Wolfpakk – Rise of the Animal
2015, AFM Records
Buy the album
1. Rider Of The Storm
2. Sock It To Me
3. Monkey On Your Back
5. Black Wolf
6. Somewhere Beyond
7. Running Out Of Time
8. Grizzly Man
9. High Roller
10. Rise Of The Animal
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
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album
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
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”
Bloodbound – Stormborn
2014, AFM Records
Buy the album
2. Satanic Panic
3. Iron Throne
4. Nightmares from the Grave
6. We Raise the Dead
7. Made of Steel
8. Blood of My Blood
9. When the Kingdom Will Fall
10. Seven Hells
11. When All Lights Fail
Patrik Johansson – Vocals
Tomas Olsson – Guitar
Henrik Olsson – Guitar
Anders Broman – Bass
Pelle Akerlind – Drums
Fredrik Bergh – Keyboards
When I first came across this album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Either some type of cheesy heavy metal or perhaps something extreme? Well, while power metal is known for having quite a bit of cheese factor, I wouldn’t call Bloodbound cheesy: the keyboards don’t drown out the guitars and there’s plenty of riffing, big anthems and frenetic drumming here.
While I’m not too familiar with the band, I can tell you that Bloodbound have been around for about 10 years and they hail from Sweden. Stormborn is their sixth album and if you’re looking for a point of comparison, their music reminds me a lot Edguy, Avantasia, Dream Evil, Hammerfall, Manowar and Halford. “Made of Steel” sounds like it could’ve come from Manowar or Halford’s Halford IV: Made of Metal album while “When the Kingdom Will Falls” sounds like it came right from one of Tobias Sammet’s bands (Edguy and Avantasia… your choice). Patrik Johansson’s vocals are similar to Sammet’s as well but a little Halford comes through on songs like “Made of Steel” and “Satanic Panic”.
I’ve listened to this album a couple of times and I can’t help but think I’ve heard it all before but I don’t mean that in a bad way. Many of these songs reminds me of other power metal bands. Bloodbound are not plagiarizing or ripping off other bands but their influences do come through. Anyone that is into good old fashioned power metal should be able to find plenty to enjoy on Stormborn. As for myself, going by this album alone, the band has gained a new follower and I’ll have to see if I can check out their previous releases.
Highlights: “Satanic Panic”, “We Raise the Dead”, “Made of Steel”, “Blood of My Blood”, “When the Kingdom Will Fall”, “When All Lights Fail”
Edguy – Space Police: Defenders of the Crown
2014, Nuclear Blast Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com
1. “Sabre & Torch”
2. “Space Police”
3. “Defenders of the Crown”
4. “Love Tyger”
5. “The Realms of Baba Yaga”
6. “Rock Me Amadeus”
7. “Do Me Like a Caveman”
8. “Shadow Eaters”
9. “Alone in Myself”
10. “The Eternal Wayfarer”
Digital Bonus Tracks:
12. “Aychim in Hysteria”
13. “Space Police (progressive version)”
14. “Space Police (instrumental version)”
15. “Love Tyger (instrumental version)”
16. “Defenders of the Crown (instrumental version)”
17. “Do Me Like a Caveman (instrumental version)”
Band: Tobias Sammet – Lead/Backing vocals, Keyboards
Jens Ludwig – Guitar
Dirk Sauer – Guitar
Tobias “Eggi” Exxel – Bass
Felix Bohnke- Drums
Michael Rodenberg – Keyboards
Oliver Hartmann – Backing Vocals
Producer: Sascha Paeth & Edguy
Much to the dismay of longtime fans, Edguy continues to be an outlet for Tobia Sammet’s silliness and his love for ’80s rock/metal while Avantasia is his more serious metal project. It’s funny because Avantasia started out as a cheesy & cliched power metal side project for Tobias and there was a time when Edguy used to take themselves more seriously.
One of my favorite songs on the album happens to be a bonus track. “Aychim In Hysteria” is a tribute — musically to Def Leppard and lyrically to the band’s live sound in engineer. Edguy’s lyrics have always been full of little in jokes, awkward phrasing and nonsensical words so while I don’t know what the song is about exactly, at least it sounds good!
