Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Defiants ' Zokusho' Album Review

The Defiants - ‘Zokusho’

THE DEFIANTS is a band put together by Paul Laine, Bruno Ravel, and Rob Marcello. Fans in the know will immediately recognize them, as all have ties to Danger Danger.

Best known for being the D2 vocalist on four studio albums over the course of 12 years, Paul Laine came back to work with his former bandmates Bruno Ravel and Rob Marcello, who are the other two pillars of The DEFIANTS, for the band’s self-titled debut album in 2015. The guys reunited at the suggestion of Frontiers’ President, Serafino Perugino, who really wanted these current and former Danger Danger members to offer fans of that band some new music. The resulting album was pleasing not only to the D2 fans, but also to ALL the fans out there who are into the classic sound of the era from which D2 emerged.

The Defiants debut album was greeted with a great acclaim as a glorious return to the “in your face” melodic hard rock that enraptured millions of fans back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and is currently enjoying a renaissance here in the 21st century, so a follow-up album was a no-brainer. The brand new album, “Zokusho”, a Japanese word meaning “the sequel” or “the next chapter”, is now set for release this fall.

This time, things for D2 fans get even more exciting as D2 drummer Steve West is a special guest on drums. The Defiants could very well be one Perugino’s best ideas yet. Despite 12 years and 4 albums fronting Danger Danger, 90% of fans would likely go for the Ted Poley fronted version over this Paul Laine period. Paul Laine fronted the band during the AOR wilderness years (’93-’04) unfortunately. Even 80s household names struggled in the advent of flannel, two chords and depressing lyrics (aka Grunge)! Paul proved on the debut that he is definitely the man for this job.

So do the guys shake off the sophomore second album syndrome? More of that later. ‘Love Is The Killer’ immediately sets its stall as a companion piece for the debut. Melodic rock in a modern being. Big (hair), big hook, bigger chorus and some stellar soloing from Marcello. ‘Standing On The Edge’ is a powerful song with TNT in its veins, and some vocal histrionics from Laine. ‘Hollywood In Headlights’ and ‘Fallin’ For You’ are both classic D2 songs by any other name. Both are bona fide Summer driving song to be played at max volume. By now you (the listener) can relax. The boys have got your back. You know its gonna be good from here on in.  ‘Hold On Tonite’ is the first traditional ballad and and takes the pace down slightly, but it’s still good listening, and a definite grower.

‘Allnighter’ is back to a rough and ready approach, with its harder edged guitar riff and a verst that’s straight out of Nickleback’s ‘Burn It To The Ground’ playbook. ‘U X’D My Heart’ is a vehicle to prove how good a singer Paul Laine is. This song is all about him. As he nearly his notes that only dogs can hear.  It has a great outdo from Marcello. ‘It Goes Fast’ just skips along at an enjoyable pace that goes so quick you want to savour it all again. As we get to ’Stay’ Im beginning to wonder how many of these songs are worthy of being singles. It’s hard to select any losers in the pack. ‘Alive’ has a big scoop of U2 in it and I hate myself for knowing this! So let’s leave it at that. Im going to scrub myself in bleach….

…I'm back now for the final song, the Paul Laine mantra ‘Drink Up’. I’ve only seen him once, and he drank, like, a lot! It's a proper old school rocker that invites you to play it loud and proud and it makes no apology for what it is.

Heres the checklist….
Melodic. Catchy. Harmonies a plenty. Great guitar work. Wonderful songwriting. Four guys at the absolute top of their game. Cracking production. ‘Zokusho’ has the lot.

SAS? (Sophomore Album Syndrome?) No fucking chance. Its bloody fabulous!

Score 9/10

Review by Paul Chesworth

The Defiants
Paul Laine - Vocals
Bruno Ravel - Bass
Rob Marcello - Guitars
Steve West - Drums

1.Love Is The Killer
2.Standing On The Edge
3.Hollywood In Headlights
4.Fallin’ For You
5.Hold On Tonite
7.U X’d My Heart
8.It Goes Fast
11.Drink Up!

Released 13th September

Robert Tepper - "Better Than The Rest' Album Review

Robert Tepper - ‘Better Than The Rest’

Singer/songwriter Robert Tepper was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. Tepper began his career in the music industry as a staff songwriter in New York City. While in New York, Robert formed a partnership with fellow singer/songwriter Benny Mardones. The duo struck pay dirt with the hit ballad “Into the Night,” which not only peaked at #11 on the Top 40 radio pop charts in September, 1980, but also earned the pair a Grammy Award nomination. Tepper went on to collaborate again with Mardones on the latter’s 1981 follow-up album “Too Much To Lose.”

