Tuesday, November 29, 2016

HAND OF DIMES - "RAISE"






RATING: RRRR

LABEL: Self Release

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway



Well I must say this has been along time coming, as it seems Hand Of Dimes have been around for ages with just an EP to their name. the brainchild of Ex Kooga bandmates Nev MacDonald (also of Skin fame) and Neil Garland, Hand Of Dimes look to be the band to give Wales a fresh new pin in the hard rock World map.

Fans of Skin will certainly hold vocalist Nev in high regard, as the man has the proverbial set of golden tonsils that make any song he sings that much better. Before Skin, however, was Kooga, and those in the know remember them with fondness. Keyboard player Neil Garland was (and is) always a strong onstage presence, and it’s great to see the two of them back together. Hand of Dimes head down a bluesier route then the other two bands mentioned, and in doing so manage to make Nev work his socks off, his throaty power literally mesmerising on some songs.

By ‘Blues’ I mean powerful blues, so we’re talking big riffs and in your face vocals, more Thunder than Jeff Healey but with nods to both. The big riffs come courtesy of Colin Edwards, who also provides some sweet solo work throughout. So this isn’t a full on heavy rock album, as it’s balanced with slower, more thoughtful tracks, from the laid back duo of ‘Angels & Demons’ and ‘Sail On’ to the ever catchy but sweetly soulful ‘Stranger In My Hometown’. Every song here benefits hugely from Nev’s vocals, as good now as he ever was, standing eye to eye with the likes of Paul Rodgers and not backing down.

All in all, this is a first class album, and my only criticism is that it could have been pared down from thirteen tracks to maybe eleven, tightening the running order a little. Fans of Skin will certainly enjoy it, and anyone who likes good old British hard blues rock will be delighted to discover a new voice in the genre. This maybe only a handful of dimes, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Official Website

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

THEOCRACY: ”Ghost Ship”

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Ulterior Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

As much as I liked the previous Theocracy album ”As The World Bleeds”, I must say that I’m even more blown away by ”Ghost Ship”. Matt Smith has written a truly brilliant collection of songs, ranging from full blasts of melodic metal to melancholic rock. There are no weak tracks, and the best ones… we’re talking about future classics of the power metal genre.

There’s enough virtuosity and complexity to satisfy those with prog tendencies, but most importantly, at least for me, ”Ghost Ship” offers us grand melodies and hooks. ”Paper Tiger”, the title track, ”Wishing Well”, the atmospheric, melodic ”Around The World And Back” and the ”fight song” ”A Call To Arms” are all blessed with the kind of melodies that go straight to your heart and make you want to shout along right away. The band has a Christian message in their songs but that doesn’t overpower these songs, it’s hardly ”Bible-bashing”.

In short, this is one of the finest albums released this year, and highly recommended. You can listen to it on Spotify but really, buy a physical copy and go to a Theocracy concert if there’s one near you!


http://www.theocracymusic.com
https://www.facebook.com/theocracyband/

Monday, November 7, 2016

MARILLION: "F.E.A.R."

Rating: RRRRR
Label: earMusic
Review by Martien Koolen

Being a fan from the very beginning, after listening to Marillion's first epic song called Grendel (1982) I was addicted. it never seizes to amaze me that this band, after 38 years in the music business, can still produce such a wonderful new album. Of course the band has its up and downs, but I still cherish and listen to classic Marillion albums like Misplaced Childhood, Clutching At Straws, Brave and Sounds That Can't Be Made.

F.E.A.R., Fuck Everyone And Run, a superb title by the way, is Marillion's 18th studio album and it is a master piece in the classical sense of the word; it is also my absolute favourite album of this year; go figure! The more I listened to F.E.A.R. the more I liked, appreciated and understood it and after trillions (not really) of spins I can say that I am slightly addicted to F.E.A.R. This new album "only" consists of five tracks, being El Dorado, Living In F.E.A.R., The Leavers, White Paper and The New Kings. Let me start with the latter, as that song was the first track that I heard from F.E.A.R. The New Kings is an epic Marillion masterpiece that runs to almost 20 minutes and does not contain one boring minute at all. This is Marillion at its best, meaning: luscious, progressive melodic rock with breathtaking keyboard melodies, heavenly guitar melodies and stunning vocals by H. The lyrics are extremely critical and up to date, dealing with the new power of rich people and the widening gap between the rich and the poor of this world ("We are the new kings; we do as we please, while you do as you are told").

The new album kicks off with a song called El Dorado, which is also a very long track, clocking over 16 minutes and this song brings back memories of the excellent track Gaza from Marillion's previous album Sounds That Can't Be Made (2012). El Dorado is split into five parts and it contains beautiful musical passages that give me goosebumps every time I listen to it. The lyrics, just as on Gaza, are rather dark and melancholic, dealing with some very disturbing changes in our society, think of the problems with migration, financial crisis and ecological crisis. ("the thunder approaches, the heavy sighing of the monster").

Living In F.E.A.R. is the shortest track of the album, featuring a very nice, almost singalong chorus and the other "short" track of the album is called White Paper. This song again contains lots of dazzling melodies. I know I am repeating myself here, but it is what it is and lyrically White Paper deals with the fact that everyone is getting old (er) and how you to deal with this fact of life. Hogarth sings: "I used to be the centre stage; time I should act my age" and I think that says it all, actually.

Last but not least you can enjoy a song called The Leavers, which is my favorite song of the album. Again a very long track, the longest of the album, with some extremely melodic, heavenly guitar solos by Rothery, proving that he is still one of the best guitar pickers on this planet.  The Leavers is probably one of the best songs that Marillion have released for a very long time. Lyrically the song deals with the life of a musician, which can be very hard and tiresome: "We are the leavers and the road rolls beneath us, we sleep as we're driven, we arrive before dawn, we wait in grey truck stops, for the night to release us. Then slip in from ring-roads and our work starts again."

