Music Release Reviews (Page 1)

18 Reviews
A Dark and Scary Place

Cult Drugs, by Blood Command

Label: Fysisk Format

April 2017

Blood Command describes itself as a Punk Rock band from Bergen, Norway (a location well-known for its Black Metal). It incorporates Karina Ljone on vocals, Yngve Anderson on guitar, bass, keyboard and backing vocals, Sigurd Haakaas on drums, and Simon Oliver Okland on bass and backing vocals. Since their beginnings in 2008 there has been three E.P.s and two full albums. After a minor line-up change their third album Cult Drugs is released via Fysisk Format. The tracks are: CTRL+ART+DELETE, Cult Drugs, Quitters Don’t Smoke, Nervous Laughter, Gang Signs, You Can’t Sit With Us, The Secret Impresses No One, White Skin/Tanned Teeth, Initiation Tape #1, (The World Covered in) Purple Shrouds...

Strangely, my musical tastes have become progressively heavier through the years. I have two stipulations regarding new material: It must have energy and melody. This release has both in spades. My first thought upon playing this through is ‘Oh, my word! How have I managed to let this band’s material pass me by?’ It’s always refreshing to discover a new sound; something that wakes-up your senses, has plenty of raw power, and doesn’t always go in the direction you might expect. Blood Command is easily the best combo I’ve come across for a while… and they’ve been active for nearly ten years!

I think they are doing themselves an injustice by simply describing themselves as Punk Rock. It’s much more a blend of Rock/Metal sub-genres. Imagine Green Day, but heavier and less predictable – and even that doesn’t do their originality sufficient justice. The tone of the vocals is comfortably conducive to the overall sound but, in turn, they rise to a melodic scream and lower to a chorus-like hook which you can grab onto and be pulled along for the ride.

I have checked-out a couple of YouTube clips of the band playing live and there doesn’t seem to be quite the amount of relentless energy (aside from the brilliantly manic drummer) that is present on this studio recording. Whether that is down to pacing themselves for an entire set or something else entirely, I have no idea. It’s a curious thing. However, as this review should be strictly about the Cult Drugs album I’ll put anything else to one side.

Preferring to make up my own mind first, I gave it a few days before researching other critiques, but was pleased to find Blood Command has garnered almost universally rave reviews. Let me tell you it is entirely deserved. The band has created something very special. Tracks 2 to 8 are nigh-on perfect compositions realised with spot-on impact. The remaining songs are not far behind; I can even forgive the experimental final track, featuring trumpet with a Spanish-like introduction and ending.

The bottom line is I have this album virtually playing on a loop in my car. It’s fresh, it’s vibrant, it has attitude… and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m off now to order the previous two albums, Ghostclocks, and Funeral Beach!

Verdict: 10 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)

Lesson #16 for Beatmaster V / Fun (single), by Deathcrush

Label: Norway Rat Records

March 2014

This is a digital format single, and part of a single-series - first began in 2013 - which has been attracting some attention from the music press. Deathcrush is an Oslo-based Norwegian trio, comprising Vidar Evensen on drums, Ase Royset on guitar and Linn Nystadnes on lead vocals. Prior to that they toured extensively in Europe. The music was described as a playful mixture of hip hop, trash metal and noise rock, and the new style sound as pelvic noise sludge.

I suppose many first-time listeners would describe the sound as Alternative, because this normally encompasses a multitude of sins which cannot initially be categorised. Once the style becomes more accepted or common, it is given a sub-genre, and Alternative becomes the next weird concoction. The opening part of the single repeats the words, ‘This is just for fun,’ which leads you to question the overall purpose of the song. Have they written this song just so that it gets a reaction? Even if it’s simply, ‘What the hell is this?’ Perhaps so; certainly that strategy has worked for acts in the past. The pace here is somewhat moderate, the vocals almost robotic in nature. The middle section is faster and more thrashy, but still is rather reminiscent of a home recording sound.

As someone who dabbles with the drums, you would think I would prefer a prominent percussion, but that’s not the case. The drums are far too loud and up-front here, when they should be in the background, dictating the pace and mood without ever encroaching on the vocals and melody. The grungy guitar is far too low in the mix, sounding for all the world like you can just hear someone playing next door through the wall.

I’m a fan of many variations on Rock and Metal, but I’m afraid this just doesn’t work for me. I suppose it could improve with multiple listens, but would that be an improvement or simply like the last song you heard on the radio: not particularly good, but gets in your brain!

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2014) 

Pineapple Pizza, by Death by Unga Bunga

Label: Jansen Plateproduksjon

March 2016

Death By Unga Bunga is a five-piece Garage/Punk band from Moss, in Norway. It consists of Sebastian Ulstad Olsen on lead vocals and guitar, Preben S. Anderson on keyboards, Stian S. Gulbrandsen on guitar, Even Rolland Pettersen on bass, and Ole S. Nesset on drums. The band has released four albums in five years; however, Pineapple Pizza is the first to be available in the UK. It is out 04 March on Jansen Plateproduksjon, prior to a planned mega-touring schedule throughout 2016.

I like music with meat on the bones. It has to possess a raw energy, otherwise what’s the point? This CD grabbed my attention immediately because, like Green Day, these guys have stewed-up a boiling cauldron of Garage Rock, Punk, and catchy Power Pop – all with an upbeat, up-tempo energised vigour. Okay, they’re never going to be as popular as Green Day, but that bridging of genres will surely make them more accessible to the wider mainstream audiences. Having said that, you kind of want them to be a best kept secret and play regularly in claustrophobic up-close pubs and clubs.

