Phil Vincent, Hypocrite, 2019

phil vincent - hypocriteIt is no secret that I am a fan of Phil Vincent’s work. In any capacity, and in every band he is in. So if you do not share that sentiment, little use in reading on ha ha.
I know the man works hard and on average releases more than 1 album in about every year. To me, the quality never drops. If anything, I admire that Phil keeps trying to push his boundaries, whilst still staying true to his favourite style, the hard rock made popular by bands like Dokken, Winger and Whitesnake. I also think his production skills keep improving, adding more clarity and punch to his releases.

So solo album 21 sees Phil delivering 12 more songs. As on his solo albums he takes care of about everything, with only some help on guitar solos and acoustic guitar. Since his style is known, let’s have a look at some of the more different tracks. Back In The Day is a  great 7 minute track with lots of piano as well as his trademark vocal harmonies and a catchy chorus. What Might Have Been sees him add drum beats, giving the track a modern flavour. Waste Of Time opens with a clean somewhat psychedelic sounding guitar and a vocal. After the opening solo, the song comes alive and arrives at more familiar territory. Another track with a beat is Caught In The Act. There is a bit of sequencing in the bridge, giving it a somewhat progressive (Saga?) feel. But the chorus is again vintage PV.
I am sure the most surprising song on offer is the closing title track. This is a monster with a synthetic, almost industrial groove and a bit of harsh vocals (“lies” “despise”) in the chorus.

Like I said, in my book the man can do no wrong, great album!

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Yage, Nordwand, 2019

yage - nordwandMountains. Mountain tours put to music. So do you have to be a mountaineer to enjoy this album?

To continue the comparison: without having the actual experience, I would imagine that doing mountain tours (especially when the mountain is big and the paths treacherous) is demanding for both the body as well as the mind. And in that sense Yage have succeeded in their mission.
In no way this is an album that digests easily. The 67 minutes of music require you to pay attention, while not giving you much time to relax. It’s a full throttle journey from start to finish. Part of that is due to the high level of energy, the wall of sound. Another part is due to the use of the German language in the lyrics. Living close to the German border, that is not really a problem for me, but that will not be the case for everybody.

That said, there are lots of things to enjoy here. The guys build their songs on skilled riffs of quality and variation. And despite being a 2 man affair, sound like a proper band. Okay, the lead vocals will not be for everyone (nor will the “rap” added to Zwicker), but the reality is they work well within the musical frame Yage have set up for themselves. And in a track like Planet Broesel, they use dynamics to great effect so you do not miss vocals at all.

So definitely one to check if you like your rock hard as metal and do not mind a bit of adventure…

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Snew, You’ve Got Some Nerve, 2018

Snew - You've got some nerveEven when this turns out to be their fourth album already, I must confess I had never heard of Snew before. And the fact that they released it independently, says absolutely nothing about the quality they have to offer. This is clearly an experienced bunch, operating somewhere between AC/DC, The Ramones, Deep Purple and Motley Crue.

Listening through these 9 tracks, I can imagine they win over every audience. Highly energetic, massive riffs, and bursting with attitude. Don’t let opener UR Freaking Me Out fool you into thinking they are a one trick pony. Tracks like Acetylene Queen, Put Upon  or Revolution Is A Closed Loop show they have more things going for them.

While I guess that haters will say they have heard it all before, personally I don’t always care for bands trying to be original. This is a hard rock band, and they know how to write a good tune that does not sound like a rip off. They also perform it like they mean business. Nothing wrong with wanting to party, and with the current state of affairs in the world, maybe we should have more bands like this.

So a damn solid album, and a band they will blow the roof off once they hit the stage.

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Cranston, II, 2018

Cranston - IIA tad unexpected, but more than welcome is this second effort by Cranston, simply titled II. And again the songs were written by the guy that can do no wrong, singer Phil Vincent, and axe slinger (and AOR God according to the press blurb) Paul Sabu. Helping out on drums is again B.F. D’Ercole.

