Tuesday, 24 May 2011

DESCEND - Through The Eyes Of The Burdened (CD)

Swedish newcomers Supernova Records are sweeping the Swedish market for new, interesting, upcoming bands in the heavier genres of metal. Descend is one of the new additions to the roster. The band’s debut album opens with nice acoustic plucking which moves into a progressive metal arena, showing great promise for this new five-piece. When the vocals enter, it’s growl. I was brought up on the seventies heavy rock and the 80s metal and used to be allergic to growl, but have actually grown to like some growlers. What I do like is when they have a good vocal tone. Unfortunately singer Nima is not in the category of growlers I enjoy listening to, sorry. However the band sounds quite outstanding musically, tight as a rat’s ass and each musician on top his game. Furthermore the songs are actually killer! I guess you would label this progressive or technical death metal. I really like the way they incorporate some classical guitars into the brutal technical metal of A Sudden Sense Of Clarity (a nod to In Flames, maybe?). However as soon as the vocals enter it sort of ruins it for me. The singer would be better off in a more old school oriented death metal band. I wish the boys would learn from Opeth, Katatonia and even In Flames and incorporate a bit more clean vocals. The songs are killer and I’d definitely wear out this CD, if only… damn, I can’t get over the vocals of this one. Sorry.

Year: 2011
Label: Supernova
Country: Sweden
Link: www.myspace.com/descendsweden

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

MISS BEHAVIOUR - Last Woman Standing (CD)

German label Avenue Of Allies are really giving it their all to be a melodic rock force to be reckoned with. With several really interesting releases in their roster they have now taken Swedish AOR band Miss Behaviour under their wings. The band’s debut “Heart Of Midwinter” (2006) was a really good effort. “Last Woman Standing” has however elevated the band to a whole new level. Maybe it’s the fact that original members Erik Heikne (guitar) and Henrik Sproge (keyboards) have drafted Shineth members Sebastian Roos (vocals/bass) and Anders Berlin (drums). Roos is the perfect vocal choice for the band, plus he’s a really great bass player I must say (I was surprised to read he’s also a member of Beatles tribute band Liverpool!). If you’re into bands like Bad Habit, Alien, Shineth, Shiva, H.E.A.T etc, then this is definitely a band you need to check out. I shall admit that some choruses are a bit too poppy for me, where “Give Her A Sign” is borderlining the Eurovision Song Contest, but as a whole it really works well! It’s AOR, melodic, well played, easy accessible and without any forms of thorns, edges or obstacles. The songs just flow through your head without making any bigger fuss. Sounds boring. Well, it actually ain’t. I listen to many different categories of music and I listen in several different ways. I can listen to some records where I really need to focus, where I want to hear every nuance and detail, where I almost want to be an integral part of the music. Then there are albums like this one where I can just enjoy it without having to concentrate, it’s an album I can enjoy while driving, while working, and album that I find myself tapping the rhythm to, humming along. It’s the same as when I’m listening to albums by bands like Survivor, Journey or Swedish fellows Bad Habit, Shineth (maybe not so surprising), Street Talk, Last Autumn’s Dream etc. Speaking of Survivor, the track “Taking Hostage” has some serious Survivor vibes in the intro and chorus. There are a few songs that stick out a bit, such as the heavy “Perfect War”. The production, by former Pole Position drummer Daniel Gese, is well balanced, dynamic and rich. My only complaint would be I’m sort of allergic to drums that sound programmed/triggered where every beat and cymbal sound exactly the same. The track “Perfect War” features a guest solo from Masterplan guitarist Roland Grapow, not that Heikne needs to be relieved of any of his duties as he’s a great guitarist. Highly recommended for fans of classic AOR.

