Tuesday 26 February 2019

Hardware '86 - "EP' Review

Hardware 86
These two guys are men of few words. Im assuming that they are letting their music doing the talking. The PR info is limited at best – ‘The band ‘Hardware 86’ takes you back to the sound and the vibe of the late 80s hard rock scene. They celebrate a shameless cocktail of heavy guitars, soft synths, melodic leads and big 80s drums’. That’s it.

The band is Rune Aalberg Alstad (guitar/vocals) and Sigurd Ekle (bass/vocals) with assorted musicians filling in the gaps.

I was not wrong. Hardware 86 reminds me of the time I first heard Work Of Art. Thinking that no one was really serious about bringing back the AOR of old, Hardware 86 are doing their best in following the likes of WOA in their musical direction and output. When they state the late 80s they aren’t kidding. The opening bars of the opening track ‘Arena’ you know 100% that these guys walk the walk, and talk the talk. They couldn’t be more 80’s if they tried. I am half expecting Rick Springfield to kick in with vocals – a good time song if ever I heard one. If you like band like Atlantic, and Red Dawn, then this is right up your street. ‘Share This Love’ has more of an ‘edge’ but it is right in Work Of Arts wheelhouse. Rune’s vocals are perfect in this genre, and is born to sing AOR. ‘Summer of ‘91’ is one of those songs that regales of days gone by, singing ‘where did the Summer go?’ It evokes Robin Beck and is the type of song that Billboard was full of in the late 80s, as it leads towards pop more than rock, and ends with the same outro as Kiss’ ‘Forever’. ‘Sagittarius’ is standard ballad fodder and has been done to death before.

It’s a sharp fall off in quality for the last couple of songs in ‘Cheezyfiction’ and ‘TLM‘. ‘Cheezyfiction’ would be right at home on an 80s B Movie montage clip on something like FX- Murder By Illusion or an 80s porn film, and ‘TLM’ is like a mix of styles coming together without any real direction.

Both are a bit of a let down. Only because it’s a 20 min EP. Had it been longer I wouldn’t mind an instrumental, but would have left it from this selection of songs. That said it fits their sound, but the EP doesn’t need it. 

If Hardware 86 had developed more songs like the first two tracks it would be an album that would make the AOR community sit up and listen. A solid B for effort, but they have shown they have the songs in them to do good things. Id look at getting another 6 songs together for an album and include Arena and Share this Love as they have the foundations for a good album

Score 6/10

Rune Aaberg Alstad – Guitar / vocals
Gigurd Ekle – Bass / vocals
Additional Musicians
David Saylor – (1,2,3,5)
Snorre Valen – (2,4)
Olav Slagsvold – (6)
Bjorn Bakken – (5)

Tracklisting -
Share This Love
Summer of ‘91

Thursday 21 February 2019

Blood Red Saints - 'Pulse' Album Review

Blood Red Saints – Pulse

Pulse is the third album from the Blood Red Saints, the first 2 albums 'Speedway' and 'Love Hate Conspiracies' were very much in the melodic rock vein. Pulse moves away from that somewhat with a heavier feel and mix of musical styles but still maintaining the distinctive Blood Red Saints sound.

I first saw BRS a number of years ago at the Rockingham Festival. I’d not heard their material but was advised by the Welsh Mafia that they were not be missed, how right they were.

They were early on the bill but were a revelation, I was hooked. In lead singer Pete Godfrey you have an enigmatic front man who is self-deprecating, a superb vocalist and stunningly funny. Pete has a put down for anyone brave/stupid enough to heckle. Add to that Lee Revill on lead guitar who also produced this album, Neil Hibbs (guitar), Andy Chemney (drums) and the legend that is Rob Naylor (bass) you have a proper band although whether Rob is in or out is one life’s ongoing mysteries.

Since that day I’ve seen the lads a number of times and got to know them as people and spent many happy times chewing the fat and chatting to them. They are bloody decent guys and a superb live band. They also make the effort to attend festivals like Hard Rock Hell and Rockingham even though they’re not playing. Proper rock supporting lads.

And so to Pulse.

Believer - The first track starts with haunting whistling (luckily more Axl Rose than Roger Whitaker) and rolling thunder in the background. The distinctive vocal of PG and a solid drum and bassline lead into a solid moody track far darker and heavier than the previous 2 albums. There’s also the “Let me hear an Amen” line dripping with irony and a blistering solo by Lee Revill.

Animals – again dark and menacing although I didn’t initially get into it to be honest but the driving guitars won me over, this isn’t the soft BRS of old but the intensity of the bass drum at the end is impressive.

