Thursday, 5 May 2022

Between Spaces – Between Spaces (MLP 6tr)


I’m not 100 % in what genre to place this Gothenburg based band. Opening track “Lies” has a bit of garage rock attitude, almost a new wave vibe and then suddenly a heavy rock break and in comes… a saxophone!? (Sorry, sax is my absolute pet hate). Singer Mikael Lilja sounds like he’s been influenced by anything from Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop. “A Silent Room” has a different kind of approach with a slightly proggier touch. I honestly don’t really know where to place this band musically. It is quite intriguing and it’s honestly nothing a listen to on a regular basis. The song has quite a lot of different moods and vibes and definitely falls under the progressive banner. Melodic, garagy and progressive. Side A finisher “In Memoriam” takes quite a different turn and starts out leaning more on soft folky piano music. Maybe a reference to Jan Johansson? The vocals are fine, but the Swenglish pronunciation and crammed in sentences is a slight bit annoying to my ears. The song itself is really interesting and the build-up is very dramatic and thought-through. When the crescendo solo part kicks in it’s really really good, with some really cool unexpected chords popped in. Loved that! Side two opens with “At The End” which starts out in an interesting proggy vein, to move into a more straight ahead avant-gardist, almost gothy verse. Quite hard to pin-point where the band has picked their influences. “Fear Of Being Inadequate” kicks off in an almost hard rocking up-tempo style and continues as a really good proggy rocker, clocking in at 8:45. The production is very analogue sounding and works really well with the music. The record finishes with the track “Tempus Fugit” which also starts out with some mellow Jan Johansson:ish piano. An intriguing composition, I must say, with nice strings blending in with the piano. I’m afraid I’m not a huge fan of the vocals, but musically the song is an interesting, well-composed and well-arranged piece, going from the soft folky intro into quite heavy guitar and bass chugging with some interesting keyboard and violin melodies and soloing. It made me think a bit of Swedish proggsters Anekdoten, which is really good in my book.

/Janne Stark

Year: 2021

Label: private



Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Heavy Roller – Heavy Roller (LP)


I’ve always had a soft spot for Australian hard rock ever since I heard Stevie Wright’s “Evie” back in 1974. Soon enough AC/DC popped up and on it went with bands like Rabbitt, Taste and later on excellent bands like Tracer, Electric Mary, Wolfmother and Twenty Two Hundred. Add Heavy Roller to this lot. A new four-piece from downunder that rocks big time! The band’s self-released debut kicks off with “Heavy Roller” in a powerful mid-tempo vein, followed by no frills up-tempo heavy rock ‘n roller “Jug”, that will give fellow-Aussies Airbourne a run for their money. The band consists of Luke Earthling on guitar, Cam Roach behind the drums, Dwain du Plessis on vocals and guitar and Gater Springate on bass and backing vocals. “Barfly” kicks the album into AC/DC style gear and you can almost feel the beer start flowing. “Getting’ By” is a super groovy, bluesy rocker with cool funky guitar work and Dwain’s gritty vocals on top. Love it! Side A closes with the stomping bluesy rocker “The Raven” with harmonica on top. On to side B and we head straight into the heavy rocking “Undead World”. A cool guitar chugging number at a medium pace (as Adam Sandler so eloquently put it). “Scavengers Delight” continues in a mid-tempo, but still pretty intense vibe and in the chorus, they do rock it out. It made me think of what The Hellacopters would’ve sounded like if they were an Australian band. “Deceiver” again gets the riff machine moving, with an almost punkish intensity. “Demon In Me” brings it back down quite a bit to a very smooth, but still kinda Iggy Pop-style number, which of course breaks out into full mayhem in the chorus. A great driving rocker! Side B finishes at full throttle with up-tempo party rocker “Burning Dollars”. All in all, a really solid debut from these Aussie rockers. Already looking forward to their next release!


