by Kim Shockley
July 18, 2011 at Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO.
In spite of the oppressive heat and humidity, Styx played to a full house on Monday July 18, 2011 at Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Mo. This band, together for more than 30 years, are true professionals still at the top of their game. They seem to truly enjoy what they do, and are all about having fun on stage. The crowd came to their feet from the first song, “Blue Collar Man,” and the energy of the show never waned.
The years have been good to lead singer and guitarist Tommy Shaw. Not only has he maintained an athletic build, his voice is still A+. He has the energy of any 30 year old musician as he moves across the stage. James Young is still as animated as ever on stage, and his vocals were spot on during “Miss America.” James Young’s guitar solo during “Grand Illusion,” was nothing short of masterful.
The only new song performed was “One With Everything,” which leans a little more to the progressive side. was well received by the crowd and definitely showcased Shaw’s vocal range.
Bassist Ricky Phillips has carved out his place in the band, and has no trouble keeping up with boys. To the surprise and delight of the crowd, former bassist Chuck Panozzo (brother of late drummer John Panozzo) looking quite dapper in his shirt and tie, joined the group for two songs, “Fooling Yourself” and “Come Sail Away.”
Lawrence Gowan, keyboardist and vocals, doomed to a lifelong comparison to Dennis DeYoung, held his own during the show. He’s taken the Dennis DeYoung classics and made them his own, without loosing the spirit that made them signature songs, like “Suite Madam Blue” and “Lady,” Some might think Gowan’s almost constant 360 degree spinning of the keyboard and Keith Emerson style maneuvers somewhat distracting.
Shaw broke out the twelve string for fan favorite “Crystal Ball,” and gave it his all, singing and playing to the crowd. He explained that this song was written around the time he lived in Montgomery, Alabama and was approached to join STYX. One glaring omission was “Snowblind,” but with so many hits and a short time to play, they just can’t do them all.
Legendary prog band YES opened for Styx and they put on a decent show. Their current lead singer, who they discovered on YouTube (sound familiar Journey fans?) just didn’t quite have the chops. He gave it his all, and I found myself silently cheering him on to hit the high notes. At the same time, there were other songs that if you closed your eyes, you could almost hear Jon Anderson. Almost. Overall, YES entertained the crowd and they seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage, in spite of the sweltering heat.
Styx Set List: Blue Collar Man; The Grand Illusion; One With Everything; Too Much Time On My Hands; Lady; Lorelei; Man in the Wilderness; Suite Madame Blue; Crystal Ball; Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man); Miss America; Sail Away; Renegade.
Yes Set List: Tempus Fugit; Yours Is No Disgrace; Heart of the Sunrise; I’ve Seen All Good People; Fly From Here; And You and I; Owner of a Lonely Heart; Starship Trooper; Roundabout.
by Mark Allen
Nothing against Puddle of Mudd, but they really are not a particularly great band, so a new group formed by Jimmy Allen, the principal songwriter and original member of Puddle of Mudd, is hardly cause for celebratory cartwheels. But Against All Will exceeds whatever low-ball expectations one may have by delivering a powerful modern hard rock/metal album that pulverizes anything Puddle ever put out.
Their debut EP, A Rhyme & Reason, consists of seven tracks that straddle the line between hard rock and metal and come across as a muscular mash-up of Anew Revolution and Alter Bridge mixed with the melodic hooks of Shinedown and the metallic edge of Nonpoint. It’s a pretty cool conglomeration and Against All Will pull it off with aplomb, somehow managing to be commercial enough to be marketable without running the risk of being labeled sissified sellouts. Despite a cache of catchy hooks, the album’s overall vibe varies slightly from the stereotypical modern rock mode exemplified by the likes of Hinder or Rev Theory. It’s not cutting edge, mind you, but neither is it quite the same old corporate-fed thing.
The guitars are thickly layered for that heavy, beefy punch and you simply can’t turn your ears anywhere without bumping into a riff that has more crunch than a box of granola nut clusters. Cello Dias (Soulfly) is a badass with a bass guitar and his rumbling expertise is all over this album while the drums slam away like sonic kicks to the gut. The production engineers things for a crisp, clean, modern sound that simultaneously retains plenty of serious hard rock grit.
The trend with recent rock acts, perhaps yielding to the fact that today’s youth suffer from ADD when it comes to music, is to load the front of their albums with the good songs and relegate the filler material to the rear. Against All Will buck this trend by trotting out their two worst tunes first. Of course, “worst” is a relative term, because “Swept Away” and “Discard You” are both good; it’s just that what comes next is even better. Hey, even in a competition of gorgeous supermodels, somebody has to come in last.
So the first two songs are good, but they simply cannot compare to “All About You.” How can you not love a track that opens with the Shakespearean line, “I like your cute little ass?” The utterly infectious chorus hook should find the band plastered all over mainstream rock radio and cause Nickelback to mutter envious oaths into their beers.
Probably nothing could compete with that killer track, but “The Blue” doesn’t even really try, instead opting to be the song that most resembles Puddle of Mudd, perhaps knowing fans of Allen’s previous band would expect something along these lines. The album then shifts into a half-acoustic/half-electric offering in “Nothing Good Anymore,” serves up the band’s big single with the Egypt Central-styled “The Drug I Need,” and then wraps things up with “Let Go,” which cranks along and closes the album on the strength of a super-memorable hook that will stick with you like melted taffy on the bottom of your snakeskin boots. It’s also most likely the first time the words “play dough” have been used in a hard rock song, as in, “Hey, girl, I’m not your play dough.” One kid’s smushy fun-time activity, one rocker’s clever lyrical twist.
This is a strong effort and with its ability to sound like a standard modern hard rock album and yet a little different at the same time, it should easily find an audience across multiple rock music sectors. Even if you are not predisposed to enjoy this style of hard rock/metal, you may find yourself, against all will, enjoying this EP.
Genre: Modern Hard Rock
Jeff Current (vocals)
Jimmy Allen (guitars)
Cello Dias (bass)
Phil Gonyea (drums)
1. Swept Away
2. Discard You
3. All About You
4. The Blue
5. Nothing Good Anymore
6. The Drug I Need
7. Let Go
Label: Subsonic Industries
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
Guest Staff Writer
As tanks crawl upon the blood soaked earth, chemical warfare poisons the air we breathe with a yellow filth. The cover of the new Marduk EP called Iron Dawn depicts just that. It reflects current events, and when looking back at human history war has always been part of current events, in fact humans have proven to be incapable of a peaceful coexistence, so war will continue to be prevalent.
The jury is still out on whether or not Iron Dawn is a concept EP, the lyrics unfortunately, were not included with what was submitted. When combining the cover with the sound effects of battle throughout, the theme of Iron Dawn becomes quite clear. This three song EP is a great segue between Wormwood and Marduk’s next full length release.
The CD opens with the sounds of air raid sirens. “Warschau 2- Headhunter Halfmoon” and “Wacht Am Rhein Drumbeats Of Death,” the first two songs, are both a blast beat onslaught. These songs will pin you against the wall and possibly send you through it if played at loud volumes.
The third and final song is a bit different. The tempo slows down to be an ultra heavy conclusion to Iron Dawn. “Prochorovka – Blood And Sunflowers” adds a dynamic that truly works well.
Dive bombing aircraft, bombs dropping, machine guns and explosions are heard throughout the songs to enhance the theme of Iron Dawn. Some criticism has been displayed in other reviews regarding what they called a bland cover and cheesy sound effects. That is an opinion as we are all entitled to, however, it’s also an opinion of those that lack an imagination. One can only speculate as to what Marduk wants us to perceive regarding Iron Dawn. Could this be Marduk’s black metal salute to the film, Pink Floyd’s The Wall?
Iron Dawn is upper quality musicianship, imaginative, and a lot of fun. The haters will continue to hate and Marduk will continue to deliver Black Metal that defies the norm.
Daniel “Mortuus” Rostén – vocals
Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson – guitar
Magnus “Devo” Andersson – bass
lars Broddesson – drums
1. Warschau 2 – Headhunter Halfmoon
2. Wacht Am Rhein Drumbeats Of Death
3. Prochorovka – Blood And Sunflowers
Hardrock Haven rating: 10/10
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Adult Oriented Candy marks the return of hair metal revivalist and all-‘80s fanatic Julian Angel. Adult Oriented Candy is the second album by the glamorous mastermind, this time emerging under the band/project name Beautiful Beast. Angel has thoroughly studied/mastered ‘80s rock as a genre which is actually a rather big deal considering that the guitarist/vocalist is fluent in composing and performing AOR/melodic rock, glam metal and sleaze metal while occasionally mixing all three sub-genres into a tune.
Vocally Julian Abgel sounds like a mixture of Ted Poley and Mike Tramp, although far from a master AOR vocalist, Julian wisely arranges songs to perfectly suit his singing abilities. As a guitarist he is indeed a force to be reckoned with, a shredder that demonstrates deep understanding of melodies therefore including great harmonies on each and every song on Adult Oriented Candy. The line up is completed by Franc Mc Douglas who handles bass and keyboards and drummer Ro Lee.
