When a band takes its name from such a brilliant album as Black Sabbath’s Eternal Idol (1987), I just have to check it out. But my interest faded some after a quick read of the press release. It turns out that Eternal Idol is formed by one Fabio Lione, once the lead singer of Rhapsody Of Fire, Labyrinth and Angra among others. See, I’m slightly allergic to sword and sorcery fantasy power metal bands such as the ones mentioned. Maybe I come off as pretentious saying this, but I just can’t seem to take the overblown and beyond bombastic music and image taken straight out of a Tolkien story seriously. But on the other hand, Eternal Idol is a new chapter in Lione’s book of metal and I guess it wouldn’t be fair to judge his new project without even giving it a shot just because of his past. On this journey, Lione have brought with him musicians that have got fuck-o to do with his past bands. Guitarist, keyboard player and co-writer Nick Savio, bassist Camillo Collelouri and female lead vocalist Giorgia Collelouri comes from Hollow Haze and bassist Andrea Buratto was brought in from Secret Sphere (another power metal act I’m not overly impressed with) and Hell In The Club, all bands (except Secret Sphere) I have never even heard of before. And since Lione has described his new band as a mix of classic metal and symphonic rock with a few progressive twists – a new sound that might surprise people, he states – makes my interest in this band climb back up a few notches.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw Dario Mollo’s name was power metal. Why? Well, there’s something about Italian musicians that lies on Frontiers records that puts that connection into my mind. I have never heard of Dario Molle before – or so I thought. Because somewhere in the back of my mind something felt familiar with that name. A quick google search (and a closer read of the press release…) gave me the answer. Turns out that the guy have released three albums with a project called Voodoo Hill that featured lead vocalist / bass player Glenn Hughes – Voodoo Hill (2000), Wild Seed Of Mother Earth (2004) and Waterfall (2015) and three albums with The Cage which featured ex – Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin – The Cage (1999, also featuring keyboard player Don Airey (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ozzy)), 2 (2002, also featuring bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Whitesnake)) and The Third Cage (2012). A pretty impressing CV – and a bit embarrassing for yours truly as a fan of both Hughes and Martin as I haven’t heard a note from any of those albums.
Back in the days of the late 80’s / early 90’s when glam, sleaze and melodic hard rock were on a high, record companies signed everything that had a catchy melody, long hair and at least one cute member. It goes without saying that we got gushed with mediocre bands that were in the business for all the wrong reasons, to get drunk, high, laid and only played said music because it was the thing to do back then. many of those musicians would jump right onto the grunge band wagon a few years later and some bands got way too much exposure, much more than they deserved. On the other hand, there were bands that had everything – the sound, the songs, the musicianship, the look and they loved what they played, but never went nowhere anyway. Then there were bands that were very much part of the scene but had the guts to think out of the box and at least tried to put their own stamp on the music they released. One of these bands was Enuff Z’Nuff from Blue Island, Illinois. The look they sported in the time of their self titled debut from 1989 made them look like one of Poison’s relatives, a lot of make-up, hair spray, spandex, colours and dyed hair, but musically the band was a different beast. Sure, they had a lot of the melodic hard rock vibes that were popular at the times, but their love of Beatles and Cheap Trick made them stand out. The fact that the band never got their big break is one of the big mysteries of rock, especially when their second album Strength (1991) today is looked upon as a melodic hard rock gem. That album should have made the band superstars in a fair world.