Janne Stark
Label: avenue Of Allies
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.missbehaviour.se/

Monday, 16 May 2011

LINY WOOD - Liny Wood (CD)

I had never heard about Liny Wood (or Linéa Helge), even though I’ve been at her dad’s guitar shop quite a few times, and she’s from a town only an hour away. The first time I saw her name and heard her outstanding vocals was on the new Brian Robertson album Diamonds And Dirt, where she sings on a couple of songs. Ok, I’ll start by saying Liny’s solo material is nowhere near Robertson’s bluesy hard rock, even though he lends a helping hand on three tracks on this disc as well. There are also some helping hands from Grand Illusion/Code’s guitarist Ola Af Trampe, drummer Peer Stappe, who recorded and played on John Norum’s latest solo-album, plus one track was co-written by Ulf “Chris Laney” Larsson. These are however the only hard rock connections on this disc, even though Liny does look very hard rock herself. The music is very versatile from piano based balladry, almost with an ABBA-touch in Jenny, I also hear a lot of Stevie Nicks in some of the material. Liny however has a greater range and much more power in her voice than Stevie, where Stevie on the other hand has a greater personality in hers. I also hear a bit of Alannah Myles here and there, which is also a good thing. There’s also some more modern pop stuff I personally don’t really care for. Where I think Liny really shines, the moments I really really like on this album is the softer and more acoustic stuff, like Mom, My Love and also Ship, where Robertson does some great soloing. Album closer Leaving You Behind is however my favourite. It’s more of a power semi-ballad with a very big powerful and dynamic sound, where her voice really shines and where Robertson again proves he does still have it. How I wish this would instead have been the softest song on the album. I would love to hear Liny just hang it all out in some powerful melodic hard rock. Her voice would fit like a glove, a studded leather glove with a touch of lace. Maybe next time?

Janne Stark
Label: Polar Studios
Year: 2011
Link: http://www.linywood.com/

Friday, 13 May 2011


There’s quite a few really good modern sounding bands popping out of the Swedish woods these days. One new act to definitely check out is Unsolved. They do have some old Alice In Chains moments going on, but the vocal style is totally different and you don’t hear the traditional style depressed harmonies. It’s melodic and all, but at the same time singer Martin is not really in the poppy/neo-punkish style of bands like Hoobastank or Daughtry. He’s got a great versatile voice, showing a great melodic depth in songs like the ballad “You Are Not The One” and the melodic yet heavy “Stay With Me”, at the same time he can rough it up a bit without ever falling into the current growl/screamo-trap, which I really appreciate. Musically they do have a strong streak of Sevendust meets Shinedown with a touch of Tantric here and there, which is great in my book. They do also throw in the occasional guitar solo, which is nice. I also like the fact that there are great riffs, nice guitar arrangements, mixing clean guitars and crunchy heaviness, and not just a lot of chord strumming which gives the songs a nice texture. The song material is actually really great and strong, the mix is great, and with the right backing I think this band could really make it big!
Janne Stark
Label: Ilumnirec
Yeat: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: www.ilumnirec.com

Sunday, 8 May 2011

BULLSEYE - Count On Me (MCD 4tr)

Ok, when opener Count On Me started I was really surprised the band did a cover of one of my old Montrose favourites Space Station #5, but it soon prooved to be justa stolen riff. Well, the rest of it doesn’t sound like at all. Bullseye deliver straight ahead, no-frills, slightly punkish hard rock. At times I get a vibe of The Bones but not quite as punky and with a singer that sometimes makes me think of Jocke in Sabaton, especially when the accentuated rrrrrrr’s pop out in You See. Back In The Time pulls the tempo back a bit and shows a more melodic side with a bigger and more exciting side of Johan Hallström’s vocal range, plus it’s got a nice hook in the chorus. A hit maybe? Closing track Over The Top almost made me think of Saxon in the intro riff, while the punkish verse took it a totally different route. This is not bad at all, even if it may not be a CD I would listen to every day. The boys do it good, they have a infectious determination and the song material is of high class. This is definitely music that would kick up a dull party several notches.

