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House of Lords – Indestructible [Review]

HOUSE OF LORDS inde COVER

House of Lords – Indestructible
2015, Frontiers Records

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1. Go to Hell
2. Indestructible
3. Pillar of Salt
4. 100mph
5. Call My Bluff
6. We Will Always Be One
7. Die To Tell
8. Another Dawn
9. Eye of the Storm
10. Ain’t Suicidal
11. Stand and Deliver

Band:
James Christian – Vocals
Jimi Bell – Guitars
Chris McCarvill – Bass
BJ Zampa – Drums

House of Lords are on a roll. Just last year they released the excellent Precious Metal and now the band is back with Indestructible. Last year’s release saw my faith being renewed in the band after what I felt was a disappointing release (Big Money) and their latest and tenth release only solidifies my confidence in the band. I have to wonder if parts of Indestructible were at least written, if not recorded, at the same time as the Precious Metal sessions.

Just as Precious Metal delivered a few new classics to the House of Lords catalog, so does Indestructible. “Another Dawn” and “Eye of Storm” are killer tracks. Both songs embody what House of Lords are all about — amazing production, incredible melodies, some heaviness and big choruses. Meanwhile, the band is delivering some of their hardest material in years with tracks like “Go to Hell”, “Ain’t Suicidal” and “Stand and Deliver” while still delivering on great ballads (“We Will Always Be One”).

What else is there to say? If you like House of Lords, you’ll like (and probably love) Indestructible. It’s amazing that one band has been able to stay so consistent in quality throughout their career.

Highlights: “Die to Tell”, “Indestructible”, “We Will Always Be One”, “Another Dawn”, “Eye of the Storm”, “Ain’t Suicidal”, “Stand and Deliver”

Wolfpakk – Rise of the Animal [Review]

WP_ROTA_2400x2400Wolfpakk – Rise of the Animal
2015, AFM Records
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1. Rider Of The Storm
2. Sock It To Me
3. Monkey On Your Back
4. Highlands
5. Black Wolf
6. Somewhere Beyond
7. Running Out Of Time
8. Grizzly Man
9. High Roller
10. Rise Of The Animal
11. Universe

Musicians:
Michael Voss, Mark Sweeney, Michael Kiske, Andi Deris, Ted Poley, Joe Lynn Turner, Rick Altzi, David Reece, Charlie Huhn, Don Dokken, Marc Storace, Michaela Schober, Jean-Marc Viller – Lead Vocals
Michael Voss, Bob Daisley, Al Barrow, Barend Courbois – Bass
Jeff Watson, Ryan Roxie, Bernie Torme, John Norum, Doug Aldrich, Axel Rudi Pell, Martin Rauber – Guitar
Mike Terrana, Mark Schulman, Simon Philips, Chris Slade, Gereon Homann – Drums
Chris Ivo – Keyboards

Producer: Mark Sweeney & Michael Voss

Wolfpakk is an all-star melodic hard rock/metal project put together a few years back by vocalists Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (ex-Casanova). I won’t repeat all of the musicians involved but Rise of the Animal features an exceptional line-up of guest musicians like Doug Aldrich, Joe Lynn Turner, David Reece (!), Don Dokken, Michael Kiske, Axel Rudi Pell and Bob Daisley.

Honestly, I checked out this album based on the cover art and the band name (another ‘Wolf’ band!) alone. I didn’t realize until reading up on Wolfpakk that they are more of a project than a legit band. Or if they are a band, you can distill it down to simply Sweeney & Voss (who write the songs as well) as the guest musicians change from album to album.

So, for an album that includes such a large guest list, the cohesiveness of the album is very impressive. Not even the different vocalists take you out of the moment. It all works. Rise of the Animal flows together as a great collection of melodic hard rock and melodic metal, great guitar solos and soaring vocals with large catchy choruses.

Rise of the Animal is a powerfully and skillfully made block of melodic metal and rock that won’t disappoint you if you’re a fan of the artists involved. The album was a very pleasant surprise to me that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Highlights: “Rider of the Storm”, “Sock It to Me”, “Black Wolf”, “Running Out of Time”, “High Roller”, “Rise of the Animal”, “Universe”

Allen / Lande – The Great Divide [Review]

PromoImageAllen / Lande – The Great Divide
2014, Frontiers Records
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1. Come Dream With Me
2. Down from the Mountain
3. In the Hands of Time
4. Solid Ground
5. Lady of Winter
6. Dream About Tomorrow
7. Hymn to the Fallen
8. The Great Divide
9. Reaching for the Stars
10. Bittersweet

Musicians:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Russell Allen – Vocals
Timo Tolkki – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Jami Huovinen – Drums

Producer: Timo Tolkki

I was late to the show on this one. The Great Divide was released in October 2014, but it took me until late January 2015 before I got around to listening to it. What a mistake to wait that long!

