album reviews

Spinefarm Records Singles Round Up – Amarnathe / Toothgrinder / Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown / Broken Witt Rebels

posted 13 Nov 2017, 06:06 by Paul Woodward


Review by Woody

Amaranthe – Maximise (Remix)

The original version of ‘Maximise’ was featured on the bands last album Maximalism which was released over a year ago. The original version had a strong dance style backing and energy but was very metallic at the same time with a powerful heavy rhythm section alongside driven sharp metallic guitar riffs. This remix sees the metal elements completely removed and it’s now purely a dance / trance version of the song, personally it removes everything I loved about the original and is instead chuck full of nonsensical DJ flourishes even that addictive chorus is lost in a swirl of trance over indulgence.

The original was vastly superior and instantly addictive with a mesmerising and unforgettable chorus that got stuck in your head – I suggest you avoid this remix and track down the original single version! Unless of course you dig remix’s that feature odd noises and trance elements, but for all its simplicity the original version didn’t need messing with!

Toothgrinder – Let It Ride

‘Let It Rock’ is a stoner rock anthem, with an infectious groove that will appeal greatly to genre fans. It’s more commercial than the vast majority of that genre’s offerings to my ears and with a decent blues fuelled vocal making them stand out amongst their low-slung brethren. Some simple vocal hooks announce the chorus and keep the song alive in your memory. It’s well worth checking out if you’re someone who considers themselves a classic rock fan and if you like stoner bands akin to Queens of the Stone Age, you’ll be drooling all over this track

Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown – Backfire

‘Backfire’ is a mid-tempo modern blues song with an insistent chorus. It’s not an obvious or overtly catchy song but it does have a slow burn hook to it and a chorus which sneaks up on you and stays with you – especially after repeated spins. Nothing ground breaking but for those who like bands pushing blues rock boundaries whilst hanging onto its core principals this song will definitely get you excited.

Broken Witt Rebels – Wait For You

I was really struck by this track which features some wonderfully emotive and soulful vocals. It combines a few rock styles and elements to formulate a unique sound, which is undeniably very British despite some obvious American blues influences. While the band have a blues sway to them they are more alternative sounding and have a lot more in common with The Killers than Robert Johnson! The track is ultra-catchy, filled with emotion not just from the evocative vocals but also from the stirring guitar licks and the musical landscape the band have created. If you like bands like the aforementioned Killers and Snow Patrol these guys should appeal to you and the blues/soul touch to their style should make them intriguing to rock fans in general! A young band with an exciting future methinks based on this impressive single.

Wizard – ‘Fallen Kings’

posted 13 Nov 2017, 05:57 by Paul Woodward


(Massacre Records)

Review By Woody

German old school metallers Wizard although a new band to me are well established with a long discography going back to the early nineties, their latest album is entitled ‘Fallen Kings’.

Wizard have a very European old school metal feel to them, it’s inspired by NWOBHM, but is far bolder than that genre tag would suggest. They really put me in mind of Hammerfall and fellow countrymen Halloween, they also have those bombastic and grandiose elements you associate with both those bands. Exuding epic-ness and near operatic choruses that demand you to chant along. Wizard’s song writing and musical delivery motto seems to be the bigger the better! The similarity to Halloween is further heightened to me with the similarity in Wizard’s vocalist to Andi Deris – uncanny at times.

I loved ‘Live Your Life’ which is an obvious radio friendly commercial track which has a great positive message and a really energizing feel to it. I felt the impact of the album dips towards the end of the album but the opening barrage including ‘Liar and Betrayer’ and ‘Brothers In Spirit’ really grabbed me by the throat with their bold choruses and bombastic stance.

I’m not sure why but the album features two bonus tracks which are only featured on the digipak version of the album. I’m sure this is more expensive, but it’s well worth looking at as these two tracks ‘We Are Ready For Metal’ and ‘The King’ are really great tracks and are well worth getting hold of if you can.