Janne Stark
Label: private
Country: Sweden
Year: 2010
Link: http://bullseyeworld.com

Friday, 6 May 2011

THE ITCH - Spreading Like Wildfire (CD)

Boy, have I been waiting for this one! Ever since they released their four track CD single I’ve been waiting for the boys to get their stuff together. Now they have, and I love it! I’ve been following guitarist/singer Lukas since his (very) young days in bands like The Booze Brothers and he’s always had a great blues rock vibe to his playing. Even though he went a bit astray with doom/horror rockers Tenebre, he’s now found his home again. This is pure brilliant bluesy hard rock in the vein of bands like The Answer, Electric Mary, Roadstar and actually with a touch of The Hellacopters in their prime in songs like (3). Lukas is not only a great guitar player but also a classy singer. Besides the rockers there’s a really nice bluesy acoustic ballad with a touch of vintage Point Blank. One cool thing is the trade-off solo in the middle. As a contrast the subsequent track (10) rocks it in a true really heavy Zeppelinesque way and a riff that really hits home. This is a pretty diverse album ranging from straight ahead rockers to heavy riffsters and the acoustic interlude. Highly recommended!
Janne Stark
Year: 2011
Label: Rambo Music
Country: Sweden

Thursday, 5 May 2011

DARKWATER - Where Stories End (CD)

After having been a big fan of progressive metal for many years with bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X, Mind’s Eye, Sun Caged etc, I kinda lost interest in the genre a couple of years ago. It started feeling a bit like bands were complicated just for the sake of it. I started lacking the melody and groove. Some CDs attracted me, but unfortunately not that many. I’ve slowly started getting back in the prog groove again and Darkwater, who now releases their second effort, is one of the bands that don’t overcomplicate things just because they can. The band also has a very strong singer in Henrik Båth, which sets them apart from some other bands (I’m one of the people who get incredibly tired of James LaBrie in the long run). Darkwater reminds me a bit of Swedish colleagues Andromeda, but where Andromeda took the hard and less melodic route on their latest album, Darkwater have produced a more accessible platter in “Where Stories End”. A lot of things happen in the songs, but it feels like they are there for a reason. The songs are also created for a singer to sing, not just a complex musical pattern where the singer has to go through hell and high water to find where he can fit some vocal melodies into strange brew. Thus this is not just music for musicians, but an album you can enjoy as a regular fan of melodic metal. A great bunch of musicians, all of them, none mentioned none forgotten. Strong and interesting song material, too makes this a really great album indeed. Fredrik Nordström, Studio Fredman, has previously proven his abilities as sound engineer with multiple bands, not forgetting his own creation Dream Evil. He does a mighty fine job here as well, creating a powerful sound landscape with massive guitars, yet not overpowering the keyboards and vocals. Highly recommended. Ok, this album was released in November last year, but it does deserve being reviewed. A good whiskey does not get old.
Janne Stark
Label: Ulterium
Year: 2010
Country: Sweden
Link: http://www.darkwater.se/

BONEDOG - Blame The Cat (CD)

Sweden sure has its fair share of great heavy bluesbands. Sky High, Moosters, Blues Bag, Bacon Brothers, Gerfast, just to name a few. One band that you should definitely add to this lot is Bonedog. Of course it’s a trio, all the best ones are trios, aren’t they? Bonedog consists of Mikael Ladréhn on guitars and vocals, Peter Forss on bass and vocals and Michael Andersson on drums. Bonedog at times remind me quite a lot of Sky High in their heavier moments, but they also have a touch of Lance Lopez in tracks like Riding. Groovy and nice with quite a tight sound. Great organic guitar sound and fat bass while I wish the drums would have been a bit ballsier and more dynamic. Sounds great, though. Bleeding reminds me quite a bit of Blues Bag, another sadly forgotten outstanding Swedish power trio and the slow soulful All Night Long leans towards late seventies ZZ Top. The band for the most part avoids falling into the standard four bar blues swamp even though it’s not what you’d call inventive. So what? As long as the songs are good and the band grooves, which is the case here, plus I really like Ladréhn’s guitar playing. A really nice slab of Swedish swamp rock well worth checking out. This band probably rocks even better live.
Janne Stark
Label: private
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Link: www.myspace.com/bonedogblues

ENBOUND - And She Says Gold (CD)

