“Blackout! I really had a blackout!” Yes, I know that’s a Scorpions song – and album. I would say it’s a brave move to name your new album with the same title as hard rock and metal’s most classic and well-known anthems. I think for anyone who’s been around for long enough and for rock fans that are really into both new and old hard rock, the title Blackout equals Scorpions. To name your album Blackout is like naming your new record Shout At The Devil or Love Gun – you run the risk of people focusing on the classic album in question rather on your own album. I thought of the Scorpions right away when I saw the title of Audrey Horne’s new record but at the same time I think it’s pretty cool to just not give a rat and just do what the hell you want. Nobody owns a name, kind of. Now, I have known about this Norwegian classic hard rock band for years so an album title really doesn’t make a difference to me, but maybe for someone who is new to this band it will.
The Last truly great Scorpions album came out in 1984 and was called Love At First Sting. After that, every album became weaker and weaker. The follow-up, Savage Amusement (1988) was a good album but lacked the real spark and the platinum selling Crazy World (1990) was uneven and underwhelming and only sold like crazy because of the ballad hits “Winds Of Change” and “Send Me An Angel”. After that it went more and more downhill with each album with the horrible Eye II Eye (1999) as the band’s biggest low-point ever. But with 2004’s Unbreakable they were starting to show signs of the old days and with Humanity : Hour One (2007) they had a killer on their hands that showed the world that they were back and meant business. To follow such a killer album up can’t be easy and the fact that the word went out that they would call it quits after this album didn’t exactly ease the pressure. This time, the Scorps had some pressure on them to come up with the goods – and then some. And have a taste of the song titles: ”Raised On Rock”, ”Sting In The Tail”, ”Turn You On”, ”Spirit Of Rock”. This is as f***ing Scorpions as it gets. Yes, the pressure sure is on.
Here’s a band that was caught in the middle back in the early 90’s. On one side there were melodic arena rock, AOR, glam, sleaze and regular hard rock and on the other side there were heavy, thrash, death and speed metal – and somewhere in the middle were Warrior Soul. Sure, they were a hard rock/metal band but with a lot of punky vibes and a big fuck you-attitude. Their music wasn’t metal enough for one side and not melodic enough for the other. Now, remember that this was a time when trends were a big deal, not like it is today when it’s ok to like both black metal and AOR at the same time. That’s why a band like Warrior Soul had a hard time making it big and a few years later, grunge and nu-metal sure didn’t help. Also, Warrior Soul were a very political band – and very critical to the USA (“I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag, I burn it!”), something that isn’t looked upon kindly if you’re an American patriot so they didn’t make it easy for themselves.
As a teen and into my twenties I always had a thing for theatrical bands and bands with a really strong image. I also bought everything that sported a great hook and catchy, sing-along ish refrains. I guess it all started with Sweet and Kiss as a small kid and when, much later, bands such as Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister came along, I jumped went along for the ride whole-heartedly. That also made it easy for some bands when MTV became huge – pop choruses and a strong image were perfect for MTV. But that also meant that bands with little and no talent could have hits and it was enough for me and my peers to see that hit video on the screen to go out and get copies of certain albums that maybe we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for MTV. I totally went for bands such as Tigertailz and Madam X, who came in the back water of the mentioned bands that I truly loved. Another one of those bands was Pretty Boy Floyd, who released their debut album Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz back in 1989.
Shakra was formed back in 1994 by guitarists Thom Blunier and Thomas Muster, singer Pete Wiedmer, bassist Roger Badertscher and drummer Roger Tanner but a few line-up changes has been made since then. Wiedner left in 2002 and was replaced by Mark Fox who was in the band up until 2009 and was replaced by John Prakesh who in his turn was the band’s singer until 2015 when he left and Fox returned. Badertscher left in 2000, was replaced by Oli Linder who left in 2008 and was replaced by Dominik Pfister and that is the band we have today. The band released their self-titled debut back in 1998 and have since made another ten studio albums, including the new one. The band has also made two live records to add to their pretty large discography, so there are quite a few albums for this guy to check out if their latest effort makes any impact on me.