Of course, being essentially a modern Punk band, they feel obliged to shock (or at least have a little dirty fun with) the masses. This is like a calling card for the genre. The name of the group undoubtedly relates to the infamous death by bunga joke. If you haven’t heard it, where have you been? Look it up, because I’m not relaying it here. The Pineapple Pizza cover shows the backside of a woman with a pineapple partly inserted. Whatever you may think about this, it shouldn’t detract from the music, which is pretty damn fine.

'Dollar Slice', the first track, is reminiscent of a 1960s TV piece. You can well imagine it being used as incidental music in the original
Thunderbirds. This acts as an introduction to the album proper, the second track, 'I Can’t Believe That We’re Together'. There are twelve tracks in all, and it all gallops along with so much fun and energy that it almost seems to be over in an instant. I played it through at least three times in the car. It became very familiar very quickly. You could tire of the songs easily this way, but judging by the quick turn-out of produce, it would be worth trying to trace the earlier albums from Norway.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016)   

So Far, So Good, So Cool - by Death by Unga Bunga

Label: Jansen Records

April 2018

 Jansen Records release the fifth album from fun Garage/Punk combo Death By Unga Bunga. They are celebrating their 10th anniversary together, and are busier than ever. They have not only toured extensively in their homeland of Norway, but supported Stiff Little Fingers on their 40th anniversary tour, and headlined their own dates in the US. Since their last album, Pineapple Pizza, the band has put out a remastered edition of their first album Juvenile Jungle, and released an EP called Fight. Their new album, So Far, So Good, So Cool features just over half an hour of full-on energy Pop-Rock...

I reviewed the album Pineapple Pizza back in 2016, expressing enthusiasm for their energy and melody. Should each album be a progression? I suppose that’s open to debate; everyone has their favourite albums for different groups, after all. When you’re expecting music to be good before you begin listening to it, there’s invariably a slight feeling of disappointment. Diminishing returns, you might say. Whereas if there are no expectations the impact is more profound. Consequently, whereas I enjoyed Pineapple Pizza immediately, So Far, So Good, So Cool has steadily grown on me with repeated plays in the car.

And talking of the car… This is definitely Summer music to drive to with the windows down. Bystanders will like it, be confused by it, intrigued or annoyed by the volume. What they won’t be is bored. It’s at times Pop, Punk, Rock or Indie. It’s fun, driven and anything from commercial Pop-Punk to balancing on the edge of offensive. The singing is clear and sounds almost American, and the guitar is constant hooks and short, melodic, unpretentious solos. I particularly like the breaks, which are either weird, machine-like noises or background studio chatter. It grounds the group into sounding more like a raw but tight amateur band practicing in the garage (which is no bad thing, as far as I’m concerned).

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)   

Deep Purple Vinyl Collection ('72 - '87)

Universal Music Catalogue

January 2016

Universal Music releases Deep Purple: The Vinyl Collection ’72-’87 on to an unsuspecting public in early 2016. It is a luxury box set of classic albums remastered from the original tapes. They are also available separately. Seven classic Deep Purple albums on vinyl? What’s not to like?

Anybody into Rock or Metal will know Deep Purple well. They were/are one of the early greats which evolved the sixties Psychedelia and Blues into seventies Classic Rock and Metal. The albums on parade here are Machine Head, Who Do We Think We Are?, Burn, Stormbringer, Come Taste the Band, Perfect Strangers, and The House of the Blue Light.

The first thing which comes to mind is the curiously illogical choice of titles in this collection. The fact that four of the seven albums feature the Mark II line-up of Blackmore, Lord, Gillan, Glover and Paice, I would have thought it preferable to stick with that by substituting Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band, with In Rock, Fireball and Made in Japan – the two releases which immediately preceded Machine Head, and the brilliant live album which followed it. As In Rock is my favourite Purple studio album and Fireball is pretty fine, too, I was somewhat disappointed that these two weren’t included. And as for Made in Japan… it’s a timeless classic.

However, it’s no use dwelling on what might have been, so let’s study what we do have. Machine Head is first, and it’s no surprise that it’s usually first on every fan’s lips. It’s hard-edged, has plenty of originality, and showcases the level of individual talent in the band. We all rattle 'Highway Star', 'Space Truckin’', and 'Lazy' off the tops of our heads (oh, and a little ditty called 'Smoke on the Water') but, personally, I think the stand-out track is 'Pictures of Home' – which has never really been given the recognition it deserves.

The oddball here is undoubtedly 'Maybe I’m a Leo', the style of which would fit more comfortably with Who Do We Think We Are? This album is treated like a mistake by a lot of people, but that’s more than a little unfair as there is much to enjoy here. Nearly every Rock fan will know 'Woman From Tokyo', which is probably the track that should have been on Machine Head instead of 'Maybe I’m a Leo'. The musical content (or the feel, if you like) noticeably changed for this album, becoming lighter, with more Blues, and certainly injecting more fun into the formula. This was when the allegedly mega-egos of Blackmore and Gillan clashed big-time, culminating in Gillan leaving the fold. It was said that Gillan’s song 'Smooth Dancer' (or at least some of the lyrics) was a dig at Blackmore. I still love the tracks 'Place in Line', and 'Rat Bat Blue' from this release. One more thing worth mentioning is the more prominent keyboard levels. Jon Lord was, in my opinion, the greatest Rock and Metal keyboard player ever, so I would never complain about some deservedly longer solos.

