“If it wasn’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all”, sang Mötley Crüe on their song “Keep Your Eye On The Money” from Theatre Of Pain (1985) and since Mötley Crüe clearly were an influence on Sweden’s most glam-sleazers Crashdïet, that line really fits to describe Crashdïet’s career. Just when Crashdïet were bound for greatness, Diet’s lead singer Dave Lepard committed suicide in 2006, only one year after their critically acclaimed debut album Rest In Sleaze was released. If it wasn’t enough to lose a dear friend and fellow band member, the band’s career was about to hit shit creek as well. Singer number 2, Olliver Twisted (now Olli Herman, singer in Finish pop-glamsters Reckless Love) only lasted one album (The Unattractive Revolution, 2007) and when they finally found a vocalist that fitted the band like a glove, Simon Cruz, he also quit the band – in 2015 after two really good albums, Generation Wild (2010) and The Savage Playground (2013), just when the band had grown bigger and their future looked really bright. Stuff like this sure is enough for anyone to throw in the towel and put the band to rest. If Crashdïet’s story has come to an end is open for speculation but nothing definite has been said of the matter but what’s clear is that guitar player Martin Sweet have moved on to do his own thing for a while – a thing he has chosen to call Sweet Creature. Martin’s new outfit is something he will run at the same time as his pretty new membership in Swedish glam/punk/metal outfit Sister, whom he joined earlier this year.
Blackberry Smoke are my favorite southern rock band. To be honest, that doesn’t speak for much because I’m not really a big fan of southern rock. Lynyrd Skynyrd? Nope. Molly Hatchet? Nah. Blackfoot? Hell yeah! But to me Blackfoot weren’t really a southern rock band, to these ears, they were more a ballsy hard rock band with a big chunk of southern influences. But Blackberry Smoke are a southern rock band straight up. That’s why it took me a while to get my thumb out of my ass to check them out, but when I did – much because a friend of mine more or less forced me to – I was hooked right away. I can’t put my finger on why but that album – A Little Piece Of Dixie (2009) – really moved me and it got under my skin somehow. I loved that album intensively and when they released The Whippoorwill three years later, I just didn’t stand a chance – I was hooked for real. That album is to this day my favorite Blackberry Smoke record even though its predecessor and their latest effort Holding All The Roses (2015) aren’t that far behind. The only Blackberry Smoke record I find a bit on the uneven side – although not even close to bad – is their debut Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime (2004). And I’m not the only one who has discovered Georgia, Atlanta’s finest in recent years because Blackberry Smoke’s popularity has been rising with every album – their last album being their biggest success so far and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if they will become a huge major act in the very near future.
What got me interested in this band first hand was their name – Heaven Below. I just loved the name from the first time I read it, which was when the download link showed up in my inbox – because I had never heard about this band before. Heaven Below were formed in Los Angeles back in 2007 by vocalist / guitarist Patrick Kennison, guitarist Marty O’Brien (Disturbed) and session drummer Chad Clark and in 2008, bassist Dave Comer joined them to complete the line-up. But later that year, Comer and O’Brien left the band and were replaced by Jesse Billson (guitar) and John Younger (bass). That was the line-up that recorded their debut album Countdown To Devil in 2009, produced by one Ben Moody of Evanescence fame. After the release of the album, Clark jumped the ship and was replaced by Elias Andra (Dead By Sunrise) and it would take Heaven Below three years to release the follow-up Falling From Zero (2012). I have to admit that I’m clueless of the sales of these albums and how big this band is overseas – or in Europe for that matter – but I guess the band had become big enough to sign up with Megadeth’s David Ellefson’s EMP Label Group for the release of their brand new third album, the first one with new guitarist Lucas Kanopa who replaced Billson who left in 2014. The new record is a somewhat ambitious piece of work as it is a concept album on an idea that the guys started to work on some four years ago.
Right in a time – 1992 – when grunge was about to take over the music scene completely, a band called Hardline released their debut album Double Eclipse, an album today seen as a melodic rock / AOR classic. It was the two brothers, Johnny (vocals) and Joey Gioeli (guitar) who had joined forces with bass player Ted Jensen (Harlow) for a new band. Fresh from a two album sejour with the band Bad English, former Journey guitar player Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey, Revolution Saints) joined forces with the threesome and formed the band Hardline. In 1992 there was still a melodic hard rock scene, but both record sales and concert attendance had started to drop for bands in that genre, but Hardline managed to ship the album platinum and getting really big hits with the songs “Hot Cherie” and the ballad “Can’t Find My Way Home”. Despite the success, the band fell apart after just one tour with Schon and Castronovo reuniting Journey and when that happened brother Joey and Jensen also left, which meant that Hardline were no more. In 1998, Johnny Gioeli resurfaced as the singer in German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell’s band, replacing singers Jeff Scott Soto and Rob Rock, a position he still holds to this day.
