Sometimes it feels like the well of Scandinavian – and Swedish especially – AOR and Melodic Rock bands will never run dry. Year after year new bands are coming up for air and I can honestly admit, despite being a fan of said genres, that this particular market is starting to get full and that has been going on for some time. Even I am starting to go “oh man, not another one”. Also, add to the fact that too many of them really doesn’t bring all that much new and interesting stuff to the table anymore – the Scandinavian AOR sound is starting to eat itself, I’m afraid. That being said, once in a while a new band comes up with – without being revolutionary – something damn good. Perfect Plan is an example of a band who did just that and as long as that happens, I won’t be the one to count out Scandinavian AOR/Melodic Rock just yet and all new albums will be digested with an open mind.
“Deep Purple doesn’t sound like Deep Purple anymore.” That’s a pretty common comment nowadays. Well, no shit, Sherlock! Besides, did they ever? I mean, when Ian Gillan and Roger Glover replaced Rod Evans and Nic Simper, Deep purple turned into a completely different beast, so much that no-one had complained if they changed the name of the band. When David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes replaced Ian and Roger, they changed again, more than many fans want to admit. Did the masterpiece Purpendicular (1996) sound anything like the brilliant come back album Perfect Strangers (1984)? No, it didn’t. Purple has always changed with their new members and the way I see it, that’s a good thing. As long as we get good material, that is – and we almost always do because Deep Purple very seldom gives us bad shit. Fact is, Abandon (1998) is the only time they have largely disappointed me.
Lead vocalist Graham Bonnet has been one creative dude in the last few years with lots of touring, both solo and with the Michael Schenker Fest and released a lot of albums, both studio ones and live ones so a reunion with Alcatrazz shouldn’t have been a big surprise but somehow it was. Personally, I was never a huge fan of that band. They had some good songs on their two first albums No Parole From Rock ‘n’ Roll (1983) and Disturbing The Peace (1985) – the third, Dangerous Games (1986) I haven’t even heard – but as a band, they never had much impact on me at all. The thing is, Alcatrazz never made it big and when they started out, most people went to their shows to watch guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen – and when he left Steve Vai. But much credit to that band for bringing out those two now legendary guitarists.
In my little world of flowers, Primal Fear has been around forever. But they actually started out as late as 1997, formed by former Gamma Ray singer Ralf Scheepers and Sinner bassist Mat Sinner and their self-titled debut saw the light of day one year later. I admit that I never gave this band the time of day as I have never been much into European (read: German) Power Metal – and I’m still not. It took me all the way to 2016 and the album Rulebreaker before I checked them out and then it was only because I got a promo of that album from Frontiers Records. What surprised me most about that album was that I actually dug it which in turn led me to purchase their 2017 double compilation album Best Of Fear to check out their earlier stuff and lo and behold, I found a whole bunch of great songs on that one.
As a huge Accept-fan, it was of course a no-brainer that I would follow both Accept and singer Udo Dirkschneider when he left Accept for the first time back in 1987. He called his new outfit U.D.O. and the band’s first album Animal House was all written by Accept and they even played on a couple of songs on the album. It’s not a wild guess that Animal House was probably intended to be the follow-up to Accept’s 1986 album Russian Roulette. Be that as it may, the first four U.D.O. albums were great and it looked like Udo’s career would over-shadow his former bandmates’ by far. But Accept decided to reunite in 1991 and U.D.O. was put on hold for what it looked like by then, forever. But it didn’t last and Udo left again in 1996 and resurrected U.D.O. Only this time things didn’t go all that smoothly.
I reckon I’m not alone in going “who?” when the name Michael Grant comes up. Apparently Grant was once a member of one of the L.A. Guns constellations that has been touring parallel to each other a few years now – he also recorded one album with them. Grant was also the driving force behind Endeverafter, an alternative Hard Rock band from San Fransisco. His work with his new outfit The Assassins started back in 2018 but even though this project has a band-name, this is very much a solo project as Grant plays all the instruments himself on this, The Assassins debut album, except for a few tracks where Shane Fitzgibbon provided drums. Sound-wise, this is supposed to be a sleazy, punky and heavy yet melodic effort with an organic sound and a big live-feel.
Mark Boals should be a pretty well-known name in Metal circles after his two stints as the singer for Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (Trilogy from 1986, Alchemy and the mildly spoken underwhelming War To End All Wars, 1999 and 2000 respectively) and Royal Hunt without too many people going “who?”. Olaf Thorsen, on the other mind, is probably not the most famous guitarist in the world. At least I didn’t really know who he was until I got myself the promo link to this album. Thorsen is a member of bands such as Labyrinth and Vision Divine, none of which has left a lasting impression on me. I have reviewed an album by Labyrinth but I can’t say it set my world on fire – fact is, I don’t really remember much of it. I gave that record – Architecture Of A God (2017) 7/10 and finished the review by saying I was impressed by how strong it was. So why hasn’t I listened to it more then, I wonder three years later…
I don’t know if I have missed something but I have never heard of a Hard Rock band that hails from Latvia before I got the reviewer’s link to Bloody Heels’ latest album. Formed in Riga back in 2012, the band – Vicky White (vocals), Harry Rivers (guitars), Gunn Everett (bass) and Gus Hawk (drums) – this band takes aim on the more sleazy yet melodic Hard Rock from the 80’s/90’s although the band is described as the missing link between Crashdïet and Crazy Lixx with some early W.A.S.P. and Kissin’ Dynamite thrown in. They released their debut E.P. Summer Nights in 2014 and their debut album Through Mystery back in 2017 and has since toured around Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Europe before signing up with Frontiers. Since this is my first encounter with the band, I have nothing previous to compare with but some online research told me that this album is a grittier affair than the previous more slick and polished records.
If you want to talk about self-destructive Rock bands with roller-coaster careers, well here’s one for ya. This band was on the verge of a big break-through in the late 80’s and early 90’s but due to many different circumstances, that never happened – the coming of Grunge was just one of them. Since then this band has went through heavy drug-use, lethal overdoses, cancer death and more line-up changes than one can count with pivotal members coming and going. To be honest, I pretty much thought it was over when they released an album of unreleased material, demos and other kind of material as a new album. That was Clowns Lounge (2016) – and as a fan, it was an interesting listen with some pretty cool stuff on it, but nothing about it felt like a new-start of any kind. And the band’s frontman, lead-singer/rhythm guitarist and main-song-writer Donnie Vie had left the band for the final (?) time, due to shitloads of personal issues.
It was only two years something ago since Swedish Classic Rock four-piece Prins Svart (Prince Black) released their self-titled debut album and the second half of 2020 has just begun and we are now been treated with their third effort. This band has proven to be highly productive without giving in on quality one iota. On the other hand, their albums follow the tradition from the 70’s, both in musical style but also the way bands never overdid things back then. Instead of filling the records with songs to the max, this band’s records never holds more than eight songs which means that we, the fans, doesn’t have to deal with fillers. Quality before quantity. I embrace that fully. That’s why when they now release their third album, a bad song still haven’t seen the light of day from this lot.