HOT NEW REVIEWS
 UPDATED ON MAY 17 - 2009

FREE SPIRIT ‘PALE SISTER OF LIGHT’ (CARPEL MUSIC)

Here we have a Finnish surprise, because the first full-length album of FREE SPIRIT is a very strong Melodic Hardrockalbum. Although at first sight it is not as catchy or supersensational as for example H.E.A.T., BROTHER FIRETRIBE, THE POODLES or WIG WAM, it is definitely of the same high quality, only a little different, because FREE SPIRIT is the more well-thought melodic hardrockband, sorta like DARE, MAGNUM, but then with an own approach that is quite recognizable after a few songs. Sometimes (like in the song “Preacher man”) it’s sounding like a sorta unique mixture between BILLY IDOL and BONFIRE somehow. In other words, this band might definitely earn a lot of respect within the melodic rock community for it’s own approach to the classic sound. Songs like “Shadow of a man”, “Moonlight ride”, “Strangers” and “Far away from heaven” are all excellent original Melodic Rocksongs that contain memorable choruses and some awesome ripping guitarwork as well. We reviewed the band before, but now we are looking at a real finished full-length product of this upcoming rising band that already is becoming a well-known name in home country Finland where their video of the song “Until the night” has rotated many times on the national music tv channel ‘The voice’. Better check out this band asap at: www.freespiritrock.com 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

BOREALIS ‘WORLD OF SILENCE’ (INDEPENDENT)

Formed in 2005 and now invading the metalworld is the Canadian band BOREALIS. The band features four young guys, of whom lead singer/guitarist Matt Marinelli is definitely most important person, because thanks to his fantastic JEFF SCOTT SOTO meets SAVATAGEish vocals I couldn’t stop listening to the first song (the superb uptempo Melodic Progressive Power Metal tune “Lost voices” that sounds like a mix between ROYAL HUNT, SAVATAGE, KAMELOT and EVERGREY) on the band’s first full-length CD ‘World of silence’. The sound of the CD as well as the high quality music included, it is all making this a sensational record and a pleasure to listen to. EVERGREY meets BALANCE OF POWER meets THRESHOLD meets SAVATAGE meets VANDENPLAS, that is what to expect here and believe me when I say that it is of the same high level most of the time, especially during the opener “Lost voices”, the epic “From the fading screams’, “The afterlife” and “Divine answer”. So here we are looking at small young independent band from Ontario, Canada with a CD release that could easily be in the collection of every prog/power metalfan! The band played as support act for EDGUY, KAMELOT, SONATA ARCTICA and EPICA, so the fans then know this is a band to watch out for in the near future! Check them out at: http://www.borealisband.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

MINEA ‘SOTA’(INDEPENDENT)

Not much info on this band from Finland, but they have released a very strong full-length CD titled ‘Sota’. They sing in their home native language, so we can not understand the lyrics of their songs, but that is not really a big issue, because bands like INDICA, UNIKLUBI and TERASBETONI do the same and they are all great (all reviewed as well in recent times!). With MINEA we can add another great Finnish Melodic Hardrockband, think of a BROTHER FIRETRIBE or LEVERAGE, but then with Finnish lyrics. The band has a great lead singer (Reijo Tiitinen) and most of the 10 included songs are very catchy uptempo Melodic (Hard) Rock pieces with some very nice melodies, such as in “Anna sen tulla uniin”, “Valoon”, “Kallioon juurtunut” and “Tasse on tie”. This could have easily been a Finnish major label release as it sounds as good as mentioned acts, not only musically, but also the sound/production of the record is of a very high level, so make sure to check out this release if you’re starting to become interested at: www.myspace.com/minearock  and http://minearock.net/ 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

HIGHEST DREAM 'FAR AWAY FROM HERE' (ESCAPE MUSIC)

OK, maybe not really original, but still quite a pleasure to listen to is the debut CD of the Brazilian band HIGHEST DREAM. Very much comparable to BONRUD, MYLAND and FINAL FRONTIER, this is pure 80s AOR/Melodic Rock with strong vocalwork and some nice catchy hooks here and there, filling up each song with a memorable chorus. The band consists of Keyboardist/guitarist/drummer Leo Mendes and vocalist Riq Ferris whom together with several other musicians from the Rio De Janeiro music scene (guitarists Marcelo Nami, John Cassio and Marcio Loureiro) recorded this album. 10 full-length songs are included here and like mentioned before this is pure 80s AOR/Melodic Rock. Sometimes it sounds quite familiar and probably reminds one of so many stuff from the past, but for the die-hard fan this should not be a problem, because songs like the uptempo rockers "Restless dreamer" (best song, pure AVIATOR, AGENT mixed with FINAL FRONTIER), "Can't fight hearts", "I will find you", "Not an angel" and the wonderful closing ballad "Never be apart" (hello JOURNEY) are very strong AOR tunes with some excellent vocalwork of Riq Ferris, who has a JEFF SCOTT SOTO meets JIMI JAMISON sorta vibrato. Make sure not to miss this release on ESCAPE MUSIC. More at: http://www.myspace.com/highestdreamrock 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

TAZ TAYLOR BAND ‘STRAIGHT UP' (ESCAPE MUSIC)

It’s almost possible to go the wrong way when you are such an excellent guitarist as TAZ TAYLOR from Birmingham, UK and you have a superb lead singer called KEITH SLACK (MSG, STEELHOUSE LANE) on lead vocals, with the label ESCAPE MUSIC backing you up on your 2nd album ‘Straight up’. To be honest, Taz’ first album ‘Welcome to america’ from 2006 did not leave a big impression here, except for the fantastic guitarwork, but GRAHAM BONNET’s average vocalwork spoiled it a bit. Happily, we now have Keith on board and what an excellent singer with huge vibrato this is, because he can go anywhere with his range, melodic, soulful, bluesy, raw, etc. and never sound out of tune. He sounds like DAVID COVERDALE sounded in his heydays and that is one big compliment, because so far only JORN LANDE and the GOTTHARD lead singer Steve Lee were really able to do that, but now we can easily add KEITH SLACK. Also the guitarwork of TAZ TAYLOR is really awesome, while songs like “The fugitive”, ”Information overload” (excellent guitar solo), “What you need” and “In Harms way” (hello early 1980s WHITESNAKE) are all great UK style Melodic Hardrocksongs that also reveal influences from the late 70s sound of UFO, RAINBOW, GARY MOORE, MSG and THIN LIZZY besides the obvious WHITESNAKE similarities. A total must for fans of mentioned bands! More at: www.taztaylor.com  and www.myspace.com/taztaylorband 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

