Johan Kihlberg’s Impera – Age of Discovery

After three great albums – Legacy Of Life (2012), Pieces Of Eden (2013) and Empire Of Sin (2014) – with the line-up that featured singer Matti Alfonzetti (Bam Bam Boys, Jagged Edge, Skintrade), guitarist Tommy Denander and bass player Mats Vassfjord (Laney’s Legion, 220 Volt, Grand Design) it was time for a new chapter for drummer and founder J.K. Impera (aka Johan Kihlberg). Impera were a band that hardly played live and could easily be viewed as just a side project for the members of the group. But it was a brilliant band with all brilliant musicians and when Alfonzetti and Denander took their talents elsewhere, it wasn’t an easy task for Kihlberg to find replacements that were in the same league. At first it was said that guitarist Rob Marcello (Danger Danger, Laney’s Legion, The Defiants) would join but that one fell apart. It was also rumored that Kihlberg would turn his drum stool over to another drummer and only do rhythm guitar, keyboards, song writing and production. The vocal job was also a bit of a mystery and at one point I even heard John Corabi’s name mentioned.

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The Poodles – Prisma

The ever flowing stream of cover albums never seems to end. But to be fair, this hated-by-many trend do come in different shapes and colors. The most boring ones are those that you can put in the we-want-to-show-our-fans-where-we-come-from-and-who-our-influences-are file. Those are the records that brings us new versions of the most famous Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Kiss and Deep Purple songs – the predictable and unimaginative types of cover albums. Then there are the ones that are fun (yes, they do exist) where the artist steps out the their comfort zone and take some chances. Norwegian AOR queen Issa (Isabel Oversveen) made one called Can’t Stop in 2012 full of her own versions of pretty obscure, mid to late 80’s AOR songs by artists that never made it, at least many of them. I liked that one. And last year, Swedish AOR rockers Last Autumn’s Dream released a brilliant one full of AOR and melodic rock covers from both the 70’s and the 80’s, many very obscure ones – a brilliant record.

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Magnum – Lost on the Road to Eternity

Oh how I love old bands that don’t have the Gene Simmons approach on music. By that I mean bands that still are creative and has a need to put out new music and doesn’t bitch-whine about the current state of the music industry. “People don’t buy records anymore so I won’t make new music – boo hoo”. That proves that the important thing is the music and not the sales. So thanks a lot for bands like Europe, Stryper, Deep Purple, Winger, Night Ranger etc. And of course, Magnum. Ever since they reunited back in 2002 they have kept on releasing new music on a permanent base. And even though the first two records was only good, the quality has been really high since Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow (2007) and Into The Valley Of The Moonking (2009), two albums I consider just as good as the stuff they released in their 80’s heyday. This album is their 9th since the reunion and their 19th studio record all in all. Since the quality has been really high on all their releases after the reunion, I don’t expect anything less from this one.

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Ammunition – Ammuniton

As a fan of Norwegian glam rock act Wig Wam, I found it sad that they decided to call it a day back in 2014 but as I realist, I kinda knew that they had taken the band as far as they could. And I can fully understand that people had a hard time taking them seriously. With an image so glam they made Poison look grunge and with names like Teeny, Sporty, Flash and Glam, the parody wasn’t that far away. But the fact is, the band wrote some awesome tunes and they were all stellar musicians and song writers so without their outrageous image, I think the band could have gone much further than they did. But the main members, guitarist Trond Holter and singer Åge-Sten Nilsen, didn’t lick their wounds for very long. Holter recorded the brilliant Dracula hard rock musical with Jorn Lande and Nilsen quickly formed his own band that included Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T., Nordic Union) on guitar, Hal Patino (King Diamond, Pretty Maids) on bass, Robban Bäck (Sabaton, Eclipse) on drums, Lasse Finbråten (Circus Maximus) on keyboards and Jon Pettersen on lead guitar.

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Blood Red Saints – Love Hate Conspiracies

First up: I won’t write a bio of the band in this review as I did that in the review of their debut album Speedway from 2015 so if that’s something you’re interested in, then just click the link for that album below and read it there. And speaking of that album, the first time I heard it it was pretty bland to my ears. It felt like one of those AOR albums I had heard a million times without anything sticking out. However, the album grew on me and after a few spins, I came to liking it. So I gave it a 7/10 review. But truth be told, I really haven’t given it that much notice since then and when I gave it another spin just a few weeks ago, it kinda felt a bit bland again. But it’s not a bad album at all, it’s actually pretty good, but today it’s more a 6/10 for me. Now when this British melodic rock / AOR act is due for a follow-up, the word was out that the band had decided to take their music into a heavier and rockier direction – which sounded like good news to these ears.

