I sat down in front of my TV some day back in 1988 to watch some of the hard rock / metal shows that was on the satellite TV shows back then. In 1988, cable wasn’t that usual in Sweden and the place I lived in was pretty early in getting it. I can’t remember if it was on Super Channel or Sky Channel but I never ever missed out on any of the shows that played hard rock and metal videos. Since the more melodic rock and AOR sounding music was huge back in ’88, many of the bands that were being played were in that vein, much to my happiness since I totally adored that kind of music back then (I still love that kind of music but my taste has grown much broader with age). One of the tracks on that show was the debut single from this new band Dare – “Abandon” – that had just been released and the female VJ said “…and girls, check out the lead singer, he’s really something else….”. The song came on and it was just jaw dropping. Little did I know when I saw that video was that the hunky lead singer was no one else than former Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton. I was – and still is – a huge Thin Lizzy fan, but I had never paid much attention to Wharton before and since I didn’t even know he had formed a new band, it never dawned on me that this was the Lizzy guy – the female VJ never mentioned it either which is kind of strange. What I did know was that I had to have that album, called Out Of The Silence, and I made sure that that happened the next day or so. To me, Out Of The Silence is an AOR classic and I had the pleasure to see Dare open up for Europe on their Out Of This World tour in 1988, a concert that I still hold as one of my favorite concerts ever. But Dare never managed to top that record and the fact is, they have never even been close to do that.
When I first saw the track list for this album, I though it was a mini-album or an E.P. But then I saw the length of the songs – 14.41, 9.24, 7.32, 18.43 – and stood corrected. Four songs in about 50-some minutes can only mean one thing – this is prog music of some sort. Since I have never heard of this band before I didn’t know if I could expect pop, rock or metal – or all of the above. But a quick google told me that the band has been around since 2006 and this album was their fifth, preceded by Circa 2007, Circa HQ (2009), Overflow (2009) and And So On (2012). They have also released two live albums, one in 2008 and one in 2013, which means that if I dug this record, I have missed out.
The way I see it, live album has run their course. Think about it, when was the last time you heard a live record that made you go apeshit right away? It was back in the seventies and maybe early eighties when live albums were a force to be reckoned with, today every band releases a live DVD after each world tour and most live albums doesn’t even sound live. Yeah, I know, live albums were full of overdubs back in the day as well, but those albums sounded live, they had a spark, passion and they kicked ass. Hard. Kiss Alive and Alive II, Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous, Deep Purple’s Made In Japan, UFO’s Strangers In The Night, Scorpions’ Tokyo Tapes, Queen’s Live Killers, Cheap Trick’s At Bodukan and The Ramones’ It’s Alive are all classics, furious rock albums that didn’t take no prisoners and rocked the living daylight out of us – and they all came out in the seventies. The 80’s gave us a few live killers as well – Whitesnake’s Live…In The Heart Of The City, Iron Maiden’s Live After Death and Scorpions’ World Wide Live were all awesome, but since then I can’t think of any really great live albums released even though there has been a few that are ok. So, when I hear that a band is about to put out a live record, I just shrug my shoulders – live albums just don’t seem that interesting any more. But there are exceptions. For example, I know that Swedish melodic rockers H.E.A.T. are a killer live band and therefore I just had to check out their 2015 release Live In London and that record really rocked, the same with Live Down Decadencia Drive by Shotgun earlier this year – two albums that both felt and sounded real live, much because I know how damn good both bands are on stage. Crazy Lixx are another melodic hard rock band that, even though I love their records, I think are even better live so a live album from them is something that, at least to me, is a must to check out.
Before I got the link for this record, I had never heard of this band. Apparently this Italian power metal outfit used to be a Helloween tribute act (more on that later on), but after some years working as such – they formed back in 2002 – the band released their debut album of original music Evil Needs Candy Too in 2006 to much critical acclaim, according to the press release. Three years later the band released their second album Tin Soldier on which they managed to get a couple of well-known guests in ex- Helloween singer Michael Kiske and future Whitesnake keysman Michele Luppi where the first must have been a dream come true for the band. But 2012 had to be the most happening year for the band – and at least for singer Alessandro Conti as he was chosen for the lead singer spot in Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. But that was also the year that they released the first chapter of their Rabbit hill rock opera, titled Rabbits’ Hill Pt 1.
To most people, even rockers, Q5 might not be a well-known name, but the fact is, this band is responsible for one of the greatest underground cult classics ever. I remember listening to Steel The Light (1984) back when it was released and all of my friends loved that record. I thought that Q5 would be one of the biggest metal bands, but that – as we all know – never happened. Little did we know that Steel The Light would be hailed as a classic metal / hard rock album by hard rockers all over the world some 30 years after its release. But the biggest reason for Q5 never climbing up to the big league was released the year after, in 1985, and was called When The Mirror Cracks, one of the biggest sell-outs I have ever heard in my life. That album is so different to its predecessor that it doesn’t even sound like the same band. All the heaviness, the big groove, the big, dynamic and ballsy sounds had been replaced by bleeping synthesizers, electronic drums and lame pop melodies that would make Nelson sound like a death metal band in comparison. I am 100% sure that Q5 lost pretty much all of the respect they got with their debut album and that most of their fans took their interest to other bands instead because of that album.
