If you live outside of Sweden – even in our neighbor countries such as Norway, Denmark and Finland – there’s a pretty large chance that you don’t have a clue who Jim Jidhed is. My guess is that you must have a really great interest in melodic rock and AOR to know who this guy is. In Sweden, on the other hand, I think that more than the usual rocker knows at least something about him. Jim Jidhed became famous in the late 80’s as the frontman and lead singer in Swedish AOR rockers Alien. In 1988 the had a really big hit with a cover of the old Marbles track “Only One Woman”. The song was written by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb and the Marbles – a duo featuring future Rainbow, MSG and Alcatrazz vocalist Graham Bonnet – and was their only hit, something that would also apply on Alien. Jidhed left the band after their self titled debut album was released in 1988 and while Alien carried on, Jidhed released several solo albums, with both Swedish and English lyrics and he also participated in the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest in 1991, where he came at third place with a song called “Kommer Du Ihåg Mig” (Do You Remember Me). In 2005, Jidhed reunited with Alien and released the album Dark Eyes, but the only original members on the record were Jidhed and guitarist Tony Borg. But in 2010, the original Alien line-up reunited and in 2014 came the second album featuring the original band, called Eternity.
Out of the ashes of the Thin Lizzy tribute act that guitarist Scott Gorham and guitarist and lead singer John Sykes once started came Black Star Riders. When the band went into the studio back in 2012 to record their debut album, they were still called Thin Lizzy, something that in all honesty left a somewhat bitter after taste in the mouth. To release an album of newly written material under the Thin Lizzy moniker without the late Philip Lynott wouldn’t have been the right choice – in fact, there was a big risk that no matter how good and Lizzy sounding said album would have been, it would still have left the Thin Lizzy name bedraggled and it would probably have discouraged many Lizzy fans from even giving that record a fair chance. Thankfully Scott & co. realized that as well and changed the name of the band. But the Lizzy comparisons remained and not only because of Gorham’s past but because most of the songs were written with Lizzy in mind and therefore had a huge Thin Lizzy vibe to them and lead singer / rhythm guitarist Ricky Warwick (ex- The Almighty) seemed to try hard to sing in a Lynott kind of way. Well, that mattered little because I thought – and still think – that All Hell Breaks Loose (2013) is a brilliant album. When it was time to release the follow-up, The Killer Instinct (2015), the band had moved away some from the most obvious Lizzy-like moments even though there was lots of it still present. I loved that album too and to be frank, I thought it was even slightly better than the debut. With album number three, I found it interesting to see if the band had dropped the Lizzy vibes furthermore – and of course, if they had managed to once again release another killer album.
Back in 2015, Swedish symphonic AOR-metal band / project The Murder Of My Sweet – led by drummer and song writer Daniel Flores and lead singer Angelica Rylin – released that year’s probably most surprising KO album, the concept album Beth Out Of Hell. Not that the album was the best album of 2015, it wasn’t, and not that I was surprised that they released a really good album because I wasn’t, but it surprised me that it was THAT good. Fact is, that album was nothing short of brilliant. See, the band’s two previous records were really good but I must admit, it’s not like I listen to them very often – it’s been quite a while since that happened – but that’s not the case with Beth Out Of Hell, that record is still safe and sound right in my iPhone – and in my CD collection. I know that to top an album like that is pretty much an impossible task and even though the band’s records have been better and better with each release and I have some really high expectations on the new album, I’m not sure that even I believe that this record will better the last one once again. But they did change the direction lyrically this time. The last album was a concept album, a cinematic record so this time they went in the opposite direction and wrote and album with separate themes for every song lyrically. The music, I reckon, will probably go in the same style of the last three albums.