I gotta be honest here – a new Metallica album isn’t something that makes my world start turning. That makes my heart beat faster. That puts me in a euphoric state. That… well, you get my drift. It was a long, long time since Metallica put out anything worthwhile and I haven’t spent any money on that band since Load (1996) and frankly, everything they have released since that album has pretty much sucked. When it comes to Metallica, I was a late bloomer. Back in 1983 when they released their debut album Kill ‘Em All, I hated them. Back then, thrash metal was the most extreme stuff in metal you could listen to and I thought that album was just full of noise – I couldn’t hear any melodies, no clear arrangements and no songs, just a useless screamer for a vocalist and three other guys that seemed to race each other, playing as fast as they could. The first time I realised that Metallica might be something worthwhile was when MTV played the video for the song “One” (…And Justice For All, 1988). But I didn’t become a fan then either, it would take me – like with so many others – up to 1992 and “Enter Sandman”. I bought the self titled black album and it hit me in the gut right away – and that was when I started to look back to their old albums. Today, the black album still holds a place close to my heart, but my favorite Metallica album is Ride The Lightning (1984) with the black album and Master Of Puppets (1986) as a tie for second place. Song wise, …And Justice For All is absolutely awesome, but the production really blows so hard it’s actually hard to listen to it. By Load, Metallica had become huge stars and millionaires and they had changed, not only musically but mentally as well. The underground us-against-the-world metal band had become a part of the system and commercial thinking was now their thing. Load is a really good album, although a bit uneven and it couldn’t hold a candle to the previous three albums. Kill ‘Em All? Yeah, well, I still don’t like it.
For everyone who has read my reviews of Sixx A.M.’s previous albums, it’s no news that I am a huge fan of this band. The truth is, it was a long time since I found a band that could release album after album with such high quality and after four albums I still can’t find one song that I find crappy or even close to bad. Sure, there are songs, even if they are few, that I don’t find awesome or great, but the worst Sixx A.M. song ever written still qualifies as good. So I’m wondering, when will the first mediocre Sixx A.M. album come out? Hopefully never, but the more killer albums they release, the closer they get to that album, the mediocre one. Also, Sixx A.M. has turned out to be one hell of a creative band. This album is their fifth since the debut The Heroin Diaries back in 2007, but back then Sixx A.M. weren’t even a real band, but a project and that album was supposed to be a one only and it was nothing but a soundtrack to Nikki Sixx’s book by the same name. They weren’t even a real band by the time their second album, the masterpiece This Is Gonna Hurt, was released in 2011, even though they actually had played a few gigs live – that album was also a soundtrack by another Sixx book with the same name. It wasn’t until the release of the very underrated third album Modern Vintage (2014) that they decided on making Sixx A.M. their first priority when Sixx and his buddies (hrrmmm…) in Mötley Crüe had decided that they would call it day after the next tour and guitarist D.J. Ashba quit his day job in Axl Rose’s solo band a.k.a. Guns N’ Roses.
There are not many bands around that have been forced to swallow as much crap from (former) fans like Swedish metal band In Flames. Starting out as a melodic death metal band, the band has gone more and more soft with each album and today, with no original members left at all, there isn’t all that much left of the sound that made them popular back when in the 90’s. There are old fans that actually calls them a pop band today which is preposterous even though signs of pop has been sneaked in on later albums. On the other hand, In Flames has always had songs based on strong melodies and catchy choruses which is pretty pop to me. Since I am not a death metal fan, it’s one sub-genre in metal I have a hard time coping with, I’m not one of the crap throwers – in fact I’m the kind of guy who embraces a more melodic sound instead of growls and screams. I became a fan of In Flames as late as back in 2002 when I first heard the single “Cloud Connected” from their brilliant Reroute To Remain, an album I still hold as their best and when it comes to liking their old material, I don’t go farther back than its predecessor Clayman (2000). Before that album, In Flames were too death metal for my taste.
The fact that The Quireboys are still alive and kicking and have been so for that last 10 years or so is probably to every rocker’s knowledge these days, but are there anyone out there besides me that have been wondering what the hell happened to lead singer Spike’s song-writing partner and guitarist Guy Bailey? I mean, it was him and Spike that wrote all the classic hits that made The Quireboys’ debut album A Bit Of What You Fancy (1990) such a brilliant album and such a success and he was also part of The Quireboys second album, the underrated but by Bob Rock overproduced Bitter Sweet And Twisted (1993). Not to bash The Quireboys of 2016, I mean they are still an amazing live act and they have released some damn fine records, but I think it’s safe to say that most fans still hold their two first albums as their finest. Well, me personally, I have always hoped that Bailey one day would return to Spike’s side and write some more killer songs with him. I have definitely wondered where the hell Bailey went and why we haven’t heard from the guy. So imagine my surprise when I was about to listen to an album by a band called Thirsty (a really weird name for a band, I thought to myself) that had ended up in my mailbox and the press release told me that it was the new album by Bailey’s new outfit. All of a sudden, the album became very interesting.
