A new Bon Jovi release used be like Christmas for me. I became a fan when a Swedish radio station played their first (hit) single “Runaway” just when their self titled debut album was about to be released in 1984. It knocked me out completely and I bought that album the day it was released and to this day I find their first five albums – Bon Jovi (1984), 7800 Fahrenheit (1985), Slippery When Wet (1986), New Jersey (1988) and Keep The Faith (1992) – amazingly good. Things started to slip with their 1995 album These Days, by no means a bad album, but it was only 60% great, leaving the rest of the 40% jumping between crap to mediocre. After that album, Bon Jovi has never really been themselves again. Crush (2000) only had three great tracks, Bounce (2002) had even less and Have A Nice Day (2005) didn’t have one single stand-out track. But the big crash landing happened with the horrendous wanna-be country piece of junk album called Lost Highway (2007). On their earlier few records there were at least some traces of the band I had loved so dearly, but on that album every little trace of the classic Bon Jovi sound had been forlorn. That record is one of the worst cases of a great band going down the sewer I have ever heard in my life. After that, things didn’t get better, they only got less worse. The Circle (2009) was Bon Jovi trying to find some rock again, but they failed miserably. It was the same mainstream boring pop songs with the guitars a bit louder in the mix, nothing else. And Jon Bon Jovi’s words about the band having made a big arena rock album again with 2013’s What About Now were either lies or a bad case of disillusion.
If it hadn’t been for Sweden Rock Magazine, I might not had checked out Civil War at all. See, three of the members of this band used play in Sabaton, a band I’m not – to put it mildly – a big fan of. On top of that, Civil War do play a kind of power metal that isn’t that far away from what Sabaton plays and since I’m not a big power metal fan per se, chances that I would bother with this lot are slim. But since they gave away free copies of their debut album The Killer Angels (2013) to the subscribers of said magazine, I would have been stupid not give it a least one shot. Don’t ask me why because I’m totally clueless of this, but even though every inch of screamed that I shouldn’t like that album, I did. This is melodic heavy metal with clear power metal influences, but what sets Civil War apart from many other power metal outfits is the singer. Usually power metal singers are in high pitch and very falsetto laden, but Civil War managed to get a singer – Nils Patrik Johansson – that made them sound different. Johansson has a deep voice that shows off his Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale influences, influences that isn’t all that common in this genre. But it wasn’t only the singer, this band has some really awesome tunes as well and the follow-up Gods And Generals (2015) proved that the debut album wasn’t just a lucky shot. Now it is time for the band to release the third and final part of the trilogy that started back in 2013 and after two really good albums, there are expectations to meet.
I must admit that it’s hard to write a review of a band that I’m not a fan of – or a band I really dislike. Now, I do not dislike Swedish heavy / power metal icons Hammerfall, but I have never been that much of a fan either. To be honest, when Hammerfall first started to making it big with their four first albums, I couldn’t stand them – to me, they were nothing more than a poor man’s Iron Maiden or something like that. I started to come around some around 2005 when I first heard “Bloodbound”, a song I dug from go, and when I checked out the album in question, Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t all that bad. Since then, I have checked out every Hammerfall and once in a while, the band comes up with some really good stuff. I don’t know if it was their new producer James Michael (Sixx A.M.) that got me somewhat hooked on the band with their – very underrated – album Infected (2011), but it was something with that album that made them sound less… dorky. See, I really have issues with power metal in general and on Infected, Hammerfall were still metal, but had lost enough of the power metal vibes for me to appreciate it more. James Michael might sound like an odd choice for a band like Hammerfall to produce them – and it really is – but it sure have worked as far as I’m concerned.
“Marketing by not asking any questions first”! That comment was made by Percy Nilegård, a fictional boss of a fictional radio station in a Swedish comedy show some years ago. His strategy was to first send commercials on his radio show and then go out and charge the unknowing ‘customers’ a great sum of money for being on their show. I thought that was hilarious. Of course, that has nothing what so ever to do with Avenged Sevenfold and their new album, but why I was bringing it up was to show that that there are different ways to market your stuff and Avenged Sevenfold did also go their own way when they released their new record. They didn’t do squat! They just released the album without letting any one know that there was a new record on the way at all – no pre-released songs, no videos, no interviews, no showing off the album cover – nothing. One day the album was out – just like that. “Marketing without letting anyone know you have a product out”, old Percy would probably have called it. But it worked. Because as soon as the album was out, the word started to spread about the band’s new surprise album and of course it made people notice it, no matter if you were a fan or not.