Robert signed up with the Scotti Brothers record label in 1985 and moved to Los Angeles, California. Tepper scored another hit with the rousing tune “No Easy Way Out,” which was featured on the soundtrack to Rocky IV (1985) and peaked at #22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop radio chart in 1986. Robert released his debut album “No Easy Way Out” that same year. Despite being prominently featured on the soundtrack to the critically reviled Sylvester Stallone action vehicle Cobra(1986), Tepper’s dynamic song “Angel of the City” failed to crack the top 40 radio charts while the single “Don’t Walk Away” only made it to #85. Robert released his second album “Modern Madness” in 1988 and was a member of the classic hard-rock group Iron Butterfly for several years. His third album “No Rest for the Wounded Heart” came out in 1996. Tepper released his fourth album “New Life Story” in 2012. 

Like many people my first experience with Robert Tepper was with the song ‘No Easy Way Out’ and I was hooked but for some unknown reason his solo albums have never done as well as I believe they should so hearing he had a new album coming I was excited to give this a listen.

‘Better Than The Rest’ is a finely crafted collection of songs and Robert’s voice is as good now as it was 30+ years ago. Listening to this album certainly brought back memories of ripped jean, leather jackets and Poodle Perms. While these songs are finely crafted it doesn’t mean that they’re amazing and that is the problem that I picked up on the first listen, although the album is well written and produced I found it painfully boring, there are moments when I thought here we go this is the high quality track that I’ve been waiting for but sadly it just never quite reaches the potential. It took 6 songs for me to even tap my feet, usually when I listen to an album on repeat it doesn’t take me long to pick up lyrics and start singing along but it just didn’t happen with this release.

For such a talented musician and songwriter Robert Teppers albums always seem to receive a warm reception then under perform. I was hoping ‘Better Than The Rest’ would break that chain but in my opinion which may be unpopular, it won’t. A lot of bands from the 80’s/90’s although performing the kind of material that made them successful back then have made enough tweaks to their sound to appear fresh, Robert Tepper hasn’t done this. I wanted to love this album but not matter how many times I listened to it I simply couldn’t. I’m giving ‘Better Than The Rest’ a meagre 6/10 and to be honest it’s only the quality of the production that stopped me marking this lower.

Review by Hollywood Vampyre

Why Does Over (Have To Be So Sad)
Better Than The Rest
All That We Never Have
Time Just This Time
My Yesterday
Tell Me You Love Me
Show Me Where The Light Is Going
Beyond The Atmosphere
I Don’t Want To Make You Love Me
You Know Just How You Feel

KXM - 'Circle Of Dolls' Album Review

KXM - ‘Circle Of Dolls’

KXM — which derives its name from a combination of its members’ other projects (K from KORN, X from KING’S X and M from LYNCH MOB) — issued its self-titled debut in 2014. The 13-track follow-up, “Scatterbrain”, was released on March 17, 2017. Now the band is back with a stronger and awesome new album which - in George Lynch’s words - “it’s better than the first two. It’s insane. The magic’s there, the chemistry’s there, and we’re just sitting here patting ourselves on the back, telling each other what geniuses we are!”

KXM is comprised of dUg Pinnick of King’s X on vocals/bass, George Lynch of Lynch Mob/Dokken on guitars and Korn’s drum maestro, Ray Luzier, rounds out the powerhouse trio. The band takes its name from the combination of the member’s other projects: K from Korn, X from King’s X and M from Lynch Mob.

KXM formed in early 2013 when dUg, George and Ray spoke about trying to jam together. At the time it wasn’t clear what would come from those jams. The only thing that was clear was that these 3 musicians, at the top of their game, wanted to play together. The self-titled debut, KXM, was born from those jam sessions and is now an important piece in each band member’s musical legacy. In a world that constantly searches for new and unique music, KXM delivers all the power and punch that one would expect from these high level players!

First of all I just want to say that dUg Pinnick (fuck only knows why he spells Dug ‘dUg’) has just turned 69! Sixty-fucking-nine! He could pass for someone in their forties, never mind someone fast approaching 70!

If you’re expecting something Kings X / Dokken / Korn related, then you’re not in luck. If anything, its closest to Kings X, but that’s down to Pinnick’s unmistakeable vocals. ‘War Of Words’ is fast and phrenetic, and signals its intent from the off. ‘Mind Swamp’ has a bit of a trippy and hypnotising opening riff, before a more metal riff ensues. For the guitar solo, Lynch plays it like a prog rock song that current Opeth fans would expect, and is not your typical Lynch expectation. Which is cool. Its makes for one of the best songs on the album

‘Circle Of Dolls’ is a more straightforward track, with a cool drum pattern from Luzier. Three songs in and there isn’t a pattern to their style. I guess they guys just bounced ideas, jammed and recorded whatever juices flow out. ‘Lightning’ coughs up a slow groove, and particularly plays to Pinnick’s vocalisation. The guy still sounds great! It proves to be another highlight.
It’s a long song and the whole song plays out and is given time to breathe and isn’t forced. Lynch gets some strange sounds out before a passioned solo sees out the remainder. ’Time Flies’ has more of a relaxed opening, before soaring. I have to say that Lynch’s guitar playing is something else.

