First of all, I had never ever even heard of this band until just a couple of months ago. A friend of mine who was visiting the Download Festival in Great Britain had run into these guys’ gig by accident and he told me to check them out because apparently, they were “bloody awesome”! Yeah, well, like I need yet another album to review. It’s not like I have a pile of them lying in waiting. Well, me being me, of course, I just had to check them out to find out if they were anything worthwhile. Also, I really trust my friend’s taste in music, we pretty much love the same stuff so how could I not check them out – despite their really, really crappy name. I mean, c’mon, who name their band Like A Storm? Anyway, Like A Storm were formed back in 2005 in Auckland, New Zeeland and has released one album – The End Of The Beginning (2009) – prior to this one. They have also released two E.P.’s, one of them acoustically and one live album and the music they’re playing is said to be some kind of hybrid of Post-Grunge, Hard Rock, AOR, Alternative Rock and Metalcore.
It is only one year ago since Firewind / Ozzy Osbourne – guitarist Gus G (born Kostas Karamitroudis, september 12, 1980) released his debut solo album I Am The Fire (reviewed here), an album that had a bunch of different singers on it, such as Jeff Scott Soto (Soto, W.E.T., Talisman, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen), Alexia Rodriguez (Eyes Set To Kill), Jacob Bunton (Adler / Lynam), Michael Starr (Steel Panther) and Tom S Englund (Evergrey), but the bulk of the songs were sung by Mats Levén (Candlemass, Therion, Treat, Swedish Erotica). I was never a Firewind fan and even though Gus did a good job as Ozzy’s guitarist, I had no clue how good a songwriter he might have been. Needless to say, that album didn’t spark any big expectations at all. To be honest, I really only checked out the record out of curiosity. But in the end, I’m glad that I did because the record was surprisingly good, full of heavy but melodic hard rock tracks and all of them with brilliant lead vocal efforts.
Back in the day when we wrote 1990-something in our calendars and Grunge was the new big thing, I had a bit of a problem with Skintrade. Because this Swedish five-piece – as they were back then – were in my eyes a big sell-out, a band that jumped on the Grunge bandwagon faster than you could say Nirvana. In reality, I didn’t have a clue about the band members’ taste in music. Well, their then guitarist and founder, not in the band today, George Bravo was a guy who was seen frequently out in the Swedish rock clubs then, but I didn’t know him so his taste in music wasn’t to my knowing at all. No, my biggest issues were with lead singer Matti Alfonzetti. He used to sing with, first Swedish Pop-Metal band Bam Bam Boys (what a horrible name) and after that with British blues oriented Hard Rockers Jagged Edge, a band that would later turn into Skin but with another singer. Now, both band were very melodic, great musicians and looked the 80’s part as well.
Just before I started writing this review, I started to think, what if I’m not really suited to write a Symphony X review. Why, you might ask? Well, the thing is, I’m not really a fan of the band. That said, I’m not a no-fan by any means, quite the contrary, I really like the little I have heard from them. Within there lies the problem, see, I really don’t know much of and about this band at all. Symphony X has released nine albums since their self titled debut back in 1994 and the first record I heard by this band was the amazing Paradise Lost (2007). I haven’t heard one single note from any of the earlier records. I know I should have because I really love Paradise Lost and the same goes for the follow-up Iconoclast (2011, reviewed here). Why, when I really, really dig these two albums, haven’t I dug into their past then? I really don’t know, I just haven’t got around to do it, I guess.
Diamond Dogs are a Swedish rock band that has been playing since 1992 and the fact that their popularity is still somewhat in the shadows, is both a mystery and not. The band has its influences in the late 60’s and early 70’s and bands like The Faces, The Rolling Stones, Humble Pie and Mott The Hoople are all pivotal for the sound of Diamond Dogs. David Bowie is, of course, a big influence, especially his 70’s stuff and it was his 1974 album that gave this band their name. But if you’re looking for more “modern” bands in the same vein, then look no further than The Black Crowes and The Quireboys. Musically, their first 10 (yes, the first TEN!) albums are full of catchy, groovy and swinging rock and roll that could make a dead man rise to the dance. That’s why it’s a mystery that Diamond Dogs aren’t a huge arena act by now. Well, at least the common rocker should know who they are and at least have heard their biggest hits. If they had any hits, that is. The reason it’s not a mystery that they aren’t huge is because they have never cared to even try to make a name for themselves.
Kelly Keeling. I wonder how many out there has the slightest clue of who he is. Sure, for fans of melodic hard rock, the name might just ring a bell and if you’re a fan of John Norum and Michael Schenker, then yes. But for the most of the world, Kelly Keeling is a pretty unknown name. This is a good example of how the world isn’t a fair place because if you look at his qualities as a singer, Keeling should be known to all men and women. He first appeared on the Melodic Hard Rock scene with his band Baton Rouge and their debut album Shake Your Soul in 1990, an extremely underrated album that should have sold millions if the world was a fair place to live in. When the band’s follow-up, 1991’s Lights Out On The Playground failed to take Baton Rouge anywhere, they disbanded and even tough Keeling made a record under the Baton Rouge moniker – a self-titled record – in 1997, that album wasn’t anything more than a studio project between him and songwriter / producer Jack Ponti – Baton Rouge ceased to exist in 1992.