‘Fallen Kings’ is a good album, not brilliant but I’m sure established fans will be more than happy with it and I’m sure other old school metal fans who are new to Wizard will find plenty to enjoy here, just the same as I did! I’ve heard a lot bands and albums in this vein over the past couple of years as it is extremely popular at the moment especially in mainland Europe. So, I have a very high standard of what I expect from bands in this genre and with ‘Fallen Kings’ I think Wizard are a little hit and miss, so don’t quite hit that mark where I’m screaming about the album as new genre classic even though I enjoy the album. I do highly recommend ‘Fallen Kings’ to genre fans as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Track Listing: Liar and Betrayer / We Are The Masses / Live Your Life / Brothers in Spirit / White Wolf / Wizard Until The End / Father To Son / Let Us Unite / Frozen Blood / You’re The King / We Are Ready For Metal / The King

Album Rating: 6/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Live Your Life

The Amorettes – ‘Haulin Ass’ remastered/reissue

posted 13 Nov 2017, 05:48 by Paul Woodward


(Independent)

Review by Woody

The steady rise of all girl Scottish hard rock trio The Amorettes has led to their debut indie release ‘Haulin Ass’ been remastered and re-issued. These girls were obviously raised on a healthy diet of early eighties denim and leather rock, AC/DC, Saxon, Priest and so on. As they play no frills rambunctious rock and roll, it’s all brash guitar riffs, alcohol fuelled attitude biker rock. Their songs are full of energy and are sure to get their live audiences nice and sweaty with their foot stomping, hair swirling unapologetic rock n roll!

The choruses tend to be simplistic and direct, often accompanied by chant style backing vocals which accentuate their impact, the type of choruses to get hands raised and punching in time. It contains some stunningly impressive guitar work, it’s not all just bold broad stroke guitar riffs, although these do boost the energy of the songs, there is also some catchy guitar licks and soaring fret work solo’s!

I’m sure fans of this style of rock will enjoy ‘Haulin Ass’ immensely especially if they can avoid spilling beer down their excessively band patched denim jackets. It’s just fun rambunctious party rock. These songs aren’t thought provoking or in any way deep and meaningful – these songs are just about cracking the beers open, cranking the volume right up and getting your rock on! Considering this was The Amorettes debut album it is really impressive and it’s no surprise they subsequently went on to critical acclaim and touring all over the country, headline and as support, to rave reviews!

‘Haulin Ass’ is not an album full of sing along choruses – it is all about rock and roll energy and I’m sure these songs kill live. It’s hard to pick highlights as it’s a pretty solid album but it genuinely doesn’t have stand out tracks – a single or radio friendly song. This album is best enjoyed as a whole and the songs flow together with a very good momentum.

There’s no real point to buying this album if you own the original in my opinion, unless you’re a super fan and want that remastered quality and the two demo tracks. Stylistically these songs aren’t about crisp slick production, their raw and edgy – so I don’t see how a remastered version would be dramatically improve on the original release. If you don’t own this album, whether you’ve discovered the band since or not, I highly recommend checking ‘Haulin Ass’ out.

Track Listing: Take Cover / Boxticker / Whoot Woo / Hot and Heavy / Bedrock / Pop Goes The Weasel / Talk Nerdy To Me / She Devil / Too Much Is Never Enough / Son Of A Gun / The Monday Song / Booby Traps

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Talk Nerdy To Me

Shadowside – ‘Shades of Humanity’

posted 2 Nov 2017, 09:46 by Paul Woodward


(EMP)

Review by Woody

Shadowside are a Swedish / Brazilian hybrid and this metal act are fronted by female vocalist Dani Nolden. ‘Shades Of Humanity’ is a very hard album for me to pass judgement on as all that keeps going through my head when listening to it is these songs are far too heavy and aggressive for my own personal tastes. So been able to give the thumbs up or down is not something I feel confident in doing – I can only state my opinion which I’m sure could be easily dismissed by fans of this style of metal when they hear it.

Vocalist Dani Nolden has a gritty voice, I hear touches of Doro to her style and tone. She provides plenty of screaming angst-ridden vocals, usually during the verses which is blended with a slicker smoother approach on the choruses. The song structures throughout the album tend to follow a similar theme of heavy pounding verses with angsty vocals with the choruses having a soaring sweeping feel, which gives the songs a slight epic feel, but if found the aggressive guitars and rhythms hampered the impact of the choruses.