SHE says gold?! Well, damn it, so do I! Sometimes you just get these positive surprises, things you don’t really expect and that you didn’t see coming at all! Well, to be honest, this one I should’ve seen coming as I do have Enbound’s first promo MCD (2008) and I did like it a lot. However this does exceed my wildest expectations. This is pure gold, I assure you, 24 karat, no less. A great combination of melodic and progressive metal with great hooks and fine melodic lines mixed with great, not overcomplicated, slightly progressive melodic playing. I did call my own band Constancia’s style “melogressive”, well Enboud sure are, too! Melodic, a bit aggressive and a bit progressive. The song material is top notch and all of it is crowned by the outstanding singer Lars “Lee Hunter” Säfsund, also known for his formidable work in melodic band Work Of Art and also as leading star in “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Sweden. Guitarist Marvin Flühberg/Floberg/Flowberg is an outstanding versatile guitar player with quite a few cool tricks up his sleeve. Very tasteful, yet technical playing indeed. Inner Wound Recordings is a new but really strong player starting off with some killer releases! Impressive!

Janne Stark

Label: Inner Wound Recordings

Year: 2011

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

MALISON ROGUE - Malison Rogue (CD)

For some reason I expected this to be another new classic 80s style heavy metal band in the vein of Steelwing, Enforcer etc., but wrong was I. Malison Rogue actually feels more like a bastard child of Iron Maiden and H.E.A.T with a touch of classic Queensryche thrown in for good measure. The band has a great vocalist in Sebastian “Zeb” Jansson. I sometimes hear a bit of Tempest, sometimes a bit of Midnight and a touch of Dickinson in some spots, but the boy does have a voice of is own. With some more recordings under his belt this guy can become one of our top metal singers, no doubt. This is actually a bloody good album, I must say! A positive surprise. The songs are well structured with nice hooks and great arrangements. The mix, by none other than Mats Leven, is ballsy and clear with a great balance. The guitars are definitely in your face but without being overpowering and the bass also finds its spot in the mix showing Petter “Pete Fury” Furå does know how to handle the four string thing. Jonatan Björkborg handles the guitar playing flawlessly with some really nice solos and some great harmony stuff thrown in. The album is however surprisingly short, only eight songs and under 40 minutes. The positive side of it is that you actually want to hear more and there are absolutely no fillers. A new promising act too keep a look out for!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2011
Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Link: http://www.myspace.com/malisonrogue

Short mixed reviews

Jive Mother Mary "All Fall Down" – Good, but some tracks don’t hit me at all, while other are great! A bit inconsistent. Bluesy southern hard rock with a touch of Black Stone Cherry eets Aerosmith and Zeppelin at times. produced by John Custer (Cry Of Love, COC etc). http://www.myspace.com/jivemothermary

Ozone Mama - "Ozone Mama" – A bit like Jive Mother Mary with some great tracks and some that are just too much garagy rock ‘n roll. Reminds me at times a bit of Swedish band The Hellacopters. Ok, but not more. There is however a couple of tracks that really rock! Too bad they didn’t stick to that formula. http://www.ozonemama.com/

Heavy Glow "THe Filth And The Fury" – Good band, with a very raw early 70s vibe! A bit too garagy at times. http://www.myspace.com/heavyglowmusic

David Rock Feinstein - "Bitten By The Beast" – Sounds good. He’s not my favourite singer, but it works pretty good. Sounds and seems like a Rods record in disguise judging from the line-up. Too bad they’ve really mastered it into overload. It even distorts! I hate it when they do that. Even Ronnies vocals are distorted (or it’s supposed to be like that)! http://www.myspace.com/davidrockfeinstein

Hydra – "Live After All These Years" - AWESOME!! Loved the band already back in the 70s. Seems like they’ve really kept up well! This one is a must! Gotta get all the old stuff on CD! Haven’t though about it before, but they actually remind me a bit of Trapeze at times.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

INTERVIEW - Neil Daniels - Author of "Don't Stop Believing - The Untold Story of Journey"

First, tell us a bit about your background and how you started writing.

I started writing for websites before I moved onto magazines such as Fireworks and Powerplay. I know (some) websites are very popular and get more hits than magazines have readers but there is something about a magazine that is far more appealing – the artwork for one. I pitched an idea to Omnibus Press for a biography of Judas Priest when they had just reunited so Omnibus were keen. It got commissioned and from there the books have thankfully rolled on (though it has not been easy.)