Conclusion: F.E.A.R. is a new jewel in the Marillion collection, the best progressive rock album of 2016 and a must for all lovers of great melodic rock music with a message!! Since 2004 my Marillion top 3 albums were: Misplaced Childhood, Brave and Clutching At Straws, but now 12 years later F.E.A.R. will definitely enter this top 3, making it : F.E.A.R. at pole position, Misplaced Childhood as second best and Brave as third.  I never thought that this was going to happen, but it goes to show that Marillion is always in for a spectacular surprise!! Buy or die is my last advice!!

www.marillion.com/

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

AC ANGRY - "APPETITE FOR ERECTION"



RATING: RR

LABEL: SPV/STEAMHAMMER

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


And the award for worst album title ever goes to... well, I suppose it's not as bad as REO Speedwagon's 'You Can't Tune A Piano But You Can Tune A Fish', but AC Angry's follow up to their 2013 debut 'Black Denim' will surely live on in lists of shit album titles. The positive side of that is at least it's something it will be remembered for, as it's unlikely the music will linger long in the memory.


The thing is, I quite enjoyed the debut and even went so far as to write that it was "an album of full speed ahead no nonsense rock". I'm even quoted in the bleedin' press release so it's a little embarrassing to sit here listening to 'Appetite...' and not having much fun at all. opener 'I Hate AC Angry' kicks things off with a fast beat and pretty poor lyrics but is at least punchy. Childish lyrics are a bit of a theme throughout the album, such as '4TW' suggesting 'Lick my sac', and it all gets a bit embarrassing after a while. It's a shame because these two opening tracks are otherwise energetic and rock live proverbial hurricanes. The band suffer when they slow down, as vocalist Costa sounds pretty awful if he's not rocking. 'No Way To Go But Down', 'Son Of A Motherfucker' and 'Cry Idiot Cry' both suck due to this and the fact that they aren't good songs anyway.


Fans of the first album will certainly fins stuff to enjoy here, with tracks like "Testosterone" and "I Wanna Hurt Somebody" giving a good account of themselves. There's some more middling stuff, such as the title track or 'the Balls Are Back In Town', that are a bit take it or leave it, not forgetting the awful slower songs, and when you take the album as a whole it's just not good enough. 'Black Denim' pisses all over this in terms of power, passion and sheer tuneful aggression, and I can't help but be disappointed in this follow up. I've suddenly lost my appetite for AC Angry...

Official Site

The Neal MORSE Band: "The Similitude Of A Dream"

Rating: RRR
Label: Metal Blade Records/Radiant Records
Review by: Martien Koolen


Thirteen years ago, Neal Morse left Spockís Beard and released his firs "real" solo album Testimony, as he already made a solo album in 1999 called Neal Morse. I still consider Testimony to be Morse's best album ever, as all of the follow up albums are merely not more than nice attempts to reach that excellent musical level of Testimony. I mean, how often can you repeat your musical ideas and not bore your listeners to death with it??

As I listened to The Similitude Of A Dream for the first time I immediately had that deja vu feeling that I had with all Morse albums after Testimony; the same melodies, the same keyboard solos and most of all the rather, same annoying preaching lyrics that really get on my nerves while listening to this new album. Of course this album is made by the Neal Morse Band, consisting of Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer, but it definitely is a Morse album and also, again (yawn), a concept album. The Similitude Of A Dream is based on a book called The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To The That Which Is To Come; Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream written by John Bunyan, way back in 1678; need I say more?? The music on this album sounds, as I stated before, very familiar; in my opinion too familiar, but you know what you can expect from Morse.

Luckily there are also a couple of great songs on this album which goes to show that the Neal Morse Band is of course a great progressive rock band with brilliant musicians. Especially the guitar solos of Gillette are sometimes out of this world on this album and Portnoy is still the best rock drummer on this planet, but he definitely has to return to Dream Theater..

Musical highlights on this bombastic and sometimes too dramatic album are the instrumental Overture with amazing hooks, riffs, solos and melodies, City Of Destruction, a classic Morse prog rock song with a catchy chorus, The Slough, being another instrumental song, So Far Gone, The Man In The Iron Cage with breathtaking guitar work, the third instrumental called The Battle and the last, also the longest track, called Broken Sky; a dramatic ballad-like song with two of the best guitar solos on the entire album. However the rest of the songs are not really to my liking and sound as I have heard them before a couple of times already on other albums. Take for example songs like Shortcut To Salvation (hymn-like), Sloth (too dramatic and dull), Freedom Song (a blue grass-like, utterly boring acoustic track), Makes No Sense (sounds too familiar) or the last song of CD 1 called Breath Of Angels, which is an emotional hymn-like ballad with typical, annoying religious Morse lyrics.

Mike Portnoy quoted that The Similitude Of A Dream is the absolute creative pinnacle of his cooperation with Morse and he is so bald as to say that we can compare this new Morse Band album with classic concept albums like Tommy or The Wall. With all due respect to Portnoy, but what was he thinking when saying that, as that is a little bit (watch the irony here) over the top.. Furthermore you will find a sticker on the CD with the following rather pretentious text: "This is it!, the juggernaut flagship masterwork from the Neal Morse Band." I can only say, I beg to differ, for me this is just a new Neal Morse album with some good musical stuff played by excellent musicians, but most of all it is again a repetition of his earlier work. I know that I will get a lot of "nice" reactions on my rather, maybe sometimes too critical, review, but that is all right as there is no account for taste and it is just my humble but sincere opinion.

The Answer: "Solas"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Napalm Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Solas, the Gaelic word for light, is the title of the new album by Northern Irish rockers The Answer and I can tell you rightaway that Solas is my favourite Answer album so far... For fans who liked the previous albums of The Answer this new one will probably take some time to get "used" to, as Solas is not your typical The Answer classic rock album. On this new album the four piece band from Northern Ireland have made excellent musical progression, which resulted in a modern, up date rock album with lots of Irish influences, meaning lots of folky influences, cultural Irish instrumentation and even choruses in Gaelic and Latin.

This fabulous album opens with the title track, which is in fact a pure rock anthem as The Answer has never played or composed before; a new born live classic track for sure. Follow up Beautiful World has lots of atmosphere and melancholy and singer Neeson delivers one of his best performances here; an extraordinary track which gets better with every spin. The third song of Solas called Battle Cry is the absolute highlight. It is an epic song, clocking over six minutes and this track really represents the new sound of The Answer. Mahon's guitar riff is very catchy and the chorus is even sung in Gaelic: "Seo An La A Thainig Mo Ghra", meaning: "This is the day my love arrives". The last part of this song, which really gets under your skin, being an up tempo guitar melody, wonderfully played by Mahon kind of reminds me of U2 and maybe that is not a coinidence... For old The Answer fans there are also songs that really rock, such as the bluesy Demon Driven Man with a lovely guitar melody/solo by Mohan, the up tempo Left Me Standing and the rocky Real Life Dreamers, which also features a duet between Neeson and the Irish vocalist Fiona O Kane.