‘Drifter’ is probably the closest they get to been commercial, there is a cool industrial guitar lick which I did enjoy and the song did veer slightly into old school metal territory in the guitar approach. With the album closer ‘Alive’ they do come close to a slightly symphonic epic feeling track which appealed more to me, but it was just an edge to the song not a full-blown stab at symphonic metal.

‘Shades of Humanity’ is far too discordant musically for me, when it comes to metal I like it to be very slick, produced, strongly melodic and usually with a commercial edge. The pounding and industrial guitars which remind me a bit of Korn on a few songs, just don’t appeal to me they feel dull and lifeless. Although I know they achieve that heaviness and thud the band were aiming for. The fast paced and aggressive drums and bass I found overpowering and on the choruses, I felt killed potentially intriguing melodies. Personally, Shadowside are not for me – but given that this music is not really on my taste spectrum I really encourage fans of female fronted metal (Kobra and The Lotus ect...) to give the album a listen regardless of my thoughts as it may tick all the right boxes for you.

Track Listing: The Fall / Beast Inside / What If / Make My Fate / Insidious Me / The Crossing / Stream of Shame / Parade the Sacrifice / Drifter / Unreality / Alive

Album Rating: 5/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Drifter

Moritz – ‘About Time Too’

posted 2 Nov 2017, 09:38 by Paul Woodward


(Shadows of a Dream)

Review by Woody

I hadn’t realised how long it had been since British AOR-ster’s Moritz’s last album ‘S.O.S’ so I’m sure fans of pure AOR will be awaiting their new album ‘About Time Too’ with bated breath. I know these guys are really popular especially in the underground scene, but I’ve always felt they have lacked that killer punch to be a truly awesome band. I like the band and I enjoy their sound and style, but they always seem one step behind – this album hasn’t changed that opinion. Moritz and ‘About Time Too’ can be very hit and miss and whilst one song can have me singing along like a mad man the next can leave me underwhelmed and anxiously waiting for the song to kick in or grab my attention.

Once again Moritz deliver a platter of pure AOR, with a slightly ballsier edge than its predecessor but with that unmistakable British AOR vibe very much still at the forefront of their song writing. I think fans of old school FM will adore this album, I think that’s a big part of the reason these guys are popular as these songs evoke memories not only of that band but also that era of British AOR. I hear touches of Outside Edge too, which I know is an obscure reference but I’m sure big fans of Moritz will now this band extremely well.

There’s lots to enjoy and embrace on this album for AOR fans, sing along choruses, lush melodies, prominent Keyboards and driving guitar riffs. I’m a big fan of vocalist Peter Scallan’s voice and style which is absolutely perfect for AOR, smooth and soaring but with some balls when a song needs that extra vocal impact.

When they fire on all cylinders they pump out some amazing tunes like the feel good ‘Moon and Back’ which has an upbeat summertime feel to it. It’s an extremely catchy pure AOR song with a big sing along chorus. ‘Love Long Gone’ was the track that hit me first with its infectious Keyboards and it’s a perfect melodic rocker with its killer chorus and gripping guitars. I would suggest that melancholic blues infused ballad ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ is best enjoyed with a bottle of very cheap whiskey!

‘About Time Too’ has some truly great moments and is well worth the time of any self-respecting pure AOR fan and I’m sure many will hold this album aloft with pride and joy!

Track Listing: About Time – One More Beautiful Day / Moon and Back / Chance of a Lifetime / Dreamland / Forever Is / Take It On The Chin / Run / Love Long Gone / Own Little World / You Don’t Know What Love Is / There’s Something About – Unwanted Man

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Love Long Gone

Debbie Ray – ‘Slave To The System’

posted 2 Nov 2017, 09:29 by Paul Woodward


(Metalapolis Records)

Review by Woody

Swede’s Debbie Ray follow hot on the heels of fellow Scandinavian hard rockers Backyard Babies and Hardcore Superstar. ‘Slave To The System’ is their second full album and much like those bands I have just mentioned combine traditional eighties sleaze with a more contemporary modern rock sound. While it is hard to shake those comparisons when listening to this album, it never feels like a second-rate version of those aforementioned acts these songs quite easily match them and puts the band on a level playing field as far as appeal is concerned. So, if you like the BB and HS, then you can stop reading right now, just go check out Debbie Ray and enjoy, you’re welcome!