Enter David Coverdale and the Mark III line-up of Purple. Coverdale’s voice is quite different to Gillan’s. Whereas Gillan’s fits a harsher Hard Rock sound, the young Coverdale’s is deeper and smoother, connecting with Rhythm and Blues infused with a little soul. Nevertheless, the album Burn kicks-off with the title track, a powerful song which motors along giving 'Highway Star' a run for its money. The other stand-out track is 'Mistreated', which is a great, moderate-paced Blues that brings Blackmore to life again. What I don’t like about this album is Glen Hughes, who replaced Roger Glover on bass. I know he has a lot of fans and has stood the test of time, but I just can’t get on with his grating voice. On the songs which he shares vocals with the frontman, his voice clashes horribly against Coverdale’s deep and refined voice. If you get the chance, look up Jon Lord at the 1973 California Jam concert they did, and gape at his monumental Hammond organ solo.

If I’m honest (and this will also be controversial with a lot of old-school fans), I prefer Stormbringer to Burn. It’s the first true glimpse of what would evolve into Whitesnake… and I loved Whitesnake up to 1984. Standout tracks here are 'Stormbringer', 'Hold On' (Blackmore having fun…if that’s possible), 'Highball Shooter' (what a great Jon Lord keyboard solo), and the excellent ballad 'Soldier of Fortune', which showcases Coverdale’s husky sighed vocals.

Blackmore finally leaves after this album to form the harder-edged Rainbow with the legend that was Ronnie James Dio. Thus MK II Purple seemed to become Rainbow and MK III Whitesnake. Come Taste the Band introduces Tommy Bolin on guitar. This album is easily the weakest of the bunch on offer here. It’s far too funky, almost totally severing ties with what Purple is all about. Aside from maybe the first couple of tracks, it’s pretty awful. Even Lord is persuaded to play weird Moog synthesiser stuff. Enough said.

Jump forward to 1984 and we are presented with the awesome return to form that is Perfect Strangers. Why is it so good? Because it is the reformed MK II line-up, and all of them are on the top of their game. The production on the album is spot on, with Roger Glover’s bass driving a harder sound, aided by Ian Paice’s solid Animal drumming. Jon Lord’s Hammond keyboards are in the forefront of the mix, along with Blackmore’s enthusiastic and inventive guitar. Ian Gillan’s sometimes harsh vocals totally complement the overall sound, slicing through a reassuringly Hard Rock sound. You feel he is being pushed to extend himself and is enjoying every minute of it. A handful of the songs on this album were released on 12” singles at the time. There isn’t really a duff track (the monumental 'Perfect Strangers', 'Nobody’s Home', 'Knocking at Your Back Door', 'A Gypsy’s Kiss', and the melancholy ballad 'Wasted Sunsets' being my favourites), and this album was universally considered to be the true follow-up to Machine Head.

Purple followed Perfect Strangers with The House of Blue Light. It was viewed by some as more of a Gillan album than a Deep Purple one. I think that’s more than a little unfair. It’s simply that this is a little lighter and up-tempo than its predecessor’s moderate and heavier pace. It’s still very much Purple, perhaps emulating Who Do We Think We Are? in its weight. Overall, though, this one maintains more meat on the bones. Blackmore still sounds like he’s interested (listen to 'The Spanish Archer'), and it’s great to hear Jon Lord’s piano ('Strangeways', which has great lyrics, too) and traditional Hammond organ still very much in evidence. There are no real stand-out tracks on this album, but similarly no bad ones either. The songs are quite diverse, but I particularly like 'Bad Attitude' (which sounds like it could have been on Perfect Strangers), 'Dead or Alive' (good Blackmore/Lord solos), and 'Spanish Archer'.

After another clash of personalities with Blackmore Gillan left again, but two albums later would return once more.  I suppose that The Battle Rages On could have been included, too, as it was a last attempt at the classic MK II line-up. Anyway, a good set here which could have been perfect, but as this is close to that we won’t quibble too much about the choices. Another thing worth pointing out is that these are remastered copies of the first releases, but are not vinyl representations of the CD anniversary re-issues of recent years which incorporated outtakes and alternative versions. In other words, there is one version of each track. The production is good, with a nice raw energy evident on the majority of these records. Enjoy.

Verdict: 9 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016)

Smokehound, by Devil Gone Public

Label: Devil Gone Public

August 2016

Devil Gone Public is a five-piece genre-breaking band from Sarasota, Florida, USA – comprising Garrett Moore on Lead Vocals, Red on Guitar, Austin Bowman on Guitar, James Hyde on Bass & Vocals, and Brandon Thrift on Drums. Although they have been around in one form or another since 2008, they feel the time is now right to release their debut album, Smokehound. It is presented in a slip sleeve with artwork depicting a medieval plague doctor, a multitude of grave markers and roaming wolves...

The band’s origins lie with Brian Johnson of AC/DC fame, who nurtured them, honing their skills by jamming with them and other notables, such as Scotti Hill of Skid Row and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn of Booker T. and The Blues Brother. They supported Johnson on gigs with Motley Crue and others. If this description makes you assume you’ll hear Classic Metal or Blues-based Rock on this album, you’ll be sorely mistaken (all will be revealed). DGP actually called it a day in 2012, before reforming two years later, independent of Johnson.

It is said that we are simply the sum of our parts. If the same could be said for music – and, in particular a single genre of music – then by all accounts I should thoroughly enjoy this album. I like Rock and Metal, I like raw energy, I like growled vocals (some of the time), I like Southern Metal, but I can’t say I’m enamoured with the over-all sound. Perhaps it’s the conservative sprinkling of Stoner Rock, which I’ve never really been able to get on with. It kind of substitutes melody for repeated heavy chord structures, like grunge but not really going anywhere.

