Who said rock was dead? Gene Simmons? Well, Gene, just because rock musicians doesn’t became filthy rich out of selling CDs anymore doesn’t mean that rock is dead. It’s quite the opposite, actually. The bands that keeps on playing and the young musicians that forms bands nowadays are the ones that truly loves music and loves to play and they will do it no matter what. So, no rock isn’t dead, it’s alive and well, kicking and screaming and one proof of that is the endless stream of debut albums that are being released in the last ten years or so – they are actually so many that it’s hard to keep up with all the releases. The quality of the music is also very often really high which speaks volumes for the health of rock ‘n’ roll in 2016. So you can sit back in your mansion and relax while counting your green, Gene. One of the new bands that has released their debut full length album in 2016 is RavenEye from the U.K. The band was formed back in 2014 by guitarist and lead singer Oli Brown, bass player Aaron Spiers and drummer Kev Hickman and in 2015 the trio released their debut E.P. “Breaking Out” and went on tour supporting acts such as Deep Purple, Halestorm, Slash, The Darkness and The Blues Pills. The E.p. sold fairly well and it got some critical acclaim from both fans and media.Together with producer Warren Riker (Lauren Hill, Michael Jackson, Down, Anders Osborne), who was the engineer on the E.P., the guys spent most of 2016 writing and recording their debut full-length album for Frontiers records, an album that has just been released. Described as a ballsy, authentic, down-to-earth rock band with a big sound and lots attitude, it was all that it took for me to get interested in this band.
Once upon a time (the eighties) in Great Britain there was a little band called Seven. Like so many other bands in the 80′ rock scene, Seven played melodic hard rock with a big chunk of AOR, they had the cute looks and all the cool clothes and like so many others, they were set for world domination. Well, in reality, the band – singer Mick Devine, guitarist Keith Mcfarlane, bassist Pat Davey, drummer Austin Lane and keyboardist Simon Lefevre – got themselves a manager in John Wolff (The Who, John Parr) who got them on shitloads of tours, even with full-blown pop acts such as Jason Donovan (anyone remember him, Kylie Minogue’s old boyfriend?), Richard Marx and The Monkees. Maybe not the most optimal gig for a rock band but they did reach out to really big crowds. In turn, the band got in touch with the head on Polydor Records who had attended a show with his family. Clearly impressed, he got to hear Seven’s demos, which they had a lot of (some of the songs had actually been played on Radio One in GB) and offered them a deal to record a couple of singles. The rumour that Seven actually recorded a full album that later got shelved and the band dropped is inaccurate. Two singles, “Inside Love” and “Man With A Vision”, was recorded and released with John Parr (“St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)”) producing, but that was all that came out of the deal and for reasons unknown to me the band split up, leaving at least two albums worth of demo material.
First off, Operation: Mindcrime are not a band. It may look that way but this is Geoff Tate’s solo career with a bunch of hired hands under a band name. Nothing wrong with that, many bands are like that, but this project is all about Tate, he’s the singer, frontman, leader and the one that calls all the shots. Why am I writing this then? Well, the fact that Tate is the captain of this ship might worry some people. Why? Well, his old band Queensrÿche were really close to going under when Tate did what he felt like with that band. The last few Queensrÿche albums were also more or less Tate’s solo albums, written and recorded by him and producer Jason Slater and the rest of the guys hardly played a note on them. Those are albums that has few fans around the world, because, well, most of them are really bad and they nearly cost Queensrÿche its career. Also, the first album that Tate made with his own version of Queensrÿche, Frequency Unknown, only proved what many fans had feared, Tate had completely lost it musically. When Tate decided to name his new outfit after his former band’s most popular and best-selling album, it was clear that he wouldn’t leave Queensrÿche completely – the way I see it, to take a name like that is to paint yourself into a corner somewhat. Why not just let the past be past and just start over? Well, be that as it may, Tate’s new career is in full bloom and last year, the band released their debut album The Key, an album that came with a lot of low expectations for many people, including me.