Usually people are devoted to one band, which they know everything about. I’m impressed with the variety of bands you have written biographies about, from Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin to Judas Priest to Linkin Park to Bon Jovi and now Journey. Not bands you often find lumped together. Are you a devoted fan of these bands or why these particular bands?

I think it’s a misconception that metal fans only listen to metal. I like a variety of music but with my books I think in some way they all come under the broad umbrella of rock. I mean, they’re all guitar based bands in some way, even Linkin Park. And of course, I am a fan of all the artists I’ve written about; I’d never write a book about a band or a singer I don’t like. I’m not keen on some of Linkin Park’s work but I still love Hybrid Theory and thought Minutes After Midnight was much better than some made out. I think Bon Jovi’s best work is still their first four albums. They try too hard these days to be taken seriously. Robert Plant still startles despite his pretensions. Judas Priest’s last album, I didn’t like at all but I thought Angel Of Retribution was solid. I’m still waiting to hear the new Journey album but I’ve heard very, very good things about it. Revelation was awesome! There are artists I’d love to write about but I don’t think publishers would commission books. At the end of the day it’s all down to what will sell and here in the UK HMV (who owns Waterstones) will not stock books on bands that they think people will not buy. Publishers are at the mercy of the booksellers.

What do you feel is the difference (advantage/disadvantage) between writing an authorized and an unauthorized biography?

I think the biggest difference is that an official book (if it is done badly) will be nothing but a sanitised and watered down version of events. Of course Motley Crue did a great job with The Dirt and have never shied away from the truth but most bands would not be that honest. I doubt Judas Priest would talk much about Dave Holland let alone include a letter written by him from his prison cell (which my book included!) I don’t think Journey (Schon/Cain) would be so forthcoming about their tumultuous relationship with Steve Perry. Unofficial books – and I hate that term – would be objective and as long as they’re done correctly they’d fully explore an artists’ history. It’s only the narrow-minded zealots that see official books as being the real deal as it were.

How do you go about collecting material for your books?

I have a huge collection of rock and metal magazines stored in about 10 boxes; I have quite an extensive collection of music biographies (and yes, they’re not all on rock and metal – some pop too, and blues and even soul) and reference books. I interview people, of course. And the internet is obviously a great reference tool. It all depends on the artist in truth. For the Journey bio it was a balanced mixed of all the above.

What is your writing process like?

It depends on my deadline. With Journey I had a year so I spent the first few months interviewing, compiling research, creating a timeline of events within the band’s history and organising all the facts. I then wrote the barebones of the story and built my research within that. Once the first draft is done I have a break for a week or so and then go back and redraft. That’s pretty much the way I work with all my band books. If I have less than a year – which is very generous – I’ll work in the same way but on a tighter schedule. I have a day job too so it’s not always easy.

How do you approach the artists for interviews? Do you tell them it’s for a biography or do you use interviews you have conducted for other magazines etc?

Both! With Journey they were never going to cooperate with a book such as mine so I used my past interviews and managed to secure new interviews with former manager and Journey founder Herbie Herbert – a fantastically entertaining and forthcoming man – and Journey’s first frontman Robert Fleischman amongst others. It’s often the case that bands won’t cooperate with writers unless the book is a fully authorised one where they’d obviously get paid by the publisher themselves. There’d be a lot of politics involved too, which I don’t have the time for. Most writers use a balanced mix of original interviews and secondary/pre-existing ones from other sources.

Being a writer myself, I always record my interviews digitally, both for concentration issues and also for memory (sometimes the way something is said says more than what it looks like in a scribbled note). How do you record your interviews?

I have an old fashioned Dictaphone and I keep saying I’ll progress into digital but have yet to make that move. I’ve got all my interviews on tape and catalogued in a box. Everything I have is catalogued – interviews, magazines I’ve written for, my own books, etc. I’m a stickler for organisation.

Your books “All Pens Blazing” are really nice reads. It’s not that often we actually get to meet the writers behind the interviews/reviews. How did you come up with the idea for these books?

