When it comes to progressive Metal and Hard Rock, both my knowledge and interest is somewhat limited. Within that genre, there are only a few acts that I really find interesting and good enough to listen to regularly. That’s why I’m not overly familiar with singer Neal Morse. He used to be the singer for Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic, two bands I have heard very little of. He’s also a member of the band Flying Colors which also features Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Sons Of Apollo, ex- Dream Theater and a million other projects and Ex Kansas and Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, now in Deep Purple. I totally adore Flying Colors. He’s also a solo artist within his Neal Morse band, a project I have heard literally nothing of. I’m not writing this to diss Morse, just to let you know I don’t have that much to compare this record to. That Morse is an amazing vocalist isn’t even under discussion.
I love it when a label like Frontiers decides on signing new, young and upcoming bands because let’s face it, it doesn’t happen that very often. Frontiers as a label is mostly known for signing old bands reuniting, band members going solo or all-star projects and while there’s nothing wrong with that, many of those are actually very good, it feels refreshing with new acts. What’s more, new acts are much needed in Rock today. One such signing is British melodic Hard Rock band The Brink. The band cites acts such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses as influences but also Avenged Sevenfold and Black Stone Cherry and it takes only one look at the members’ names – Tom Quick (vocals), Lexi Laine and Izzy Trixx (guitars), Gaz Connor (bass) and Davide Drake Bocci (drums) – to figure where they are musically. This smells like Sleaze or Glam Rock a long way. Let’s find out where this band is quality wise – and if they are doing their own thing or just another bunch of carbon copies.
Spanish Metal act Lords Of Black is, if one should be really honest, mostly known for their former singer, Chile born Ronnie Romero. With three albums under their belt – their self-titled debut from 2014, II (2016) and Icons Of The New Day (2018) – the band is hardly a world-wide known act and most of the talk has been about Romero being a very well respected and a singer who’s used for lots of different projects, such as The Ferrymen, CoreLeoni and mostly as the latest singer in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Romero recently left Lords Of Black for reasons unknown to me and was replaced by Argentinian big voice Diego Valdez, most recently in the underwhelming Dio-wannabe band Dream Child. With all that happening, Lords guitarist Tony Hernando decided it was time for him to make a name for himself and used the break to form a side project – this one – a side project that really is a solo album under a band name.
I put British rockers The Wildhearts in the file “bands I like but probably shouldn’t”. See, I’m not into Punk much at all and The Wildhearts’ simple, in-your-face, clearly Punk influenced Hard Rock isn’t something I usually get into. But I have always had a weak spot for this band even though they’ve never been a favorite band. The biggest reason for me liking the band is because of guitarist/lead vocalist Ginger’s amazing ability to write memorable melodies and catchy choruses that sticks big-time. Fact is, at times, I think the guy is a damn melody-genius, a master of uncheesy poppiness. For example, Ginger was very much behind Sensory Overdrive (2011) being Michael Monroe’s best solo album. But I must state that The Wildhearts’ albums has always been somewhat uneven. When Ginger’s Punk genes and love for hard-core Hard Rock meets Metal takes over, I’m not really there.
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.