I’m still not sure if the first track is supposed to be an intro or a fully-fledged song; I can only assume the former is the case. 'Euthanation' starts off well enough. The riff and melody is okay, but that is all we get for the entirety of the song. It’s the same story for each track. They are diverse within the chosen genres, but soon become more than a little stale. I’m probably being unfair because, as a unit, Devil Gone Public is pretty tight and together. So, as I’m not really a Stoner Rock fan, I think it’s reasonable to give this an average mark, because I think many fans into this format will welcome this release.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016) 

Last Look At Eden, by Europe

Label: earMUSIC

September 2009

Europe is a commercial/hard rock combo from Sweden. After winning a band competition, they released their self-titled debut record in 1983. The group consists of Joey Tempest on vocals, John Norum on guitar, John Leven on Bass, Mic Michaeli on keyboards, and Ian Haugland on drums. They are Sweden’s biggest selling hard rock band. This is their eighth release...

It’s been a chasm-spanning 23 years since the release of the groundbreaking
The Final Countdown (TFC) album and it’s accompanying mega-hit single which seemed to remain at the number one spot forever. That solitary track, more than anything else, catapulted the band into the starlight. However, it’s the measure of a unit how well it handles that fame. Although in my opinion it’s predecessor Wings of Tomorrow was a much better collection of songs, the heady heights of TFC seemed to place obstacles to trip the band. Nevertheless, Europe have enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance recently with the return of original guitarist John Norum, who left to concentrate on his solo career a little after TFC. Two world tours promoting the follow-up albums had sent the group into meltdown, resulting in a rest which turned into an indefinite break.

Last Look at Eden is the third release since that hiatus, and by all accounts is a return to form after Secret Society. The style remains very much set in the eighties, with no noticeable progression, which is fine. There are a number of obvious influences in the music and particularly in the voice of singer Joey Tempest, who appears to be singing in a lower register these days. The lilt of his voice jumps between commercial rock, blues and even country as he at times bizarrely attempts to emulate other singers.

'Catch That Plane' is a decent enough, if somewhat lightweight catchy, AOR-type song. 'New Love in Town' features softer vocals and a Deep Purple-like riff, and in the verses in particular tries to sound like David Coverdale. For someone like me who prefers the heavier end of the market, 'The Beast' is by far the best of the bunch, with much more substance and backbone. It also rather cleverly refuses to outstay its welcome. It’s at this point that the album loses its way a little. The influences come hailing down; 'Mojito Girl' is essentially Bon Jovi’s 'You Give Love a Bad Name', 'No Stone Unturned' is slightly mystical Led Zeppelin, and the Coverdale copy makes a return for 'Run With the Angels'. Although Tempest sings a breathy Coverdale again for the final track, 'In My Time' is an excellent bluesy electro-acoustic ballad with some premium guitar work. A great way to close the album.

Although my musical tastes generally start slightly heavier than this, I’m certain long-time fans of Europe will be more than happy with this output.

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2009)  

A Decade of Destruction, by Five Finger Death Punch

Label: Eleven Seven Music

December 2017

 Five Finger Death Punch is a Los Angeles-based Hard Rock/Metal band whose impact and success speaks for itself, with a string of gold and platinum sales since its beginnings in 2007. Following the album Got your Six, from 2015 – which incorporated the gold number one single 'Wash It All Away' – comes this 2017 celebratory collection of hits from the ten years the band has been together. A Decade of Destruction also incorporates two new songs. The full track listing is: 'Trouble', 'Gone Away', 'Lift Me Up', 'Wash It All Away', 'Bad Company', 'Under And Over It', 'Wrong Side Of Heaven', 'House Of The Rising Sun', 'I Apologise', 'The Bleeding', 'Jekyll And Hyde', 'Remember Everything', 'Coming Down', 'My Nemesis', 'Battle Born', and 'Far From Home'...

As a fan of Rock and particularly Metal, I would have had to have lived all my life on the Moon not to have heard of Five Finger Death Punch. However, it’s impossible to follow every band, and knowing the name isn’t proof of familiarity. Truth be known, I’m not a big fan of most American Metal bands, who seem to follow the same style and patterns of the Nu Metal Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, and Linkin Park. So, perhaps I’m not the best person to give this offering a fair listen. Alternatively, coming cold to this music might just be the best way to approach it objectively.

It’s ironic that a new rather than existing song is my first proper introduction to the band. But it is a good one. 'Trouble' is an entertaining song which contains drive, energy and melody; this last description is one that’s important to me, and is all too often absent from the heavier or Doom-laden examples of Metal. The more up-tempo tunes work much better, seeming to flow more naturally, unlike the token ballads. I enjoyed most of the songs (including the cover of The Animals song, 'House of the Rising Sun'), but none of them stood out as having an individual identity. I think the problem is it’s a set format of slightly growled verses and clean chorus lines. This has become the accepted process for so many American bands over the years. Those US bands which haven’t followed the Nu Metal family tree of influences have escaped this pigeon-holing.

I see the skill and further potential of Five Finger Death Punch, and can understand when fans enjoy a band’s style they don’t like them to change it. However – although I have my own favourites from over the years – I seem to be attracted most by those who combine sub-genres or simply do something fresh and original.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

Flesh E.P. by Heylel

Label: Heylel

September 2015

Flesh is a new five-track release from Portuguese band Heylel (which in Hebrew means ‘Shining One,’ ‘Bright Star,’ or ‘Devil’ - forgive me if I have this imprecise). The group incorporates Ana Batista on vocals, Narciso Monteiro on guitars, bass and keyboards, and Filipe Braga on drums and percussion. This is their second release following Nebulae the year before.