’Twice’ kicks off with a very ear pleasing ‘poppy’ groove, if ever KXM could be poppy? This is as close as it gets to being mainstream radio `U~S friendly rock. ‘Big As The Sun’ starts off with a punchy bass and drum riff, but its Lynch’s guitar playing that takes this up a level or three., whereas for ’Vessel Of Destruction’ its Luziers drumming taking central stage to it Korn-esque roots. It shows the looseness and flow of their playing that I’ve been trying to describe, but only a song can prove. ‘A Day Without Me’ has an acoustic country cowboy opening, before the groove belting with Pinnick’s bluesy wail proving as effective foil.

‘Wide Awake’ is one of those songs where they just let Lynch off the reins, wound him up and let him go. The solo is a meandering, soulful, and one that if it were the 70s, would go on for days and days. ’Shadow Lover’ has its foot set in the 90s, it’s a dark sounding Pinnick, with a resonance to his vocals that make the difference. ‘Cold Sweats’ is one of the couple of songs that has some harmonies vocally. Finally its ‘The Border’ is hypnotic and trippy, but most of all, topical. Some say musicians and actors should keep out of politics, buy I feel they have a much stronger voice than the establishment what you to think.

I have to say that Circle of Dolls is a varied tapestry of music. KXM have weaved various styles and themes that reward the listener with something different for each and every song. Its good to see 3 musicians performing at the top of their respective games still and given the opportunity to play it out as they have here.

I still think Lynch is the guitar God he has always been. Pinnick’s vocals are mostly undiminished considering his age. Im not ageist, but we expect our musical idols to sound like they did in 1985. And Luzier adds to the tryptich with some sterling drum wizardry.

If you’re already a fan of KXM, buy this album, as its my fave yet. If you’re new to KXM but a fan of Pinnick, Luzier & Lynch, buy it. Tell you what, just buy it anyway. I think though, in being able to see and hear these songs being played live, would be something else indeed.

Score  8/10

Review by Paul Chesworth

dUg Pinnick - Vocals / Bass
George Lynch - Guitars
Ray Luzier

Circle Of Dolls is scheduled for release on September 13th via Rat Pak Records.

1.War of Words | 02. Mind Swamp | 03. Circle of Dolls | 04. Lightning | 05. Time Flies | 06. Twice | 07. Big as the Sun | 08. Vessel of Destruction | 09. A Day Without Me | 10. Wide Awake | 11. Shadow Lover | 12. Cold Sweats | 13. The Border | 14. War of Words (Radio Edit) [Bonus Track – CD & Download Versions Only]


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Block Buster - 'Losing Gravity' album review

Block Buster – Losing Gravity

The description of Block Buster (the band, not the 1980’s TV programme or defunct video rental store) from the Frontiers promo info said the following:

“The best way of describing their music would be something like this: take AC/DC and Motorhead, spice it up with some Extreme and Bon Jovi, the rougher side of The Rolling Stones, throw in some hunger and energy of the rock-torch carriers of the newer generation such as Airbourne and The Darkness, add a good dose of modern vibe to the mix, put it in a giant blender and you will have the band’s mind-blowing debut "Losing Gravity”! Enjoy and get ready to be blown away!”

Well let’s just say that I’ve no idea how much the writer had been drinking when he put that out or what drugs he’d taken because it is utter crap. Motorhead FFS? Block Buster are as close to Motorhead as ABBA were. 

Luckily the description the band themselves used is far more accurate: We grew up listening to "classic" rock, but we also like many of today's artists from different genres, who tend to influence us just as much. So, we guess it's a mixture of modern and retro.”

Thank God some sanity prevails. The album is a wonderful eclectic mix of styles which does nod in the direction of the 80’s rock scene but with a healthy dollop of modern indie style rock to accompany it not forgetting a touch of rock rap.

Block Buster for clarity are a young(ish) Finnish rock band, brothers Aarni (Lead vocals, guitar) and Jaako Metsapelto (drums), Elias Salo (lead guitar) and Joonas Arppe (bass).

Out In The City kicks the album off with “the” riff that Foo Fighters used on All My Life but this is no rip off or copy, the song kicks in and off we go, buckle up. Great harmonies and a real indication of what is to follow.

Gone By The Morning has a real feel of Ratt at their best crossed with a bit of a modern sound, it works well.

