Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012) review

Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Taikatalvi
  2. Storytime
  3. Ghost River
  4. Slow, Love, Slow
  5. I Want My Tears Back
  6. Scaretale
  7. Arabesque (instrumental)
  8. Turn Loose The Mermaids
  9. Rest Calm
  10. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove
  11. Last Ride Of The Day
  12. Song Of Myself
        1 – From A Dusty Bookshelf
        2 – All That Great Heart Lying Still
        3 – Piano Black
        4 – Love
  13. Imaginaerum (instrumental)

Band Lineup (The Imagineers):
Anette Olzon – vocals
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, piano
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Marco Hietala – bass, vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 )
Jukka Nevalainen – drums, percussion

Guest Musicians (Fellow Imagineers):
Troy Donockley – uilleann pipes (on track 5 & 13), tin whistle (on track 1, 8 & 10), vocals (on track 10 & 12), bodhran, bouzouki
Dermot Crehan – hardanger fiddle
Dirk Campbell – sorna
Guy Barker – solo trumpet
Paul Clarvis and Stephen Henderson – ethnic percussion
Pekka Kuusisto – violin
“The loved ones & the fellowship” are credited for reciting the stanzas in track 12.

Orchestra & Choir:
The Metro Voices (led by choir mistress Jenny O’Grady)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, called “The Looking Glass Orchestra” (led by Thomas Bowes and conducted by James Shearman)
Pip Williams – director of orchestra & choir arrangements

Producer: Tuomas Holopainen

Country: Finland

Total Time = 1:14:50

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Roadrunner Records

(NOTE — This album was released worldwide in late 2011 but January 2012 for the U.S.)

Nightwish is a band that I never really got into until recently…..and by recently I mean since 2007’s DARK PASSION PLAY, the debut of Anette Olzon (formerly of Alyson Avenue) as frontwoman. Up until 2007, I only knew of Nightwish from the press the band received and the reviews I read online and, even though I enjoy female-fronted Metal of all kinds, I was completely unsure of former vocalist Tarja Turunen’s operatic style. The only Nightwish album I own from the Tarja era is WISHMASTER (2000) and I think I only bought it because I found it cheap in a used bin somewhere. DARK PASSION PLAY and Anette opened my ears to the excellent Symphonic Metal that Nightwish creates so I was pretty excited to hear that the band was releasing a new album, IMAGINAERUM, internationally in late 2011 and the U.S. in early January. Unfortunately, that excitement was slightly cancelled when I read that the new record would be a concept album with a movie based around the album.

Now I’m all for concept albums, if they are done right. Too many albums released today are deemed “concept albums” just because they have a running theme throughout. Nightwish, mainly composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, have taken it to another extreme by developing a film of the same name and each member having minor roles as themselves in the film itself. That makes IMAGINAERUM the soundtrack to the film that is being made…..sounds a lot like the idea behind KISS’ concept album (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER (1981). At least Nightwish are making the movie, KISS never got that far! So what is the concept? Holopainen’s story revolves around a dying composer who is reminiscing about memories from his youth while his adult memories slowly fade. Interesting but it sounds very Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The first song on the album is ‘Taikatalvi’, a song sung primarily in the band’s native Finnish by Marco Hietala and translated as “magic winter” in English. The song is very basic with minimal music accompaniment from Holopainen’s piano giving the song a children’s lullabye feel to it and it’s basically an intro to the actual album. I consider the track a throwaway and I skip it everytime I listen to the CD. The real opening song is ‘Storytime’ and it is everything that Nightwish is: bombastic and powerful full of orchestration and plenty of crunching guitars to go along with Anette’s vocals. This is the song that sets the album up for me and dashes any doubts as to the quality of the rest of the songs. Once I heard the huge symphonic sound of ‘Storytime’, I felt a little better about the whole concept, the film project and the rest of the record. Judge for yourself, here’s the video…..

‘Ghost River’ continues the bombastic Metal style but with a little more edge to it when Marco’s harsh vocals come in for the chorus. What I like here is that it’s not as “clean” a track as ‘Storytime’, there’s some added aggression in the vocals and guitar and it gives the band another dimension. There’s still plenty of orchestration and a children’s choir but there’s something haunting about this song and it gives off a sinister vibe at times. Just when I think that I know what the album is going to sound like, Nightwish throws in a curveball with the ballad ‘Slow, Love, Slow’ that sounds like it’s straight out of a Vegas lounge piano bar, it’s jazz vaudeville style reminds me of something Bette Midler might sing. The focus here is Anette’s voice and she is without a doubt one of the best singers in the genre…..the song segues right into ‘I Want My Tears Back’, a tried and true Power Metal feast that has a Celtic feel to it with bagpipes throughout. The guitar riff that opens ‘I Want My Tears Back’ is solid and the bagpipes kick in immeadiately on the main riff. There’s a beauty to Anette’s voice that has me in a trance at this point…..I could listen to her sing the telephone book to me (do they actually make those?). The only way I could describe the sound is like pure Power Metal meets the Renaissance sound of Blackmore’s Night…..Folk Metal maybe? It’s a great song and has plenty of power and the album has shown a lot of diversity so far and that’s obvious by the various styles on the uptempo metal nightmare that is ‘Scaretale’. The song is a nightmare scenario in the overall concept and it goes from all out Power Metal to an animated movie feel in the middle…..maybe something from my kids’ favorite A Nightmare Before Christmas? It’s a very diverse song and both Anette and Marco deliver very different vocal performances, Anette does a shrieky, scary vocal while Marco does a ring announcer/carnival barker vocal in the “animated movie” sequence. It’s an interesting track and keeps the listener guessing as to what they will hear next.

‘Scaretale’ moves directly into the instrumental ‘Arabesque’ which also has a movie soundtrack sound to it, I actually think of the old Conan movies when I hear it. Instrumentals don’t really grab me as they did back when I was younger so ‘Arabesque’ is more of a throwaway to me but it does tie the songs together and acts like a bridge to the ballad ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’. If you want to hear what Blackmore’s Night sounds like, then this is the song! Anette does her best Candice Night impression and the band sounds just like Blackmore’s Night again with that Renaissance music sound. It’s actually a pretty good song and really focuses on Anette’s vocals, and let’s face it, she is the selling point of the band as Tarja was before.The band continues in the dramatic mid-tempo direction with ‘Rest Calm’ that has a solid main riff and good trade-off vocals from Marco & Anette while the song does from heavy to soft once the chorus kicks in. Reminds me of a Balance Of Power song from one of their records but with female vocals…..again, the beauty of the track is in the angelic voice of Anette Olzen. ‘The Crow, The Owl And The Dove’ is another slow ballad that builds dramatically while maintaining it’s calm pace with acoustic guitars, piano and subdued drums to go along with the vocals while ‘Last Ride Of The Day’ builds up immeadiately with choral vocals into a soft Anette purr as she builds up with the song, it kind of reminds me of ‘Storytime’ with it’s fast tempo and grand sound.

Nightwish is a band that thrives on their grandiose style and their bombastic approach, the band uses different orchestrations, choruses, tempo changes and arrangements to build their overall sound. This is extremely evident on the 13+ minute ‘Song Of Myself’, which is technically broken up into four sub-songs. The problem with this song is that thew first half is a proper song that runs into the same vein as other uptempo numbers on the album but the second half is mostly spoken word narration. This is where the overall concept gets in the way, who cares about the movie, just make a good record! If you edit the spoken word narration and cut ‘Song Of Myself’ in half, then you’ve got a solid album track. I understand the point that this is a concept record and the spoken word part follows that direction but there’s a point where it goes to far and it becomes pointless. The title track is the last song and it’s another instrumental of parts of every song on the album. It’s a nice way to roll the crdits on the upcoming film but nothing to really get excited about as an album track.

Just on a side note…..IMAGINAERUM was released as a single CD or a special limited edition double disc that included a bonus CD of just the instrumental version of the album. I decided against buying the limited edition version because I already knew that I would never listen to just the instrumental version. Only the absolute diehard Nightwish fans will enjoy that, I’m a fan of the entire package and especially Anette Olzen, so I found it unnecessary.

Bottom Line:
I’ve been honestly listening to this album since it’s early January release in the U.S. and I have really enjoyed it. I listen to the record and I hear new sounds all the time so it’s an album that is very complex and epic. The musicianship is above top notch and the vocals of both singers are awesome, Nightwish continues to get better with every album. My only complaint is that the album follows the movie concept on some songs more than others and that hurts the overall flow of the album. The good news is that Nightwish are so talented as musicians that they are able to evolve further with every release. At this point, the band is hitting it’s creative stride and they are poised to become one of those bands we talk about 20 years down the line. IMAGINAERUM is a solid album and one that I recommend, it’s surely in my end of the year top albums list.