With regards to the 10-track album, Edguy has delivered one of their best efforts, in my opinion. I know there are plenty of Edguy fans that still pine for their power metal days and maybe they’ll return to that at some point but for now the band seems happy to write silly catchy hard rock/metal songs. It’s almost like they’re becoming a heavier version of The Darkness. I’m fine with that. That’s how Edguy captured my attention in the first place with Rocket Ride. Songs like “Do Me Like a Caveman”, “Love Tyger” and a cover of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” won’t win the band any favors with power metal purists but they are fun songs nonetheless.
For my money, the best tracks from the album are the ballad “Alone In Myself” and the headbanging “Shadow Eaters”. With the bonus tracks, “England” is okay but like I said, I think “Alychim In Hysteria” is pretty awesome. As far as the progressive/instrumental versions go– okay, nice to include but they aren’t essential listening.
Space Police: Defenders of the Crown is a worthy addition to the Edguy catalog. I wouldn’t place it with Rocket Ride but it’s at least on level with Tinnitus Sanctus and I’m enjoying it more than Age of the Joker.
Highlights: “Sabre & Torch”, “Space Police”, “Love Tyger”, “Shadow Eaters”, “Alone In Myself”, “The Eternal Wayfarer”, “Aychim In Hysteria”
Jorn – Traveller
2013, Frontiers Records
2. Cancer Demon
4. Window Maker
5. Make Your Engine Scream
6. Legend Man
7. Carry The Black
8. Rev On
10. The Man Who Was King
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Trond Holter – Guitar
Jimmy Iversen – Guitar
Bernt Jansen – Bass
Willy Bendiksen – Drums
Produced by: Jorn Lande & Trond Holter
Another year, another Jorn release! You’d have to go all the way back to 2005 to see a year where Jorn didn’t release something.
So what do you get when Wig Wam’s Trond Holter & Bernt Jansen join up with Jorn Lande? One great catchy metal album! Holter ended up co-writing most of the album with Jorn and, wow, with spectacular results! Jorn has always delivered wonderfully produced, powerful & melodic heavy metal (I suppose Jorn would call it “heavy rock” though) and the addition of Holter as a songwriting partner has only helped matters. It’s a bit surprising that Jorn would give us a new studio album just a year after Bring Heavy Rock to the Land but when you’re loaded with such a fantastic collection of songs, why not? I enjoyed the previous album but I can already tell you this album is much, much better from top to bottom.
Of course, what Jorn album would be complete without some type of tribute to Ronnie James? “The Man Who Was King” is another song Lande has written about Dio and I would imagine “Cancer Demon” probably is in reference to Ronnie’s battle with cancer. To be honest, while I enjoy these tributes and appreciate Jorn’s obvious love and respect for the man, I do think it’s time to move on to new territories. Lande does great covers, so I’m always up for him to throw one or two cover songs onto an album, I don’t want that to stop… but I think the time is right to start paying tribute to other rock ‘n’ roll heroes. At the rate Jorn is going, we could start putting together an anthology of Jorn’s Dio covers and songs written about Dio soon!
Regardless, this album is a monster of crunching riffs and Jorn’s amazingly powerful voice (which is worth the price of admission alone). “Overload” and “Rev On” would be my favorite tracks here. Traveller is definitely one of the year’s best releases. Not a dud track in the bunch. Jorn continues on with his very enjoyable blend of melodic metal and ’70s inspired heavy rock and that makes for one heck of an album!
Highlights: “Overload”, “Cancer Demon”, “Traveller”, “Window Man”, “Make Your Engine Scream”, “Carry The Black”, “Rev On”
Primal Fear – Unbreakable (2012, Frontiers Records)
1. Unbreakable (Part 1) … 1:37
2. Strike … 4:39
3. Give ‘Em Hell … 3:05
4. Bad Guys Wear Black … 3:31
5. And There Was Silence … 5:13
6. Metal Nation … 5:11
7. Where Angels Die … 8:09
8. Unbreakable (Part 2) … 6:05
9. Marching Again … 5:41
10. Born Again … 4:48
11. Blaze of Glory … 3:56
12. Conviction … 3:58
Ralf Scheepers – Lead Vocals
Magnus Karlsson – Guitar, Keyboards
Alexander Beyrodt – Guitar
Mat Sinner – Bass, Backing Vocals
Randy Black – Drums
Producer: Mat Sinner
Here’s a band I’ve known about for a very long time but never got around to buying an album of theirs until 2010 when I picked up Jaws of Death and Seven Seals. I like both of those album but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing them just yet. Anyway, Unbreakable is the band’s ninth studio album and their third studio release from Frontiers Records (who’ve branched beyond melodic rock/AOR and have started to pick up a number of quality hard rock/metal acts over the last few years).
