It’s been five years since the last record – The Grand Design – hit the shelves and the project has been on hiatus since then. Since Ward had been involved in different projects during this time such as Sunstorm, Place Vendome and Magnum’s Bob Catley’s s solo career added to the list above, there just hasn’t been enough time to get another Khymera record off the ground – until now that is. Since both Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske returning to Helloween, leaving Unisonic at hiatus and Ward himself jumping ship from Pink Cream 69 to focus on playing bass in Magnum, there now was time for him to get the band together and to write and record a new record – Ward is also the producer – and the result is out now as we speak. As this is my first encounter with the band, I found it really interesting to find out what I had missed out on – if I had missed out on anything at all.
Back in 2014, Canadian Melodic Rock band Harem Scarem surprised me big time with a damn good album called Thirteen (the most used album-title ever?) after a strain of mediocre albums throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. They even split up for a short while in 2008 and Thirteen was their reunion record – and what a reunion record that was! But not even that album could prepare me for what was about to come. Of course, I had some high hopes for the follow-up, 2017’s United but that said album would be one of the best records of that year was something I wouldn’t have guessed. I gave it a 9/10 but three years later I think it’s damn close for the full monty. When Harem Scarem now follows that album up, my expectations is really, really high. Would they release yet another monster – the third time in a row?
I adore this band. Ever since I checked out their debut album Internal Affairs (2012), the nines has been flying around on every single album-review of mine and I stick to that to this day. The band’s mix of Classic Rock, AOR, Funk, Pop, Disco and Hard Rock has been moving more and more towards pure AOR with each album and even though I sometimes miss the almost schizophrenic mix of styles from the debut, the guys’ ability to completely spew out brilliant songs seems endless. Add to the fact that they sport their own identity – you can spot a NFO tune by the second – and it’s clear that NFO is one of the absolutely best Rock bands this country has to offer – total world class all the way.
Here’s a new Melodic Rock signing from Frontiers records. A signing with a weird name. I mean, whoever waits for Monday? This band hails from Los Angeles and was brought to Frontiers’ attention by one Jeff Scott Soto, making the label jumping on to signing the band pretty much right off the bat. Formed by big-voiced Rudy Cardenas, a Venezuela-born rocker who was in the finals of season 6 of American Idol and guitarist August Zadra best known for handling guitar duties in former Styx guy Dennis De Young’s solo band, the guys brought in Walter Ino (guitars, keyboards), Eric Baines (bass) and Joe Travers (drums) and cut some demos, demos that now lies as the ground for their self-titled debut record.
In the beginning, H.E.A.T was a “meh” band for me. Their self-titled debut album from 2008 created a hype as soon as it was released and the band was hailed as the great new hope for AOR and Melodic Rock. I never got it. Still don’t. I even thought that their follow-up Freedom Rock (2010) was better, something I guess I’m pretty much alone in thinking. Things changed for me with their 2012 album Address The Nation and the recruiting of singer Erik Grönwall as the ship-jumping Kenny Leckremo’s replacement. Since then, I have turned into a massive H.E.A.T fan with every album since then being close to masterpieces. All of them. As a live-act, they’re also on top of the game with Grönwall being a frontman extraordinary. That said, with an increasing fanbase and rave reviews everywhere, their last album sure was a watershed among fans.
New bands. New music by old bands. I love that. The world would be a way duller place without finding new stuff. Unfortunately, many of whom has reached my age have stopped caring long ago and are comfortable listening to their old records and to Classic Rock radio. On one hand, I get why – people get older, get married, have kids, buys houses and a family car with accompanying mortgages which means working more hours and then there’s the kids dancing lessons, hockey, soccer etc. practice – there’s simply enough time to indulge in checking stuff out like when they were younger. But the other part of me just don’t get why as an old music fan you can help yourself from doing it. Maybe I’m just a weird specimen and the rest is the normal ones. That’s why I love young dudes and dudettes for still trying and older rockers for never giving in. And labels like Frontiers for signing up them all in a time when people think that Spotify is da shit and never buys hard copies at all.
It was hard to not be aroused when the news of a new “supergroup” that featured bassist and singer Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees), drummer and lead vocalist Deen Castronovo (The Dead Daisies, Journey, Bad English, Hardline, Ozzy Osbourne) and guitarist Doug Aldrich (The Dead Daisies, Burning Rain, Whitesnake, Dio, Bad Moon Rising, Lion), went online back in 2015. The fact that the band was put together by Frontiers Records mattered little but on the other hand, since many of their projects are supervised (produced and written) by the label themselves – which often means Alessandro Del Vecchio, the project beforehand ran the risk of sounding just like many of their other projects. Because the truth is, too many of Frontiers project-albums are very similar both song and sound-wise. My hope here was that Blades, Castronovo and Aldrich had gotten together and written the songs themselves.
Personally, I have had a weak spot for Last Autumn’s Dream since the brilliant 2008 album Yes. However, as of lately their sound has become pretty safe with the albums sounding a bit too samey. Erlandsson’s solo album was a magnificent record that landed somewhere between AOR and Melodic Rock and song wise, at many times it could pass as a more raunchy and gritty version of Last Autumn’s Dream, something I had been raising my voice about for some time. Now it looks like Last Autumn’s Dream is on hiatus for an indeterminate future but to sit idle wasn’t Erlandsson’s song and dance so what to do but to start anew. Instead of starting up a new version of LAD, he brought in H.E.A.T. keyboarder Jona Tee, Mustasch drummer Robban Bäck (ex- Eclipse, W.E.T., Sabaton), guitarists Claes Andersson and Pontus Åkesson (Moon Safari) with Joel Starander and Peter Samuelsson chipping in on bass. The band’s name and the album-cover art made it clear that this band was a LAD out-branch. But with a new song writing team, would this differ a lot from LAD or would Erlandsson go into the same direction?
Ever since a friend at school played On A Storyteller’s Night (1985) for me, I have loved Magnum. I did not only buy that album right off the bat that same day, I also bought the rest of their discography as soon as I got any green at hand and since that day, I have bought every single Magnum album the day they came out. Until the reunion, that is. Those albums has been bought on different occasions. They lost a little momentum for me with Goodnight L.A. (1990), it was too slick and polished and too obviously produced for the American market – Magnum was always a very European sounding band – even though it do contains a bunch of damn good songs and the mundane follow-up Sleepwalking (1992) was a disappointment that almost made me do just that while listening – sleepwalking. Rock Art (1994) was a step up but it was also their last record before splitting up. Also their reunion-albums in 2002, Breath Of Life and Brand New Morning (2004), were ok but not so much more than that.
I remember quite well when Swedish Melodic Rock/AOR rockers started out back in 1991 because they were kinda the talk of the town for a short while back then. For some reason, I never really paid any attention to them then, probably because it would take them an additional seven years to release their debut album Lint. However, by then Grunge had come and swiped Melodic Rock off the face of the Earth and been pushed away itself by nu-metal and other alternative crap. Classic Metal, Hard Rock, AOR, Glam, Sleaze, Melodic Rock etc. was still out of the picture though and bands either split up or struggled hard to get by – musically a horrible time for me.