The album ends with the emotioal ballad Tunnel, which features a breathtaking guitar solo and some really emotional vocals by Neeson, ending this amazing album in a great way. Solas is a very welcome surprise in 2016, as it shows The Answer at it best (second to none), the sound is rather different than on other albums, but Solas also proves that these guy still know how to rock. Solas is a brave, honest and wonderful album that will certainly end up in my top 10 of 2016 and it will not leave my CD player for the rest of this year. Play it loud and spread the word that Solas is one of the best rock albums of this year. "What the light don't fill, the darkness kills."


Hammerfall: "Built To Last"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Napalm Records
Review by Martien Koolen

The tenth album, called Built To Last, by the Swedish metal band Hammerfall, is defintely a "return" to their good "old" metal sound on albums like Glory To The Brave (1997) and Renegade (2000). It is Hammerfall's first album via Napalm Records and that may be the reason that this album sounds so higly melodic, aggressive and is overloaded with catchy choruses.

Opening track Bring It reveals the sound of the entire album; powerful, great riffs and a pumped up chorus that sticks in your head for a very long time. The following two songs Sacred Vow and Hammer High were previously released as lyric videos, and especially the latter is a metal anthem par excellence. Dethrone And Defy is probably the fastest track of the album and it is followed by the obligatory power ballad Twilight Princess; a classic Hammerfall ballad with excellent melodic guitar solos. However, the best tracks on this powerful album can be heard in the end as, the two final songs of Built To Last, being: New Breed and Second To None are the brilliant highlights. New Breed is a heavy, speedy, almost "trashy" metal track in the veins of Accept and that song will become a new live Hammerfall anthem killer for sure. Second To None, the longest song on the album, is indeed as the title says second to none! It is an epic-kind of track, slowly built up from a ballad-like melody into a rather dark song with amazing guitar passages and  "heavy" keyboard arrangements. On Second To None vocalist Joacim delivers his best performance of the entire album, making it a classic Hammerfall song, which will stand the test of time for years to come. Built To Last is a must for addicts of true, melodic, aggresive power metal and it is a return to Hammerfall's classic sound. I am really looking forward to see/hear them in Utrecht (The Netherlands) on 16 January next year.

www.hammerfall.net/

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blind Ego: "Liquid"

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

Liquid is the third album of the German prog rock band Blind Ego, better known as the solo project of RPWL guitar picker par excellence Kalle Wallner.His previous album called Numb was released seven years ago and that one was a great album with some amazing and stunning guitar work by Wallner. The new album Liquid is again filled with breathtaking guitar riffs, hooks and solos but it is also a more diverse and versatile album than Numb. Liquid contains nine brand new tracks and they are a mix of prog rock, hard rock, metal,symphonic rock and pop rock with highlights Not Going Away and Never Escape The Storm, the two longest tracks of the album.

Wallner has called in the help of a couple of extraordinary musicians like: Ralf Schwager (bass guitar), Michael Schwager (drums) and three singers. On three songs you can hear Arno Menses (Subsignal), on one track you can hear Aaron Brooks (Simeone Soul Charger) and on four songs you can enjoy the voice of Erik Blomkvist (Seven Thorns and ex-Platitude). One of my favourites is also the instrumental track Quiet Anger, featuring heavy riffs, hooks, tempo changes and some excellent solos by Wallner. Not Going Away, as mentioned one of the highlights on Liquid, kicks off with melodic guitars and pounding drums; Dutch vocalist Menses delivers his best performance here, but it is the sheer brliliant guitar playing of Wallner that makes this song great. Never Escape The Storm is the longest song of the album and clocks just over eight minutes. It begins with semi-acoustic guitar picking before it eveolves into a melodic masterpiece with howling high guitar melodies and solos that will take your breath away. Blomkvist does a great vocal job here abd the melodies and the atmosphere of the song is sheer magic; play it as loud as you can!! Liquid is a wonderful album, better than Numb, and a must for RPWL fans, but also for fans of great melodic progressive rock music  with the guitar as the centerpoint of the music.Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Joe BONAMASSA: "Live At The Greek Theatre"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot
Review by Martien Koolen

Again a live DVD/CD/Blue Ray from the workaholic Joe Bonamassa? Yes, again and it is a fantastic album once more. This time the show is built around covers from the three Kings, Freddie, Albert and BB. Bonamassa's excellent big band also features horns and spectacular back ground singers and the set list is breathtaking. Take for example excellent blues tracks like Some Other Day, Some OtherTime, Lonesome Whistle Blues, Noboby Leaves Me But My Mother or Born Under A Bad Sign and you just want to hear and see more of Bonamassa as his guitar solos and vocal performance are almost out of this world.

There are too many highlights on this excellent release but I have to mention Going Down (Freddie King), Let The Good Times Roll (Albert King) and of course the BB King classic The Thrill Is Gone. The sound of this album is more than outstanding and the band is superb, but most of all you will enjoy Bonamassa's love for the blues through his magical guitar playing. Play it loud and often!!!

ELYSIAN GATES: "Crossroads"

Rating: RRR
Label: Independent Release
Review by Martien Koolen

Crossroads is the second album of the Luxemburg female fronted prog metal band Elysian Gates and it features the "new" vocalist Noemie leer (ex-Rude Revelation). Leer is defintely a vast improvement for Elysian Gates, as her voice sounds crystal clear in the - maybe a bit too sweet/cheesy ballad - called Mary Ann, but she also sounds rough and raw and she even grunts (sad but true...) a little bit, for example in the song Far From Home. Crossroads opens with the instrumental title track, which sounds rather familiar and not really spectacular or surprising, but this decent opener is followed by one of the highlights of this album, namely the epic Far From Home, which clocks over 10 minutes and leaves you almost breathless after listening to it!