Flammable takes us to full on guitar rock, a driving beat, high octane verse and a great chorus, the song powers on with the dual guitars unrelenting.  

Back From The Shadows another decent rocker with a superb catchy chorus, a great piece of melodic rock. It even has a sneaky little key change towards the end just to freshen up the last minute. 

Losing Gravity is, and please don’t lose it with me, a song that Oasis, Shed 7 or Embrace would be proud of, it’s got a great retro feel to it and I don’t care, I really don’t, it’s quality.

Sweet Mary Jane – maybe it’s the song title and the way Aarni sings on this but I can’t help but think of a cleaned up Love/Hate. The song benefits from a decent riff throughout and the rap style intertwined throughout the song. 

Talking of rap, Move is one of the singles off the album and talk about messing with your head, it has an Electric Boys funk sound, rap vocals that could have come from a heavier version of Uptown Funk and it’s one upbeat belter of a song.

Would You Do It Again is up there in the top couple of favourite songs for me, the build-up of the guitar, the slow burn as the song grows into yet another superbly catchy song that has a real atmospheric feel to it.

This was an album that has been one the best surprises of 2019 so far. Due to the aforementioned guff that accompanied the album I expected a heavy rock album. Now don’t get me wrong there is plenty of decent rock to be had but the whole vibe of the album is a fresh, energetic sound that doffs it’s cap to the 80’s but is still moving forward.

It’s an album that put a smile on my face, left me trying to identify influences, reminded me of so many bands and styles, catchier than a STI, has some superb guitar riffs and fingers crossed that Losing Gravity elevates Block Buster up to the levels of their other Scandinavian rock peers. 

A solid 8/10

Review by Lawrie

Block Buster are:

Aarni Metsäpelto – Lead vocals & Guitar

Jaakko Metsäpelto – Drums & Vocals 

Joonas Arppe – Bass & Vocals 

Elias Salo – Lead Guitar & Vocals

Losing Gravity Track Listing:

1.   Out In The City
2.   Gone By The Morning
3.   Flammable
4.   Back From The Shadows
5.   Losing Gravity
6.   Sweet Mary Jane (Album Version)*
7.   Somebody To Shock Me
8.   Walking Like A Dog
9.   Move
10. Would You Do It Again

11. Bulletproof

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Steven Wilson - 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' Deluxe CD/Bluray Album Review (2019)

Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase.

If you’re a fan of Steven Wilson, then you probably think he operates at a higher level than most. Im not going to mention the term Rock G__’ as the terms is banded about fairly regularly. His out put as a performer (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Storm Corrosion etc.) and producer (King Crimson, Yes, Tull) is second to none. Whilst writing this up, I won’t also use the word ‘Prog’ more than this once. Wilson doesn’t see himself operating in this genre, so who am I to categorise him.

August 23rd sees the release of ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ Originally released in 2015, this version gets ‘the treatment’, with a CD/Bluray edition that features the album in hi resolution stereo and 5.1 audio mix, (96/24 5.1 LPCM & DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) complete with instrumental versions, extra bonus songs, and a Lasse Hoile documentary all in once nice little package.

The basis of the album is one narration. It’s the first time that Wilson has one true narrative from start to finish. Of course he has explored, concepts and various themes throughout the years. (I particularly loved The Incident). So what inspired this narrative? Wilson watched a documentary about Joyce Carol Vincent, a 38 year old Londoner who shut herself off from the World, including friends, and family at the turn of the Century. It was there she continued, virtually invisible and isolated until her death in 2003. It wasn’t until 2006 that her body was discovered. He wondered ho on Earth someone could effectively disappear, and live a life so queried and un-affecting that she disappears from view, or notices that she had gone for almost 3 years. Connected to this story, Wilson decided to turn his curiosity to what would become ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’

The opening few minutes of ‘3 Years Older’ sees Wilson become a fourth member of Rush, as this section could easily be a section of ‘Hemispheres’, with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure. An impressive opener, and a long, but. Fast 10 minutes, is eclipsed for me with title track, ‘Hand Cannot Erase’. Wilson shows he can cut a great ‘pop’ song. Off Wilson aficionados might frown at a song like this, but it just adds to his charm. The ‘upbeat’ theme continues into ‘Perfect Life’ an electronic song that opens with a monologue about two friends who have lost touch with each other, before Wilson sings ‘We have got, We have got a perfect life.’ Melancholy is what he does best of all.

From here on in the tone changes. The nucleus of the album here for me is ‘Routine’ (watch the video on YouTube for added effect. If you don’t show some emotion, then you dead, or a sociopath).  It’s a song we can all tune into, Wilson taps into the fact that we all (well, most of us) are stuck in daily routines. Only can write a lyric with such sadness, and sung to such an effect from Ninet Tayeb  that states ‘Keep cleaning, keep ironing, cooking the meals on the stainless steel hob’. The piano is ghostly and ethereal, and the build up to what is Tayeb’s emotional ‘wail’, mirroring a person breaking under the emotional pressure, is one sound that will stay with me forever.

