In my last “Frontiers review”, I talked about the label’s (former) predictable and narrow thinking when it comes to signing bands. AOR and melodic rock were what the label was all about and that was that. Well, with the album in question, Wayward Sons’ Ghosts Of Yet To Come, it sure looked like the label was rethinking that way of thinking. Progressive metal and power metal had been slipping through the AOR filter at the label’s HQ and with the Wayward Sons, classic, raunchy and attitude driven hard rock was getting its way into the labels stable of bands, something I think feels refreshing. So, if Wayward Sons were a ‘thinking outside of the box’ band, it’s nothing compared to what British rockers Dirty Thrills are. With this band, Frontiers have gone one step further and signed a retro act, a band that apparently have been oblivious to that hard rock albums have been released after 1978 and if my memory serves me right – please notice that I could be very wrong here – it’s the first time a stripped and raw hard rock band with its feet in the early to mid seventies like this have been signed to Frontiers.
After Slash left Guns N’ Roses, his career has been a somewhat bouncy road. His Slash’s Snakepit didn’t work out even though they released two good records – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995) and Ain’t Life Grand (2000) and neither did Velvet Revolver, despite two really good records. Velvet Revolver was the second time Slash, Duff and Matt Sorum had to go through crap with a lead singer, but for different reasons. So what to do? A solo record, of course. And as always with Slash, we could expect the unexpected. So, instead of forming a new solo band he decided to use different singers on each track, letting the singers, for the most part, write their own lyrics and melodies while he took a step back himself and play the guitar and writing the basics of the songs. A pretty smart thing to do. This way the album never gets boring or predictable. On the other hand, it sometimes gives you the feeling of a compilation record if the songs sounds too close the singers’ original bands. But if the music is this good, then who cares? Also, we always get a good treat of Slash’s guitar playing – which is never a bad thing.
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.
Let’s say a word or two about ‘hair metal’. What is hair metal? And which bands plays hair metal? Well, the answer is, of course, that there’s no musical style called ‘hair metal’. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, no one, that I can think of, at least, used that phrase. The moniker hair metal or poodle rock came later, when melodic rock bands were a dying breed and was invented by pretentious music journalists who wanted to mock that 80’s hard rock scene because they only loved their crappy indie rock bands that couldn’t tune their guitars or sing in key if their lives depended on it. And they put every band that was big in those days into that category. Skid Row, Winger, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Warrant, Europe, Slaughter and even Kiss and Yngwie Malmsteen. And Great White. So, in order for all those bands to play ‘hair metal’, they had to sound the same and play the same kind of music. If you say that they do then either you haven’t listened to those bands at all or you’re tone-deaf.
Since I have already written two Night Flight Orchestra reviews, an introduction of that band is really unnecessary here, but what I can say is that supergroups has a tendency to last not very long. Egos and musical differences usually rears their ugly heads after a while and even if they do last, dips in quality aren’t that uncommon. When Night Flight Orchestra released their debut album Internal Affairs in 2012, the outcome – style wise – was probably a big surprise to many. All the members of the band’s day jobs are in the heavier and more aggressive side of hard rock and as we all know now, NFO are a band that have its roots in 70’s pop, rock and even disco and funk. But no one knew if this project would be only a one album affair or if it would turn into a proper band. The album – I only gave it 9/10 in my review but it is one of the most obvious 10/10’s I have ever run into – rocked my world since day one so when the news got out that they would come back for a second round, it made me a very happy camper. The second album – Skyline Whispers – wasn’t as direct as the debut but since I couldn’t find even one second on that album that wasn’t great, anything else than a 10/10 was impossible.
A year ago, when British / Swedish classic hard rock band Inglorious released their self titled debut, there was a really big buzz surrounding the band. People like Brian May called them “a potent young Deep Purple” and producer Kevin Shirley said that Inglorious were “the best band I have heard since – I could say The Darkness, but I really mean Led Zeppelin”. Big words to live up to for a new up-coming band. And when the album was released, both rock fans and reviewers all over the world stood united – this band is awesome, the album is awesome and the album deserves to be huge! How huge said album finally became in the end, I’m not sure – at least not sales wise. But quality wise, it’s a monster of an album, full of classic hard rock where influences from bands such as Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith – 70’s based hard rock with a touch of the 80’s. So what have the band been up to after the release of their self-produced debut then? Well, the band has been touring and touring and writing and recording the follow-up.