PANTOMMIND ‘LUNASENSE’ (SPECTASTRAL RECORDS)

PANTOMMIND is a band formed way back in 1993 in a small town in the heart of Bulgaria. It took them until 2005 before they would make themselves a name with the release of their first full-length CD ‘Shade of fate’, which is now followed up by the CD ‘Lunasense’. This album is definitely a must-have for all Progmetalfans out there. The band’s great high-pitched vocals of singer Tony Ivan give the sound a clear FATES WARNING approach. 10 songs are included on the new album and somehow the 2nd part of the CD holds the highlights, such as the SUPERB “To the days of old” (a midtempo Melodic Metal piece that somehow reminds me a lot of LANA LANE, thanks to the additional vocals of female singer Colleen Gray, a song that even made it to the semi-finals of Eurovision Song Contest back in 2006!), “My Home (into eternity)” and the lovely super melodic closing track “I’ll never be the same” (a semi-ballad like 80s DOKKEN meets RADAKKA’s first album meets early 90s FATES WARNING meets 80s TNT). Sort of a surprise this new PANTOMMIND, a real must-have for the Progmetalfans out there. Go check them out at: www.spectastralrecords.com  and www.pantommind.com 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

WINTERBORN ‘FAREWELL TO SAINTS’ (MASSACRE RECORDS)

The Finnish band WINTERBORN made their debut with the album ‘Cold reality’ back in 2004 and now follow it up with ‘Farewell to saints’. The band has had several line-up changes the past 3 years, but are now making a good comeback with this new album that seems to be a little heavier and edgier, with 10 songs included that musically combine Melodic Heavy Rock with European Power Metal. Highlights are the uptempo “Seven deadly sins”, “The winter war” (strong chorus and melodic guitarwork, a little like MYSTIC PROPHECY), “Another world” (a 10 minutes counting epic tune, very melodic, a bit Progmetalish) and “Land of the free”. With so many releases in the genres WINTERBORN is aiming for, it will be hard for the them to get some attention, but ‘Farewell to saints’ is definitely a nice album to check out I you’re a fan of FIREWIND, NOCTURNAL RITES, MYSTIC PROPHECY snd such bands. More info at: www.winterborn.info  and www.myspace.com/winterbornband 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

AVM ‘A MATTER OF TIME’ BIG CHANCE RECORDS/SONGWERKS/ABSOLUTE VISION PRODUCTIONS/USA IMPORT)

AVM is a band from Chicago, USA, formed back in 2001 and now releasing their 2nd full-length CD ‘A matter of time’, which is the follow-up to their 2003 album ‘It’s tonight’. Musically it is heading into a typical American Rocksound that sounds pretty much traditional and quite close to late 70s/early 80s Midwestern Southern Rock/AOR a la 38 SPECIAL and HEAD EAST, yet a little bluesier here and there. The titletrack of the CD was co-written by none-other than JIM PETERIK (PRIDE OF LIONS, SURVIVOR), but be aware that this is not a pure AOR record a la SURVIVOR, but more traditional American Rock based, sometimes reminding a lot of DOC HOLIDAY and THE OUTLAWS, with a slight STAN BUSH similarity here and there (like in the opener “Into the flames again”) and even some Pomprock influences. Highlights among the 13 included tracks are the more AOR based tunes “I don’t know why”, “Who’s on your side” (Hammond meets 70s Pomprock synths, song a la STARCASTLE/ROADMASTER), “The way” (one of the best songs, a pure Pomprocker a la AVIARY/SPY) and “Time slips away’ (a pretty good smooth AOR ballad). Not pure AOR all the way here, but still sounding like the late 70s US way of rock, which melted bluesy tones with AOR/Melodic Rock/Pomprock and Classic Rock. More info at: www.AVMband.com and www.myspace.com/BigChanceRecords and www.myspace.com/AVM and e-mail them at: mark@absolutevisionproductions.com and songwerks@comcast.net 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

ELEKTRADRIVE ‘LIVING 4’ (VALERY RECORDS)

The Italian band ELEKTRADRIVE has a long history behind them and for me personally they are one of the pieces of the puzzle that all came together one day in the year 1995. I am talking about me reviewing the re-issue of the band’s classic 80s material (their albums ‘Due’ and ‘Over the space’) onto CD by LONG ISLAND RECORDS almost 15 years ago now. The review was published in one of the very first issues of our printed magazine and one of the prime examples why to start the magazine in the first place, to bring people the word of the good music that was out there (either new or in this case, re-issued onto CD). I absolutely loved this band and always wondered why they never managed to follow-up their only 2 releases from the 1980s, although somewhere around 1994 they released another CD that somehow must have went unnoticed unfortunately back then, but in 1995 internet had a really long long long way to go! Anyway, the real comeback has now happened in the year 2009, because ELEKTRADRIVE has a new CD! Musically some slight changes, as their 80s material was a mix of AOR/Melodic Rock and Sympho/Prog, sorta like 80s UK FM/SHY meets SAGA, but on their new CD ‘Living 4’ they head a bit more into a Progressive Rockstyle, which is still featuring some great AORish melodies. Especially the first couple of songs are really great to hear and still show the band’s incredible high quality musicianship, with some excellent vocalwork of their singer (Elio Maugeri) who has joined the band again after having left the band after their 3rd album in the mid 1990s. Without a doubt, Elio’s superb vocal range give the ELEKTRADRIVE sound something special and therefore I can easily recommend their new CD ‘Living 4’, which is a very well-thought diverse Melodic progrockalbum! More info at: www.elektradrive.com and www.myspace.com/elektradrive 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

