band’s songwriters. All the songs on the album are cover versions, including band favourites and songs that have influenced them. We’re talking mostly seventies and eighties rock, but thankfully these songs haven’t been covered to death already.

The LAD versions of these songs are quite faithful to the originals but with the modern-day sounds it’s as if they’ve been ”updated”. It might be considered blasphemy by some but I think I like LAD’s versions of the Sweet and Headpins classics more than the originals!

Among the 11 songs there were a couple that I wasn’t familiar with.  City Boy’s ”Need A Little Loving” made me think that I should really look into the band’s back catalogue. I didn’t remember the Kiss song ”All The Way” either, and ”Hey You” from Bachman Turner Overdrive was another ”unknown” for me. Decent songs but not among my favourites… although bass player does a cool Gene Simmons impersonation on ”All The Way”!

My favourites? The aforementioned Sweet and Headpins songs ”Wig Wam Bam” and ”Just One More Time”, ”If Love Should Go” (The Streets) and ”I’ll Bring The Whole World To Your Door” (Angel).

Friday, May 12, 2017

AMARANTHE: ”Maximalism”

Rating: RRR
Label: Spinefarm
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I loved the first Amaranthe album. It was the perfect mix of pop melodies and metal crunch. I even tolerated the death metal vocals, when they were combined with the angelic voice of Elize Ryd and the clean vocals of Jake E. With every subsequent album my infatuation with the band has waned a little. This is their fourth effort and while it’s not necessarily any weaker than its’ predecessor, I was hoping for a real shake-up.

I feel that the band is taking more and more influences from the contemporary chart music, Which means that many of these songs have repetetive, melodically uninteresting chant hooks. There are some good songs on ”Maximalism”, but frankly, I wouldn’t include them on a ”Best Of Amaranthe” playlist.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Steve HACKETT: ”The Night Siren”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Inside Out Music
Review by Martien Koolen

Wolflight, released in 2015, was one of the best Hackett albums ever and I almost thought that he was at the peak of his long musical career. However, now, Steve Hackett brings out his 25th solo album called The Night Siren and it is an absolute, brilliant gem.

It seems as if Steve's guitar playing is getting better and better with every year he grows older, as some of the solos on The Night Siren are utterly marvelous and awesome. For me the guitar solos in the songs Behind The Smoke, El Nino and The Gift are some of the best Hackett has ever played and recorded. Especially the solos in the instrumental tracks The Gift and El Nino give me goosebumps all over, every time I hear them. But there is a lot more to enjoy on The Night Siren, take for example Martian Sea (featuring Hackett on sitar and guitar), Anything But Love (with excellent flamenco guitar picking), Inca Terra (featuring didgeridoo) and In The Skeleton Gallery, which is a very diverse track. The longest track, which clocks just over seven minutes, called Fifty Miles From The North Pole, is perhaps the best song of the entire album, featuring massive guitar solos and melodies, but also featuring Ferenc and Sara Kovacs on trumpet and didgeridoo and Amanda Lehmann on backing vocals, giving the song a typical atmosphere.

The Night Siren shows Steve Hackett at the top of his musical game as the album is so diverse and there are lots of changes of style and tone to discover as a listener. Hackett's ideas, creativity and musicality burn as brightly as never before and it really is a musical treat of the highest order to listen and enjoy The Night Siren over and over again. The Night Siren already belongs to one of the musical progressive highlights of the year 2017 and I am sure that this awesome album will end up in my top 5 list of best albums of this year. Play it loud and as much as you can!!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

This interestingly titled band features Trixter (and occasional Def Leppard) guitarist Steve Brown, Danger Danger vocalist Ted Poley and a very seasoned rhythm section of Greg Smith (bass) and Chuck Burgi (drums). After the first spin I was a little bit underwhelmed - the motor fist didn’t knock me out. I didn’t give up on them though, and after a while the songs started to work. The sheer positivity and energy they radiate began to light up my day while listening to them.

I can’t say that TMF has a very unique or distinctive sound, a mix of Danger Danger and Trixter describes it rather accurately. Steve Brown’s Trixterious (a new word!) songwriting style shines through and he might have picked up a few things from Leppard too. Ted’s vocals are unmistakable as always, he does have a distinctive sound of his own.