I’ve been familiar with Jorn Lande for years and I’ve been aware of Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen (mainly through his association with Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia) for awhile as well but I’d never listened to anything from their Allen/Lande project over the years. The Great Divide is their fourth album of coming together to share vocal duties.

Previous efforts featured current Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson as songwriter, producer and musician but The Great Divide finds former Stratovarious guitarist Timo Tolkki filling those roles. From what I have read, this release is a slight departure in sound from the three Karlsson releases. Notably, many other reviewers are stating the production is a notch below Karlsson’s and the vocal performances, while still spectacular, aren’t as “intense” as they were on the previous releases.

I have no qualms with the vocal performances of Jorde Lande (one of my favorites) or Russell Allen. I’m fine with the production as well. I guess the earlier Allen/Lande albums must have really set the bar high. That means I’ll have to check them all out at some point.

As it stands, The Great Divide is a fantastic slab of melodic hard rock & heavy metal. So many great tracks here. The music doesn’t sound too far off from what you might hear on a Jorn solo album, although I can’t help but hear bits of House of Lords when listening to this as well.

There’s not a dud track to be found but the album gets really, really good towards the end. It’s the last four tracks that truly shine. “The Great Divide” sounds like a melodic rocker from the 1980’s (but not in a “look at us, we’re being retro” kind of way) and “Bittersweet” is an amazing heavy metal power ballad. Just fantastic tracks.

I can’t speak on behalf of Russell Allen fans and fans of the previous Allen/Lande albums, but this is definitely a worthy pick-up for fans of Jorn Lande. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more Allen/Lane albums to listen to!

Highlights: “In the Hands of Time”, “Solid Ground”, “Hymn to the Fallen”, “The Great Divide”, “Bittersweet”

House of Lords – Precious Metal [Review]

House of Lords - Precious Metal

House of Lords – Precious Metal
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Battle
2. I’m Breakin’ Free
3. Epic
4. Live Every Day (Like It’s the Last)
5. Permission to Die
6. Precious Metal
7. Swimmin’ with the Sharks
8. Raw
9. Enemy Mine
10. Action
11. Turn Back the Tide
12. You Might Just Save My Life

Band:
James Christian – Lead Vocals
Jimi Bell – Guitars
Chris McCarvill – Bass
BJ Zampa – Drums

Producer: James Christian

Though I gave it high praise at the time, Big Money was ultimately a forgettable album by House of Lords and was a step down from Cartesian Dreams. Luckily, that’s not the case with Precious Metal. I’m not sure what happened but songwriting is inspired. From the cover art to the title of the album itself, I think the band is back on track and more in line with their catalog than Big Money was.

With tracks like “Battle”, “Swimmin’ with the Sharks” and “Permission to Die”, James Christian has delivered one of the heaviest albums House of Lords albums yet. The keyboards have taken a backseat all throughout this album and I’m completely okay with that. While House of Lords is one of the few melodic rock bands to use keyboards and not actually sound wimpy this is a good hard rock sound, though temporary, I’m sure. As with every House of Lords album, the production is fantastic as is Christian’s voice. He’s easily one of my favorite rock vocalists of all-time.

And the hooks and melody are still here. It took me a few times to get into Big Money, but with Precious Metal I was instantly pulled in to songs like “Battle”, “Epic”, “Enemy Mine” (which is the most “modern” sounding track on the album… like something My Darkest Days would do) and “Precious Metal”. My favorite tracks are the aforementioned “Permission to Die” and the excellent power ballad “Precious Metal”. I also enjoy the lyrics on both of these songs.

Precious Metal finds the band not relying on keyboards as much but it’s still undoubtedly a House of Lords album that I think any fan will enjoy.