It would be unfair of me to say where Unbreakable ranks in the Primal Fear catalog but what I can say about this album is that I think it compares favorably to Jaws of Death and Seven Seals. What’s good about this album is that it’s full of anthems. “Bad Guys Wear Black”, “Metal Nation”, “And Then There Was Silence” and “Where Angels Die” will get stuck in your head. And any song that isn’t a metal anthem is just powerfully heavy. “Strike” really rips from the get-go and was a great choice to open the album. Then there’s the album’s lone ballad “Born Again”. Another catchy number.
It’s not big revelation that Ralf Scheepers’ vocal work is reminiscent of Rob Halford (just ask Judas Priest themselves) but it’s on “Born Again” and “Conviction” that he really comes across as a younger version of the Metal God. “Conviction” is probably the most straight forward traditional sounding metal song on the whole album (with “Strike” coming in a close second) and it’s a true highlight. Very Priest-like.
Unbreakable is sure to please Primal Fear fans and should please anyone who has an interest in bands like Priest, Maiden and power metal. It’s a great album to kick off a new metal year in 2012!
Digipak pressing comes with the exclusive bonus track “Night of the Jumps”.
Highlights: “Strike”, “Bad Guys Wear Black”, “Metal Nation”, “Where Angels Die”, “Born Again”, “Conviction”
the Blame – Born (2011, self-released)
1. Another Stolen Life … 4:07
2. Guiding Light … 4:17
3. The Scarab … 4:34
4. Valley of Trade … 4:31
5. Lost in a Rabbit-Hole … 4:25
6. Beyond the Wind … 3:57
7. Deserted Nation … 4:59
8. Fading Day … 4:08
9. Sacred Souls … 3:25
10. Exile … 4:17
11. Made of Stone … 3:39
Enver C. Yılmaz – Vocals
Bahadır Sarp – Lead Guitar
Kaan Afacan – Rhythm Guitar
Onur Altınay – Bass / Fretless Bass
Berca B. Kantarcıoğlu – Drums
Born is the debut album from Istanbul’s the Blame. The band has a great assortment of influences such as Iron Maiden, Dio, Black Sabbath, Rush, Edguy, Rage, Testament and Nevermore. As such, this album is kind of a mash-up of heavy/thrash/melodic/progressive metal.
Lead vocalist Enver sings in a few different styles on the album. On “Guiding Light” he comes across as what the typical modern metal vocalist sounds like but on “The Scarab” he comes across as Bruce Dickinson or Edguy’s Tobias Sammet and then goes on to employ some growling metal vocals in the very same song!
It’s the fast & furious thrashers such as “Beyond the Wind” where the band really displays their powers though. The entire band is great and Berca’s drumming in exceptional. It’s in these fast pace environments that Enver’s vocals really shine best as well when he hits those higher notes. “Exile” is a great instrumental that brings to mind ’80s Metallica and this band is worth checking out for that song alone (no offense to Enver!). The album closes with the thrasher “Made of Stone” which again shows off the Maiden influence in terms of sound & vocals (even if there is still some more growling thrown in).
Born is a solid debut from these guys. Not a knockout punch but there are some gems to be found here and the band definitely has a future that has me thinking they might be better off focusing on the Maiden & thrash influence rather than bands like Rush & Nevermore. Of course, progressive metal has never really been my thing in general. I’m surprised these guys aren’t signed because they are a band that I think could easily fit on the Metal Blade label.
If you’re interested in checking this album out, you can head on over to the band’s website and download it for free (and make a donation to the band as you do it, if you’re feeling generous).
