Sometimes it’s really refreshing when you get a hold of a record that is nothing at all what you have expected. Frontiers Records is a record company that specializes in AOR, melodic rock and at times straight forward hard rock, but every now and then, albums pops up with bands in different genres – I have gotten links with both heavy metal and power metal bands. And sometimes prog rock bands shows up as well. But usually, AOR and melodic rock is what I find in my Haulix – and that’s the kind of music I often expect when I get an album by a band I know very little – or nothing at all – about. So, when I saw the link for the new World Trade album and saw who was in the band, I was pretty sure that this was another AOR / melodic rock band / project. See, World Trade is a band I had never either heard or heard of before and some of the members has a really strong AOR connection. But boy was I wrong about that – World Trade are not another project put together by the label but a band/project that have existed – albeit sporadically – for a very long time. And they’re a prog rock outfit.
Finland. Oh man. When I was in my twenties in the late eighties, Sweden was one of the leading countries in Scandinavia when it came to producing melodic hard rock / AOR /arena rock bands – they were everywhere and for the most, the quality was very high. Sweden produced a lot of other kinds of hard rock music as well but it was with melodic hard rock that Sweden had the biggest birth of bands. Norway had a few – TNT is the most well-known act from that time – and so did Denmark with Pretty Maids at the top. Finland was a country no one even looked at by then. Sure, Hanoi Rocks were from Finland but I really can’t think of any other band. Since then Finland has come up with a lot of bands, we all know about Nightwish of course but mostly, Finish bands were dark, mellow and depressive metal acts, melodic hard rock not very much. But things have changed in later years, Finland have given us a whole bunch of really good melodic rock bands – King Company, One Desire and Brother Firetribe to name a few. And now it’s time for yet another one – The Nights. The band took form when singer Sami Hyde, who has been involved in the Tony Mills (Shy, TNT) Band and guitarist Ikka Wirtanen, who has produced and co-written for acts like Reckless Love, put their heads together to form a new band. To complete the line-up, Sami and Ikka brought in bassist Harri Kokkonen and drummer Jan-Erik Livari. And now it’s time for the guys to show the world that yet another melodic rock band from Finland have something to bring to the table.
I remember back in 1983, I was just a teen and a metal head. Living in Sweden, there was no hard rock or metal in the media at all, so when Swedish Television decided to show a big metal festival that took place in Westfallenhalle, Germany, it was a huge surprise. It contained some of my favorite bands back then – Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard – and some acts that I wasn’t too familiar with in Krokus and MSG. it also contained one act that I had never heard a note of – Quiet Riot. Now, I had read about them so I was very keen to see what they were all about. The festival wasn’t shown in its entirety, of course, only three or four songs of each band were shown and Quiet Riot had three – “Metal Health”, the Slade cover “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Slick Black Cadillac”. After that, this boy was hooked and I bought their third, but world-wide debut album Metal Health (1983) right away. I was sure that Quiet Riot would be huge because I loved that album – and the album was huge, it sold millions. But their career as superstars was about to be short. By the time of the follow up Condition Critical (1984), it was more or less over.
“Sometimes musicians are put together who only know each other from afar via their respective recordings, but something clicks and triggers a magical moment. That’s exactly what happened when Jakob Samuel from The Poodles met up with producer Alessandro Del Vecchio. Together, they set off to work on a new band that could offer lyrical concepts that are deep and intelligent with music that operates within the genres they excel in. And most importantly, has a great energy and impact. Together with executive producer Serafino Perugino, they handpicked each musician to be part of their vision for a strong lineup of young and hungry Swedish musicians that would be ready to go out there and kick some ass. Pontus Egberg, formerly of The Poodles and now the bass player for Treat and King Diamond, was the first one to enter the picture, followed shortly thereafter by Robban Bäck of Mustasch / Ammunition (ex-Eclipse, Sabaton). The choice of guitar player fell to the young and immensely gifted Michael Palace. Michael showed his huge talents as a writer and performer on his band Palace’s debut album and on several songs he has already written for the label.”
To change the lead singer in a famous band can be lethal, especially if that lead singer is a big personality and even someone who many people associate the band with. Look at Mötley Crüe, they changed to a way better singer but the fans didn’t want to know. On the other hand, a band like Van Halen succeeded brilliantly with their change. At least the first time. Accept tried once, back in 1988, when they parted ways with Udo Dirkschneider, a true metal icon. David Reece was a great singer but he just wasn’t Accept enough. And the music had gone from metal to arena rock which didn’t sit well with the fans. So when Accept parted ways with Udo for the second time, we were many that thought that they was bound to fail. But the band and new singer Mark Tornillo proved us wrong. The new line-up’s debut album Blood Of The Nations (2010) gave us the classic Accept sound with a whole bunch of killer tunes and Tornillo’s voice was perfect for the band. They also proved that they still were a fantastic live-act full of passion and fire. Accept were born again, without the shadow of a doubt.