Wow. This is a band/project I haven’t given any thought in, well, more or less never, to be honest. I mean, I do know of this duo that is former Survivor keyboard player / guitarist Jim Peterik and lead vocalist Toby Hitchcock so a thought or two towards the band must have been going through my mind at some time, but it’s not like this AOR duo has made any impact on me. I received burnt copies of their self titled debut album that came out in 2003 and their second album The Destiny Stone (2004), but even though I didn’t dislike those albums per se, I wasn’t that impressed either. OK AOR but without anything that reached out and grabbed me at all, good but too forgettable is my verdict. And forgot about them I sure did because I didn’t know that they have released no less than three albums back in 2003 – the debut, The Sound Of Home and Black Ribbons (Voices Of The World) (although it looks like the other two aren’t actual studio albums of original tunes from what I have figured out) and I had no clue what so ever about the fact that this album that I’m about to review is number five in their discography – the live album Live In Belgium (2006) excluded. Their last effort Immortal came out in 2012 – another album I didn’t know existed. Fact is, I thought that the two albums I had were the only two Pride Of Lions had ever made, so there you go. So it turns out that Pride Of Lions are an actual band and not just some side project that Peterik and Hitchcock throws themselves into when they don’t have anything better to do.
Back in the glory days of the 80’s and 90’s there were a lot of melodic hard rock bands that dwelled in the ‘almost made it big’ category. Back then it was considered a failure if you “only” sold 500 000 copies of your album in the States. When bands such as Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Van Halen and Aerosmith sold somewhere between 4 – 8 million copies, some of them even more than that and headlined arenas, bands such as Winger, Warrant, Slaughter, Cinderella, Tesla and Stryper still had to tour as opening acts or playing smaller venues while selling somewhere between 500 000 to 2 million copies of each album – a number any band would sacrifice one of their testicles for today. Economically, it worked out fine if they played in the US and Japan and maybe Great Britain and Germany, but to tour Scandinavia and many other European countries was impossible without losing money. Some of those bands came over here as opening acts but the fact is, all those ‘almost made it big’ bands weren’t that big over here. Another one of those bands were Great White. They had hits, they sold pretty large amounts of records, but they never managed to make it to the next step. Then came grunge and it was all over. But just like the rest of those bands, Great White reformed with different line-ups when melodic hard rock had its resurrection somewhere in the mid 2000’s. In 2011, original guitarist Mark Kendall brought along drummer Audie Desbrow and keyboardist / guitarist Michael Lardie (none of those two are original members but both joined on the second album Shot In The Dark, 1986) together with ex XYZ singer Terry Illouis, leaving original singer Jack Russell behind. That version of Great White released the excellent Elation back in 2012.
The year was 1984 and I was listening to the radio, something I usually didn’t – and still don’t – do very often. This was some mainstream radio station and the reporter talked to a young female who had been living in the U.S. as an exchange student and one of her friends had dragged her along to see a concert with a band called Ratt. She told the reporter that she had been so knocked out by the gig and was now a huge Ratt fan so she asked the reporter could they play Ratt’s recent hit single “Round And Round”? They could – and did. Now, I had never heard Ratt before but I had heard the name mentioned because the band had made it big over there. It only took the opening riff for me to get completely blown away and I bought both the band’s self titled E.P. from 1983 and their debut full-length album Out Of The Cellar (1984) and became a fan right there and then. Invasion Of Your Privacy (1985) is in my book the band’s best album but also their last great one. Dancing Undercover (1986) had some really great songs but was a disappointment and both Reach For The Sky (1988) and Detonator (1990) proved that Ratt’s glory days were probably over even though both had some good song on them. Since then the band have split up, reunited, split up again and reunited once more with sliding doors for band members, both original and new ones, to come and go, making it really hard to for the fans to know who’s actually in the band at the time. As for now the line-up looks pretty stable – at least for the time being.
I remember so well the first time I heard Kreator back in the late 80’s / early 90’s. I had heard OF them before, they showed up in all the hard rock and metal magazines I used to read back then, but since I was never a thrash metal fan I never gave them the time of day – I knew it would be a waste of time for me. But Headbanger’s Ball Europe – fronted by the brilliant VJ Vanessa Warwick – played their video of “Betrayer” (Extreme Aggression, 1989) and the jaws of your truly dropped to the floor. Not in a positive way, I might add. As I said, as a sucker for melodic hard rock, hard rock, AOR and heavy metal with no regards for thrash metal what so ever, I wondered if someone was playing me, if this was some kind of joke because I couldn’t find anything in that song that was even close to a melody and song structure. Even when my tastes had been stretched and I had taken a liking to stuff like Metallica and Megadeth, I couldn’t understand what was so good about Kreator. But that was then and for the last 15 years or so, I have taken a liking for harder stuff like Slayer and Testament and even more extreme acts like Dimmu Borgir and Watain. Still, that “Betrayer” video has stuck in my mind which has made me ignoring Kreator totally. Until now. Why? Well, let’s just say that for their brand new record – their 14th – there has been lots of big talk – some of that came from people I wouldn’t have expected liking Kreator – so I just had to check out their video for the title track of this album and it got me interested in, if not the band as such, then at least this album.