‘Home Invasion’ is more sinister and disturbing than what has come before. It gives particular showcase to Marco Minnemann’s drumming, and one of the few songs with a solo in it. I also like the Hammond B3 and mellotron weaving through ‘Regret #9’ , and Guthrie Govan's guitar playing in this is fantastic.  ’Transience’ onward sees a further dip in melancholic tone. It has a feel of PT’s ‘Heart Attack…..’, but it’s chorus is upbeat. ‘Ancestral’ is a long (131/2 minutes) and disturbing, dark and haunting. Its orchestral content combined with Govan’s sprawling, tense riffing, and some gorgeous vocal harmonies (similar to Pink Floyd and Tilt) gives the feeling that it’s the albums zenith, before revealing the final two songs. Its prog (dammit!) at its finest - dark and darker, heavy and light in equal measure, with a metal riff firing along the latter section.

If you think you might be hearing something you’ve hears earlier, that’s because bits of ‘First regret’ can be heard in both ‘Regret #9’ and ‘Happy Returns’. ‘Happy Returns’ is a by now TM sound of Wilson, soul searching, and a tad more upbeat, but not quite, before closing with the outro of Ascendant Here On’.

This was the first Steven Wilson album that had me hooked from beginning to end, and a broken man afterwards. The players used are all on top form, the production, superb, and the story and theme is well told. Wilson mixes sounds old, and new, not playing to the old guard and reminds me of one band who constantly did the same as this, Rush.

It’s an album that if you listen to on headphones, will probably leave you in tears. Without even having to dig into the lyrics, you can feel the emotion, sadness and despair. Its almost like a ‘best of/compilation’ album, where all of Wilsons previous best bits came together for one fantastic album.

HCE also contains instrumental versions in 96/24 stereo quality only, for this of you who want to marvel in the musical content, or fancy a karaoke moment. Just make sure you laminate the lyrics for the tears that will ensue! There are another 6 versions of some of ‘HCE’, radio edits, and a Grand Union mix of ‘Perfect Life’; with my favourite being the Ninet Tayeb solo vocal version of ‘Routine’ which is simply marvellous.

Included is a 30 minute studio documentary ‘fly on the wall’ style from Lasse Hoile. Fans will have already seen this on YouTube, but is included here, showing the band at work in Sept 2014. It even includes a rare shot of Wilson wearing trainers.

The 5.1 sound is immersive, nuances of sound come at you from all angles, and the album sounds just gorgeous. All songs are accompanied by some striking photography for you to dwell on whilst listening.

For me, ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ showed Wilson had found perfection. All his output previously had been great, but this was stellar. In 2019, perfection has got even better.

Released bt KSCOPE 23.8.19

*DISC 1*
1               First Regret [02:01]
2               3 Years Older [10:18]
3               Hand Cannot Erase [04:13]
4               Perfect Life [04:43]
5               Routine [08:58]
6               Home Invasion [06:24]
7               Regret #9 [05:01]
8               Transience [02:45]
9               Ancestral [13:30]
10            Happy Returns [06:00]
11            Ascendant Here On… [01:54]

*DISC 2*
1               First Regret (5.1 mix) [02:01]
2               3 Years Older (5.1 mix) [10:18]
3               Hand Cannot Erase (5.1 mix) [04:13]
4               Perfect Life (5.1 mix) [04:43]
5               Routine (5.1 mix) [08:58]
6               Home Invasion (5.1 mix) [06:24]
7               Regret #9 (5.1 mix) [05:01]
8               Transience (5.1 mix) [02:45]
9               Ancestral (5.1 mix) [13:30]
10            Happy Returns (5.1 mix) [06:00]
11            Ascendant Here On… (5.1 mix) [01:54]
12            First Regret (Instrumental) [02:01]
13            3 Years Older (Instrumental) [10:18]
14            Hand Cannot Erase (Instrumental) [04:13]
15            Perfect Life (Instrumental) [04:43]
16            Routine (Instrumental) [08:58]
17            Home Invasion (Instrumental) [06:24]
18            Regret #9 (Instrumental) [05:01]
19            Transience (Instrumental) [02:45]
20            Ancestral (Instrumental) [13:30]
21            Happy Returns (Instrumental) [06:00]
22            Ascendant Here On… (Instrumental) [01:54]

_Bonus Tracks_
23            Studio Documentary filmed and edited by Lasse Hoile [29:29]
24            Photo Gallery - 36 photos from the studio sessions
25            First Regret (alternate mix) [02:05]
26            Hand Cannot Erase (radio edit) [03:25]
27            Perfect Life (Grand Union mix) [07:43]
28            Routine (Ninet solo vocal version) [08:58]
29            Regret #9 (alternate take) [04:17]
30            Happy Returns (radio edit) [03:53]
31            Piano Themes from `Hand.Cannot.Erase`[02:20]

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Underrated rock albums of the last 13 years that you need to listen to!

