Friday, 22 May 2015

STERBHAUS – New Level of Malevolence (CD)



Most of you know I’m not a big fan of death metal, but there’s one band that I just fucking LOVE!! Ever since I saw the video for The House Of The Dead Dwarf, which proved the level of self-distance and humor this band possesses, I just love their quirky boundary-less technical and quirky, yet quite melodic death metal. Their previous album, Angels For Breakfast… And God For Lunch really rocked my world for a long time. So, I’m happy to say that with the follow-up New Level of Malevolence, they have even stepped it up. This is bloody outstanding! I even have a soft spot for Marcus Hammarström’s evil sounding, screechy, but not painful vocals, which actually fits the music perfectly. I don’t think you’re supposed to fell happy when listening to death metal, but I have a smile on my face every time I listen to this band. The album is full of little surprises which just throw you off in all directions without warning, and I love that. Predictable? No way in hell! There are traces of classic heavy metal, death metal, thrash, prog metal, doom, polka and… you name it, and that is just in the title track alone! There’s actually one band that sometimes comes to mind, and which I also love, and that’s F.K.Ü. They both have the same level of intensity and power. Also, tell me the last time you heard neck pick-up Stratocaster being played in a thrash/death tune? This is a new level of excellence!
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden
Label: Killhead

SEAN BAKER ORCHESTRA – Game On! (pro-CDR)


Shredguy Records is providing us with yet another top-notch guitar oriented release. This is definitely not your ordinary shredding metal album. Besides the orchestrated and quite interesting intro, just check out songs like D.T.O.C., the groovy and detuned Hercules Box, the almost Journey sounding Coming Up Roses and Ruth Ann, and of course Sean’s interpretation if Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, actually featuring horns. To be honest, the latter is my least favorite on the album. I really like the song to begin with, and I think Sean could’ve done something more exciting with it, plus the horns sound quite disconnected from the song at times. It could be the mix, where this song doesn’t sound as good as the rest. A minor flaw, though. Of course all shredding fans with get their ears full. The track Shrapnel In Your Ear presents, besides the outstanding Sean Baker himself, shredding colleagues Marc Rizzo, Toby Knapp and Bruce Bouillet. A slice of shredding heaven indeed! Despite being a guitar album, there are two vocal tracks: The grindingly heavy Necessary Evils featuring Racer X man Jeff Martin and the soft Spooky handled by Ronny Munroe. Another Shredguy release to check out!
Janne Stark
Label: Shredguy Records
Year: 2015
Country: USA


KINSKIN – Kinskin (CD)



Here’s another prime example of first class heavy weight rock from Sweden. If you’re into bands like Mustasch, try mixing it with some Spiritual Beggars and a touch of vintage Alice In Chains, and you may get Kinskin… or Ground Mower, they are actually in a similar vein, both equally great. You may also get headache… if you turn it up too loud and play the album through twice, which I did. But, it was damn worth it! This is a killer debut! Heavy, grinding, yet groovy and quite melodic heavy rock with nice raspy vocals. Fat, rich and powerful production, too. Highly recommended, verging on a must have!
Janne Stark
Label: private
Year: 2013
Country: Sweden


AGONY OF CHOICE – In The Red (MCD 6tr)



Swedish modern heavy rockers Agony Of Choice make their debut with a 6-track MCD. Modern sounding heavy rock with a touch of bands like Shinedown, Theory Of A Dead Man and Alter Bridge. Unfortunately there’s not much info on the CD, but the band has a really great singer. The sound is well-produced and fat. Slightly odd drum sound that sounds more 80s than 2015, but it kinda works. Opening Mannylee is a strong potent rocker that hits nicely. My only complaint is that the lead guitarist needs to make sure he’s playing in the correct key. Tattooed Skin continues in the same vein with a nice catchy chorus. Really good and dynamic arrangement, too, with a cool acoustic interlude that enhances the sound. Wallstreet Dance is another decent track, not as direct as the previous ones but still a nice one. Friendly Fire keeps the momentum going while Going Bad has a slightly different style to it. Here the drum sound unfortunately works against the song, sounding way too un-dynamic and “loud”, especially in the more laidback parts. Same thing here with the guitar leads. They do need to work with the chords of the song. The final track, Parashoot (not sure if the misspelling was deliberate) is probably my favourite on the CD. A heavy detuned riffster with a cool verse and great vocals and a guitar solo that this time works for the song. A promising debut.
Janne Stark
Label: private
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015

Link: www.facebook.com/agonyofchoice

SIDEBURN – Evil Or Divine (CD)



