In AOR circles, this guy has reached a status of an icon and for hardcore AOR:sters, it’s understandable when you think of all the high-quality music he has released throughout the years – his self-titled debut was released in 1983. That being said, Bush has never gotten any major attention and his big break never came around the famous corner. I have known about Bush’s whereabouts since 1988 when I found out who he was because he had written the brilliant “Love Don’t Lie” which appeared on House Of Lords’ debut album. I own some of his solo stuff plus both albums he made with his Barrage outfit but I never really became a big fan. I like many of his records but most of them will always be placed in my musical periphery.
The name Angelica Rylin might not ring any bells for most people but for folks inside Melodic Rock and AOR circles with a little bit of insight into that world will recognize her as the singer in cinematic, symphonic and theatrical Hard Rock/AOR/Metal outfit The Murder Of My Sweet, a band she runs with her hubby, drummer, keyboardist and song writer Daniel Flores. TMOMS has to date released five albums since 2010. Back in 2013, Rylin also released her debut solo album Thrive, an album that did fairly well. With a whole bunch of song writers from Frontiers’ stable, Angelica seemed to be launched as a Swedish Issa, both when it came to the music and the album’s artwork. Nothing new under the sun there, then.
I’m not sure how many out there know who Rob Moratti is. Short introduction. He’s a singer with a high-pitched voice and a very broad range, he’s from Canada, he once replaced Michael Sadler in Saga for one album until Sadler returned, he has made six solo albums where the two first were independent releases (his self-titled debut and Modern Influence are even hard to find any info of) and one a Journey tribute, he has fronted both his own band Moratti and a band called Final Frontier and the music he plays is straight-up AOR. His last album Renaissance came out in 2019 and now he’s back with a new one featuring a band made of guitarist/keyboardist Torben Enevoldsen, drummer Stu Reid and bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Whitesnake) with guest spots from both Saga-guitarist Ian Crichton and guitarist Joel Hoeckstra (Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Cher).
A world of AOR without a Jim Peterik in it is a scary thought. The guy was – and still is – a brilliant song writer who owns the skills of how to write a catchy, poppy rocker with shitloads of hooks and memorable melodies with both keyboards and guitars given equal space without it becoming cheesy, sugary or mawkish. I know there are rock-fans out there that want to beg to differ on that but that’s my personal and honest opinion. Survivor was a brilliant band and albums like Vital Signs (1984), When Seconds Count (1987) and Too Hot To Sleep (1988) are all brilliant AOR-gems that at least I can’t live without. Thing is, to mention all of Peterik’s projects and bands would take up all the space here so I suggest google if you’re interested.
Just one glimpse at the purple-tinted album cover, complete with glowing city-lights and the band’s name and I was sure – this is an AOR band. The press release told me I was right. Ok, so it told me they’re a blend of Hard Rock, Melodic Rock and AOR – and that the Journey is an influence, but also Dokken, White Lion and Extreme. Landfall hails from Brazil – they’re the second Brazilian band I review in a short time, Electric Mob is the other – and features singer Gui Oliver (ex- Aurora), a guy the press release describes as a dead ringer for Steve Perry. Hmm. I guess we’ll see about that. Landfall was originally started by drummer Felipe Souzza and guitarist Marcelo Gelbcke and some years later, bassist Thiago Forbeci joined up with them, adding new musical input and influences and the band decided to go in a new direction.
I have ranted about how modern AOR music has become safe and predictable, how all those bands – especially Swedish and Scandinavian bands – sounds the same. Song structure, arrangements and production. That’s why Swedish melodic rockers Perfect Plan’s debut album All Rise (2018) was such a wonderful surprise. Here was a band that, without being revolutionary, brought us a damn strong record in the AOR/Melodic Rock genre that sported an identity of its own with songs that weren’t cheesy or syrupy, songs with an edge, some grit and not even remotely as polished as many of the contemporary AOR acts that are out there. Perfect Plan added a good dose of crunchy Hard Rock into their music, something I have been missing a lot lately, while still keeping some of the polished sounds and very strong and catchy hooks.
I had never heard of Lionville before I got the promo for their 2017 album A World Of Fools despite them having been around since 2010 and two independent releases in their back-pocket. With Swedish singer Lars Säfsund of Work Of Art fame, this Italian AOR six-piece released their last album, a very slick and polished AOR album. A guy like Säfsund never releases anything that isn’t of high quality and the record was well received in AOR and Melodic Rock circles around the world. Personally, I liked the album but just like with Work Of Art’s releases, it was a bit too silky, polished and glossy for my taste. I do like my AOR but I like it a bit grittier and edgier than this, soundwise. That said, I did listen to the record quite a bit when it was released although I haven’t picked it up for some time now. Since the record was a success, it was a no-brainer that a follow-up would occur sooner or later. With my fingers crossed that this effort would be at least a bit rowdier than its predecessor, I sunk my teeth into the band’s new creation.
As a fan of AOR-progsters Asia, both the John Wetton and John Payne line-ups, one of the biggest reasons for my interest in the self-titled debut Dukes Of The Orient album from 2018 – a band that’s really a duo and consists of bass player/lead vocalist John Payne and keyboard wizard Erik Nordlander – was the fact that it was in large an album called Americana which was supposed to be an Asia record but got shelved when Asia reunited with its original line-up. I longed for that album to see the light of day but over the years I had more or less forgotten about it as Payne wasn’t all that in our faces for many years. When it showed up under the Dukes Of The Orient moniker, I was a happy camper. A bit more prog-laden than I had imagined, the album made yours truly an even happier camper – it was a killer record.
Styx. Once upon a time this legendary – no, iconic pomp-rock band was huge. But even though they might not be the huge draw they once were, they’re still going strong and making records even though they have a different line-up today. But then again, which band hasn’t? For me, personally, Styx was never a band I dug into and therefore most of their music has passed me by, the excellent Paradise Theatre (1981) as the exception to the rule. Don’t ask me why, but their music never stuck with me even though it might should have when you think about the fact that they have always consisted of top-notch musicians. That being said, I never had any dislike towards them either. Styx is now working on a new album as we speak and I guess I’ll give that one a go when it comes out.
“Damn I hope that Gathering Of Kings will turn into a real band in the future!” That’s how I ended my review of GoK’s brilliant debut album First Mission last year. Apparently the God of Rock answer prayers because that is exactly what this Swedish version of Phenomena has turned into. Fantastic news. My guess is that they turned into a band more or less right after the success they had at Sweden Rock Festival last summer. A killer gig, it was. Only a little more than a year after the release of the debut, GoK is about to release their second outing – this time with a slight change of personnel. Chris Laney (guitar – Pretty Maids), Björn Strid (Night Flight Orchestra, Soilwork – vocals), Jens Westin (Corroded – vocals) and Richard Larsson (keyboards – Night Flight Orchestra) has all bid their farewells. New on the singer spot is instead Jonny Lindqvist (Nocturnal Rites). But just like on the debut, it’s Saffire’s Victor Olsson who provides the music – with a helping lyrical hand from Helldog singer Alexander Frisborg – which indeed bodes well.