I had started a section on my website www.neildaniels.com simply called Interviews With Writers. I interviewed not only music writers but authors too, including Kim Newman. (You can view them all at this link: http://neildaniels.com/Interviews/Interviews.html). I had been emailing with Martin Popoff and asked him if he thought it would be a good idea to compile some of those music writers interviews into a book with new and exclusive ones that had not been published on my site. He thought it was a great idea. I had wanted to self-publish a book too because I really admire his own work. The first APB book came out via a UK print on demand company called Authors Online. The quality (dark cover and small text) wasn’t that great because I didn’t know what I was doing but with the second edition it came out much better so I went back to the first volume (at my own cost) and had it redesigned and reprinted. Both books now make a matching pair. I knew there were a lot of people out there interested in reading interviews with ex Kerrang! scribes like Paul Suter, Hoard Johnson and Derek Oliver so it was a no brainer, really.

Were there any facts or information that surprised you?

To be honest, not really. I know there’s a lot of politics behind the scenes and there’s a lot of rivalry between magazines and writers. I was more interested in knowing about those ex Kerrang! writers from the eighties and their experiences interviewing bands. Most of the writers were great but a small few are quite bitter and ego driven. I’m not the kind of guy to name names but some of them need to get of their high horse. It’s not like their Hunter S Thompson or anything. We just write about music, that’s all. For me it is a hobby and a pleasure but a lot of writers do it to pay the bills.

Being a published writer myself I know the amount of work behind it. Would you consider writing a book about some band or musical style you’re not interested in?

There is far too much work that goes into writing a book so I’d only ever write a book on an artist I am not a fan of. I could never write a book on Bono because I can’t stand the guy. I don’t own a U2 album. But at the same time I know when I’m out of my depth so I’d never write a book on, say, the Rolling Stones. I’ve made a little niche for myself and I’ll stick with that.

Have you had any great backlashes which made you almost give up? (I personally recently erased an entire chapter and didn’t have a back-up).

Fortunately, no. And fingers crossed it stays that way. I had some issues over the Judas Priest book but they were only minor but other than that I have been quite lucky I guess. Like I said before, it all depends on the artist.

If you were told something very interesting by an artist in confidence and you were to write a book about this artist. Would you use it even if they wouldn’t want you to?

No, I’m not that kind of writer. Most would but if it is off the record and/or in confidence then it needs to stay that way. That’s the way I see it.

Are there any book plans you have given up on? If so, why?

I have lots of ideas and have spent a lot of time on book proposals and have only given up when I have not been able to find a publisher. Before I begin serious work on a book I always have a contract signed and seal with a publisher otherwise you’re just wasting time. I’d like to know that all my hard work will pay off.

What band/artists would be your dream biography to write?

Well, I have already had two of those books published with my Judas Priest and Journey biography. There are quite a few artists I’d love to write books on so I don’t really want to give my ideas away. I have tried a few times with one book on a certain American artist but I didn’t have any takers so it never moved beyond the proposal stage. I’ll try again at some point and one day it will get published.

What’s your next project?

Well, my Journey biography (Don’t Stop Believin’ – The Untold Story Of Journey) is published by Omnibus Press on 3rd May. After that I have a CD sized book out in the summer on Judas Priest’s British Steel album. That one will be published by Wymer Publishing. Next spring I have a hardback coffee table book out on Iron Maiden by Quayside Publishing in the States. There’ll also be some more print on demand collections too at some point. I’ll pass the 10 published books mark before the year is out.

How did you get a publisher for your Journey bio?

When Journey’s current singer Arnel Pineda was hired I mentioned it to some publishers but I didn’t formally pitch the book. But then Glee took over the world and suddenly Journey were really popular again. I hooked up with a literary agent in London by the name of Matthew Hamilton who - rather conveniently - is a massive Journey fan and he sent a formal submission to Omnibus Press. These things are very slow but Omnibus Press were really keen especially as there wasn’t a single biography of Journey available. Getting a book published on a band like Journey is a great triumph given publishers’ snobbery of AOR and melodic rock. Both myself and Matthew are really pleased with the book and the fact that we managed to get it commissioned in the first place. I have just received an advance copy and I think it looks great. I know Journey fans are real zealots so I am prepared for some (many?) negative comments but I think it gives a tight, objective and detailed account of the band’s entire history. The story really begins with Santana around 1969. To understand the foundations of Journey you have to know a little bit about Santana and Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon’s history with the band. Journey formed in 1973 and the story of Journey is told in chronological order right up to 2010.