It would not require more than a play of a few songs off Adult Oriented Candy for any rock fan to realize that Angel has a clear vision of what his music should sound like. One does not just happen to write rock music as if it was 1988 without effort. That is not to say however that Angel does not decide to have fun with it; on the contrary, from the album title, project name and naughty front cover, it is evident that he is enjoying every second of this record.
It is at this point that one has to make an inescapable distinction. The album cover of Beautiful Beast might deliver the impression of ‘80s extravaganza; particularly when focusing on the picture of Julian getting a girl on her knees in Steel Panther style. Still the music has non of the sarcastic and uncensored characteristics of the notorious American band. Lyric-wise Adult Oriented Candy never gets too sexual, sarcastic or rude so it highly unlikely that anyone will be offended by the material on this release. In fact, the more one plays the album, the more one realizes that Beautiful Beast is more of an AOR/melodic rock outfit than a hair metal band, strictly speaking for the music.
The essence of optimism on this album is unrivaled which in combination with the large choruses, the flamboyant solos, the stylish rhythm section and Angel’s attitude is definite to lift the mood of just about any rock fan, or any music fan for that matter. Songs like, “Wild Tonight”, “Tokyo Nights”, “Save My Heart” and “Rock All Arenas” sound as authentic as any ‘80s hit song from that era. No question, Adult Oriented Candy is a treat for any fan of ‘80s rock; peaking on melodies, choruses, guitar solos and attitude. Fans of Reckless Love, Crazy Lixx, Jettblack, Miss Behaviour and Steel Panther should definitely add Beautiful Beast to their collection.
Genre: Glam Metal / Melodic Hard Rock / AOR
Julian Angel – lead vocals, lead guitar
Frank Mc Douglas – bass, keyboards
Ro Lee – drums
02. Do You Want It
03. Ride With The Wild One
04. Tokyo Nights
05. Juvenile Affair
06. Oh Valerie
07. Save My Heart
08. Rock All Arenas (Born To Rock)
09. Wild Tonight
10. Still I Dream Of You
11. Singer And Guitarist In A Hair Band
Band website: http://www.angel-rock.com/
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.5/10
July 28, 2011 by Publisher
by Trevor Portz
Following their welcome reformation in 2008 (and fittingly titled album, Resurrection Macabre), death metallers Pestilence are back with another new batch of morbid tracks, this time in the form of Doctrine. Reuniting front-man Patrick Mameli with classic-era bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling, Doctrine sees the band simultaneously moving forward and looking back. Unfortunately, however, they seem to have overlooked an important part of the band’s signature sound, which may cause long-term fans a bit of dismay.
While Doctrine is a solid, technical death metal release, boasting John Tardy-like agonizing screams and a fair bit of groove that the band is known for, it lacks the weirdness that made Testimony of the Ancients and Spheres such groundbreaking death metal releases. For those unfamiliar, these albums saw Pestilence mix their death metal styling with a healthy portion of fusion jazz, creating a completely original (at the time) metal monster. While still present in small doses (notably in “Absolution” and the bass lines of “Amgod”), the fusion elements are far too sparse to sustain the band’s uniqueness.
While still a decent release, what ultimately keeps Doctrine from being a truly great album is this lack of fusion elements that made Pestilence so interesting in the first place. Instead, Doctrine sees Pestilence sounding a bit too much like bands of their ilk, and with its inherent lack of modern death metal hyper speed, the album ends up feeling a bit dated. While it’s easy to understand that a band may want to shake off some of the chains that bind them to a style, it can also take away their individuality. Mudvayne’s self-titled LP from last year is a great example of this, as is Cruachan’s Blood on the Black Robe.
The bottom line is, those who were fans of Pestilence because of their unique classic albums may be a bit disappointed with the less-bizarre 2011 incarnation of the band, longing for the days of headbanging dark fusion. New listeners would do well to pick up the aforementioned Testimony of the Ancients and Spheres to experience the majesty of Pestilence, as Doctrine is not the best indoctrination into a once brilliant band. Both groups should stay hopeful for a more far-out album next time, lest the band become just another drop in the ever-growing death metal pool.
Genre: Death Metal
Patrick Mameli (g,v)
Patrick Uterwijk (g)
Jeroen Paul Thesseling (b)
Yuma Van Eekelen (d)
1. The Predication (Intro)
Label: Mascot Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 6/10
July 27, 2011 by Publisher
by Justin Gaines
The Lay of Thrym is the sixth album from the modern day Vikings in Tyr. The Faroe Islanders have been quite visible of late, with a steady stream of albums, various pagan-themed tours and even an appearance at the ProgPower USA festival. Instead of taking it easy, Tyr jumped right back in with another offering of progressively-inclined folk metal.
You can tell right from the start, with the catchy “Flames of the Free,” that the band is going for a somewhat more accessible sound (in other words: catchier, but less progressive) with this album. Tyr sounds a lot less like Borknagar/Vintersorg and a lot more like Falconer this time around, with an almost power metal approach. That’s in keeping with the whole folk metal sound, and Tyr does it really well. The melodic anthems “Take Your Tyrant” and “Hall of Freedom” are made for singing and stomping along. The songs sung in their native language also stand out, as they just seem more authentic somehow. Another highlight, especially in light of recent events, is the thought-provoking “Shadow of the Swastika,” which reaffirms the band’s anti-racism stance. The epic title track closes the album in style, with a rousing tale of Viking glory that’s sure to have you raising your glass (or tankard of ale).
The Lay of Thrym is a totally enjoyable album, and one that will no doubt please the majority of Tyr’s ever-growing fanbase. There is no real sense that the band is moving forward or really challenging themselves this time around, and progressive metal fans probably won’t be as pleased with it, but that’s easy to forgive when the results are so much fun to listen to.
Edition Notes – The limited edition version of The Lay of Thrym comes in a digipack and features two bonus cover songs, Black Sabbath’s “I” and Rainbow’s “Stargazer,” which makes for a fitting tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio.
Genre: Folk Metal
Gunnar Thomsen (b)
Terji Skibenaes (g)
Kari Streymoy (d)
Heri Joensen (g) (v)
1. Flames of the Free
2. Shadow of the Swastika
3. Take Your Tyrant
4. Evening Star
5. Hall of Freedom
6. Fields of the Fallen
7. Konning Hans
8. Ellindur Bondi a Jadri
9. Nine Worlds of Lore
10. The Lay of Thrym
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.75/10
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Critical Mental Erosion is the debut EP by the premiere Greek sleaze metal band Cyanide 4. Although a relatively new band, Cyanide have come a long way and have proven themselves as a live act in their domestic market; for that matter they have opened for fellow Greek hard rockers Outloud, supported Sleaze heroes Crashidet on two dates and opened numerous stadium shows of The Scorpions throughout Greece.
Indeed, Cyanide 4 is probably the first sleaze metal band to come out of Greece combining image, youthful attitude but most importantly artistic talent. Before style comes the song-writing for Cyanide 4, and it is that quality of theirs that led to be signed by US label Demon Doll records through which this EP was released.
What perhaps separates musically Cyanide 4 from the majority of modern sleaze metal acts is their emphasis on melody as each and every song they perform is based on infectious harmonies, beyond the expected rhythm attack and large choruses. For that matter, Cyanide 4 stand far from your average sleaze metal group as you will not find much of angry-at-the-world attitude on Critical Mental Erosion. Instead the guys choose deliver drama in their lyrics which perfectly complements their melodies. Beyond the aggressive opener “FFL,” songs titles like “Innocent Alibi,” “Temptation Failed,” “Wasting My Time” and “In the Heat I Fall” are totally indicative of the mood of this collection of tunes. The introspection in the lyrics is like nothing one has come across while exploring the sleaze genre. It is indeed five out of five for the songs on offer yet the closing power-ballad “In the Heat I Fall” (the only track of the EP that will not be included in their full length album) is probably a masterpiece guaranteed to convert any non sleaze-metaler into a fan of the band.
Clearly their front man and main songwriter, guitarist/vocalist G.A. Sinn does not lack vision and seems committed to delivering his own-clearly differentiated brand of sleaze to those willing to explore these musical waters. Critical Mental Erosion sounds so powerful, melodic and self-explorative that is bound to capture the imagination of a rock audience beyond sleaze metalers, and for that fans of the genre should embrace this newcomer band.
Genre: Sleaze Metal / Melodic Hard Rock
G.A. Sinn: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Joxnny Slut: Lead guitar
Nasty George: Bass
Mike T.: Drums
Wasting My Time
Band website: http://www.myspace.com/cyani4de
Label website: http://demondollrecords.com/
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Up From the Ashes is the brand new, second album by American hard rock band Burn Halo. Up From the Ashes could be regarded as the natural successor to their debut, once again bringing to front their groove-meets-melody approach. Along these lines you can expect thick riffs, groovy bodies, followed by melodic verses and catchy choruses.
The line-up features lead singer James Heart, guitarists Joey Roxx and Brandon Lynn, bassist Aaron Boehler and drummer Dillon Ray. The performances on Up From the Ashes are intense and fairly aggressive while retaining their radio friendly essence, which is mostly due to the album’s contemporary production qualities. The vocals are up-front in the mix while the harmonies effectively take over the grooves when the verses and choruses kick in. Their mainstream appeal owes a lot to their lead singer who sounds like a mixture of Chad Kroeger and James Hetfield.
