When it comes to metal bands in 2015, it feels like there are thirteen a dozen of bands that uses a war theme – and many of them are the kind of metal bands that has the ‘power’ moniker in front of metal. Not my case of beer, so to speak. Just one look at Reverence’s new album, one look at their band’s name and one look at the album’s title and I thought, oh no, not another one of these war-power-metal bands again. And if the newer metal bands don’t play power metal with a war theme, they usually go retro on us and do their best to sound like it was 1980 again pretending they are / were part of NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement, which usually means bad production and cliché metal songs that goes in one ear and out the other.
Alright, here we go again. What, you might ask. Well, I have written in several other reviews that I have issues with crappy band names and that I sometimes just don’t give a rat about a band because I think their name blows dog. Well, here’s a band name that will probably win the Gold medal for the worst band name ever. Just try it out. Look at it. Say it. Write it. Cats In Space. For in whoever’s sake, what were they thinking? You just do not name your band Cats In Space!!! Maybe the name has some underlying meaning that I’m clueless of, but I don’t care, you will never become huge and headline Wembley Arena if you call your band Cats In Space. And not only that, just look at the cover. For real? I just can’t get it through my skull why on Earth anyone would put out a product that looks like this – to me, this is a joke. So, you can imagine how I aroused I was when I found the e-mail with the link to this record. Well, I wasn’t. And I can assure you that if I hadn’t gotten that e-mail, I would never have checked this band out. But, for once, the stupid name worked in the opposite direction – this time I thought, I just HAVE to hear what a band with such a name and an album cover like this sounded like. I also found some interesting well-known names dropped in the press release as well.
When I was a kid, my family had a pretty big motor boat, the kind that you could live in, which meant that when my parents took their vacation during the summer, we were off to the Swedish archipelago for five weeks, cruising around small islands where we would stay for a day or two and then off to the next. My best friend back then’s family also had a boat, one just like ours so we would spend our vacations together. Now, as me and my brother both were addicted to music already as kids, a tape recorder was a must to bring along, a vacation without our beloved music wasn’t even under discussion. That mean that I put all of my records on tape before the vacation started to bring along for the ride. The summer of 1983, my best then friend Richard brought along another of our mutual friends, Patrik who brought along a tape he has gotten from a friend at school that had Van Halen’s debut album on one side and the new Def Leppard album Pyromania on the other. Before that summer I hadn’t heard either records and that tape floored us all completely and was probably the only tape we played those five weeks.
Leif Edling has always – as long as I have had the pleasure knowing him, anyway – been a really sweet guy. Down to earth, humorous and not at all doomy and gloomy. But I have never been a Candlemass fan. I have big issues with their former singer Messiah Marcolin’s voice and the songs are just too damn doom, slow, dark and depressive. There is that one album, Chapter VI (1992), that featured ex-Talk Of The Town and today’s Therion singer Thomas Vikström, that I really dig. And there are some songs from the records that featured American singer Robert Lowe (how about that? Candlemass has had a Rob Lowe as a singer…) that I find really good. In later years, Mats Levén (Swedish Erotica, Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen, Krux) has been singing with the band on tour and with him in the band, new life has been given the songs.
Once upon a time, long, long ago there was a young bloke from Canada that we can call, for the sake of simplicity, Bryan. Now, young Bryan wanted to be a rock star more than anything in the world so he got himself a guitar, learnt how to play and sing and then started to write some songs. Some 35 years ago, young Bryan managed to get himself a recording contract and lo and behold, he released two albums in a rather fast pace – Bryan Adams (1980) and You Want It, You Got It (1981), but the albums just didn’t cut it which lead to them don’t selling that well. Young Bryan’s record company – A&M Records – called young Bryan into their office and told him: “Bad, bad Bryan. No hits. Make hits. Better records. Sell more”. Young Bryan had to call his friend and song writing partner Jim Vallance up and tell him that the bosses were angry at them and that they had to make a hit record next time or else…! So, writing began and in the meantime they wrote a couple of songs for Kiss (“Rock And Roll Hell” and “War Machine”, released on their 1982 record Creatures Of The Night) and in 1983 they released Cuts Like A Knife, an album superior to its predecessors which also led to a platinum (1 000 000 000 sold albums) in the US and the bosses at A&M said “Good boy, Bryan.
Some people just don’t know when to quit. Many of those people plays in heavy metal and hard rock bands and have done so since Jesus was a schoolboy. At least sometimes it feels that way. But many of them don’t quit because play music is what they do, have always done and will probably do until they bite the famous dust – and many of them are still damn good at what they do. There are of course exceptions, but surprisingly many of the elderly gentlemen of metal feels and sound exceptional fresh and vital even though they – at least many of them – have passed their 60’s by a few years. Who said that hard rock and metal is music for the young only? The truth is that this kind of music has grown beyond being music for rebellious youngsters with a “fuck you” attitude a good decade ago or more, metal and hard rock are now music for young people to middle-aged rockers to even your granddad and grandmother, which is both good and bad. Saxon are a band that paved way for the NWOBHM and were once – we’re talking early to mid 80’s here – a very big band, back then just as big as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I remember them coming to Sweden and selling out two venues, both holding somewhere around 9000 people. But things changed quite quickly for them.