I also get touches of ‘Slave To The Grind’ era Skid Row and Nickelback on many of the songs, so it is a real amalgam of varied influences going on in the song writing. Vocally we have that typical sleaze grit and snarl from vocalist Reine Heyer but he also has a smoother less attitude driven style which he lets rip on some of the bigger smoother melodies. As you’d expect from an album of this ilk you have snarling guitars, howling vocals and rip snorting rhythms, but this is equalled meshed together with chunky borderline metallic riffs, straight from the school of Nickelback and very strong and prominent smooth melodies most noticeably on the choruses.

‘All You Need Is Rock N Roll’ is their radio friendly rocker with a huge melodic chorus and a slightly softer guitar sound to make it more accessible. Some of the songs have strong Americanised flavours like ‘Slave To The System’ and ‘Way Out Of Wasteland’ and evoke Skid Row/ Nickelback comparisons whereas the catchy as hell ‘Beautiful Monday’ amongst others scream Scandi sleaze hard rock just like the Backyard Babies!

There is lots of snarl and spitting attitude from the sleaze aspect of the band but it is counterbalanced by very melodic choruses and contains hooks aplenty that keep this modern rock record very much in commercial territory! I was really impressed and found the album to be very enjoyable – the modern rock tag may put some sleaze and melodic hard rock fans off, but the styles are blended effectively and trust me this album will appeal to fans of each of those sub genre’s, so give it a spin and hear for yourself!

Track Listing: American Nightmare / Slave To The System / All You Need Is Rock N Roll / Too Late To The Party / Made To Cry / Way out of The Wasteland / Sorry / Beautiful Monday / Promises / Find Myself / Gotta Get It Right / Living Without You

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: All You Need Is Rock N Roll

Archange – ‘Flashback’

posted 30 Oct 2017, 08:10 by Paul Woodward


(Mighty Music)

Review by Woody

Archange may be a new band, but these French musicians are very experienced and it shows in the classy and professional performances on their debut album ‘Flash Back’. The album title is actually quite apt as this album sounds like it stepped right out of 1986, it’s very retro and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way because I genuinely believe fans of eighties melodic hard rock will be won over by this album.

I found the songs hit me instantly and tickled all those sweet spots quickly and effectively. It may seem a little superficial and perhaps may not have longevity, but it is great party rock which will give retro melodic hard rock fans instant gratification. It would have sat very well in this genre’s heyday scene, they haven’t reinvented the wheel here, nor do I think that was there intention. It’s just really enjoyable and I can’t help but feel these songs getting under my skin and making me smile effortlessly.

There is a strong Americanised flavour to their songs and the album is chock full of rock anthems, huge choruses and infectious guitar riffs. The songs have a great energy and it’s clear to me these songs would go down insanely well in the live arena! Some of these songs definitely fit the bill for the ‘Stadium Rock’ tag.

Lyrically it can be cliched and travel down very well-worn roads, but that is not something that is unusual for this style of rock so I can’t knock them for that. Anyone who has ever studied Scorpions lyrics can see how lyrics don’t always dampen a bands appeal and there is certainly nothing here that could be accused of been that bad!

The Scorpions flavour mainly emanates from the similarity between vocalist Dan Pallas and Scorp’s warbler Klaus Meine. It’s not a carbon copy similarity but one where I feel fans of Meine’s will be drawn to these songs. There are some infectious and energetic guitar riffs from Laurent Rabatel and he provides some brash riffs and melodic solo’s that are quite exciting and pleasing!

Fans of traditional melodic hard rock will love this unashamedly eighties flavoured record. Take a touch of the Scorpions, a dash of Ratt and throw in some chunky guitar riffs and rock anthem choruses and out pops Archange – full bloodied eighties melodic hard rock!