Favorite Songs:
‘Storytime’, ‘Ghost River’, ‘I Want My Tears Back’, ‘Scaretale’, ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’

Covers Comparison – Tesla

If you’ve been reading Heavy Metal Addiction for any length of time then you know that I have this sore spot for cover songs. I’m not sure why I hate covers so much sometimes because there are covers that I like, most from back in the day and/or on tribute records. Anytime I do a current album review and I see a cover song in the tracklisting I get upset. The reason: doing a cover song is the easy way out, at least to me. I would always prefer to hear an original composition by a band rather than a cover song but sometimes a cover song is done extremely well. Sometimes a cover song takes on a life of it’s own and becomes a big hit for a band years after it was done originally by the original band.

Case in point: Tesla

“Signs, signs, everywhere signs….” I hate that song. Nothing is worse than hearing Tesla on the radio (which is rare nowadays) and it being ‘Signs’. Tesla have better songs, way better original songs, than their cover of the Five Man Electrical Band‘s #3 hit from 1971 but this cover hit big in 1990 on the album FIVE MAN ACOUSTICAL JAM.

Five Man Electrical Band – ‘Signs’ (1971)

Tesla – ‘Signs’ (1990)

But ‘Signs’ isn’t the only Tesla cover song out there that was a huge hit…..’Little Suzi’ is really a cover of Ph.D.’s ‘Little Susie’s On The Up’ from their 1981 self-titled debut. Watch the video and you’ll remember the time when MTV was new and all the played was British synth-pop & New Wave. I love Tesla’s version of ‘Little Suzi’ and I only realized that it was a cover tune a few years ago when I saw the Ph.D. video on VH-1 Classic late at night.

Ph.D. – ‘Little Susie’s On The Up’ (1981)

Tesla – ‘Little Suzi’ (1986)

So there’s the comparisons… decide which is better (Tesla!) and please let me know what you think of the originals…..

Michael Schenker Group (featuring Robin McAuley) in concert at Showcase Live (Foxboro, MA) – 3/8/12

It’s been a little while since I posted anything here at Heavy Metal Addiction but nothing gets the writing juices flowing like a good concert! I had my ticket in advance for Michael Schenker’s return to the New England area this past Thursday night, this time promoting his new album TEMPLE OF ROCK (2011) and featuring another former frontman, Robin McAuley. I caught MSG on the last tour in 2010 at Showcase Live to promote MSG’s 30th anniversary and the last two albums featuring original frontman Gary Barden and it was excellent, I expected the same this time around. Michael’s latest album, TEMPLE OF ROCK, is a great album and ‘Lover’s Sinfony’ is my favorite song on the album and features Robin McAuley. I saw the classic early ’80s Gary Barden led MSG last year, now I get to see the McAuley Schenker Group (the late ’80s/early ’90s lineup) live! What’s next? Will Michael bring Graham Bonnet out next? Wishful thinking…..

I arrived at the club about an hour before the 8pm start time, picked up my ticket at the box office, grabbed a real nice shirt for $30 and went inside. Another great crowd for another great show, capacity is about 1000 people so I guesstimate that there was at least 500, maybe more. No opening band this time around which was good news because everyone I spoke with wanted a nice long set from the band…..considering that the tickets were only $25 each, I expected a spectacular show. I got as close to Michael’s side of the stage as I could and ended up about 4 feet away from the master and between him and McAuley the entire show.

Michael Schenker Group setlist:

Into The Arena
Armed And Ready
Love Drive
Another Piece Of Meat
Lover’s Sinfony
Save Yourself
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Rock My Nights Away
Shoot Shoot
Love To Love
Too Hot To Handle
Let It Roll
Natural Thing
Lights Out

On And On
Rock Bottom

2nd Encore:
Doctor Doctor

Honestly, that was like going to see UFO! Almost the second half of the set was classic Schenker-era UFO and the crowd was EXTREMELY receptive to hearing almost all of the STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT record. There’s no denying Michael’s guitar genius when he’s effortlessly soloing through ‘Rock Botton’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Lights Out’ but the UFO highlight for me was ‘Love To Love’ with Robin giving a powerful performance of one of the most underrated and underappreciated ballads of all-time! While I’m on the subject of Mr. McAuley, let me just say that the man is a spectacular performer with great vocal range and energy, he looked genuinely happy to be on stage with Michael (and vice versa for the guitar maestro!) and he just looks like a rock star. Seriously, has Robin aged at all? The guy looked awesome for a 59 yr.old rocker. As for the rest of the band…..Wayne Findlay is Michael’s jack-of-all-trades on stage performing that Paul Raymond role perfectly, Elliot “Dean” Rubinson (CEO of Dean Guitars) proved to be a great addition on bass and Pete Holmes (from Black ‘N Blue) hit the drums like a madman… can’t ask for more if you’re a guitar legend.

Back to the set…..the show kicked off with Michael’s showcase ‘Into The Arena’ and promptly went into crowd favorite ‘Armed and Ready’. If that wasn’t enough to get the crowd pumped immeadiately, the band kicked the show into high gear with back to back Scorpions songs ‘Love Drive’ and ‘Another Piece Of Meat’. The applause alone for those two songs was so great that you would have thought that Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker had joined the band on stage! A great moment of the night to see Michael soloing away on those two classics and Robin really nailed each song…..vocally I can hear some similarities to Klaus Meine. My favorite part of the set was the next two songs: ‘Lover’s Sinfony’ and ‘Save Yourself’. Now I realize that the setlist was full of classic Schenker tunes but hearing ‘Lover’s Sinfony’ (my favorite song off the new album) and ‘Save Yourself’ (the title cut from the 1989 record) were awesome! I never got to see the McAuley Schenker Group back in the day and SAVE YOURSELF is an underrated album from the late ’80s, actually the whole McAuley-Schenker era is completely underrated. It was cool to have Robin acknowledge many of us fans up front who sang all the words to ‘Save Yourself’ but I did notice a couple of looks towards a couple of us singing every word to ‘Lover’s Sinfony’…..honestly, that would be the highlight of the set if MSG played more recent material from the last 15 years. It was great to hear ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’, ‘Rock My Nights Away’ and ‘On and On’ from early MSG albums but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that more MSG songs weren’t done. Of course that means you would have to cut a UFO or Scorpions song for proper MSG but it was good to hear the band run through Michael’s career and ending the second half of the show with almost all UFO classics. The band played close to two hours and the fans all had a blast, the band could have easily played a few more songs and the club would have exploded! Hopefully Michael and the band will come back again soon to the Showcase Live, judging by the crowd’s response I have no doubt they will.

Here’s a few videos I found on Youtube from the Foxboro show on 3/8/12…..

Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (2011)

Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (2011, Frontiers Records)

  1. Call Me
  2. Day By Day
  3. Ready, Willing And Able
  4. How Can I Miss You?
  5. You’re All I Need Tonight
  6. To Get Back To You
  7. When You’re Gone
  8. Take Me There
  9. Come
  10. In It For The Money
  11. Change A Thing
  12. Kickin’ My Heart Around

Gunnar Nelson – Vocals & Guitars
Matthew Nelson – Vocals & Bass
Brian Burwell – Drums
David Morgan – Piano & Background Vocals
Gary Corbett – Piano & Keyboards
Gary Schlecta – String Arrangements on tracks #6 & #8
Steve Lukather – Guitar solo on track #6

Producers: Gunnar Nelson & Matthew Nelson

Country: USA

Total Time = 54:07

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Frontiers Records

If you listened to FM radio or watched MTV in 1990 & 1991 then there was no way you were going to miss Nelson. Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, twin sons of the legendary Ricky Nelson, debuted with the AOR/Melodic Rock bombshel AFTER THE RAIN (1990), an album that produce the #1 hit ‘(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection’ and three other hit singles while selling 4 million copies. The band was every label’s dream: two good looking twins who had the family musical legacy, crafted slick pop-flavored Rock, and made the girls swoon and the guys quietly sing along. I admit to buying AFTER THE RAIN back in the day and proudly playing alongside my Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica albums but, after too much exposure, the party ended in 1991 and the backlash began. The brothers became the butt of the joke, kind of like Winger did, and the Grunge movement spit in the face of sugar-coated melodies and sweet ballads. By the time 1995 rolled around and Nelson released their follow-up, BECAUSE THEY CAN, mainstream fans had moved on and the album went unnoticed. The Nelsons never left, they just started in a new direction over the last 15 years by releasing a darker edged concept album, IMAGINATOR (1996), going a little Country on another album and covering their father’s songs on 2000’s LIKE FATHER, LIKE SONS. All this and doing it all in house on their own label and continuing to tour. Now 20 years after their successful debut, the Nelsons release what could easily be termed as the natural follow-up to that record with LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN.

