Thursday, 3 April 2014

DR.U – Alieni Alienati (CD digi)



Italian singer Chris Catena is foremost known for his heavy, funky hard rock solo albums, which features a long line of prominent guests. Great stuff indeed. However, this time Chris is involved with a band concept and more surprisingly, he is singing in Italian. Well, to be honest, I’ve always had a soft spot for vocals in Italian, ever since I discovered the outstanding seventies progressive bands from this country, such as I Teoremi, Il Rovescio Della Medaglia, The Trip, I Califfi etc. Well, Dr.U does not belong to this genre, even though Chris reportedly sings in an old reformed Italian band, which is highly interesting. No, Dr.U plays melodic modern metal/hard rock with strong pop melodies. At times they actually remind me of The Rasmus, but with a heavier edge. I must say Chris sounds so very comfortable singing in Italian that his voice comes very much into its true zone here. His best vocals performance so far, I think! Great melodies and arrangements, nice hooks and the high-class production from Joe Marlett (Queens Of The Stone Age, Blink 182 etc) make this a highly enjoyable album. The interesting thing is I rarely can take an entire album of this style, as it often becomes a bit too generic for me. However, Dr.U manage to keep my interest up because the songs are very dynamic and varied in mood and style. There’s some serious heavy rocking going on in Furori per il mondo, but it also has a chorus that etches itself into the brain without being cheesy. Great guitar playing too, with nice shredding solos. There’s more cool heavy riffing in tracks like Dimensione and especially in the brutal P.S (Post Scriptum). This may be slightly outside my daily musical routine, but I can honestly say I really love this album and it’s been stuck in my CD-player for some time now!
Janne Stark
Country: Italy
Year: 2013
Label: Valery Records

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

PAVIC - Is War The Answer? (CD)


Wow, this was quite the surprise! Italian melodic rockers really decided to give their music a new spin on the new album “Is War The Answer?”. They drafted new and excellent singer Joe Calabro, brought in renowned producer Rick Beato (Shinedown) to mix the album and changed their musical delivery accordingly. “Modern” is in some people’s ears a dirty word but, but good music is good music whether it’s modern or retro, methinks. The new Pavic delivery is definitely modern. If you’re into bands like Alter Bridge, Nickelback and Shinedown, you should definitely check this album out. The album also features the power ballad "Song For The Rain", which is in the same category as Nickelback’s “Photograph”, and which, with the right backing could be a huge hit. The band also does an unexpected cover of Duran Duran's "Notorious". Great sounding band, great vocals and Marco Pavic is an excellent guitar player! Congrats!
Janne Stark
Label: New Venture Music
Country: Italy
Year: 2014

Link: www.pavictheband.com

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A.C.T – Circus Pandemonium (CD)


I will not deny it; A.C.T has been one of my all-time favorite melodic prog-bands ever since their debut found its way to my ears. The playfulness, quirky melodies, extremely tight and skillful musicianship and clever arrangements totally blew me away… album after album! It was a little worrying that the 2006 album was entitled “Silence”, and it was actually taken quite literally. It all went quiet after this. Promises and hints of a new album came and went. Now, FINALLY, the band has again resurfaced, and with this, I’m happy to say, releasing probably their best album to date. It’s still the same band, same sound and same quirky songs, but they have still evolved. It feels like they have become a bit heavier in the guitar department in some places, but they still mix this heaviness with Queen meets City Boy style pop melodies. I’m still amazed how a band can succeed in making such intricate and complicated songs sound so playful and easy accessible! There are so many elements to this album it’s just impossible to mention them all. It’s like the best of melodic prog rock assembled into one album and melted together into one nice slice of pie. This is a concept album. Well, honestly, when other bands make concept albums (except Rush) they more or less fall flat because they try too much and it just becomes too pretentious. Well, this is normal A.C.T territory, so no difference here, besides the songs link together nicely. It’s actually quite hard to hear when one song ends and another begins since they fit so perfectly together and because the songs in general have so many variations and tempo changes. It’s really no use getting into specific songs and song titles. I simply can’t pick any favorites. It’s all just one big beautiful organized mess! You’ve done it again, boys, better than ever!!
Janne Stark
Label: self-released/Marquee (Japan)
Year: 2014
Country: Sweden

Link: www.facebook.com/acttheband

BLISTER BRIGADE – To Serve And Punish (CD)



