When Flying Colors released their debut album back in 2012, my first thought was that it was just another progressive side project from drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Adrenaline Mob, Avenged Sevenfold, The Winery Dogs), playing 25-minute songs. Now I might be into some prog like Dream Theater, Opeth, Bigelf and Shadow Gallery, but most of it really makes me wanna go to sleep. Also, the fact that this band included keyboard player / singer Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic) and ex-Dixie Dregs bass player Dave LaRue made me convinced that this band was nothing for me. Lead singer Casey McPherson hails from a band called Alpha Rev, a name that means nothing at all to me as I have never heard a note by them, but there was one name that made me at least a little interested: Steve Morse. Now, Steve Morse is the guitar player for Deep Purple since 1994 when he replaced Ritchie Blackmore and plays on brilliant albums like his 1994 Purple debut Purpendicular and their latest killer Now What (2013). He was also a member of both rock fusion band Dixie Dregs and Kansas. I thought, maybe I should at least give this band the benefit of a doubt – or something. And so I did. What I got was a magnificent journey through the minds of a bunch of progressive rockers who wanted to do something more melodic and straight forward than their day jobs. But that doesn’t mean that the album was short of progressive moments, no, there were such, of course. You really can’t bring in musicians like this and not get prog elements, but what was in focus on that record was the songs, the melodies, the groove and not how much and fast and technically hard the musicians could play. The album completely floored me right from hello and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.
Since the return of old vocalist Damian Wilson, the career of Threshold seem to have gotten a second run. It was no secret that their singer, the fantastic Andrew “Mac” McDermott, who replaced Wilson in the band back in 1998, had his fair share of problems, mainly alcohol problems to be precise and he did leave the band in 2008 before his alcoholism (kidney failure) took his life in 2011. A tragedy, of course and Mac is still being missed by Threshold-fans all over the world. Musically, it’s sad that such a gifted singer with such an amazing voice couldn’t keep delivering the goods because of the demon alcohol. Albums like Hypothetical (2001), Critical Mass (2002), Subsurface (2004) and Dead Reckoning (2007) are today looked upon as Threshold classics and rightfully so. In many fans eyes, Mac is seen as the true vocalist for Threshold even though he was preceded by no less than three other singers – Wilson, Jon Jeary and Glynn Morgan. It’s also easy to see that Threshold’s life with Mac in the band had come to a halt after 2004 – the space between records had increased more and more by each album. For obvious reasons, it took Threshold some five years to finally release a new record with Wilson back behind the mike, but when March Of Progress finally arrived in 2012, it showed a band that had steeled themselves and meticulously made sure that nothing was left to coincidence. It was a brilliant record, fully as classy and mind-blowing equivalent masterpieces like Subsurface or Dead Reckoning.
We recently had an election in Sweden. In fact, the election was ongoing when Evergrey did promotion for their new album Hymns For The Broken. The unbelievable and tragic fact that a more or less fascist and racist party (they were actually a Nazi party back in the 90s…) SD (SverigeDemokraterna) – which means the Swedish Democrats or something like that – became the third biggest party in the country didn’t surprise anyone, but left a lot people filled with anger and resentment and many people were willing to stop socializing with people who put their vote on said party. Quite understandable, if you ask me. One guy that was really pissed off by the result was Evergrey lead singer / guitar player / song writer Tom S Englund. When he was out promoting the band’s new album, he spoke to Sweden’s – and Scandinavia’s actually – biggest rock magazine Sweden Rock Magazine, he pointed out that people who voted for SD shouldn’t bother with buying the new album as they don’t want narrow-minded people like that within their fan-base. And I salute you for that statement, Tom. No one can accuse Englund for selling out after that comment, however I can imagine a statement like that is a record company executive’s worst nightmare. Especially when you’re not exactly a platinum selling artist to begin with. But more power to people who stand by their beliefs and are not afraid to speak their minds, no matter how uncomfortable their opinions might be. Now, I really don’t see how this would affect the sales because I have feeling that Evergrey doesn’t have that many prejudice and insular fans, so Tom’s comment might not be that pernicious anyway. But enough about that. What I’m trying to say is that this is the way Evergrey has always rolled, they do what they do and never let anyone affect their decisions. They even took a huge (as in HUGE!) hit song, “I’m Sorry” by Swedish singer Dilba and made it an uncommercial Evergrey tune – and totally killed the original with it. When it comes to Evergrey, I have been a fan for quite a while and at the same time I wasn’t a fan at all.