Albums that have blown me away since 2007

I started reviewing for a site called ‘room thirteen’ back in 2007. One of the best things of this job is finding bands and albums that you previously have never heard of and wondering where they had been all your life. The following is a list of bands and their albums that became my first interaction with, and completely blew me away, and are under heavy rotation in the chesy household ever since.

So in no particular order I give you some utterly fantastic albums that most people probably haven’t heard, and I have thrown in a couple that some may have. All are definitely worth a listen. All have got my coveted full marks, which is a rare thing indeed. To get the max, they need to match up to albums like Pyromania, Rising, Heaven & Hell, Night Of The Crime, Escape, Back In Black, and 4, to name just a few. Do you get my drift? There are others that could be on this list, but these are albums that have been an absolute joy to review.  So in no particular order, here we go…

First up, is the very first album that really got me excited in my early days and is what has kept me going for the last 13 years, waiting for more like this…

Mustasch - Latest Version Of The Truth
Ear-melting riffs, and with a vocalist like Ian Astbury on steroids. Ralf Gyllenhammar is probably the best name in metal ever and 'Double Nature' is one of the best metal anthems written (and is probably used by ice hockey teams all over Sweden as their intro). 'Forever Begins Today' is a song that deserves to be a Bond theme in any other dimension

Track(s) to listen to - Double Nature / Forever Begins Today

Alter Bridge  - Fortress
Out of all the AB albums, this is the pick for me. I tipped then for greatness back in 2005 and they have lived up to the expectations. Sure Blackbird is one of the best metal anthems ever written, and there’s some good stuff on ABIII, but Fortress was where it was all consistently brill. Marshall's bass playing is thunderous and feels like you’re having your internal organs reorganised at full blast. Its an album of pure power and face melting force. Strap yourself in

Track to listen to - Cry Of Achilles

Demians - Building An Empire
Im a bit of a sucker for progressive rock, and finding Demians has been one of the best moments over the last 13 years.
Demians is the brain child of Nicholas Chapel. BAE has the lot. It is light and hark, heavy and subtle, full of textures and dynamics, and its almost like listening to one long song. Played cranked or via headphones and it is IMAX for the ears. I loved this album so much, I went to one of his few UK gigs and I walked out after seeing Demians as I wasn’t excited about Anathema! Thats how good this album is!

Track(s) to listen to - Naive / Shine

Porcupine Tree - The Incident 
Whilst not new to me, this album from Porcupine Tree is an absolute stunner and vastly underrated. They played the whole thing live on tour and that gig alone will stay with me for the rest of my days. Its pretty much one long song and proves that Steven Wilson is a genius

Track to listen to - All of it! The whole album!

Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
An unusual approach for Arjen Lucassen, a band! One singer, no multiples of people queuing up to do their thing, and it really benefits from a core nucleus. Jesper Steverlinck is an absolute find and switches from Matt Bellamy to Freddy Mercury stylings with ease. All 6 tracks are epic in length and thankfully the album is epic too. The 11m43s of Twisted Coil just fly by…..

Track to listen to - Twisted Coil

OSI - Blood
By the time of Blood, OSI were effectively a 2-piece, Kevin Moore and Jim Matheos, with added Gavin Harrison (drums) and Mikael Akerfeldt (for one track). Anyone that can meld, metal, prog, and electronica to such an effect, certainly gets my vote. Moore and Matheos are miles apart in distance, and in musical taste, but it all comes together perfectly as OSI. Their whole output is stunning.

Track(s) to listen to - The Escape Artist / Stockholm

Hellsongs - Hymns In The Key Of 666
The was a complete out of left field for me. A Swedish lounge band covering metal. I'm a massive fan of covers, either true to word, or when a band like this completely fucks with your mind to the point where you think you’ve heard it before (because you have) but their versions are so different, you question your own sanity 

Track to listen to - Seasons In The Abyss

Ghost - Prequelle
I caught Ghost for the first time a couple of areas ago on the Meliora tour and was blown away. I had come to a conclusion that they would be something I wouldn’t and couldn’t like. I was so wrong. Previous albums were purchased, and I got the opportunity to review Prequelle. An album that can stand alongside my benchmarks of Heaven & Hell, Rising, Pyromania, Back In Black etc. Its metal, disco and everything in between. Forge is a bloody genius