In essence Burn Halo attempt to mix the riffs of classic rock ’n roll with the staccato rhythm of contemporary heavy metal all under a modern-as-it-gets production. It has to be said that Burn Halo succeed at blending the two rock sub genres although the end result is not as exiting as one would expect, that is until the verses and choruses come to play.
The power ballads are actually very well crafted with far more substance than one would expect from a radio-directed tune. Still it is possible that the radio friendly approach prevents the band from adding multiple instrumental layers to their songs which would make the end result more intense and intriguing; especially if you consider that a classic rock ’n roll riff will welcome just about any guitar lead or keyboard melody. On the other hand, one has to address that lead guitarist Joey Cuhna shines on each and every solo though far from being the protagonist musician on the album.
It is easy to see the potential of the songs on Up From the Ashes, but the experienced listener will probably be able to trace that there is certainly room on the compositions for more performances; from twin guitar melodies, background keyboards, to backing vocals, it becomes apparent that Burn Halo could have added more and would have been for the benefit of their new album. The best example of the could-have-been approach envisioned here is the closing track of the album “Shine” which includes everything from acoustic intros, to atmospheric keyboards to melodic wah-wah guitars and challenging rhythm section, providing a clear picture of how Up From the Ashes could have sounded. Instead the group chose to simplify their material which on one hand strengthens their mainstream appeal but on the other hand hinders their uniqueness.
Overall Up From the Ashes is a solid modern hard rock release with undeniable mainstream potential; bound to appeal to a wider audience that the defined rock-metal community though definitely prioritizing song-writing over performance.
Genre: Modern Hard Rock
James Hart – lead vocals
Joey Roxx – lead guitar
Brandon Lynn – rhythm guitar
Aaron Boehler – bass
Dillon Ray – drums, percussion
1. “Tear It Down”
2. “Up from the Ashes”
4. “Threw It All Away”
6. “Stuck in a Rut”
7. “Give Me a Sign”
9. “Rest My Soul”
10. “I Won’t Back Down”
12. “We Won’t Live Forever” (iTunes bonus track)
Band website: http://www.burnhalo.com/
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
by Justin Gaines
North Carolina has long boasted a vibrant and diverse metal scene, with exciting new bands across several sub-genres breaking through to the larger metal world. One of the latest, and perhaps most interesting, bands to emerge from the NC scene is Greensboro-based A Thousand Shields, a progressive metal band that just released their second album, entitled Portrait.
These days the term “progressive metal” can mean anything, from your basic Dream Theater clone (which is anything but progressive) to the truly avant-garde. A Thousand Shields appears quite determined to earn the progressive label, both in terms of musicianship as well as forward-thinking, innovative songwriting. There really isn’t any band you can point to and say “they sound like this,” which is a point in their favor. That said, there are definitely moments where you’re reminded of bands as far reaching as Porcupine Tree, Tool, Between the Buried and Me, Rush, Believer and, yes, Dream Theater.
Portrait has the expected (but no less impressive for it) high degree of technically proficient musicianship and lengthy songs (three clearing the nine-minute mark, one of which is the 14-minute closer), but it takes more than that to stand out in a crowded progressive metal field, and A Thousand Shields seems well aware of that. The band seems to have paid as much attention to the overall songwriting as they have to their instrumental performances, which is a definite plus. You’re going to find parts where each member’s musicianship stands out in particular, but it’s always within the greater context of the song and album, not as a mere showcase for self-indulgent solos. The vocals also deserve mention, as Josiah Baker, who sounds more than a little bit like Maynard James Keenan, brings a tremendous sense of emotion and spirit, which really helps drive home each song. It also helps that A Thousand Shields never loses sight of the fact that they’re a metal band, bringing the required heaviness, power and speed when the songs call for it.
The only real drawback is that the production on Portrait, while perhaps adequate for an unsigned band at this early career stage is simply not the equal of these songs. It’s an obstacle that affects the way the album resonates with the listener, and you can’t help but wonder what this album would have sounded like in the hands of someone like Jens Bogren.
It is worth mentioning that the lyrics to these songs appear to be – at least to some degree – Christian in nature. It’s never over the top, but it is noticeable, which may be a deal-breaker for some listeners. By and large though, the band lets the music do the talking.
Production issues aside, Portrait is a very strong album from a band that’s poised to do great things. Fans of intelligent and powerful progressive metal, especially those with an open mind and a willingness to take a chance on a new band, would do well to give A Thousand Shields a listen.
Genre: Progressive Metal
Josiah Baker (v)
Wes Mains (g)
Darren Overcash (b)
Chris Belton (k)
Kelly Cox (d)
1. Become the Martyr
2. The Kingdom
3. Heavenly Infection
5. The Dark Room
6. Face the Day
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.5/10
by Joe Mis
California based Mark Dean is making a run at being metal’s next Renaissance man with the release of his solo effort entitled No Man Is An Island. The album defies genre and classification, blending many old and new school metal influences with a smattering of progressive elements and a touch of atmospheric/ethereal tones. Despite the artist being listed as Mark Dean’s Caldera, this is all Mark – he plays all instruments, does all vocals, and produced/engineered/recorded the CD. In fact, the only other performer listed is Levi Dean Miller, credited with a “Breakout scream” on one track.
Recorded over the span of 5 years, No Man Is An Island is an interesting look into the psyche and musical growth of a performer. Musically diverse and dense, almost “art-rock” at times, the album takes the listener from soft atmospheric passages to intense metal without pretending to be either. As both a musician and songwriter Mark Dean proves himself to be immensely talented. He delivers solid guitar work, intense bass, intricate drums and nicely done keyboards throughout the album – taking the time to track every instrument separately to get every aspect exactly as he wants. His songs are complex and layered but never to the point of pretentiousness – and are always melodic. He manages to set a definite mood within the first few bars of every track. As a vocalist he is decent, possessing a deep, dry and gritty voice that seems to be a combination of Blaze Bayley, Biff Byford and Ray Alder. As often seems to be the case with multi-instrumentalists, Dean’s voice is not his true strength -but his raw instrumental talents far outweigh any shortcomings as a singer.
Musical highlights include: the bizarre “backwards” opening and intense bass of “God Help Me;” the overall progressive rock feel and spirited vocals of “Kings Row;” the rawness of the guitars and vocals in “Do I Care;” the otherworldly tone of the mostly instrumental “The Gypsy Ears;” the soft guitar work and mellow music of “Across The Way;” the wild guitar wanderings of “Eluding Connie at Trixie’s Gig;” and the almost Fates Warning feel on “Climb The Cliffs.”
Dean delivers songs that delve deeply into emotions, both good and bad. Themes of isolation, rebirth, loss and love take this album a little outside the usual radio-friendly arena, but this music should appeal to many fans of progressive rock, art rock and even old school hard rock. Influences of everyone from Ozzy to Fates Warning to Steve Vai can be heard in one track or another. No matter what the lyrical subject, Mark Dean’s Caldera delivers with passion and intensity.
No Man Is An Island is obviously a labor of love by Mark Dean, and while it may not get much in the way of commercial air play or mainstream recognition, it is indeed a fine release. Intense and powerful rock blended with prog elements, strong lyrics and an ever-present sense of melody make this album highly recommended. Artistic expression at its purest …
Genre: Progressive Hard Rock
Label: Amethyst Edge Productions
Mark Dean (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals)
1. God Help Me
2. Reptilian Girl
3. Love in Vain
4. Kings Row
5. Do I Care
6. The Gypsy Ears
7. Across the Way
8. Eluding Connie at Trixie’s Gig
9. Climb the Cliff
10. 50k Watts
11. Looking for Conscious
12. Oh My God
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
by John Kindred
James Byrd first gained notoriety with the band Fifth Angel before forming his solo band in the ‘80s. His neo-classical-virtuoso guitar style was influenced by Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions era), Gary Moore, Al DiMeola, Neal Schon and Michael Schenker.
“One of the best European sounding guitarists I have heard in years, he definitely has ‘the vision’ and aims for each note and makes it count,” — Yngwie Malmsteen.
In the ‘80s Guitar for the Practicing Magazine (now known as Guitar One) listed Byrd in their one-off feature, “The 10 best guitarists you have never heard.”
• James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising – S/T (1990)
• James Byrd – Octoglomerate (1993)
• James Byrd – Son Of Man (1995)
• The James Byrd Group – The Apocalypse Chime (1996)
• James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising – Crimes Of Virtuosity (1998)
• Byrd – Flying Beyond The 9 (2001)
• Byrd – Anthem (2002)
• James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising – Beyond the Pillars (2011)
with Fifth Angel
• Fifth Angel – S/T (1988)
Hardrock Haven: James it’s nice to talk with you again.
James Byrd: Hi, nice to hear from you again as well.
Hardrock Haven: Last time we discussed the re-release of ‘97s Crime of Virtuosity as well Byrd Guitars, Yngwie, Fifth Angel, etc. Today you are back with a new release, Beyond the Pillars on Lion Music, which is yet again another album going back deep into the vaults of unreleased material. What did rediscovery this “lost” material mean to you?