Year: 2021

Country: Australia

Label: Thong Knife

Link: https://heavyrollerrock.bandcamp.com/album/heavy-roller


Jesse Jay Johnson – Man On A Mission (CD)


It’s been a few years since Jesse set the blues on fire. To show he is still on fire, he opens the new album with the smoking hot “Got To Burn”. “You got to burn if you want to shine” – and shines it does. A cool stomping blues rocker, indeed! “Livin’ On Rock ‘N Roll” kicks it into backbeat and lets out a classic blues rocker, while “Man On A Mission” starts off almost like Robin Trower’s “Day of The Eagle”, but only the intro riff. Powerful classic blues rock. In “Good As Gone” Jesse takes it down into a groove funky vibe, while “No Disguise” is a smooth blues ballad with Jesse’s outstanding guitar playing and soulful vocals. “Whatever You Want” kicks it back into gear with that perfect neck pick-up Strat grind and a funky touch. “One Day At A Time” brings out the guitar and slide and places the vibe on the porch, at least in the intro, while the verse brings us into full blues-rocking mode. “Tearin’ Down The Walls” adds a bit of organ to the mix, but the funky vibe is still the same. “Rock The Blues” is a cool, driving, shuffle rocker, while album closing track “Beyond The Horizon” kicks off with a smooth keyboard and a searing Strat solo and goes into a sound track for the open fields. A very good album, I must say!


Year: 2021

Country: USA

Label: Grooveyard Records

Link: www.grooveyardrecords.com


Jimmy Ryan - Astral Café (CD)

 


Guitarist extraordinaire, Jimmy Ryan, is finally following up his excellent “21st Century Riffology” CD of 2017. Jimmy is an outstanding player, mixing his blues oriented with classic rock in the vein of Wishbone Ash, which was the first thing I came to think of when listening to opening track “Starlord”. Killer melodic, instrumental, melodic guitar rock. “Shatterbrain” goes into a melodic, almost slightly fusion-oriented mode, with some brutal fuzz+UniVibe soloing. The cover of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” is a groovy heavy riff rocker, quite different from any other version I’ve heard. Jimmy’s rough-edged vocals fit this track like a glove. “Earthrise” is a smooth instrumental melodic number that takes us on to “Skydance”, which continues the melodic instrumental path, but with some cool almost progressive passages which gives the song a nice touch. “Black Ice” is a quirky riff piece, still melodic, but adding another new flavor to the album. Jimmy rips it open with a nice wah solo. “I’m Ready” brings in the heavy artillery and this one also has some fierce vocals from Jimmy. A kick ass heavy rocker, indeed! “Dulcinea” again brings us back into melodic guitar territory, while “Beserker” sure does what it says. That track has a raw, almost King’s X:ish vibe, but Jimmy’s smooth lead guitar lays in top like a smooth blanket. “Plectrumelectrum” kicks it into riff gear again and it does have a certain Zeppelin vibe to it. A cool track, indeed, with some pretty wild guitar harmonies. The short, but effective “Dreadhulk” takes us back into the detuned regions again, but soon picks up the pace and delivers some really cool harmony guitars. Drummer Dan Van Schindel makes good use of his toms in this one, as well as in the energetic vocal “Celestial Voice”, which made me think of Asia meets Wishbone Ash, with a pretty intense proggy mid-section and more kick ass soling from Jimmy. The album closes with “Quiet Flight”, which again is a quite descriptive title for a song. A smooth melodic guitar solo opens this more than 8 minute long number, which also takes a short walk into fusion-land. In all a brilliant guitar album for fans of bands like vintage Wishbone Ash. 


Year: 2021
Label: Ryanetics
Country: USA

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Almost forgot to publish - but here it is! Top 20 of 2021!

  1. The Dead Daisies – Holy Ground – I did like this band before, but Glenn Hughes kicks it up quite a few notches! Super solid release!
  2. The Cold Stares – Heavy Shoes – Kick-ass solid band! Not a bad release, always deliver, also live!
  3. Timechild – And Yet It Moves – Late entry, but damn, this one rocks big time!!
  4. Dirty Honey – Dirty Honey – Killer modern retro band!
  5. The Dust Coda – Mojo Skyline – Yeah! Riff rock heaven!
  6. The Age Of Truth – Resolute – 2nd album, and they again deliver 100 %!
  7. A.C.T – Heatwave – This band NEVER disappoints! Melodic prog of the highest order!
  8. Neromega – Neromega – Italian 70s influenced outstanding band!
  9. Grinder Blues – El Dos – Dug and the Bihlman bros deliver another solid album! Killer stuff indeed!
  10. Hangar Nord – Hangar Nord – I’m not a huge fan of Pink Floyd, but this I like. It does have a nice flair of Alan Parson as well, which I do like. Soft and dreamy, but what an album!
  11. Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc – Daym!! Zakk did really surprise me this time!! His best BLS album EVER, period!
  12. Prins Svart – Sanning/Makt – This Swedish combo, now with Mats Leven fronting always deliver, and what a solid live band!
  13. Tania Kikidi – Rock & Roll Paradise – Another debut that kicked my ass this year! Tania rocks big time!
  14. Wolftooth – Blood & Iron – A band I recently discovered, and yet another strong release from these heavies!
  15. The Vintage Caravan – Monuments – The Icelandic retro rockers once again deliver!
  16. Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town – Yes, this is 80s melodic metal/hard rock, and yes, this has all the gimmicks of that era written in capital letters – and I like it!
  17. Green Lung – Black Harvest – Another nice surprise. Liked their previous album a lot, but this one really rocks! Outstanding heavy 70s Purple/Heep:ish hard rockers!
  18. Indifferent – Nocturnal Thoughts – Another outstanding Swedish combo with melodies, great vocals and solid riffs!
  19. Khemmis – Deceiver – Another new surprise! Great heavy rock!
  20. The Sonic Overlords – The Last Days Of Babylon – New Swedish heavy combo who delivers a phenomenal debut album!