And where I felt their first was a really solid affair with many cracking songs, on this one they have upped their game a notch or two (II 🙂 ). When you hit play you are welcomed by the fierce riff of Always On The Run. Okay, on the surface the guitar melody bears a slight resemblance to an AC/DC track, but the thing is catchy as hell. And from there on they only seem to go upwards. What’s It Gonna Take is spiced with some sitar alike sounds, and again the chorus is killer. Cool video too. Wrong Side Of Town, adds a bit of country it seems, but still rocks and grooves. Soul Crusher on the other hand, is a slow burner. After a soothing mysterious intro, the mid tempo drums kick in, and the guitars gain momentum. Fine organ and keyboards as well, really adding depth.

Lots of variation in between the 11 tracks. But all prove that Phil and Paul have a great thing going. Fingers crossed we are treated to more of this.

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D’Ercole, Made To Burn, 2018

d'ercole - made to burnAnd the hardest working man in the music business is back. This time with the band D’Ercole which features  Damian D’Ercole on guitars. B.F. D’Ercole on drums and the mighty Phil Vincent on vocals and bass, and additional drums and guitars.

If you are familiar with Phil and his work, you know you can expect driving rockers, heavenly melodies with tons of harmony vocals, lots of guitars and shredding solos. So opener Time To Walk Away delivers his brand of rockers. And Out Of Time is another one of his beautiful melodic pieces, where Paul Sabu guests on the guitar solo.  Another guest is trusted pal Vince O’Regan (his former Legion partner) who shreds away in 6 tracks.
Also on the album, the last recordings of guitarist David Zycheck (RIP), on the tracks Feel The Burn, Get Undone and Tragedy In Motion. And these tracks show a different side of both men’s combined talent. More groovy, some downtuned guitars, yet still melodic and energetic.

These additions to the familiar sound add some extra sizzle to the plate. And while the overall picture is familiar, this, and other little details in the mix, show that Phil is still pushing forward and trying to expand. With a back catalogue of over 30 albums and contributing to numerous others, a sign that the man is still hungry to learn and grow.

That alone is so cool. As is the record.

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The Soul Exchange, Edge Of Sanity, 2018

the soul exchange - edge of sanityThe boys from The Soul Exchange sure like to keep busy. Ever since coming on my radar in 2016, they keep writing and releasing new music. So this is already release 4, and the third with fabulous singer (and keyboardist) Daniel John in their ranks. Not that I want to short sell the band of course, after all they provide much of the canvas and songs for John to shine on. Another big role is for producer and co-writer and arranger Magnus Ljunqvist.

But on to the album now; 9 regular songs and a bonus track for those lucky enough and a total playing time of 51 minutes. John is now the sole lyricist, with the Von Bell’s, John and Ljunqvist writing the songs. Lyrically the album explores the darker side of the human psyche. Tailor made for Daniel’s emotive delivery.
The songs are, as before, a winning combination of classic hard rock with some contemporary metal infused, with emphasis on melody and vocal harmonies. The album sounds big, think Metallica’s black album is a reference. And should modern radio still be playing rock, a lot of songs on here would fit seamlessly in, as they impact already on first listen.

And since the album still gets better with every play, it is safe to say the band have created another winner. Personally I hope the band break in Europe, so we will get a chance at seeing them live. Very very solid, and surely an album to check out!

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Souls Of Deaf, Fortune Favors The Bold, 2018

Souls Of Deaf - Fortune Favors The BoldWell, since the stats on my blog tell me that this is review 1000 (98 classics and 902 regular), it makes me very happy that fate has it that this concerns the debut album from Souls Of Deaf! Do I hear you think Souls Of Deaf? Yes SoD are a new band from the (South of) the Netherlands, so chances are you have not yet met them.

Which is a shame because for me this is easy one of the highlights in the year so far. And not because founder Sander Stappers is a close friend. That would be cheap. No, I love this album because he managed to write 10 songs that offer a fresh take on hard rock and metal from the heydays, modernised it, and stayed far away from standard formulaic songs. And still the tracks have power, sound logical and show a diversity that is remarkable for a new band.
The latter may be due to the fact that all the guys involved are no new kids on the heavy block but seasoned musicians, often active in several bands.

I am not gonna talk you through the album, this is one to discover for yourself. And mind you, I said diverse, so don’t go judging it on 1 or 2 songs or some quick sampling. No, this is an album to dig into, listen from start to finish and hit repeat. Only after a couple of spins you will understand the magic at work. The clear and heavy sound of the CD (thanks to Erwin Hermsen from Toneshed) will make enjoying it even more easy.

