Back in 2013, I had a chat with Chris Laney. He told me that he wanted his new album with his new band Laney’s Legion released by Frontiers Records. Later on, he told me that they had declined to release it with the words “It’s too modern sounding”. That kind of speaks volumes how that label looked at things back then. It was all about melodic rock and AOR for them. Nothing wrong with that, they helped many bands to reunite and signed lots of new ones within those genres so all respect to them for that. But that also means that their releases were predictable – you knew exactly what a Frontiers’ act sounded like without even listening to the album in question. But things have changed since then – now they have added both heavy and power metal bands to their list which, through a fan perspective, brings to more variation and that’s a good thing. The signing of Wayward Sons, a new band, was therefore not predictable in the way that I really didn’t know what they sounded like beforehand – I had no clue who these guys were before I got my hands on the stream link I had sent to me. Was this another all-star project or a completely new band. When I looked through the press release, no star-names showed up at all which was kind of refreshing. Except for one, a name that made me very curious about this band.
Back in 1990, Steelheart, with charismatic singer, Croatian born Miljenko (back then he was Mike) Matijevic at the front, had a couple of huge hits with the songs “I’ll Never Let You Go” and “She’s Gone” which made their self-titled debut album a platinum affair and were on the verge of a big break-through. But when they released the follow-up, the criminally underrated Tangled In Reins, in 1992 the musical climate had started to change and melodic hard rock / arena rock wasn’t such a hot affair anymore. Seattle had become the new L.A. and grunge was the thing on everybody’s lips. The album wasn’t even close to the sales of the debut and shortly after, Steelheart disbanded – or went on a hiatus, depending on how you see it. When Steelheart resurrected in 1996 with the album Wait, Matijevic was the only remaining original member. The album bombed, the time wasn’t right for resurrected arena rock bands just yet, but also, without being bad, the album couldn’t hold a candle to the two first records. So Steelheart went away again and it would take eight years for them to show a sign of life once again, this time with an album called Good 2 B Alive (2008).
The year was 1984 and for some reason I was listening to the radio – something I never did back then since Swedish radio never played any hard rock – and there was interview with a young woman who had recently got home from the States where she worked as an Au-Pair. Some friends had dragged her along to a Ratt concert and she had been totally floored, she said and could they please their current hit “Round And Round” maybe? I had heard of the name Ratt but never heard them. After those minutes with Ratt on the radio, I turned around, took the train to the city and bought Out Of The Cellar right off the bat – and BANG!, I was a fan. The follow-up Invasion Of Your Privacy (1985) was just as good, if not better, but after that, things started to crumble in the Ratt camp. Drugs and internal fighting started to take its toll and with the release of 1986’s Dancing Undercover it stood clear that the band had lost the plot a bit. It’s not a bad album at all but with too many fillers it wasn’t even close to its predecessors. The same could be said of Reach For The Sky (1988) – pretty good but still underwhelming. They shaped things up a bit with 1990’s Detonator, but it was too late – they had lost too many fans and the platinum act that was once at the doorstep to world domination was now playing smaller places or opening up to other bands.
Anyone remember Vixen, the all-girl band that was on the verge of making it huge back in the late 80’s? They scored some big hits “over there” with songs like “Edge Of A Broken Heart” and “Cryin'” and their debut album that came out in 1988 sold in very large quantities. The ladies toured frequently around the globe but when their follow-up Rev It Up (1990) failed to match the sales, it felt like the whole thing was more or less over even though the album wasn’t a flop per se. Vixen split-up in 1991 but made a short reunion in 1998 when drummer Roxy Petrucci and lead singer Janet Gardner recorded the album Tangerine with guitarist Gina Stile instead of original guitarist Jan Kuehnemund (1953-2013) who didn’t want to participate – and a session bass player instead of Share Pedersen.
For years now I have tried to convince pretty any rocker that I know just how great a rock band Hinder really are. Sometimes it works, but for the most people just don’t wanna know. See, Hinder are one of those “modern” hard rock bands that it isn’t “true” to like – and they’re not alone – Nickelback, Volbeat, Takida and Sabaton are a few examples of bands that it is not ok to like. Now, I’m not a fan of some of the bands mentioned either, but others I do love and Hinder really rocks my world. Well, not everything, I must admit – some of their stuff are really, really bad. Like their debut Far From Close (2003), an album I had never heard before I started to write this review. It should have stayed that way. Also, their breakthrough record Extreme Behaviour (2005) is an album I have a hard time with – and their 2012 album Welcome To The Freakshow maybe wasn’t crap all the way, but it is one of the worst cases of sell-out I have ever lent my ears to – what a disappointment.