Other musical "milestones" are: Broken Inside, HUman Infection, featuring a very catchy chorus, and the last track of this album called Open Gate. The sound of Elysian Gates can be best described as an excellent blend of musical characteristics from bands like Delain, Leaves Eyes and Tristania; meaning: up tempo, bombastic songs with lots of keyboard "walls" and melodies, great guitar solos and hooks, excellent vocals and a great variety in melodies. Crossroads is a great symphonic prog metal album which you should listen to more than once and then you might get hooked on Elysian Gates; be sure to check them out on stage in Eindhoven on 19 November!!

EDENSONG: "Years In The Garden Of Years”

Rating: RRR
Label: The Laser's Edge
Review by Martien Koolen

In 2008 the American based Edensong released their debut album called The Fruit Fallen and that album got a couple of great reviews. Edensong, formed eight years ago, uses musical elements from early prog "gods" like Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull and this means that the music of Edensong consists of rather complex song compositions and structures and they also add lots of orchestral instruments like the flute, the violin and the cello. In my humble opinion Edensong uses the flute too often, as therefore their sound tends to become too folky for me. It took almost eight years to finish this conceptalbum wiith the rather obscure, weird title Years In The Garden Of Years and the songs on this new album are a bit more progressive than on their debut.

If I would have to name the highlights of this album then I would pick the opener Cold City, Down The Hours and Yawn Of A Blink. The two instrumental songs on the album called End Times In Retrospect and Chronos are also worth mentioning, but again I have to say - I know I repeat myself - too much flute.... Edensong's music is without any doubt overloaded with emotion, melody and harmony, but it all sounds a bit too quiet, folky and "obscure" for me... However if you liked Edensong's debut The Fruit Fallen, then Years In The Garden Of Years is defintely your cup of tea. Check it out and listen to the album with earphones on, then you might enjoy it even better.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Joanne SHAW TAYLOR: "Wild"

Rating: RRR
Label:
Review by Martien Koolen

Taylor's The Dirty Truth, released two years ago, was a great blues rock album, produced by Jim Gaines, recorded in Memphis.

Taylor's new album called Wild, was recorded in Nashville and produced by no one less than Kevin Shirley. Wild contains 9 brand new tracks and 2 covers, being Wild Is The Wind, originally by David Bowie, and Summertime, originally by Ella Fitzgerald. Wild IS The Wind is the longest track on the album and clocks over 7 minutes and features two excellent emotional guitar solos and great vocals by Taylor. This Bowie track was also covered by Nina Simone, Randy Crawford and George Michael, but Taylor's version, altough I am not really a fan of covers, is without any doubt my favourite.

The other cover on Wild is the last track Summertime, which is also covered by Louis Arnmstrong; Taylor's version is a jazz-like piano ballad with a nice mellow guitar solo in the middle of the song.The rest of the song material on Wild is a mix of blues, blues rock, pop and sometimes even singer/song writing material. Ready To Roll is a nice funky blues-like mid tempo track with a very catchy chorus and nice guitar work.Wanna Be My Lover is a kind of Meilssa Etheridge-like song with organ passages and again some great guitar work.In fact the only "misser" on this excellent album is the song I Wish I could Wish You Back which is a rather mediocre acoustic ballad. Conlusion: Wild is a great blues rock/pop album and shows again that Taylor is a thrilling guitarist, but also a strong vocalist. Wild grows on you and proves that also women can play a mean and nasty guitar!! Looking forward to see and hear Taylor in The Netherlands during her autumn tour with Wilko Johnson.

ASTRALION: "Outlaw"

Rating: RRRR+
Label: Limb Music 2016
Review by Satu Reunanen
 
Astralion return with their second album Outlaw after two years of absence. While working on their new material the band has done some gigging in Finland and this October they will be playing the Heavy Metal Heart Festival in Helsinki with Battle Beast, Amoth, Profane Omen, Scar Symmetry, Medicated and others. Astralions persistence about pushing on is finally paying off, as the bands power metal has started to gain praises around the world and they've found their audience in Finland.  
 
Astralion continues where they left off with their debut. If you loved that, you'll also love Outlaw. The album is again full of tight, compact and fast songs to headbang to and the catchy melodies are familiar from the debut. The line-up has stayed the same; Ian E. Highhill (vocals), Hank J. Newman (guitar), Arnold Hackman (drums), Thomas Henry (keyboards) and Dr. K. Lundell (bass). The band influences are also still the same; Helloween, Blind Guardian, Edguy and the cheerier upbeat bands like Stratovarius. 
 
Outlaw is hardly a radio friendly album and not the easiest bite for the listener, unless you've trained your musical ear earlier with some epic material. The songs run close to five minutes in length and the longest one The Great Palace of the Sea runs at ten minutes! But it's not only the long songs that make this a more challenging listen, it's also the countless twists that make power metal. At the surface the genre might seem like an easily flowing powerful river, but when done well it's what lies below that makes the music a deeper experience. Astralion not only uses the power metal tricks well to add to this experience, but also draws influence from many musical genres and that's their twist. You can still hear the 80's heavy metal and neoclassical influences throughout the album too. 
 
I won't go into each song seperately, but will mention that Wastelands of Ice is the albums only mid-tempo track and the epic album closer The Great Palace of the Sea actually flows fluently through its ten minutes. The album rocks through the roof and everything is as massive as it should be in power metal. Astralion is like a well oiled machine, they've found their thing and Outlaw is a powerful follower to their debut. It's "ASTRongAsaLION", if you get my worldplay. 
 

MECCA: ”III”

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

Soothing. That was my initial impression of Mecca’s third album. It’s possibly the best-sounding album I have heard in years, easily comparable to the classic AOR albums of the golden years. There’s warmth and space in these songs that’s often missing in the turbo-charged contemporary melodic rock.

Musically we’re talking about soft rock with a slightly progressive vibe. This isn’t an album of instant hits or party songs and it certainly doesn’t suit every occasion, but when the mood is right, ”III” is pretty flawless.

Main songwriter and singer Joe Vana has again surrounded himself with superb musicians, including bassist David Hungate (of Toto fame), Tim Akers, Shannon Forest and David Browning. It’s Joe himself who impresses me the most though, his vocals are outstanding and very emotionally charged.

The album features only eight tracks but it’s a case of quality over quantity. Even though I said that this is not an album of instant hits, there are a couple of songs with enormous chorus hooks, namely ”Let It Go” (no, not that Frozen song!) and the opener ”Take My Hand”. The latter has the kind of a ”surprise chorus” that I love, it  just jumps at you without a warning. "Unknown" does have another massive chorus too, so make that three. Some of the other songs do have some fine melodies but maybe delivered in a bit more understated way.