If you look up the word ‘creative’ in a dictionary, there’s a good chance you’ll find a picture of Richie Kotzen there. In 1989, aged 19, he released his first solo album and when American glam rockers Poison called and asked for his services – well it was actually an audition – as C.C. DeVille’s replacement, he had already made three albums under his own name. One album with Poison – the very underrated Native Tongue (1993) – was all he got to make with that band before he got the boot (apparently he nicked drummer Rikki Rockett’s girlfriend…) and was replaced by Blues Saraceno. He made six more solo albums between 1994 – 1999 when he joined melodic rockers Mr Big as Paul Gilbert’s replacement and with them he released two albums, Get Over It (1999) and Actual Size (2001) before that band split up. Since then he has made twelve more studio albums, including this new one (21 albums, all in all, live records excluded). Then add two albums with his new band The Winery Dogs and one with his Japanese project Forty Deuce and you don’t have to be a mathematic professor to figure out that this guy is one hell of a creative spirit and a fast song writer. Now, all of his records might not be masterpieces but I have yet to hear an album featuring Kotzen that is bad.
Deep Purple’s career has been a pretty rocky road since their reunion 1984. Line-up changes, deaths and a lot of ups and downs when it comes to the quality of their records has minted their career – which I think is kind of sad for a band of Deep Purple’s caliber. After all, they were one of the bands that started the whole genre we now call hard rock and heavy metal, together with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep. The reunion album Perfect Strangers (1984) is today a true Deep Purple classic in its own right and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as albums like In Rock (1970) and Machine Head (1972). The follow-up House Of Blue Light (1987) has gotten some mixed reviews from both fans and media. Song wise it’s a phenomenal album but suffers some from the too 80’s production. Singer Ian Gillan got the boot after that album and was replaced by Joe Lynn Turner (ex- Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen) for the ill-fated Slaves And Masters (1990). Turner was fired after that record / tour and Gillan came back for the underwhelming The Battle Rages On (1993) and since then nothing has been the same in the Purple camp. Ritchie Blackmore quit mid-tour and was temporarily replaced by Joe Satriani before the band settled on Steve Morse (ex Dixie Dregs, Kansas) as the permanent replacement and released the brilliant Purpendicular in 1996. The follow-up was called Abandon (1998), a record that I think is Purple’s worst effort ever. Too bad that album had to be keyboard player Jon Lord’s last album with the band. Lord succumbed to cancer in 2012 but by then he had already left the band.
Back in 1989 I was convinced that British rockers Thunder would become the next British rock band after Def Leppard to make it huge and conquer the world – and so were pretty much everyone I knew back then. Formed by singer Danny Bowes, guitarist Luke Morley and drummer Gary ‘Harry’ James of the ashes of the trio’s former act Terraplane – a band I wasn’t too impressed with – with incoming members, guitarist Ben Matthews and bassist Mark ‘Snake’ Luckhurst, the band released their debut album Back Street Symphony in 1990 and had several hits in Europe and the album made quite a fuzz over here, especially in their native Great Britain and when John Kalodner (he was working for Geffen records in the U.S. back then and had a hand in platinum selling acts such as Guns N Roses, Whitesnake and Aerosmith) picked them up to make them a world-wide affair I thought that the last piece of puzzle had been found. But things didn’t quite work out that way and the big victory did not occur. In 1992, when they released their follow-up Laughing On Judgement Day, the musical climate had started to change and even though the album was really good, it wasn’t as strong as the debut which didn’t help matters further. Thunder’s rootsy, melodic, 70’s based hard rock didn’t really fit the times any more and even though they kept playing and releasing records up until 1999, the band’s popularity had sunk and to be honest, the records weren’t even close to the first two, quality wise.
Out of the ashes of the Thin Lizzy tribute act that guitarist Scott Gorham and guitarist and lead singer John Sykes once started came Black Star Riders. When the band went into the studio back in 2012 to record their debut album, they were still called Thin Lizzy, something that in all honesty left a somewhat bitter after taste in the mouth. To release an album of newly written material under the Thin Lizzy moniker without the late Philip Lynott wouldn’t have been the right choice – in fact, there was a big risk that no matter how good and Lizzy sounding said album would have been, it would still have left the Thin Lizzy name bedraggled and it would probably have discouraged many Lizzy fans from even giving that record a fair chance. Thankfully Scott & co. realized that as well and changed the name of the band. But the Lizzy comparisons remained and not only because of Gorham’s past but because most of the songs were written with Lizzy in mind and therefore had a huge Thin Lizzy vibe to them and lead singer / rhythm guitarist Ricky Warwick (ex- The Almighty) seemed to try hard to sing in a Lynott kind of way. Well, that mattered little because I thought – and still think – that All Hell Breaks Loose (2013) is a brilliant album. When it was time to release the follow-up, The Killer Instinct (2015), the band had moved away some from the most obvious Lizzy-like moments even though there was lots of it still present. I loved that album too and to be frank, I thought it was even slightly better than the debut. With album number three, I found it interesting to see if the band had dropped the Lizzy vibes furthermore – and of course, if they had managed to once again release another killer album.