Where can we order your books?

You can order them from Amazon through my site www.neildaniels.com or visit my Amazon author’s page at this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Neil-Daniels/e/B0034OPPEK/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1303201556&sr=1-2-ent.

You can buy my All Pens Blazing books through Amazon and www.authorsonline.co.uk.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

ULTIMATE FATE - Beyond The Horizon (MCD)

Ultimate Fate is a new young Swedish female fronted five-piece. When you hear female fronted, you more or less immediately think Within Temptation, Nightwish or Evanescence. Well, at least I do. And, yes, Ultimate Fate do not stray that far away. I hear a lot of Within Temptation in the bands sound and style. Jennie Söderberg is a great singer fitting the style perfectly. The band handles their parts very well, too I must say. The three songs showcase the band quite well and makes me want to hear more. Opener Horizon is an mid-tempo thing with a more up-tempo melodic chorus sounding, lots of variation and actually quite a progressive track. Retribution starts off quite acoustic and almost a bit reminiscent of Blackmore's Night, but soon heading of into a heavier vein and with a tempo-change they enter into a melodic metal landscape. Beyond Fear starts off with a guitar riff sounding a bit like classic US metal band Warlord, but like the other tracks it offers quite a varied plate of food, entering into an almost doomy chord-progression leading into an up-tempo oriental sounding verse. This is really great stuff, I must say! It will be interesting to see what this band can come up with next.
Janne Stark
Label: private
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Link: www.ultimatefate.se

SKANSIS - Leaving You (CD)

Not sure what’s up with Switzerland, but for some reason they have found a certain “sound” that you can find in most bands from this country. Just like a lot of Australian bands have their typicalAC/DC stomp feel to their sound, the Swizz have a typical melodic feel you can find as a common thread in bands like Gotthard,Shakra and even Krokus. Add Skansis (if you didn’t already after their debut album). Leaving You is an excellent follow up to the debut showcasing the cool, but still a bit edgy melodic hard rock of this four piece. Singer Reist Reto has the same slightly rough edged vocal touch as Shakra’s Mark Fox or Gotthard’s late Steve Lee. Great mix and an album that just flows. I don’t mind some sharp thorns here and there, but this one works like a charm in the car. Nice work!
Janne Stark
Country: Switzerland
Year: 2011
Label: Escape

DOOM UNIT - The Burden Of Doom (CD)

Doom Unit… never heard of them! Found out they have one album out before this one. After listening to The Burden Of Bloom it’s quite clear I need to check it out, too. Judging from the name I, of course, thought this was a new addition to the current New Wave of Doom Metal. Nope, not at all. Doom Unit are closer to Finnish colleagues Poisonblack, however not as gloomy and with a different type of “cleaner” singer. I would however still put them in the same musical arena. Modern, melodic, heavy, still without being too wimpy. Not bad at all.
Janne Stark
Country: Finland
Label: Hype Records
Year: 2011

SIXX: AM - This IS Gonna Hurt (CD)

Hmmm… this is actually quite good! Not that I didn’t enjoy the first effort by Crüe bass player Nikky Sixx band Sixx:AM, but this exceeded my expectations. Heavy, catchy and groovy! There are the obvious hits such as Are You With Me Now, a melodic pop-oriented heavy rocker in the true Daughtry/Breaking Benjamin-vein with a touch of Adam Lambert to it at times, soft modern ballads Sure Feels Right and Smile and the slightly U2:ish Oh My God (which unfortunately is not really any favourite of mine). As a nice contrast there are heavy crunchy stuff like Live Forever and Deadlihood, still melodic, but way heavier. Another cool, my favourite, track is Goodbye My Friends which sounds like the missing link between Queen and Green Day. It’s great to hear Sixx do something so different from the Crüe stuff, in a way proving he’s quite a diverse composer and actually a pretty good musician. DJ Ashba may sound like a second rate rapper, but he’s a pretty heavy guitar player, too. This band does glue well together and, yepp, they do rock when they put their minds to it!
Janne Stark
Country: USA
Label: Eleven Seven
Year: 2011