Nothing makes a true Metal crowd more hateful than a band that have made it big. I mean big as in huge. To true Metal soldiers, making it huge means that you’re a sell-out. They can still dig the band but only their first demo that they recorded on a tape recorder in the bass players mom’s kitchen. It’s even worse if said band is being played on the radio – modern Rock radio. That means they have hits and how true is a band that have hits? Nah, gotta hate ’em for that. When I was in my early 20’s, bands like Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and Europe were given the middle-finger by Metal fans when they broke big. Sure, they were good before they made it but afterwards they were useless crap. How stupid!
Today it’s the same thing but the bands are different. One band I hear this garbage about all the time is Shinedown. Modern, soulless, hit-searching, sell-out Rock that only cares about one thing – hit singles and money! Again, how stupid! Shinedown is a huge band that even in the days of Spotify and illegal downloading sells millions of records and because of that, they’re not true. What a crock of shit. They sell millions because they’re a great band that writes awesome songs – and they’re still heavy and they rock. I have loved the band since I heard The Sound Of Madness (2008) and the follow-ups Amaryllis (2012) and ThreatTo Survival (2015) were just as brilliant. I have checked out their earlier releases more recently, but even though I liked them, neither of those have really been to my liking as their later givings.
The moment I heard Saffire for the first time, I knew I would become a fan. I had heard of the band prior to that but never really got myself to listen to them but after just one spin of their previous album For The Greater Good (2015) I damned myself for being so late in discovering them. I didn’t take long after that before said album and its predecessor from FromAshes To Fire (2013) stood safe and sound in my record collection – both are great records. The band’s hybrid of 70’s Hard Rock like Rainbow and Deep Purple mixed with more Heavy Metal acts such as Symphony X really has given them a special sound and it feels like you could spot a Saffire tune miles away. But the most important thing, of course, is that Saffire are great songwriters – two albums in and I have yet to hear a bad song from the band. That and the fact the band – vocalist Tobias Jansson, guitarist Victor Olsson, bassist Magnus Carlsson, drummer Anton Roos and keyboarder Dino Zuzic – are all top musicians makes my expectations sky-rocket when the band is releasing their new album, three years after the last one.
It might have taken me a while to get Mustasch but when I finally did, I really damn did. Their first three albums Above All (2002), Ratsafari (2003) and Powerhouse (2005) did nothing for me at all and to this day those albums leaves me pretty cold. But their fourth effort Latest Version Of The Truth (2007) knocked the living daylight of me – and I still hold that album very close to a masterpiece. Since then, Mustasch sure have had its ups and downs. Their self-titled follow-up wasn’t as great but it was still a damn fine record but it was after that the downfall started. Sounds Like Hell, Looks Like Heaven (2012) was a poor album and its follow-up Thank You For The Demon (2014) was better without flooring me. That’s why 2015’s Testosterone was such a great surprise. On that album, Mustasch stepped out of their comfort zone and took some chances. Firstly, the album had more hooks than they ever had and the tunes came with a big Pop feel without losing their heaviness and secondly, the production was cleaner and a bit polished – something the band clearly benefitted from. This made me very curious of how the band would follow that album.
Anyone remember Keel? If not, Keel were a Hard Rock / Arena Rock band formed by Ron Keel, a singer that debuted on vinyl with a band called Steeler, a band that featured a certain guitarist called Yngwie Malmsteen back in 1983 and who also auditioned the singer spot for Black Sabbath back in 1984, when Steeler had called it quits. The band Keel were active from 1984 to 1989 when they released five albums and sold somewhere around 2 million copies of those. Now 2 million copies might sound a lot but in the 80’s under a five-year period it’s next to nothing. Keel toured a lot, opening up for bands like Kiss and Dio but their big break never came even though they got pretty close with their 1986 album The Final Frontier. And there was a reason for that. Keel just weren’t that good and Ron himself was a singer with a limited range. Not that that ever stopped Vince Neil, though. The band did get together for the release of VI: Back In Action in 1998, an album that consisted mostly of old unreleased songs and did pretty much nothing. So goodbye once more.