James Byrd: I had truly forgotten the recordings, and I was really surprised at how good the performances were.
Hardrock Haven: Hearing the music must have been like traveling back in time. Was it an emotional high or low transitioning Fifth Angel to your solo band?
James Byrd: It was definitely a high. Although Fifth Angel ended up being a bitter disappointment when people I’d placed my trust in, started breaking agreements and demanding new terms, I realized just how easy it was to move forward artistically when you didn’t have to deal with out of control egos and endless debates before taking a vote on every decision. It felt great and freeing.
Hardrock Haven: What was the inspiration for the music we are going to hear when we put Beyond the Pillars in our CD players?
James Byrd: Just having the freedom to make my own musical decisions without being second guessed by anyone gave me a lot of energy. A lot of my writing makes use of subjects that interest me, and since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with Atlantis and what’s called “forbidden archeology”. But we were very young, so girls were on our minds (and hanging around as we recorded), so there are a lot of love songs.
Hardrock Haven: Are there any memories of this time period that came flooding back when you heard the master tape again that you had forgotten?
James Byrd: Oh yeah. Warm fuzzy, blurry memories of girls from the Deja Vue, the smell of beer which permeated every fiber of The Music Bank, going out to clubs after the sessions. We had a very good time.
Hardrock Haven: If there is new material in the pipe line the why this release it as opposed to new material?
James Byrd: Well as you may have noticed, the music industry (along with the rest of the economy) isn’t what it used to be. I undertook to start my guitar company Byrd Guitars, making instruments for the public in 2001 because the writing was on the wall in terms of money from labels, and aside from these guitars being a passion of mine, I thought it wise not to have all my eggs in one basket. So discovering the tapes, and finding out they were worthy of release, enabled me to give something to fans who hadn’t had anything new in too long.
Hardrock Haven: Final thoughts on the release of Beyond the Pillars?
James Byrd: I’m pretty proud of it actually, it’s hard to believe I was so young and the tracks sound so fresh and high energy after not hearing them for 23 years. I think there’s some great writing.
Hardrock Haven: One of your heroes, Gary Moore passed away this year. How did the news hit you personally?
James Byrd: I was stunned really. It’s a huge loss. I remember playing some of his songs when I was 19, and he was a great musician. And then of course it makes you aware of your own mortality. Very sobering really.
Hardrock Haven: When you look back at your career, what would you do or not do differently?
James Byrd: That’s so hard to answer; even the bad things lead to where I went, and one has no way of knowing where they’d be. There can’t be regrets, but obviously everyone wonders about where they would be if they’d made different decisions. Fifth Angel ended very badly, but I can’t regret the time I put in there because it launched me.
Hardrock Haven: In my mind you are a lot like Michael Schenker, almost a cult guitar hero. Not necessarily main stream enough, like Malmsteen or Satriani, to be known as well as they are. So has social media (facebook,myspace, twitter, etc.) and the web in general helped to garner more notoriety?
James Byrd: Well I just started “face booking” about a year ago, and I am always surprised at the people from my past who find me, and the messages I get from fans. I don’t really know about more notoriety, but it obviously can’t hurt.
Hardrock Haven: Fifth Angel has recently reformed. Were you asked or invited to participate with the band? If you weren’t asked, would you play with them again if they came calling?
James Byrd: How can a band with only one original member (Ed) be viewed as legitimate? I was asked and my answer was absolutely not. There’s only one reason why someone would try to do this using the name, and I’m afraid the answer isn’t pretty. I said no for both artistic and personal reasons and either of those alone would be enough for me not to entertain the idea.
From an artistic perspective, if you call something a “reunion”, you have two choices: Either make a contrived effort to make an album that sounds like people remember the band, or to make an album that sounds different. If you make an album that sounds like people remember, well, you haven’t grown as an artist have you. You are just pandering to people’s sense of nostalgia. And if you make an album that’s different, well then what’s the point of claiming it’s a reunion? You’re going to just alienate the old fans. So it’s a no win in my opinion.
And on a personal level, I had decided when I heard about this so-called reunion that I wouldn’t say anything, but now I will: I was truly offended that Ed had the audacity to think he had a right to exploit a legendary band name for his own purposes, and I wanted nothing to do with it because that guy is the reason the band kept breaking up from the beginning.
I am saying something now, because I guess you hadn’t heard, but their new drummer quit, and their fifth vocalist also quit. I believe he was the 4th vocalist to throw in the towel. And this is actually a part of the reason I felt releasing Beyond The Pillars would be good; Fifth Angel fans have been jerked around since 2003 with repeated promises of a reunion, and when Jeff McCormack and David Fefholt (both friends of mine now) both quit a couple of months ago, I was able to release an album that was not an imitation of the past, but the real deal; a genuine time capsule from 1987. Hopefully it will fill some of that desire for a solid 80′s album, and it’s a good one.
In conclusion about Fifth Angel, all I can say now, is I hope they will show some respect for what the band was during its brief but shining moment in the spot light, by just letting the memory of the band rest in peace.
Hardrock Haven: Touching on your custom guitars, BYRD Guitars, how is the business going?
James Byrd: I’m definitely not getting rich at it in this bad economy, but it has been incredibly satisfying. This isn’t some signature guitar I put my name on that some company halfway around the world makes. I spent years and tens of thousands of dollars developing and patenting it, and each order from customers is a custom build, and I am the builder. It’s creative, and there is tremendous satisfaction in fulfilling someone’s guitar dream and building them the perfect instrument.
Hardrock Haven: Are there any other projects you are working on now?
James Byrd: Aside from guitar builds, I’ve been fabricating a chopper. I’ve been a custom fabricator since I was 20 years old, and a biker most of my life as well. As a rule I never talk about albums until they are finished, I guess I am superstitious.
Hardrock Haven: James thanks for taking time to do this interview.
James Byrd: Thank you!
July 25, 2011 by Publisher
by Deb Rao
Hardrock Haven is proud to present to present an exclusive interview with one of the breakthrough bands of 2011 Crossfade. Hot off the heels of performing at Rock On The Range, Crossfade has just released on Eleven Seven Music, We All Bleed. The band has a very unique sound and writes inspiring lyrics that deal with real life situations.
Guitarist Les Hall gives Hardrock Haven readers an in-depth look at the making of We All Bleed. Don’t miss Crossfade on the Rock Allegiance Tour that kicks off on August 24th.
HRH: Les, how are you doing? Tell us about the writing process for your new album,We All Bleed.
LES: Hi Debby. Well, it was 2 and 1/2 years of hell. (Laughter)
HRH: But you got a good pay off with the release. It was well worth all the hard work. The final product is awesome. I know the band had been off the road for five years.
LES: It is all worth it. I will tell you that.
HRH: Tell us about the new video and single, “Killing Me Inside.”
LES: Is a song that is about around nightmares that you have. The ultra vivid nightmares. That pretty much lives with you throughout the day that kind of affects your reality. It is the message behind the song. I used to have a lot of fucked up dreams. I would look at people differently when I actually woke up. The dreams are so real. The video was to make you feel catastrophic like you are in nightmares. We were in a box. The four of us were in there. There was a cameraman in the middle the fifth guy sitting on a stool spinning around. We were all wearing tight leather jackets and all. The wardrobe gear was provided to make us look cool. It was hot as hell in there.
HRH: You are currently on a great label Eleven Seven Music. Then us about the recording difference this time around from your previous release.
LES: This time the majority was recorded in our own studio. We realized we had a seven thousand dollar credit at Sweetwater when we called up to get a credit card from them. They are like oh yeah by the way you guys have seven thousand dollars credit. We are like thanks for telling us. So we ordered a bunch of gear. Eddie and I would sit around and we did the right as we record all in one process. We document everything we did. Whether it was me sitting with an acoustic guitar with my iphone out which having an idea and tracking it is always documented. All the ideas we had, we would go with whatever was inspiring at the time. So the majority of the recording process, I would program the drums for the rest of the album. We did the bass and guitars and the keyboards at our own studio. Then we went to LA and actually track the real drums and mixed the album. The majority of it was our studio. We spent the budget on what counts, which is a big, drum sound and great mix.
HRH: What does the title We All Bleed denote to you? I really love the concept for that.
LES: Thank you for saying that. Because I was reading some review and somebody said just that name alone makes me not want to listen to the record.
HRH: I think the title makes me more want to listen to it. Because we are all the same. We do all bleed. I disagree.
LES: I disagree with that comment as well. Make you for saying that. It makes me feel a little bit better.
HRH: What was it like performing at Rock On The Range this year? That must have been a great opportunity for you.
LES: We did. There was a huge turnout there. There were cameras out there filming. We look forward to getting on some bigger tours and getting a bigger audience.
HRH: Are you exciting about performing on the Rock Allegiance Tour with Buckcherry, Papa Roach and Puddle of Mudd?
LES: That starts August 24. We will probably do 10 warm-up dates heading into that. There are a bunch of great bands on that bill. It is bands that we all played with before. So I think it is going to be a nice large family and a lot of fun. It will be a great thing for us to get out of the clubs and get back into the arenas.