Track Listing: Walk All Over You / Live Forever / Gimme Your Love / Rock Don’t Stop / She’s Electric / Machine Gun / Don’t Turn Your Back / The Ride / Flashback / Around The World

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Live Forever

Devilfire – ‘Dark Manoeuvres’

posted 8 Sep 2017, 11:15 by Paul Woodward


(Escape the Fire Records)

Review by Woody

Birmingham’s Devilfire is the melodic rock pet project of Alex Cooper and this debut album Dark Manoeuvres has been a long time in the works. It is an extremely impressive debut and the time, effort and love ploughed into this band by main man Cooper is clearly obvious in every department - song writing, musicianship, production and mixing et al. Cooper will be known to many from his work within the local music industry in various capacity’s including production/mixing studio work. As a musician though he is best known as a drummer but with Devilfire we see Cooper take the frontman role on vocals.

Dark Manoeuvres is a melodic rock album with a dark tone to it, hence the apt album title. It having an overall dark sound won’t stop it from still appealing to melodic rock genre fans as it is heavily influenced and inspired by the genre’s golden era. This isn’t a retro album at all though it has a strong contemporary and modern feel to it and to me is very relevant within today’s burgeoning rock music scene regardless of the inspirations behind it’s melodic rock core.

I can see Devilfire appealing to a younger rock audience than you tend to associate with melodic rock because of that contemporary edge to the album. That said though old guard melodic rockers like myself will still want to eat this up with relish and demand for more!

The songs are evocative, rousing and inspiring and there is a good mix of flows and energy amongst this thirteen-track juggernaut which never fails to hit all the right spots. Cooper was keen for his songs to connect with listeners and has been an open book with his song writing with many of the songs been deeply personal. Cooper has definitely achieved his desire to create a relatable album that people can connect with, although lyrically diverse it is always connectable. As I’ve stated before songs that I can connect with always have a deeper impact on me and stay with me longer and I think anyone who listens to Dark Manoeuvres will agree with me that it is an album that will never gather dust on the shelf and will be a constant source of enjoyment.

Cooper has a touch of Ian Astbury of The Cult to his vocals and delivery and there is a touch of The Cult to Devilfire, that dark mildly gothic tone for example. Cooper may not beat Vaughn or Soto in the vocal stakes (not many can!) but he is really good at conveying the emotion of a song and lyric in the way he wants it to be felt, his raspy gritty angry bites which appear occasionally are particular effective.

One of my personal favourite songs is ‘Kill Your Love’ which has some really hook filled keyboard parts and the massive unforgettable chorus is immense! ‘She’s Like Fire’ is instantly enjoyable and is probably their most catchy song, it’s a little bit old school and it has a chorus you will never ever get out of your head! Other choice cuts are the rousing ‘Ready For War’, the punchy ‘Lay It One The Line’, the inspiring war cry of ‘(You Gotta) Revolution’ and the sparse ballad ‘Somehow’ which I’m sure everyone can connect with on some level.

Although this is a debut album it’s not a band showing potential or room for growth, Devilfire are at the top of their game as a fully-fledged band with a stunning collection of songs destined to become very popular with rock aficionados. Dark Manoeuvres is one of the most impressive debuts I’ve heard in a while and are a welcome addition to the melodic rock scene. If this album doesn’t see Devilfire causing waves and generating excitement amongst rockers there is no justice in the world! Devilfire are the real deal so strap yourselves in and prepare to be blown away!

Track Listing: Ready For War / She’s Like Fire / (In and Out of Love) All The Time / Waiting For A Rockstar / Lay It On The Line / Kill Your Love / Tear Me Apart / God Give Me Vengeance / Devil In Your Eyes / (You Gotta) Revolution / She’s Always on the Run / A Thousand Times / Somehow

Album Rating: 9/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Kill Your Love

Reece – ‘Ignited’

posted 7 Sep 2017, 12:19 by Paul Woodward


(Independent)

Review by Woody

If there is one word that sums up Ignited the debut album from Welsh rockers Reece it is F-F-Funky! The album is funk driven and it forms the backbone of the album in its entirety. Whilst there are no obvious comparisons as there are a few bands that come to mind throughout including U2 and The Proclaimers! That said though the Funk element to these songs obviously gravitates me towards Extreme and with the alt rock touch, especially in the guitars, turns me towards the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. They have a really mish mash of influences in their song writing but their sound is cohesive, defined and very distinctive.