Monday, 15 November 2021

Perpetual Etude - Now Is The Time (CD/LP)

 


Swedish band Perpetual Etude boasts former members of bands like Dionysus, Treasure Land, Air Raid, Nation, Stormwind etc. Musically Perpetual Etude is actually not that far from any of them (except maybe Air Raid). Opening track “I’ve Got The Power” immediately kicks off with a Strat that really sounds like Yngwie Malmsteen, but keeping in mind what Mr Malmsteen has released in the last couple of years, this sounds way more interesting. They are touching on neo-classic metal, but with a big dose of classic melodic metal/hard rock and I’d place them somewhere alongside Alkatrazz. Singer, Kristian Fyhr, is a gem with really powerful vocal cords, high pitch but with a nice raspy edge. Me like!  ”Show Me” reminds me of Graham Bonnet era Rainbow a bit, but with a bit more power under the hood. A strong touch of AOR, but without sounding sleazy. “Straight Through The Heart” starts off with some really nice guitar harmonies from the excellent shredder Magnus Mild and if Yngwie didn’t have a big dose of hybris, he would kill for a song like this. Magnus is also found in mega project Gathering Of Kings, but if I’m honest, I do prefer Perpetual Etude. Not putting GoK down, but they sometimes feel a bit scattered and unfocused while this album has a common thread and high quality all the way, both musically and performance wise. “Once We Were One” again throws in some Yngwie-souding Strat licks and it also flirts with the man musically. It does remind me quite a bit of Europe’s old “Scream Of Anger” (which was written by Marcel Jacob, hence the obvious Yngwie touch). There are similarities, yes, but it does stand on its own legs. This band’s Jens Johansson is Kaspar Dahlqvist who has previously played with prog metal band Treasure Land. On this album he sure shows his skills and there are several really nice keyboard-guitar interplays, such as in the neo-classical “Hell Fire Burn”. As if this wasn’t enough, we also find a guest appearance by former Yngwie (and many more) singer, Göran Edman in the song “Sail Away”. All in all, if you’re into classic hard rock, melodic metal with strong melodies, shredding guitar/keyboard work, solid production and some neo-classical vibes, don’t hesitate!

/Janne Stark


Year: 2021

Label: Black Lodge


King Mountain - Kingdom Of Shadows (CD)

 


One of Greece’s hardest workin men is without a doubt Stavos Papadopulos. Guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, singer, producer, recording engineer, mastering engineer and song writer. His name can be found in relation to bands like Universal Hippies, Hard Driver, Freerock Saints, Super Vintage och Revolution Highway. King Mountain is another one and it rests on the sacred grounds of the hard rocking 70s, with the riff as a word of honor. Stavros is also without a doubt a master in this trade, which he proves again and again. On the album with singer Tania Kikidi, which was released at the same time as this he also delivered a big chunk of great riffs, so I guess his riff account is pretty big. Actually, this album and Tania’s album, aren’t that far apart musically. The biggest difference is in the vocal delivery department, where the vocals here are handled by Stavros himself. If I was to compare this to some contemporary bands, it would probably be The Dead Daisies or Black Country Communion. Hard rock with riffs up front and bluesy vocals to fit the mold. Stavros is a very capable singer who does a great job even if his guitar playing is a few notches better. I truly love his guitar playing, his groove oriented rhythm playing and the bluesy, bleeding solos. King Mountain – check them out!

/Janne Stark


Year: 2021

Label: Grooveyard Records