I’m not a radio guy. Never was one and probably never will. But when I’m in the car with my son or anyone else that makes hard listening impossible, some rock radio station will do as background noise. One rare occasion when the radio – for some weird reason – was one while I was by myself in the car, I heard this damn catchy tune playing. The song was already in the chorus when I turned the key and started the car and I instantly reached for my phone and tried to Shazam the tune, but of course, Shazam decided not to work and the damned DJ didn’t bother to let us know the name of the band and the song. I hate it when that happens! Fast forward a few days and a friend of mine posted a song by his “new favourite band” on Facebook and lo and behold, wasn’t it said song that teased me over the radio a few days back. So why didn’t I just keep on listening to the radio until I found the track, then? Well, as I said, I don’t do radio. I do my own records. The song in question was “Down The Line” (more on that later) and the band was Grand Theft Culture. Check-out time!
“Good for a girl”. Speak those words to the faces of the members of Crucified Barbara and no matter your size, they will kick your ass. And rightfully so. Let’s just make one thing clear, music has nothing to do with your sex, it’s about how well you play and how good songs you write, nothing else. The epitome “girl-band” is stupid. Crucified Barbara and every other band that consists only of women are rock bands. Just rock bands. That’s the way they should be judged. The fact that these words even has to be said / written is just plain sad. So let’s just continue with this review about a hard rocking kick-ass rock band. Crucified Barbara formed in Stockholm, Sweden back in 1998 as a punky rock band but when they signed their recording contract in 2003 they had already changed their style to a more hard rock style, albeit a noisy and punky kind. The band – Mia Coldheart (lead vocals, guitar), Klara Force (guitar), Ida Evileye (bass) and Nicki Wicked (drums) (you just gotta love those stage names) – released their debut album, the aptly titled In Distortion We Trust in 2005 and created a buzz around Stockholm right away. The album was released world-wide, but I’m not sure how it did outside of Sweden. The follow up, Til Death Do Us Party (2009) was produced by Swedish singer Mats Levén (Swedish Erotica, Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion and now Candlemass), who gave them a less noisy and punky sound, but these girls could still rock with the best of them and 2012’s The Midnight Chase made sure they sure they were still in the public eye and a force to be reckoned with.
Few metal bands has been more under debate than Sweden’s In Flames. In recent years, they have more and more left their melodic death metal and become more of “normal” metal band with clear influences from both rock and pop. Things has even gone as far as old fans calling them a pop band, but that’s just preposterous and taking things way too far. But the fact that they have changed their style a lot through the years is indisputable. I have never been a fan of any kinds of death metal myself and I do have a problem with In Flames’ earliest material. Their four first albums Lunar Strain (1994), The Jester Race (1996), Whoracle (1997) and Colony (1999) are all too much death metal for my taste. Yes, I know that In Flames kind of death metal is the melodic kind, but that kind of music just gets on my tits. Clayman from 2000 was the first In Flames album that I liked and I became a fan with the brilliant Reroute To Remain (2002). That was, of course, because they had become more and more melodic which suits my taste in metal more and even though I have a huge (as in HUGE) problem with growl and guttural screams, I found it bearable and that was only because the melodies were so pronounced and distinct – and catchy. The only other growler I can stand is Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. The original diehards hasn’t been merciful when it comes to the criticism of In Flames more and more melodic style, butI guess it’s understandable if you’re a death metal fantastic, but to me it seems only narrow-minded to not let a band develop musically and progress instead of stagnate and tread water. On the other hand, not many bands has changed their style so much without changing their name, because the In Flames of 2014 aren’t even close to the In Flames of 1994. It’s almost impossible to recognize them as the same band. Still, sometimes I feel the criticism towards them is a bit too ferocious. But the biggest change came when the last original member, guitarist and song writer Jesper Strömblad decided to leave the band to get kick his alcoholism in 2010.