Vocalist Rob Reece has a very smooth and melodious voice which boosts the highly melodic style of the songs. You add that to the heavy use of vocal harmonies and they have created a lot of smooth melodies and that gives the album as a whole a strong melodic rock feel – regardless of the other alt rock and funky edges the band has. The quirky and sharp guitar licks and riffs blend well with the funky rhythm section and accentuate the Funk much like the RHCP do.

The flow of the album is energetic and very bouncy – the obvious radio song ‘Hold On’ highlights that! It’s an infectious rocker with an utterly addictive chorus. Other highlights include ‘Falling Down’ with its killer guitar hook and impactful chorus and the melancholic title track ‘Ignited’. Bare bones ballad ‘Lost In Translation’ shows a different side to the band with its sparse and acoustic nature proving the band aren’t a one trick pony when it comes to song writing.

I have had the pleasure of seeing the band live and I found that these songs come across even better live. That energy and bounce inducing feeling comes across in spades and the vocal melodies are even more impactful – especially with the prominent backing vocal harmonies.

Ignited is a very strong and solid overall album with no weak tracks not only was I very impressed with it I also really enjoyed the album. Some quality song writing makes this album a must listen for rock fans in general regardless of personal musical preferences as I think it will appeal to a wide range of rockers given its amalgam of influences.

Track Listing: Save Us / Falling Down / Painless / Hold On / Messenger / Lost In Translation / Ignited / Meltdown / Out Of Nowhere / Wasteland

Album Rating: 7/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Hold On

Kinesis 4 – ‘Dreams Of Rainbows’

posted 6 Sep 2017, 13:23 by Paul Woodward


(OSH Records)

Review by Woody

Independent British rockers Kinesis 4 are led by principal songwriter Opkar Hans. Their new album Dreams of Rainbows has a lot of influences and styles on show including classic rock and prog. The most overwhelming and obvious flavour of the album though is Psychedelic rock and as the album has a real throwback tone to it the most obvious comparison to me is The Doors. The album has a whole really harks back to that ‘hippy’ rock style of the late sixties and early seventies.

There are a lot of Prog style song structures and instrumental flows to the songs but it is always very trippy and psychedelic. There are quite a few different uncommon musical instruments thrown into the mix which add a really multi-cultural feel to many of the songs. One of the most noticeable songs to do this is ‘T-Shirt’ which has a strong Caribbean vibe to it which is accentuated even more so by the use of steel drums.

Hans’s song writing compositions have a strong whimsical and ethereal tone to them, it’s very mellow and laid back – all very peace and love inducing! I can appreciate Dreams of Rainbows for what it is but it never really gets under my skin as it doesn’t really appeal to my own personal music tastes. Looking at it from an objective outside stand point though I can definitely see it appealing greatly to fans of retro rock especially those who like their psychedelic rock and desire something to easily chill out with and be taken somewhere else to.

The aforementioned ‘T-Shirt’ is one of the stand out tracks with its upbeat and funky flow. It’s a very happy go lucky song which incorporates steel drums and a horn section as well as some very enjoyable melodic vocal harmonies. There are a couple of instrumentals which book end the album ‘Rock U Stupid’ which is very trippy prog and ‘Summer Morning’ which is very chilled and evocative. ‘The Train’ is probably the hardest rocking track with its driving riff and Hammond organ which sees Hans showcase his classic rock song writing.

As a whole though the ethereal and trippy tracks like ‘Taking Our Time’, ‘Springtime’ and ‘I Believe’ are the most indicative of Hans’s song writing style and the overall sound of the album. For an independent release, the production is pretty good too, modern computer tools make it far easier for indie bands to make professional sounding albums but you’ll still be surprised how crappy some are still done. Hans might not be the strongest or powerful vocalist but his voice suits the tone of his songs and accentuates the ‘far out man’ attitude of most of his compositions.

If you like your retro rock and like your prog on the extra tippy side of the moon then Kinesis 4 are definitely worth your time checking out!

Track Listing: Rock U Stupid / Taking Our Time / The Train / T-Shirt / Springtime / Dreams of Rainbows / I Believe / Taxi / Summer Morning

Album Rating: 6/10

Woody’s Essential Track: T-Shirt

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