Cross to Bear – a lead vocal full of emotion at the start leading into an old style BRS chorus. Nice. The Revill influence is there to hear and I bet Neil Hibbs was loving playing the heavier sound. A feature of the album is the effects used on the PG vocal, the use of a synth and other sound effects throughout. They all contribute to a unique sound.

Invincible – An atmospheric start followed by a superb set of heavy riffs. Thought provoking lyrics and great backing vocals, this would sit happily on the first 2 albums.

I’m Your Devil – the riff to start the song has Year 2000 by Pulp all over it. A high tempo piece with a real high paced melodic rock feel. BRS have always had a Def Leppard sound about them, this album has a bit of a Slang feel by Leppard about it, I don’t mind that at all.

There is also the compulsory voice over chucked in similar to that on the first album. My pedant criticism is that the quote “Money is the root of all evil” is wrong, actually it’s from Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil”. Just saying lads ;-)

Crash Into Me – knock me down with a feather, a full on proper ballad, the softest start to a song yet but lyrics such as “I’m tired of chasing broken dreams” and “I’m learning to fly, but it’s taking some time to get it right, gonna keep on trying” do it for this soft git. Song of the album for me. A proper AOR classic.

Pulse – Title song but for me it’s no Love Hate Conspiracy. It’s solid rock and we do have the good old “Whoa, whoa, whoa” sing-along bit. It’s OK but not the most memorable although it is a grower.

Message To God – a full on hard rock song, another slower, moody, heavier song. I love the heavy guitar riff throughout this leads into What Have We Become – written to the beat of a slower Pour Some Sugar on me to start. The beat to the song is addictive though.

Warrior – a slow atmospheric song. Layered vocals are superbly mixed in to PG’s vocal, “Be careful what you wish for”. Indeed. I love the way it hooks you in without trying, it’s a real ear worm of a track. At the end I felt I was that Warrior (all be it a fat one).

Bring Me To Life – I thought this was gonna be an Evanescence cover. Oh no, it’s another piece of classic AOR, the sound reminds me of multiple AOR songs and the fact I can’t pick exactly one explains how it ticks so many boxes. Personally I’d call this song  “Fix me tonight” but what do I know. A good song and ends a very good album.

In conclusion –I love the BRS guys but if I didn’t like the album then I’d say so. It’s a real mix of music styles and I love some of the heavier stuff even though I freely admit I prefer the AOR songs. The album is a grower and after a few listens I am hooked.

Atmospheric, haunting, moody, heavier riffs and sometimes dark, this is a change for the BRS lads but good for them, a brave move when they could have just gone for a Love Hate Conspiracies part 2.

My slight criticism is that the production could be tightened up, the sound on a laptop and phone is not that good but stick in head phones or a decent speaker turned up loud and the album comes alive. That said when recording on a budget you’re not getting Mutt Lange to help I suppose. I can already hear Pete Godfrey now: ”Don’t listen to it on a laptop or phone then you twat”.

Seeing BRS live is what the band are all about and I’ve already got a couple of their gigs lined up and I can’t wait to hear the new stuff live.

A solid 7/10  

Review by Lawrie

Track Listing:

1. Believer
2. Animals,
3. Cross To Bear
4. Invincible
5. I’m Your Devil
6. Crash Into Me
7. Pulse
8. Message To God
9. Warrior
10. What Have We Become
11. Bring Me To Life

Blood red Saints are:

Pete Godfrey - Vocals
Lee Revil - Guitars
Neil Hibbs - Guitars
Andy Chemney - Drums

Wednesday 20 February 2019

John Diva and the Rockets of Love - 'Mama said Rock Is Dead' Album Review

John Diva and the Rockets of Love – Mama Said Rock Is Dead

In the past I have wrongly dismissed acts with off-putting names – Mustasch (killer riffs), Gene The Werewolf (superb rock carnage), but I wasn’t going to let John Diva and The Rockets of Love get away lightly, or without a listen!
Looking at the bloke, I suspect that he is huge in his home town/city, especially with +40 Cougars etc, and lives for the halcyon days of the 1980s hair metal brigade. I would even suspect that John’s persona is 100% rock n roll 24/7 and he will not even leave the house to buy milk and bread unless he is  fully laden in spandex, aquanet, guy-liner, bandana and an 80s swagger. I have no PR bumf, except for a Google search for his background so its just, me, John, The Rockets of Love, and the music. 

I half expected John and the Rockets to be from somewhere like Slapout, Alabama, but instead they are German, and from the website, make Steel Panther look like a ‘normal’ band, if ever there was a ‘normal’ for the Panthers!