The year was 1991 and a new band called Tyketto – formed by former Waysted singer Danny Vaughn, guitarist Brooke St James, bassist Jimi Kennedy (who was replaced by Jamie Scott three years later) and drummer Michael Clayton (who changed his last name to Arbeeny in later years) had just released their debut album Don’t Come Easy on the DGC (David Geffen Company) label, a sister label to the hugely successful Geffen Records, who had bands like Guns N’ Roses, Whitesnake, Aerosmith and Tesla in their stable. There was a kind of buzz about the band then and when Headbanger’s Ball started to plug the video for their debut single “Forever Young”, we were a large bunch of rockers who truly believed that Tyketto were the next band to make it really big. But 1991 was the last great year for melodic hard rock before grunge killed that scene off. Tyketto never made it big and after the follow-up Strength In Numbers (1994) totally bombed, singer Vaughn jumped the ship. By then, Geffen had already dropped the band and their new label Music For Nations couldn’t do much to break the band. After a weak and unfocused album called Shine in 1996, then fronted by former Tall Stories and future Journey vocalist Steve Augeri, the band called it quits.
Ever since I first laid my eyes (and ears) on Kee Marcello and his then band, the glam rocking Easy Action, in an obscure documentary that featured a concert with the band some 30+ years ago that Swedish television broadcasted for some weird reason, I have been a huge fan of his guitar playing. Why they showed that documentary is still not clear because back in 1984, Swedish television wasn’t that big on viewing hard rock at all, but they did. Me, I wasn’t an Easy Action before that, quite the contrary. I knew about them because they had been featured quite heavily in Sweden’s biggest youth magazine (a mag that wrote about all kinds of music, TV series and movies) and some of the members came from a very big pop band called Noice (yes, that’s how they spelled it) and I hated Noice, so I didn’t care for Easy Action one bit. But that changed after said documentary – I became a major fan right there and then. Easy Action later turned from a glam rock band with big Sweet, Bowie and Alice Cooper influences into an AOR band where the influences were more Journey and Toto (and a change of singer from Zinny Zan (later Shotgun Messiah) to Tommy Nilsson) and that version released the very underrated second album That Makes One in 1986. But by then, John Norum had left Europe and that band hired Marcello just weeks before the release of That Makes One. They way I see it, Europe became a better band with Marcello and if Kee had been showing off his guitar playing skills pre-Europe, the two albums he released with the band – Out Of This World (1988) and Prisoners In Paradise (1991, an album we’ll get back to in this review) – really put him on the map as a world-class player among the greats. But Europe split when grunge came knocking and Kee went back to Sweden with a cocaine habit and a new band, Red Fun, that bombed completely. A bit unfair, since Red Fun were a really good band.
Being a music (rock) fan who loves to find new exciting bands, it’s always nice to find an unheard band’s record in my mailbox. Of course, being the sole writer for this site, it’s impossible to make the time to write a review of every album that comes my way, so there are and will always be records that falls on the way side – and I’m sure I have missed out on a few really cool albums because of that. There have also been albums that I have found really uninteresting but reviewed anyway. See, if I make the time to carefully listen to a record, I make sure to review it the best I can, even if I feel that the record in question might have been one of those I maybe should have skipped. Why I found the debut full length album Impulse by Orange County, CA rockers Idlewar interesting enough to check out even though I hadn’t heard of the band before beats the Hell out of me – I just did. Idlewar is a three-piece power trio which formed in 2014 and has one 5 track E.P. called “Dig In” behind them prior to this record.