HRH: I think Crossfade could really be the new breakthrough band of the year. How do you think the band has evolved? I know the band has been together a long time.
LES: The band has evolved from the changing of the members. The writing process being a little bit different. With me writing a lot of the material and songs with Eddie. Also, Eddie being inspired and writing a lot of stuff. We went back and forth. I think having different heads with people that write differently. I write a lot of dark music naturally. I write a lot of stuff on piano and acoustic guitar oddly enough considering it is a pretty heavy record. Writing with Eddie to me was almost like sitting in the room like I was writing with my double. I had to look around and see if I was delusional right now or is he actually here. We work way to well together. We over analyze every little detail. Anything I am not thinking about. He is thinking about and vice versa. I think the collaboration is what has made it what it is today.
HRH: What I like about this album is the heartfelt lyrics. Did you write, “I Am Not Holding On To Dead Memories?”
LES: Those lyrics are all Eddie’s. I wrote the music for that one. But that is Eddie’s his ode to the past and it is time to move on and get off my ass. Do you know what I mean? Eddie had a long dark time. He traveled the universe of a year and a half. I was writing a lot of music at that time. Very inspired. He was going through a different phrase in life of what he had and what had gone away. For me it was a different thing. It was joining a new band. I was excited about writing music. I wasn’t a part of Columbia records. So we had two different head spaces going on there. That song was one of the last ones that we wrote. Every song we would write would be so dark. We kept saying to ourselves after three of four songs it is a really dark record, we need to write something a little bit lighter. Finally, towards the end, I think the last three tracks we finished were “Dead Memories”, “Open Up Your Eyes”, and “Make Me A Believer.” We sequenced the album in that way just to say we are grabbing life by the balls. Forgot about what happened in the past. Let’s move on. That made the start of the album. The rest of the album sort of flowing in through the darkness that we had all gone through. Ending with a little positive of light.
HRH: That is awesome. We are really excited to promote Crossfade at Hardrock Haven. Hope to see you on the Rock Allegiance Tour this summer.
LES: Thank you so much. We are really excited about this record. The feedback has been amazing from all the fans. Which I think is really cool. I think it is a really different sounding record for Crossfade. To get all the support and the love from the fans because it does have a different sound to it is amazing.
HRH: How would you describe the sound of Crossfade to the fans for the people just turning on to the band with this new release?
LES: Can I just make a noise? (Laughter) This new album I would say is an experience and journey. It is an album that you listen to the top to the bottom all the way through. It was definitely sequenced to be listened to in full. I think I have seen the word dark in every single review. Clearly, it is a darker record. It is a very moody record. I think it is an album that you listen to from the beginning and it takes you on a journey.
For more info on the band visit: www.myspace.com/crossfad.
Watch “Killing Me Inside” Video here: http://youtu.be/qhf59O0ASx8.
July 25, 2011 by Publisher
by Deb Rao
July 8, 2011 at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
They say it never rains in Las Vegas but don’t believe them. It pours! Last week in Vegas the area was embellished with thunderstorms that brought torrential downpours to the area. But not even a little rain would stop Puddle Of Mudd set to perform at the Sand Bar at the Red Rock Casino on July 8. An hour before the doors were set to be opened there was talk that the outdoor show just might be cancelled due to the inclement weather. Thankfully, the rain clouds subsided and like they say in Vegas, the show must go on!
Puddle Of Mudd hit the stage at 9 P.M. for a 90-minute set of great music that spanned their extensive career plus the band performed an AC/DC cover song TNT off of their upcoming cover album release, re:(disc)overed that is slated to be released on Aug. 2.
Red Rock Casino is one of the most innovative and impressive casinos in Las Vegas. The Sand Bar featured cabanas, pools, and a spacious concert area for fans to dance and just have a great time. Puddle Of Mudd are back on tour with a great new set list. Singer Wes Scantlin even performed some songs acoustically including “Drift And Die.” It was great to hear “Famous” back in the set list. The band seemed energized and put on one of the best shows I have seen all season.
The set list was relentless, as Puddle Of Mudd pounded out hit after hit. Singer Wes Scantlin and guitarist Paul Phillips are a great team. The momentum of the night roared on as the band launched into “Psycho”, “She Hates Me”, and mega hit “Blurry.” Be sure to check out Puddle Of Mudd on tour this summer. The re:(disc)overed Tour is slated to kick off on July 23 in Hartford, CT for a few select shows. Then Puddle Of Mudd joins the Rock Allegiance Tour on August 24 in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Puddle Of Mudd Set List:
l. Out Of My head
4. Living On Borrowed Time
5. Drift And Die
6. Away From Me
7. Nothing Left To Lose
12.She Hates Me
For tour info visit www.facebook.com/puddleofmudd
by Cyndi Jo
Polish blackened death metal pioneers Behemoth’s compilation collection of their two EPs — 03’s Conjuration and 05’s Slaves Shall Serve — is a collection suited better for its artwork and nothing else.
The double-disc Abyssus Abyssum Invocat includes liner notes from front-man Nergal, a complete expanded repackaging, new artwork, and of course newly remastered tracks, live songs and some interesting covers.
Escaping the uber-underground black metal and transitioning into a more technical approach, this compilation features seven studio tracks, including Nine Inch Nail’s “Wish” and Danzig ’s “Until You Call on the Dark,” and 11 recorded live tracks. Although, overall, the album is underwhelming, “Conjuration Ov Sleep Daemons” demonstrates what fans love most of these black metal monsters — brutal riffs that are accompanied by grueling drums and Nergal’s distinguished vocals. The raw energy transmitted through this song is a definite bonus. Behemoth’s rendition of “Wish” is at best a heavier version of the song with only an intense ending guitar solo to spice it up — not that impressive or innovative.
The amazingly artistic alluring packaging is the only plus. A fan’s best bet music wise is spending money on their latest DVD, Evangelia Heretika, while awaiting their upcoming, anticipating release, in hopes of Nergal’s better health. (The lead singer is recovering from Leukemia.)
Genre: Black Metal / Death Metal
1. Conjuration Of Sleep Daemons
3. Welcome To Hell
4. Christians To The Lions (Live)
5. Decade Of Therion (Live)
6. From The Pagan Vastlands (Live)
7. Antichristian Phenomenon (Live)
8. Lam (Live)
9. Satan’s Sword (I Have Become) (Live)
10.Chant For Eskaton 2000 (Live)
Slaves Shall Serve
1. Slaves Shall Serve
2. Entering The Pylon Of Light
4. Until You Call On The Dark
5. Demigod (Live)
6. Slaves Shall Serve (Live)
7. Lam (Live)
8. As Above So Below (Live)
Label: Century Media
Web site: behemoth.pl
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
by Cyndi Jo
For those who don’t understand Unearth, the only thing to understand is that they are probably the only band that can still maintain the right amount of consistency in the now Hot Topic, money grabbing, metal-core scene. Even though the last effort, The March, received nothing but bad reviews, these Massachusetts natives have taken their original sound and exhilarated it with tremendous breakdowns, speedy drum fills, and a good amount of refined melodic choruses that they know how to do. The fifth full length effort, Darkness In The Light, is still not as innovative as most metal critics would want it to be, but it’s still a good summer record that is nothing but a series of head-smashing hits.
One of the heaviest tracks in this album is the first single “Eyes of Black.” With a southern style influence twist on two-step drum fills by Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley, this song has summer crowd favorite written all over it. Another amazing aspect of this album is the production value it has. The opening guitar riff in first song “Watch It Burn,” only proves that Unearth’s career isn’t over. The use of double basses in “Ruination of The Lost” is 210 seconds of strong alluring notes. The embodiment of a perfect metal world of fast-paced riffs, progressive melodic harmonies, and monstrous vocals is defined in “Arise the War Cry” — by far the best track in the album.
All in all, Unearth could say that they made a comeback with Darkness in the Light. It’s a solid record with fresh original work that manages to be proficient in the over-saturated metal-core scene.
Fact is not everyone is going to give Unearth a chance, including that one 40-something metal-head in South Dakota . But there’s 100 scene kids walking into a Hot Topic to get a copy of Darkness in the Light everywhere else.
Genre: Metal Core
1. Watch it Burn
2. Ruination of the Lost
3. Shadows in the Light
4. Eyes of Black
5. Last Wish
6. Arise the War Cry
8. Coming of the Dark
9. The Fallen
Label: Metal Blade
Web site: unearth.tv
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
by Cyndi Jo
There’s always those bands that make you feel somewhat special because you walk around your high school with that specific band shirt, thinking you’re the coolest kid since the Fonz. Then, you graduate, move on with your life, and totally forget about them until they hit you in the face with the possibly the best experimental album in their discography.
The Black Dahlia Murder have continued to release adequate records since their
debut in 2003(to say the least) — but their latest, Ritual, sets the standard in all that is melodic death metal.
Beginning the album with “A Shrine to Madness,” The Black Dahlia Murder ignites the album with the use of orchestrated strings, which is a first for the band. Acoustic strings are also featured on the last song “Blood in the Ink” at a much broader range, that only concludes the album with excellency. Speaking of acoustics, the piano in “Carbonized in Cruciform” sets the tone for The Black Dahlia Murder overall thematic approach: a frightening sense to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up while enjoying the awesome blast beats.