My favourite songs… hmm, a difficult question. There are no super-hooks that stand out, instead you’ll get an album full of enjoyable melodic rock songs. But let’s see… ”Get You Off My Mind” is a very Def Leppard-like semi-ballad, I like it a lot… ”Put Me To Shame” kicks off with a riff that reminds of vintage Dokken, while the chorus makes me think that Jack Ponti might have a hand in writing this song. The two ballads ”Love” and ”Don’t Let Me Go” are very good too. I do like the rest of the track as well, the summertime rock vibe is uplifting, although the hooks could have been sharper.

All in all a good album, and I can’t wait for summer when I get to blast this in my convertible, with the wind in my hair. All I need is a convertible. And hair.

Monday, March 20, 2017

DIRTY WHITE BOYZ: ”Down And Dirty”

Rating: RRR
Label: Escape Music
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Do you remember early nineties hard rockers Kiss Of The Gypsy? They released one major label album on Atlantic but their success was limited and short lived. Vocalist Tony Mitchell has been in the music business throughout the years, but Dirty White Boyz marks his return to the melodic rock/AOR scene. In the band we find familiar names - Nigel Bailey, Neil Ogden, Paul Hume and Jamie Crees have been in bands like Three Lions, Bailey, Lifeline, Lawless, Demon…

It sounds like there are two bands on ”Down And Dirty”, one of them an exceptional melodic rock band and the other a fairly standard pub rock band. I definitely prefer the first one, with fine AOR songs like ”All She Wrote”, ”Hanging On A Heartache” and ”Rise”. Okay, maybe ”Ride With Angels” sounds a little bit too much like Bon Jovi’s ”Bed Of Roses” but Mitchell’s raspy vocals save it from being just a weak copy. The other ballad "After The Rain" is far more impressive though.

The pub rock band delivers us songs like ”Dynamite”, ”Playin’ Dirty”, ”All In The Name Of Rock’n Roll” and ”Bring It On”, the kind of meat and potato rock songs I’ve heard a million times before. Take ”Dynamite” for example: the title would suggest that it’s an explosive rock track, but despite its’ Def Leppard-vibe and verses that move along nicely, it falls flat thanks to a plodding chorus.

What else… yeah, there are times when Tony Mitchell sounds a lot like Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P. Now, don’t go thinking that it’s a negative comment, W.A.S.P. does have some very melodic songs too and I actually like Blackie’s vocals. Merely an observation.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

SELFMACHINE: "Societal Arcade"

Rating; RRr
Label: Wormholedeath Records
Review by Martien Koolen

The Dutch metal band Selfmachine released their full length debut album called Broadcast Your Identity in 2014 and the reviews were very positive, sometimes even overwhelming. Now, three years later Selfmachine, consisting of: Steven Leijen (vocals), Mark Brekelmans (bass guitar), Michael Hansen (guitars), John Brok (lead guitar) and Ben Schapers (drums), bring out their follow-up album called: Societal Arcade. The album is mixed and mastered by two notorious, legendary producers Waldemar Sorychta and Dennis Koehne, who already produced albums for excellent bands like Moonspell and Grip Inc. Societal Arcade contains 13 tracks of which 9 are not my cup of tea and that is due to the fact that in these 9 songs the band tortures me with grunts. For those of you who do not know this by now: I f... HATE grunting, as for me it has nothing to do with singing whatsoever; sorry guys! So, that leaves 4 songs for me to like and tell someting about. Giddy-up!, nice title by the way, is the first track I really like; it is heavy, sometimes even trashy, it has a catchy chorus and a great guitar solo and only, thank god for that, a very little bit of grunting....No Cliche is an excellent rock ballad with an amazing melodic guitar solo and this song proves that Steven Leijen can really sing! Nothing Worth is also a huge metal track, without grunts, with heavy hooks and riffs and that one actually reminds of Alice In Chains. The album ends with the best song of the entire album called Luminous Beings. It is also the longest track (6:03) and it is rather dark, mysterious and it has a great build up,also featuring two marvellous guitar solos and some great vocal performance. Why not make an album with only songs like the latter or the other three songs without grunts? If the grunting was skipped from the entire album then this would have been a more than excellent metal album and my rating would have been much higher and more positive; but as I stated before: I HATE grunting, and again sorry, guys. Next time, third album without grunts??