It’s not easy to write an introduction for British rockers Wraith. I’ve been searching the net high and low to find a complete introduction of the band but failed. So I’ll just write what little I could find. Turns out that this band started all the way back in 1987, but also split up in 1998. Also, the band has until now released five albums (Danger Calling – 1992, Riot – 1993, Schizophrenia – 1996 and Evolution – 2006) and one E.P. (Naked Aggression, 1989). However, the band reunited back in 2006, recorded an album and toured a bit but after a few years, the band was laid to rest once again and this time it was final – or so everybody thought. Because in the year of 2017, Wraith are back for the third time – and this time they were certain to make it last. However, this time it looks like guitarist Gregg Russell is the only remaining original member and the band now is a four-piece instead of a five dito. On for the ride this time, Gregg brought singer Ryan Coggin, guitarist Dieter Schänzer, bassist Kim Nielsen and drummer Jay Graham, so today’s Wraith are pretty much a new band with an old name. And that’s that so let’s get down to bizniss and see what these guys are made of, shall we?
I remember back in 1983, I was just a teen and a metal head. Living in Sweden, there was no hard rock or metal in the media at all, so when Swedish Television decided to show a big metal festival that took place in Westfallenhalle, Germany, it was a huge surprise. It contained some of my favorite bands back then – Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard – and some acts that I wasn’t too familiar with in Krokus and MSG. it also contained one act that I had never heard a note of – Quiet Riot. Now, I had read about them so I was very keen to see what they were all about. The festival wasn’t shown in its entirety, of course, only three or four songs of each band were shown and Quiet Riot had three – “Metal Health”, the Slade cover “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Slick Black Cadillac”. After that, this boy was hooked and I bought their third, but world-wide debut album Metal Health (1983) right away. I was sure that Quiet Riot would be huge because I loved that album – and the album was huge, it sold millions. But their career as superstars was about to be short. By the time of the follow up Condition Critical (1984), it was more or less over.
If I hadn’t more or less stumbled over Evilyn Strange’s debut album, Morning Phoebe at a mutual reviewer’s site, my friend Mike Ladano’s site mikeladano.com, there’s a good chance that I had never known about this band at all. Somehow Mike had been asked by Evilyn Strange’s band leader Philip Strange to review that album and since Mike mostly review older records and this was a new release, I got interested. Also, he gave it a good rating and since we have, in many ways, a similar taste in music, I had to see what the band was all about. Mike got me in touch with Philip who sent me a copy – yes a physical CD!! – to review. Needless to say, I was hooked on that album immediately. Evilyn Strange played melodic hard rock with the roots in 80’s hard rock but also sported some more alternative influences and the album had a feel of how melodic hard rock sounded in 1992 – 1994, just when melodic hard rock started to transfer into a more grungy feel, very fresh and alive and I really can’t think of any newer bands with that sound. They followed that album up with a mini album called Evilution in 2016, an album that showed a band taking a heavier route where pure heavy metal had taken over more. It was a good album but I missed their refined brand of melodic hard rock/grunge/metal that they so brilliantly had given us on the debut. So here we are in the middle of summer of 2017 and Evilyn Strange have just given us their second full CD – and I was looking forward to hear which road the band had chosen to take this time.
Just for fun, I quickly ran through a bunch of other reviews of this album online, just to the see the score. And whadda you know, the slagging went on and on and on, with only a few reviews giving it the thumbs up. This is how it’s supposed to be, see, you SHALL hate Nickelback. I’m sure that many haters haven’t even given the band a fair shot – Nickelback are the pariah of rock and that’s that. One proof of that is Corey Taylor (Stone Sour/Slipknot) saying that singer/guitarist/main song writer Chad Kroeger is to rock what KFC is to chicken. As funny as that quote might be, it only shows just how predictable that comment is and when you think about that Taylor’s Stone Sour aren’t that much to write home about, it becomes even funnier. Kroeger’s answer to that is to call Stone Sour “Nickelback lite” – hilarious. That said, I was a Nickelback-hater myself many, many years ago, before I decided to cut the crap and give them a fair chance – and that’s when I changed my mind. I dig Nickelback. Albums like Dark Horse (2008) and Here And Now (2011) are awesome releases and even though their last album, 2014’s No Fixed Address didn’t manage to match those two, it was still a good album. So, it’s safe to say that I looked forward to this album – and it did come with some expectations to match.
Singer Graham Bonnet (ex- Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz, Impellitteri, Blackthorne) has been one creative dude the last few years. Not only has he been touring with his own Graham Bonnet Band and the Michael Schenker Fest, he has also released a double CD and a live album with GBB, released on July 7. Quite impressive for a soon to be 70-year-old guy when you think about the fact that it have been really quiet in Bonnet camp for years before that. Dario Mollo is another quite creative individual. The guy has made records with ex- Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin and three Voodoo Hill albums with Glenn Hughes (ex- Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Black Country Communion, California Breed) and last year’s brilliant Rock The Cradle with his own outfit Crossbones. So, right out of the blue came the news that Mollo had put together a new project with Bonnet – and this is it. Labelled as EZoo, short for Electric Zoo, a name the pair used when they were touring together back in 2014. The couple recorded demos of a bunch of old Rainbow tunes but nothing more came out of that. Until now that is. So with Mollo’s Crossbones record in close memory and Bonnet’s great solo album, hopes were high for this album.