Highlights: “Guiding Light”, “The Scarab”, “Beyond the Wind”, “Exile”, “Made of Stone”
Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage (2012, Frontiers Records)
1. Wicked World … 4:40
2. Cirque du Freak … 4:13
3. Oh My Soul … 5:13
4. One of the Few … 4:01
5. Still In Love With You … 4:21
6. Can’t Stay Here … 4:08
7. Wardance … 6:00
8. Don’t Know What It Is About You … 4:55
9. Blind Fury … 5:06
10. Violet Moon … 7:38
Tony Martin – Vocals
Dario Mollo – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Roberto Gualdi – Drums
Fulvio Gaslini – Bass
Dario Patti – Keyboards
Brian War – Keyboards
If you’ve been following this blog for any decent amount of time or have conversed with me on message boards or Facebook, you’ve probably realized that I’m a big fan of Tony Martin. I rank his run in Sabbath second only to the great Ronnie James Dio. That said, I haven’t heard any of his side-projects or guest spots on other albums and have only heard the latest of his two solo albums (leaving 1992’s Back Where I Belong on my bucket list).
Dario Mollo, on the other hand, I know next to nothing about this Italian guitarist. Looking at his official website and the Frontiers website, I can tell you that he was in a metal band in the ’80s called Crossbones and in 2000 & 2005 released albums under the Voodoo Hill name with the legendary Glenn Hughes on vocals (I really need to check those albums out). He also did a UK tour as a member of the “Graham Bonnet & Don Airey Band”.
Also during this time is when “The Cage” series of albums came to be. Dario recruited Tony Martin to sing on and write lyrics for 1999’s The Cage and they paired up again in 2004 for The Cage 2. I was made aware of both of these projects awhile back and while I’ve seen good reviews for them, I never picked them up because they are, unfortunately, out of print and very expensive (I think I’ll pass on spending $80-$140 for a CD!). Well, at least now I am able to listen to the latest Cage album!
The first thing I noticed is that Tony Martin has not lost a step over the years. He sounds just as good here as he did on The Eternal Idol or Headless Cross. Not that I expected anything less because he sounded excellent on Scream as well. As for Dario, well, if you’ve got Glenn Hughes, Tony Martin, Graham Bonnet and Don Airey willing and wanting to work with you — then you know you’re pretty good at what you do. Some very nice solos and riffing going on here.
Though the album starts off heavy with “Wicked World” , “Cirque Du Freak” & “Oh My Soul” (the last two sound like they could’ve come from a Sabbath album with Tony), there’s a variety of styles to be found on this album. “One of the Few”, “Can’t Stay Here” and “Don’t Know What It Is About You” are all melodic rockers, taking Tony back to his musical roots and still displaying him as being just as comfortable singing these types of songs as he is singing heavy metal. “Still In Love With You” is heavy with an epic Middle Eastern-flair to it. “Wardance” is probably my favorite track on the album with the tribal rhythm of the drums and it’s just too catchy (“WAR!…DANCE!”). “Blind Fury” may be the heaviest track on the album while “Violet Moon” is a beautiful, near-trippy ballad that closes out the album.
There’s really not a bad track on this album. With each spin (and there’s been quite a few of them) I’ve grown to appreciate each song more and more but “Still In Love With You”, “Can’t Stay Here”, “Wardance” and “Don’t Know What It Is About You” were the instant standouts when I first listened.
How does The Third Cage compare to the first two Mollo/Martin albums? Don’t ask me! But I do know that Dario & Tony have delivered a great blend of hard rock, metal and melodic rock that has me wanting to snatch up whatever else Dario has done and has me wishing for even more new Tony Martin music.
Highlights: “Cirque Du Freak”, “One of the Few”, “Still In Love With You”, “Can’t Stay Here”, “Wardance”, “Don’t Know What It Is About You”, “Violet Moon”
Riot – Immortal Soul (2011, SPV/Steamhammer Records)
1. Riot … 5:03
2. Still Your Man … 4:16
3. Crawling … 5:52
4. Wings Are for Angels … 5:09
5. Fall Before Me … 4:55
6. Sins of the Father … 3:55
7. Majestica … 0:57
8. Immortal Soul … 4:46
9. Insanity … 4:40
10. Whiskey Man … 4:15
11. Believe … 4:17
12. Echoes … 4:57
Tony Moore – Vocals
Mark Reale – Guitar
Mike Flyntz – Guitar
Don Van Stavern – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Producer: Bruno Ravel & Riot
Riot has returned to deliver pure American heavy metal to the masses!