Back in 2013, when Irish classic rockers The Answer were about to release their fourth album New Horizon, lead singer Cormac Neeson told Classic Rock Magazine that if that album didn’t broke the band big, or at least made the band climb a couple of notches on the ladder of success there was a pretty big risk that the band would call it a day. See, the band had made everything in their power to make the band a success – writing killer song, recorded awesome sounding albums and toured their asses off, opening for everyone from Whitesnake and Paul Rodgers to AC/DC, but they simply never got the big break that they deserved. I feared. And hoped that people would buy shitloads of copies of that album. Because I love this band. I discovered them with their debut album Rise (2006), a fantastic album and the following records Everyday Demons (2009) and Revival (2011) are damn masterpieces in my world. To me, The Answer is a band that both could and should have massive success and play arenas around the world. But they’re not. And, luckily enough, they did not split up after New Horizon didn’t make them superstars.
John Roth and Terry Brock are two names in rock that probably won’t sell that many records. I’m not sure how many of the average rockers who even know who they are, but I have a feeling only the most investiture fans have a clue. I know who they are, but then again, I’m a nerd when it comes music (rock). For you who don’t know who they are, John Roth is a guitar player – a underrtated one, I might add – that plays second guitar to Reb Beach in Winger and was also the guitarist in the last line-up in Giant and he also joined Starship in 2012. Terry Brock is an American singer – from Georgia, Atlanta to be precise – who has released eight albums with Scottish AOR rockers Strangeways since the debut in 1984 and who’s third album Walk In The Fire (1989) is an AOR masterpiece. He was also the lead singer and co-song writer on the extremely underrated Mike Slamer album Nowhere Land (2006). Brock was also the guy who replaced Dan Huff as the singer in Giant on their disappointing 2010 album Promise Land, an album that also included John Roth. It’s not a wild guess that said album was where Roth and Brock got in touch for the first time, but since this album is released by Frontiers Records, I suspect it was the record company in question that made the guys work together – Frontiers is a company known to pull stunts like that.
Graham Bonnet is what I like to call a camp-divider. Many are the voices that has been raised about this man throughout the years. This is, after all, the unexpected and somewhat unlikely choice Ritchie Blackmore had as a replacement for the mighty Ronnie James Dio and his short stint in the band has always been highly discussed – just like his voice. His voice is one of the ones that is loved by many but hated by just as many as well – it sure raises emotions. Bonnet started his career as a singer for the pop band The Marbles who had a hit back in 1968 with “Only One Woman”, a band he quit later on to sing on advert jingles. A solo album was released in 1977 before he got the call from Blackmore and he joined Rainbow for one album, Down To Earth (1979), an album that only on a few places sounded remotely like the band that had released three epic albums prior to it. But Bonnet’s look, attitude and voice didn’t really fit Rainbow (even though the line.up had a major hit with the Russ Ballard-written “Since You’ve Been Gone”). One much spoken of incident that proved that he really wasn’t fit for fronting Rainbow was when he asked the audience: “Do you like rock and roll?” and when the audience screamed “YEEEEAAH!” back to him, he just replied: “I don’t!”. Also his look, short hair and Hawaii shirts, didn’t sit well among the Rainbow fan-base. Another solo album (Line Up, 1981) followed before he was asked to replace Gary Barden in MSG and the band released the brilliant Assault Attack in 1982, but that didn’t work for long either as him and Michael Schenker fought like cat and dog. Bonnet then formed Alcatrazz with Swedish up-coming guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen which only lasted for one album, the now classic No Parole For Rock ‘n’ Roll (1983), before Malmsteen realised that he was the star of the band and quit.