***(Before I get into the review, let me explain the album’s release year. Technically, this album was released in late 2010 on Frontiers Records everywhere BUT North America. I wasn’t going to buy an import, especially when postage rates to the U.S. from Europe & Japan are so high, so I decided to wait for the U.S. release. I ended up picking this up in February, shortly after the January U.S. release. So technically it’s a 2010 release but I’m counting it as a 2011 release because of where and when it got proper distribution.)***

Opening the album is the infectious ‘Call Me’, a hit single if I ever heard one, that is complete with melodic guitars and the signature Nelson harmonies that make every song sound huge. ‘Call Me’ has that good time party vibe that gets you singing along right away and immeadiately transports you back to 1990. As if that wasn’t enough to hook a melodic rock fan in, the brothers continue the upbeat retro sound with the Bon Jovi slick ‘Day By Day’ (a song Jon Bon Jovi would kill to have written, maybe it would have saved his last record!) and the harder edged ‘Ready, Willing And Able’ that has a ’70s Classic Rock feel to it with the big harmonies and superb vocals. Both songs follow ‘Call Me’ perfectly and could easily be singles in their own right and they continue that “big hair” sound from the late ’80s/early ’90s that made the Nelsons platinum successes. The album takes a twist with the opening Scorpions style guitar intro that reminds me of ‘Still Loving You’ and hints of a ballad with the opening lines, then the song turns into a dark rocker that moves into a heavier groove until that big harmonized chorus. It’s kind of hard to describe a Nelson song as dark, maybe moody is a better? Maybe harder is better than that? What grabs me here is the guitars…..listen closely and you can hear that Scorpions tone in the licks and it just works. It’s harder but melodic, it’s Nelson but slightly different. The band heads back into the classic AOR sound for the first proper single and video from the record — ‘You’re All I Need Tonight’. This is classic melodic Nelson at it’s finest, easily a hit single if this was 20 years ago and definitely a great song today that should get radio airplay.

Surprisingly, we haven’t had a ballad yet! That changes with ‘To Get Back To You’, a song that Jon and Ritchie would probably kill to have written for that last Bon Jovi album! This is a signature ballad with acoustic guitars, piano, keyboard orchestration and the big vocals from the brothers…..definitely one of those “raise your lighters” moments. Add in a special appearance by guitar maestro Steve Lukather (Toto) for the guitar solos and it all comes together perfectly. More catchy Melodic Rock returns with ‘When You’re Gone’, a song that sounds like Bon Jovi mixed with Damn Yankees on the vocals and melodies with a touch of Tom Scholz guitar (Boston). This is one of my favorite songs on the album, probably because it’s one of the more truer Rock songs but with that catchiness that gets me singing along immeadiately. It’s a feel good song…..actually, the whole album is feel good! Isn’t that what good music is about? Ballad #2 arrives with ‘Take Me There’, another one Jon & Ritchie wish they stole, I mean wrote! ‘Take Me There’ doesn’t feel like a ballad because the guitar really kicks in for extra power (listen for the solo!) and the song builds into the glorious chorus. Another straight ahead rocker comes with ‘Come’, a song that channels Damn Yankees at their commercial best with a vocal that sounds very Tommy Shaw like. ‘Come’ is heavy mid-tempo with some heavier guitar work and more up front drums but I’m a little distracted by the vocal and, among an album of strong songs, I’d have to call this the weakest so far but it’s still pretty good. ‘In It For The Money’ is another catchy song that has an underlying Classic Rock feel to it and it has the one thing you expect from a poppy, melodic, party album…..handclaps! The chorus is extremely catchy too. ‘Change A Thing’ is a moody mid-tempo ballad that becomes the weakest song instead of ‘Come’ because it just sounds out of place on such a happy rock record. It’s not a bad song, just out of place and a level below the rest of the songs on the album. Last tune is ‘Kickin’ My Heart Around’ is another mid-tempo track that has a crunch to it when the guitars kick in for the chorus but goes mellow for the rest. For me, not one of my album favorites but a decent song in it’s own right.

Bottom Line:
I never thought I would honestly say this but Matthew and Gunnar Nelson have made an album that equals, if not surpasses, their multi-million selling debut and I think it’s one of the best Melodic Rock albums of 2011. Twenty years after AFTER THE RAIN, the Nelsons have given us a worthy successor with LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN and, while it’s not going to sell millions, it’s still going to be a success in returning mainstream popular Rock to an audience willing to rejoin the party. Maybe the time away from this kind of music fueled the fire? Maybe the next album the brothers release will be a continuation of this sound that made them famous? Either way, LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN is a great comeback for two musicians that really never went away. I was really surprised by this album right from the opening of ‘Call Me’ and I have listened to this probably more than any other new album this year. I can honestly say I like this record better than AFTER THE RAIN and I’m going to put the latter day Nelson albums on the Want List because I’m sure there’s something I haven’t heard and am missing out on. This is a must for Nelson fans and fans of AOR/Melodic Rock but also for those of us who were kids back in the day that secretly listened to Nelson but made fun of them around our peers. The joke is on us because this is a great record well worth checking out!

Favorite Songs:
‘Call Me’, ‘Day By Day’, ‘Ready, Willing And Able’, ‘You’re All I Need Tonight’, ‘To Get Back To You’, ‘When You’re Gone’

Whitesnake – Forevermore (2011)

Whitesnake – Forevermore (2011, Frontiers)

  1. Steal Your Heart Away
  2. All Out Of Luck
  3. Love Will Set You Free
  4. Easier Said Than Done
  5. Tell Me How
  6. I Need You (Shine A Light)
  7. One Of These Days
  8. Love & Treat Me Right
  9. Dogs In The Street
  10. Fare Thee Well
  11. Whipping Boy Blues
  12. My Evil Ways
  13. Forevermore
  14. Love Will Set You Free (alternate mix)*
  15. Forevermore (acoustic version)*
  16. My Evil Ways (My Evil drums mix)*

* (bonus tracks)

Bonus DVD

  1. Making of Forevermore
  2. Forevermore: Track By Track
  3. ‘Love Will Set You Free’ video
  4. Making of ‘Love Will Set You Free’

Band Lineup:
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
Doug Aldrich – Guitars
Reb Beach – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Michael Devin – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Timothy Drury – Keyboards
Jasper Coverdale – Vocals

Producers: David Coverdale, Doug Aldrich, Michael McIntyre

Country: United Kingdom/USA

Total Time = 1:17:12

Whitesnake MySpace page
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Frontiers Records

Whitesnake is back again with a brand new studio album, FOREVERMORE, one of the most anticipated albums of 2011. It’s been three years since Whitesnake mainman David Coverdale and his formidable lineup delivered the excellent GOOD TO BE BAD (2008) but the band hasn’t been out of the spotlight. Quite the contrary with shows played worldwide, including a U.S. tour with Judas Priest in support of GOOD TO BE BAD. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, Coverdale had vocal problems on the tour and had to cancel certain dates giving critics, and some fans, reason to write the band off but Coverdale and company have returned again with a vengeance. Joining David again is the excellent guitar duo of Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach (members since 2002) and keyboardist Timothy Drury but there are new faces in the rhythm section with former Ozzy, Billy Idol and Lynch Mob drummer Brian Tichy and former Lynch Mob bassist Michael Devin. Despite this round of lineup changes,and David Coverdale pushing 60, Whitesnake sound as powerful as ever.

The best way to describe FOREVERMORE is that it’s the natural continuation of GOOD TO BE BAD. The band leans toward the original Blues based Whitesnake sound of the late ’70s/early ’80s with a nod to the mega-platinum success of the late ’80s, the songs all thick with heavy guitars, plenty of melody and groove and, of course, excellent vocals from Coverdale. If you listen to the album in it’s entirety you immeadiately notice the thick, rich sound and that’s due to the top of the line production but you also hear layers of guitars. There’s no doubt that Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach are the perfect compliment to David Coverdale, both guitarists are experienced and at the top of the Hard Rock heap with a combined resumé that includes: Dio, Winger, Dokken, Lion, Burning Rain, Hurricane and Bad Moon Rising. Devin and Tichy have proven they are a solid rhythm section and Drury compliments the sound with his keyboards but the obvious question mark is Coverdale himself…..has he recovered from the throat issues that plagued him a couple of years ago? I’m happy to say that Coverdale puts in another excellent performance at the mic and at almost 60 years old! After so many years of consistent vocal performances from Deep Purple through to Whitesnake in 2011, Coverdale is one of the best in the business and there seems to be no effects from the previous years’ issues. He prefers to use the more bluesy side of his voice, the early Whitesnake sound, rather than the high pitched screams of the late ’80s and you can tell that he stays in the lower register but David Coverdale’s lower register is better than 90% of younger current day singers! You can easily drift back to older Whitesnake albums like LOVEHUNTER (1979), READY AN’ WILLING (1980) and SAINTS AND SINNERS (1982) just by listening to the vocals. Add Reb Beach and Jasper Coverdale on backing vocals and it’s the perfect compliment to get that thick full vocal sound. The same basic themes are back again in the songwriting: love, love lost, love gained, love in general. There’s nothing wrong about writing about love, seduction, break-ups, etc and Coverdale is one of the best, he’s made a career out of it, so you know the album is well-written.