It took me a really long time to apprehend the greatness of Alter Bridge. When they first started out, I wasn’t the least interested in them and the reason for that is spelled Creed. 3/4 of Alter Bridge – guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Philips – were once, together with singer Scott Stapp, the band Creed and Creed were never my thing, to me they were only a more radio friendly, poor man’s version of Pearl Jam. But Creed called it quits after a turbulent tour in 2003 where singer Stapp went loony and through the ashes of Creed, Tremonti, Marshall and Philips formed Alter Bridge with their new guitar playing lead singer Myles Kennedy (ex – The Mayfield Four) and in 2004 they foursome released their debut album One Day Remains, an album that went Gold in the States and got some really good reviews. But to me, they were nothing but Creed with another singer so I didn’t bother with that album. Neither did I bother with the follow-up Blackbird (2007), an album that only sold half as much as its predecessor. It would take until 2010 when I got my shit together and gave the band a chance due to a song on compilation CD from Classic Rock Magazine lifted from their the new album AB III – and, of course, that I heard the mighty Myles Kennedy sing with Slash. That song (and the Slash connection) – I don’t remember which song it was – made me check out the whole album and the album totally floored me. AB III was a brilliant record and as far as I was concerned, they didn’t sound like Creed at all – and Myles Kennedy turned out to be an amazing singer. Alter Bridge’s last album Fortress (2013) was a killer as well (an album I only gave 8/10 when today I think it’s a very strong 9/10) – I can’t make up my mind about which one I love the most so let’s call it a tie – and it proved to me that AB III wasn’t just a lucky shot. The first two records, then? Well, they’re not bad but I just can’t seem to make them stick – good, but not great.
Another year, another Y&T gig – and no one is happier than me. I remember back in the 80’s when as a huge Y&T fan, I was wondering why the Hell this band never showed up in my little country. I mean, every band and their mother played here so why not Y&T? I loved the band, I had a lot of friends who loved the band and they had a pretty big following in Sweden. Hell, back in 1984, their then new album In Rock We Trust showed up at our top 20 chart, so they did sell albums as well. But nope, no Y&T concert in sight. It took all the way to 2003 when Sweden Rock Festival gave them a call and asked if they might wanna reunite for a gig. They did – it was their second reunion – and original members Dave Meniketti (lead guitar, lead vocals), Philip Kennemore (bass, 1953 – 2011) and Leonard Haze (drums, 1955 – 2016) together with new guitarist John Nymann played a fabulous gig in front of a really big crowd, a gig that made the band come back they year after to play another killer gig and with that, Y&T were back in action again and since they have visited Sweden every year to play. Due to health reasons, Haze quit the band shortly after and was replaced by Mike Vanderhule, a line-up that was consistent until bass player and the core of Y&T with Meniketti bit the dust in 2011, losing a battle with cancer. His replacement Brad Lang played in the band until this year when he left to treat his alcoholism. That meant that this gig was the first one in Sweden for new bass player Aaron Leigh.
Let me tell you, I’m such a big sucker for the underdog, for the dedicated musicians and artists that keeps on doing what they love and never give in an inch and refuses to compromise what they do. Lordi started out as far back as 1992 but it would take them 10 years to release their debut album Get Heavy in 2002. For the first few years and albums – the follow up The Monsterican Dream came out in 2004 – Lordi were, to most parts of the world, an underground phenomenon that despite writing catchy hard rock tunes and having a number one single in Finland for “Would You Love A Monsterman” from the debut. The guys went all in on creating a big horror theater with masks and huge costumes that made Kiss, Alice Cooper and W.A.S.P. look like a kids’ masquarade in comparison. Also, the guys showed that they could write some really catchy and hitty songs that bore much resemblance to bands such as Bon Jovi, Europe, late 80’s Kiss, stuff that easily could (should?) have been hits but they weren’t strangers to pure heavy metal either, a good mix that could satisfy both fans of the heavier stuff and the more soft and poppy fans. The thing is, I often wonder if the big costumes and masks were a hinder for the band in the beginning, that maybe they would have had their hits if they were just a regular band. But things would change drastically for the band. Back in 2006, against all odds the band participated in the Finnish version of the Eurovision Song Contest and what was even more surprising, they also the won the whole ESC. The fact is, Lordi actually won that contest bigger than any other act in ESC’s history – the artist on second place didn’t stand a chance. But that was also the band’s downfall. Overnight, the whole world knew who Lordi were and the song in question, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” became a monster (sic!) hit all over the world. But in tow of the contest came the fact that Lordi became a circus, one for small kids – a Lordi gig wasn’t underground anymore and their early fans probably had it with sharing venues with whole families that came just to hear THAT song and had no clue what the band was all about. In just a few years, Lordi had went from an underground heavy metal band to huge to a band that most rockers didn’t wanna know and it has since then been almost shameful to admit that you like the band. Nothing is more untrue for a true rocker than being a Lordi fan. How ridiculous.