Immortal Soul features the reunited Thundersteel/The Privilege of Power line-up (with additional guitarist Mike Flyntz) that featured the gifted Tony Moore vocals. I’ve always said Riot has never released a bad album. They’re taken a few twists & turns when it comes to the style of rock/metal they would play, but it’s always been quality stuff. I really didn’t have any doubts about the quality of Immortal Soul and became even more enthusiastic for it when the excellent “Wings Are for Angels” was released for streaming earlier this year. That’s one of my favorite songs of 2011!
This album is a great trip back in time. The production is fantastic but the songs are written like this is the direct follow-up to Thundersteel. Anyone who was a fan of that album and Privilege of Power will NOT be disappointed with Immortal Soul. Yeah, this is American POWER metal at its finest. Mark Reale is still firing off some nice solos and coming up with great riffs, Bobby Jarzombek is a monster on the drums as always and Tony Moore is still killin’ it on vocals.
Riot is one of the great American heavy metal bands. It’s a shame they never got the widespread recognition they deserved in the 36 years of their existence. Mark Reale is one of metal’s best guitarists even now. Though the world at large may be unaware, for those of us in the know, we know that Riot’s place in the pantheon of heavy metal is secure.
This is an album not to be missed by Riot fans or anyone into a more tradition heavy metal sound from bands such as Judas Priest. This whole album is classic Riot full of the thrashers, speed, power and melodic metal that many fans fondly remember from the previous Tony Moore era.
Highlights: “Riot”, “Still Your Man”, “Crawling”, “Wings Are for Angels”, “Fall Before Me”, “Sins of the Father”, “Immortal Soul”, “Believe”
Savage Messiah – Plague of Conscience (2011, Earache Records)
1. “Plague of Conscience” … 5:31
2. “Six Feet Under the Gun” … 5:01
3. “Carnival of Souls” … 6:02
4. “In Thought Alone” … 4:36
5. “All Seeing I” … 05:09
6. “Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt” … 4:09
7. “Architects of Fear” … 5:14
8. “The Accuser” … 4:04
9. “Shadowbound” … 4:50
10. “The Mask of Anarchy” … 8:37
Dave Silver – Vocals, Guitar
Joff Bailey – Guitar
Stefano Selvatico – Bass
Mauricio Chamucero – Drums
Producer: Scott Atkins
Savage Messiah are a band I knew absolutely nothing about until I watched music journalist Dom Lawson’s “Iron Sandwich” video review for Plague of Conscience. He gave it a lot of high praise so I figured since the album is currently free to download I’d be a fool to not sample it.
This is the band’s third release and it’s apparent I’ve been missing out on this slice of British steel. I don’t know how this album compares to previous releases, but I’ve seen some places present Savage Messiah as a (retro) thrash metal band but they aren’t that at all. Thrash is just a portion of their sound, they are also equal parts power, speed, melodic and progressive. In short, they are HEAVY METAL. They don’t dance anywhere near the extreme side of metal (like Slayer) and the vocals of Dave Silver are clean & extraordinary. I don’t even get much of a retro vibe from them but they are certainly going to appeal to that community of old school fans because you can hear a bit of Priest, Maiden and Megadeth.
Plague of Conscience has been made available as a FREE download over at Earache Records’ website, so download it while you can. I’d also like to point out that the download comes complete with artwork for the album cover, booklet (with lyrics) and back cover. The artwork throughout is just beautiful. A CD edition of the album will be hitting shelves (and distros) in January 2012.
Granted, you shouldn’t take something just because it’s free but in the case of Plague of Conscience, Savage Messiah & Earache Records have given the public one hell of a deal and now the band has at least one more fan.
Highlights: “Plague of Conscience”, “Six Feet Under the Gun”, “In Thought Alone”, “Beyond A Shadow of a Doubt”, “Architects of Fear”, “The Mask of Anarchy”