Heylel is a band which has managed to pass me by. It’s described as progressive rock/metal – or even symphonic in places – but I would say it’s much closer to the goth metal sound of Lacuna Coil, but maybe slightly lighter. With only five songs,
Flesh is more of an EP than a fully-fledged album. However, as far as newcomers to the band are concerned, this plays to its strengths. Listening to the CD on a loop in my car allowed me to experience and savour the sound without being swamped with so much material that none of it sinks in.

From the first track, 'Saints', Ana’s vocal style seems at odds with the music; but, as with Federica Sister of power metal band White Skull, you soon realise the fact the voice doesn’t precisely fit the style means that it stands out as a counterpoint which really changes and aids the uniqueness of the sound.

You might have gathered by now that I like this CD a lot. It’s not brash or raucous, but it is very stylish and never dull. Visiting their website retrospectively has only made me warm to them more, and even want to check them out live. There is a video for the final song, 'Paranoid Hysteria', and a video example from their previous album, to display the movement away from a more experimental arrangement without losing their way.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2015)

Hurricane, by The Jokers

Label: Steamhammer

September 2015

The Jokers are a four-piece rock band from Liverpool, incorporating Wane Parry on vocals and Paul Hurst on guitar, with relatively new members Dan Evans on drums and Phil Hartley on bass. Hurricane is their third album, and follows on from 2013’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Alive.

Although I was aware of the name The Jokers, I had never heard their music. So, once I knew their CD
Hurricane was winging its way through the post to me for review, I decided to obtain a foreknowledge of what they are all about. I really wish I hadn’t. I selected a clip or two of them from YouTube playing live, and most of the time was taken up with, frankly, needless tomfoolery which I didn’t find even remotely amusing. Consequently, I had already partly made up my mind this was going to be pretentious ‘Listen to us, aren’t we funny’ claptrap. I was to be pleasantly surprised.

There are twelve tracks on the album, and an additional four (albeit rather short) bonus songs. So, plenty of material to get your teeth into. The overall sound – at least to my ears – places The Jokers in the 1980s to early 1990s. It’s traditional rock with an occasional harder edge. It is the vocal style and lyric content which dates the music... or at least grounds it in a certain era. I heard many influences, including AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Whitesnake, Bad Company, Peter Frampton, and even The Sweet. As my tastes are rather heavy for the most part these days it took me half the album before I started to get into it. During a second listen I did warm to it; it’s definitely a ‘good time’ sound to play in the car on a warm Summer’s day. Paradoxically, having said my tastes are heavier, my favourite track is the excellent rock ballad, 'Dream'.

I couldn’t sign off without mentioning the quirky and quite brilliant cover artwork. It shows the band in an open-top deep red Aston Martin, caught in a hurricane over London. In the air around them is a red telephone box, the London Eye, the Tower of Westminster (Big Ben is the bell!) a guitar, two rock chicks, a cow and a grannie in a chair. I don’t think they could have fitted much else into the picture.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2015)

Värähtelijä, by Oranssi Pazuzu

Label: Svart Records

February 2016

Oranssi Pazuzu is a five piece band from Finland, consisting of Korjak on drums, Moit on guitars, Evil on keyboards and percussion, Ontto on bass, and Jun-His on vocals and guitars. The band name means orange Babylonian demon, the same one that gets a mention in The Exorcist. They have been active since 2007, and have released three previous full-length albums between 2009 and 2013. Värähtelijä is the follow-up to the well-received Valonielu, and is released on Svart Records.

This band is described as hypnotic progressive psychedelia, which in all honesty is pretty accurate. The blurb says that the songs "explode with radiant ultraviolet colour and plunge into the deep black darkness of innermost consciousness." This, of course, is a load of pretentious nonsense. But it is weird. Modern psychedelia is something you don’t hear too much of. We’re not talking about Pictures of Matchstick Men and The Gnome here, but rather the type of thing you might have heard if you were around in the mid- to late-sixties and frequenting the UFO Club for all-night acid affairs. In fact, I believe there is an attempt to emulate some aspects of early Pink Floyd here; certainly there are references.

Added to this freestyle psychedelia is Black Metal-style growled vocals, which is a strange combination to say the least. Now, I’m all for pushing the Rock and Metal boundaries; being bold and trying something new. However, they hover in the background and remain the same dull monotones throughout. They could be singing, "When will this song ever end?" which brings me to the first track. Does 'Saturaatio' mean Saturation? If so, it definitely achieves that. The tune repeats a simple riff ad infinitum, so by the end of twelve minutes (yes, twelve!) I was ready to shoot myself in the head to make it stop! The CD might only have seven tracks, but that equates to over 70 minutes of music. Too much? I would say so, yes.

I didn’t really hear much of interest to me until tracks five and six. 'Hynotisoitu Viharukous' has some real meat on the bones. It’s like a strange up tempo Metal song, and so the vocals fit a little more naturally, and there is a hook which, rather than being repeated, is returned to and so keeps the piece together pretty well. This is undoubtedly the standout song for me. 'Vasemman Kaden Hierarkia' begins with a couple of chords straight out of the opening of 'Arnold Layne', but then quickly settles into what seems to be an alternative take on 'Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun'. In fairness, this is quite listenable. The final two songs revert to the meandering noise of the first.