The influence of bands such as At The Gates and Carcass is surely showed in the track “Conspiring with the Damned.” The technicality of the riffs by new guitarist Ryan Knight and Brian Eschbach, have The Black Dahlia Murder definitely swimming in their own traditional pool of melodic harmonies with a hint of thrash. Also, “The Melodic” brings the right amount of traditional The Black Dahlia Murder melody. A crowd favorite will most definitely be “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere,” which is at best an under-tuned sensational track worth listening to.
Bottom line, if your kid starts wearing a Black Dahlia Murder shirt again that hasn’t been worn for a really long time, Ritual is to blame. Clearly, it’s an album worth listening, worth buying, and worth embracing. The Ritual might even attract audiences that might not have not attracted in the past.
Brian Eschbach (g)
Trevor Strand (v)
Ryan Williams (b)
Shannon Lucas (d)
Ryan Knight (g)
1. A Shrine to Madness
2. Moonlight Equilibrium
3. On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood
4. Conspiring with the Damned
5. The Window
6. Carbonized in Cruciform
7. Den of the Picquerist
8. Malenchanments of the Necrosphere
9. The Grave Robber’s Work
10. The Raven
11. Great Burning Nullifier
12. Blood in the Ink
Label: Metal Blade
Web site: myspace.com/theblackdahliamurder
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.8/10
by John Kindred
Many bands that were formed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s brought a mystical vibe, which is seldom captured in the modern age of music. Musicians from that time became real rock stars and were very untouchable, elusive; each was put upon pedestal and vied to be a God of sorts to legions of fans. Album sales and touring dictated success – not FM radio or MTV. The modern media-driven age of TV and the Internet killed the rock star and changed the landscape to a flavor-of-the-month scenario that made record companies rich and turned bands into tax write offs. So when we revisit the ‘60s or ‘70s, we are recapturing a time period in which bands were held in awe. The groups made careers out of releasing some the best and most inspired music ever.
Deep Purple have gone deep into the vaults and delivered up a documentary, which is loaded with vintage concert footage, interviews and the never-before-seen 30-minute concert in Japan from ’76, aptly titled Phoenix Rising.
The documentary follows the group after the departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, beginning when they released the album Burn with new additions bassist/vocalist Glen Hughes (Trapeze) and vocalist David Coverdale (Whitesnake) and moves into the Stormbringer sessions and album release. And finalizes the discussion with the Come Taste the Band era of Deep Purple, which is a time period that is highlighted by Ritchie Blackmore leaving for greener pastures and Tommy Bolin taking over as the primary guitarist. In detail, we get the inside track from band members who made up the mark III and IV lineup of Deep Purple as the band moved toward its eventual collapse. Hughes and Coverdale’s influence on the band’s writing style changed the dynamic of the band and foreshadowed the band’s eventual demise. Following Bolin’s death in ’76, it would be an additional nine years before Deep Purple would reunite.
The Japan concert footage of ’76 features the lineup of Glen Hughes, David Coverdale, Tommy Bolin, John Lord and Ian Pace. The band performs eight songs: “Burn,” “Getting Tighter,” “Love Child,” “Smoke On The Water,” “Lazy,” “Homeward Strut,” “You Keep On Moving” and “Stormbringer.” Touching old Purple material and their new music of that time period, the music is driven by the John Lord’s organ, while Hughes and Coverdale split time on vocals. In the mix, Tommy Bolin’s guitar is too low, so the rhythmic pulse of the band is prominent and certainly takes away from the experience of seeing the only video footage that showcases Bolin in Deep Purple.
Released as a DVD, Blu-ray and in a special two-disc DVD + CD package, Phoenix Rising is must-have for Deep Purple fans. The unreleased footage from Japan is underwhelming and disappointing as the changes in the lineup and musical direction are apparent and affect the performance. The documentary is very informative and enlightening. Overall, this is cool release that documents a band in transition. The interviews help fans understand what was happening internally with Deep Purple during this time of change and eventual hiatus.
Genre: Classic Hard Rock
David Coverdale (v)
Glenn Hughes (b)(v)
Jon Lord (organ)
Ian Paice (d)
Tommy Bolin (g)
• Deep Purple Rises Over Japan Concert Footage
• Gettin’ Tighter 80 Minute Music Documentary
• Bonus Jakarta 1975 Interview.
• Phoenix Rising Soundtrack
• 16 page Booklet.
Concert Track Listing:
2. Getting Tighter
3. Love Child
4. Smoke On The Water
6. Homeward Strut
7. You Keep On Moving
Label: Eagle Rock Entertainment
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Miss Behaviour is a Swedish melodic hard rock/glam metal band and Last Woman Standing is their brand new second album. The line up features lead singer/bassist Sebastian Roos, guitarist Erik Heinke, key player Henrik Sproge and drummer Anders Berlin.
It would be fair to say that the opening track of the album “1988” summarizes perfectly their artistic approach in the line “We are defenders of a dream, we break the silence and go back in time”. So Miss Behaviour draws strongly upon late ‘80s melodic hard rock and glam metal. The album is built on big drumming, anthemic keyboards, harmonious guitar parts and AOR-like melodic vocals. The end result never touches the more aggressive side of hard rock as the lyrics focus on the subject of romance and the will to recapture the glory of past years.
Last Woman Standing includes no shortage of standout material namely “Taking Hostage” featuring possibly the greatest glam riff not written in the ‘80s. The bombastic “Perfect War” features a huge rhythm section and long guitar lines make it a hair metal opus at its own right effectively proving that glittery metal can be just as devastating as any other rock/metal sub-genre. “1988” is a song that probably speaks on behalf of all the bands, younger and older, that emerged over the past seven years admirably supporting the melodic rock/AOR/glam metal genres. “Emergency” has such an infectious sweet-sugary chorus making the tune a guilty melodic pleasure that one might find themselves playing secretly over and over. “Cynthia” is equally pink-romantic rocker, a strong dosage of which is capable of infecting even the die-hard death-metal-head in singing its chorus.
Any fan of the genre should agree that “Miss Behaviour” manage to recreate the glamorous drama found on the classic albums of bands like Firehouse and Danger Danger. You can be certain that the ’80s arena rock atmosphere is recaptured on this debut, being a testament to that musical era. To be critical, one would also expect more instrumental extravaganza, particularly on lead guitars, and a bit more exaggeration during many of the songs choruses. With the glamorous presentation of Miss Behaviour maybe they can focus exploring more in the areas on their next release. Perhaps we may not be looking at the greatest contemporary melodic-rock-AOR-glam album as is. once again, this genre is a very competitive arena, where acts raise the bar year after yet. Still Last Woman Standing is so damn infectious and catchy that it should come with prescription.
Overall Miss Behaviour is another great act to explore, for any fan of Crazy Lixx, Reckless Love, H.e.a.t., All I Know and Jettblack and a great new addition to the genre.
Genre: Melodic Rock/Glam Metal
Sebastian Roos: Vocals, Bass
Erik Heikne: Lead & Rythm Guitar
Henrik Sproge: Keyboards
Anders Berlin: Drums
3. Give Her A Sign
4. Perfect War *
5. Average Hero
6. Till We Meet Again
7. Taking Hostage
9. Living The Dream
10. Last Woman Standing
11. 11th Hour
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.5/10
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Issued by Eonian records is Visions of Pain, the album by glam/sleaze metal band Sandra Dee. The group entered the hair metal scene in the late ’80s and was active during the period 1989-1992 at which point they recorded the collection of songs titled Visions of Pain. It is refreshing to hear that Sandra Dee is substantially differentiated from the stereotypical approach of late ‘80s glam bands.
Imagine the protestant attitude, the grooves and the vocals of Warrior Soul mixed with the melodies, production and technical lead guitars of groups like Nitro and Vinnie Vincent Invasion and you have a rather accurate picture of what Sandra Dee stood for. From the album title and song names it becomes clear that the group never set out for commercial stardom.
Through drawing elements from the grunge style, which was already catching up at the time, Sandra Dee are far too technically accomplished to be labelled a grunge band. Lead singer Lance Thomason may choose to emulate Kory Clarke on his approach but he does uncover his melodic capabilities during the choruses coming rather close to Michael Matijevic which is quite a feat. The guitarists Gino Buonamici and Jason Bowman indeed hold nothing back on their solos throwing in twin guitar melodies, insane vibratos and copious amounts of shredding in Vinnie Vincent Style. Their rhythm performance is also well crafted-though most riffs are groovy and loud, their precise execution sets them apart from Grunge.
On the other hand, the rhythm section of Geoff Matson and Erik Youmans follows the Warrior Soul paradigm to the letter with a rather loud tempo and even louder cymbal sounds in the mix which adds an all-the-more ’90s groove to Sandra Dee. It has to be addressed that for any old-school hair metal fan, the rhythm section of Sandra Dee can grow tiring and to a certain extent undermine the overall experience as one could argue that glam metal and grunge do not mix, despite their valiant efforts to balancing the two genres.