CLAIRVOYANTS ‘WORD TO THE WISE’ (VALERY RECORDS)

Actually the Italian band CLAIRVOYANTS are known as being one of the premier IRON MAIDEN tribute bands from their home country Italy. They played abroad at festivals as a MAIDEN tribute band and have built up a name amongst die-hard MAIDEN fans. However, the band can also play original songs themselves that are sometimes even better than the stuff MAIDEN puts out on record nowadays. I am referring to their debut CD ‘Word to the wise’, released on the Italian label VALERY RECORDS. Musically of course it is filled with pure 80s MAIDEN uptempo Melodic Metal, but the band does it really well, especially on the fantastic opener “Journey through the stars”, a song that will stick in your head for days after hearing it. The rest of the material goes in a similar style, with as other highlight the titletrack “Word to the wise”. The band is very proud to mention that as guest musicians they have been able to include ANDRE MATOS (ANGRA, SHAMAN, solo) and Oliver Palotai (KAMELOT, DORO) on their CD. All together a nice job by this Italian band and it should gain them definitely respect from the MAIDEN fan base. Check them out at: http://www.myspace.com/clairvoyants  and www.theclairvoyants.com 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

MASTER CASTLE 'THE PHOENIX' (LION MUSIC)

From out of nowhere comes a great new Italian female fronted melodic hardrockband called MASTER CASTLE. The band features LABYRINTH guitarist Pier Gonella and female vocalist Giorgia Gueglio. 'The Phoenix' is their wonderful debut and a real surprise, because I had not heard about this band before. Musically the Melodic Hardrock is sounding like a cross between 80s MALMSTEEN, VXN and VIXEN. The songs are catchy, with excellent musicianship and lovely vocalwork. Without a doubt, this is definitely a must-have! Songs like "Words are Swords", "Princess of Love", "Dawn of Promises" and "Memories" are very strong melodic hardrocksongs, with like said before great vocalwork, but also superb guitarwork in the style of JOSHUA, MALMSTEEN, etc. so really ripping guitarwork here to be heard. Better make sure to not miss this band, more at: http://www.myspace.com/mastercastle 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

FLASHBACK OF ANGER 'SPLINTERS OF LIFE' (LIMB MUSIC)

FLASHBACK OF ANGER is a new Italian band whom are making their debut here with their LIMB MUSIC released album 'Splinters of life'. Under the supervision of Arne Lakenmacher (Tour Manager AMON AMARTH and NEVERMORE), Dirk Schlächter und Kai Hansen (Both GAMMA RAY), this band has recorded a very strong album that contains quite impressive Melodic Metal the European way, reminding of bands like EDGUY, DESTYNATION, DIONYSUS, AT VANCE... yet a little more leaning towards the Progmetal side here and there. The band has a very good lead singer, which makes it easier to listen to the album from start to finish. Maybe not original, but this is definitely another high quality product from the LIMB MUSIC label. Check out great songs like "Off With My Heart", "All I Have", "Back In The Nightmare" and "By The Gates Of My Dreams" and you're hooked instantly. Highly recommended to AT VANCE fans. More info at: www.flashbackofanger.it  and www.myspace.com/flashbackofangerband 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

JOE STUMP 'VIRTUOTISTIC VENDETTA' (LION MUSIC)

JOE STUMP is the name and he has been a MALMSTEEN type of guitarist for many years now, with a solo career and several projects as proof. Now he releases a new instrumental solo-CD titled 'Virtuotistic vendetta', which basically is a MALMSTEEN meets HENDRIX kinda record, so one for the shredders. Joe is a great guitarplayer for sure and the guitarfreaks are gonna love it of course, but still this is only for the die-hards among us. More on Joe at: www.joestump.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

JOHNNY LIMA 'LIVIN' OUT LOUD' (SHOCK POP MUSIC)

So it is the year 2009 and here in front of me is a bunch of yellow coloured folders on my computer, which I have to look into and write about. They all look the same and when clicking one of the folders you can hear music on your laptop, but it never really makes an impact whatever you listen to. Looking back where it all started for me personally when reviewing new releases back in the mid 1990s, the time when the reviewer received a full glossy presskit with CD, bio and pics in the post, it shows how much the world has changed. Nowadays everything looks the same and a bunch of files on a laptop do not get you motivated writing a decent review really, believe me! It seems like all the major labels are jumping to the digital format, resulting in probably within a few years no CDs will be pressed anymore. Welcome to the Digital World! Happily, here and there we have exceptions and to really stand out between all these digital releases, a flashy looking old fashioned CD is a very nice welcome and introduction to the artist's new music. JOHNNY LIMA from San Jose was one of the first artists reviewed by us way back in the 1990s, when he released his debut CD. Digital format had no impact on CD sales yet more than 10 years ago and I remember well we reviewed and interview Johnny back then. He played Classic 80s US Party Glam Melodic Hardrock like a mix between 80S DEF LEPPARD, 80s BON JOVI, POISON and MOTLEY CRUE, with big harmonyvocalised choruses and hooks. It seems like musically nothing has changed, because his new CD 'Livin' Out Loud' is loaded with the same kinda music as his debut. Of course in between these 2 records Johnny did a lot more, released 3 more solo-albums and produced similar bands like the amazing DIRTY PENNY, MISS CRAZY, DIAMOND LANE and upcoming new sensation FREAKSHOW. This time songs like the big time melodic rockers "Hate To Love You", "Caught In The Middle, "Long Way Down' and especially the final 2 tracks, the superb 1984/1985ish BON JOVI/SURGIN/BOB WHEELER style AOR/Melodic Rocker "Hard To Say Goodbye" and the semi melodic rockballad "'Til Love Is Gone" are really sensational tunes (both also featuring upfront keyboardwork). The sound of the CD is huge, major labelish and the album sounds like the best cross between 80S DEF LEPPARD, STRYPER, 80s BON JOVI, POISON, 80s WHITE LION and MOTLEY CRUE, but also any fan of recent European acts like THE POODLES, WIG WAM, H.E.A.T., BROTHER FIRETRIBE, etc. will enjoy this a lot. A very nice return of Mr. Lima... Although claiming that I would prefer the CD format instead of the digital, actually I hope that the Vinyl / LP format will replace the CD format in the next few years, so we then have digital and vinyl, because that would be the answer to fight piracy, as the vinyl / LP really really makes it worth buying a hard copy. If no LP available, then the pressed CD would still be more enjoyable than the useless MP3 format. But we're here to finish a review on the great new JOHNNY LIMA CD, which gladfully is also available on CD, so be sure to check out asap if you're a fan of the classic 80s US Hair Metal sound! More info at: www.johnnylima.com 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