So, there I was at home in front of my computer and logged in to Facebook when I spotted an ad that said that German metal hearts Accept were about to play a gig in Stockholm that night. I also spotted a few friends’ comments on the fact that they were about to attend the show. Damn, I thought, I also wanted to see the band in action. However, I didn’t have a ticket and quite frankly, I have had little sleep the last few nights and I was just too tired to bother. Besides, money was tight so I though I had to sit this one out. Instead, the gym was my goal and on my there, my phone rang. It was a friend of mine saying: “Hey man, wanna go the Accept gig tonight? I’m on the list and I can bring you along”. I wasn’t gonna turn that one down no matter how tired I was, so after an hour at the gym and a shower, I met up with my company for the night for a burger and a beer before heading down to the show. When we got there, some opening act which I don’t remember the name of, was playing and to be honest, the little I heard didn’t impress me much. Some kind of thrash / speed metal was their music of choice, but I can be wrong as the sound was really bad and I couldn’t be arsed to watch them for more than a couple of songs. The reunited version of Accept – with American singer Mark Tornillo replacing iconic singer Udo Dirkschneider has just released their third album, the magnificent Blind Rage and its predecessors Blood Of The Nations (2010) and Stalingrad (2012) has proved the band as force to be reckoned with, writing high quality songs that are Accept all the way.
I wonder how many of the common hard rockers that goes “Who?” when Bernie Marsden’s name is mentioned – especially American ones. I wonder how many people out there knows that Bernie Marsden co-wrote one of the biggest rock hits of the 80’s. Yes, Bernie Marsden co-wrote “Here I Go Again” with David Coverdale back in 1982 and it ended up a pretty big hit in Europe when Whitesnake released their album Saints An’ Sinners. But it was when the new glammier looking version of Whitesnake re-released the song as a power ballad (it was mellow blues rocker originally) that it made number one in the Billboard Chart in America in 1987, taken from their 1987 album. Bernie Marsden was Whitesnake’s original guitar player and founded the band with Coverdale and guitarist Micky Moody back in 1978 and he left the band five years and five albums and an E.P. later. Before he co-founded Whitesnake, he was the guitarist in UFO, Cozy Powell’s Hammer, Babe Ruth and Paice, Ashton, Lord. After leaving Whitesnake, he formed Alaska, a melodic hard rock band that released two albums, Heart Of The Storm (1984) and The Pack (1985) before they split due to low interest from rock fans and bad sales. Really unfair as the band really was worth some success to their name.The split with Coverdale was ugly and bedraggled and the pair didn’t have that much nice to say about each other.
Everybody goes: “Jeff who??”. Well, nothing strange about that at all, Jeff LaBar doesn’t really count as common knowledge. Even if you happen to be a metal head, the guy is quite anonymous. For you who don’t know who Jeff LaBar is, he is the rhythm guitar player from 80’s hard rock / classic rock band Cinderella. Cinderella were more or less lead guitarist / singer Tom Keifer’s baby and he was also the one who wrote all the songs for that band. Cinderella made it real big back in the mid eighties with brilliant albums like Night Songs (1986), Long Cold Winter (1988) and Heartbreak Station (1990), but after they completely bombed with 1994’s Still Climbing, due to the fact the their brand of melodic hard rock had gone totally out of style when Nirvana and their likes had taken over, the band split up. After that, Cinderella has made plenty of comebacks – 2000 – 2002, 2005 – 2006 and most recently 2010 – but now it’s seems likely that the band is here to stay. Their comebacks have, however, only been as a touring act, but the touring has consolidated them as one of the tightest efforts around.
Once in a while you spot a band with a name that catches your eyes, but you take notice for all the wrong reasons, like you think that the name is kinda crap. When said band also gives their album a name that’s almost too cliché to be a cliché, you just shake your head and don’t wanna know. X-Drive is such a band and the title of their debut album, Get Your Rock On is such a title and normally I wouldn’t even have bothered listening, but I saw some of the band’s members’ names and got curious anyway. When I write “band”, you probably should read “project” because that’s what most of these groups are. The names that got me interested were bass player James Lomenzo (White Lion, Megadeth, Black Label Society) and singer Keith St John (Lynch Mob, Montrose) and the fact that this album was produced by the legendary Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Cinderella) was something that just couldn’t be ignored.