I knew I had seen the name Leverage somewhere, but I couldn’t put my finger on where. Some digging at home put an answer to that question. I found a burnt copy of one of their early albums, Tides from 2006. I can’t remember who gave it to me or why and I can’t remember what they sounded like but I have a faint memory of liking the CD at the time. However, that album obviously didn’t make a lasting impression on me as I don’t recall much of it. Again, I’m not sure why my memory serves me that way. What I do know now is that Leverage hails from Helsinki, Finland, that they took their first steps back in 2002, that their debut came out in 2006 and that they, according to Wikipedia, plays a mix of melodic Hard Rock and 80’s Metal with symphonic strains and that they has released four albums, including their brand new one – the last of which came out 10 years ago.
At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to hear this album at all. See, I used to be a massive fan of this guy, defending him for all I was worth. When people suggested that he played without feel only relying on technique, I told them they were probably tone-deaf and that they were completely clueless. Yngwie playing without feel? C’mon already. The guy was faster than fast but he bloody well bled his heart out when he was playing. Some said he could play but couldn’t write a decent song to save his life. Rubbish! From his debut instrumental Rising Force album in 1984 up to Alchemy in 1999, the guy and his “bandmates” did very little wrong and I will forever cherish those records. But since then, a lot of things have changed for Yngwie – some in good ways, like he’s been sober for more than a decade. All good there, Yngwie – proud of you for taking the healthy route.
Strike while the iron is hot! That seems to be Tracii Guns (guitar) and Phil Lewis (vocals) motto ever since they reunited L.A. Guns back in 2016. Well, reunited might be the wrong for the band as the reunion is only between Guns and Lewis, the rest of the band – guitarist Ace Von Johnson who replaced Michael Grant in 2018, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Scot Coogan (Lita Ford, Ace Frehley, Michael Sweet, Brides Of Destruction) who recently replaced Shane Fitzgibbon – has little (well, nothing, actually) to do with the band’s original and most famous line-up. In 2017, L.A. Guns released The Missing Peace and the following year they put out a live album, Made In Milan, recorded at the Frontiers Festival and now they’re back with yet another studio record – three albums in three years is quite a lot in a time and age when bands more than often take three or four years in between albums.
Confession time: When I saw that Burning Rain’s new record had landed in my mail-box, I wasn’t the least intrigued. Why? Well, this band (project?) have never impressed my the least. The fact that their style of music usually is right up my alley – melodic Hard Rock with big influences by bands such as Whitesnake, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin mixed with a more 80’s-laden sound – made it even more clear that this band just wasn’t for me. Their self-titled debut from 1999, Pleasure To Burn (2000) and Epic Obsession (2013) were to my ears both bland and underwhelming where no song really stuck out and everything sounded like every other band in that genre – Burning Rain never lasted at all with me, despite containing great musicians and a damn fine vocalist in Keith St John (Kingdom Come, Montrose, Lynch Mob, Quiet Riot among others) who worked in the school of David Coverdale.
Longing for a full-time Dokken reunion, are we? Well, as long as you’re not a Japanese resident, then I wouldn’t hold my breath for it. It sure looks like the reunion gigs in Japan were one-offs and even though they did release a new song and video for the live album recorded at those gigs – Return To The East: Live (2016), a full-time reunion isn’t all that likely. Don Dokken is planning a new record with his version of Dokken and the other three guys, well they have formed this band – The End Machine. Together with singer Robert Mason (Warrant, ex- Lynch Mob, Cry Of Love, Big Cock), guitarist George Lynch (Lynch Mob, Sweet & Lynch, KXM, Souls Of We), bassist Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, War & Peace, Dio) and drummer Mick Brown (Ted Nugent, Lynch Mob) decided to go their own way and form a new project. As this is is 3/4 of the original band, this is the closest you’ll ever get to Dokken unless they have a big change of heart.
It was now four years since Buckcherry released their last record Rock N Roll, an album that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I dug it though and I have yet to be disappointed by a Buckcherry release. I was never a big fan to begin with, I had tried to get into Buckcherry since their self-titled debut back in 1999 and none of the follow-ups Time Bomb (2001) or 15 (2005) managed to get me hooked. I discovered the band with the brilliant Black Butterfly (2008) – still my favorite Buckcherry record – and every record since has kicked my butt, so there are expectations on this record, a record I was a bit surprised that it actually showed up. Because stuff has happened in the Buckcherry camp in the last couple of years.
I love Tesla. Always have. However, it would take me all the way up until 2008 for me to see them live, when they played Sweden Rock Festival and put on a brilliant performance. Heaven. Tesla were never a big act in Europe so they didn’t make it over to Sweden until 1990 supporting the Scorpions and I missed that gig. Tesla were big in the States though, with their three first albums – Mechanical Resonance (1986), The Great Radio Controversy (1989) and Psychotic Supper (1991) all shipping platinum over there. Since they were lumped together with the rest of the arena-rockers back then, Grunge killed them off as well, making their very underrated 1994 album Bust A Nut a flop. And then they split, just like most of the popular Hard Rock bands that were around in the 80’s did. I always found Tesla different from the rest, though. Sure, they too had the power ballads here and there, but their music was rawer and raunchier and not as slickly produced.
“Dude, you gotta hear this band, they’re all chicks but they kick ass!!” That’s what a friend of mine said to me one day at school back in 1983 and the album he was talking about was Rock Goddess’ self-titled debut album. He was right which meant that I had to get buy that album right away. I still think it’s a great album. The follow-up, Hell Hath No Fury, was released only eight months later and not long after that, the band – Jody Turner (guitars and vocals), Dee O’Malley who had replaced Tracey Lamb soon after the debut album’s release, (bass) and Julie Turner (drums) – visited Sweden on two occasions, once as support to Iron Maiden and once to Def Leppard. I, of course, missed both gigs. But Sweden’s only music mag, Okej, featured the band on several occasions and I remember the 15-year old me having a big crush on drummer Julie who was around that age herself.
Every now and then, I hear comments from fans that Backyard Babies has been on a downward spiral – albeit maybe not a very steep one – since they released Total 13 back in 1998. Me, I beg to differ vigorously on that one – for me it’s the opposite, maybe for the exception of the underwhelming People Like People Like People Like Us (2006). Then again, I’m neither a big Punk fan or someone who took Backyard Babies to my heart when they first started out. The first BYB album that did it for me all the way through was their self-titled comeback album from 2008 and their even more come back album, 2015’s Four By Four. See, I really dug when BYB decide to change some of their Punk in favor of more Arena Rock-like arrangements with a slight nod to Melodic Hard Rock
I first heard of this American Rock band back in the late 80’s when their video, “Walkin’ Shoes”, taken from their debut album Surprise Attack (1989) was played on Headbanger’s Ball every now and then. I thought the song was ok but I never gave the band much notice. The same thing happened when Vanessa Warwick started to plug the leading single “Amnesia” from their 1992 follow-up Wild America. To me, that song sounded like a grittier Great White and I really dug it so I had a friend making me a copy of that album. Even though I found it ok, that copy never got played that often and I soon forgot about it. When I found out that Tora Tora – the band name taken either from a Van Halen song or a Japanese movie from 1970 – had reunited, I decided to dig Wild America up for another taste – and lo and behold, this time it really hit home. It’s a damn good record full of crunchy Hard Rock with its feet in the 70’s but with a sleazy 80’s vibe.