Overall Visions of Pain turned out to be quite the intriguing musical experience, possibly standing as the missing link between hair metal and grunge (if such could ever exist). For rock/metal fans who enjoy being challenged in the musical arena, Visions of Pain is an ideal proposition. Sandra Dee to a certain extent should also appeal to fans of technical hair metal such as Nitro and Vinnie Vincent Invasion. It is very likely however that the average hair metal/ melodic rock/AOR fan would probably struggle to come to terms with the conclusive style of Sandra Dee.
Genre: Experimental Hair Metal
Lance Thomason – Lead Vocals
Chris Kamyowski – Lead Vocals
Gino Buonamici – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jason Bowman – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Geoff Matson – Bass
Erik Youmans – Drums
Nicky Bernardi – Drums
01. Pretty Child
03. Take You Higher
04. Heading Home
05. Peace, Pot & Politics
06. Going Down
07. Inside Yourself
08. Visions of Pain
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Lionville is the AOR project of Italian singer/guitarist Stefano Lionetti issued by Avenue of Allies. Lionville, an Italian AOR super-group at its own right, features musicians with far superior CVs than that of their founder; beyond Lionetti. Lionville features seasoned keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge of Forever, Eden’s Curse) and Work of Art lead singer Lars Safsund. Lets not forget the rhythm section of Pierpaolo Monti and Amos Monti, the two musicians that put together one of the largest all-star AOR projects last year, Shining Line.
With additional contribution from session musicians as well as the collective abilities of the musicians involved, Lionville has every potential for success. Those who have followed the careers of the musicians mentioned above know that the will be hard pressed to name one bad album in their collective discography. Lionville as expected retains the high musical standards any melodic rock fan would demand from such a cast.
Lionville set out to deliver top quality AOR/melodic rock and that is exactly what comes out of the speakers when one plays this debut album. It has to be addressed that this is as authentic an AOR album as it gets. There is no hard rock no glam metal, not even the slightest trace of heavy metal on Lionville just clear and unblended AOR/melodic rock, a fact that only verifies how focused these musicians are on meeting their objective.
The flow of the album is very natural, bringing to front a good mix of tempos while remaining consistent on large melodic lines; whether these may come from the guitars, keyboards or vocals. Lionville music sounds unforced, though technical at the same time, forcing the listener to consider that there is not much one could do to improve the featured art. It is probably true that a stellar AOR album needs to sound subtle and intense at the same time an example of this is the powerful “Thunder in My Heart” an up tempo tune filled with shredding guitar and still very adult-oriented. “Power of My Dreams” has the quality of a radio mega-hit and then of course comes the male-female vocal duet of “The Chosen ones” (featuring Arabella Vitanic) which is bound to give Huston a run for their money. One also needs to mention the Journey-esque “Dreamhunter” and the ballads “World Without Your Love”, “Over and Over Again” and “Centre of My Universe” which makes the self-titled album all the more complete and interesting.
Lionville are definitely not about stylistic originality, instead they come out as musicians who have mastered AOR and their potential at that seems limitless. One could spend days obsessively trying to find Lionville’s weak spot but there is no such. Although Lionville should appeal to any fan of melodic rock and hard rock, it seems that it is better suited to the most demanding and experienced of AOR enthusiasts who will definitely make the most out of this impeccable album.
Genre: AOR/Melodic Rock
Stefano Lionetti: Lead & backing Vocals, guitars
Lars Säfsund: Lead & backing vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio: Keyboards & backing vocals
Pierpaolo “Zorro11″ Monti: Drums & percussion
Here By My Side
Centre Of My Universe
Thunder In Your Heart
The World Without Your Love
Power Of My Dreams
No End In Sight
The Chosen Ones
Over And Over Again
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10
July 16, 2011 by Managing Editor
by Ron and Don Higgins
Love Catastrophe is the excellent sophomore release from Greek melodic hard rockers Outloud. When they released Outloud, their debut record in 2009, the rock world took notice. It was a hard hitting rock gem that was praised by many reviewers, even winning “Best Album of the Year” in BW&BK/Bravewords.com. The question, as always, when following up a great debut album, is whether or not the band is going to fall into the trap of the Sophomore Slump or take the momentum and build an even better record. It’s safe to say, this is NOT a Sophomore Slump. For all of those people out there who complain that good melodic hard rock is dead, this is the album you need to play for them.
The genesis of Outloud began in 2004 when guitarist Tony Kash began taking guitar lessons with Firewind’s Bob Katsionis. The lessons apparently went well because they teemed up in 2008 with drummer Mark Cross (Tainted Nation, ex-Firewind, Helloween, Kingdom Come), bassist Jason Mercury and former Talon singer Chandler Mogel. In 2009, they released their debut album on Frontiers Records to rave reviews. Shortly thereafter, Sverd T. Soth (Bare Infinity) became the new bass player. They then went on to do a successful headline tour of their native Greece in late ’09 and inked a deal with AOR Heaven for their follow-up album, which was recorded in the summer of 2010. Like their debut, it was produced by Bob and mixed and mastered by Tommy Hansen (Helloween, TNT, Pretty Maids).
The album kicks off in high fashion with what will surely become a concert staple, the exceptional “We Came To Rock”. This song is an in-your-face, hard rocking monster that contains a blistering guitar solo and Chandler’s proclamation, “We came to rock! We came to roll!” Think Def Leppard screaming “Welcome to my show!” at the beginning of their popular “Stagefright”. If you want to win some easy money at one of their shows, bet someone that you can name the first song. It’ll be this one.
Other standout tracks include, “Waiting for Your Love”, “Someday”, and “Underground”. “Waiting for Your Love” is the debut single/video and is a good representation of what this band, and in particular, this album, is all about. It’s a very good song with great guitar hooks and a catchy chorus. Musically, it’s reminiscent of classic Dokken and Chandler invokes a bit of legendary Lou Gramm on his vocals. Once you hear it, you won’t be able to forget it. “Someday” is the one true ballad on this album with a beautiful acoustic intro. This song highlights the strength of Chandler’s vocals. It also features nice female backing vocals. It’s a classic tale of lamenting, long-lost lovers. “Underground” is a bit more modern sounding with killer guitar riffing and lots of swagger. You can practically feel the testosterone oozing from your speakers when Chandler starts off singing, “Listen to a story ‘bout a man like me, he’s been riding on the backs of snakes since he was three.” Whereas most of the album harkens back to the glory days of the hard rocking 1980’s, this one has more of an Offspring feel to it. Although this record doesn’t really have any fillers, probably the weakest song is the modern sounding “Isolation Game”. The Cher/T-Pain inspired Auto-Tune effects are unnecessary.
The album wraps up as strong as it starts, with the title track “Love Catastrophe”. It begins with a slow keyboard intro with spacey synthesizer sound effects. Then the sounds of rain and thunder slowly build into the mix before the songs morphs into a cool rocker. The signature guitar licks, great melodies and memorable chorus are all present. It’s an extremely interesting song and a perfect way to end this impressively enjoyable second album.
In summary, this is a very consistent, well-produced, incredibly good melodic hard rock album. Aside from the one ballad, it’s filled with mostly up-beat rockers. Anyone who is a fan of classic ‘80s sounding hard rock or just melodic hard rock in general will love this album. People who love newer bands like Brother Firetribe will also love this album. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t love an album that starts out with a crusty Irishman saying, “All right, ya lassies. I wanna see some asses shakin’!”?
Mark Cross – Drums
Bob Katsionis – Lead Guitar & Keys
Sverd T. Soth – Bass
Tony Kash – Guitars
Chandler Mogel – Vocals
1. We Came To Rock
2. Falling Rain
3. Live Again
4. Waiting For Your Love
5. The Night That Never Ends
8. Isolation Game
9. Clean Hands
10. Love Catastrophe
Label: AOR Heaven
Hardrock Haven Rating: 9/10
July 16, 2011 by Publisher
by Franco Cerchiari
After the release of the extraordinary Majestic just a mere 10 months ago, it was a huge hope that this great Scandinavian power metal quintet would come back even stronger with a release that firmly would set this band as one that could keep up with any of their European Power Metal equals. With a concept album that tells the tragic tale of the doomed ocean liner Titanic, Tommy Johansson and company blast their way through this metal outing with an almost reckless abandon, with layers upon layers of galloping guitars, feverishly played drums, symphonic keyboards and a mountain-sized wall of harmonic vocals.
The tracks are well written, and what is heard is a gifted ensemble of players who seemingly rush their way through this compilation, barely allowing listeners to catch their breaths. After a listen, it’s obvious that ReinXeed is hell bent to capture their place within the metal genre.
However, as painful as it is to say, there is little here that is completely original. Taking the story of Titanic and making it into a concept album aside, after such a fantastic showing as Majestic was, and as quickly as it grabbed you, 1912 seems to do just the opposite. It wasn’t until after several spins, that the tracks finally seemed to take hold. But, as has been said, first impressions are everything. The tracks, while indeed melodic with vocals that one swears will reach the heavens, the power metal, heart-shaking heaviness that can be heard on previous releases was seemingly missing. And the far-off sound that previous efforts had is absent here. The CD is not as loud and as pompous as previous efforts.