I had never even heard the name Joel Hoekstra before I picked up Night Ranger’s brilliant album Somewhere In California back in 2011. As a big Night Ranger fan I found it most worrying that a brilliant guitarist like Jeff Watson wasn’t in the band no longer so the this Joel dude had to be really damn good to fill those shoes. Well, judging by his work beside Brad Gillis on said album and the follow-up High Road (2014, reviewed here), Joel fit the Night Ranger camp like a glove. His easy-going and happy outlook approach also fit the mold like a charm. I had the pleasure to witness Night Ranger in concert at Sweden Rock 2014 and Joel impressed me lots. Earlier this year, Hoekstra got the spot as the guitar player in Whitesnake after Doug Aldrich (Dio, Hurricane, Lion, Revolution Saints) left the band. Too bad, I thought as I thought that Hoekstra was perfect for Night Ranger, but of course I get why he switched, Whitesnake is a great gig that brings in the dough on a world-wide basis, which Night Ranger do not. They should, but don’t. A quick google on Joel Hoekstra told me that as a music nerd as myself, I should have known about Hoekstra long before I saw his name on that Night Ranger CD.
When Hanoi Rocks released their debut album Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks back in 1981, I was only 11 years old and it would take a few years before Sweden got their own music magazine for the young – a magazine that featured Hanoi Rocks quite a lot. But I never listened to them as a teenager – not because I had a problem with their somewhat feminine glam image – Hell, I am raised on The Sweet dammit – I just wasn’t interested and none of my friends listened to them either. Fact is, I didn’t know anybody who had ever heard a note from that band so we just didn’t care. I always thought it was weird that Hanoi Rocks were featured so much in that magazine – called Okej – when no one listened to them. Maybe it was just us. That’s why I believe that the reputation Hanoi Rocks has been given in the last 10 years or so as a major influence on more or less every sleaze and glam band that has ever existed is exaggerated big time and much of that reputation comes from a certain Axl Rose who told everyone that Hanoi Rocks were a big influence on him and Guns N’ Roses in general.
A few years ago, I was just about to give up on Blackie Lawless and his W.A.S.P. For many years Blackie did nothing but repeat himself and the music just got worse and worse and I started to believe that with Blackie as the sole song writer and producer, no one would get the chance to even try to convince Blackie that he was running on empty and by the sound of the music, he wasn’t aware of it himself. See, I was a teenager back in 1984 when W.A.S.P. conquered Sweden with a bang. With a strong look and a stage show that included a rotating saw blade between the legs, throwing raw meat on the crowd, drinking fake blood from a skull and cutting the throat of a chained topless woman, the Swedish press went berserk and did exactly what Blackie wanted them to do – covered them in every magazine and TV show to the point that even my grand mother knew who W.A.S.P. were, with the result of every rock kid in the country found themselves a new favorite band. Add to the fact that their self-titled debut album was full of killer melodic hard rock songs and the deal was done. I have been a W.A.S.P. fan ever since. I do love the follow-ups as well, the heavy and darker The Last Command (1985), the back to the roots and rawer (not to mention underrated!) Inside The Electric Circus (1986) – why Blackie hate that record so much is beyond me – and the fabulous milestone The Headless Children (1989) where they went both more metal and back to a more 70’s sound. Up until then, W.A.S.P. still felt like a band even though there was changes in the line-up with every record. All that stopped when Blackie’s side kick and only remaining original member beside Blackie, Chris Holmes left the band. The masterpiece The Crimson Idol (1992) was originally planned as Blackie’s solo album, but was released as a W.A.S.P. album, but just like its follower, the great and very underrated Still Not Black Enough (1995), it is a Blackie Lawless solo album, no matter what the cover says.
Remember back in the day when missing the opening act when you went to a gig was out of the question? Or maybe that was just me? No, when I started going to gigs in the 80’s, to catch the opening act was a must. For this, I had three reasons – 1. If a small band that I really liked was opening for a big band that I liked, then how could I miss that. 2. If the opening act was unknown to me, then how could I miss the opportunity to check them out, they just might be my next favorite band? 3. If the opener sucked, well, I kinda had to check them out because they might be a great live band and then I’d change my mind and maybe they’s become another favorite. Hows that for being a nerd? Well, it wasn’t just me because back then the venues were usually way more than half-full when the opening act went on. Today is a different story. If the opener isn’t some band I really like, I usually come to the gig close to when the headliner is a bout to enter the stage.