Highly recommended to fans of Mr. Mister and Toto, but worth exploring to those who enjoy the softer side of rock in general. Perfect for the moments when you want the music to soothe your soul.

http://meccatheband.com
https://www.facebook.com/MeccaTheBand/

Monday, September 26, 2016

KING COMPANY: ”One For The Road”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

King Company is a new band and this is their first album, but the Kings behind the Company aren’t young princes. Vocalist Pasi Rantanen and drummer Mirka Rantanen have both played in Thunderstone, keyboard player Jari Pailamo is a former Twilight Guardian, bassist Time Schleifer has played in Jone’s Bros and guitarist Antti Wirman  has played in Warmen and Children Of Bodom. A couple of them have even been Heavy Metal dinosaurs, bringing the joyful message of Metal to the younger children.

”One For The Road” is an album of traditional melodic heavy rock in the vein of Whitesnake, Rainbow and Europe. Some of the songs have a bit of a seventies’ vibe, while others harken back to the hairy days of the eighties. My personal favorites include ”In Wheels Of No Return”, ”Wings Of Love” and ”Holding On”, all more 80’ies styled songs I guess… Big choruses and atmospheric keyboards galore!

As mentioned before, everyone in the band is a seasoned pro so they obviously deliver great performances. I’m especially impressed by Antti Wirman’s guitar work which is at times really fast and furious yet it never sounds like he’s showing off. I also enjoy the colourful keyboard work by Jari Pailamo.

Extra points for the artwork - this doesn't look like every other modern day melodic rock album...

ww.kingcompanyband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kingcompanyofficial/

Thursday, September 22, 2016

WOLVERINE: "Machina Viva"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Sensory Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Fifteen years ago I reviewed the first full length album of Wolverine for the notorious Aardschok magazine and maybe due to my review The Window Purpose was awarded Album Of The Month in Aardschok December magazine's issue of 2001. Wolverine's last album, released in 2011, was called Communication Lost, and it was an absolute master piece. Now 5 years later the Swedish prog rockers bring out their next studio album called Machina Viva. THis new amazing album contains 8 brand new songs and the focus in the tracks on Machina Viva clearly lies on melody and atmosphere. Just listen to the wonderful 14 minute epic opening track The Bedlam Overture and you will hear exactly what I mean. The Bedlam Overture is a magical musical prog rock ride with lots of melody, variety, beautiful vocal performance by Stefan Zell and breathtaking guitarmelodies and solos by Jonas Jonsson. Machina is a kind of experimental song, however with a great melody and Pile Of Ash is the quietest song of the album, featuring acoustic guitars and the "soft"voice of Zell. Our Long Goodbye is another highliight of this album, filled with amazing hooks and melodies, but if you also like the metal side of Wolverine you should check out Pledge, which is without any doubt the heaviest song of the entire album; love it! Nemesis, kicks off as a piano ballad but evolves into a great progressive rock track and here you can enjoy the best guitar solo of the album. This great album, which you should listen to a couple of times to really appreciate, ends with the "weakest" track called Sheds, a song which only features vocals and keyboards. But all in all, I would like to say that Wolverine, a very underestimated rock band by the way, did it again. If you are a fan of very melodic, diverse prog rock with amazing vocals and subtle guitar work then Machina Viva is your album. Their new album is the next step in the band's explorations in the progressive field; highlights The Bedlam Overture and Nemesis.

ODDLAND: "Origin"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Sensory Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Oddland is a progressive metal bamd from Finland, founded in 2001 and they released their full length debut album called The Treachery Of Senses in 2012. Four years later, Oddland signed a deal with Sensory Records and their new album is called Origin. The brand new album contains 9 songs and the music of Oddland is a blend of prog metal influences from bands as Primus, Tool, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah and even grunge bands like Soundgarden or Alice In Chains. The opening track Esotericism is filled with heavy distorted guitar riffs and raw vocals and here singer Sukari Ojanen reminds me of the lead singer of Candlemass. Follow up Thanatos features a jazzy-like intro and here I define obvious Primus influences. Penumbra is another great track, featuring an excellent vocal performance by Ojanen and an extremely catchy guitar riff played by Poikonen. Hidden kicks off with a soft piano intro before it evolves into a rather mysterious prog metal "monster". Fortunately singer Ojanen only sings and the grunts are almost completely disappeared; only in the song Faraway he still grunts a little; sad but true... My favourite track is called Unknown and I really think that Oddland has improved a lot since their debut album. The sound of Origin is low and heavy, but there is also a lot of melody and great variety, but most of all I would call the sound Of Oddland on this album aggressive and really powerful. So, if you enjoy your prog metal really heavy and you like the bands I mentioned earlier in this review, then you should really check out this new album by Oddland. Play it loud, guys!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

THE DARKER MY HORIZON: ”No Superhero”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Broken Road Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”No Superhero” The Darker My Horizon’s second album and again the band has taken another step towards the premier league of hard rock. I say ”again” because I kind of see the band as a continuation of Sacred Heart, the main writer/singer/guitarist Paul Stead previous band. With every release I’ve heard from him and his band, there’s been steady improvement.

TDMH combines modern commercial rock sounds with eighties’ influences, kind of like Nickelback shaking hands with Warrant. Downtuned guitars and gritty riffs meet melodic choruses and power ballads… it’s a concept that works for me, and I have no doubt that it could work for most of our readers as well.

Most of the songs are instantly familiar-sounding and likeable. ”No Superhero Part One”, ”Functional Dysfunctional” and ”Top Of The Class” are such songs. Some of them have taken a little longer to grow on me, ”Dear Olivia” being a good example of that: I first didn’t think much of it, yet I caught myself humming its’ hook. There’s only a couple of songs that really don’t do much for me - ”Diablo” might be the album’s heaviest (most Nickelbackish?) track but it’s also the most monotonous and only a killer chorus could have saved the plodding ”We Are, We’re One”. Otherwise this is a good album and now I can give it the four capital R’s it deserves, no brackets needed this time!

https://www.facebook.com/darkerhorizonuk/
https://soundcloud.com/darkerhorizonuk

URIAH HEEP: “…Very ‘eavy, …Very ‘umble”

Rating: RRR
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

This is a DeLuxe Edition of the debut album of English hard rockers Uriah Heep, called …very ‘eavy,… very ‘umble. CD 1 features the original (remastered 2016) album as it was released in 1970; CD 2 is an alternate version of very ‘eavy and all tracks on that edition are previously unreleased. Uriah Heep was not a band that was very popular by the press, in fact some of the music critics actually “hated” the band. But the fans were and are still very enthusiastic about Uriah Heep and so the band is still going strong even after 46 years!!