This is an experience which will work in the right environment at claustrophobic little clubs, but as an album played purely for private pleasure, it is surely less than effective.

Verdict: 3 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016) 

Welcome to the Asylum E.P. by Schizo Reject Asylum

Label: schizorejectasylum.com

May 2010

Schizo Reject Asylum is a Death Metal band with somewhat diverse influences within the genre, which include Classic Rock, True Metal, Punk, Power Metal, Death Metal and Grindcore. The band was formed in August 2009 by drummer Keith Barnes and bass player Adam Evans. Pretty soon guitarists Robert Ivie and Dave Winter joined, and the line-up was completed by vocalist Rob J Lawrence. I'm told the band views the asylum as their stage; it's what they are running with their music.

Towards the latter end of 2009 SRA recorded a demo consisting of the two tracks, 'Welcome to the Asylum', and 'Hall of Mirrors'. Now, in 2010, they have sweated and growled in the studio to produce a five-track E.P. which is to be distributed in May. So where did I lay my hands on this prospectively tasty morsel? Well, it helps if you're taking drumming lessons from Keith Barnes! However, in defence of the groans I can almost detect from here that this is some sort of self-indulgent flag-waving in order to scratch his back, I did inform Keith that the review would be - as they all are - brutally honest.

Let's get to it then. The subject matter and the fact it was the first song they wrote together as a unit, means the title track acts as a signature tune. The first thing I noticed here was the immediate improvement in production quality over the aforementioned demo, which I've also listened to. The vocals are a little clearer, and the entire effect slightly more crisp. I realise the intention was to muddy the mix, but in my opinion it would have benefited the result to tweak it further. When the first fully-fledged album arrives I'm sure that will be rectified, without making the misjudgement of polishing to the point of over-production.

'Welcome to the Asylum' kicks us off with no-nonsense brutality. There doesn't even seem to be an introduction as such (and I'm not talking about the Charles Mansion intro from the demo, which I wasn't particularly enamoured with anyway), it's just there! This will jolt anyone into awareness and make the desired shock impact as a set opener at the forthcoming gigs. Forget the other influences, because they don't emerge in this track; it's simply the brutal end of Death Metal. It gets in, does the job and gets out again. I've lived with this track for some time now, but I made the mistake of playing it in the car where the speakers are not brilliant. When in the electrical hands of a better quality player the bass comes through, allowing you to better appreciate the percussion and bass, as well as the normally prominent vocals and guitars.

For me, 'Hall of Mirrors' is the pick of the bunch, and that's mainly down to it's Power Metal influence. Robert Ivie's catchy guitar riff has stuck in my mind for days now, to the point that I can't dispel the damned thing! It's what holds this song together and carries it along. To my tastes it's more accessible, and that made me take more notice of what was going on individually. Being a rubbish guitar player (I just about know which way around you hold the thing), until recently I primarily listened to the guitars, treating the rest of whichever group I was listening to as backing unit. Sort of like a roaming striker amongst an otherwise static football formation. So for me it's the guitars which are once again the driving force in the following track, 'The Greatest Lie.' The opening riff and the triplet time-change gives this song a strong hook and, guitars aside, the vocals are a little more accessible here.

'Vigilance' allows the best opportunity to follow timing changes on the drums. Although the song follows a decent enough mid-tempo pace, it is a little too repetitive, making it the weakest of the bunch here. Conversely, 'The Five Horsemen' is one of those songs that mixes no frills Black Metal with Melodic Death Metal. This is a leaf out of Amon Amarth's book in terms of structure. Listen to AA's 'Bloodshed', and you'll see what I mean. My preference in Metal leans towards the melodic, so at first listen SRA wouldn't necessarily be my given taste. But Welcome to the Asylum benefits from several spins. Now I can't get some of the tracks out of my head. I look forward to seeing how they perform live at their first gig, on 25th June at the Fox and Firkin in Lewisham.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

World Wide Genocide, by Shotgun Rodeo

Label: None

December 2015

Shotgun Rodeo is a Metal quartet from Trondheim in Norway, consisting of Nino Escopeta on vocals, Don Shrediablo on guitars, Dorian Crazed on bass, and Vegzilla on drums. Hmm… Something tells me these are not their real names! Since their formation in 2008 the band has released two EPs (2012’s Dead End Massacre, and 2013’s Guilty As Charged), and now in 2015 present their first full album, World Wide Genocide.

My first impression – particularly after hearing the first couple of tracks – was that the vocals were quite a bit at odds with the music, which I liked very much. There are plenty of Metal sub-genres and styles on show here, and I assume this was done purposefully to showcase their versatility, and so they could avoid being pigeon-holed as a one trick pony, so to speak. Upon first listening I would have said it was traditional Classic Metal, with early-Thrash riffs and the melodic twin/overlaid guitar common to many Power Metal bands. Later tracks reveal a surprising turn into Black Metal and Death Metal territory. Here, the vocals sound much more at home than they do clean. To sum up the riff-driven sound, to me it most closely resembles early (certainly the first decade of) Rage.

The stick-out tracks, in my opinion, are 'Saving Myself', 'Knock ‘Em Dead', 'Withered Earth', and 'Among Wolves' – although subsequent plays of the disc have made me warm much more to the whole thing. What I don’t like is the overuse of profanities. I don’t mind one or two, if it’s conducive to the subject matter or energy of the piece. I wonder why I find it acceptable from Green Day, but object to it here. Perhaps it’s because I think, with
Shotgun Rodeo, it is utilised mainly for shock effect – or because they think it’s cool. Whereas what it really shows is a lack of vocabulary.