Opening the album is the hard Blues based rocker ‘Steal Your Heart Away’ with plenty of guitars and big hooky chorus. You can hear the slide guitar mixed into the riff trading from Aldrich and Beach and the solo break signals that this isn’t going to be a relaxed record, this is going to be a rocker! ‘Steal Your Heart Away’ kind of reminds me a little of ‘Shake My Tree’ from the Coverdale/Page album from 1993 in some of the bluesier parts but this is Hard Rock at it’s best. You can hear that Country influence with that slide guitar, a slight honky-tonk sound that adds a layer to the song. Continuing the Blues Hard Rock sound is another guitar grooved rocker ‘All Out Of Luck’ and the first single from FOREVERMORE, ‘Love Will Set You Free’. You can hear Coverdale start to go for the higher register and notes while maintaining that seductive groove in ‘All Out Of Luck’ and he shows flashes in ‘Love Will Set You Free’. Being the first single, it’s easy to say that ‘Love Will Set You Free’ sounds a bit more commercial compared to the first two opening tracks, and it’s true to a point drawing comparisons to late ’80s Snake, but the heaviness is there and the thick sound still gives it than dirtier, less polished sound.

After three solid rockers to open the album, the first proper ballad is ‘Easier Said Than Done’ and it reminds me of the WHITESNAKE (1987) and SLIP OF THE TONGUE (1989) era, it has that ‘Is This Love’ & ‘The Deeper The Love’ emotion that could easily propel it to a hit if radio played bands like Whitesnake. Same thing with the uptempo ‘Tell Me How’, it reminds me of those two classic albums’ sound much like the title track from GOOD TO BE BAD a few years ago. Another song that has that melodic commercial hook is ‘I Need You (Shine A Light)’, another song that could easily be a radio single. After listening to this song once, you instantly pick it up right away and start singing along but, as you hit repeat, you can hear a Boston influence. Listen closely to the guitar tone and the vocal harmonies, there’s a touch of Boston in there, probably because it’s such a melodic track.

Moving into the second half of the album you get the acoustic mid-tempo/ballad ‘One Of These Days’. It’s a pretty simple song with the focus on David’s solid vocal and the guitars, a perfect song if the band was ever going to perform unplugged, listen for the harmonies on the chorus…..superb. It almost doesn’t sound like Whitesnake! A song like ‘One Of These Days’ is perfect for a Rock album like FOREVERMORE because it breaks up all the heavier fast songs and adds a different layer to the album. The Hard Rock continues with ‘Love & Treat Me Right’ and the all out Metal of ‘Dogs In The Street’, a song that immeadiately reminds me of ‘Bad Boys’ from the 1987 s/t album. Talk about going back in time! It’s like Whitesnake recorded this sometime between 1987 and 1989, put it in a vault and released it 20+ years later. Forget the Blues base here, this is Metal! Following the assault of ‘Dogs In The Street’ is another good acoustic ballad ‘Fare the Well’ that’s very similar to ‘One Of These Days’ but slower. That’s three ballads through ten tracks, it may be a bit excessive but Coverdale’s track record can’t be denied, he’s had plenty of big hits with mid-tempo songs and ballads. The band continues to keep us guessing by giving us another rocker that sounds influenced from the COVERDALE/PAGE record from 1993 and mixed with GOOD TO BE BAD. It’s a very riff heavy song and Coverdale keeps his voice in that higher register from back in his younger days. Brian Tichy gets his quick solo moment with the opening drum intro to ‘My Evil Ways’, another guitar driven blues rocker that borders on ’80s Metalwith the trademark Coverdale screams and trade-off guitarwork fron Aldrich and Beach. There’s a Thin Lizzy meets the George Thorogood vibe here if you listen: Thin Lizzy with that twin axe attack and Thorogood with that honky-tonk Blues groove…..definitely a cool fast song. Ending the album is the fourth ballad, and third acoustic ballad in a row, ‘Forevermore’. I can’t fault Coverdale for going to what he does best, writing love songs, and he does this throughout the entire record. The title track is in the same style as ‘Easier Said Than Done’ but slower and more gentle until the solo break where the band kicks in and everything sounds lush with the big power ballad sound. Any doubts about David’s voice should be cast away after this song, after this album, because he sings with plenty of power, emotion and ability as he ever has.

If you’re an insane collector like me, then you needed to buy the limited edition that included three bonus tracks and a DVD. The three bonus tracks are an alternate mix of ‘Love Will Set You Free’, and acoustic version of the title track and a different drum mix of ‘My Evil Ways’. These songs are very similar to the originals and are a nice bonus for a couple of dollars more. The DVD includes the video for ‘Love Will Set You Free’, the making of the album and the video. Again, a nice bonus tucked into the deluxe glossy digipak packaging for a couple bucks more.

Bottom Line:
Here we go again! Whitesnake has released another great album that mixes the older Whitesnake sound with the late ’80s bombastic style. There’s a great mix of bluesy Hard Rock, ’80s Metal and acoustic ballads that keeps the album fresh with every listen, it’s a great record. The songs are full of melody and hooks that draw you in and gets you singing right along while you fiercly air guitar. The album sounds full and rich thanks to a great production and the musicianship is top notch with Aldrich, Beach, Devin, Tichy and Drury putting on a blazing sonic display. The one question on FOREVERMORE was how good David Coverdale would sound after having vocal issues in 2009 and 2010…..the question is answered in spades with a great vocal performance by one of the masters of Hard Rock. Coverdale sounds as good as he ever has singing with power and emotion proving that talent defies age. Stacking this up against GOOD TO BE BAD is tough because that album had such an impact after 11 years of waiting for new Whitesnake but FOREVERMORE continues where GOOD TO BE BAD left off and even goes beyond it at certain points. Definitely a must have for Whitesnake and Hard Rock fans and a contender for Album of The Year for 2011!

Favorite Songs:
This is going to be a hard one because there isn’t a weak song on the album and I like every one of them. If I had to pick five favorites: ‘Steal Your Heart Away’, ‘Love Will Set You Free’, ‘I Need You (Shine A Light)’, ‘Dogs In The Street’, ‘My Evil Ways’

Hurtsmile – s/t (2011)

Hurtsmile – s/t (2011, Frontiers Records)

  1. Just War Theory
  2. Stillborn
  3. love Thy Neighbor
  4. Kaffur (Infidel)
  5. Painter Paint
  6. Tolerance Song (edit)
  7. Set Me Free
  8. Jesus Would You Meet Me
  9. Slave
  10. Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads
  11. Just War Reprise
  12. The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)

Band Lineup:
Gary Cherone – Vocals
Mark Cherone – Guitar
Joe Pessia – Bass, Mandolin
Dana Spellman – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Gary Cherone & Joe Pessia

Country: USA

Total Time = 49:50

Hurtsmile MySpace
Gary Cherone
Frontiers Records

I’m a big Extreme fan from way back in the beginning so when Gary Cherone’s new project, Hurtsmile, was announced, I knew that it would be something unique. The problem with a Gary solo project is that sometimes he gets way too experimental and deviates from the Rock sound that made him a success in Extreme and Van Halen. Take a listen to the Tribe Of Judah album from 2002…..if you can sit through it! That album was horrible (I can’t even explain how bad it was!) due to it’s highly experimental direction and lack of Rock. I’m all of artistic expression and exploring new music avenues but a Rock album should be a Rock album when it’s promoted as such. Now I was really into the last Extreme album, SAUDADES DE ROCK (2007), and their live CD & DVD, TAKE US ALIVE: BOSTON 2009 (2010), so I knew that I was going to buy the Hurtsmile CD but I was crossing my fingers that I would like it.

The album starts out well with the Hard Rock of ‘Just War Theory’ and ‘Stillborn’ and you can immeadiately hear that Gary’s voice is still top notch and his brother, Mark Cherone, has some serious guitar going. You could almost put these songs in either the last Van Halen or Extreme album because they have that modern, edgy flavor. Actually, the sound is almost Grunge, especially on ‘Stillborn’, and I can hear traces of Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots…..influences that will permeate all the harder and/or faster songs on the record.

