When I, back in 2017, got the promo-link for Hell In The Club’s third record See You On The Dark Side, I wondered if this lot might be some kind of metal-joke. I mean, who on Earth calls their band Hell In The Club? The album gave assumptions that they might be some kind of Lordi meets Murderdolls kind of band. Well, it turned out it was a side-projects by some members of Secret Sphere and Elvenking – and the record had those members leaving “power” in Power Metal behind and instead going into a hybrid of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, AOR, Sleaze, Glam, Pop and even Punk at times. Looking back at my review for that record, I gave it a good 8/10 but truth be told, I haven’t really picked it up much during the three years since it was released. Just like the last album, this one is produced by Simone Mularoni (DGM, Sweet Oblivion feat. Geoff Tate, Lovekillers feat. Tony Harnell). Even though I hadn’t really thought of the band much, I did look forward to make aquaintance with the Italian four-piece once again.
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.
To my friends and the people who follow my site, it’s nothing new that I am a huge Stryper fan. I mean, I have been throwing nines all over their three last albums, something I totally stand by to this day and I keep name-dropping the band’s name whenever I get into a discussion of who my favorite bands are. That being said, I have always been a Stryper fan but to me, they have never been better than they are today. Song writer/lead vocalist/ guitarist Michael Sweet also seem to have a well of music inside of him that never runs dry. Whether he releases albums by Stryper, Sweet & Lynch or under his own name, the outcome never disappoints – the guy’s lowest level is so high it’s almost ridiculous. But that also comes with some major expectations – the slightest slip from Sweet and the disappointment is around the corner even though the actual record might actually be a good one.
Here’s another 80’s Melodic Rock act that refuses to just sit idle and only going out on occasional nostalgia tours. Just like many of their peers, they know that it’s their classic 80’s stuff that most people want to hear when they play live but the desire to create and show that they’re still relevant is more important than album sales and what people prefer to hear live. That said, House Of Lords do throw a good mix of both old and new from the stage. When it comes to the new stuff – and by new I mean the albums released by the latest line-up that was formed back in 2005 – the albums has had both its ups and downs. That being said, none of their later albums have been bad, some of them has only been a bit uneven.
As a kid I just missed out on Thin Lizzy. Growing upp in the 70’s, Thin Lizzy was a band a never took any interest in, for reasons unknown. I became a fan in 1983, just as the news of their break-up came out. What a bummer. I followed Phil Lynott carefully after that though and after a decently successful solo tour, featuring John Sykes on guitar, Brian Downey on drums and Magnum keyboard player Mark Stanway, Sykes joined Whitesnake and Lynott, Downey and Stanway formed Grand Slam with new guitarists Doish Nagle and Laurence Archer (Stampede, UFO). But despite writing a whole bunch of really good songs and lots of playing live, the band never got signed due to Lynott’s escalating heroin abuse, which would later take his life. Still, when Grand Slam called it quits, Lynott, for some reason, managed to get himself a solo deal and a single – “19” – was released before it all was over on January 4 1986.
So here we go with just another one of those all-star projects from Frontiers, right? Well, usually when Frontiers releases an all-star project it’s within the AOR or/and Melodic Rock genre but here’s a bonafide Heavy Metal project. Who are the dudes that has rounded up for this thing then? Well, we have Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen) on vocals, Chris Caffery (Savatage, Dr Butcher, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) on guitar, Steve Di Giorgio (Testament, Death, Sebastian Bach, Obituary) on bass and drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) with Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach) producing. Sounds interesting? Well, it does to me. What also differs this project is that it’s made solely by the members involved and of course Roy Z which means no involvement from the usual suspects that holds both song writing and producing duties at Frontiers normally. That aside, I think it’s time I get a good dose of Metal again – it was a long time since I found a new Metal act that could kick my ass right into next week!
Back in 2008, when Swedish rockers H.E.A.T. released their self-titled debut album, they were the new hot-shots and looked upon as the new hope for AOR and the band that would be the next big Swedish export. The album was – and is to this day – seen as something of a small masterpiece in the AOR genre. But I must admit that personally, I wasn’t all that impressed. Sure, it’s a good record but it failed to grab me by large. But H.E.A.T. quickly gained a reputation as a great live act and even though the follow-up, 2010’s Freedom Rock got some mixed reviews from both fans and media (I belong to those who prefer that album over the debut), the band got bigger and bigger and after they participated in Melodifestivalen (the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest) with a song called “1000 Miles”, with which they got to the finals and the song became a huge hit, H.EA.T. had become more or less a household name in Sweden – the big break was close.
Back in 2011, Lee Aaron made her come back as a Rock artist after years in the shade. A career as a jazz artist and motherhood put her o of the business for many, many years. It took the now 55-year-old, Ontario, Canada born, a few more years to get her shit together and finally release a new album – her first since 2004 – and when she did it wasn’t all ta half covers/half original one.hat great. Now it’s time for a follow-up, a follow-up that’s a half covers / half original one.
I’m gonna start this review with a little confession: I have never been a particular big Bonfire fan. Throughout their 32 year-long career that have spawned no less than 15 studio albums including this one, only two of the albums are records that I really, really dig – Fireworks (1987) and Knock Out (1991). Not that everything else is bad, records like Don’t Touch The Light (1986), Point Blank (1989) and Fuel To The Flames (1999) are records I think are good but with a few steps to go to reach great. The rest of their discography goes from ok to bland and mediocre. When the band – read guitarist Hans Ziller – announced in 2015 that singer Claus Lessmann, the only member of the band who is on every single Bonfire record, had been given his walking papers I thought the band would be over. I mean, the guy had been Bonfire’s heart and soul since the beginning when they released their debut album in 1981 under the Cacumen moniker. How would they manage to make anything out of this band without him?
In the early to late 90’s, Norway was mostly known for black metal bands, many of them consisted of members that had more in common with juvenile delinquents and hard-edged criminals than musicians. Murder, arson and threats were a few of the criminally activities that those bands liked to participate in. But the fact is, black metal was a big musical export for Norway, much bigger than actual AOR bands such as Return and Stage Dolls were. Today, Jorn and glamsters Wig Wam are probably the most talked about Norwegian melodic rock bands even though none of them managed to reach out to a broader audience. Wig Wam even split up a few years ago. But Norway also have a pretty big prog scene, a scene that has been around for years, but it is in recent years that bands like Pagan’s Mind and Circus Maximus have broken out for real. In the back waters of those bands, a new Norwegian progressive metal band have decided to come out and play – enter: Withem.