The first five albums are probably the best Heep albums and their spectacular live album called Uriah Heep Live 1973 is still one of the best live double albums ever! Uriah Heep’s debut album …very ‘eavy, … very ‘umble is an underrated Heep album as it contains two classic Heep tracks that belong to their best songs in their long spanning career. Gypsy, the opener of this album, is of course one the best known Heep songs ever and the opening organ and guitar riff are so familiar and spectacular that Gypsy has been on Heep’s set list right from the start in the seventies until now. Another classic great Heep song on their debut album is the last track called Wake Up (set your sights) which shines because of the wonderful melody and the great vocal performance by David Byron, the first and best singer of Heep ever.

CD2 features the “same” eight songs of the original album but then in a slightly alternative way and four bonus tracks. Born In A Trunk, a rather dark prog rock song, Magic Lantern, an almost 8 minute up tempo prog rock song composed by Box and Byron, Bird Of Prey (an US alternate nix) and an instrumental version of Born In A Trunk..

URIAH HEEP “ Your Turn To Remember - The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990”

Rating: - (compilation)
Label: BMG
Review by Martien Koolen

This 2 CD anthology features 33 Uriah Heep songs starting in 1970 and ending in 1989. The 33 songs are taken from the albums: Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble (1970), Salisbury (1971), Look At Yourself (1971), Demons And Wizards (1972), The Magican’s Birthday (1972), Sweet Freedom (1973), Wonderworld (1974), Return To Fantasy (1975), High And Mighty (1976), Firefly (1977), Innocent Victim (1977), Fallen Angel (1978), Conquest (1980), Abominog (1982), Head First (1983), Equator (1985) and Raging Silence (1989).

During the 33 tracks you can hear five different singers being David Byron (the best Heep vocalist ever), John Lawton, John Sloman, Peter Goalby and last but not least the current Uriah Heep singer Bernie Shaw. I still believe that the first five Uriah Heep albums (with Byron as a singer) are the best they ever made, although Return To Fantasy is also an excellent album. My favorite tracks are: Gypsy, Look At Yourself, The Wizard, July Morning (although I prefer the longer version of course), Sunrise, Sweet Lorraine and Return To Fantasy. From the songs with other singers than Byron I like No Return, Poor Little Rich Girl and Voice On My TV. A very decent collection of classic Heep songs with many highlights from their most creatively fertile rock era, but I still “hate” their ultimate boring rock ballad Lady In Black.

DUSTERLUST: "Duster Lust"

Rating: RR
Label: FemMeropa
Review by Martien Koolen

The German symphonic metal band Duster Lust, which was founded in 2010 as Unveil The Beauty, release their first album and in fact it is a re-release of their album called Unveil The Beaty. But due a naming conflict the band had to withdraw their album and they re-started under the new  name Duster Lust. The band consists of Regina Rumpel (vocals), Philip Seibert (drums, grunting), Michel Greul (guitar) and Heiko Seibert (guitar, bass guitar) and the sound of the band could best be described as female fronted symphonic metal with occasional grunts and screaming vocals. Most of the ten compositions are rather chaotic and show no real clear musical structure and the high vocals of soprano Rumpel are not always that good, but I think that this band has some musical potential.

What I really do not like about Duster Lust are the grunting vocals and the rather hysterical screaming vocals of Seibert and Greul. Sometimes the music on this album is a cacaphony of weird metal combined with classical music, prog metal, electronic sounds, death metal and symphonic metal and I think it might be better for this band to concentrate on one kind of music. This re-released album also contains three bonus tracks, being: Virus, Bloodmoon and Refugee. As the competition is very keen and hard in the music busniess, especially in this sort of music, think Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation, I think that Duster Lust will have a tough time and they really should try to explore and create their own sound.

EVERGREY: “The Storm Within”

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

Evergrey’s previous album Hymns For The Broken was one of my favorite albums of 2014 and maybe my favorite Evergrey album so far…. Now, two years later the best Swedish prog metal band release the strongest album of their 20 year career called The Storm Within. The album contains 11 brand new tracks and it is their most progressive record so far, filled with dark, melancholic and progressive elements that make this album a must for lovers of melodic prog metal.

The Storm Within opens with one of my favorite tracks of the album, namely Distance, also the first single and video of the album. The intro of Distance is an awesome keys melody, followed by massive guitar riffs and a really addictive and very melodic chorus; in the middle we are treated to an unbelievable guitar solo and the song ends with a children’s choir singing the catchy chorus. Follow up Passing Through is the next highlight, an up tempo heavy song with a ferocious guitar solo and excellent lyrics. If you like the heavy side of Evergrey you should check out My Allied Ocean, as it is one of the most aggressive songs from Englund and Co. Another highlight is without any doubt the almost power ballad called In Orbit, which features a wonderful duet between Tom Englund and  “our” Floor Jansen.

The Storm Within ends with the title track, which is a perfect closer for this amazing album, as that track is really complex, innovative, diverse and kind of reminds me of my favorite band of all time Rush…. The Storm Within is Evergrey’s masterpiece, a massive album filled with excellent tracks (absolutely NO fillers), which should be listened to at maximum volume, over and over again….. Cannot wait to hear some of the new songs on stage, especially Distance, Disconnect and The Storm Within; magical!!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CORNERSTONE: "Reflections"




RATING: RRRR

LABEL: Atom

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway


It’s been five years since we heard anything from Austrian pop rockers Cornerstone, and it was nice to receive an extensive promo pack (complete with signed poster!) telling me everything about the band but their inside leg measurements. Five years is a long time to rest a band, and it’s good to hear that Cornerstone haven’t lost any of their allure over this period.

