“The gates of Whittingham Asylum have been struck open and for the first time in history the high security Ward XVI invites members of the public to meet face to face with the UK’s most violent serial killers. The ward’s longest-standing resident Psychoberrie, listed as the UK’s most dangerous criminal, will give an insight into her life prior to her incarceration. With assistance from medical staff Alex and Dr Stott and fellow inmate Jake she will tell the story of the reckless life led by herself and former partner Beardy McStumble and the narcotic induced murders that took place prior to his own decapitation. This is a sordid tale of deceit and manipulation represented with a genre defying mix of hard-hitting metal riffs, off-beat ska rhythms, melancholic piano, accordion, catchy female vocals, a hint of electro, and to top it all off an engaging, energetic theatrical live show.”
If I hadn’t more or less stumbled over Evilyn Strange’s debut album, Morning Phoebe at a mutual reviewer’s site, my friend Mike Ladano’s site mikeladano.com, there’s a good chance that I had never known about this band at all. Somehow Mike had been asked by Evilyn Strange’s band leader Philip Strange to review that album and since Mike mostly review older records and this was a new release, I got interested. Also, he gave it a good rating and since we have, in many ways, a similar taste in music, I had to see what the band was all about. Mike got me in touch with Philip who sent me a copy – yes a physical CD!! – to review. Needless to say, I was hooked on that album immediately. Evilyn Strange played melodic hard rock with the roots in 80’s hard rock but also sported some more alternative influences and the album had a feel of how melodic hard rock sounded in 1992 – 1994, just when melodic hard rock started to transfer into a more grungy feel, very fresh and alive and I really can’t think of any newer bands with that sound. They followed that album up with a mini album called Evilution in 2016, an album that showed a band taking a heavier route where pure heavy metal had taken over more. It was a good album but I missed their refined brand of melodic hard rock/grunge/metal that they so brilliantly had given us on the debut. So here we are in the middle of summer of 2017 and Evilyn Strange have just given us their second full CD – and I was looking forward to hear which road the band had chosen to take this time.
Just for fun, I quickly ran through a bunch of other reviews of this album online, just to the see the score. And whadda you know, the slagging went on and on and on, with only a few reviews giving it the thumbs up. This is how it’s supposed to be, see, you SHALL hate Nickelback. I’m sure that many haters haven’t even given the band a fair shot – Nickelback are the pariah of rock and that’s that. One proof of that is Corey Taylor (Stone Sour/Slipknot) saying that singer/guitarist/main song writer Chad Kroeger is to rock what KFC is to chicken. As funny as that quote might be, it only shows just how predictable that comment is and when you think about that Taylor’s Stone Sour aren’t that much to write home about, it becomes even funnier. Kroeger’s answer to that is to call Stone Sour “Nickelback lite” – hilarious. That said, I was a Nickelback-hater myself many, many years ago, before I decided to cut the crap and give them a fair chance – and that’s when I changed my mind. I dig Nickelback. Albums like Dark Horse (2008) and Here And Now (2011) are awesome releases and even though their last album, 2014’s No Fixed Address didn’t manage to match those two, it was still a good album. So, it’s safe to say that I looked forward to this album – and it did come with some expectations to match.
As a 12-year-old kid in 1980, I discovered Cheap Trick when I heard a friend’s big brother blast out their song “Everything Works If You Let It” from his room downstairs. From that moment on, I was hooked. The first Cheap Trick album I got was their live album At Bodukan (1978) and let’s just say that the fan-boy in me grew to bigger proportions. When they finally re-released it on CD, as a double album this time, I was in power pop Heaven. Anyway, from that moment on I needed every Cheap Trick album released – In Color (1977), Heaven Tonight (1978) and their masterpiece Dream Police (1980) are still albums that rocks my world. Their self titled debut album from 1976 is an album I’m still not that fond of. But throughout the 80’s, Cheap Trick became mainstream and lost a lot of their personal touches and I lost interest. I have a soft spot for their 1985 album Standing On The Edge and their 1994 album Woke Up With A Monster, though.
Let’s say a word or two about ‘hair metal’. What is hair metal? And which bands plays hair metal? Well, the answer is, of course, that there’s no musical style called ‘hair metal’. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, no one, that I can think of, at least, used that phrase. The moniker hair metal or poodle rock came later, when melodic rock bands were a dying breed and was invented by pretentious music journalists who wanted to mock that 80’s hard rock scene because they only loved their crappy indie rock bands that couldn’t tune their guitars or sing in key if their lives depended on it. And they put every band that was big in those days into that category. Skid Row, Winger, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Warrant, Europe, Slaughter and even Kiss and Yngwie Malmsteen. And Great White. So, in order for all those bands to play ‘hair metal’, they had to sound the same and play the same kind of music. If you say that they do then either you haven’t listened to those bands at all or you’re tone-deaf.