‘Love Thy Neighbor’ starts out with a 1950s a capella intro but moves into more more familiar modern Rock territory as does ‘Kaffur (Infidel)’, sans intro. Four songs into the album and so far things are going along a modern Hard Rock path with some serious guitar work but the band throws us a curve with the Beatles-inspired acoustic ‘Painter Paint’. This is Gary’s showcase without a doubt, you can really hear his singing voice and how great it really is, kind of like you can do with the Extreme classic ‘More Than Words’. I don’t want to put Gary in a certain box but this guy can sing ballads with the best of them and have great success, I’m surprised that there aren’t more on albums he records.

One of the reasons Gary was hired to replace Sammy Hagar in Van Halen is because he has a very similar sounding voice at times and there is no better example of that with the beginning line of ‘Tolerance Song’… swear that’s Sammy! The song follows the same formula as the first four rockers but there’s a little more experimentation with different tones and effects on Gary’s vocals to make it sound more current. The vocal effects almost remind me of some of the ones Motley Crue used for Vince Neil on parts of GENERATION SWINE (1997). The songwriting here isn’t that great and I’m not really digging the song at all. ‘Set Me Free’ continues that thick guitar driven grungy sound mixed with more quiet parts where Gary’s voice carries the song, I like the solo break and Mark Cherone really shines, he plays well through the entire album. ‘Jesus Would You Meet Me’ sounds a bit like Extreme’s ‘Hole Hearted’ instrumentally but the song takes an acoustic/Bluegrass/church hymn direction. I wasn’t really sure about this track the first couple of times I heard it but, after multiple spins, I like it for it’s simplicity and it’s similarity to the Extreme hit. A quick bass intro with some vocal effects open ‘Slave’ and continue throughout the track except for the chorus. The song takes a few twists and turns stylistically and I think it’s really too varied. The band gets back to what I think is their strong suit: the ballad. I was really impressed with ‘Painter Paint’ and ‘Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads’ also leaves a lasting impression with it’s soothing arrangement and Gary’s smooth vocal.

Unfortuately, I have to kill ‘Just War Reprise’. I get that Hurtsmile is an experiment in sound but it stays mostly on the Rock side of things…..’Just War Reprise’ is a Reggae version and it just doesn’t fit. I’m not bagging it because it’s Reggae, I like some Reggae, but on a Rock record? I give the band credit for trying something new but it doesn’t work for me. The final track is ‘The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)’, a tribute to the Philadelphia police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1981, his badge number being #4699. The song reminds me of a Bob Dylan or a Tom Petty song (is there any sonic difference between the two anymore?) and it tells the tale of Officer Faulkner and the incidents involving Mumia Abu-Jamal resulting in his death on the night of 12/9/1981. The song is best described as a folk ballad, more of a musical story if you will, with excellent acoustic guitar and focused vocals. I guess you could maybe call this Ballad #3 of the album but there’s a little more to it than a straight up ballad, there’s a lot of emotion invovled as Gary recounts the story. Bagpipes mark the end of the song in tribute to a fallen officer.

Bottom Line:
I have to admit, this album didn’t really grab me after the first couple of spins, the songs were too grungy and a complete mix of different styles. I kept listening though because I’m a big fan of Gary Cherone and Hurtsmile grew on me. I was ready to lump this in with the industrial Tribe Of Judah (a huge mess!) as another experimental failure and send the message to Gary in this review to just stick with Rock but careful listening proved that there’s a lot more to hear. Extreme fans might not get into this album because it’s different than the traditional Hard Rock you expect but, if you’re looking for something different, Hurtsmile might do the trick. I’m not going to put this album at the top of the heap but I’m not going to cast it to the bottom of the 2011 pile either. This CD is a grower and there are a few songs that rise above the rest, particularly the ballads.

Favorite Songs:
‘Just War Theory’, ‘Painter Paint’, ‘Jesus Would You Meet Me’, ‘Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads’

New video from Helix – ‘When The Bitter’s Got The Better Of You’ from Vagabond Bones (2009)

From Helix mainman Brian Vollmer:

Check out our new video for “When the Bitter’s Got the Better of You” from the Vagabond Bones CD. Brent put this together over the past month. We’re shooting for 20,000 hits on Youtube. Help us reach our goal! Please pass the link along to all your friends if you are a Helix fan.

We’re in Woostock, Ontario this week and now have bookings into September.  Be there or be square!

Brian V


For more information on Helix, go to their official website PlanetHelix

Read my review for Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009)

Press Release: Stampede to release new album, A Sudden Impulse, on 5/9/2011 on Rock Candy Records

STAMPEDE set to release new studio album: A Sudden Impulse on 5/9/2011

Newly reformed NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) heroes STAMPEDE have announced details of the release of their new album, A Sudden Impulse – the long awaited follow up to their classic 1983 debut studio album Hurricane Town.

Finding a happy and welcoming new home with Rock Candy Record’s spin-off front line label Grind That Axe Records, the band are finally excited to be able to reveal full track listing and artwork for the new album, which is due for release on April 18. Lead singer Reuben Archer comments “Personally I am really excited about the new album and our association with Rock Candy. It’s great to feel part of something that’s happening and more than anything we can’t wait to get out there and play live!”

One of the most respected hard rock acts during the early eighties, the band signed to Polydor Records and released two albums of impressive melodic rock to both critical and commercial acclaim, being compared to earthy British bands such as UFO and Humble Pie.

Following regenerated interest brought about by Rock Candy Records’ reissue of ‘Hurricane Town’ in 2006, song writing partnership Reuben and Laurence Archer decided to reform the band in 2009. Together with original bassist Colin Bond, new drummer Steve Graystone and the addition of a second guitarist in the form of Chris Clowsley, the band have crafted a worthy, if not superlative, long lost follow-up to their studio debut in the opinion of label manager Derek Oliver, who describes the new material as “lean, mean tough-guy hard rock with all the soulful delivery of classic British steel led by Reuben’s instantly identifiable vocal and Laurence’s blistering plank spanking burn outs.”

Reuben strongly believes that welcoming additional elements to Stampede have only served to strengthen the band, making the new material on A Sudden Impulse their most enjoyable studio experience yet. For example, twenty-year-old guitarist Rob Wolverson was invited to add his unique flair to the recordings as a result of Laurence being indisposed for a period because of personal commitments. Explains Reuben: “We could have had several existing name players fill in during this time, but I’d known Rob for years and watched him grow into a real guitar whizz-kid. He’s also a great writer and brought a lot of vibrancy to the project. I just knew he was right for the job.”

Commenting on the end result, Reuben adds: “We have a harder sound now, the melodic hooks are there and I think we have a lot more edge than the first time around – especially due to our new powerhouse drummer Stevie G, and also Chris, whose strong rhythm guitar, vocal and guitar harmonies contribute enormously to the new sound. It has all resulted in making the reincarnation of Stampede an even more exciting project for us.“

A Sudden Impulse is released on Rock Candy Records on May 9, 2011

Live dates scheduled for Spring 2011 TBA.

Full track listing of the album is as follows:

A Sudden Impulse (2011)

1) Send Me Down An Angel
2) Jessie
3) Having Fun
4) Make A Change
5) Hard Rock Hell
6) This Road
7) Homeward Bound
8) Shame On You
9) Natural Disaster
10) Humble Pie
11) Flaming Gold

Bonus Tracks:
12) Recharged
13) Flaming Gold (Acoustic)

Find out more about the newly reformed Stampede and get a sneak preview of track samples at:


STAMPEDE announce new single release  & video taster

Newly reformed British melodic rockers STAMPEDE are set to unveil their new single “Having Fun” on April 11th.

The track comes from the forthcoming studio album ‘A Sudden Impulse’, which consequently has a revised release date of May 9th 2011.

“Having Fun”, which will be available in digital format only, will be the band’s first single in twenty-eight years.  It follows previous singles “The Other Side” (1983) from the studio album Hurricane Town, and “Days of Wine And Roses” (1982), which were released by Polydor Records and received considerable airplay on BBC Radio, Capital Radio and across Europe and Japan.

Stampede are also pleased to announce the first of three promo videos to give fans a taster of their new material.  The videos feature guitarist Rob Wolverson, and were recorded during part of the schedule when Laurence Archer became unavailable due to personal commitments.

Watch the first video, “Shame On You” here…..

“Having Fun” will be available to download from iTunes and other digital outlets from April 11th.

A Sudden Impulse is released on May 9th on Grind That Axe / Rock Candy Records.