When I was a kid growing up in the 70’s, I loved only two bands – Kiss and Sweet. I had no older siblings that could steer me in any musical direction and at school, Sweet and Kiss were the only rock bands my friends talked about so I pretty much missed out on anything else. In Sweden we had had a magazine called Poster which had some articles in it but were mostly made so that us kids could spray our walls with big color posters of our favorite bands and both Sweet and Kiss were heavily featured there. But I also remembered that Alice Cooper were featured quite a lot. I also remember thinking that this guy with all the snakes and shit was a freak – and why the Hell would any dude be calling himself Alice? A girl’s name! Well, I had never heard a note from Alice and none of my friends either apparently – so I didn’t give a crap. It would take me all the way to 1986 when Alice made his come back with the album Constrictor for me to give him a go. Well, I loved that album and around the release of that album, an old friend from school came back into my life and well, he was an Alice Cooper fan so one day I went over to his house and got some tapes of Alice’s 70’s and I became a Alice Cooper fan right there and then – and I cursed myself for not having checked his stuff out as a kid.
In a day and age when the world is overpopulated by old reunited 80’s / 90’s hard rock bands, yes even bands from the grunge and nu-metal era are picking up where they left off, it’s certainly refreshing that so many of them have decided to not only trust their past glories and do the nostalgia act but also to release new music. The fact that moving forward and developing are so important to bands that they don’t care that they hardly sell any records anymore is actually pretty spectacular when you think of the fact that many of them used to sell millions back when. It’s also very refreshing that a lot of the bands are easily as good – and in some cases even better – as they were when they were fab. Stryper, Winger, Europe, Alice In Chains, Night Ranger, Soundgarden and Treat are some fine examples of bands in that category. And of course, Mr Big. Their self titled debut album from 1988 is a melodic hard rock classic today but after that one, Mr Big sure had their up and downs when it comes to the quality of the records. Albums like Bump Ahead (1993) and Hey Man (1996) didn’t set the world on fire sales wise but are underrated and contains shitloads of great songs while their second album Lean Into It (1991), that contained their biggest hit ever (“To Be With You”) was uneven. The albums Get Over It (1991) and Actual Size (2001) where Richie Kotzen had replaced Paul Gilbert were underwhelming and it was clear that Mr Big had overstayed their welcome by a few years.
Solo artists with blues rock as their speciality aren’t usually my keg of beer. Sure, I can appreciate the odd song here and there by newer artists such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Bonamassa and old school dudes like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn – and I simply adore Eric Sardinas – but usually I just let all these artists pass me by if no one throws them at me. Swedish rocker Patrik Jansson – also a drummer in southern rockers Hellsingland Underground and melodic rockers Laney’s Legion – released his second solo album Here We Are back in 2015, this time as a guitarist and singer, and since I really like his other bands I had to check it out. Turned out that Jansson had a really big feel for playing the blues and even though his English comes with a Swedish accent, his voice was really damn fit for this kind of rock and lo and behold, I dug it – a lot. So when the time had come for a follow-up, there was no chance in Hell I’d miss out on that.
You know those bands that have been around that seems like forever, you read about them and you read the reviews of their albums but they still seem to pass you by without leaving a simple scar, you just don’t have the interest to check them out? Ten are such a band for me. I didn’t even bother to check them out when I found that former Dare guitarist Vinny Burns was their guitarist – and I love Dare, especially the two first records. The band was formed by lead vocalist Gary Hughes back in 1994 and their debut album X came out in 1996 and they have now released 13 studio albums including the new one so it’s pretty strange that I haven’t checked them out before (my first Ten album was their previous one) as they do play in a genre that I’m a big fan of – melodic hard rock with big AOR tendencies. It’s also somewhat ironic that when I finally gave them a shot – I got their last album Isla De Muerta (2015) in the mail – Vinny Burns had left the band a long time ago. His last album with the band was their 6th one, Far Beyond The World in 2001. Now, I liked their last album enough even though it wasn’t without flaws and when I got the new one in my Haulix, I was keen to hear what had happened with the band since then.
The year was 1989. On one side, bad-assed angry young men were kicking and screaming with fierce hearts and shitloads of testosterone, piss n’ vinegar – Metallica, Slayer, Testament and Megadeth thrashed things around like there was no tomorrow. On the other side we had the Sunset Strip where melodic rock, AOR, glam and sleaze bands such as Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Poison and Winger were selling gazillion of records. And then there were the guys in the middle, bands that were too out there for the main stream audience having a hard time. And of course, we had a now glorified yet underground debut record by the Riverdogs.