NOIZE MACHINE ‘THE JUMPING CLOWN’ (VALERY RECORDS)

NOIZE MACHINE is a new Italian band featuring guitarist DARIO MOLLO, who recorded together with TONY MARTIN the THE CAGE album back in 2002. He is a great guitarplayer who now formed a new band with a new unknown lead singer (Andrea Dal Santo), who sounds very good actually. Musically it is a sort of 80s Melodic Hardrock affair, a bit like RAINBOW, VAN HALEN and DOKKEN put together, despite the horrible modern Nu-Metalish frontcover of the album. Highlights are “Higher and higher” (catchy uptempo melodic rocker, pure 80s), “So far away” (faster uptempo almost NWOBHM kinda Melodic Heavy Rocker), the midtempo closing track “See what is better” and “The count” (tough 80s American Melodic Hardrock). However, the band also goes in a few slightly different directions, groovy hardrock of the SKID ROW kind and dark 90s metal riffs can be heard in a few songs, such as in the very weak “The jumping clown” and “Who are you”, but happily RAINBOW, early 80s EUROPE, VAN HALEN and 80s BLACK SABBATH are the main similarities here. More info at: www.valeryrecords.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

GAIA NOSTRA ‘HOLD YOU ONCE AGAIN’ (CNR MUSIC)

GAIA NOSTRA is a duo formed around 2 Dutch female singers (Roos den Ouden en Eva Wilms). They started working together 8 years ago as TWOSOME, later as L’EVE and now as GAIA NOSTRA. With this name they have recorded a strong high quality album titled ‘Hold you once again’. Musically it is a bombastic epic Celtic Popalbum that sounds like a mix between CAMEL, ENYA and KAYAK, yet really focused on the 2 lead singers and instrumental sounding very modest, so no Rocking guitars can be found here. Most of the songs are calm and very atmospheric (really the ENYA style), but still diverse in it’s approach thanks to the vocalstyles adapted by the singers, because sometimes they are going for a medieaval Folk direction, then again a bombastic modern Hollywood Movie Blockbuster (LORD OF THE RINGS) style, but also some more Pop orientated material can be heard (like a stripped down version of WITHIN TEMPTATION/DELAIN) and here and there a few covers of traditionals like “Scarborough Fair” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” are added to the CD. The sound is very good, although for some more instrumental diversity it would have been wise if the arrangements could have included for example some electric guitar, just to make a few songs sound bigger in it’s approach. However, still in present times this GAIA NOSTRA could easily have a big break if they are lucky, because their CD is featuring high quality vocalwork of both female singers. More info at: www.gaianostra.eu 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

TRAGIK ‘OUTLAW’ (PHIL VINCENT MUSIC)

Besides a new solo-album, multi-instrumentalist PHIL VINCENT’s side project TRAGIK also has a new CD out. It’s titled ‘Outlaw’ and it contains the kind of 80s AOR/Melodic Rock Phil also was doing in his early solo days. DOKKEN is a good comparison of course, but also some PINK CREAM 69 and NORWAY similarities can be heard. Songs like “What you give” and “Forgive me” for example are great AOR/Melodic Rocksongs with both fantastic choruses, while “Who’s gonna make the first move” is a nice semi AOR ballad. TRAGIK also heads into a more pure Melodic Hardrock affair a lot of times and fans of mentioned bands might definitely enjoy this release, although me personally is still missing the sound of the early PHIL VINCENT albums from back in the early days of Strutter’zine when he created some really great AOR masterpieces that had a lot more keyboards, hooks and melodies than he has been doing the past few years. Nevertheless, with TRAGIK, Phil is slightly moving back to the 80s Melodic Hardrocksound. More info at: www.philvincent.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

EYE ‘2 HEARTS’ (BLUE TOPAZ RECORDINGS/BLINDFOLDEAD MUSIC)

We’re back in Sweden again with the band EYE, whom are playing pure 80s AOR/Melodic Rock, just like all those other new Swedish acts from the past few years (THE POODLES, H.E.A.T., WORK OF ART, etc). They do it quite perfect and although it has been done a lot of times before in the past as well and each of the 7 included songs on their mini-CD ‘Hearts’ also reminds one of bands like TREAT, DALTON, DAVINCI, NORTHERN LIGHTS, FAR NORTH, etc. etc. we can easily welcome here another great band from Sweden playing good old fashioned catchy fun Melodic Rock. Vocally it is typical Swedish (a bit reminding of MIKAEL ERLANDSSON) and especially instrumental it sounds very impressive, such as the melodic guitar in the uptempo melodic rocker “2 hearts (Lovers apart)” and the 80s AOR dut-dut keys of the catchy midtempo melodic AOR rocker “Without you”. Not as sensational as H.E.A.T. and WORK OF ART, still also this EYE is something every fan of 80s type of Swedish Melodic Rock needs to check out asap at: www.eyeofficial.info.se 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

ULYSSES ‘THE GIFT OF TEARS’ (SYMBIOSES MUSIC)