Every time I hear about some new melodic hard rock band that looks like they have been hidden in some forgotten apartment down on Sunset Strip since 1988, I always get my hopes up that THIS band will be the new hope for melodic rock, but too often, I get highly disappointed as soon as I push play. In the last 10 years or so there has been quite a lot of melodic hard rock that has rocked my world, but America seems to be extremely unproductive when it comes to that kind of music. Instead, Scandinavia has been the leading part of the world when it comes to melodic hard rock. H.E.A.T., Crazy Lixx, Crashdiet, Nordic Union, Eclipse, Ammunition, W.E.T., Casablanca, Laney’s Legion and Sister Sin are some of the bands that have released awesome records time after another in recent years – and Inglorious from England, of course. Also, the press releases for new bands can be a really interesting read as well. Sometimes, just by reading those, you get an idea just how amazingly brilliant said band is, if you divide said press release by at least half. Like the one written for Tempt. To write that the band is a mix of new and old and that they have “a sound and swagger that combines the cut and thrust of modern rock (like Foo Fighters and Rival Sons) with the blazing pride and passion of vintage arena rock (think Van Halen and Def Leppard); a staggering achievement in this day and age” is one thing and I buy that, but to finish the whole thing with “any fan of melodic and hard rock should definitely check Tempt out as they bring a fresh new energy. Tempt is this generations’ Van Halen!” is definitely overkill, in my book.
Wolf Hoffmann needs no introduction. If you – as a rocker – haven’t been living under a rock deep in the woods for the last 30 years, Wolf Hoffmann’s name should at least ring a bell. But ok, for you who have been living under said rock, Wolf is the guitar player for German metal band Accept and has been their guitarist since the beginning. Today, he and bass player Peter Baltes are the only original members in that band – and the guys who writes all Accept’s songs as well. Accept have in the last few years been making big progress in their comeback that took place in 2010 – the band more or less had to start from the beginning again when they hired American Mark Tornillo as the replacement for the charismatic Udo Dirkschneider. So after three successful albums where the latest one, Blind Rage, turned out to be one of the best albums Accept ever made, guitarist Wolf Hoffmann breaks loose to release a solo album. As I had no clue of the fact that Wolf had already released one instrumental solo album back in 1997 called Classical, this solo album came a s a bit of a surprise. And just like Classical, this one is an instrumental album made of old classical music pieces covered as metal songs. For Accept fans, Hoffmann’s fascination with classic music interpreted as metal isn’t any thing new – for instance, we all remember him throwing in “Für Elise” as a section in the solo in “Metal Heart” back in 1985.
First a confession: To me Fates Warning were never anything but a Queensrÿche light. Yes, I know that both bands started out pretty much at the same time and that they probably share influences more than any of them being influenced by the other. But Queensrÿche became bigger quicker and when I first lent Fates Warning an ear, I was already a Queensrÿche fan since many years. The first time I heard Fates Waring was when Headbanger’s Ball played the video for “Eye Eo Eye”, the first single off their then brand new album Parallels (1991). For a Queensrÿche fan as myself, that song was pure heaven and I bought Parallels the following day. Now, I have never heard the John Arch fronted line-up that released their first records Night On Bröcken (1984), The Spectre Within (1985), Awaken The Guardian (1986) and No Exit (1988) and it took me quite a while to finally get my shit together and give the debut Ray Alder sung album Perfect Symmetry (1989) a spin, but I have no doubts that Fates Warning were never better than on Parallels, neither before or after. The follow-up Inside Out from 1994 was a really good album, but nowhere near its predecessor and the next album to be released, 1997’s A Pleasant Shade Of Gray sure had its moments but was to me underwhelming and to this day I can’t remember one song on that record. That’s when I lost interest. That means that I haven’t heard a note from the following albums Disconnected (2000) and FWX (2004).
Many moons ago (a few years actually) I was in this Facebook music group where we posted music videos, Spotify links and YouTube audios of artists known and unknown that we liked and hoped someone else would pick up on. I liked that group but of course, there’s always have to be some dip-shit that ruins it for everyone else and starts behaving like a dick, so I left the group. Too bad because I have picked up quite a lot of cool, new music from there. One day, a guy posted a video by this Texan retro rock band called Scorpion Child. At first it didn’t interest me as I didn’t like the name and the video looked like some amateurish home-made work of art and besides, it had been raining old retro acts for quite some time that had one or both their feet in the 70’s and it was actually getting a bit overmuch. But soon I saw the many positive comments and checked it out properly. What hit me like a ton of bricks was, yes, this was hard rock, 70’s retro stuff, but this lot was heavy and melodic with melodies to die for. Of course, I had to check out their self-titled debut album, released in 2013 and of course, the damned thing blew me the f**k away – hard! Needless to say, I bought the CD right off the bat and the record still holds a safe place in my phone.
In all honesty, I’m not sure how objective I can be when it comes to writing a Rival Sons review. I mean, sure, if the album sucks, it sucks, but the thing is, I pretty much worship these guys. But the thing is, I was a late bloomer when it comes to this band. When I finally got my thumb out of my ass and gave them a chance, their third album Head Down (2012) had been out for quite a while, like a year or so which also meant that I also missed all of their concerts in Sweden including their appearance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2012. How stupid! How come a music nerd like yours truly decides to skip a band that is shit hot and plays the kind of classic rock that he loves so much? Well, because of the hype, that’s why. See, I can be a really stubborn, obstinate and bull-headed grumpy fuck when I choose to and sometimes when the hype gets too big, I just turn around and refuse to give in. Again, how stupid! But of course, there was not a chance in Hell that I wouldn’t come around sooner or later – I knew in the back of my head that someone would play me THAT song, the song that would make go “Damn!” and succumb to the hype and that is exactly what happened.