With all that said, it is important to understand that there are no tracks on this compilation that are “bad.” 1912 is well played. Within the realm of power metal, ReinXeed certainly is one of the good ones. Guitars rule the tracks, the vocals are harmonious, the sound, for the most part, is clear, and the mixing is done well. While it’s true that the tracks barely differ in sound from one track to the next and sound formulaic, this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the endless mile-a-minute riffs and breakneck speed double bass drums that do little to hold the listener’s interest.
Standout tracks include the title track, “1912,” with an intro that sounds similar to “Deep Under Sea” from Majestic,“Terror Has Begun,” “Challenge the Storm,” “The Final Hour,” “Through The Fire,” and “Farewell,” all of which show the neo-classical guitar shredding for whichTommy Johansson has become known. And the 1:28 short, “Lost At Sea,” with sounds of crashing waves, gives one reason for reflection, as it pays homage to those whose spirits were lost on the fateful night.
Musically, for those fans of Symphony X, Keldian and Power Quest, ReinXeed, can undeniably be placed in the same list as a power metal band and as a force to be reckoned with. The songwriting of 1912 is well done, the guitars are superb, the keyboards are impressive, especially as those heard on “The Voyage.” It is a deep-set hope that the heaviness and punch that was heard on Majestic is brought back. And perhaps it is this that was missing. The powerful, commanding punch of power metal that reaches deep into the soul of the listener, slaps him silly and makes him instantaneously want to reach for the volume knob was not as present here, and the tracks get lost instead of staying with the listener long after the CD ends.
ReinXeed is a remarkable band, led by one of the true guitar talents of our time. So they strayed a bit here – it can happen to the best of them. And while it isn’t always fair to compare a band to previous outings, as each individual CD adds to the repertoire that is a band, but bring back the ReinXeed that released the awesomeness that was Majestic.
Genre: Power Metal
The Final Hour
Terror Has Begun
Spirit Lives On
Through The Fire
The Fall of Man
We Must Go Faster
Challenge the Storm
Reach For the Sky
Lost At Sea
Tommy Johansson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass guitar
Mattias Johansson – guitars, backing vocals
Calle Sundberg – guitars, backing vocals
Nic Svensson – bass guitar
Viktor Olofsson – drums
Label: Rivel Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.8/10
July 15, 2011 by Publisher
by Justin Gaines
New York heavy metal heroes The Rods are back from the grave with the aptly-titled Vengeance (as in “back with a”), their first album in 25 years. The too often overlooked band had a lot to do with developing the American heavy metal sound in the early ‘80s, but has been largely absent from the scene since 1986’s Heavier Than Thou. Now the band is back – with its original lineup of David “Rock” Feinstein, Carl Canedy and Gary Bordonaro – and as Vengeance immediately proves, they’re as strong as ever.
Vengeance is an album that’s instantly recognizable as a Rods record. It’s heavy, in your face, biker metal with just enough melody to keep it accessible. Half Motorhead and half Judas Priest, The Rods stick to the basics and do it well. It’s wall-to-wall chugging riffs and heavy rhythms, plus shout-along choruses about rocking, fighting and living fast, preferably on a motorcycle. And if it’s not always easy to believe these old guys are really living the lifestyle portrayed in “Raise Some Hell” and “Ride Free or Die,” well, that’s easy to forgive since the songs are so damned metal and so much fun. This is the kind of metal that anyone raised on Motorhead, Saxon, Judas Priest and the like will immediately find familiar, and in an era with increasingly isolated sub-genres of metal, it’s good to hear an album that only requires a one-word classifier: METAL.
Vengeance is also (perhaps most) noteworthy for one song in particular. “The Code” features the talents of the late, great Ronnie James Dio, who is Feinstein’s cousin and former Elf bandmate. This is Dio’s last recorded vocal performance, and it’s a really good song at that. A heavy, speedy number, “The Code” is perfect for Dio’s voice, but as good as it is, it’s bittersweet knowing that this is the final time we’ll hear that voice on a new recording.
If you’re already a Rods fan, then you already know Vengeance is a must-have album from a band whose return was long overdue. Serious Dio fans will want to pick it up for “The Code” alone, though the rest of the album ought to satisfy them as well. Beyond that, anyone with an ear for old school heavy metal that hits hard and is rough around the edges owes it to themselves to check out what The Rods are all about. Turn it up and bang your head; The Rods are back!
Genre: Heavy Metal
David Feinstein (g) (v)
Gary Bordonaro (b) (v)
Carl Canedy (d) (v)
1. Raise Some Hell
2. I Just Wanna Rock
3. Rebels Highway
4. Ride Free or Die
5. The Code*
6. Livin’ Outside the Law
7. Let It Ripp
8. Fight Fire With Fire
10. Runnin’ Wild
Label: Niji Entertainment
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.25/10
by Joe Mis
International rockers M.I.C. (Made In China) have recently released their third studio album, entitled 3rd Degree. This quintet of talented performers plays music that spans genres from early ‘80s classic rock to modern power-pop and delivers 12 tracks of pure fun. Like a summer “popcorn” movie, you don’t need to take them too seriously or think hard about their music or message as their material harkens back to a simpler time. This album is simple, basic rock and roll.
Fronted by Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Yvon Serre, M.I.C. delivers radio-friendly, inoffensive and consistently upbeat rock influenced by classic rock acts from AC/DC to Green Day. The band’s roots stretch back to 2004 when Serre spent some time touring China, and M.I.C. released their first album in 2008. After some personnel changes the group released a follow up album in 2010, and now presents 3rd Degree in 2011. Despite numerous lineup changes, the band’s basic sound has remained the same — kind of like Van Halen meets the Romantics.
Serre has a decent voice for the music, a bit dry and somewhat raspy. He uses it well and stays nicely within his natural range, but has a tendency to yell “Wooooo! Yeah!” just a bit too often. He is a decent guitarist, laying down some big hooks and catchy rhythms — and he can hold his own during the relatively short solos. Serre has also done the majority of the songwriting for the band. He is ably backed up by Japanese bassist Uchida Yuuji and British drummer Tommy Burke, and the three of them are the real core of the band. Yuuji is an amazingly talented bass player and the album’s mix brings his bass lines to the fore. Burke is a solid drummer, not overly flashy and always in control. Slightly less obvious are the contributions of keyboard player Dave Smith and vocalist Angela Renzetti. Both are also very good at what they do, but not every song features keys or female vocals.
Big guitars and bouncy bass open “Always On My Mind,” and there is a definite Van Halen feeling about the track, particularly during the chorus. Yuuji’s bass drives the very poppy (think “head-bobbing” instead of “head-banging”) “What You Do To Me.” “Barbie Lady” is a very pop-rock tune featuring some of the best guitar work on the album and some rather contrived rhymes in the lyrics (e.g. late / Kate / mate / great). “I Am Ready” is a fast old-school bluesy rocker, and would be a great party anthem, while “My Baby’s Going” is a bass and drum driven slow rocker with the best vocal performances on the release. “Judy Don’t Go” is a solid guitar driven piece with a great hook and a sing-along chorus.
Mellow keyboards, great drum work and duet vocals by Angela Renzetti and Serre are the highlight of “I’ll Be Back,” while a really cool Dokken-esque rhythm line kicks “I Want To Live” nicely along – Serre sounds vaguely like Eddie Money on this one. “Off The Throne” is a gritty blues rocker with a strong bass line. “Teenage Rock Star” sounds exactly like one would expect from the title – a little tedious at times and borderline “happy rock”. “It’s Been A While” is another bass driven pop rock track, while “The Only One” closes out the CD as a nice mid-tempo rocker with a kicky bass / drum line.
Nicely mixed and engineered, 3rd Degree is easy on the ears. The vocals and instruments are well balanced and clear throughout, and the bass is prominent but not dominant, emphasizing the rhythm lines without being a distraction. No one performer takes over the music (although Yuuji’s bass talents come close), and the CD as a whole has a warm and natural tone. The songwriting is acceptable, but not spectacular, and some of the lyrics seem “empty” and rhymes forced as is the case with many pop songs, but everything on 3rd Degree is done with enthusiasm so these little flaws are easy to overcome.
M.I.C.’s 3rd Degree should appeal to any fan of classic 80s rock or pop rock. There are no dark themes, creepy lyrics or negative concepts here; it is good-time, upbeat rock music for music’s sake. If you want something light that is easy to hum along to then this is the album for you. If you want heavy, definitely look elsewhere. Like a good summertime movie, you can sit back, turn off your analytical mind and just listen. Toe-tapping is heartily encouraged!
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
Yvon Serre (vocals, guitar)
Angela Renzetti (vocals)
Tommy Burke (drums)
Uchida Yuuji (bass)
Dave Smith (keyboards)
Guest musicians: Scarlet Rose (violin on “Barbie Lady”), Guang Er (keyboards on “I’ll Be Back”)
1. Always On My Mind
2. What You Do To Me
3. Barbie Lady
4. I Am Ready
5. My Baby’s Going
6. Judy Don’t Go
7. I’ll Be Back
8. I Want To Live
9. Off The Throne
10. Teenage Rock Star
11. It’s Been A While
12. The Only One
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.5/10