 For more information and to hear a preview of the single, visit:

The Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#1-#10)

I think I say the same things every year when I write the introduction to my Best of the Year list…..this year was one of the greatest years for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! Every year it seems like more and more new albums come out from a wide variety of bands and 2010 was no exception, this was the biggest year for Heavy Metal Addiction as far as promotional review copies go. Usually, I physically buy all my new albums but this year I partnered with more labels, more promotional people and more bands and I received more albums for review than any other year. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up and I came nowhere close to listening to all of them properly. Looking at the piles on my desk, the boxes next to it and the separate iTunes folder I reserve for promo downloads, it’s easy to estimate that I have more new 2010 albums submitted to Heavy Metal Addiction than the last two years combined! Add in all the new releases I bought on my weekly trips to the record stores, and my daily online searches, and it’s fair to estimate that the total number of new releases from 2010 that I have right now at my desk is over 200.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was the same criteria I’ve used for the last few years: the album had to be a studio album (not a live record, best of, or covers collection) AND the album had to be released in 2010. Just like previous years, an album that was released in 2009 overseas, but was released in 2010 for the U.S., qualified as a 2010 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I could have continued with a Top 40 list but I got so far behind listening and writing so there are definitely albums I haven’t heard yet or didn’t give proper time to. We’re talking a couple hundred albums though so anything that got missed might end up in an expanded “Albums I Missed in 2010″ post during next year’s awards week. Just like last year, I will be splitting the Top 30 into three posts so it’s easier to read. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is Part 3, the Top 30 Albums of 2010 (#1 – #10):


Mass – Sea Of Black (2010): The new Mass album was a complete surprise for me because I honestly really didn’t expect much. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get into Mass too much back in the ’80s, which is surprising because the band is from Massachusetts and that’s basically my backyard here in Rhode Island! I remember hearing a song called ‘Do You Love Me’ on the radio and I’ve seen the the albums on vinyl and cassette in old record stores but I never really got into the band. SEA OF BLACK is basically my formal introduction to the band it’s a great Melodic Rock/Melodic Metal album that has a serious ’80s retro sound. Opening track ‘Falling From Grace’ starts the album off right with a high powered Metal guitar crunch but with a great melodies and harmonies…..and that’s a perfect way to describe the album! Mass has re-released most of their back catalogue on Retrospect Records and they are also available on their website so now I will be filling the holes in my collection!


Keel – Streets Of Rock & Roll (2010): Keel was one of those bands from the ’80s that I got into because of the Gene Simmons connection but, as time went on, I forgot about the KISS connection because the band itself was really great. It’s been 21 years since the band released a true studio album so getting a reunion record as good as STREETS OF ROCK & ROLL is a major comeback. I liked the fact that the album sounds like classic ’80s Keel but with a grittier and deeper sound. Ron Keel’s voice sounds as good as it ever has, the band is as tight as it’s ever been and the quality of the songwriting is really great. A lot of times you get a reunion where the band is just going through the motions, and I thought that was going to be the case with Keel because of the 25th Anniversary of THE RIGHT TO ROCK, but the band stepped to the plate and made a Hard Rock album that could easily sit alongside the rest of their discography.


Krokus – Hoodoo (2010): 2010 was a year that a lot of bands who hadn’t been around in a while got back together and made a comeback album. Krokus has never really gone away because they’ve been releasing albums all along, the problem is that it’s never really been a true reunion, only just a member or two with a supporting cast. 2010 is the 30th anniversary since METAL RENDEZ-VOUS (1980), the band’s worldwide breakthrough album. Krokus had released three albums in the ’70s but the Metal really started in 1980. Back in the day, I was the only rocker I knew that new about Krokus so they were always like “my” band so I was looking forward to HOODOO a lot. HOODOO marks the reunion of the classic Krokus lineup from the ’80s and the band goes back to doing what they do best…..boogie woogie Hard Rock like AC/DC. That’s where Krokus sometimes gets a bad rep because AC/DC were the originators and it’s hard to imagine a band from Switzerland doing the same thing! It doesn’t matter if it’s a similar style, it’s good music that’s catchy and melodic all the while having great riffs that stick in your head.  HOODOO came out in April or early May but the single ‘Hoodoo Woman’ was released ahead of the album’s release, I still can’t get that chorus out of my head! A solid comeback, I hope this lineup does another album.


Masterplan – Time To Be King (2010): This is the third album in the row on this year’s countdown that’s a reunion and/or a comeback for a major band. The big selling point with Masterplan in 2010 is that Jorn Lande is back in the vocalist spot for the first time since 2005. The first two Masterplan albums were awesome but things happen sometimes and Jorn left in 2005 to be replace by ex-Riot singer Mike DiMeo for MKII (2006). This is another Power Metal/Progressive Metal album that really took hold of me as soon as I heard it. Maybe it’s because Jorn’s voice is so unique and he’s one of the top Metal singers around but all the songs are well-written, the musicianship is flawless and even the packaging is cool as a gold-embossed digipak. Just a quick mention here, drummer Mike Terrana is one of the most underrated drummers in Metal and he puts in an awesome performance on TIME TO BE KING. Definitely the best Power Metal album of the year and getting Jorn back in the band puts Masterplan right at the top of the heap again.


Crazy Lixx – New Religion (2010): Sweden’s Crazy Lixx have been on the scene for a few years now releasing single until their 2007 studio album LOUD MINORITY. When I heard that the band was releasing their second album in late March/early April, I really didn’t pay much attention to it because I really haven’t jumped on the Swedish Glam/Sleaze/Hard Rock scene that has really started to make waves around the world. I had an advance of the album and I gave it a quick listen and I was blown away! Here’s a band from Sweden that’s relatively unknown and they do ’80s Hard Rock better than some of the bands of that era! NEW RELIGION is one of the best Hard Rock albums to come out this year and I still haven’t taken it out of my weekly playlist. Big hooks and harmonies, guitar solos, and good time party Rock. I really enjoyed the Wig Wam’s NON STOP ROCK ‘N ROLL that also came out this year but NEW RELIGION takes it to a higher level and easily outshines that record. Definitely an album that travels back in time to the fun and excess of the ’80s and sounds fresh here in the 2000s.


Black Country Communion – s/t (2010): Wow! Where did this album come from? Where did this band come from? Supergroups come and go and usually disappoint but, when you put Glenn Hughes on vocals & bass, Joe Bonamassa on guitars, Jason Bonham on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards, that’s a lineup of awesome musicians. But does it work? That’s the main thing and I was pretty skeptical, so much so that I blew off buying this CD for a couple of months and I didn’t pick it up until November. I put this in and I haven’t taken it out of my weekly rotation, Black Country Communion is a band that has a Classic Rock sound based on a combination of the Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. It sounds like old school ’70s Rock that really sounds fresh today. Glenn Hughes is an amazing singer and Joe Bonamassa is a truly fantastic guitarist with a great feel, if you don’t know anything about these two musicians then you should Google them immeadiately and listen to some of their previous works. I almost put this in the #1 slot on this year’s countdown but, as I started re-listening to a lot of the albums from earlier in the year, I had to put four others ahead because of their impact. Black Country Communion is a band and album everyone should  check out.


Scorpions – Sting In The Tail (2010): As soon as the Scorpions announced the release of STING IN THE TAIL, they also announced that this will be their last studio album and that the band is retiring. Sad news indeed to hear from a Hard Rock band that has been around for nearly 40 years but, if this is how they are going to go out, then STING IN THE TAIL is the way to do it! I was a huge fan of the updated sound the band created on their last studio album, HUMANITY HOUR 1 (2007), that I made it the Best Album of 2007 so I was looking for a continuation of that direction. This new record is really a continuation of the classic Scorpions Hard Rock sound from the BLACKOUT (1982) and LOVE AT FIRST STING (1984) eras. At first, I felt like this was a big step back for the band because they had done such a great job on HUMANITY but, after constant listens, this album grew on me and it’s become one of my favorites of the year. I got into the Scorpions with BLACKOUT and LOVE AT FIRST STING so this new album really brought me back in time and made me go back over the entire Scorpions discography…..they are one of the most consistent bands in the scene. Think about it, aside from EYE II EYE (1999), when was the last time you heard that a Scorpions album sucked? This may not be the best Scorpions album compared to the classics they have but it’s a great Hard Rock album and one I enjoyed a lot this year.


Accept – Blood Of The Nations (2010): In a year full of reunions and comebacks, Accept was really one of those bands that could have either hit it big or crashed and burned. One listen to BLOOD OF THE NATIONS and it’s easy to hear that they easily hit it big! A classic Accept lineup reunited headed by lead guitarist Wolf Hoffmann but the distinct Accept vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, refused to take part. That meant the band needed a singer and the biggest question mark would be former T.T. Quick frontman Mark Tornillo. The band wrote an album of killer Heavy Metal songs, put in a ton of great riffs and then Mark put in a brilliant performance on vocals. Not every band can replace such a unique singer like Udo, Accept tried that back in 1989, but Accept really hit with Mark. I can’t say enough about how Mark sounds like Udo but really puts his own stamp on the songs and takes everything to another level. I’m not sure that BLOOD OF THE NATIONS would have the same impact if Udo did re-join the band. Here’s hoping the band continues making new records because they have set the bar high, one of the best comeback albums of the year!


Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier (2010): Iron Maiden is no stranger to my year end countdowns because they always release such high quality albums and DVDs that it’s hard not to automatically install them at #1. So 30 years have gone by since the band’s self-titled debut and it’s been four years since the band’s last album A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (2006), so how did Maiden do? Well, I called this the album of the year in my review and it came so damn close! Say what you want about Metallica but I would argue that Iron Maiden is the biggest Heavy Metal band in the world and they make better albums then Metallica could ever hope to make. There is a tradition, a pedigree, a reputation that Iron Maiden has and they always rise to the task and create albums that just blow every other album away. THE FINAL FRONTIER gets better with every listen with some much to hear in every song. I know a lot of old school and/or casual fans prefer to hear the quick ‘Run To The Hills’ style Iron Maiden but the band is at their best when they write new material that has a Progressive edge to it. THE FINAL FRONTIER is a 76 minute album that reflects both styles and I haven’t stopped listening to it. A lot of that has to do with being a fan for 28 years and Maiden being in my Top 5 favorite bands of all-time but the album is high quality crafted Metal. Iron Maiden are legends and innovators and everyone else should follow their lead.

One album to go everyone! The #1 album is next but before I get to it let me say again how great this year was for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal… Best of 2010 list, along with the other websites’ lists, will attest to that. I’ve listened to more new releases this year than any other year that I can remember and this year’s list was a hard one to make, there were so many really good albums, so many comebacks and reunions that it became one of the hardest lists to make in the site’s 5 year history. I really had a tough time with this list because I kept going back and forth between the new Iron Maiden record and this next album… here is my #1 Album of 2010…..


Ratt – Infestation (2010)

2010 was definitely the year of the Ratt! I never thought that after eleven years since the last reunion and album that Ratt would ever get back together with founding vocalist Stephen Pearcy since there was so much bad blood and legal issues but the band put that stuff aside and set out to make INFESTATION. I’ve been a Ratt fan since OUT OF THE CELLAR (1984) and they have always been one of my favorite ’80s Hard Rock bands. I was psyched to see them on the 1999 Poison reunion tour and I thought they blew Poison away so I was hoping for a full tour after this album was released. Unfortunately, it seems like the band have gone their separate ways again and the future is in doubt for a follow-up album. INFESTATION is the classic Ratt sound: sleazy old school Hard Rock. Right from the opening rocker ‘Eat Me Up Alive’ to the classic ’80s style single ‘Best Of Me’ to the swagger of ‘Look Out Below’, Ratt has really pulled out all the stops writing some really solid songs. The founding trio of Pearcy, drummer Bobby Blotzer and guitarist Warren DeMartini are all on board, as is long time bassist Robbie Crane, but the addition of former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo really stabilizes the band’s sound in a way that hasn’t been heard since the glory days when the late Robbin Crosby traded licks with DeMartini. I bought this album the day it was released in April and it still gets plenty of playing time in my weekly rotation and if I had to name a song of the year, it would easily be ‘Best Of Me’, that song alone brings the band right back to the classic Ratt style of the ’80. Of all the albums I heard this year, INFESTATION is the one I enjoyed the most. Great album, great comeback…..too bad it’s probably over already!

Accept – Blood Of The Nations (2010)

Accept – Blood Of The Nations (2010, Nuclear Blast)

  1. Beat The Bastards
  2. Teutonic Terror
  3. The Abyss
  4. Blood Of The Nations
  5. Shades Of Death
  6. Locked And Loaded
  7. Time Machine*
  8. Kill The Pain
  9. Rolling Thunder
  10. Pandemic
  11. New World Comin’
  12. No Shelter
  13. Bucket Full of Hate

* (U.S. bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Mark Tornillo – Vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – Guitars
Herman Frank – Guitars
Peter Baltes – Bass
Stefan Schwarzmann – Drums

Producer: Andy Sneap

Country: Germany & USA

Total Time = 1:12:59

Accept official MySpace page
Accept official Facebook page

After a long wait, Accept have finally reunited! After the successful Summer 2005 tour of the European festival circuit, rumors of a complete Accept reunion made it’s way across the Internet and infiltrated all corners of the Heavy Metal world. Unfortunately there was no reunion as original Accept singer Udo Dirkschneider declined to participate due to his committment to solo band U.D.O. The seeds were planted though and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes started writing together in 2009. Adding guitarist Herman Frank, who joined & recorded on BALLS TO THE WALL (1983) in 1982 and participated in the 2005 reunion tour, and drummer Stefan Shwarzmann (ex-Helloween, U.D.O., Running Wild and more) to the band, the search was on for a lead singer. While Hoffmann and Baltes were demoing new material, a suggestion was made to bring in former TT Quick vocalist Mark Tornillo to sing guide vocals on the demos. That chance meeting landed Tornillo the job as Udo’s replacement in the reunited Accept and led to the recording of this new album, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS.

Basically, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS is an album that captures the classic Accept sound. There is no compromising to be more commercial or follow current Metal trends, the music is pure, traditional Heavy Metal that sounds like the Accept of the 1980s. Was there really anything else to expect? The core of the band is intact with Hoffmann, Baltes and Frank and Schwarzmann is an excellent Metal drummer who can play various styles…..the wild card in all of this is Mark Tornillo. As the original singer for Accept, Udo has carved his name into the true Accept sound, a sound he continues forward with in U.D.O. While Accept has been on various forms of hiatus, Dirkschneider has maintained U.D.O. since 1987 and has made excellent traditional Heavy Metal that sounds like Accept. Udo’s unique vocal style and image are synonymous with Accept, and not many bands can change singers and be successful, and Accpet tried that already once in 1989 when they brought in David Reece for the EAT THE HEAT record. EAT THE HEAT was a failure by Accept standards and the band broke up so I was disappointed and skeptical when I heard that Udo had declined and Tornillo had joined the reformed Accept. I hadn’t listened to a TT Quick album in a long time so I gave METAL OF HONOR (1986) a few spins…..I just didn’t hear the Accept sound. All of my fears of how well Mark would take over the mic were dashed as soon as the band released a video for the single ‘Teutonic Terror’ back in May.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? And Mark Tornillo sounds pretty close to the power-packed Udo doesn’t he? Once I saw this video and heard ‘Teutonic Terror’, I knew that the band was going to make a solid record. The entire album is a traditional Heavy Metal feast full of churning guitar riffs, twin leads, a pounding rhythm section and the band’s trademark backgound vocals and chants that supplement Tornillo’s vocals. The songwriting is dead on classic Accept and, musically, it sounds like 25+ years haven’t gone by since the days of albums like RESTLESS & WILD, BALLS TO THE WALL and METAL HEART. The key to success rests with Tornillo and his vocals fit the band and material perfectly. He plays it straight with a gritty singing style but his shrieks and screams are the most impressive and it’s those techniques that keep him close to sounding like Udo and the classic Accept style. Obviously fans worldwide agree because BLOOD OF THE NATIONS has entered high on most of the international album charts but the impressive feat is that the album cracked the barren Metal wasteland known as the Billboard 200 at #187. To break the U.S. charts with fourteen years between studio albums and a new lead singer is a great accomplishment.

Just some quick notes on the packaging…..first, there is a bonus track for the U.S. pressing (‘Time Machine’) that appears in the middle of the album. I know that the bonus track was advertised on the pre-order directly through Nuclear Blast so I’m not sure if subsequent pressings (if any) will include ‘Time Machine’. If you want to spend the big bucks on the Japanese import, then you get another bonus track titled ‘Land Of The Free’. This is a glossy digipak with a 14 page glossy booklet full of lyrics, liner notes and pictures so it looks as good as it sounds.