I was a big King Kobra fan back in the mid 80’s. That band made a huge impression on me with their two albums and I thought they would be huge. But after two albums that failed to deliver sales wise – and to be honest, their second album hasn’t aged especially well – the band started to fall apart. Singer Mark Free and bassist Johnny Rod left the band and drummer Carmine Appice and guitarists Mick Sweda and David Michael Philips replaced them with vocalist Marq Torien and bassist Lonnie Vencent. That didn’t last long either and before anyone could say Iron Eagle, King Kobra had split up and Torien, Sweda and Vencent had formed the BulletBoys with new drummer Jimmy D’Anda (today in Lynch Mob). Because of the band’s King Kobra past, yours truly couldn’t wait for BulletBoys’ debut album to come out and since it was 1988, I thought that it would sound something in the vein of the boys last band – Melodic Rock with AOR undertones.
The German Ritchie Blackmore is back with another album, his 18th studio effort since his debut 1989. Add five ballad compilations, two regular compilations and four live albums to that and you get quite a voluminous collection of his solo work. Then you can also add the four albums he made with Steeler (not the Ron Keel/Yngwie Malmsteen band with the same name) between 1984 – 1988. Pell has also managed to bring some really interesting singers into his camp such as Rob Rock (M.A.R.S., Vicious Rumours) and Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, Sons Of Apollo) and his latest one, Johnny Gioeli (Hardline) who has been with him since 1997 and he also brought in drummer Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow, Black Sabbath) for his last three albums, this one included.
The name thing. Ok, here we go again. I’ve written it numerous times before – I have a band name issue. At times a band’s name sounds so damn horrendous that I just avoid to even give the band a fair chance. I know that’s stupid and I constantly try to better myself in that department as I have stepped on that land mine on more than a few occasions and have had to crawl with the tail between my legs. “I will never again judge a band simply because of their name”, I have said each time a certain band have proved me wrong. That’s when a reviewers link with a band called Felskinn enters my mail box. Gosh! For a Swede, the name Felskinn sounds very funny, especially when you have no idea what the f**k a Felskinn is. It means “wrong skin” in Swedish, by the way. My first thought was, should I even bother with this? I mean, what band in their right mind calls themselves Felskinn?
From UFO to Scorpions to Michael Schenker Group to McAuley Schenker Group to Temple Of Rock to Michael Schenker Fest. And in between there has been some solo efforts that made few people happy plus short-lived reunions with both UFO and Scorpions that both ended on a disastrous note. Michael Schenker’s career has therefore been a somewhat bumpy road with its ups and downs. Fact is, Schenker lived pretty much in the shadows for a long time due to confused musical efforts and a fights with alcohol and drug demons but in 2011 things started to look bright again when he released his very underrated Temple Of Rock album. Two more records under the Temple Of Rock moniker – Bridge The Gap (2013) and Spirit On A Mission (2015) – with new singer Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tank) following Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley, Leif Sundin and Kelly Keeling to mention a few singers that Schenker had worked with in the past.
This is the first time I review an album by a band from Zagreb, Croatia. In fact, Animal Drive is the first Croatian band I have ever heard or even known about. At least, I think so. That alone made me interested to check this album out. The press release also gave some hints that this band just might be something to write home about. The band was introduced to the Frontiers label by none other than Jeff Scott Soto (Sons Of Apollo, Talisman, WET, Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey) who got to know the band’s lead singer Dino Jelusic when they sang together in Trans Siberian Orchestra and as we all know, Paul O’Neill would never let any singer in if he couldn’t deliver the goods. That meant that I could look forward to a singer who knew his bits and also, the band lists their influences as Slave To The Grind (1991) era Skid Row, Whitesnake at their heaviest but also some more progressive acts such as Dream Theater and to me, that sounded like a real treat.
Swiss Classic Rock band Gotthard’s career has been a bumpy ride for me. When they first showed up in the early 90’s, they did nothing for me at all even though I never thought they were crap. Until Lipservice showed up in 2005. That album and its follow-ups Domino Effect (2007) and Need To Believe (2009) made me a Gotthard fan. Then disaster struck. Lead singer and co-founder of the band Steve Lee was killed in a traffic accident in 2010 and nothing would be the same again. The band found a replacement in the very talented Nic Maeder but none of the albums Gotthard have made with him has been up to par with said trilogy. However, the band’s latest effort Silver (2017) was a real step-up and I began to see some hope again. But when it comes to the pre-Lipservice albums, they have still failed to make any impact on me, despite some very solid attempts to change my own mind about them. I don’t hate them but I just don’t get them.