ECLIPSE: ”Monumentum”

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

With three fine albums released back to back, not to mention vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Erik Mårtensson’s extracurricular activities, there was a little doubt crawling into my mind… can they still deliver? Has the well ran dry? The first single ”Vertigo” was good, but not so good that these doubts would have gone away. But they should have. ”Monumentum”  is monumental, phenomenal and beautiful. The worst thing about it is that it sounds very much like an Eclipse album. And since it IS an Eclipse album, that isn’t a bad thing at all.

If you were hoping that Eclipse would have reinvented themselves with a new sound and style, then you’ll be disappointed. There are some subtle new influences but basically this is a continuation of the previous three albums - energetic, hook-laden melodic hard rock. If you’re familiar with those albums, you’ll know that the emphasis is on HARD ROCK, they like to write guitar-driven uptempo songs with attitude. And that’s what you’ll get here. But you’ll also get superb melodies and razor-sharp hooks.

The band’s guitar hero Magnus Henriksson is on fire, so there’s plenty of first class axemanship for those of you who crave for that. I do enjoy his work, but for me it’s the songs that count, and I don’t think that Eclipse have released a more solid set of songs than this one. Almost every song is worthy of a ”single” status, even the heaviest, hardest-hitting songs of the album are equipped with great melodies and choruses. Interestingly, the aforementioned first single ”Vertigo” is probably the weakest track on the album, a ”standard Eclipse song”… I would have chosen any of the other songs to be the first sample… but it’s still a pretty decent song.

My personal favourites include ”Never Look Back”, ”Killing Me”, ”No Way Back” and damn, I could list most of the songs. Eclipse has done it again, make no mistake about it.

PS. Isn’t it funny that two albums released on the same label at the same time, both have a song called ”Hurt” on them?

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Rating: RRRRR
Label: Spinefarm
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Summer is here! The new Brother Firetribe album is about to be released! Yes, the band that defines the term ”Summertime AOR” has put together a fine batch of songs that ooze sunshine, good times and wild nights. Their previous album ”Diamond In The Firepit” was a somewhat darker effort, but as the title suggests, ”Sunbound” is heading to a happier place and time again.

The first song that was released from this album was the awesome ”Taste Of A Champion”, an insanely catchy tribute to the motivational 80ies soundtrack songs. That song alone proved that BFT was back in a big way. The follow-up single ”Indelible Heroes” was a strangely bland one though, despite its’ poignant lyrics about the rock heroes that we have lost recently. I was fairly confident that it was merely an one-off and I’m happy to say that I was right. It’s possibly the weakest track of the album and to be honest, it’s not that bad anyways.

On their previous albums, the band has chosen some of their less outstanding songs to open their albums, but on ”Sunbound” they finally get it right. The first ”real” song of the album, ”Help Is On The Way” starts the album with a powerful riff, a bit Fortune-like melodies and a strong chorus. It’s followed by the two singles mentioned above and ”Last Forever”, another summer anthem in  the vein of ”I’m On Fire” or ”Wildest Dreams”. Even though one’s plowing through sleet to work or school, this song will make it bearable - trust me, I’ve tried it. ”Give Me Tonight” is a keyboard-driven uptempo pop-rocker that works well as a sequel to ”Last Forever”, even though it’s not quite as brilliant.

The moody, dark ”Shock” is a bit of a departure, a balladic track with layers of keyboards. It’s definitely not a typical AOR ballad, more like an eighties’ synth-pop song with Emppu’s tasteful guitars on top of it. Not one of my biggest favourites but still an interesting and enjoyable track. The heavier ”Strangled” reminds me a bit of the band’s previous album, it’s not a bright and breezy summertime anthem but very good nevertheless. Hard-hitting keyboards, killer hook and frantic guitar work from Mr. Virtanen.

The mid-tempo AOR of ”Heart Of The Matter” has a positive message and a pleasant melody, while ”Restless Heart” is the 80’ies movie song cover of the album. Originally recorded by John Parr for the Schwarzenegger flick ”The Running Man”, this suits the band perfectly. Pekka Heino doesn’t have the rasp of John Parr but he makes this his own by adding his own stamp to it.

One of the album’s top tracks for me is ”Big City Dream”. Fine traditional storytelling in the lyrics and a chorus to die for. It doesn’t get much better than this! The album’s epic closing track has a rather strange title, ”Phantasmagoria”. Wikipedia says that it’s ”a form of horror theatre that used one or more magic lanterns to project frightening images such as skeletons, demons, and ghosts onto walls, smoke, or semi-transparent screens, typically using rear projection to keep the lantern out of sight”… Tribe’s ”Phantasmagoria” involves a woman haunting the storyteller. Or something like that, it’s all so mysterious. Musically this song is a distant relative of the other ballad ”Shock”, only even more layered, ambitious and melodic. Phantastic even.