The first time I ever heard of Secret Sphere was when I was reading an article about Whitesnake, if my memory serves me right. Secret Sphere’s lead singer Michele Luppi is also the keyboard player in Whitesnake, see. I can’t say that I was overwhelmed by that information at all – and even less when it stood clear that this Italian five-piece plays some kind of power metal. Not my kind of metal, so to speak. But last year a streaming link of Secret Sphere’s then brand new live album One Night In Tokyo ended up in my mailbox. Now, I never reviewed that album because I just didn’t have the time – and maybe that was just as well because I can’t say that I was overly impressed by the album. I had a few reasons for why that was but the biggest reason was that I just didn’t like the songs. I didn’t hate it, but nothing stuck and that was that. Kind of. Well, now it’s time for Secret Sphere to release another studio album – their 8th since their debut in 1999 but only their second with Luppi as the singer (the third if you count the re-recording of their second album A Time Never Come (2001) that was released in 2015) who joined the band in 2012. And the reason for this review is – another download link. So despite the live album that never caught on with me, I will do my best to listen to this record with an open mind
Singer Graham Bonnet (ex- Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz, Impellitteri, Blackthorne) has been one creative dude the last few years. Not only has he been touring with his own Graham Bonnet Band and the Michael Schenker Fest, he has also released a double CD and a live album with GBB, released on July 7. Quite impressive for a soon to be 70-year-old guy when you think about the fact that it have been really quiet in Bonnet camp for years before that. Dario Mollo is another quite creative individual. The guy has made records with ex- Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin and three Voodoo Hill albums with Glenn Hughes (ex- Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Black Country Communion, California Breed) and last year’s brilliant Rock The Cradle with his own outfit Crossbones. So, right out of the blue came the news that Mollo had put together a new project with Bonnet – and this is it. Labelled as EZoo, short for Electric Zoo, a name the pair used when they were touring together back in 2014. The couple recorded demos of a bunch of old Rainbow tunes but nothing more came out of that. Until now that is. So with Mollo’s Crossbones record in close memory and Bonnet’s great solo album, hopes were high for this album.
Mean Streak. I have always loved how that sounds. And how it looks in writing. I don’t know why, it just sounds… heavy. And cool. Maybe it’s because of the Y&T album and song with the same name. I love Y&T, they are one of my favourite bands and “Mean Streak” was the first tune I heard with them. Back in 1983, when it came out, I remember thinking “what a great name for a band”. There was an all female band called Meanstreak, but that is spelled wrong, the words should not be a one word. What is weird is that despite my love for this name, when this band finally arrived, I never checked them out. Not once. Why? No clue. Also, the band plays a traditional hard rock / heavy metal which should be to my liking. So if the download link hadn’t entered my mailbox then I’m not sure whether I’d had checked this album out all. Reading the press release it turns out that Max Norman produced this album. Well, Norman is responsible for the production on Y&T’s awesome Black Tiger (1982) album and he has also produced the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Lynch Mob and Megadeth to name a few – and their drummer is Jonas Källsbäck who also handles the sticks in The Night Flight Orchestra, another favorite band of mine.
I’m a Jorn fan. And I’m not a Jorn fan. Have I gone schizophrenic maybe? Nope. See, I love Jorn Lande as a singer, his Ronnie James Dio meets David Coverdale type of voice and ridiculously broad range can send shivers down my spine and when he sings on projects such as Avantasia, Ayreon, Masterplan and Allen/Lande, the guy is brutally awesome! But when he decides to go solo with his own band, I’m not really there. I have gone through every single of his Jorn Band albums and every single one of them has left me underwhelmed. Why? Well, because he’s not just that a great song writer, I’m afraid. Sure, there are always a few really good songs on every album but not many enough to make a great record. There’s a reason why his best solo work is a covers album – last year’s Heavy Rock Radio. When Jorn and former Wig Wam guitarist / song writer Trond Holter put their heads together in 2015 and made the brilliant Swing Of Death album under the moniker Jorn Lande & Trond Holter Presents Dracula and he added Trond to his solo band, I had high hopes that the next Jorn album would be as great as the Dracula thing, but it wasn’t to be. Trond was out quicker than he came in and that was that.
The day before we took off for Sweden Rock Festival we did like we always do – checked out the weather forecast. It was not a nice read at all – rain, rain, rain and more rain. Sweden Rain Festival 2017. Facebook pictures of friends who had already arrived in Sölvesborg spoke of the same thing – rain! I hate rain. Especially when it decides to join us for SRF. There are few things that can screw up my party mood like rain and also, there’s nothing that can convince me to stand outside watching a band – no matter who said band is – when it’s raining cats and dogs outside, so things didn’t look good at all. Well, when we arrived at Ronneby airport, the sun was shining and it didn’t look as bad as the forecast had told us. Finally at our cabin, we could actually sit outside with our shirts off, soaking up the sun with a cold beer in hand. But it didn’t take long before the dark clouds gathered and even though it didn’t start to rain then, we could all feel it coming. But except for a pretty hard shower the first night, the rain decided to go and bother people elsewhere for the rest of the festival – and not only did we got rid of the rain, we also got three days of hot summer and when the sun comes out to keep us warm, we automatically have a winner. The festival that was supposed to rain away, turned into another one of sunshine, smiles, laughter and lots of great music.