Tuesday, 30 September 2014

JOHNNY HUNKINS – Down In Flames (CD)



In 2011 American blues rocker Johnny Hunkins released his debut Talladega Pile-Up on Grooveyard Records, fitting in well with the labels armada of killer blues heavy rock guitarists. Now it’s time for the follow-up and I must say I’m positively surprised. The debut was great, but this album feels like it’s on a different level. Both the song writing and production has elevated. Johnny is still a kick-ass guitarist, so nothing different there. He’s also a great singer, but this time he has however invited some prominent colleagues to share that bit. First up is Nugent/St. Paradise singer Derek St. Holmes, whose voice I totally love. He does really well here as well, even though I do miss some of his juvenile power. This part is however definitely totally killed by Rufus Huff powerhouse Jarrod England, who lends his raspy, bluesy awesome vocal cords to the song Gonna Have A Party. Man, this guy really gives me goosebumps (no, I f***ing refuse to say “goosies”!). Jarrod returns in the outstanding riff rocker River Is Risin’, where I swear his vocal cords must be all curled up. This track also features former Blue Murder/The Firm bassist Tony Franklin, who really complements Ryan Hoyle’s groovy drumming and then, of course, Hunkins riffing and cool solo wailing all over the song. This one almost has a Zeppelinish vibe to it with some cool tempo changes giving it a nice broad spectrum. Hats off to you Mr Hunkins for a top-notch delivery. Next time, eh? ;-).
Janne Stark
Year: 2014
Country: USA

Label: Grooveyard Records

AMERICAN MAFIA – Rock N’ Roll Hit Machine (CD)



From what I gather this is based around guitarist Tom Jude (ex-Doro), bassist Freddy Villano (ex-Quiet Riot/Widowmaker) and drummer Bobby Marks, while prominent guests fill the other spots. When I see names like Jimmy Kunes (Cactus), John West (Artension, Badlands) and Mike DiMeo (Riot, The Lizards etc) I instantly get interested. Well, I’m happy to say the album opener Obsession features singer Ed Terry, who is just as interesting. The track is a cool riff-oriented hard rocker with a funky touch. It also shows the band has a cool groove and a tight sound, plus guitarist Tom really rips the leads! Great stuff! Second track Every Time is a more straight ahead southern rocker with Kunes stretching his vocal cords like only he can. Next up is John West, whose voice may not be as raspy, but instead he adorns this Bad Company style Brit rocker with a more Paul Rodgers:y blues feel. Up-tempo blues rocker Death & Destruction introduces another outstanding singer in Don Chaffin (Red Lamb), who sounds confusingly close to Rufus Huff’s Jarrod England, whose voice I totally love! So far, four outta four! And, it just keeps on! This is top-notch bluesy melodic rock with a strong British seventies vibe. There’s also a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Living For The City, featuring singer Dave Knight, who sadly committed suicide in 2014. This one sounds as if the mid-seventies Foreigner had put their teeth into it. A total ripper! There’s even a hit hidden in there! The Sky Is Falling sounds like something fans of late seventies melodic rock, such as Balance, early Survivor or the aforementioned Foreigner, would embrace. Nice melodic hooks indeed! This is really an awesome album which made this a throwback Wednesday reminding me of the great late seventies melodic rock and the long forgotten odd gems by bands like Buxx, Target, Morningstar, Hero, Fortnox, Russia, Oakley etc. You won’t see this one leaving my CD player any time soon!
Janne Stark
Year: 2014
Country: USA

Label: Grooveyard Records

BULLFROG – Clearwater (CD)



I’ve had my eyes and ears on this Italian power unit for some time and I do own two of their three previous discs (the fourth is of course on my list of discs to purchase). They had my full attention from the first time I heard their 2004 release The Road To Santiago, with their riff-driven powerful heavy rock. Some Italian bands have a pretty strong accent (like us Swedes sometimes do), but this power trio sounds like they were born and bred in the American south. This album is even stronger than its predecessors! The riffs, the power, the earthy analogue sound and the raspy vocals from Francesco. But most of all – the songs! Ok, this may not be rocket science, but that’s also what makes it much harder. With rocket science you’ve got way more possibilities and ways to be unique, while here you have to work with what you got and make the best of it, which is just what Bullfrog does. Simple, classic, but so damn good! If you grew up on the classic riffs of the seventies with the bluesy roots still intact, for heaven’s sake, don’t miss out on this one!
Janne Stark
Year: 2014
Country: Italy

Label: Grooveyard Records

SOUL SHINE SOCIETY – Back Where You Belong (CD)