Flawless production, great playing and singing, several of my favourite songs of this year included… I seriously doubt there will be too many albums that will be better than ”Sunbound” this year.

DEAD OF NIGHT - "In Search Of Ancient Magic"


LABEL: Self Release

REVIEW BY: Alan Hollowaty

British would be symphonic rockers Dead of Night return with their second album, challenging the big boys and girls with a low budget but high ambition. I say it's the second album, but the first was recorded and released twice, the second time with current vocalist Briony Featon, so it's actually their third release, and... oh never mind, it's the music that matters.

It's immediately apparent that Dead Of Night have the talent to back up their ambition, as opening track 'One Night Holy' is a rollicking, guitar heavy track with a great melody. I don't know how their original singer sounded, but Briony Felton is a fine replacement either way, with a clear, melodic, powerful voice. The band's symphonic affectations are quite evident, and although there's no orchestra the keyboards provide plenty of atmosphere and classical effect. The title track that follows allows the keyboards to take more of a central role the album pretty much continues in this way, with plenty of nicely paced, catchy tracks laced with very effective keyboards throughout. Fourth track 'Child of Wolves' is the first to go full on Nightwish, with whirlwind pace and drama all over the place. There's two slower tracks, 'Airaeth' and 'the Other Side Of The Rain', placed well in the middle and at the close of the alum respectively. I'm not always keen on slower songs, but these are quite beautiful, that latter never outstaying it's seven minute runtime.

The more I listen to 'In Search Of Ancient Magic' the more I enjoy it. It's much better than most symphonic hopefuls, with a lot of bouncy energy on top of the serious stuff, and there's even a track about scientist Michael Faraday (he discovered the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis, science fans)! It's quirky enough to be fun, and dramatic enough to be deep, and I would urge any fans of female fronted classical themed rock to get a copy.

Official Website

Facebook Page

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Danko JONES: "Wild Cat"

Rating: RRR
Label: AFM
Review by Martien Koolen

Fire Music, the previous Danko Jones release was their most successful album so far and so the hard rock trio from Canada decided to do the same thing on their eighth studio album called Wild Cat. So musically speaking there are no surprises whatsoever, meaning if you liked Fire Music, then you will probably love Wild Cat as well.

The new album contains 11 new songs and they all have a hard rock edge with plenty of aggressive guitar riffs, hooks and melodies that will keep you moving for about 40 minutes, which is of course rather short, but ever so sweet!

Highlights are the Thin :Lizzy tribute You Are My Woman, the rocking title track with an obvious Van Halen guitar vibe, Letís Start Dancing (almost punky so fastÖ) and the last song called Revolution (but then we make love). The latter is my personal favourite being a mid tempo hard rock song with a great solo and lyrics that remind me of the sixties.

Wild Cat is a typical Danko Jones album, raw, fast, no nonsense and lots of tongue in cheek lyrics, like for example Success In Bed.

With his new album Danko Jones presents his prescription for a better world: make war then love, keep on rocking and play Wild Cat at maximum volume!!!

Monday, March 6, 2017


Rating: RRRRr
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

First there was the ”buzz”. People close to the source were saying that something special was on the way. Then there was ”Hurt”, the song that introduced One Desire to the public. I fell for the song instantly but it didn’t hurt at all… The second song ”Whenever I’m Dreaming” took a couple of spins but I fell for it too, and along with the new Brother Firetribe album, this became the most eagerly awaited release of this year for me.

Now that I’ve been able to listen to these songs for a while, I can honestly say that this album doesn’t disappoint. It isn’t flawless but it’s very good. Very, very good. But now the obligatory brief history lesson…

The band was founded by drummer Ossi Sivula a few years ago. Things started to move ahead when Ossi hooked up with producer Jimmy Westerlund. A three-track demo impressed Frontiers Records, and eventually Westerlund became a member of the band as guitarist, along with vocalist André Linman (formely of Sturm und Drang) and bassist Jonas Kuhlberg.

For what it’s worth, this is a rather varied album. The songs range from AOR to Melodic Metal and somewhere between the band explores more modern rock sounds. It may sound like they’re ”all over the place” but in fact somehow they never lose the plot, there’s a common thread keeping these songs together.