This is another band I discovered at the excellent Rock Out Wild festival in Sweden. Blister Brigade made a great live impression with their energetic, bluesy, sleazy and slightly southern rawk oriented ballsy hard rock. Actually, that’s exactly what you get on “To Serve And Punish”, a big dose of biker infused ballsy hard rock! The singer reminds me a bit of Ola of The Killbilly 5’ers, which is really good in my book! Blister Brigade should appeal to fans of bands like Swedish colleagues Rebel Road and The Killbilly 5’ers as well as bands like Texas Hippie Coalition and classic eighties sleaze. Fat and nice production, great playing and catchy songs make a great combination!
Janne Stark
Label: Sliptrick
Country: Sweden
Year: 2013
Link: www.blisterbrigade.com

ANGHER INCORPORATED - Phase 1: Dark City Lights (MCD)


If you’re into Dream Theater in their heavy detuned moments, loaded with heavy riffs and pounding rhythms, you should check out prog metallers Angher Incorporated. This French foursome features singer Sebastian Barbara, guitarist Richard Roncarlo, bassist Raphael Mizzi and hard-hitting drummer Yann Gresset. The band’s debut features five well-produced and powerful tracks. It’s not as technical as Dream Theater, but leans a bit more towards bands like Evergrey or Pain Of Salvation. Dark and melancholic, but still with a glimpse of hope hear and there. The musical delivery is tight, flawless and highly impressive. Killer production, too. The vocals are slightly limited, but good and with less of an accent that you usually hear from French bands. My only complaint would be that the tracks melts together bit, since they are not very different in tempo and key. A great effort and a band I’m looking forward to hearing more from!
Janne Stark
Country: France
Year: 2013

Label: Send The Wood Music

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

HOUSE OF SHAKIRA - Pay To Play (CD)


This is a band I’ve followed since their early days under the name Station, we were even on the same labels twice. No, I’m not biased at all. This is a band that has been very consistent, always delivering high-class AOR/melodic rock albums through the years. Pay To Play very well continues that tradition. However, this time they have taken a slight turn towards a more classic hard rock at times, inviting us to share some good solid riffing as well, which is a nice touch. Up-tempo rocker “When The Cat’s Away” is a prime example, as well as “Dopamine Junkie”, which actually reminded me a bit of classic Thin Lizzy. “Tried And True” starts off with a very Schenker-sounding intro riff, but changes into a blues ballad, which was quite the surprise. “Dog Eat Dog” is another heavy rocker with a typical, cool House Of Shakira chorus. I also love the Queen-flirt in "Same Old Story". The band have always been about a cool, stripped down, almost analogue, production without any bells and whistles they can’t pull off live, which is also quite rare today. A sound I’ve always loved, and which they still maintain. All in all this actually turns out to be one of the strongest HoS albums to date, in my opinion. A perfect mix of melody and riffing, a great crispy mix, performed with excellence. I also must say Andreas Novac’s voice fits the band perfectly. The title and title track also says it all about how bands of their level have to deal with today's music business. If you think we are rock stars and make tons of money. Forget about it. It's mostly "pay to play" that is applied. Sad but true.
Janne Stark

Label: Melodic Rock Records
Year: 2013
Country: Sweden

Link: www.melodicrockrecords.com

COLORSTONE - Steam (CD digi)


Hailing from Malmö, southern Sweden, this bunch released their excellent debut in 2011. The members are no beginners, which shows on the musical and vocal delivery. Singer Johan Dahlström once fronted Silver Mountain, while guitarist Fredrik Bergengren was in melodic band Time Gallery. On the debut I compared the band to colleagues Angeline, with their cool blend of pure AOR and chunky fat riffs with a seventies touch. Steam opens up at full steam with two outstanding chunky, funky, groovy and riff oriented rockers with Dahlström delivering top-notch vocals. They loose a bit of steam in the next number, but it picks up in power and speed in Breakdown again. Although some of the songs can seem a bit slick, what sets Colorstone apart a bit from your general AOR band is that Fredrik experiments a bit with sounds and effects you’d be more likely to hear on a Robin Trower album. I do wish they would add a bit more balls to some of the songs, such as Fighting For A Cause, which comes across as a bit “safe”. Whereas in the killer track Don’t Just Dream About It, they go all in. There may not be any immediate hits or classic killer tracks, but it’s an even album without any skip-tracks. Highly enjoyable and all in all a great follow-up!
Janne Stark

Label: private release
Year: 2014
Country: Sweden

Link: www.colorstone.se