I guess for many rockers out there – especially rockers outside of Sweden – the name Bo Stagman might not ring that many bells. But if I write Zinny Zan instead, said bells might just toll. For those with quiet bells, Bo Stagman is the birth name of Zinny Zan, the singing glam rocker that once started the band Easy Action in 1983 with the now ex- Europe gun slinger Kee Marcello and who later joined Kingpin, the band that became Shotgun Messiah that sold half a million copies of their 1989 self titled debut album in the U.S. alone. After leaving / got sacked from the band, he went home to his native Sweden and formed Grand Slam (who had Jacob Samuel, the lead singer from The Poodles on drums) that didn’t work, formed his own band Zan Clan whose debut album Citizen Of Wasteland (1994) blew dog – and therefore didn’t sell that many copies. Zinny split the band and recorded a criminally underrated (and very hard to get) solo album, City Boy Blues in 2002 only to resurrect Zan Clan two years later, now together with guitarist and producer Chris Laney (Pretty Maids, Shotgun, Laney’s Legion, Randy Piper’s Animal), guitarist Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall, The Poodles, Great King Rat, Talisman) (later replaced by Love Magnusson of Dynazty), bass player Pontus Egberg (Treat, King Diamond, The Poodles, Lion’s Share) (later replaced by Nalley Påhlsson of Royal Mess, Therion, Last Autumn’s Dream, Treat, Randy Piper’s Animal) and drummer J. Koleberg (Hammerfall, Therion, Randy Piper’s Animal) and they released the brilliant We Are Zan Clan, Who The F**k Are You? (2004) and the live album Kickz The Livin Shit Outta Stockholm City (2006).
One thing I love about writing reviews is that I get the chance to check out new music that I might never have stumbled over otherwise. I’m a sucker for finding new music – new bands, new records by old bands, old records by new bands – I also love when I’m wrong about an act that I might have slagged off before, when I hear that record that changes my mind about a certain band. So it’s always exciting when a new download link enters my inbox. But it’s not always fun, sometimes I get albums that I find awful and sometimes there are albums that just doesn’t do fuck-O for for me – you know, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. And every album that I find good and interesting enough is always a buy for me even though I got it for free in the first place – support the artists you dig! Hevidence are a new band for me, a band I had never heard of before. The band was formed by Italian guitar player Diego Reali in 2010 as Evidence and released an album, There’s Only Ten Left in 2011, but since Evidence went through so many line-up changed, Reali decided to change the name of the band as he believed that it wasn’t the same band anymore. I reckon the Hevidence moniker came to as he probably didn’t want to stray away from a name that might had been known to many (well…) people and that only adding an H would help old fans recognize who was involved in the band.
It takes a brave man to jump into a band situation the way Nic Maeder did when he replaced the late Steve Lee in Gotthard. Lee was the band’s frontman – a damn good one, the lead singer – a damn good one and together with guitarist Leo Leoni, the main songwriter in the band and of course very hard to replace. It would have been one thing if Lee had left the band to do other things, but since Lee was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2010, it must have been far from easy to step in and shoulder Lee’s place in the band. Gotthard were formed in 1992 and released nine albums with Lee and in their native Switzerland, the band was huge. Internationally, the band had grown bigger and bigger with each album and by the time of Lee’s death they were on the threshold of making it really big internationally so the tragedy of Lee’s passing was more than the guys losing a dear friend – as that wasn’t horrible enough. So, to jump into a situation like that takes guts – and then some!