Nevertheless, this a more than solid first full release. The sheer energy and melody (the two main ingredients) will keep you hooked.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2015)

Polaris, by Stratovarius

Label: earMUSIC

May 2009

Stratovarius, hailing from Finland, has been around since 1985, and was among the first bands to be labelled under the sub-genre Symphonic Power Metal - due to their classical, baroque influences. Of course, they didn’t always have this sound. Their first release was Fright Night in 1989, but it wasn’t until Episode (1996), four releases later, that they found their distinctive niche.

Guitarist Timo Tolkki became the main driving force behind the band, and their popularity steadily increased. Arguably their best two CD releases were
Visions and Destiny, in 1997 and 1998 respectively, the latter of which offered us fusions of styles we hadn’t really heard together before. The two studio follow-ups, Infinite and Intermission, whilst not as innovative, maintained a strong cohesion. Elements - Parts 1 & 2 (both 2003) were, for me at least, much too pretentiously proggy and experimental, losing them some of their die-hard fans. To make matters worse the band suffered severe financial problems culminating in (controlling) helmsman Tolkki leaving the fold. New CD Polaris is their fourteenth release, and the first since the self-titled Stratovarius four years ago. So the big question is: Is there life after Timo Tolkki?

The answer is a resounding yes. After replacing Tolkki with young guitarist Matias Kupiainen, the band disappeared into the Finnish forest and (a contradiction in terms) concentrated on relaxing and having fun. The plan seems to have worked, as Stratovarius have regained much of their zest and vitality along with a return to their strongest sound.

Although not one of my favourite groups I have the utmost respect for them, as they were one of the first foreign metal bands, big in Europe and Scandinavia, to test the water in the UK in the nineties at a time when Brit Pop and Indie bands ruled the roost and the consensus was that England (who after all did invent Heavy Metal in the first place) was no longer interested in Metal. Their first visit over here shocked and delighted them to the core when they saw just how many people turned up. Although not playing the stadium-size places they do in their own part of the world, they have played progressively larger venues over here ever since.

So, what about the
Polaris CD itself? I was initially disappointed to receive only a promotional disc. This shows a distinct lack of respect for the reviewer. However, rather than getting a mere one minute from each song, which offers no hope of absorbing song structures, in this case the whole CD is intact apart from the occasional fading-up and down to prevent pirate copying, so my faith was partially restored. It’s important to note, particularly for any existing fan, that the first listen proved unremarkable. Perhaps it was because I had recently played both True and Black/Folk metal, and had to be put in the right frame of mind again to listen to my favoured Power Metal, but only on the repeat listen did the exuberance and invention of the material assert itself.

Polaris kicks-off at breakneck speed with 'Deep Unknown', and is followed by 'Falling Star', a slightly more moderately paced song with driving guitar and keyboard melodies. 'King of Nothing' is the only track I'm not keen on as it's a return to that pretentious prog-style. 'Forever is Today' is by far the outstanding song, epitomising Stratovarius at their very best. There are two obligatory power ballads, 'Winter Skies' and the excellent 'Somehow Precious'. 'Part 2' of 'Emancipation Suite' sounds a little like David Bowie's 'The Width of a Circle' from his Ziggy Stardust days, which is no bad thing, and we finish with 'When Mountains Fall', an acoustic ballad.

As you might expect after the exit of guitarist Timo Tolkki, the instrumentals are balanced slightly in favour of Jans Johansson’s keyboards, rather than being evenly weighted. However, new guitarist Matias Kupiainen is obviously talented and no shrinking violet. When he does let rip, you begin to wonder who Tolkki was anyway. Timo Kotipelto’s vocals are instantly recognisable and as strong as ever. Here we get a nice mix of light and shade, as eleven tracks of intensive high-pitched warbling would soon grate.

Polaris is by no means Stratovarius’s greatest work, but it is their best release since 2001, and puts them firmly back where they should be.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2009)

Superstars in Concert

Sound of the City - London 1964 - 1973

Featuring: The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and More...

Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises

October 2016

Filmed between 1964 and 1973 and produced/directed by rock documentarist Peter Clifton, Superstars in Concert is an anthology film of the major music artistes of the time, which includes live footage, and behind the scenes material from The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and many others. It is released by Fabulous Films/Fremantle Media Enterprises.

The full line-up is: Eric Burdon and The Animals, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Blind Faith, Cat Stevens, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and Englishmen Band, Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Pink Floyd, and Rod Stewart & The Faces.

Of course, these are/were top attractions, but the way this film is put together leaves a lot to be desired. For the man responsible for
The Song Remains the Same, one of the best rockumentaries ever, there’s little or no continuity and adhesion. It amounts to just a load of pieces of film stuck together with no flow. In fact, it has quite a jolting effect in some places. For this reason it’s probably a better idea to use the Chapters Menu to dip in and out of the experience (and I don’t just mean the Jimi Hendrix Experience!).

The quality of the footage varies but on the whole is pretty good. The stand-out selection for me is Pink Floyd playing 'Careful With That Axe Eugene'; it’s extremely clear and precise, certainly close to being as fine as the version on their
Live in Pompeii film. I also liked the studio-type footage of Cat Stevens, and what a brilliant, timeless song. It’s good to see Cream perform (particularly Ginger Baker), too. Some bands are given much longer than others, so I began to tire of The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, and even The Faces.

On the whole though, this will please Hippies and Ageing Rockers everywhere. Dads and grandads can show their offspring what real music was like, before the hip-hoppy-acid-bath-in-the-garage days!