Still very much a band who embrace the pop sensibilities of the 1980s, Cornerstone’s songwriters Michael and Steve Wachelhofer are dab hands with a good melody and catchy chorus, with hints of more famous pop hits emerging throughout the album, though with no blatant thievery. Opener ‘Nothing To Lose’ embraces the pop rock of Belinda Carlisle with a hint of Jane Weidlin, featuring a sharp chorus line and a neat guitar solo. New vocalist Alina Peter has a decent voice, although does come over a bit nasal sounding throughout. Next track ‘Last Night’ throws in a little sax and feels like a great 80s movie soundtrack song, whilst ‘Heart On Fire’ embraces the spirit of 80s AOR, sounding a little like Fiona Flanagan. Over the ten tracks Cornerstone give us punchy rock, mid paced pop and a couple of nice ballads, and it’s quite hard not to get into what they are doing.

‘Reflections’ is a very good collection of songs for anyone who likes 80s style pop that’s infused with rock traits, rather then rock that has pop overtones. Harry Hess gives the whole thing a decent sound, with some great touches in the individual instrument sounds. Whilst not a giant leap forward in any way, this is an album that will certainly be returned to many more times.

Official Site

Friday, September 9, 2016

TEMPT: ”Runaway”

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Rock Candy Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

The strange phenomenon of young dudes picking up guitars and starting bands with a vintage 80’ies sound is spreading all over the world! TEMPT are a band from New York, and although they weren’t even born in 1989, their debut album sounds like it could have been released back then. The press bio mentions Foo Fighters, Audioslave and Alterbridge but doesn’t claim that Tempt sound like those bands, which is good because they don’t. Their music is pure eighties melodic hard rock, with Van Halen, Baton Rouge, Bon Jovi and White Lion as better references.

The band has collaborated with some giants of 80’ies hard rock scene on this album, namely Michael Wagener who mixed this album and songwriter Jack Ponti, whose signature writing style is easy to notice on some of the songs. My promo files do not carry the songwriter info, but I’m pretty sure that Ponti had a hand in writing at least ”Love Terminator”.

The songs on ”Runaway” range from pretty straight-forward hard rock songs like ”Comin’ On To You” and ”Dirty One” to more melodic material such as ”Aamina”, ”The Fight” and the title track. Both sides of the band work well, and when the hard rocking is combined to the melodic, hook-driven side the results are particularly outstanding. Just check out ”Under My Skin” or the furious ”Sapphire” for example.

Vocalist Zach Allen has a good voice for this kind of material. He reminds me of Olli Herman (Reckless Love) and White Lion’s Mike Tramp at times. The backing vocals are rather good too, and did I mention that guitarist Harrison Marcello is a bit of an axe wizard? Yeah, some of the guitar work has a Vito Bratta’ish vibe to it, and in my books that is a very good thing.

I usually don’t use halves in the rating, but for special occasions I have a few ”minor r’s” in stock… and this album is pretty special. Debut album of the year?

http://www.temptband.com


Thursday, September 8, 2016

HEY! HELLO!: Hey! Hello Too!”

Rating: RRRRr

Label: Round Records

Review By: Alan Holloway

You can’t keep a good man down, and as far as catchy pop rock is concerned Ginger (he of The Wildhearts) surpassed ‘good’ many years ago. Hey! Hello! Made some great songs but circumstances stopped them getting started properly, and it’s great that this has emerged as the first full length offering from the group.

Straight off it’s clear that this is the sort of album that fans of the Wildhearts’ more energetic output will adore. It’s a seething mass of guitars and attitude, all wrapped up in sugar sweet melodies and singalong choruses. Delve deeper than the surface melodies and you get sublimely seditious lyrics, with the seeming innocuous ‘Kids’ telling you that ‘Kids are gonna screw you up’, whilst the perfect cover of Sailor’s ’Glass Of Champagne’ replaces the titular tipple with a line of cocaine. Of course, if you want something that’s subtle as a half brick to the face just try ‘Loud & Fucking Clear’ which sounds exactly as you’d expect. Later in the album comes ‘Body Parts’  which is in Japanses (with 6 words in English as the chorus) yet still manages to be a a singalong song. Ginger’s vocals are great as ever, and he is joined by Ai (who also provides drums) who is a perfect female counterpoint (and lead), giving the album an extra dimension and fresh life.

“Hey! Helllo! Too!” is never less that thoroughly entertaining, stuffed to the gills with catchy tracks that manage to be heavy as fuck yet accessible to more delicate ears. It’s one of those albums that demands to be played more than once, and aural high that will leave you exhausted but happy. This is certainly one of the best albums Ginger has had his mucky paws in, and if you’re a fan you will know this is high praise indeed. A must listen for all that are wild at heart.

Official Site

SMOKEY FINGERS : "Promised Land"

Rating: RRRr

Label: Tanzan Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

There’s a lot of blues bands around, and Smokey Fingers are eager to be part of the scene despite waiting five years to follow up their well received debut. Despite sounding as American as apple pie and police brutality, the band hail from Italy, claiming to have crafted their sound when travelling round the U.S.A. Whatever the truth, it’s the music that does the talking, and Smokey Fingers certainly talk a good game.

The ‘Smokey’ in the band’s name could certainly refer to the vocals of Luke Paterniti, who sounds like he just crawled out of  a Louisiana swamp after wrestling an alligator. His native accent is undetectable, and the vocals slip in around the riffs and slide guitar like hot cocoa. The music itself is upbeat in the main, decidedly Southern in style with a bar room feel that will set most people’s feet to tapping. The themes are typical of the style, with songs about rattlesnake trails, thunderstorms and being proud to be a rebel. It’s probably the least Italian sounding album you will ever hear, but the Smokey Fingers have taken to their adoptive sound like ducks to water.

Steeped in bands like Lynyrd Skynyrs and Molly Hatchet, Smokey Fingers can hold their heads high in Southern rock circles, “Promised Land” unsurprisingly doesn’t offer anything too radical, but it’s an incredibly solid album that will give a lot of fun to fans of  sawdust floors, whiskey and marrying your sister. Yeeehaaaawww!

Official facebook

Saturday, September 3, 2016

PALACE: ”Master Of The Universe”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Palace is a new Swedish AOR band. The band’s leader is vocalist/guitarist Michael Palace, who might be a familiar name to those who witnessed Find Me live at Frontiers Festival, and he’s been involved in a few other AOR projects as well. He and producer Daniel Flores played almost all of the instruments on this album, but Palace is definitely a band now. Rick Digorio is the guitarist and he played a few solos on the album too, Marcus Johansson of Reach/Adrenaline Rush is the drummer and on bass there’s Stockholm’s busiest bass player Soufian Ma'Aoui.