Bottom Line:
Like I mentioned before, not many bands can replace a unique singer, a lot of bands have tried (including Accept) and only a few have had success. On BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, Accept not only replaced the gravel-throated Udo Dirkschneider successfully with Mark Tornillo but they also wrote an album of killer Metal songs full of power and punch. Throughout this review I used two words a lot: “classic” and “traditional”. Using those two words to describe any band or new album in 2010 immeadiately gives a stigma of being dated…..many veteran Metal bands like to stay current and evolve their sound but it doesn’t always work. The basis of the Accept sound is found in album like RESTLESS & WILD (1982) and BALLS TO THE WALL (1983) and that is what they are beloved for, any deviation from that specific formula would be a failure, especially with a new singer. Accept have successfully gone back in time and brought their brand of Heavy Metal from the ’80s and made it sound fresh, exciting and full of power. Choosing a singer that sounds like Udo and enhances the true Accept sound was the right move and Mark Tornillo holds nothing back and makes the position of Accept’s frontman his own. I pre-ordered this album from Nuclear Blast back in the summer and it has been on my daily playlist since it arrived in my mailbox. As a longtime Accept fan, I can honestly say this is one of their best records and one helluva comeback! I had this album as my Album Of The Month for September 2010 but, due to my hiatus with the site, I am posting it now. BLOOD OF THE NATIONS is one of the best records I’ve heard this year!

Favorite Songs:
‘Teutonic Terror’, ‘Blood Of The Nations’, ‘The Abyss’, ‘Shades Of Death’, ‘Pandemic’

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier (2010)

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier (2010, Universal Music)

  1. Satellite 15… The Final Frontier
  2. El Dorado
  3. Mother Of Mercy
  4. Coming Home
  5. The Alchemist
  6. Isle Of Avalon
  7. Starblind
  8. The Talisman
  9. The Man Who Would Be King
  10. When The Wild Wind Blows

Band Lineup:
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass & Keyboards
Dave Murray – Guitars
Adrian Smith – Guitars
Janick Gers – Guitars
Nicko McBrain – Drums

Producers: Kevin Shirley & Steve Harris

Country: United Kingdom

Total Time = 1:16:35

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden MySpace page

It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since Iron Maiden’s debut album was released. Thirty years of creating some of the most impressive and creative Heavy Metal ever to be heard and thirty years touring the world several times over. When Iron Maiden debuted in 1980, they were the innovative pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and, in many cases, light years more sophisticated then their peers. Try and think of a band that has continually released top quality studio albums and played to packed arenas without compromising their sound, direction or principles. They were leaders back in the NWOBHM heyday and they are Heavy Metal’s leaders now, THE FINAL FRONTIER marks their 15th studio album and there is no sign of slowing down.

It’s also hard to believe that it’s been four years since the last Maiden record, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (2006). There is no doubt that the band is at it’s creative peak since lead singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the band in 1999, the band has released four studio albums  and toured the world extensively in support of each. This from a band that is well into their 50s now! I had to actually go back and make sure I wasn’t wrong that the last album was released in 2006, surely there was new music more recently? Iron Maiden has been able to keep the spotlight on themselves by releasing two excellent live albums and three high quality DVDs while touring  just about every year, including a co-headlining spot on Ozzfest 2005 and countless headline appearances at major festivals around the world. This is no nostalgia act as the band has made it a point to feature new songs as the bulk of their live set… 2000 on the tour for BRAVE NEW WORLD, they featured at least 6 brand new tracks and they played the entire A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH album on their 2007 tour! It’s not that Maiden doesn’t enjoy revisiting the past, it’s that they embrace their past with their future…..and the future is THE FINAL FRONTIER. Since the band reunited as a six piece in 2000, all the studio albums have been more a Progressive Metal/Progressive Rock affair than the straight Heavy Metal that defined their career through the ’80s and ’90s. The band has progressed and have gotten better with age…..the musicianship and songwriting are of the highest quality, as are the live performances.

The album opens with a very weird, experimental instrumental intro and song titled ‘Satellite 15…The Final Frontier’. It’s distorted bass, odd drum patterns and guitar riffs give the album a spacey feel especially when Bruce starts singing hauntingly about 2:30 minutes in and the momentum slowly builds for another 2 minutes until the band kicks into part two and the song takes flight in the most straightforward Rock direction that I can remember Iron Maiden taking. It sounds like Iron Maiden but very melodic and dark, you get the sense that this album will be a journey into the unknown just like the “space” theme the band is using for the album’s concept. The opening song moves directly into the initial single ‘El Dorado’, the song that was available for free download weeks before the album’s official release. ‘El Dorado’ is more familiar, old school Maiden with that signature Metal gallop and Dickinson’s soaring vocals on the chorus. I downloaded the song the first day and played it several times over, my first impression is that the band were revisiting the past to create something new. The last tour I saw in 2008 was a recreation of the band’s legendary World Slavery Tour from 1984 and was a “greatest hits” tour so to speak so I assumed that the band’s reperforming of the past got their creative juices flowing to return to their roots. Even though the song is decidedly retro, it easily fits into the more progressive and epic Iron Maiden sound.

‘Mother Of Mercy’ continues the uptempo gallop that has defined the distinct Iron Maiden sound while ‘Coming Home’ is a dramatic ballad styled song about piloting an airplane and the long journey home. Both songs are continued excellence, while ‘Mother Of Mercy’ remains a more traditional style Heavy Metal song, it’s ‘Coming Home’ that sees the band start to spread it’s creative wings and add various Progressive touches to the songs. Ending the first half of the album is the fast-paced charger ‘The Alchemist’, a song that brings me back to the old school glory days of Maiden’s Metal past around PIECE OF MIND (1983) and POWERSLAVE (1984). One look at the song title and you would guess that ‘The Alchemist’ might be one of those long progressive epics but it’s actually the shortest song on the record and it’s also the fastest.

The second half of the album starts off with the 9 minute plus ‘Isle Of Avalon’, this is the Iron Maiden that has evolved for the 21st century! Long time fans like myself remember the glory days of faster songs like ‘Run to The Hills’, ‘The Trooper’ and ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’ but the newer fans are discovering a new Iron Maiden that is embracing longer and more epic songs. There have always been epics on Maiden albums but, since the reunion album BRAVE NEW WORLD (2000), the band keeps creating albums of high quality progressive/epic Heavy Metal. ‘Isle Of Avalon’ clocks in at 9:06 and there are so many layers to the song, same goes for ‘Starblind’ (close to 8 minutes), ‘The Talisman’ (just over 9 minutes), The Man Who Would Be King’ (8 1/2 mins) and ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ (11 minutes). ‘Isle Of Avalon’ has a lot of Metal in it, the solos are great as usual, but it’s definitely a more Progressive sound, more atmosphereic. ‘Starblind’ follows the same way with really thick guitars and superb vocals from Bruce Dickinson but there is really a lot to listen here and everytime I hear it I find a different piece of music that I missed before especially in the middle solo section. More atmospheric touches appear with the acoustic, almost spoken word, intro that starts ‘The Talisman’. It’s a haunting 2 minute beginning until the band kicks in full force with that trademark gallop and one of the best vocals Bruce has on the album. It’s hard to believe that the song rolls just past 9 minutes because it really moves along and the vocals are catchy, I picked them up quick. Another slow/soft beginning for another epic as ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ opens with a simple electric guitar intro and moving into a soft vocal from Bruce. The song kicks in with twin harmonized guitars  and Nicko’s excellent drumming. ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ is uptempo but not as fast as ‘The Alchemist’ but it keeps a solid pace and there is a lot of sounds to absorb, this is probably one of the most complex songs on the album as far as tones, changes and pace. Definitely one of the best songs on the album. The final song of the album is the 11 minute ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’, another awesome song. Iron Maiden pulls out all the stops with their musicianship as the song builds into a mid-tempo groove and it really serves as a showcase for each member to stretch out. Almost every longer song on this album has different sounds that I have discovered when listening closely, especially with quality headphones, but ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ is an epic of epic proportions with different solos, time changes, melodies and drum patterns.

Bottom Line:
Album of the Year! Is it safe to call it a done deal now? Do I have to wait to put my list out in December? I have been a fan of Iron Maiden’s since the early years and, going on 30 years of recording, it’s obvious that the band is at their creative best, look at the releases since the reunited. THE FINAL FRONTIER gets better with every listen because there is something new to discover everytime, there is enough straight uptempo Metal to please one section of fans and enough Progressive Metal to satisfy the fans who prefer the longer more epic direction of the last decade. There is a lot to listen to hear so you have to keep playing the album in order not to miss things, in other words, the album stays interesting and fresh with each listen. With this album you get a high quality ten songs that are a long journey (a 76 minute one!) absolutely filled with different layers and textures. This is a band of musicians that can rip your face off with fast paced Metal or take you on a complex journey of sound…..does any band do it better? I can’t think of a band that does that has the time and history that Iron Maiden does. I have had this album since about a week before it’s official release date and I have played it just about every day. I made this album the Album Of The Month for August 2010 but, due to my hiatus with the site, I am posting it now. Hands down, the best album of 2010.

Favorite Songs:
I like every song on the album but if I had to pick four they would be: ‘Satellite 15…The Final Frontier’, ‘The Alchemist’, ‘Isle Of Avalon’ and ‘The Man Who Would Be King’