The first single ”Hurt” is the first song of the album too, and what a song it is. More melody than you could ever ask for, and an understated, yet highly infectious chorus. This has been my most listened track of the last few years, I kid you not.

Track 2, the third single ”Apologize”  (or ”release”, I don’t know what you call them these days) comes from the prolific Eric Mårtensson (Eclipse, Nordic Union, W.E.T.) but it isn’t one of my favourites. Same goes for ”Love Injection”, it’s good but not one of the album’s highlights. The intense ”Turn Back Time” is brilliant though, as is the contemporary-sounding, balladic ”Falling Apart”. ”Straight Through The Heart” is one of the heavier tracks on the album but it doesn’t work for me. ”Whenever I’m Dreaming” and ”Do You Believe” represent the more AOR’ish side of the album, and they are melodic jewels indeed.

”Buried Alive” is an interesting track, a full-blown melodic metal song that sounds unmistakably like ”Future World”-era Pretty Maids. Andre Linman does a good Ronnie Atkins-impersonation, using a rougher tone for some parts and a cleaner style for others. Pretty good!

The album started with ”Hurt”, yet the last song of the album is called ”This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins” - maybe a sign to go back to the ”Hurt” again? I don’t know, but I do know that ”This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins” is one of the finest ballads I’ve heard lately and if there’s any justice, it’ll be a big hit for the band.

The only reason why I’m nitpicking once again and handing out the fifth ”R” as a small one is the production, or the vocal production to be precise. André Linman is a good singer but some of his vocals are way too heavily doctored. The Autotune or whatever raises its’ ugly head on several songs but ”Straight Through The Heart” is the worst one I guess, Linman sounding dangerously mechanic. I know, it’s 2017 and to a listener of contemporary pop this kind of sound is just fine, but I come from a different era…

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The RAVEN AGE : ”Darkness Will Rise”

Rating: RRRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

I saw/heard The Raven Age last year, as this exciting new metal act from London opened the show for Iron Maiden in Arnhem, The Netherlands. I was really impressed with their short live set and now a couple of months later, The Raven Age release their debut album called Darkness Will Rise. The Raven Age, hailing from all corners of my favourite city, being London of course, consists of: George Harris (guitar, yes and he is the son of Iron Maiden founder Steve harris), Dan Wright (guitar), Matt Cox (bass guitar), Michael Burrough (vocals) and Jai Patel (drums).

Darkness Will Rise contains 13 tracks and none of them is a filler, as this album rocks from the opening track Darkness Will Rise till the last song called Behind The Mask. All tracks feature excellent, addictive, heavy riffs and after a couple of tracks I cannot help myself as to compare these guys with the American rockers from Pop Evil. The Raven Age sound heavy, epic, dynamic, dramatic, but most of all very melodic and really catchy as well.

Highlights are the longer tracks like The Merciful One, Eye Among The Blind, The Dying Embers Of Life and Behind The Mask; especially the diversity in these songs, loud and heavy passages and melodic softer passages add extra dimensions to these blockbusters. Vocalist Burrough really sings his ass off and he especially shines in Winds Of Change, My Revenge and Salem's Fate. The Raven Age also released a video (check it out at: from Salem's Fate and it is of course based on the notorious witches trials in Salem in 1692.

This amazing debut of The Raven Age is an album filled with melodic,powerful metal and it is even heavier than Iron Maiden... The songs are overloaded with great melodies and producer Matt Hyde (Slipknot, Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine) did an excellent job, making Darkness Will Rise an excellent blend of really heavy music with powerful melodic vocals. The Raven Age are a band to watch out for in the future; so check them out and play the album at maximum volume!!! Enjoy...

ENBOUND: "The Blackened Heart"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The second Enbound album "The Blackened Heart" sees the band finding their own sound and style in the oversaturated melodic metal genre. Now I'm going to revert to comparisons to describe their style, although it really doesn't do justice to the band. Here goes anyway: A bit of Kamelot, some Seventh Wonder, a spoonful of Queen and the vocalist from Work Of Art. Interestingly, Lars "Lee Hunter" Säflund's distinctive vocals do not really make me think of WOA, the music is so different, if not any less melodic.

I especially like the fact that while the arrangements are rich and complex, it's the song that's always in the spotlight. There are no extended solos or unnecessary instrumental passages, yet I'm pretty sure that even hardcore prog rock fans won't find these songs "too easy". What's more, the band's melodic sensibility is outstanding. There are some hauntingly beautiful melodies and hooks in the songs. 