To be honest, I have never cared much for Pink Cream 69. Not that I think that they suck, it’s just that their music has never stuck with me at all. My first introduction with the band was when a friend of mine brought their second album One Size Fits All (1992) over to my place and said that I just had to check this band out. So I did. And even though I found songs like “Livin’ My Life For You” and “Talk To The Moon” pretty great songs, I really couldn’t hear the greatness my friend heard and consequently I never started to follow the band even though I have listened through that album multiple times since I first heard it. A good album by a good band that didn’t stood out properly for me. I almost saw them live when they opened for White Lion in the late 80’s (I think) but I decided White Lion weren’t great enough for me buying a ticket and I never went. I wonder if I would have looked different on Pink Cream 69 if I had gone to that concert…
You’ve gotta hand it to Frontiers Records, they are damn good at dusting off old arena rock bands and making them reunite. Even the bands that wasn’t big in the first place. But just because they didn’t make it back when doesn’t mean that they were bad. Quite the contrary, many 80’s/ early 90’s arena rock bands that never won the hearts of millions were damn good. Babylon A.D. are such a band. They formed back in 1987, released their self titled debut album in 1989, followed it up with Nothing Sacred in 1992 and split up shortly after because they didn’t sell squat and in 1992, grunge had taken over more and more, leaving even many of the bigger bands from that era crawling in their dust. They reformed briefly in 2000 and released American Blitzkrieg, an album I never gave the time a day after watching a video for one of its songs. A horrible song, I might add. But back in the day, Babylon A.D. were a really good band and together with smaller acts such as Baton Rouge and Beau Nasty, they never got the recognition they deserved.
In this day and age when your favorite bands takes some three, four, five etc. years in between albums, it feels good to be a Michael Sweet fan. More or less every year brings us fans something new from this highly creative singer/guitarist, be it with Stryper, his solo stuff or his latest project Sweet & Lynch that he started with Dokken / Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch. The brilliant rhythm section of bass player James Lomenzo (White Lion, Pride & Glory, Megadeth) and Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, SUN, The Dead Daisies, Pride & Glory, Geoff Tate) must not be forgotten either. With them, Sweet & Lynch feels more like a real band than just another project now, but more of that later so let’s not jump the gun here. He have also spoken of yet another project with guitarist Joel Hoeckstra (Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Trans-Sibrian Orchestra). I guess vacations aren’t Michael Sweet’s bag of crisps.
When was the last time you ever heard a Russian band that gave you the thoughts: “These guys will make it huge”? Never? Well, to speak the truth, I actually don’t know of that many Russian hard rock bands at all. I do remember Gorky Park, though. Back in 1989, the released their self-titled debut album and under the wings of manager Doc McGhee and with lots of help from both Bon Jovi and the Scorpions, they had a really big shot at making it. That album – and it’s follow-up Moscow Calling (1993) were both great albums but the big break never came and the band is now defunct even though they reunite for occasional gigs every now and then. But besides them? Well, I googled “Russian hard and heavy metal bands” and I got a quite a lot of hits, but of all of those bands that have released albums – 83 of them to be precise – I haven’t heard of a single one of them. Except for Kruiz. But I never liked them. That’s a shame. So when I got the e-mail asking if I wanted to review the debut album from Russian band Strangers, I thought, why not? Sure, the album has been out since May this year and usually, I don’t review albums that has been out for so long but I thought I’d make an exception here just for the hell of it.
Oh my God, the L.A. Guns are back. Again. I didn’t mean that as an insult to the band, I meant that this is a band I haven’t even thought about for years and years and years. That’s probably because I have never been much of a fan of this band in the first place. When they – Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps on guitars, Phil Lewis on vocals, Kelly Nickels on bass and Steve Riley (Ex- W.A.S.P.) on drums – released their self-titled debut album in 1988, I found it underwhelming and the same went for the follow-up Cocked & Loaded (1989). I still hold Hollywood Vampires (1991) as their finest disc to date and even that one is, in my opinion, just good. After that, I haven’t heard a note from this band if you don’t include that I saw them live, opening for Dokken in Anaheim in 2004, without founder Tracii Guns. And speaking of members, this band has changed members more often than I change socks, so I won’t get into that. Let’s just say that both Lewis and Guns have been in and out the band and at one point there were two versions of the band touring the States.