After Meat Loaf’s two latest catastrophic albums Hang Cool Teddy Bear (2010) and Hell In A Handbasket (2011) combined with my memories of his almost as catastrophic performance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2007, I had no expectations what so ever that his new album – his first in five years – would be anything to write home about. The only small ray of I hope I had for this album to turn out at least decent was that he, once again, had teamed up with his old song writer Jim Steinman, the guy who wrote Meat’s two classic albums Bat Out Of Hell (1977) and Dead Ringer (1981). However, those two albums were produced by Todd Rundgren and this one isn’t, it’s produced by one Paul Crook, Meat’s guitar player (also earlier with Anthrax and Sebastian Bach) who was also responsible for the production on Meat Loaf’s last album, something that didn’t bode well for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig some of Meat Loaf’s earlier albums, Bat Out Of Hell and Dead Ringer are both classics for a reason, brilliant albums both of them. I’m also a huge fan of the Mack produced Bad Attitude (1984), Welcome To The Neighbourhood (1995) and Couldn’t Have Said It Better (2003), three albums that just screams out classic Meat Loaf even though neither Steinman or Rundgren being involved. Also, the two Bat Out Of Hell sequels, II: Back Into Hell (1993) and III: The Monster Is Loose (2006) have both been criticized pretty heavily, something I feel is unfair as I think both of them, especially the second one, are really good records. But Meat Loaf is also responsible for a couple of real musical belly flops – other than his two latest ones, that is. Midnight At The Lost And Found (1983) and Blind Before I Stop (1986) are both horrible pieces of crap that should never have been allowed to see the light of day – or any other time of the day. That means that Meat Loaf’s career has been a roller coaster quality and sales wise so you’ll never know whether he’ll come up with a killer or a stinker every time a new record is released. At 69 years old, Marvin (now changed to Michael) Lee Aday, releases a new album that is rumoured to be his last before retiring so even if my expectations were low, I was still hoping that if this actually is his last record, he would go out with a bang.
My first encounter with Peter Tägtgren’s side project Pain came back in 1999 when he/they had a bit of a hit with the song “End Of The Line” from their / his then new album Rebirth and I loved it instantly. I wasn’t familiar with Tägtgren at all prior to that song – Tägtgren’s then day job was as band leader / singer for the death metal band Hypocrisy and since death metal isn’t even on my musical map, neither Hypocrisy or Pain’s 1997 self-titled debut album caught my interest one bit. But “End Of The Line” made me buy that second album and I really dug the way Pain mixed melodic death metal with pop, Eurotechno and industrial – the songs were both aggressive and pop enough for main stream radio. I also found the follow-up Nothing Remains The Same (2002) a really great album. Hell, the band even used a song written by Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Bon Jovi) on the song “Just Hate Me” and a cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, which proved that there were no musical rules for Tägtgren & co. But since then I have lost interest in Pain more and more. Not that the records – Dancing With The Dead (2005), Psalms Of Extinction (2007), Cynic Paradise (2008), You Only Live Twice (2011) – were bad, they weren’t, but it just felt that the albums were too much of the same thing. Here’s the deal, every time I listen to them I think: “Well, this is actually really good”, but afterwards I really have no desire to listen to them again anytime soon.
I must admit that it took me some years to really get Evergrey. Fact is, when the band debuted with The Dark Discovery in 1998, I thought that they were a death or black metal band and since I’m not a big fan of neither, I never bothered to check them out then. I still haven’t heard that record, or the follow-ups Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy (1999) and In Search Of Truth (2001). My first run-in with the band was when I heard their version of Dilba’s (a Swedish female pop singer) mega hit “I’m Sorry”, a ballad so I figured that this lot just might not be a black or death metal band after all. Around the same time a friend of mine gave me a burnt copy of their then latest album Recreation Day (2003) because “I just HAD to listen to that band”, he stated. And he was right – the album was brilliant and since then, I have followed Evergrey with every album, but unfortunately, I have only seen them live one time – at Sweden Rock Festival last year, a very good gig. But even though I have liked all their albums since then – some more, some less – it would take them a while to make an album that held the same high quality as Recreation Day. The two follow-ups The Inner Circle (2004) and Monday Morning Apocalypse (2006) were both good, but they still left me somewhat disappointed because many of the songs were too uneven and lacked the really high tops. It was with Torn (2008) that, in my opinion Evergrey started to find their way back up again. Without being a masterpiece, the album at least held the same quality as Recreation Day. Due to internal issues that made three members leaving the band, it would take Evergrey three years to finally give us a new album, but Glorious Collision (2011) was sure worth the wait and it became their best album to date. However, the line-up changes continued so another three years went by until Evergrey’s finest hour to date, Hymns For The Broken (2014) was released and again, it was sure worth the wait. This is an album that knocked me for six and it remains in my iPhone to this day.