About a week ago, I wrote a review of Dee Snider’s new album and I pointed out what a roller-coaster career he has had. Well, here’s another dude with a similar career with ups and downs like I don’t know what. As we all know, Glenn started his career in the band Trapeze which also featured guitarist Mel Galley (Whitesnake, RIP 1948 – 2008) and drummer Dave Holland (Judas Priest), before he got the gig as bassist and vocalist in Deep Purple, replacing Roger Glover. After Purple split in 1976, Hughes recorded a solo album, Play Me Out in 1977, that bombed, after which he (1982) made a brilliant album with guitarist Pat Thrall under the Hughes/Thrall moniker before things turned awfully quiet from the Hughes camp. In 1985 found himself in Gary Moore’s band, a stint that ended more or less before it had started, the same year he sang on the fantastic project Phenomena and in 1986 he sang on what was supposed to be Tony Iommi’s first solo album but became the Black Sabbath album Seventh Star but he only managed three gigs on the tour before he was fired and replaced by Ray Gillen (Badlands, RIP 1959 – 1993). After Sabbath, Hughes tried to form a band with John Norum (Europe) but that fell apart faster than you could say running nose and all of this shit happened to Hughes because of one thing: drugs! But Hughes would prove to everyone that he wasn’t a quitter, he showed cocaine the door and shaped up and the first thing we got was when he sang all the songs except three on John Norum’s brilliant album Face The Truth (1992) before he started to make plans for a solo career.
I’m a Pretty Maids fan. A huge one. Ever since the first time I saw their video for “Back To Back” (Red Hot And Heavy, 1984) back in 1985, Pretty Maids have been one of my absolute favourite bands and to this day, it is my opinion that they have never released an album worse than good. Back in 1987, when they released their second – and probably most loved – album Future World, I wasn’t the only one who truly believed that that album would be their final step to stardom, but for reasons unknown, that never happened. It would take them three years to finally release their third album Jump The Gun (1990) but despite some frequent touring and an album that wasn’t only brilliant, but also had a sound of the times, things refused to lift for the band. After three brilliant albums, the band should have been huge but instead Pretty Maids were the proof of that talent just isn’t enough and that the timing and luck just wasn’t there for them. When the harder and edgier Sin Decade showed up in 1992, melodic hard rock and metal were on their way down and grunge had started to take its place – great musicians and killer melodies had been replaced by depression and gloom. But Pretty Maids never gave up and kept on releasing albums throughout the grunge and nu-metal laden 90’s just like that crap never happened and despite the fact that many of their fans didn’t even knew the band still existed, they released some effing amazing records – like Scream (1994), Spooked (1997) (my personal favorite), Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Overdoing (1999) and Carpe Diem (2000) – in those days.
If you want to look at a roller-coaster career then look no further than the career of Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider. When Twisted Sister started, Dee Snider wasn’t even a member of the group and it wasn’t until he joined up with guitarist Jay Jay French (John Segall) in 1976 that things started to happen with the band. The addition of guitarist Eddie Ojeda became the first edition of what was about to be the version that people see as the original one. After an endless line of bass players and drummers, Dee, Jay Jay and Eddie finally added drummer Anthony Jude (A.J.) Pero and Mark “The Animal” Mendoza and that was when the line-up everybody knows and loves was completed. Playing at places that took somewhere between 3000 – 5000 people without even having a record deal was more than impressive but what’s really confusing is that they had such a hard time getting one. In the beginning it was the shortage of really good songs that was the reason to that, but even when Dee Snider brought in his own hard, aggressive yet melodic and catchy tunes, record companies were reluctant to sign the band. But finally in 1982, Secret records decided to sign the band and they released their now classic debut album Under The Blade (1982). But the album didn’t exactly set the world on fire and the ink hadn’t even dried on the contract when the record went bankrupt and the band was once again without contract. But some dude at Atlantic Records saw the potential within the band and signed them. You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll was released in 1983 and that album gave them a big hit with “I Am (I’m Me)” and the album started to run up the charts. Ironically, it was the band’s mega selling album Stay Hungry (1984) that both made them a platinum selling arena band and also was the beginning of the end. See, Twisted Sister were always an angry heavy metal band with an outrageous image, but it was their videos to “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” that sold the album and since the videos were made with a lot of humor and the songs had a lot of pop in them, that mixed with their image, Twisted Sister became an act that attracted little kids and even the parents, the ones that the band once revolted to, started to dig the band and all of that made the “true” metal heads look at Twisted Sister as a joke and a circus act and a band for the daycare centre.