Stockholm based stoner rockers Sideburn (not to be confused with the Swizz namesakes) have been going for quite some time now. They made their debut in 2001, with the album Trying To Burn The Sun. The band has been a very consistent, high quality power pack, and on their new and fifth outing that hasn’t changed. What however has changed, is that singer Jani Kataja has been replaced by Dimitri Keiski. A bit surprising as he won the Swedish “True Talent” in 2011 and hasn’t really been seen in the doomier rock circuits. Well, ok, he was also a member of Insania (Stockholm), but that’s not really heavy is it? The interesting thing is that on the previous albums the music was more detuned, slower and heavier with Jani’s voice being quite high pitch and soft. I really loved that combination. The new album marks a change to a more classic sounding seventies heavy and doomy sound with Dimitri adding his cool slightly thicker voice. Another great combination, which marks a great development for the band. Opening track Masters And Slaves really brings out the Born Again era Black Sabbath vibe, while Sea Of Sins is a more up-tempo retro rocker with some really cool riffing and Dimitri singing his heart out. When Darkness Calls is a slow, dark number, also bringing on some early Black Sabbath vibes, but with Dimitri adding a different touch to it. Very cool and dynamic indeed. The Seer (Angel of Death) reminds me of colleagues Grand Magus in their prime. A great groovy track with a doom-boogie vibe to it. The Day The Sun Died opens up, also drawing vibes of early Sabbath, a bit more reminiscent of the band’s earlier stuff, but still with a new touch. Evil Ways is a nice up-tempo number with some really cool Iommy-style riffing in the verse. The album finishes with the epic Presence, which goes from soft to heavy to floating to doomy. A great development for the band, a killer album and one you should definitely check out!
Janne Stark
Label: Metalville
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015


Friday, 1 May 2015

Martin J. Andersen – Six String Renegade (CD)



Martin Andersen may not be a household name, but if you’re a fan of the Danish dynamite band Blindstone – you KNOW who HE is! Martin is an outstanding heavy, bluesy guitarist and an awesome bluesy singer, and now he gets the chance to shine on his own. Here he also plays bass and keyboards, while Klaus Agerbo handles the drums. Well, don’t expect a pop, metal or jazz album. When Martin goes solo, you will make no mistake he is the driving force behind Blindstone. He’s always had a cool funky touch that makes me think of Frank Marino. Well, he keeps on nurturing it here as well, but he also stretches out with some nice instrumentals. One, which I must comment on initially, is the highly surprising “The Trooper”, originally by Iron Maiden. Martin really puts his own spin on this one making it a cool instrumental hard rocker! There is also some more classic bluesy stuff here such as “Dirty Little Angel” and Johnny Winter’s “Stranger”. Another, not as far fetched, cover is “Strange Dreams” by Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush. A perfect fit indeed and a killer version! Despite being perfectly in Martin’s wheelhouse, he does put his own spin on it, especially when it comes to the extra spicy guitar tone. “Never Ending Climb” keeps the heavy, funky vibe going and this one is closer to the house of Blindstone, but it also has a different melodic quality added to it. “Freak Flag Flying” really gets the Hendrix mojo  going and “Funky State Of Mind” is what it sounds like. Funk rock with a nod to the old school of Parliament and Funkadelic. The album ends with the ten minute instrumental guitar orgasm featuring guest benders Michael Denner, Torben Enevoldsen and Soren Andersen. This track really builds up like a movie, starting all cool and melodic with a bit of drama coming in after a while. Halfway in the real guitar drama begins with one solo leading into another. A great album, giving Blindstone fans yet another bite to chew and the opportunity to discover the Danish guitar gems. Highly recommended!
Janne Stark
Country: Denmark
Year: 2015

Label: Grooveyard Records

Moxy – 1974-2014 – 40 Years And Still Riding High (CD)



Back in 1976 I used to read a Swedish magazine called Poster. They had really cool posters (duh!) and quite short but informative features on bands like Angel, Legs Diamond, Foghat and Thin Lizzy. In one issue there was a short feature on a new Canadian band said to sound a bit like Deep Purple, but heavier. They had just released their first album and the name was Moxy. I was sold before I’d even heard the album. My band Paradize later on even covered “Sweet Reputation” from the band’s third album “Riding High”. Sadly their singer Buzz Shearman had been replaced by Mike Reno (later in Loverboy) on their fourth release, “Under The Lights” and after that the band vanished. Fast forward to 2000 when the band partly re-united and released the album “V”. In 2003 I also had the privilege to see them live in Sweden. Now, forty years after the band was formed guitarist Earl Johnson has gathered a new bunch of musicians to fly the Moxy banner. The album I’m about to review features re-recordings of all the old classics. In most cases more or less a suicide mission. Just look at David Coverdale’s quite mediocre effort to blow new life into the old Purple classics. Not many bands actually pull it off. I’m not going to say this album blow the originals away. Nope. They will always have their place in my heart’s nostalgia space. But, I will say that this is a bloody great album with killer renditions of the songs. Earl has found the perfect musical companions to pull this one off. Singer Nick Walsh (ex-Slik Toxic) has the same gritty quality to his voice that made me love Buzz Shearman. He also sometimes remind me of another of my favourite singers; Johnny Gioelli (Hardline). Drummer Alexis Von Kraven (ex-Heavens Fire) would have made Bill Wave proud with his heavy and dynamic playing. Guitarist Rob Robbins (Rhett Forrester) pitches in with some killer solos and bass player Oscar Ansetti (Rabid Hole) really handles the lower frequencies perfectly. I’ve heard recordings and live videos of Moxy with different personnel during the last 15 years, but this is mithout a doubt the best, most vital and energetic line-up. They treat classic tracks like “Can’t You See I’m A Star”, “Moon Rider”, “Nothing Comes Easy”, “Out Of Darkness”, “Young Legs”, “Riding High” and “Midnight Flight” with care and respect, yet giving the songs a new youthful injection. They have also re-recorded the sadly missed B-side track “Trouble”, a great rocker indeed. The production is crispy, crunchy and powerful, more like a respectful upgrading of the old sound. I can probably count the “re-make” albums I actually like on one hand, but this is definitely one of them! Great job, indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: Escape Music
Year: 2015
Country: Canada