My favourite songs include "Get Ready For", "Falling" and "Make You So Unreal", all with melodies that make you just want to close your eyes and levitate.... So far I've haven't managed the latter but never say never!

The MUTE GODS: ”Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Inside Out Music
Review by Martien Koolen

The second album of The Mute Gods, consisting of Nick Breggs (bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals), Roger King (keyboards, guitars) and Marco Minnemann (drums), is again a real progressive rock gem. The album with the rather weird title Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth, features 11 new songs, of which two (Saltatio Mortis and The Andromeda Strain) are instrumental. Saltatio Mortis (dance of death) opens the album and it is a rather experimental, tricky song with great guitar hooks and excellent drumming; the same accounts for the other instrumental track The Andromeda Strain, which is a bit more obscure and super proggy.

The Dumbing Of The Stupid (again a weird title) is the first absolute prog rock gem of this album; clocking over seven minutes it is filled with great guitar work from King and Breggs. Another highlight is the song The Singing Fish Of Batticaloa which clocks over eight minutes and that one is really experimental and proggy to the bones. Most of the songs on this album are actually more aggressive and really tense and dark (except for the two rather ”mellow” songs Early Warning and Stranger Than Fiction), making this album more difficult to listen to for the first time. However after a couple of spins you will get hooked to the sound of this excellent prog rock trio; they are indeed Gods, musically spoken that is. Play it loud and listen to it on your headphones and then you will even be more amazed.  Tardigrades by the way are also known as water bears or miss piglets, and are in fact micro-animals.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

THUNDER: "Rip It Up"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: EarMusic
Review by Martien Koolen

I have always had a special place in my rock heart for Thunder, as their live shows are always a treat and among the best you ever see and hear. Wonder Days, released in 2015, was a brilliant album and it even was a top 10 success for these classic hard rockers from London. Now, two years later, Thunder release their 11th studio album called Rip It Up and in my humble opinion it is even better than Wonder Days; go figure! Thunder have a very recognisable sound, but fortunately they are not Status Quo and do definitely not slavishly follow the same musical paths over and over again. Just listen to the amazing, rocky opener No One Gets Out Alive and you will know what I mean; it is classic Thunder stuff but also, slightly different and exciting.

Rip It Up contains 11 songs and none is a filler, or a so-called left over track. Musical highlights are without any doubt: Right From The Start (a massive superb ballad, with very emotional vocals and one of the best guitar solos of Morley that I have ever heard), Tumbling Down (magical British rock; check out the intro riff, which sounds like Pinball Wizard) and The Chosen One, which will become another Thunder classic like Backstreet Symphony or Dirty Love. Rip It Up is a great classic hard rock album, almost a throwback to seventies/eighties rock, but then with a very up to date edge and all the songs sound very fresh and extremely good. I truly believe that these guys can go like this for more than 20 years to come; rock on, guys and see you in Weert on 28 April; can't wait to hear the new songs "in the flesh". Needless to say that you have to play this album at maximum volume!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017




REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Here's an unusual offering, found at a comic convention of all places. The reason for this is that Cosmic Rays is made up of people who create comics or are involved in comics. The most well known would be drummer Charlie Adlard who illustrates a little comic called 'The Walking Dead' a couple of times a month. Of course, making good comics does not mean you can make good music, so I was understandably intrigued.

'Cosmic Rays' is rather proggy in it's overall feel, but the sort of prog you can play air guitar to, not the boring stuff. It was made over a period of a few years, so lacks some cohesiveness, but the music is solid and the melodies ever present. Vocalist Shane Chebsey has a pub rock feel to his voice, underlined by a nervous mix that keeps pushing him to the front. Nonetheless, he can hold a tune and suits the music well, which is always a good starting point. Another good starting point is opener 'Electricade', which sets out the stall for the band as an upbeat but interesting prospective. There's a real 70s vibe that crops up often, a space rock feel that is kept under control rather than allowed to make everything too much like a hippy festival. They can rock out when required, and 'Need For Speed' has a wonderful Deep Purple-y feel to it with a neat riff and very nice keyboards. The album finishes with an eight minutes plus track, 'Redemption (2&3)', featuring some jaunty and catchy guitar from artist Phil Winslade along with some proggy bits that should come with flowers to braid in your hair.