Highlights: “Battle”, “Epic”, “Live Every Day (Like It’s the Last)”, “Permission to Die”, “Precious Metal”, “Enemy Mine”

Reckless Love – Spirit [Review]

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Reckless Love – Spirit
2013, Spinefarm Records/Universal Music
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1. Night On Fire
2. Bad Lovin’
3. I Love Heavy Metal
4. Favorite Flavor
5. Edge Of Our Dreams
6. Sex, Drugs & Reckless Love
7. Dying To Live
8. Metal Ass
9. Runaway Love
10. So Happy I Could Die
11. Hot Rain

Band:
Olli Herman – Lead Vocals
Pepe Salohalme – Guitar
Jalle Verne – Bass
Hessu Maxx – Drums

Producer: Ilkka Wirtanen

Reckless Love is one of the better bands from the current crop of the glam/pop metal scene. For the record, they refer to themselves as “merry metal”. Spirit continues to prove the band’s worth as they continue to offer up their own blend of ’80s glam, heavy metal and danceable pop tunes. Unfortunately, it took me awhile before I could listen to this album. It was released in the summer of 2013 but the CD has only been available in the United States as an import and it isn’t being offered digitally in the States either.

Reckless Love’s last album, Animal Attraction, saw the band going in an even poppier direction but Spirit features a few more bare-knuckle rockers. “Bad Lovin”” is a sleaze rocker, “I Love Heavy Metal” is an ode to all kinds of ’80s hair metal hits and bands and “Metal Ass” is the heaviest song the band has recorded yet. Maybe opening for Black Veil Brides inspired these guys to get a little dirty.

That’s not to say the band has adopted a completely heavier style. “Night On Fire” is a great example of what the band is all about — big pop hooks, guitars, huge gang vocals and a beat you can dance to. Fans of the band’s first two albums will not be disappointed by Spirit.

Highlights: “Night on Fire”, “Bad Lovin'”, “Edge of Our Dreams”, “Sex, Drugs and Reckless Love”, “Runaway Love”, “So Happy I Could Die”, “Hot Rain”

Quiet Riot – QR III [Review]

Quiet_Riot_Quiet_Riot_3--f

Quiet Riot – QR III
1986, CBS Records/Pasha Records

1. “Main Attraction”
2. “The Wild and the Young”
3. “Twilight Hotel”
4. “Down and Dirty”
5. “Rise or Fall”
6. “Put Up or Shut Up”
7. “Still of the Night”
8. “Bass Case”
9. “The Pump”
10. “Slave to Love”
11. “Helping Hands”

Band:
Kevin DuBrow – Lead Vocals
Carlos Cavazo – Guitar
Chuck Wright – Bass
Frankie Banali – Drums

Additional Musicians:
John Purdell – Synthesizer

Producer: Spencer Proffer and John Purdell

QR III is actually the band’s 5th album but I guess they aren’t counting their first two albums that were released only in Japan in the late 1970s.

I tend to think of Quiet Riot just as I think of Twisted Sister: both were solid metal bands, both had singers with powerful voices and both bands had great commercial success fairly early and then saw those sales fizzle out pretty quickly with each subsequent release. Also, when the going got tough, both bands tried using a much lighter sound in an attempt to stay commercially relevant (it still didn’t help).

Well, like I said, after the multiple platinum success of Metal Health and the disappointed of Critical Condition (it “only” went platinum), the band went with much lighter and more commercial sound in order to increase sales. This new synthesizer-heavy/AOR sound is none more apparent than on the opening track, “Main Attraction”. The first notes you hear on this album are not provided by guitar, drums or even by a bass guitar but by keyboard! The song is actually a great piece of cheesy pop-metal but I can imagine that it did the band no favors with all of the fans that bought Metal Health back in ’83.

“The Wild and The Young” is a more like the Quiet Riot of old but then “Twilight Hotel” moves back into AOR territory and sounds nothing like the band at all. “Still of the Night” is another slow melodic rock number that makes you wonder how this is Quiet Riot, but I think it’s another excellent song. “Slave to Love” is another AOR-style song but again, I like it, though I will admit the female vocals really seem out of place on a QR song!

“Bass Case” is a cool bass instrumental performed by Chuck Wright. Rudy Sarzo, the band’s bassist from the “classic” line-up had left the band in early 1985 after growing tired of Kevin DuBrow’s ego & attitude.

“Put Up or Shut Up” is a rocker that could’ve fit in on the two previous albums while “Down and Dirty” and “Rise Or Fall” could’ve been two really good hard songs but they are cut off at the knees by synthesizers and an overly polished production.