Track to listen to - Rats / Miasma / Danse Macabre

Scarlet Rebels - Show Your Colours
An album not even out yet. I'm so confident of the quality of this album that it gets on this list. OK I know a lot about the lads in Scarlet Rebels, but a few yers back I hadn’t a fucking clue about pre-cursor to SR, V0id. Keep Fighting was a cracking album, and I've been hoping that Show Your Colurs wouldn’t disappoint, and it doesn’t. Its chock full of great songs, and I'm 100% certain of its depth and quality. Its a cast iron cert for one of 2019s best albums

Track to listen to - Heal (no video yet)

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie
This was the game changer for Rival Sons. Previous albums were good, but this is where it all comes together, and saw them make a jump up from clubs. Alongside Ghost & Alter Bridge, Rival Sons are the best band this side of 2000. (Only Rival Sons don’t charge you $175 to meet them). Buchannan has enough power to sing without a mic, and Scott Holiday is probably the coolest man to walk the earth. If anyone has evidence he is not an alien drop me a line - the bloke never sweats! If you have a Led Zeppelin sized hole in your life, and want it filled, forget Greta Van Fleet, and look towards Rival Sons as they are the real deal.

Track to listen to - Open My Eyes

Dorothy - RockIsDead
Fronted by Dorothy Martin (good job she wasn’t christened/baptised Doris!), you may not think that you have heard her music before, but you probably have. Whoever does BBCs music for TV shows and promos knows their stuff, as Dorothy has appeared on Poldark and on adverts on UK ITV for Seat cars. Its as if Grace Slick joined Black Sabbath. 

Track to listen to - Wicked Ones / Dark Nights

Tilt - Million Dollar Wound & Hinterland
Yonks ago I received an email from Steve Vantsis asking me to listen to his EP as he thought it would be right up my street. Out of all the albums on this list, this EP had the most impact. MDW is five songs of pure brilliance. If Pink Floyd had written them, they would be lauded as works of perfection. I undervalued it at the time, but its absolutely fantastic. Roll on 8 years to the debut album Hinterland. It was now a band with a single vocalist Paul Dourley who benefits from singing on all the songs. Only No Superman made it from the EP, but Hinterland is an album of understated brilliance. 

Tracks to listen to - MDW - Answers / Adore / Gravity 
Hinterland - No Superman / Against The Rain / Strontium Burning / Hinterland

Ostura - The Room
My favourite album of last year, Ostura’s sophomore album was one of a huge sound that `I didn’t think was possible. Orchestrated (literally) by Danny Bou-Maroun, Ostura is built around three vocalists - Elia Monsef / Youmna Jreissata / and the Toehider’s Micheal Mills. Its orchestral, cinematic with huge production values. Had it been the 80s it would have cost $20m. It includes the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and has a cast from 12 countries. A gift the keeps on giving, you will hear something different with each listen

Tracks to listen to - Deathless

Other albums that have blown me away that I didn’t get the chance to review that I would add to this list

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing - simple beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time
Rival Sons - Feral Roots - on par with GWV. Essential Sons listening.

Pretty much most of the albums here are vastly undersold and thoroughly deserve to be household staples. If I had the money I would put my money where my mouth is and offer a 100% money back guarantee if you bought the albums, especially the ones by Tilt, Ostura, Scarlet Rebels, and Demians in particular and you failed to like them.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Scarlet Rebels - 'Show Your Colours' Album Review

Scarlet Rebels – Show Your Colours

Every now and then a band comes along that makes you go a little bit moist. Am I right fellas? Well this happened in 2015 with a band called V0id. Their third album ‘Keep Fighting’ was a little belter, and I bigged them up to anyone who would listen. They were good. Very good in fact. Even better live.

Thankfully a name change came about last year. An internet search for Void (without the ‘0’’) meant you’d find them about 27 pages in! When the name Scarlet Rebels was announced, I gave a sigh of relief. It suits them. After an album hiatus of 4 years, the next , or should I say ‘first’ chapter of Scarlet Rebels is about to be written, and it’s going to become a best seller.

The band still has a nucleus of brothers Wayne (Vocals, Guitar) and Gary Doyle Drums), along with bassist Wayne Esmonde, but have added some steel with lead guitarist Chris Jones, and Josh Townsend (guitar, keys); and after witnessing them at HRH, with a couple of teasers from ‘SYC’, a huge leap forward that I didn’t think was possible has been achieved. That was before I even heard the album. To that end, I have eagerly been awaiting for ‘Show Your Colours’ to drop.

