Sometimes it feels like we’re showered with new AOR and Melodic Rock bands / projects – at times it feels like there are too many of them. Not even back in the hey-day of this kind of music did we get so many new records by both old bands and newly started ones. And still we get to hear that this music is of no interest to anyone and that people just don’t buy albums any more. So why does new bands pop up all the time? And why do all those bands still put out physical CDs and vinyls if people don’t buy them? To be honest, even someone like me that really digs this kind of Rock music think that we’re on the verge of an AOR / Melodic Rock overkill here and sometimes when another record shows up in my mailbox it feels like I don’t really want to bother with them. But I do bother with them because even though there are bands that just falls of my map, there are also bands that totally kicks out the jam and tells me that there is still a lot of talent out there. And I just love an album by a new band that rocks my world.
My first encounter with Norwegian AOR queen Isabel Oversveen aka Issa was back in 2010 when she had just released her debut album Sign Of Angels. That album was a brilliant show of how to write catchy songs that was both smooth and slick but without losing their edge. Nothing new was brought under the sun but that was irrelevant because of the strength of the songs and the pure passion Issa showed – honest and real. Since then I have followed her career pretty closely and I have reviewed her every album since then and with four records under her belt, I can state that all of them have been good but while her last album of original tunes – Crossfire (2015) – was good it also showed traces of stagnation. With that I mean that it felt like Issa had taken her brand of AOR and Melodic Rock as far as she could and that it was time for her to maybe stretch out a bit more.
Since 1995, singer James Christian has had an ongoing solo career in parallel with his career as lead singer / composer / frontman in his band House Of Lords. Ok, so back in 1995, House Of Lords had split up but then again, his debut solo album Rude Awakening (1995) was supposed to be the fourth House Of Lords album and his second one, the underwhelming Meet The Man (2004) was recorded at the same time as the original House Of Lords – minus keyboardist and founder Gregg Giuffria – had reunited and released the even more underwhelming Power And The Myth. Since then, Christian has done both things plus he helps his missus Robin Beck out with her career as well, writing, singing back-ups and tours as her bass player. So it’s quite a busy guy we’re talking about here.
I love Ireland. I dunno why because I’ve never been there, but it’s one of those places I MUST visit before I bite the dust. I love the language, I love their music, every time I see a movie that takes place there or I see a picture from there, its landscape and the views are so damn beautiful – and I always get the feeling of warmth and emotion when it comes to its citizens. I dunno, maybe I have a tendency to romanticize things but the thought of Ireland just makes me feel good. And the rock bands. Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, The Answer… well, there must be something in the water there. But one type of genre that, at least to my knowledge, seems quite unusual is Irish’ AOR and Melodic Rock. For some reason, Irish rock music has always been more rootsy and down to earth. So it was quite nice to hear that one of Frontiers’ latest signings, No Hot Ashes, hails from Ireland – and they play Melodic Rock / AOR.
I must admit that before writing this review I had never even heard or read the name Jari Tiura. Or at least I think I hadn’t. So when this record said hello to me through my mailbox, I didn’t know what to expect at all. But as it turns out, Tiura have once sang in MSG, on the album The Tales Of Rock ‘n’ Roll from 2006 and he stayed in Michael Schenker’s band for one year. Before MSG he had a band called Masterstroke and today he is active in Stargazary and Century Lost. Another band of his that have been mentioned is Snakegod but whether they’re active today is beyond my knowledge. Beyond my knowledge is also how those bands sound because just like with Tiura himself, this is the first time I hear of those acts – and when it comes to that MSG record, I’m pretty lost as well because I haven’t heard a note of it. It came out when my interest in Schenker was at an all-time-low. So to sit down and listen to Tiura’s solo debut with an open mind wasn’t that hard as I had literary nothing to compare it to at all.