Sometime every now and again, along comes a band that is said to be the next big thing, the band that will be the one to headline the biggest festivals and to tour the biggest arenas when all the old dinosaurs are dead and gone. Blacklist Union are such a band. Formed back in 2004 by lead singer Tony West and guitarist Todd Youth, the band released their debut album After The Mourning in 2006, followed by Bakin’ Bread With The Devil in 2008. Their third album ‘Til Death Do Us Part came out in 2012 and according to their home page, the band’s records were met by critical acclaim all across the globe. Ok. Thing is, I see myself as somewhat a music nerd that love to check out new bands all the time and I have never heard of this band before.
An e-mail popped up in my inbox a while ago, from one Mark Wellington, lead singer of American Prog-metal band Dyed In Grey. They had a new mini-CD coming out and would I be interested in reviewing it? Well, I had never heard of this band before, but after a quick check-out, I decided that they had a sound that I could be interested in. Now, this record was released back in early June, so yes I know, I’m behind schedule – and then some. But I had reviews of Väsby Rock Festival and the Stockholm AC/DC gig to do, which were first prioriteies, plus I’m on vacation which means very little at home and in front of the computer and since I’m alone on this site, this is impossible to avoid. I have a few more reviews to write that I’m behind with – could anyone add a few hours to the day, please! Dyed In Grey are a progressive Metal six-piece from Brooklyn, New York that started out in 2009. The band’s influence are many and at times almost musical schizophrenic – and I mean that in a good way, I love diversity. How about Opeth, Dream Theater, Pantera, Kansas, Morbid Angel, In Flames, The Doobie Brothers, Kiss, Alice In Chains, Darkthrone and John Coltrane, to name a few – Wow!
A lot of things has happened since AC/DC’s last tour – the one that started with the release of their last album Black Ice in 2008. Back then, the line-up was intact even though there were always some legal (read: drugs) situations with problem child (pun intended) drummer Phil Rudd, who now and again had been busted with the possession of marijuana. But things change and the first thing that infected the band was that original member, rhythm guitarist, main songwriter and band leader Malcolm Young was reported ill and later it turned out that he suffered from dementia and even though his songs were used for the latest album Rock Or Bust, he didn’t play on it and, it turned out, he would never play with the band again. Next up, bad boy Rudd were busted for meth possession and attempt to murder. The latter accusation was later dropped but this was enough for his second sacking from the band, the first was back in 1983. That meant that for the tour no less than two new members were being inducted to AC/DC’s line-up. First in was Angus’ and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young, a guy who was a stand in for Malcolm back in 1988 when Malcolm had to seek help for his drinking problems. Stevie also plays on the new record and is now a permanent band member. Rudd’s place was filled by one Chris Slade who was in the band back in 1990 for five years before Rudd returned to the band. Despite of all AC/DC’s internal problems, the new album showed a band that sounded more fresh and vital than in many, many years. To me, their new album is their best effort since the underrated Flick Of The Switch back in 1983. But still, there is no denying that after all the shit that has happened to them, their new tour feels like their farewell tour, even though none of the members have said anything about the matter. It’s just a hunch, but a hunch that I have heard lots and lots of people has had and I’m pretty sure many bought a ticket for this tour to say goodbye, like this would be the last time we would get to see this fantastic rock band live.
I wonder how many people out there thought that after the first Väsby Rock Festival, back in 2013, that this festival would still be here two years later? Not that the festival was bad by any means, quite the contrary, but the fact is that there are as many festivals out there as there are mushrooms in the woods and the competition is really tough. This festival also takes place when many people are on vacation, meaning that both time and money can be short. The first year was clearly set by a tight budget and mostly Swedish bands were booked. The festival was only on for one day and the price was very cheap. But already by the second year the organisers had added one more day and the whole festival felt more “real”, with a real VIP section, a larger festival area and frankly, the whole thing felt like a miniature version of Sweden Rock Festival. Everything was there, the market and the food stands, but more intimate. They had also managed to book some really cool bands with bigger headliners such as Europe and Candlemass. How many tickets that were sold last year isn’t something I want to – or can – speculate in, but the Europe gig was pretty crowded. This year, however, the line-up was thinner. Of course, that depends on your taste in music, but the fact is, there was no big headliner that would draw the extra few thousand that could make VRF climb another step on the festival ladder. Let’s face it, it is pretty cool to have a band like WASP visiting a smaller suburb like Upplands Väsby, but WASP doesn’t draw a huge crowd. If they would tour Sweden alone they would draw a crowd less than 500 people, so it’s pretty easy to do the maths. Europe draws ten times as many people. So it was up the VRF organisation to put faith in people’s good-will and that there were enough rockers out there that has a music taste that synchronizes with this year’s line-up. And it sure didn’t help VRF that Live Nation decided to put up a free festival right in the middle of Stockholm on the same two days as VRF. That much for helping small festival organisers to survive in the already tough climate. VRF is hardly a threat to Live Nation so the stunt is not ok one bit. Shame on you, Live Nation!