Joining vocalist/womaniser (its on their site) John Diva is Snake Rocket and J.J.Love (guitars), Remmie Martin (Bass) and Lee Stingray Jr. (Drums). Its fair to say that like Steel Panther you need to take them on face value and with a certain pinch of salt. If you do just that, then you’re in for a treat – a huge treat.
It states that “HERE I GO AGAIN”, “ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE”, “YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME”, “WHY CAN’T THIS BE LOVE”,”POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME” or “POISON”… you name it! All those songs DIVA was involved with as a songwriter! I think he was more involved in making the tea, as I can’t find his credit on any of these classics.

However, Diva has used all of his years of experience and raided the iSpy book of Metal Clichés, the Haynes manual for Hair Metal, and Dokken for Dummies and comes up with songs that make you smile and long for the good ‘ol days of MTV, chlamydia and other STDs. ‘Whiplash’ is a decent opener and the riff just rips into Motley Crue territory and has all the hallmarks of the eponymous Sunset Strip bands from back in the day. ‘Lolita’ is Van Halen, down to the video paying homage to the great DLR and VH vidz of the 80s. Diva sings ‘Ive been a bad boy all my life, breaking hearts, breaking laws, trying to survive’ on ‘Rock N Roll Heaven’ and you believe him without question and it melds cowboy and southern rock to great effect.

After one full listen I have to say that there’s more cheese here than the Kraft Singles factory. But good cheese.

There’s nothing new here that’s for sure. But….what you have is a man and his band penning and performing songs like they were in the 1980s. Many bands from that era have tried to recreate their glorious past and failed. Diva, right from the opening bars telegraphs his intent on bringing his 80s metal show and taking no prisoners in the process.

Some riffs are that blatant, he could expect a visit from some lawyers any day soon. But who hasn’t ever stolen a riff? If you like bands like Warrant (Rock N Roll Heaven), Whitesnake’s Give Me All Your Love Tonight (Wild Life), and Spit It Out (Long Legs In Leggings), Bon Jovi (the excellent out Jovi-ing Bon Jovi with Blinded (by a blonde!)) Leppard (Dance Dirty), and VH (Lolita).

Despite the gripe, there is some decent stuff on here, ‘Lolita’ tries to match DLR toe to toe, ‘Blinded’ has one of the best choruses you’ll hear all year, ’Toxic’ literally gets under your skin, and ‘Rocket Of Love’ is a cracking anthem.

Yes its clichéd. Yes its part parody. But John Diva and The Rockets of Love are completely self-aware and know exactly what they are selling here, and its ‘good time party rock n roll’. If you can get beyond the ‘its all been done before’ you can enjoy it 100%. I’ll tell ya something, I really, really, fucking enjoyed it.

Diva’s Mama Said Rock Is Dead, well I can tell you now, she knows absolutely sod all!

Score 8/10

Tracklisting -
Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven
Wild Life
Dance Dirty
Just A Night Away
Fire Eyes
Get It On
Long Legs In Leggings
Rocket Of Love

John Diva and the Rockets of Love –
John Diva – Vocals
Snake Rocket – Guitars
J.J. Love – Guitars
Remmie Martin – Bass
Lee Stingray - Drums

Thursday 14 February 2019

Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics - 'The Man With Stars On His Knees' Album Review

Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics – The Man With Stars On His Knees
I always love it when a band I’ve never previously heard of just blows me away. These occurrences are not too frequent, but when you encounter Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics at HRH AOR come out and rip the place apart, you know when ‘special’ really means SPECIAL. I was unprepared for the human explosion that is Buchanan. A whirlwind of energy and seems like he has either a death wish or good healthcare insurance as he seems hell-bent on doing time in Stoke Mandeville hospital for some sort of spinal injury! Whilst they are nowhere near an AOR band, I welcomed their appearance, as they were one of just a couple of bands that took the place by storm. It was only when they played a couple of songs by Heavens basement that I managed to put 2+2 together. Of course. Whilst HB dallied around for quite some time, I think now Buchanan has his own vehicle to display his considerable talent, he will eclipse anything that HB have done, and lots, lots more.

A definite Rising Star award, or New Band award should have been in abundance in for them the last 2 years. 

Backtrack to 2015 and Buchanan bailed out of HB and straight into the studio with producer James Curtis-Thomas, guitarist Ryan Woods, and sister and guitarist Laurie Buchanan. Prior to this, Curtis-Thomas and Buchanan had spoken a lot about producing a record with deep, mature and colourful content. 