There is one song on this album (“The Wild and The Young”) that I would put up there with the rest of Quiet Riot’s signature songs. The rest is good, cheesy ’80s melodic rock. It’s not what anyone expected or wanted from this band and sure you could throw the “sell out” label on them for releasing these songs but I find QR III to be a guilty pleasure melodic rock album. The album probably deserves another look from people who stuck their nose up at it the first time around.

Highlights: “Main Attraction”, “The Wild and The Young”, “Twilight Hotel”, “Down and Dirty”, “Still of the Night”, “Slave to Love”

http://www.officialquietriot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/quietriot

Buy the album at Amazon.com

King Kobra – II [Review]

KK booklet_cover

King Kobra – II
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Hell On Wheels
2. Knock ‘Em Dead
3. Have A Good Time
4. The Ballad Of Johnny Rod
5. Take Me Back
6. When The Hammer Comes Down
7. Running Wild
8. The Crunch
9. Got It Comin’
10. Deep River
11. Don’t Keep Me Waiting
12. We Go Round

Band:
Paul Shortino – Vocals
David Michael-Philips – Guitar
Mick Sweda – Guitar
Johnny Rod – Bass
Carmine Appice – Drums

Produced by David Henzerling, Carmine Appice & Paul Shortino

This is King Kobra II. It comes 25 years after King Kobra III. It is the band’s seventh studio. Are you following me? Well, after Carmine Appice reformed the band a few years back and they released a self-titled album in 2011, this is the sequel. So naming it II kinda makes sense because it’s in reference to being the follow-up to the self-titled album.

I’ve listened to this album a few times. It didn’t grab me initially like a few tracks from King Kobra automatically did. It’s still done in that same 1980s bluesy hard rock/metal meets 1970s bluesy classic rock style of the last album. Honestly, I just really wasn’t impressed with the lead track “Have a Good Time”. It just seems a bit generic to me. I’m not sure where I would rank this album in the band’s catalog but I’m seeing a surprising number of people saying it’s the band’s best album. I don’t agree with that because Ready to Strike is just too much of a classic but if you’re a fan of the band’s 2011 album, you’ll like II. You couldn’t classify this album as heavy metal but it seems like their hardest rocking album to date.

Shortino’s voice is still in great form and Carmine is just killing it on the drums. Great production here as well. After giving this album more of my attention, I would place it on level with their 2011 self-titled album. This is fun no-frills blues hard rock with a vintage sound that will make you forget it’s 2013.

Highlights: “Hell On Wheels”, “Take Me Back”, “When The Hammer Comes Down”, “Running Wild”, “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, “We Go Round”

http://www.carmineappice.net/
http://paulshortino.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-King-Kobra/270854497159

Buy the album at Amazon.com!

The Poodles – Tour De Force [Review]

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The Poodles – Tour De Force
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Misery Loves Company
2. Shut Up!
3. Happily Ever After
4. Viva Democracy
5. Going Down
6. Leaving The Past To Pass
7. 40 Days And 40 Nights
8. Kings & Fools
9. Miracle
10. Godspeed
11. Now Is The Time
12. Only Just Begun
13. En FörAllaFör En

Band:
Jakob Samuel – Vocals
Henrik Bergqvist – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Pontus Egberg – Bass, Backing Vocals
Christian Lundqvist – Drums, Backing Vocals

Produced by: Mats Valentin

Don’t let the name fool you, The Poodles are one of the best melodic hard rock acts out there today. I enjoyed their previous album (Performocracy) a lot but I’m digging Tour De Force even more. These guys are really finding their footing as a melodic hard rock band with even some metal influence as they throw in some great guitar solos and heavy riffs. They are still writing catchy pop-hooks but it doesn’t seem as saccharine this time around.

My favorite song off the album is “Shut Up!”. Nonstop energy and the lyrics are humorous. It’s just one of a number of anthems on this album. “Viva Democracy” and “40 Days And 40 Nights” are about as big of an anthem you’re going to hear from someone this side of Jorn Lande. The album is explosive and fun. It’s like fireworks for your ears. The only time the band slows the pace is for the ballad “Leaving The Past to Pass”.

Tour De Force is exactly that and The Poodles’ best work to date.