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016)

Dopamine, by Third Eye Blind

Label: Mega Collider Records

October 2015

Third Eye Blind is a rock band from San Francisco, USA, formed in 1993 by singer/songwriter and rhythm guitarist Stephan Jenkins and lead guitarist Kevin Cadogan. Dopamine (which is a compound neurotransmitter in the body for adrenaline) is their seventh album, and their first in six years. Cadogan is no longer in the group, and Jenkins has striven to construct songs chronicling the turbulent recent history of events by way of an exploration of isolation and personal identity. Dopamine is available for download from iTunes and in conventional CD format on their own Mega Collider Records.

This is a traditional 1990s rock sound inherent with elements of bands like The Alarm, The Cure, and vocal inflections reminiscent of Big Country and even Fastball. It’s very much a style befitting the commercial airwaves. 'Shipboard Cook' is a standout track, as is 'Get Me Out Here' – purely because they have more ‘oomph’ (that’s a technical term, you know!). The rest is entertaining with a quality sound mix, but a little lightweight for my tastes.

There is a sense of ease and comfort which makes me assume they have been trundling along like this for some time. Perhaps an attempt to push the boundaries of their chosen sub-genre would have displayed more of a ‘go get’ attitude with hints at even more progression next time. I get the sense that Third Eye Blind could knock-out albums like this all year. Still, much of my interpretation depends on my tastes at any one time. Generally, they are much heavier than Third Eye Blind, but if I had been listening to Pink Floyd (my favourite band) I might well have been more open and receptive to this style.

Nevertheless, whatever I say, this is still competent stuff, and I’d be surprised if their existing fans didn’t like it.

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2015) 

Palomino, by Treetop Flyers

Label: Loose Music

March 2016

Treetop Flyers are a five-piece Folk and Commercial Rock band from good old London Town. In 2013 they launched their debut album, The Mountain Moves, to great acclaim. Now, two and a half years later – after a catalogue of personal problems to overcome – they have returned to their own Soup Studios to record the follow-up, titled Palomino. It gets its release on the Loose label on 13 March, before the guys set out on some Spring live dates.

This band has been described variously as Folk, 60’s Psych Rock, Jazz, Pop, '70s West Coast Pop Rock. I have to confess I have other views. I certainly wouldn’t call it Folk in The Strawbs vein; and the only one of the aforementioned music genres I detected in the sound was Pop Rock. This is middle-of-the-road Rock, with Progressive influences, only without the long and meandering diversions of Prog. I hadn’t come across this group before, and I certainly have no problem promoting home-grown talent.

The album kicks-off solidly enough with 'You, Darling You', and 'Sleepless Nights'. These are pretty decent songs, but I wasn’t far into the tracks before I realised just how restrained the musicians are. I’m fully aware that crossing rhythm and tempo boundaries can unknowingly stray the music into another sub-genre, it’s just that on many occasions I just needed them to ‘let go’ with a memorable guitar piece. I found it very frustrating. Perhaps it’s due to the fact my tastes are somewhat heavier, but it’s ‘samey’ nevertheless. There’s a great piano and keyboard outro on one of the later songs, and I’m intrigued to imagine what the great Jon Lord would have done with it. However, when a band finds the sound they are excited by they should stay in that general area and push the boundaries, so I can’t really criticise the Treetop Flyers for being what they are: a pretty fine combo.

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016) 

True Moon, by True Moon

Label: Lovely Records

April 2017

True Moon is a Swedish group incorporating Karolina Engdahl on vocals and bass, Tommy Tift on guitar, Frederik Orevad on drums, and Linus Segeratedt on guitar. They describe themselves as melodic punk/dark pop. Disillusioned with what they feel is a somewhat sanitised Scandinavian music scene, they offer raw and visceral reconnections to rock’s most black-hearted urges – an exploration of what we do in the shadows. This self-titled release is their first album, which emerges via Lovely Records. The tracks are 'Voodoo', 'Our Own Darkness', 'True Moon', 'Sugar', 'Just Like Smoke', 'Guns', 'Run Run Run', 'In the Dead of the Night, 'Things I Used to Tell You', 'Honey', and 'Guns RMX'...

I think True Moon is being pretty hard on Scandinavian music; aside from the Power Metal and Symphonic Metal bands which emerged in the 1990s, we’ve since had some very cool sounds in the categories of Death Metal and Melodic Black Metal and Folk/Pagan Metal. I can understand the need to do something a little different, but this band openly obtains their influences from the British post punk era of the late 1970s. They invoke Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and Joy Division as being among their influences, and that’s not a bad pedigree. However, I judge it as right that True Moon doesn’t really sound like any one of those bands.

Whereas the recently reviewed Blood Command album
Cult Drugs has beautifully raw and raucous verses followed by more catchy choruses, this example is closer to the opposite way around, giving at times a goth rock feel to the songs. The standout songs on first listening include 'Voodoo', 'Sugar', and 'In the Dead of the Night'. Almost certainly it’s because they’re faster paced and heavier. After listening to the whole thing a second time, I warmed to all other songs aside from 'Guns', 'Honey', and 'Guns RMX'. In retrospect it seems ironic that the band would add an additional remix of the weakest song on the album.

I particularly liked the idea of the interconnecting noises and psychedelic influences which takes the songs in unexpected directions and adds to the ambience. Overall this is a solid debut album with definite room for improvement. That notoriously difficult second album could be a scorcher if the energy of the aforementioned songs is maintained. It’s nice to hear more female-fronted bands these days. The vocals are good, but the pace of the song lyrics could be varied a little more.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)