Their debut album, the strangely, but excellently named, ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ hit the digital stands in 2017. But fast-forward to 2019 and ABATCC have signed a deal with Listenable Records in France. So what we have is a Special Edition of the Debut with a couple of extra studio tracks on the vinyl, and an additional three live tracks on the CD.

Show Me What You’re Made Of is fairly short, and leads you into the album nicely, just as you expect a big crescendo, it ends (unfortunately) but only to lead into ‘All The Things You’ve Said And Done’ a powerful kick in the nuts song that demands your attention. Its full of attitude, swagger and a song for the masses. Its Queen/The Darkness meets Halestorm, and dare I mention them, Alter Bridge.

‘Dancin’ Down Below’ instantly grabs you. Its underlying riff and anthemic chorus leave you breathless. If you haven’t seen ABATCC, I can assure that he can keep this pace up for a whole gig, its not just clever production. You get tired just listening to them! ‘The Devil That Needs You’ is classic rock for two thirds, followed by a final third that is something the US Army would use to break down Terrorist cells in captivity. ‘Journey Out Of Here’ is about as poppy and ‘normal’ as they can be to mainstream (if Aaron can ever be called ‘normal’!?). It’s a nice build that is up-lifting in its composition and is both light and dark at the same time. If that makes sense? Title track, the wonderfully named, ‘The Man With Stars on His Knees’ takes you on a journey, and it’s a song that is sooo good it just belies belief. A modern anthem in the making. It pulls in influences from Kiss, to Mott, to ELO and lots in-between. Phew.

A God Is No Friend’ is a nice slow burn, with Buchanan sounding like Layne Staley and AIC. There’s some nice guitar work going on here, giving it plenty of atmosphere.  Still in a bit of an Alice In Chains moment ‘Left Me For Dead’ is a dirtier, grungier song than anything previous. I like the fact that there’s plenty of variation going on here and everything is precisely and deliberately in its place. ‘Mind Of A Mute’ is Soundgarden by any other name, and reminds me about the good bits of grunge and its ‘wear you down’ guitar riffage (that killed off all my hair metal bands in the early 90s!). ‘Morals’ is just grandiose, and revoked Freddie Mercury and Queen. So, that would have been it, but now we have a couple of new tracks fro the reissue. ‘Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem’ is a great song for a single release, and just sums up what ABATCC are all about. Finally we’re  at the sharp end with ‘Undertow’, and its verse draws you in for the guitar solo. Its probably the most diverse song from the rest, and its an opportunity to hear Buchanan just sing, and it’s a worthy closer.

Buchanan’s name is on the cover, but Aaron, Laurie Buchanan, Tom McCarthy, Paul White and Mart Trail, take a well-deserved bow.

If you want to take a punt on a new band you haven’t heard yet, I’d put all my money on Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics. Other bands take note, the bar was already high, this reissue has raised it further.

If you don’t like the album or his live show, I’m honestly tempted to say I’ll refund you myself.


Show Me What You’re Made Of
All The Things You’ve Said And Done
Dancin’ Down Below
The Devil That Needs You
Journey Out Of Here
The Man With Stars On His Knees
A God Is No Friend
Left Me For Dead
Mind Of A Mute
Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem*
Undertow* (*exclusive studio bonus tracks)

Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics –
Aaron Buchanan – Vocals
Laurie Buchanan – Guitar
Tom McCarthy – Guitar
Mart Trail – Bass
Paul White - Drums

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Plague And The Decay - 'Children Of The Myth' Album Review

Plague And The Decay – Children Of The Myth

Plague And The Decay are a Manchester based Metal outfit with great potential. This ,their 2nd album, following on from 2017’s ‘The Conundrum Suite’, oozes class from each and every corner.

‘Omicron’ starts the album off at a galloping pace producing a superb opener that has feel and depth mixed with a catchy chorus. Title track (ish) ‘Children Of The Myths’ slows the pace down to start but still keeps the atmospheric guitaring, sounding nice through the wah-wah pedal. The pace picks up again as we head into the verse. There’s hints of Alice In Chains in this track, which is always welcome. Mix in a stunning guitar solo, a great chorus and you’ve got another blistering track.

‘Deus Ex Machina’ treats us to some stop-start stuff. The opening riff to this track is sublime. It has a heavier feel to it, almost Anthrax-like, while ‘Days Without Number’ opens peacefully but then treats us to some really nice doom riffs. Lovely the way the guitars are tuned down, always a favourite of mine. This is a ballad-style track and is probably the best thing I’ve heard so far from these guys. It reminds me of Creed.

‘Poison Of Suspicion’ follows more of the same formula, but ‘The Steps To Ruination’ breaks all rules laid down so far by treating us to just over two minutes of Raphael’s potential vocal-wise. As the track builds up, we head into a frenzied finally. Great stuff.