The Dutch band ULYSSES was formed back in 1998 and ‘The gift of tears’ is their 2nd full-length album. The band switched from lead singer since their 2003 CD ‘Symbiosis’, but one can not hear that much of a difference, because we still can hear high pitched vocals that sound a little strained. Not that it is sounding bad, but vocally it is also not something special. Happily instrumental this is made up and somehow the Progressive Metal of ULYSSES is reminding me a lot of ROUGH SILK (mixed with early DREAM THEATER/FATES WARNING influences), which is also a band you either love or hate. It is not the big bombastic melodic Progmetal of bands like PAGAN’S MIND and the melodies are not really strong. ULYSSES is actually more akin to Progressive Hardrock, with RUSH as a major influence, yet with Metal riffs, but it is not in the same league However, final verdict is that this is actually an album you have to listen to a few more times before it really makes an impact. Check them out at: www.symbiosesmusic.nl 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

SARIS ‘CURSE OF TIME’ (DUCK DIVE MUSIC)

The German band SARIS has a long history behind them that started way back in 1981. However it took them until 1993 before they would release an album titled ‘Dead end street’. Eventually they split up in 2000, but in 2006 they reformed in a somewhat different line-up than in the early 80s, but they were keen on releasing a new album. The result is ‘Curse of time’, a very strong Melodic Neo-Progressive Rockalbum (with some AOR influences as well) that has many highlights and is really great to listen to. SARIS is not the kind of Neo-Progband that is focused on long instrumental passages, because they also want to create some great melodies, so they are more song based and therefore melodic rock/aor fans will definitely also enjoy such fantastic songs like “The curse”, “Falling leafs” and “Kingdom of shadows”. Make sure to check out this great ‘old’ band that is now making a ‘new’ comeback at: http://www.myspace.com/sarisband  and www.saris-music.com 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

SANCHEZ ‘NIGHTRIDE’ (BLUE TOPAZ RECORDINGS/BLINDFOLDEAD MUSIC)

SANCHEZ is a Spanish/Swedish band formed around lead singer JOSE SANCHEZ. They released their debut CD a few years ago and now follow it up with a new mini-CD titled ‘Nightride’. Musically we get to hear pure 80s American orientated Party Melodic Hardrock a la DOKKEN, JET RED, HERICANE ALICE, WHITE LION, RATT, BONFIRE and a lot of VAN HALEN Hairspray has been put into the 5 included songs. Not a sensational record, but with a good strong sound/production, this is a nice one to check out if you’re into typical late 80s American Hair Metal! More info at: www.myspace.com/sanchezkicks 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

FANTASY OPUS ‘BEYOND ETERNITY’ (INDEPENDENT)

Portugal has been quiet lately with very few new bands, but FANTASY OPUS breaks the silence, because their full-length debut CD ‘Beyond eternity’ is filled with high quality typical European Melodic Power Metal that sounds like a mix between EDGUY, HELLOWEEN and LABYRINTH, especially during the catchy fast opener “Mystic messenger’ and “The sacred trilogy”, but almost all songs are fast paced Power Metal, so fans of mentioned bands will absolutely love this record. Good to see Portugal now also bringing something new that is really good too, as for many years we have only seen a few bands coming from there, such as FAITHFUL, TARANTULA (of whom drummer LUIS BARROS produced this CD by the way), but they all have been very quiet lately, so make sure to check out this great new band at: www.myspace.com/fantasyopus 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

IMARI TONES ‘JAPANESE POP’ (KITCHEN KNIFE RECORDS)

IMARI TONES is a Japanese band and when I saw the cover and CD title I was not really sure what to expect, but then I saw the name of the co-producer SASCHA PAETH (KAMELOT, RHAPSODY…) and it all made a little sense why it popped up on my desk. Also the backing vocals of AMANDA SOMMERVILLE gained my interest, but still do not expect Melodic Power Metal the European way, because the CD is filled with so-called J-Rock. I am familiar with some bands in that genre, such as WANDS and THE B’ZZ, but IMARI TONES is more just playing good (Melodic) Rock/Hardrock with some great guitarplaying, although vocally with the typical Japanese accent. Surprise to see Sascha Paeth involved here, but for J-Rockfans this is definitely worth checking out.

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

SHOUSE ‘ALONE ON THE SUN (INDEPENDENT)

MIKE SHOUSE is the name of this guitarist, who sent me his CD ‘Alone on the sun’, which is featuring high quality instrumental guitar based Melodic Hardrock, although on 2 songs we can hear vocals. However, the main topic is of course Mike’s guitar. Mike is playing of course quite well, not shredding all the time like most players, but more creating melodies with his guitar. Must-have for the fans of instrumental guitar based Hardrock. Recommended if you’re into the LION MUSIC kinda releases. More info at: www.mikeshousemusic.com  and email at: mike@mikeshousemusic.com 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

ROCKET ROLL ‘CLOSE ENOUGH/ROCKAHOLIC FREELOADER’ (INDEPENDENT)

ROCKER TOLL is a Swedish band playing high quality pure Sleazy Glam Rock and Roll. They mix up influences of HANOI ROCK/ROLLING STONES, MOTLEY CRUE and NEW YORK DOLLS. The band sent me 2 of their CDs, ‘Close enough’ from 2007 and ‘Rockaholic freeloader’ from 2005. Both are following the same style as described earlier here and like any other Swedish band, they do it very well and so easily that they could be the next big thing if they have the lucky break with one of their songs. Most of the songs are short, uptempo and quite catchy. It all sounds very good and I can highly recommend this band to fans of 70s Glamrock’n’Roll. More info at: www.rocket-roll.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

THUNDER ‘THE EP SESSIONS 2007-2008’ (METAL HEAVEN/ROUGH TRADE)

Last year it was announced that the UK band THUNDER would call it quits, which they also did 10 years prior to that, while afterwards from 2002 on they made a comeback and released several new albums. However, this time it’s for real and this ‘new’ album really marks the end. ‘The EP Sessions 2007-2008’ is really their final release with new material. The CD contains 16 rare songs that were recorded in 2007 and 2008, originally meant for 3 EP releases, but instead now released as 1 full-CD containing 16 songs. The songs are a melting pot of new and old songs, re-recorded in the studio and featured in a live version. If you have an album of THUNDER you know what to expect here, namely Bluesy Hardrock with Soulful vocals. Fans of the band will love this record for sure, but on the other hand will be sad to see the band now really quitting.