'Cosmic Rays' is quite a find, a self financed and produced gem that will slot right into anyone's power prog collection. If you have a few It Bites or Kino albums this will be right up your street. Deep enough to reward repeated listens and instant enough to enjoy on the first spin, this has made me look forward to the band's next EP, due later this year. It's cosmic, man...

Band Facebook Page

D'ERCOLE: "No Place Like Home"


LABEL: Phil Vincent Music

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

It's time to say hi to two old friends, namely guitarist Damian D'ercole and vocalist Phil Vincent. Regular readers will know of Phil Vincent, as he is well known for being a prodigious one man band, releasing many high quality releases. These days he mixes things up with co-conspirators, from the heavy Legion to Tragik, and most recently Cranston. I like to think that when Phil Vincent is involved in a project there's going to be a worthy end result, and the fourth album under the D'ercole banner is no exception.

The difference with D'ercole is that it's most definitely Damian D'ercole's baby, with Vincent acting as vocalist and producer (plus keyboards). D'ercole writes all the songs here and provides all the guitars, so naturally the sound is different to your usual Phil Vincent release. Technically there's seven songs here, but that does include 'Epic Failure', which is really four songs in one, running at 15 minutes. Personally I would rather have had them split into separate tracks for easier listening, but it doesn't take away from the fact they are four great songs. The songs in general are very melodic with some excellently placed guitars, with Vincent's vocals distinct as ever. D'ercole isn't afraid to experiment, and on 'The Walls Are Closing In' he tries interesting rhythms and a bit of funk to produce a track that really grows on you, never outstaying it's welcome in nearly seven minutes. Elsewhere there's more standard melodic fayre, none more so than 'Waiting For Your Love', which itself is part 3 of 'Epic Failure'. Seriously guys, don't do that again, as it's a song Iwould have liked on a playlist with similar ones but I can't do that.

'No Place like Home' is an eclectic and highly enjoyable album, mixing a few different styles but maintaining a coherent whole. The wimpy 'Dreamer' is the only track that had me reaching for the skip button, but even then it's not a bad track, just not really my scene. Another cracking collaboration from D'ercole and Vincent, there's no reason not to check this one out.

 Official Site

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CREYE: ”Straight To The Top”

Rating: - (EP)
Label: CREYE (Self-released)
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Okay, maybe the band’s name requires instructions to pronounce it accordingly, but damn it, CREYE’s debut EP promises great things for them. The mastermind of the band is guitarist Andreas Gullstrand, who has enlisted some of Sweden’s top musicians to play on these songs. There’s vocalist Alexander Strandell from Art Nation,  guitarist Andrée Thunder from Theander Expression and Linus Abrahamson on bass, to name a few. A bit of a supergroup!

The sound of the band is very much influenced by the eighties, with lots of keyboards and a somewhat electronic drum sound. With the ”retro synth wave” being a trending style, the band sounds rather contemporary. Yeah, it doesn’t make any sense that a retro sound makes them contemporary but sometimes the old is the new ”new”…

There’s two original Creye tracks and a fine cover of Robert Tepper’s classic ”No Easy Way Out” on this EP. ”Straight To The Top” is a hard-hitting uptempo AOR track with a big hook while ”Never Too Late” is a slightly more ”moody” track but just as hook-laden and melodic. The Tepper cover stays true to the original and while Strandell doesn’t have the rasp of Temper, he does a great song making the song his own. The retro-modern-synthwave-hardrock-AOR sound works perfectly for this song too.

If there’s a full album in the works and it’s as good as these tracks, I’ve got a lot of ”R’s” reserved for it…

Blackfield: "V"

Rating: RRR
Label: Kscope
Review by Martien Koolen

For those ofyou who do not know Blackfield, it is a cooperation between compposer, guitarist and singer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen. This is their fifth album and it was recorded over a period of 18 months in England as well as in Israel. V is a concept album which features 13 new songs that form a flowing 45 minutes ocean themed song cycle.

The rather short album starts with A Drop In The Ocean, which is an orchestral intro to the follow up Family Man. That one features lead vocals by Wilson and kind of reminds me of Porcupine Tree. The third track, called How Was Your Ride is a bit melancholic but it is also one of the best songs on the album. Geffen sings the following two tracks which are rather mediocre, just as Lately, which is really nothing more than a utterly simple rock song.