Just like the title of the album suggests, ”Master Of The Universe” is a throwback to the eighties, yet it sounds rather fresh. Even though there’s no keyboard player in the band, the music is very keyboard-dominated, reminding me a lot of Brother Firetribe. Palace’s vocals bring up another comparison - Steve Newman of Newman. Of course I should drop a few eighties’ band names here too - well, how about Whitesnake’s most AOR moments, Toto, Survivor…

The production is flawless and I’m especially impressed by the layered backing vocals and the overall smoothness of it all. If there’s one thing missing it’s that one special ”hit” that would stand out and shout ”you won’t hear a better song anytime soon!”. Then again, almost all of the songs are very enjoyable, with ”Cool Runnin’” and ”Rules Of The Game” being my favorites. Other noteworthy tracks include ”She Said it’s Over”, the bouncy ”Young/Wild/Free” and the title track with its’ two pretty cool pre-choruses. I can’t say I’m too crazy about its’ actual chorus though, the vocal melody goes very high and Mr. Palace wails like Axl Rose on it. If this becomes the band’s signature song, Michael is going to curse himself for writing it - he can hit those notes now, but what about 20 years from now…

https://www.facebook.com/palacesweden/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

JADED PAST: ”Believe”

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

Jaded Past is a New Jersey-based band and ”Believe” is their second album. The self-titled debut was released independently and is currently available from the band’s website and several digital outlets.

The man behind Jaded Past is singer, songwriter and guitarist George Becker. On ”Believe”, I believe he didn’t have a band as such, he enlisted the help of drummer Dennis Zimmer and Trixter guitarist Steve Brown for the recordings. Brown also produced the album.

”Believe” is a decent album with a down-to-earth hard rock sound. Bret Michaels of Poison must be one of Becker’s main influences, as he’s adopted his singing style to some of the songs. Especially the ballads are pure poison… He’s much better when he rocks out and lets his own sound shine through. The album’s highlights for me are among the more uptempo tracks, namely ”Tattered”, ”Taken”, ”Don’t Judge” and ”Hurt”.

I can recommend this album to the fans of Poison, Tyketto, Tim Karr’s ”Rubbin’ Me The Right Way” album. I think those of you who are into the ”Bro-country” style might like it too… Glam-country anyone?


www.jadedpast.com/

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FIRE ACTION: "Rock Brigade"

Rating: RR
Label: Self release
Review by: Satu Reunanen

 Here's a very traditional hard rock/heavy metal release from the Finnish band Fire Action. Fire Action is still a newbie in the hard rock scene, they formed in 2013 and the members are Leo Barzola (vocals), Juri Vuortama (guitar), Samuli Häkkilä (drums) and Jani Hongisto (bass). Runaways kicks off the three song EP with Leo's original sounding vocals soaring high, with a little bit of Ron Keel twist in them. The EP has a real 80's touch to it, the band keeps everything in a compact, simple package, resembling the first releases from hard rock bands such as Ratt, Keel, Dokken and Kix to mention a few. The EP's sound is very raw and Leo's vocals match that. This unpolished sound might not attract every hard rock fan, but the songs are true to the 80's.

All of the songs have a catchy chorus and run with similar mid-tempo. There are no ballads. The band mixes hard rock and heavy metal and the line between the two is very thin. What makes it more metal is the occasional raging attitude and high screams from Leo and Juri plays some flashy, traditional 80's style guitar parts. The second track Lady In The Dark was released as a video and the last song Rock Rock Brigade continues in traditional metal style, now with Leatherwolf feel to it, especially from Juri's part. This EP has party feel to it and you might find yourself drumming along to the songs. It creates emotional trips to the 80's early days of hard rock, so if you need that trip, here's one to take.

https://www.facebook.com/Fireaction/

GANDALF’S FIST - “The Clockwork Fable”


RATING: RRRRR

Label: Self Release

Reviewed By: Alan Holloway

I have an odd relationship with prog music, as it seems to either bore me to death or excite me enormously. I love It Bites, Flying Colours, Frost and the like, and as a younger man enjoyed IQ and Pallas, as well as Fish era Marillion. I’m telling you all this so you can see I like prog that has a bit of rock in it, not just meandering 15 minute yawn-fests that are atmospheric rather than fun. Much has been said about this, the 6th Gandalf’s Fist album, and I just had to have a listen for myself. That was a month ago, and I’m finally able to give it a proper review.

The reason it’s taken so long is that “The Clockwork Fable” is a three disc concept album that really has to be listened to as a whole to appreciate what the band have done, and finding a spare three hours these days is a tricky thing! Mind you, it’s well worth rearranging your schedule for this little beauty. Telling the story of a future civilisation forced to live underground after the sun fizzles out, this is a tale of good, evil, daftness and badgers. It’s all tied to a realization that the sun has returned and the desperation of those in power to make sure no one is able to leave the city and clarify this.

The meat of the story is contained in full cast excerpts, generally between each musical track. All kudos must be thrown at the band here, as not only have they got decent actors in, but they’ve also written a compelling narrative with a script that never sounds clunky. Background noise and music add a tremendous atmosphere to these parts, and an intrinsic sense of humour staves off any potential boredom as you catch all sorts of gems hidden in the conversations. Elsewhere, of course, is the music, and this takes the challenge set by the story parts and runs with it. If you want to imagine ELP, Marillion, Jon Mitchell and Iron Maiden getting together to write an opera you wouldn’t be far out. Guest artists like Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Blaze Bayley make a definite impression, and relative unknown Melissa Hollick fills out the sung parts of Eve (the main female character) beautifully. Bayley himself is in fine voice here, shining through the twelve minute “The Sign Of The Aperture” like a metal beacon.

So why has the UK concept album got full marks? To be honest, it’s probably second only to Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds” in terms of carefully plotted, musically diverse storytelling. This makes Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” look like a child’s poem scrawled on a post-it note. Masterful in every way and a real joy to experience, this is simply the best prog album that has ever been released, raising the bar for every concept album that will follow. When it rocks, it rocks hard, and when it progs it progs with passion, Just remember - beware of the badgers…


Official Site