My first reaction when I got the download link to this album was to the name of the band. Suicide By Tigers! What a brilliant name – I just love it. My second reaction after reading the press release was that isn’t the market of retro bands digging back into the seventies starting to get somewhat saturated by now? I mean, the scene of retro rockers are so full that it is getting hard to feel the least aroused every time a new band comes along talking about their heroes from back then? To be frank, my first reaction when I read about SBT’s Led Zeppelin, Free and Taste influences was a big sigh and a quiet “oh my, another retro band, how intriguing”. But then again, there are some really amazing bands that has come around in later years that does this so damn well – like Rival Sons and Scorpions Child – that it would be foolish not to give a band like this a fair chance.
Back in 1990, myself and – I reckon – many other rock fans thought that British rockers The Quireboys would someday be one of the giants of rock, a band that would become a platinum act that sold out arenas and stadiums all over the world. Their 1990 debut A Bit Of What You Fancy was a huge success that spawned three big hits and the band toured all over the world and the gained fans wherever they went. But things didn’t turn out as planned. When it was time for album number two, the band relocated to sunny California and hired producer Bob Rock, then the hottest rock producer in the world with big selling albums by Mötley Crüe, The Cult, Bon Jovi and Metallica on his CV. But the thing was that The Quireboys were a typical British band, a rock n roll gang that were influenced by bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Faces and had more in common with rockers such as The Black Crowes more than the usual glam / sleaze / AOR / hard rock bands that Rock had been involved with. Also, Rock’s schedule was extremely busy which meant that The Quireboys had to wait a long time for him to make time for them. So, when the album – Bitter Sweet And Twisted – finally came out in 1993, very delayed, the scene had changed and many had forgotten about the band. Also, Rock’s slick and over worked production didn’t fit The Quireboys’ raw and stripped down to earth rock ‘n’ roll. It was a good album song wise, but the production was too much Cali and not enough British.
One thing that I like with the name Apollo Under Fire is that it is impossible to label, with a name like that you could be in any genre from pop to heavy metal. Already by the name, I was intrigued to find out what the band was all about. The embryo of the band was set in 2013 when lead vocalist David Carpenter (SumerseD, Eye Empire) and Candlebox guitarist Peter Klett met at a benefit concert for the Johnny Damon Foundation. In 2014 the couple met drummer Tom Costanza, a self-taught drummer whose dad was a drummer in the New York jazz scene. In the fall of 2014 the three-piece had the songs to record an album and with some outside bass playing help from Klett’s Candlebox buddy demos were recorded, but the search for a permanent bassist had to begin. They soon found a guy named Stu Cox who fitted the band’s musical vision and the band was completed. Or so they thought.
Back in 1992, Mitch Malloy released one hell of a brilliant AOR album. This self titled record is today seen as an AOR classic and I think I wasn’t the only one who thought that Malloy would be the next superstar in the genre. However, the timing was terrible because in 1992 bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana were taking over the rock scene completely and it wouldn’t take long before the music Malloy played was passé and he and his likes couldn’t even be arrested. Malloy kept on releasing albums but he took a turn that didn’t sat well with the AOR / melodic crowd, his albums were all a big step away from the groovy AOR of his debut and he concentrated more on playing soft pop music for the mainstream American house wife crowd – kind of the garbage Bon Jovi has been doing for the last 15 years or so.