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Chris Laney – Only Come Out at Night

With almost a year to the day since song writer / singer / guitarist/ producer / engineer Chris Laney (Zan Clan, Randy Piper’s Animal) released his first solo album Pure, he releases solo album #2. If you’re familiar with that record you pretty much know what to expect here. Laney has always been very upfront with his love for melodic hard rock, glam and sleaze and his love for bands such as Kiss, Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe and just like the predecessor, this record is full of praise for that kind of music. Without hearing a note from it, it’s not a wild guess that this  album will be full of kick-ass, melodic, catchy hard rock songs with a clean, yet powerful production. Little has changed here musician wise, where Laney handles lead vocals, keyboards and all of the rhythm guitar and longtime band buddy Nalley Påhlson (Treat, Therion, Last Autumn’s Dream) taking care of the bass parts and touring-band members Rob Love and John Berg (both in Dynazty) are the guitar heroes as usual, on some of the tracks. Drums this time are being played by Ian Haugland (Europe) and George Egg (Dynazty) and it’s worth pointing out that Laney’s daughter Tilda sings back-up on two songs.

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Eisley / Goldy – Blood, Guts and Games

David Glen Eisley. That’s a name that have been popping up in my head pretty often in later years. I first heard this very underrated singer when I got a hold of Giuffria’s self titled debut back in 1984 and was immediately floored by his voice, more that than the actual music, to be honest. Giuffria also included guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot), drummer Alan Krigger and of course the man who gave the band its name, keyboarder Gregg Giuffria (Angel). Eisley lasted for two album before he got the boot when they were recording their third album, to be titled Pleasure Palace, for Simmons Records. Simmons decided that a new singer was required, so the band brought in James Christian and changed their name to House Of Lords. Eisley then formed the band Dirty White Boy with guitarist Earl Slick (David Bowie, Little Caesar) and Keni Richards (Autograph) and released the very underrated album Bad Reputation (1990) but they fell apart shortly after. In 1996 he recorded the self-titled debut album by Murderer’s Row with Wright, Bob Kulick (guitar), Jay Shellen (drums – Unruly Child, Hurricane) and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards – Signal, Alcatrazz) but nothing came of that either.

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Jono – Life

Back in 2015 I got this e-mail from one of the members, asking if I’d like to review their latest album. I had heard about the band then but never heard their music so to review an album by them would give me a chance to get to know their music, I thought. He sent me a reviewer’s copy of the album – yes a CD and not a streaming or download link – and I only needed one listen to be completely floored. I e-mailed back and said that I loved the record and that a review was on its way and like a week later a copy of the predecessor Requiem (2013) – and that album floored me just as much (I still haven’t gotten around to find the self-titled debut from 2006, I can admit with shame…) – was found in my mailbox. Those two albums has been safe and sound in my phone since then and I just can’t seem to grow tired of them – to me this is two masterpieces and to give them any number below a 10 just isn’t possible. So now that their brand new album is in stores, it comes with expectations ridiculously high which in turn means that an 8/10 would look like a failure despite an 8 is very good. But how many bands can put out three 10’s in a row, right?

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Jeff Scott Soto – Retribution

To me, it feels like singer Jeff Scott Soto have been around forever, you know like Deep Purple or Kiss. Maybe it’s because he’s been doing so many different things during his long career because let’s face it, the guy is hardly a newie in the business. But he haven’t been around THAT long. When I first heard his voice, on Yngwie Malmsteen’s almost instrumental debut solo album from 1984, I didn’t have a clue who he was. I didn’t even know what the guy looked like. But what I heard made me melt – what a voice! And when he one year later sang on Yngwie’s Rising Force album Marching Out, I thought his voice was just as important to the songs as Yngwie’s guitar playing. But Jeff was gone already by the release of the album, a real shame as I hold Jeff and Mats Levén (Candlemass, Treat) as  Yngwie’s top two vocalists, and it got very quiet around Jeff for many years. It would take five years for Jeff’s voice to pop up once again – and it did so twice.

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Phantom V – Play II Win

It’s pretty much impossible to write a Phantom V review without mentioning Bonfire. Phantom V started out as Supremacy back in 2015 when lead singer Claus Lessmann had been fired from Bonfire. I’m not gonna go into that story again – it’s in the review of their last album to read about. Formed by Lessmann and guitarist Michael Voss (ex Casanova, Mad Max, Bonfire. Michael Schenker) but they changed their name to Phantom V close to the release of their self-titled debut album last year. Said album was surprisingly good and fact is, it sounds more like Bonfire than Bonfire do today. Lots of it has to do with Lessmann’s voice, of course, but Phantom V’s sound is also very close to that classic Bonfire sound and since Lessmann was the guy who kept Bonfire going for all those years, that’s hardly eye-brow rising. Bonfire, on the other hand, has had a hard time with lead singers since the firing of Lessmann, but that’s another review. With a solid debut album in their back pocket this album did come with some expectations – especially since it was only a year since the debut came out. Now, Phantom V are more of a project than a real band – which is a shame – and since they haven’t been doing any touring yet so I guess they spent their time writing songs and recording.

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