Highlights: “Misery Loves Company”, “Shut Up!”, “Viva Democracy”, “40 Days And 40 Nights”, “Kings & Fools”, “Miracle”, “Now Is The Time”

http://www.poodles.se
http://www.facebook.com/thepoodles

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Crashdiet – The Savage Playground [Review]

88765440292Booklet.indd

Crashdiet – The Savage Playground
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Change The World
2. Cocaine Cowboys
3. Anarchy
4. California
5. Lickin’ Dog
6. Circus
7. Sin City
8. Got A Reason
9. Drinkin’ Without You
10. Snakes In Paradise
11. Damaged Kid
12. Excited
13. Garden of Babylon

Band:
Simon Cruz – Vocals
Martin Sweet – Guitar
Peter London – Bass
Eric Young – Drums

Producer: Otto Welton

Crashdiet’s fourth album is their best yet. I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve heard from these guys but The Savage Playground seems to take matters to another level. I hate to use the word “mature” when talking about a group of sleaze rockers but that’s exactly the band has done — matured. At least in regards to their songwriting. Don’t misunderstand me, they aren’t writing to make you think with song titles like “Cocaine Cowboys”, “Anarchy”, “Lickin’ Dog” (which sounds like a Babylon A.D. song), “Sin City” and “Drinkin’ Without You”. The band can still bring the sleaze attitude but I really think the band’s sense of melody has improved and Simon Cruz continues to grow as a vocalist. That’s a good thing because it starts to separate them from the rest of the sleaze rock pack.

They’ve started to expand ever-so-slightly with their songs. While “Cocaine Cowboys” and “Anarchy” are total glamfests, “California” seems a bit more modern, melodic & radio-ready and “Garden of Babylon” is a no-frills 7 minute heavy metal number with enough twists & turns to keep you interested. “Damaged Kid” is another track that has a modern vibe to it at times.

There’s a few tracks that I would classify as filler. “Circus”, “Sin City” and “Snakes In Paradise” could’ve been left off the album, in my opinion, but the rest of the album is enjoyable through and through. The first four songs and then the album’s closer are just fantastic glam metal. “California” especially. That song is addictive.

All told, The Savage Playground shows us that the band is growing as musicians. They aren’t as snotty as before but they are still delivering the hooks & choruses needed to deliver a fun glam-metal album. I’ve seen some online reviews write this album off as as a step down in quality but as far as I’m concerned, this is the best album the band has released yet.

Highlights: “Change the World”, “Cocaine Cowboys”, “Anarchy”, “California”, “Lickin’ Dog”, “Garden of Babylon”

http://www.facebook.com/realcrashdiet/
http://www.crashdiet.org/

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Hess – Living In Yesterday [Review]

Hess – Living In Yesterday
(2012, Frontiers Records)

1. Living In Yesterday
2. Reach For You
3. It’s Over
4. Don’t Leave Me
5. What If
6. Nothing Lasts Forever
7. Falling Down
8. I Live For You
9. I Don’t Wanna Want You
10. Where To Run

Musicians:
Harry Hess – Lead Vocals, Keyboard, Backing Vocals, Guitar
Peter Lesperance – Guitar, Bass
Creighton Doane – Drums

Producer: Harry Hess

Living In Yesterday is the second solo release from Harem Scarem’s Harry Hess. I’m familiar with the name of Harry’s old band but can’t say I’ve ever listened to them or his debut solo disc. Regardless, Harry Hess has delivered one of the best melodic rock albums from the last few years with this release. Every track here is a winner and that’s no lie.

The album is upbeat, anthemic and wonderfully produced. There’s some REALLY great rock/pop stuff here that could be a hit on mainstream radio (if mainstream radio had an open mind) like “Falling Down”. “I Don’t Wanna Want You” is another obvious radio song that sticks out from the rest of the album. Not because because it’s so much better than the rest of the songs but because it’s so different from them and sounds like something you’d hear from a pop-tart like Katy Perry.

The opening track and closing track are probably my absolute favorites. “Living In Yesterday” is a great AOR anthem to kick off the album and set the pace while “Where To Run” is an epic ballad complete with orchestra that ends things on a high note.

Living In Yesterday is definitely one of 2012’s best albums and it should not be ignored by melodic rock fans.

There’s a number of guest spots on this album: Marcie Free (King Kobra/Unruly Child), Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear), Tommy Denander and Harry’s old Harem Scarem band mates pitch in with either writing or performances.

Highlights: EVERYTHING

www.harryhess.net
www.facebook.com/harryhesslivinginyesterday
Buy the album at Amazon.com

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