Stardust – Highway to Heartbreak

Stardust is a five-piece act from Hungary – I don’t think I have ever heard of a Hungarian Hard Rock band before, at least what I know of – that works in the territories around Melodic Rock and AOR with the 80’s as the decade in focus. Nothing new under the sun there, then. The band was formed back in 2015 by vocalist Adam Stewart and drummer Tim Keeley who were followed by lead guitarist Facey, bassist Ben Martin and keyboard player Dave Legrand and a year later the band released their debut E.P. Said record didn’t exactly set the world on fire but the few fans that noticed it gave it good feedback and Frontiers saw potential in the band and signed them. With some song-writing assistance from people like Mike Spiro, who has had a hand in the song writing for bands like House Of Lords, Bad English and Giant and Swedish guitarist/producer/song writer Tommy Denander, the band now has released their debut full-length album.

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Wildness – Ultimate Demise

I had already gotten a bit jaded when it came to AOR – especially the Swedish and Scandinavian styled – back in 2017. Too many bands sounded pretty much the same – same song-structure, production and arrangements – and I had gotten bored. Still am. Enter: Wildness. The band’s self-titled took me by storm and completely floored me. Not that they were revolutionary by any means, but they dared to take AOR out of its comfort zone and weren’t afraid to step outside of the box. While their style was clearly based on AOR and Melodic Rock, it wasn’t especially hard to spot that the members had influences in other branches of Rock as well. Hard Rock, Classic Rock and at times even Metal showed up in their songs and brought a spark and dynamic to the whole sound. And the songs were amazingly good.

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At The Movies – The Soundtrack to YOUR Life Vol. 1: Movie Hits of the 80’s

What to do when you’re a musician/producer/engineer and a pandemic strikes, forcing you to stay at home, making sure that you can’t go out on tour or meet up with your band mates for recording sessions? Well, you stay at home, work by yourself and hang with your family, of course. Which in turn leads to a lot of movie watching, in many cases. That’s what producer/mixing engineer/song writer and current Pretty Maids guitarist/keyboardist Chris Laney (Randy Piper’s Animal, Zan Clan) did – and it all started with the feelgood movie Music & Lyrics, featuring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. Laney got hooked on the movie’s leading track “Pop Goes My Heart” and off he went up to his studio and recorded his own cover of the song, all by himself, just for the fun of it. The outcome spawned an idea in his head…

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Tony Mitchell – Church of a Restless Soul

Hands up everyone who owns Kiss Of The Gypsy’s self-titled debut – and only – album from 1991. Ok, now hands up everyone who has even heard of the band. I’m sure there are a few of us who can raise our hands on both. Being the music-geek I am, I went out and bought said album directly after spotting the video for their debut single “Whatever It Takes” back in the day – and I really dug the record. Still do. But in hindsight, 1991 wasn’t the best year to be a debuting Arena Rock/Melodic Hard Rock act. Grunge was lurking around the corner and even though older acts within said genre still did good business, very few – if any – debuting acts were able to find a fan-base of any signification. Sad, because there were many bands just like Kiss Of The Gypsy out there which never stood a chance to make it big. Kiss Of The Gypsy disbanded only two years later.

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Ramos – My Many Sides

Josh Ramos is a guitarist I know very little about. I know that he’s been in bands such as Two Fires and The Storm, bands that has made little to no impression on me what so ever. But to me, he’s mostly known as Johnny Gioeli’s side-kick when he decided to re-start Hardline in 2002. Ramos recorded three records with Hardline before he left/was forced out in 2016, when Gioeli decided to use Frontiers’ house-band as Hardline members. To be honest, the second coming of Hardline was always more of a Gioeli solo-project under the Hardline moniker and many of those records has been underwhelming. I can’t say that my expectations here are high although I do look forward to see what Ramos has come up with when he’s the man himself.

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Arctic Rain – The One

Sometimes it feels like the well of Scandinavian – and Swedish especially – AOR and Melodic Rock bands will never run dry. Year after year new bands are coming up for air and I can honestly admit, despite being a fan of said genres, that this particular market is starting to get full and that has been going on for some time. Even I am starting to go “oh man, not another one”. Also, add to the fact that too many of them really doesn’t bring all that much new and interesting stuff to the table anymore – the Scandinavian AOR sound is starting to eat itself, I’m afraid. That being said, once in a while a new band comes up with – without being revolutionary – something damn good. Perfect Plan is an example of a band who did just that and as long as that happens, I won’t be the one to count out Scandinavian AOR/Melodic Rock just yet and all new albums will be digested with an open mind.

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Enuff Z’Nuff – Brainwashed Generation

If you want to talk about self-destructive Rock bands with roller-coaster careers, well here’s one for ya. This band was on the verge of a big break-through in the late 80’s and early 90’s but due to many different circumstances, that never happened – the coming of Grunge was just one of them. Since then this band has went through heavy drug-use, lethal overdoses, cancer death and more line-up changes than one can count with pivotal members coming and going. To be honest, I pretty much thought it was over when they released an album of unreleased material, demos and other kind of material as a new album. That was Clowns Lounge (2016) – and as a fan, it was an interesting listen with some pretty cool stuff on it, but nothing about it felt like a new-start of any kind. And the band’s frontman, lead-singer/rhythm guitarist and main-song-writer Donnie Vie had left the band for the final (?) time, due to shitloads of personal issues.

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Tokyo Motor Fist – Lions

When Tokyo Motor Fist released their self-titled debut back in 2017, it turned out as one of the biggest positive surprises of that year. Looked upon as yet another Frontiers project, that wasn’t exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The involvement from the record company, this time, was minimal and the whole shebang was written and produced by guitarist Steve Brown alone. With Trixter on hiatus, Brown wanted a project to keep him busy and he got in touch with Danger Danger singer Ted Poley and bassist Greg Smith (Alice Cooper, Rainbow) and drummer Chuck Bürgi (Rainbow) and formed what was, I guess, supposed to be a side project.

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Vega – Grit Your Teeth

For a guy like me who only knew the band Vega by name a few years ago, the band’s two latest efforts – Who We Are (2016) and Only Human (2018) – were both very pleasant surprises. This British melodic Hard Rock band do work in a genre I usually appreciate which makes it even more weird that I had never checked them out before considering the fact that they had released three records prior to those – Kiss Of Life (2010), What The Hell (2013) and Stereo Messiah (2014). Despite the fact that I really dug the two mentioned albums, I shamefully admit that I still haven’t gotten around to checking those first albums out, something I will make sure to do in the near future. This means that I will sink my teeth into their brand new album with some big expectations in the back-water – hopefully, this album will at least equal their last two records in quality.

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House Of Lords – New World, New Eyes

Here’s another 80’s Melodic Rock act that refuses to just sit idle and only going out on occasional nostalgia tours. Just like many of their peers, they know that it’s their classic 80’s stuff that most people want to hear when they play live but the desire to create and show that they’re still relevant is more important than album sales and what people prefer to hear live. That said, House Of Lords do throw a good mix of both old and new from the stage. When it comes to the new stuff – and by new I mean the albums released by the latest line-up that was formed back in 2005 – the albums has had both its ups and downs. That being said, none of their later albums have been bad, some of them has only been a bit uneven.

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