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

NAKED ‘GET NAKED’ (STATTIN MUSIC/SWEDEN IMPORT)

Not much info on this Swedish band, but apparently this NAKED already released their album ‘Get naked’ way back in 2007, so already 2 years ago and somehow it did pass us by completely. However we finally discovered them (thanks to my friend Juha Harjula) and we are able to write a review of their CD. Musically we get to hear high quality Melodic Hardrock in typical Swedish tradition, with also some excellent vocalwork of singer Petri Vehvilainen. The band got help from TONY BORG (ALIEN guitarist), who produced the CD and thanks to him it sounds very professional. Highlights are “Guardian angel” and “Hideaway” (both uptempo melodic metal, very strong a la MALMSTEEN, NOSTRADAMEUS), “You stole my heart” and “Get naked’ (both pure 80s uptempo super catchy melodic rockers a la TERRA NOVA, DAVINCI), the midtempo “Black roses turn red” (a la ALIEN) and the ballads “Until death do us part” and “Hideaway”. Overall it actually sounds like a mixture between MADISON, MAD MAX, CASANOVA, BONFIRE, TREAT, early EUROPE and NOSTRADAMEUS. Thanks to the great lead vocals, it is a very nice CD to listen to from start to finish, with only weak 1 song (“Doctor Doctor”) included. Make sure to check them out at: www.naked.se 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

MARENNE ‘THE PAST PRELUDE’ (EDEL RECORDS)

MARENNE is a female singer from Finland and she has already released a few singles as from 2007 on, of which the song “Pretty white dress” charted in the Finnish national Top 20 for a few weeks. Now in 2009 the first album of MARENNE is released and musically it is sounding like a cross between NIGHTWISH and AGNES, so we get to hear high quality melodic metal. Her band is featuring guitarist ZACHARY HIETALA, who is the brother of MARCO HIETALA. These 2 brothers formed the first and most important 80s Heavy Metal band from Finland, namely TAROT. Of course this band is still going strong, but Marco became worldwide known as bassist/vocalist of NIGHTWISH, with whom he still reaches huge audiences. Anyway, besides TAROT, also Zachary is playing in another band, namely in Marenne’s band, with whom he has now now the first CD ‘The past prelude’. Without a doubt, this is a very strong album, with great ANETTE OLZON (NIGHTWISH) ish vocals of Marenne and a lot of catchy tunes among the 10 included, such as the fantastic “My time”, “Slow your steps”, “Cold mornings”and “Do you think of me”. Released by major label EDEL RECORDS, this is a great record that is a must-have for all Melodic Metalfans out there! More info at: www.marenne.com  and www.myspace.com/marenneband 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

PHOENIX EFFECT ‘CYANIDE SKIES’ (PLAYGROUND MUSIC)

PHOENIX EFFECT is a Finnish band formed by ex-SUNRISE AVENUE guitarist JANNE KARKKAINEN. SUNRISE AVENUE is about to release a new CD soon, which will be the follow-up to their fantastic debut from a few years ago. However Janne left that very succesfull band during 2008 and already within a few months had started this new band PHOENIX EFFECT. Within a few months he started working on their first album, with the help of POETS OF THE FALL lead vocalist/guitarist MARKO SAARESTO writing the lyrics. Already in 2009 before SUNRISE AVENUE would release a new CD, Janne’s own band PHOENIX EFFECT has released it’s debut CD ‘Cyanide skies’. Musically it is very different from SUNRISE AVENUE, because no fun catchy uptempo melodic poprock is present here. PHOENIX EFFECT is playing well-thought mature Heavy Rock that sounds very American and reminds one a lot of DAUGHTRY, so with a Modern Rock approach most of the time and some Southern Rock touches too here and there, yet still very melodic and very strong actually. Janne shows he is a great singer too and with songs like “Broken promises”, “Carry me”, “Hey you” and “Flashbacks n’memories” PHOENIX EFFECT easily shows they are a band to keep your eyes open for in the near future, because they have the potential to become quite big. Check them out at: www.phoenixeffect.fi  and www.myspace.com/phoenixeffectmusic 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

RYDELL AND QUICK ‘R.O.C.K.O.H.O.L.I.C. (RQ RECORDS)

RYDELL and QUICK is a Swedish duo formed around lead singer/guitarist CHRISTER RYDELL and Saxplayer MALIN QUICK. Together they have been touring all over Sweden for many years now, with approx. 140 dates in 2008 alone! Anyway, their latest CD is titled ‘R.O.C.K.O.H.O.L.I.C.’ that is loaded with pure 80s Melodic Rock the Swedish way, so catchy hooks and super melodic choruses all over the place. It really is not far away from BLIND ALLEY, SHA BOOM, DAVINCI, DALTON, TREAT, FATE and late 80s EUROPE. If it was 1986 this band would be huge, because their songs are deadly catchy and might also touch the hearts of fans of newer acts like HEAT, WORK OF ART, BROTHER FIRETRIBE and WIG WAM. Although the band features a sax, it never gets irritating (think of other bands with a saxplayer in the line-up like SUBWAY, THE ARROWS, BOULEVARD and PROMOTION) and the music is basically pure fun catchy 80s AOR/Melodic Rock in the style of mentioned bands, just listen to such great uptempo rockers like “Fly away from the darkness” (fantastic, super catchy, 80s AOR a la FM/AVIATOR, but also pure Swedish AOR a la WORK OF ART), “I can try” (a bit LOVERBOY, URGENT) and “What to come”, as well as lovely midtempo tunes like ”Don’t be afraid” and “Rain”. All together a surprisingly great AOR/Melodic Rockalbum with catchy hooks, memorable choruses and fantastic vocalwork, a recommended piece to fans of URGENT, BOULEVARD, WORK OF ART, BLIND ALLEY (very close to that act)… More info at: www.rydellquick.se 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