So, if you’re a fan already then the lads have produced their finest piece of work to date. If you’re thinking of getting into a new band…..then lets see if I can convince you to part with your hard earned. Opener ‘No One Else To Blame’ isn’t exactly a sprint, more of a well-timed finish. A slow burn for me initially but after a few listens, the guitar work, and chorus just power it along like a juggernaut. ‘You Take My Breath Away’  is all about the chorus. They are giving ‘every song a killer’ Vega a definite run for their money. ‘Head’s In The Ground’ sees Scarlet Rebels aligned with my opinion on a certain orange coloured fella across the water (and Brexit!), and is a bit Shinedown in its preaching, and that’s no bad thing.

‘Part Of Me’ has a country-rock-slide-guitar and acoustic opening. It’s a bit of a change of pace, but the chorus is just HUGE. ‘Heal’ is a song they aired when I caught them at HRH AOR and was one of the stand out tracks. It’s low key first half, before a riff kicks in, then its down to the emotive and passioned chorus. Wayne Doyle certainly has a knack in getting you involved with his lyrics. A song of two halves, its my fave of the album so far. ‘Let Your Love Go’ reminds me a bit of a song by Tito and Tarantula. Its got high energy and a wallop to boot. ‘Nothing To Say’ is another song about sticking it to the man. Doyle clearly has a lot to say in his lyrics.  ‘Save me’ is standard fare as it guys for these guys, but its up against some high quality songs.

‘Blinded By The Pain’ is the longest song on the album. Whilst it isn’t epic in length, it is epic by any other means. It has to be a shoe in for their live set. ‘Shattered Dreams’ sees me running out of superlatives at this point. A harder edged song that evokes a bit of Alter Bridge. ‘Can I Open My Eyes’ is a cracking fast paced song that deserves to be a hit in any other time when rock ruled the airwaves.

‘Returning Light’ is the third barnstorming song on 'Show Your Colours'. I love the melodic hard rock numbers, but the real gems for me are when you can hear Wayne Doyle open up his heart and expose himself to some real emotionally delivered songs and this one is the absolute pinnacle of the album. I could imagine this with a choir or an orchestra and it would just bring people to tears. Its stunning, absolutely stunning.  ‘Losing End’ is a song that could easily be from the Foo Fighters, and goes toe to toe with the Grohl. Last and by no means least is a Scarlet Rebels 'balls out rock song' in the vein of bands like ‘DC, Krokus and Accept where it is all about the riff and the chorus.

Its the kind of album that you could be blindfolded with a pin in hand, and the song you pick could easily be a single or a favourite. Scarlet Rebels have a contender here, because the songs range from ‘great’, to ‘excellent’ and have 3 ‘absolute stunners’. There are songs here for every day and every emotion. Four or five listens in and I’m trying to be a bit picky, but I cant really find anything!

Its almost a perfect storm, all five guys hitting peak performance, a pounding rhythm section from Gary Doyle and Esmonde, a three guitar attack from W Doyle, Jones and Townshend, and some great vocals from Wayne Doyle.

Whilst they are not newcomers, Scarlet Rebels have put lots of miles, hard work and graft into these past few years into what should be an album of breakthrough proportions. If you like songs that are 
a) as catchy as a baseball glove dipped in UHU, or 
b) have more hooks than a fishing tackle shop then look no further for your musical fix.

Its 53 minutes of some of the best melodic hard rock you’ll hear all year, and beyond…

331/3 out of 33 1/3  (or 10/10)

Track listing

1.    No One Else To Blame

2.    You Take My Breath Away

3.    Head’s In The Ground

4.    Part Of Me

5.    Heal

6.    Let Your Love Go

7.    Nothing To Say

8.    Save Me

9.    Blinded By The Pain

10.Shattered Dreams

11.Can I Open My Eyes

12.Returning Light

13.Losing End (Bonus: Digital download/ streaming only)

14.Radio Song (Bonus: Digital download/ streaming only

Lead vocals - Wayne Doyle
Backing vocals - Wayne DoyleWayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde and Josh Townshend
Guitars - Wayne Doyle, Chris Jones & Josh Townshend
Lead guitar - Chris Jones
Bass - Wayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde
Drums and percussion - Gary Doyle
Keyboards and piano - Josh Townshend

Album Artwork - Josh Townshend
All images by Graham Harries at G Photography
Scarlet Rebels logo by Aled ‘Not Jones’ Williams

Scarlet Rebels are:
Wayne Doyle (vocals/guitar)
Chris Jones (lead guitar)
Josh Townshend (guitar)
Wayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde (bass)
Gary Doyle (drums)

Released on Fri 09 August 2019 - ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records
Available as Download / CD / Limited Vinyl (250)
Recorded in Sonic One Studios, Llangennech, Llanelli, South Wales

Produced and engineered by Tim Hamill (Girlschool, Lemmy, George Michael)

All songs written by W. Doyle, C. Jones, G. Doyle, W. Esmonde & J. Townshend

All lyrics by W. Doyle

Pre-order here: