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Ten, Gothica, 2017

ten - gothicaEver since the first release X in 1996, we have been following the band Ten. I say we, because in this case even my better half is quite fond of the band! And despite numerous changes of personnel over the years, the band has always been about the songs, storytelling and dark voice of Gary Hughes. And of course Gothica is no exception. Anyone familiar with the band will recognise the identity in an instant.

And no, in this case that is not a bad thing! Because the sound may have a certain ring to it, it is the voice of Hughes that takes care of the familiarity. And his knack for writing pompous songs with enough twists and turns to surprise even the most avid fan, but always with a great chorus and enough hooks to catch your attention.

Being a prog lover myself, I love the fact that Ten boldly play 8 minute songs if need be. And manage to do it with panache and energy. The storytelling of Hughes has always been great and this time we get to hear about Jekyll and Hyde, La Luna Dra-Cu-La, The Grail, time Travellers, and so on. The 7 man band all shine. They can rock, they can play fiery solos, and they can bring it all down and get you on the tip of your toes with a piece of piano and vocal.

Even when not all albums of the past are of the same calibre throughout, Ten rarely disappoint, and this one is very consistent and just amongst the best of them.

Website

Phil Vincent, XX, 2017

Phil-Vincent-XX-2017Regular readers of the blog will surely recognize the name. It has been a while since I could feature American singer and multi instrumentalist Vincent on these pages, but it is with pleasure I present his latest album XX. Indeed, solo album 20, but the discography is of course much much longer with his participation in D’Ercole, Legion, Cranston, Tragik, etc. Let alone contributions to many other releases.
This is a straight solo album, with Phil handling songwriting, drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and of course ALL the vocals. Not to mention recording and mixing. Yet he did invite some of his friends to play guitar solos, including William Roux, Paul Sabu (also Cranston) and his buddy from the Legion days, Vince O’Regan.

On offer are 11 tracks in 45 minutes. Meaning that there is no epic this time, but songs from 3 to 4 minutes and 2 that play for 5 to 6 minutes. But that has not changed anything style wise. This is still kick ass melodic (hard) rock with sometimes a bit of proggy arrangements. To me it feels that the production skills keep improving with more depth in the overall sonic soundscape. And speaking of depth, impossible it may sound, but is his singing voice really better than ever?
The choruses are catchy as always and the songs are pouring with hooks. So in short another welcome addition!

Website

Chris Brockbank’s Phantom MkV, Phantom, 2017

From down under comes the fifth cycle of the band Phantom. At the centre: the Australian Blackmore Chris Brockbank. So to anyone who likes the music of old Whitesnake (before the hair days), Deep Purple etc., this might be right up your alley! And they got it down to a tee, even the sound of the album.

Opener So Clear is indeed not spilling beans. In your face rock with that hammond lurking, strat styled guitar solos,  powerful vocals, etc. Next track One O’ Clock even manages to add solos on both the organ as the guitar and still keep it under 4 minutes. I guess it is safe to say to people who are stuck in the rock of the seventies are going to have a ball with the album. It ticks all the right boxes. In all honesty I needed a bit of time to get used to the voice of Steve Mulry, especially since he is a bit dominant in the mix. But once you get used to that, it is alright.

Okay, it is retro so do not expect anything new. But the guys are having fun, they know what they are and how to sound and they do it well. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. If interested check songs like Beggin’ You, Miss You or Rapid Fire and you will know what to do.

Website

 

Tiebreaker, Death Tunes, 2016

tiebreaker - death tunesAnd within a year another Tiebreaker album. Well, that is not 100% true, as their previous one saw an independent release before Karisma Records picked them up. That is, if memory serves me right. Anyway, I liked that one, so was curious how this would impact me.

But nobody needs to worry, if We Come From The Mountains got you moving, then this one will kick you as hard, if not a tad harder. The 5 piece from the massive nature and industrial silence of Norway’s Odda still rock with a passion. Time stood still around the Seventies there, but what they bring is of high calibre, filled to the brim with passionate melodic riffing and spiced with a bluesy melancholy. Besides that, their attitude of “take no prisoners” pays off. And with an average song of around 4 minutes, they waste no time and keep things fresh and relevant.
From the hard hitting opener Hell to the lengthy and more mellow closer Heavy Lifting, this is a treat. All 10 songs are a showcase for their desire to rock, and singer Thomas Espeland Karlsen is tailor made for this type of hard rock. But in fact all the guys do their job very well.

So no need to dwell, if you like your rock in your face, sweaty and real, this is a must. Rock On!

Website

Still Living, Humanity, 2015

still-living-humanityOne of the greatest benefits of the internet is that it makes this a small world. We can now get in contact with people from say, Brazil, and enjoy the music they make over there. Point in case is the band Still Living, here present with their second full length album Humanity. And where some folks dare to say that rock is dead, these guys prove that this is not the case at all.

The regular album has 10 tracks, and as a bonus 2 previous singles are added. I think it is fair to say that the roots of this album lay in the rock of the eighties. So we have plenty of keyboards, courtesy of Thiago Nascimento and all songs thrive on the vocal melodies of the talent that is Renato Costa. But in contradiction to the general sound of that time frame, we have a lot more natural sounding drums, and with great playing from Cleber Melo I might add. And especially a more modern guitar sound from mister Eduardo Holanda, who lets it rip whenever he can. Love his sur name of course 😉 All is held together by the flawless bass playing of Leandro Andrade.

So, all lovers of melodic (hard) rock, I can recommend giving this a couple of spins, it will not disappoint!

