This new album is the fourth with Stahl as the frontman, if you include the mastodon yet quite unnecessary double covers album Legends (2018) and with that it really feels like Bonfire has finally found themselves at ease. As an outsider, it’s impossible to not think of Lessmann as THE voice of Bonfire, even still, but since Stahl’s voice is quite similar to Lessmann’s – and no, I’m not saying he’s a clone – it’s way easier to get a Bonfire vibe out the band. That was never the case with Reece at all. Personally, my relationship with Bonfire had faded after the release of the magnificent Knock Out (1991) even though there was some pretty good releases after that. Stahl’s debut Byte The Bullet (2017) wasn’t perfect but it was a good record that showed lots of potential and 2018’s Temple Of Lies was a surprisingly vital album, full of damn good songs and Bonfire’s best effort since Knock Out. This of course brought hope that they would deliver the goods this time as well.
My relationship with Gotthard’s music hasn’t been the same since their very talented singer Steve Lee bit the dust back in 2010. Fact is, I was never much a fan of the band from the beginning. Sure, I saw some of their videos on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball back in the day but I never found them that interesting. It would take up until 2005 and the amazing Lipservice album, an album that still gets me fired up on all cylinders when I hear it. The two follow-up’s, the almost as brilliant Domino Effect (2007) and Need To Believe (2009) turned me into a real fan and I decided to give their older albums a shot again. My judgment to pretty much all of them is still that they’re good but they couldn’t hold a candle to three mentioned records. When Steve Lee passed away, Gotthard was very close to finally get their long-awaited major break-through but instead they now had to focus on whether they would stay together or not and if they would, who would be the singer?
That fact that this is a band, a melodic Hard Rock band, that has been together for some 25 years and I had just recently – in 2017 to be more exact – discovered them, is a bit embarrassing to be honest. What’s more embarrassing is that when I was about to review their last album, the great Snakes & Ladders – the album that made me discover them – I also found a couple of old CDs that someone once had burned for me, in one of many many CD-cases. Power Ride (2001) and Rising (2003). I had two Shakra records that I must have listened to at some point and I had forgotten about them…
To write a long introduction about this Metal icon is completely unnecessary so if you’re into Hard Rock and Metal and is clueless of who Biff Byford is then shame on you. And then google him yourself. After more than 40 years in the business, most of them fronting legendary Metal band Saxon, it was time for Peter “Biff” Byford to release a solo album. How Byford had the time to write and record one is a bit of a mystery as he’s constantly writing, recording or touring with Saxon. Personally, I was never a huge Saxon fan myself. Sure, old classics like Wheels Of Steel (1980), Denim And Leather (1982) and Power And The Glory (1983) are all hard to dismiss – brilliant stuff. But too many of their 80’s and 90’s album were underwhelming and even though they have released some really good records of lately, I have a hard time keeping my interest intact.
When you think about the fact that the U.K. has given us so much fantastic Rock music throughout the times, I find it somewhat strange just how few modern bands with high-quality skills that comes from there nowadays. Think about it, back in the 60, the British Invasion brought us bands like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks… Something that continued throughout the 70’s with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake right into the Metal 80’s where bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon broke through. Even the late 80’s with Melodic Rock bands with Def Leppard at the front followed by Little Angels, FM, Shy, Thunder and the likes. So whatever happened to England when Classic Rock rose in the early 2000’s?
So here we are again – another one of those supergroups from Frontiers, right? We all know how the story goes – Frontiers’ song-writing team comes up with a bunch of songs, hires a group or an artist to sing and perform them and then sit around to see if anything happens. And I know lots of people has gotten jaded with all of that – me included – even though some of them has been really damn good. Well, when I heard about this thingy, I hoped that that wouldn’t be the case. When I heard the news about this formation, I got very intrigued right away. This is the band where singer Robin McAuley (Grand Prix, Far Corporation, MSG, Survivor), guitarist Reb Beach (Winger, Whitesnake, Dokken), bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) and drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley, Mr Big) were put together and since I’m a huge fan of all of them, I hoped that this would turn out to be a real band.
The first time I ever heard about Lordi, I thought they were something like GWAR. In a way, they are when you consider the monster suits, but I meant musically. You know, second rate Metal – to put it kindly. That’s why it took a while for me to even be bothered with checking this lot out and when I did, it was by accident. I was watching one of those compilation-videos and “Would You Love A Monsterman” showed up. I got hooked immediately by the band’s mixture of classic Heavy Metal and 80’s Arena Rock/Melodic Rock and with that, I decided to give the band a fair go. I still really dig their first four albums but since Babez For Breakfast (2010) their albums has been very much up and down quality wise and even though I don’t think they ever made a throughout crappy album, many of those record was uneven. The last album Sexorcism (2018) also showed a whole new level of bad taste, lyrically – and I’m not a sensitive guy at all.
I can’t remember the last time I read or heard somebody praising cover-albums. At times it even feels like people hate them by default, that they have made up their minds without hearing a note. I have no issues at all with cover-albums, I even find them interesting. It’s always fun to hear some artist’s take on another artist’s song. That said, there are bad ones and there are really good ones, but it almost never happens that a cover betters the original. I know of covers albums that are really good – Stryper, Tesla and Ace Frehley have all released really good records, but the first time I actually looked forward to a cover-album is when Jorn Lande was about to release Heavy Rock Radio back in 2016. Let me explain why.
You know when you get that feeling that you just know that an album is gonna be great even if you haven’t heard a note of either band or album but you can’t really put a finger on why? That happens to me less and less as the years go by but the younger me got that feeling all the time. I have discovered many bands that way. I love that feeling when you play said record and you are right. But to be honest, many mishaps has come my way too. To be more honest, I’d say it’s almost 50/50. It’s easier today than back when because of all the possibilities when it comes to pre-listening before buying. Well, Dirty Shirley’s debut album is one of those albums. When the word came out that guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, Sweet & Lynch, KXM, Souls Of We, The End Machine) and singer Dino Jelusic (Animal Drive, Trans Siberian Orchestra) was about to release an album together, it spontaneously felt like a winner.
It was eight years ago since Iron Maiden bass player and main song-writer Steve Harris released the debut album by his side project British Lion. Released as a Harris solo-album with British Lion as the album’s title – for sales purposes, of course as both record company and bassist knew that Maiden’s fan-base is extremely loyal and would swallow the album whole – British Lion were and are still very much a band. When Harris couldn’t tour with them, they simply went out and played gigs without him, knowing that his commitments to Maiden would at some time take a pause and Harris would rejoin them. The debut album was of course of interest for more or less all rockers out there, I mean, who wasn’t at least a little bit intrigued by how the side-project by one of Heavy Metal’s giants would sound? I certainly was.