Grooveyard Records are really vacuuming the market for new (and old) unsung high quality bands. Soul Shine Society from our neighbour country Finland has released one previous album, which I have completely missed, and now must be checked out. This six-piece plays rootsy, bluesy, southern rock with a strong touch of vintage Lynyrd Skynyrd, especially on the title track. Well, Finland is in my book quite well known for crafting this particular style really well with bands like Gringos Locos, Five Fifteen, Havana Black etc. Lead singer Jonne Sassi has a nice rasp to his voice and a cool feel. The album is quite consistent in its style, but one song that sticks out a bit is the almost Beatlesque ballad Love Won’t Wait. There are also plenty of Outlaws-style harmony guitars, like in the opening of Reasons. I should point out that Soul Shine Society doesn’t really belong in the heavier regions, but they still rock it out pretty well, which they show in the stonkin’ As I Make My Way, which sounds a bit like classic Status Quo meets Molly Hatchet. A really cool album, indeed!
Janne Stark
Year: 2014
Country: Finland

Label: Grooveyard Records

THE HIDDEN – Fearful Symmetry (CD)



Long time, no see, but NOW finally - see! The Hidden was a powerful technical thrash project that recorded an album back in 2000, which was never released. I featured one of the songs on the bonus CD of my third encyclopedia since I felt it just HAD to be heard! Well, now the guys finally took matters into their own hands and released this hidden (noooo, no pun intended) gem. The band features Patrik Sporrong, drummer Matte Modin, singer/guitarist Teddy Möller and bassist Peter Laitinen. Names I guess you all know from bands like F.K.Ü, Lost Souls, Midas Touch, Dark Funeral, Defleshed and Imperial Domain. If you’re into mind-crumbling, technical power thrash with Iron Maiden style guitars, high pitch vocals and energizer bunny drums, this is for you. I personally love it! Musically it’s like a mix of furious thrash, classic heavy metal and progressive metal. It’s like if Agent Steel, Iron Maiden, Death and Dream Theater had group sex and this little bastard was the result of it. Ten powerful and great songs with not a second wasted on nonsense. A shovel in the face feels like a summer breeze in comparison. Kick ass stuff!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2014
Label: Divebomb Records


Thursday, 3 July 2014

ELECTRIC RELIGIONS – The Awakening (MCD digi 5tr)


Steven Anderson is a Swedish guitar extraordinaire, who released an excellent solo album entitled Gypsy Power in the nineties. He has since recorded with bands such as Iubar, which not really belong to the heavier genres. Now he suddenly returns with the band Electric Religions. After a short intro, the song 1000 Battles (Know Thy Self) kicks off, giving Black Label Society a run for their money! Heavy, powerful and a real crusher, lightened up by the melodic, yet powerful, vocal delivery of female singer Neili Bjerring. Lee Chao-Long takes the journey on a different route, here with a cool, but heavy, oriental sounding touch. Good Fortune starts off almost a bit Hendrixy, to kick off in full-on doom mode, also here with a strong oriental touch. The EP rounds off with yet another cool, but heavy crusher. Son Of Confusious also has a slightly psychedelic feel to it, blending heavy doomy riffs, an oriental vibe and long swirling sections with effect-style guitars. The song is mostly instrumental with some really great melodic playing from Steven. All in all this was a really great surprise, and a really great release! Much heavier than I anticipated! Now I’m looking forward to a full-length album. Yes, sir!
Janne Stark
Year: 2014
Label: Psychic Eye
Country: Sweden

Link: www.electricreligions.se

PONTUS SNIBB – Wreck Of Blues (CD digi)



Pontus Snibb is probably most publically known for his work as singer/guitarist with diesel rockers Bonafide or as drummer in Jason & The Scorchers, but he actually started out playing straight ahead blues and has released some great stuff in that genre as well, such as Admiral Street Recordings I and II. He recently also released a riff rocker under the moniker Pontus Snibb 3, or PS3. Wreck Of Blues is however released under his own name and here he goes back to the down and dirty blues roots. It’s not your average white-guy-trying-to-mimik-Robert-Johnson style blues, but heavy and dirty blues rock with a twist. The sound is organic and earthy, but still mud-filled and shit-stained in the finest of ways. The album kicks off with the chugging, upper mid-tempo More Blues And Blue Songs, with a touch of Eric Clapton in the chorus. Same Same draws more from old classic blues foxes such as BB King and John Lee Hooker mixed with early ZZ Top. The same goes for No Peace Of Mind which also makes me think of the first ZZ Top album, actually with a touch of Louder Than This by Aussie rockers Tracer. You should of course also check this album out of you’re into current blues rockers such as Philip Sayce, Gugun Power Trio, Craig Erickson or Vdelli. A high-quality blues rock effort from beginning to end, featuring Pontus’ raw-edged killer voice and first class guitar playing. Drums are handled by his dad, Håkan Nyberg (Nationalteatern) and the bass work by former Bonafider Micke Nilsson. Highly recommended!
Janne Stark
Label: Off Yer Rocka
Country: Sweden
Year: 2014

Link: www.offyerrocka.com