REFLECTIONS ‘THE MUSIC OF ANDREW GORCZYCA’ (PROGROCK RECORDS/SPV/BERTUS)

Drummer CHRIS G. has done something quite stunning, because REFLECTIONS is a tribute to his brother Andrew Dean Gorczyca, who sadly died in 2004 at the age of 40. Andrew has been working on music compositions mainly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but never was able to officially release an album. However, after his passing, his brother Chris was destined to record a full-CD as a tribute to his brother and so he got help from a bunch of respected musicians from the progscene, such as Adrian Belew, Nick D’Virgilio (SPOCK’S BEARD), Phil Keaggy, Mike Keneally and ENCHANT singer TED LEONARD. Together they recorded a fantastic CD with material that was originally written by Andrew. Musically we get to hear something very sensational, as ‘The music of Andrew Gorczyca’ contains high quality Neo-Progressive Rock that is not too far away from 80s SAGA, IT BITES and 80s IQ. Really excellent material from start to finish, just listen to such wonderful melodic tunes like “The tall tale heart”, “Give it time” and “Peasant under glass”. ‘Reflections – An Act of Glass’ is a wonderful tribute to Andrew and the music that meant everything to him. A highly recommended Melodic Neo-Prog masterpiece in the best 80s style of IT BITES and SAGA. More info at: www.chris-g.com 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

SHADOW’S MIGNON ‘MIDNIGHT SKY MASQUERADE’ (PROGROCK RECORDS/SPV/BERTUS)

Multi-instrumentalist HENNING PAULY (FRAMESHIFT, CHAIN, SAGA) caught up with vocalist JUAN ROOS and keyboardplayer STEPHAN KERNBACH to form a new band called SHADOW’S MIGNON and unlike what one would expect from these musicians, their first album ‘Midnight sky masquerade’ has nothing to do with Progressive Rock, although it has been released on PROGROCK RECORDS. Instead we are surprised by pure 80s True Metal, not far away from MANOWAR actually! Happily it is done very well and with 12 tracks the band unleashes quite some excellent material that can easily be classified as high quality Melodic True Metal with songs to shout along to as well as a lot of screaming guitars. Songs like “A slave to metal”, “Midnight sky masquerade”, “All hail to the warrior” and the epic “Kingdom of the battle Gods” will please any fan of 80s Melodic Metal. MANOWAR is the obvious reference, but still SHADOW’S MIGNON has sort of an own sound that sounds very impressive, thanks to the wonderful musicianship of the members. More info at: www.henningpauly.com  and www.juanroos.de  and www.maler-mignon.de 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

DAEDALUS ‘THE NEVER ENDING ILLUSION’ (PROGROCK RECORDS/SPV/BERTUS)

The Italian band DAEDALUS already released an album back in 2003 titled ‘Leading far from a mistake’, but somehow this album went unnoticed. The band was formed in Genoa, Italy by Fabio Gremo (bass) and Giuseppe Spanò (keyboards), who were accompanied in 2002 by singer Alessio Brunetti and drummer Davide La Rosa. Together with guitarist Andrea Torretta, who replaced co-founder guitarist Andrea Rinaldi in 2004, the band released their first album 6 years ago, now finally followed up by ‘The never ending illusion’. The new album has been released on one of the prime labels for Progressive rock/metal music, the US label PROGROCK RECORDS. Without a doubt, what we have here is a sensational Melodic Progressive Metal album that also features as guest musicians, vocalists Roberto Tiranti (LABYRINTH) and Alessandro Corvaglia (LA MASCHERA DI CERA) as well as Roland Grapow (former guitarist of HELLOWEEN and founder of MASTERPLAN), who mixed the album. Not too far away from DGM, PAGAN’S MIND, ASTRA and such high profile acts in the Progressive Metalgenre, this is an album a fan of this genre will instantly fall in love with, as melodies are all over the place, both in the instrumental section as well as the wonderful vocal arrangements. Highlights are “Perfect smile”, “Life” and “The dancers”, although each of the 10 included songs are a must-hear for fans of high class Melodic Progmetal. Go check out this band at: http://www.progdaedalus.it/main_eng.htm 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

CELESTY ‘VENDETTA’ (SPINEFARM RECORDS)

The Finnish band CELESTY was born in 1998 and are now releasing their 4th CD with ‘Vendetta’. Just as you would think the RHAPSODY clones all died slowly, CELESTY creates an album that sounds very close to what RHAPSODY have been doing 2 decades. Where a band like FAIRYLAND adds some different influences to the RHAPSODY sound and comes up with a very strong diverse album, CELESTY is doing a pure RHAPSODY album, especially during opener “ Euphoric dream”. Happily, it is all done very well and sounding quite impressive and the highlights are the songs that also contain some of CELESTY’s own original melodies that are actually SONATA ARCTICA inspired melodies (just listen to the semi-fast Power Metal of “Autumn leaves”), such as the uptempo “Greed and vanity”, “Like warriors” (very catchy), “Caught by desire”, “Fading away” and “New sin”. RHAPSODY meets SONATA ARCTICA is the result of this new CELESTY album that is still quite enjoyable to listen to, although far from original, but as long as it is done this well it is something worth checking out!