‘Here Awaits Thy Doom’ has a cracking riff to it, quite Egyptian-like. It’s beat is very up-tempo and again doesn’t disappoint. ‘Macabra’s’ opening reminds me of Iron Maiden’s Powerslave era. There’s some great use of the double bass drum in this track, which is a stomper, by the way.

As we reach penultimate track ‘Linear’, with it’s eerie, but melodic intro, it’s clear the diversity this band possesses. It isn’t long before we are full throttle again with another powerful riff. Check out the blistering ending. Album closer ‘Children Of The Deity’ again has a Maiden feel to it. Probably due to the lovely dual guitar work performed perfectly by Pete. It’s more of the same successful formula that makes this album more than worth a listen. Check it out.

Score 8/10

Reviewed by Sty

Track listing:

1. Omicron
2. Children Of The Myths
3. Deus Ex Machina
4. Days Without Number
5. Poison Of Suspicion
6. The Steps To Ruination
7. Here Awaits Thy Doom
8. Macabre
9. Linear
10.Children Of The Deity

Vocals: Raphael Gazal
Guitars, B-Vox: Pete 'Paz' Worrall
 Drums: Consta Taylor

If you like what you hear, check out Pete's FB Page as he is also a pretty talented author -  https://www.facebook.com/pete.worrall.3

Tuesday 12 February 2019

FM - ' 'The Italian Job' Review

FM – The Italian Job

If you’re here and have never heard of FM before, then where have you been since 1986? After 10 studio albums comes this – The Italian Job, a play on words to mark their appearance at Frontiers Festival in Milan last year. The only thing that could have made this even better for the DVD release is Stiv and the gang pulling up to the venue in 3 mini’s (red, white and blue of course) and coming onto the stage whilst Quincy Jones’ ‘Self Preservation Society’ song is playing. That would have been an entrance and a half. Anyway they didn’t, so its onto the show…..for your delectation and delight, I am only reviewing the audio version!

If you’re already a bit of an FM like me, what you get are 16 peerless songs of utter high quality, and I’m almost fed up of saying this, but when you have a vocalist of Steve Overland’s quality anything and everything is possible. It’s not just about Steve-o. In Merv and Pete you have a rhythm section that ticks like an atomic clock, its never out of sync and is the backbone of FM. Add Jim Kirkpatrick, who is the longest serving and best guitarist FM have had, and the keytar prowess of Jem ‘wadda mean four keyboards are enough?’ Davis, and you have one of the finest British exports since Spam was invented.

The set is almost perfection. I say almost as there’s a couple of gems from the Andy Barnett era that are missing, notably ‘Blood and Gasoline’, but that said, its about as good as its gonna get.  New songs like the Van Halen-esque ‘Life Is A Highway’, and the Bad Co. like Black Magic’, and the pop-tastic ‘Killed By Love’ interweave with the ‘classics’ really well. A lot of bands newer output is patchy, but not FM, as these sit alongside oldies without any need to feel like they are  there under false pretenses.

Standard staples such as ‘I Belong To The Night’, ‘Someday’, ‘Love Lies Dying’, That Girl’ and ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ cover the early era and just cannot be missed out. I’m glad to see the excellent and underrated ‘Tough It Out’ getting an outing. One of the newer songs that is a staple and rightly so is ‘Story Of My Life’. Had a certain Mr Bolton sang it, it would be a million seller, and it should be with Steve Overland vocals. I’ve seen grown men sob into their pints seeing this live, and it is a perfect ballad.

It’s not nearly a review, more of an observation in majestic musicianship, tight as a nut songs with one of the best singers the UK has ever produced and harmonies to die for. I prefer to see it, rather than hear it, so my money is on watching the DVD.

My only issue, FMs set now needs to be like Rush at 2 sets, lasting approx 3 hours. There’s just too many great songs not making the cut. That said, almost every gig could be almost very different, there’s that much quality to play live.

This Runaway Train shows no signs of stopping.


You can pre order The Italian Job from Frontiers Store –

Black Magic
I Belong To The Night
Life Is A Highway
Let Love Be The Leader
Someday (You’ll Come Running)
Killed By Love
Over You
Closer To Heaven
Does It Feel Like Love
Story Of My Life
Love Lies Dying
Bad Luck
Tough It Out
That Girl
Other Side Of Midnight

FM –
Steve Overland – Vocals and Guitar
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass
Pete Jupp – Drums
Jem Davis – Keyboards
Jim Kirkpatrick - Guitar