Website

P.S. Originally an independent release, the band is now picked up by Rock Company for European distribution.

July Reign, Here Comes The Flood, 2016

july reign - here comes the floodMelodic Rock Records keep delivering rock for the aficionados. Here we have a project led by Sheldon Scrivner (guitars, keys and instrumentation) who wrote the songs. Helping him are Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz on vocals and lyrics, Mark Duran on drums and Steffen Seeger provides an organ solo. All together a truly international affair!

Anyone who is familiar with the voice of Schulz, will also have a pretty good idea of what to expect. This is melodic hard rock, that sometimes borders into metal. Scrivner must have read the ‘solos by Yngie’ book, yet manages to keep track of melody instead of shredding all of the time. For me it is a good thing that keyboards are fairly prominent in the arrangements, as I feel they add depth to the album. Most of the songs are rockers with massive choruses, built to shout along to. Which leads to my only point of critique, the songs tend to follow a similar pattern. A bit more adventure would not hurt.

Still, rock solid and entertaining, so easy to see why Lizard was quick to jump on board. If you like songs like Madness And Despair and Time Is Fighting Me, you can buy this on sight.

Website

Guzzler, Guzzler, 2016

guzzlerLet me see, French label Bad Reputation, Aussie band with the name Guzzler, cover with a nice lady holding a smoke at a gas pump… Something tells me we will be heading into hard rock territory here, and at that one firmly influenced by the big names from that continent far away.

And yes, just look at the song titles here: The Drinks Are On Me, Pub Crawl, Kiss Me Kill Me, Orgasm In A, Rock ‘n Roll, and so on. Promoted as the quintessential pub rock band, this 4 piece has a clear view of what it wants to be and how they want to sound. This is feet stomping, in your face, loud music to serve as the perfect back drop for any party. Core of the band are guitarist Matt Reaby and drummer Steve Blood. On this second round for the band the latter brought his son Haydz for the bass parts and they found singer James Davies whose pipes show some similarities to those of The Cult front man Ian Astbury.

So, even when there are no surprises, the band clearly enjoy what they are doing and they do it with style and a natural swagger. It rocks, it kicks ass, it gets the job done.

Website

Cherry Grind, A Room With A View, 2016

cherry grind - a room with a viewAnother band from Down Under and once more on the Bad Reputation label. And reading through the press sheet really put a smile on my face. But I can understand that the record label needs to exaggerate a bit in order to attract people to listen to their releases.

Yet in this case, I think the band have the power to hook their innocent prey themselves. Firmly rooted in seventies hard rock, but with an up to date sound, these guys are doing it by working their collective butts off and road testing all they have before live audiences in the infamous Aussie pub circuit.
And thus this album delivers 11 originals and for the European market the bonus track Tin Soldier (Small Faces). And from the first seconds I was captivated by the performance and the songs. Singer Sam Patsouris has a fairly high pitched delivery, but oozes some kind of animal attraction. Cleverly supported by harmony vocals here and there, and swirling over massive riffs and infectious grooves. And the songs have enough hooks and melody to angle in any unknowing soul.  From rocking out in No One Home, melodic in Reason Says, or to the beautiful (semi) ballad Sunlight, everything is delivered with panache and style.

There is no doubt in my mind a lot of people will dig this, so go check them out!

Website

Ragdoll, Back To Zero, 2016

ragdoll - back to zeroDespite being around for about 5 years, and having released a couple of EP’s and a full length, this is the first time I have heard of this Aussi power trio. Consisting of singer – bassist Ryan Rafferty, drummer Cam Barrett and guitarist Leon Todd, we are now treated with a second album. My copy has 11 tracks and 2 bonus tracks (a single edit of a previous song and a live track). The album was funded by touring extensively, which also helped to road test the songs.

And if this album makes one thing clear, then it must be that this is a talented bunch. For me easily one of the best release on Bad Reputation so far! Opening with the sweet short instrumental title track, things are kicked into gear with second track Shine. And shine it does. Infectious groove, powerful riffs and great vocals. Or, as it says in the press sheet, music that owes as much to the 70’s and 80’s arena rock, as it does to the grungey sounds of the 90’s. And I am pretty sure they have taken in some 70’s elaborate stuff as well, as some songs have a multitude of rhythms and tempos, without ever losing the plot. The level of the songs is not only high, but also very consistent, all killer, no filler here.

So a thoroughly enjoyable album that rocks, grooves and excites. Which means you oughta get out and buy it 🙂

Website

Sixtynine, You Are Me, 2016

sixtynine - you are meThink this is the first band from Slovenia making it to these pages. But in reality, that will not be your first thought listening to this. This sounds international and very confident. Oh wait, a step back: Sixtynine play a brand of classic (hard) rock that sounds modern, if you get what I mean. The production is totally up to date, with keyboards adding colour without being overly present. Except where they lift a song to an even higher level.

Opening with Don’t Give Up, the album is off with a slow start. Which is not usual. But the song is beautiful, and when in the end the orchestrations kick in, the mood is lifted even higher. Next is Believe, a track that most bands would use to start an album with. It sounds meaty and powerful. Again the melodies prove to be strong, and the arrangement inventive. And this is present throughout the album. And because of the keen eye for details, the album even grows on you after a couple of spins.

So the quartet of singer Tomaz, guitarist Tadej, bassist Danijel and drummer Igor, together with producer Andrea F, have managed to create a very enjoyable album that ticks the right boxes and also manages to surprise and avoid the obvious routines. No mean feat.

Now we will have to wait for an international release, as so far this is an independent release.

Website

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