A new Bon Jovi release used be like Christmas for me. I became a fan when a Swedish radio station played their first (hit) single “Runaway” just when their self titled debut album was about to be released in 1984. It knocked me out completely and I bought that album the day it was released and to this day I find their first five albums – Bon Jovi (1984), 7800 Fahrenheit (1985), Slippery When Wet (1986), New Jersey (1988) and Keep The Faith (1992) – amazingly good. Things started to slip with their 1995 album These Days, by no means a bad album, but it was only 60% great, leaving the rest of the 40% jumping between crap to mediocre. After that album, Bon Jovi has never really been themselves again. Crush (2000) only had three great tracks, Bounce (2002) had even less and Have A Nice Day (2005) didn’t have one single stand-out track. But the big crash landing happened with the horrendous wanna-be country piece of junk album called Lost Highway (2007). On their earlier few records there were at least some traces of the band I had loved so dearly, but on that album every little trace of the classic Bon Jovi sound had been forlorn. That record is one of the worst cases of a great band going down the sewer I have ever heard in my life. After that, things didn’t get better, they only got less worse. The Circle (2009) was Bon Jovi trying to find some rock again, but they failed miserably. It was the same mainstream boring pop songs with the guitars a bit louder in the mix, nothing else. And Jon Bon Jovi’s words about the band having made a big arena rock album again with 2013’s What About Now were either lies or a bad case of disillusion.
If it hadn’t been for Sweden Rock Magazine, I might not had checked out Civil War at all. See, three of the members of this band used play in Sabaton, a band I’m not – to put it mildly – a big fan of. On top of that, Civil War do play a kind of power metal that isn’t that far away from what Sabaton plays and since I’m not a big power metal fan per se, chances that I would bother with this lot are slim. But since they gave away free copies of their debut album The Killer Angels (2013) to the subscribers of said magazine, I would have been stupid not give it a least one shot. Don’t ask me why because I’m totally clueless of this, but even though every inch of screamed that I shouldn’t like that album, I did. This is melodic heavy metal with clear power metal influences, but what sets Civil War apart from many other power metal outfits is the singer. Usually power metal singers are in high pitch and very falsetto laden, but Civil War managed to get a singer – Nils Patrik Johansson – that made them sound different. Johansson has a deep voice that shows off his Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale influences, influences that isn’t all that common in this genre. But it wasn’t only the singer, this band has some really awesome tunes as well and the follow-up Gods And Generals (2015) proved that the debut album wasn’t just a lucky shot. Now it is time for the band to release the third and final part of the trilogy that started back in 2013 and after two really good albums, there are expectations to meet.
I must admit that it’s hard to write a review of a band that I’m not a fan of – or a band I really dislike. Now, I do not dislike Swedish heavy / power metal icons Hammerfall, but I have never been that much of a fan either. To be honest, when Hammerfall first started to making it big with their four first albums, I couldn’t stand them – to me, they were nothing more than a poor man’s Iron Maiden or something like that. I started to come around some around 2005 when I first heard “Bloodbound”, a song I dug from go, and when I checked out the album in question, Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t all that bad. Since then, I have checked out every Hammerfall and once in a while, the band comes up with some really good stuff. I don’t know if it was their new producer James Michael (Sixx A.M.) that got me somewhat hooked on the band with their – very underrated – album Infected (2011), but it was something with that album that made them sound less… dorky. See, I really have issues with power metal in general and on Infected, Hammerfall were still metal, but had lost enough of the power metal vibes for me to appreciate it more. James Michael might sound like an odd choice for a band like Hammerfall to produce them – and it really is – but it sure have worked as far as I’m concerned.