October is a nice ballad,which is followed by The Jackall, which is the second best track, featuring an excellent blues riff. Salt Water is an intrumental track and the album ends with tyhe song From 44 to 48, again with lead vocals by Wilson.

All in all I have to say that I am a bit disappointed about this album as it is a fairly standard rock/pop album with nice songs, some very catchy choruses, but I also think that these guys, especially Wilson can do better than this. Do not get me wrong, V is not a bad album, but I really expect something more from one of my musical heroes, being Wilson of course...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

APOLLO: ”Waterdevils”

Rating: RRR
Label: Escape Music
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Apollo Papathanasio is one of the great travelling vocalists of our era, lending his voice to several bands and projects. Some of the bands he’s sung with include Firewind (4 albums), Majestic, Time Requiem, Meduza, Sandalinas, and Evil Masquerade. Currently he’s fronting Spritual Beggars. Over the last few years he’s been putting together this album, his first solo effort.

”Waterdevils” is a hard rock/heavy metal album that reminds me of classic bands such as Dio and Deep Purple. It’s a varied album with some songs going to a more melodic direction, but it’s all rooted in classic rock and metal. Apollo’s testosterone-filled vocals tend to keep every song rather metal-sounding, even the softer ones. The production seems to vary a lot, some songs sound more muffled than others, but maybe that’s what they’ve been after - a raw, retro 70ies sound.

A few songs that stand out - the melodic ”Crossing The Lines” and ”Through The Fire” are probably my favourites. I can’t say that I’m particularly impressed by Apollo’s cover of Phenomena’s ”Stop” though - a great song for sure but this version doesn’t have the flow of the original and Apollo’s vocals are way too over the top.

If you’re a fan of Apollo’s voice, I guess this album is an essential purchase. Firewind and classic metal fans could check it out too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Michael BOLTON: "Songs Of Cinema"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The news of Michael Bolton signing with Italian melodic rock label Frontiers was a bit of a surprise. Immediately the fans of his  eighties albums were getting excited over the prospect of a new rock album. No news about that kind of a release have surfaced so far though, but here’s a new Bolton album anyway. An album full of covers. With the most basic album cover I’ve seen in a while.

If you’re a hardcore fan of Bolton’s voice, you’re in for a treat. The years haven’t done much to his voice, he can still belt ’em out. But the songs… there are some extremely strange choices here. I mean, a new version of ”When A Man Loves A Woman”? Why? A ”ballad version” of ”Jack Sparrow” that’s less than two minutes long? Why? A song called ”Cupid” from ”Michael Bolton’s Big Sexy Valentine’s Day Special”? Is that a movie?

I’ve always kind of liked the song ”Stand By Me” and Bolton’s version isn’t too bad. ”I Will Always Love You” is a duet with Dolly Parton, but I think it might have been better as an understated Bolton solo track. Bolton’s version of ”Old Time Rock & Roll” is surprisingly powerful, proving that the rocker inside Bolton is still alive. ”Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and ”As Time Goes By” are well-sung elevator music though. As for the ”Jack Sparrow” version, I was getting excited about it, but then it was already over… Ahoy! It surely could have been extended to three minutes just as well, maybe with a new verse and a bridge or something?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

KNIGHT AREA : ”Heaven And Beyond”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Butler Records
Review by Martien Koolen

This Dutch prog rock band was formed in 2004 by keyboard player Gerben Klazinga, later followed guitarist Mark Bogert, bass player Peter Vink, Mark Smit (vocals) and Peter van Hoorn (drums) to complete the current line up. Heaven And Beyond is the sixth studio album of Knight Area and it is their best effort so far. The music on this album is an almost perfect blend of symphonic, progressive and neo-prog elements with extremely melodic guitar and keyboard melodies.

The Reaper, one of the longest tracks on the album, is one of my favourite tracks of Heaven And Beyond, especially the solos and hooks of Bogert are extremely well played and aggressive, but still melodic. The title track, also the longest song on the album, is another showcase for the exceptional guitar skills of Bogert as he really plays his ass off here. Bogert is probably one of the best Dutch guitar players I have heard in a very long time and I would compare him with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani; just listen what this guy can do in the instrumental song Eternal Light. This truly amazing prog rock album ends with a beautiful ballad called Memories, which features a fantastic guitar solo again. Heaven And Beyond is a must for lovers of melodic prog metal and for lovers of great guitar music; Bogert rules!!!

It is about time that this amazing band gets some more attention and appreciation, so buy or die!!!