So, our calendars says it is February once again and besides below degrees, dark skies and the occasional snow, February also means that we most likely will be getting a new release from Sweden’s AOR masters Last Autumn’s Dream. These guys don’t tour which means that they can deliver new music fast and since drummer Jamie Borger (Treat, Secret Service, Talisman) and singer Mikael Erlandsson (Secret Service) are the main song writers and they write separately, it’s not a problem getting eleven songs ready each year, especially when a cover often is thrown in as well. The title of this records lets on just how many records this outfit have recorded since the start in 2003 which tells us just how fast these guys work. What I find really impressing, though, is that it very seldom effects the quality of the music. Sure, at times the songs has a tendency to sound a bit samey at times and yes, the production on some records has been a bit to light weight, but for the most, AOR fans know that they’re in for almost an hour of really good music by really good musicians.
What do you do when you have a new project going and a need a name for it and really can’t find one that satisfies. You take the first letter from each member’s last name of course. PAL is a Swedish musical collaboration between guitarist Roger Ljunggren, Peter Andersson (bass) and Peo Pettersson (vocals). Roger and Peter, longtime friends, started writing and play music together way back. They first got to know each other in the early eighties. Growing up in Skara, a small town in the south-west of Sweden sharing a passion for music and especially for song-writing. They sweat out together in a small rehearsal studio together with some other local musicians. The group started in 1987 when a demo was recorded in Peo’s studio Vanäs for a band called Escape which at that moment was short of a singer and Peo helped out. Now, thirty years later the three musicians are making music together again.
First: I recently got the information that Raintime are an Italian death metal band. That’s not the band I’m reviewing here – hence the s after Raintime. I just needed to point that out to avoid any misunderstandings. The band in question here is so far from death metal possible, this band is right on the other side of hard rock. This band is an AOR band. But they are Italian, at least most of the band are. Out of six members, at least three are Italian – drummer Pierpaolo Monti, keyboardist Davide Barbieri and bass player Andrea Gipponi. I’m unsure of the whereabouts of guitarists Iván González (Mexican maybe?) and Sven Larsson (probably Swedish). Lead singer Michael Shotton (Von Groove), however, is Canadian. Monti and Barbieri hails from bands such as Charming Grace, Shining Line and Wheels Of Fire, bands at least I never heard of and Monti says that the main inspiration for this album was the band The Storm, a band with two albums under their belt that features Journey knowns Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Steve Smith and Kevin Chalfant.
There is something with AOR, rock and pop bands naming themselves after cities / continents. Think about it – Boston, Chicago, Kansas, Texas, Asia, Europe, Japan, Alaska, Berlin – and there are probably more of them if you bother to google a bit. Well, Swedish AOR duo Hank Erix and Freddie Allen looked at some of the mentioned bands, the more AOR oriented ones such as Boston, Kansas and Chicago and realized Houston wasn’t taken. Said and done – Houston it was and when they released their self titled debut album in 2010, they were hailed as the great new hope of AOR with raving reviews everywhere. The second album, Relaunch (2011) was an album of covers – a bit of an appetizer for the next album, if you will. Their third album was called II, it came out in 2013 and the rave reviews kept coming. Album #4 was made of more covers and called Relaunch II and it saw the light of day in 2014.
My first thought when I saw the reviewer’s download link to this album was: “Dante Fox. Dante Fox. Where have I heard that name before?”. See, I’m not familiar at all with this British AOR / melodic rock band. Then the lights went on. Didn’t Great White used to be called Dante Fox before they became Great White? That’s where I must have heard the name a million years ago. However, this Dante Fox is a totally different beast than the American classic rock band. This Dante Fox was formed way back in 1989 by lead singer Sue Willets and guitarist Tim Manford but it would take them another seven years to make the band complete and release their debut album Under Suspicion and a follow-up, The Fire Within to follow three years later. If the grunge and nu-metal owning the 90’s had anything to do with the fact that Dante Fox didn’t do much until 2007, when they released their third album Under The Seven Skies is anyone’s guess but it would also take them an additional five years to release album # 4, Lost Man’s Ground in 2012.