An amalgam of Guns ‘n Roses, to Rush to Dream Theater to Motörhead to Ozzy, this delivers a kick in the face that will leave you wanting more!

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Sunroad, Wing Seven, 2017

sunroad - wing sevenSo while we are talking about Fred Mika, I might as well tell you about the latest effort from Sunroad as well (thanks Fred for sending it to me!). Obviously already album number seven for this band and when you listen to it, it is crystal clear they are an experienced outfit.

The band play a mix of hard rock and metal with slight progressive overtones. Singer André Adonis has a bit of a raw edge to his voice, but nowhere near as sharp as one Axl R. And because of the added vocal harmonies, it stays melodic. Guitarist Netto Mello is an absolute find who combines flashy shredding with melodic phrasing. Listen to the instrumental Day By Day and be amazed. The band is rounded out by bass player Akasio Angels and of course Fred on drums.
That the band know how to write classy tunes is clear from the start. Destiny Shadows and White Eclipse waste no time in introducing a band on fire. In The Sand has also been released with a video on YouTube and combines a firm riff with all the qualities the band has to offer.
They also not shy away from a surprise like Tempo (What Is Ever), which is a full a capello intro to Whatever. Skies Eyes on the other hand is a ballad typed song with acoustic guitar and keyboards in the intro, after which the band takes over.

This is a band that many would enjoy, they deserve a much bigger audience. I include the In The Sand video to help spread the word 🙂
Also, Rock Company has limited quantities available.

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Fred Mika, Withdrawal Symptoms, 2018

Fred Mika - Withdrawal SymptomsOver here in Europe the name Fred Mika will not ring a bell with all too many people I suspect. However, in South America, and more specifically Brazil, Mika is widely known as the drummer for Sunroad. This band has toured with many great names from the rock scene and released 7 albums so far! And now the time has come to do a solo album. Well solo, playing guitars, bass and keyboards, as well as singing 2 tracks, is Sunroad singer André Adonis. Who proves to be one hell of a musician. Together they wrote the songs, with the exception of Nazareth cover Miss Misery.
Having lots of names in your address book comes in handy when you need singers for your project, so Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch), Michael Voss (a.o. Mad Max), Haig Berberian, Rod Marenna, Daniel Vargas (Adellaide), Tito Falashi, Steph Honde (Hollywood Monsters) and Mario Pastore were found willing to contribute.

The result is more prove that Brazil is host to musicians of high calibre, even outside the more extreme metal scene. Wired In, with Dixon, is a top notch mid tempo song with a damn catchy chorus. Artwork Nightmare features Voss, who feels at home with this rocking song and even seems to push his normal delivery. Sly Side Effect is one of my favourites, with a pulsating riff, a great vocal from Berberian and shining guitar work. Another fave is Dawning Of Aquarius where Honde rules and the song takes on an almost proggy disguise and just rocks from start to finish. Check it for yourself and pick your personal favourite!

This is an ode to the quality rock of the seventies and eighties and delivers on all accounts.

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Bad Butler, Not Bad At All, 2017

bad butler - not bad at allAfter a couple of more progressive albums to listen to, now back to a more straight in your face release. Bad Butler are from Germany and describe their music as “Impressive melodies, gripping guitar riffs and an accentuated heavy sound that gets straight under your skin. The troupe works with driving, atmospheric songs that create a mystically dynamic soundscape”.

Mhm, atmospheric songs that create a mystically dynamic soundscape? Afraid that means something different to me. For me this is a “take no prisoners” album. Heavy metal as it is supposed to be. Not overly German by the way, with which I mean there is no constant galloping on the double kick. The band sure mean business though. Lots of energy and melodies that stick. Actually, one of the good things about the album is that the band keep trying to avoid using all too obvious genre clichés. And indeed, they are not afraid to make use of dynamics. Listen to Gunman for instance; clean guitars, break downs, a talking voice… All this resulting in a song that makes you want to listen.  Or take Straight From Hell, with an addictive rhythm. Another highlight for me is Nameless Thing. The vocal and guitar melodies in this track are just stupefyingly brilliant. And still the thing rocks your socks off.

Even when not all 10 tracks are of the same calibre, this is a solid release that will make many genre addicts very happy. And considering it is an independent release, one of high quality.

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