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

DEATHLIKE SILENCE ‘SATURDAY NIGHT EVIL’ (SPINEFARM RECORDS)

Speaking of surprises! I was not that familiar with the Finnish band DEATHLIKE SILENCE, although having reviewed their debut from 2 years ago, but when hearing their 2nd album ‘Saturday night evil’ it immediately caught my ears, because this female fronted band delivers superb high quality Melodic Hardrock/Metal that sounds like a mix between DORO, LAOS and EDGUY. Opener “Trapped in the night” is a very good uptempo Melodic Hardrocksong a la LULLACRY, “And you cry” is fast uptempo Melodic Power Metal like EDGUY fronted by DORO and “Who’s gonna bury me” is midtempo Melodic Rock with an almost AORish chorus (a la LAOS). With such a start one can’t go wrong and in the end all 11 included songs are a mixture of these styles (Melodic Rock, Melodic Heavy Rock/Metal and Power Metal), so very melodic, catchy and still rocking quite hard. Without a doubt, a CD not to be missed, a fantastic Finnish band that made me now look for their debut CD ‘Vigor Mortis’ from 2007. Check them out at: www.deathlikesilence.com 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

ENTWINE ‘PAINSTAINED’ (SPINEFARM RECORDS)

Founded way back in 1995, the Finnish band ENTWINE has remarkable well built up quite quickly a name within the Gothic and Melodic Rock scene, although they started out as a Death Metalband. Funny thing is that their heavier version of THE RASMUS’ kinda Melodic Rock did not brought them as much popularity as that band, but they keep on releasing high quality CDs, of which ‘Painstained’ is the latest adventure. Nothing has changed musically and so we can once again hear catchy slightly modern typical Finnish Gothic Melodic Rock, with as highlights this time “Strife”, “Beautifully confined” (superb, summerhit!) and “Dead by silence”. Most of the songs are catchy, radio-ready and typical Finnish, also highly recommended to the Melodic Rockfans out there, although here and there some modern touches can be heard. Nothing new perhaps, but still a very good release from one of Finland’s finest Gothic Melodic Rockbands at the moment. More info at: www.entwine.org 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

SOULS ‘THE GRAND CONFUSION’ (SPINEFARM RECORDS)

Not much info on this Finnish band, but their album is filled with a sort of modern Rock approach that also includes a lot of Stoner Rock similarities as well as BLACK SABBATH meets JIMI HENDRIX kinda grooviness in the heavy guitarsound. 10 songs are included and most of them are quite groovy and modern sounding, though with references to aforementioned acts. Nevertheless, still I am missing something here, there’s no vibe and therefore I am afraid this release might go down in the amount of hundreds and hundreds of other Rock and Metal albums released nowadays.

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

PANSY DIVISION ‘THAT’S SO GAY’ (ALTERNATIVE TENTACLES/SONIC RENDEZVOUS)

Powerpop (a la CHEAP TRICK, THE TUBES, THE CARS), Poppunkrock (THE UNDERTONES) and 70s Glamrock (NEW YORK DOLLS) are mixed by the band PANSY DIVISION. ‘That’s so gay’ is the band’s first new album in six years and features 14 catchy little uptempo rockers that combine the best of mentioned bands. The song “Average men” also features JELLO BIAFRA of DEAD KENNEDYS and is what one would expect a typical Punkrocksong like DEAD KENNEDYS once did. However most of the material goes into the direction of THE UNDERTONES, THE BUZZCOCKS…. with a big Powerpoprock approach, such as can be heard on the highlights “Twinkie Twinkie Little Star”, “Ride Baby” and “Some of my best friends”, but actually all the included songs are very catchy and highly recommended to fans of CHEAP TRICK, THE CARS, THE UNDERTONES and THE TUBES. Go check out this catchy Powerpoppunkrockband at: www.pansydivision.com 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

MOST UNPLEASANT MEN ‘NOTHING MOVES SLOWER’ (CUBICLE RECORDS/SONIC RENDEZVOUS)

Utrecht/Holland based band with an original sound that combines 60s Garage Rock, 70s Experimental Rock, Singer/Songwriter Pop and 80s New Wave, ending up sounding like a cross between THE KINKS, TALKING HEADS, ROXY MUSIC and TALK TALK. Therefore their album ‘Nothing moves slower’ will be praised by the Pop critics for sure and have to admit that a song like the uptempo rocker “Sorry” is quite catchy and radio-ready, but the main concern here is that most of the songs are very laid-back and slow, so some more uptempo material could have made the overall album more interesting. Nevertheless, for fans of mentioned bands and experimental Pop/Rock definitely worth checking out at: www.mostunpleasantmen.nl 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

B-BACK ‘EXPERIMENT IN COLOUR’ (AREA PIRATA RECORDS/SONIC RENDEZVOUS)

B-BACK is an Italian band with a retro-Rocksound that captures the spirit of the 1960s (THE WHO, THE KINK, STONES), yet also is comparable to KAISER CHIEFS. They sound actually as good as the British movement acts from the past few years, with 12 very short uptempo Rockers on their 3rd album ‘Experiment in colour’. With a limited edition of 600 copies, this album will definitely go down in Rock history as a wanted item among collector’s of the Garage Rockgenre. Raw, rough and real Rock is what we get to hear, with songs like “Misunderstood”, “Gin Fuzz”, “Almost gone” and any other song on this release an easy target for fans of pure 1960s British Garage Rock. These Italian musicians do their job very well and really make you believe this is a re-issue of some long lost album release from 40+ years ago. Go check out B-BACK at: www.areapirata.com 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

GWYLLION ‘THE EDGE OF ALL I KNOW’ (BLACK BARDS/SONIC RENDEZVOUS)

Without a doubt, this album caught my by surprise, because the 2nd album of the Belgian band GWYLLION is a very sensational release. OK, have to admit that this ain’t an original release, because the music is typical present day (Dutch) female fronted Melodic Gothic Power Metal orientated, only a few miles away from bands like AFTER FOREVER, EPICA and NIGHTWISH... Nevertheless, ‘The edge of all I know’ is a lovely album with superstrong melodies, excellent instrumental work and a huge sound, sometimes reaching easily the high level of their similar bands in the genre. Songs like “Entwined”, “Void”, “Beyond Goodbye” and “Closure” are all wonderful uptempo Melodic Gothic Power Metal pieces that played loud are leaving you quite impressed for sure. Did not expect it to be this good, but GWYLLION’s new album is definitely a big recommendation to fans of AFTER FOREVER, NIGHTWISH and EPICA. Go check them out at: www.gwyllion.com 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted) 

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