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Still Living, Ymmij, 2017

still living, ymmijThe boys from Brazil are back with album 3, a conceptual album called Ymmij. Now that title might sound a bit mysterious, but the artwork gives some clues away I guess. And I hear you think, concept album? Still Living are a melodic hard rock band or? Yes they still are! And apart from a few interludes with spoken word, meant to enhance the story, the songs on the album work very well on their own. So nobody needs to worry πŸ™‚

Opening in a familiar style with Reign Of Pills, we are welcomed by the guitars of Eduardo Holanda, accompanied by the keyboards of Thiago Nascimento and the drumming of Cleber Melo. All soon met with the powerful voice of Renato Costa. Bass and additional keyboards are provided by co-producer Aldecy Souza. Next track On The Edge shows them operate in a more aggressive and harder style. Great riff too! People already familiar with the band probably know they always strive to deliver catchy tunes with melody and still enough power and surprises to avoid genre clichΓ©’s. So while Call Of The Night continues this more powerful momentum with another killer riff and some almost metal vocals, the melodies are always there to guide us. A song like the Man I’ve Become fits seamlessly with older work, yet somehow manages to sound more mature. Haunted on the other hand manages to surprise with a deep emotional vocal delivery by Costa, who surely seems to be stretching boundaries with his voice. Nice power ballad!

As it turns out Still Living are raising the bar on every level and have delivered a strong album that every lover of melodic hard rock will enjoy. By the way, the European edition closes with the stunning bonus track Redemption, a contender for ballad of the year!

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The Soul Exchange, Vow Of Seth, 2017

the soul exchange - vow of sethThe excellent previous album from Swedish band The Soul Exchange has been making quite a few rounds here at YMB HQ. And while they are working on their next full length, they have released an EP with 5 new songs. Well with 32 minutes of playing time, once that would have been considered an album πŸ˜‰

Opening with the title track, the mood is set for another slab of that Soul Exchange goodness. Powerful rhythms, mysticism, power chords and that chilling voice of Daniel John. And while the band is on fire as usual, I can’t help thinking that John is the absolute star. His delivery grabs you from the go and he really takes you to other worlds.
But it would not be fair to appoint the attraction of the band solely to their singer. Their music, still a bit of a mix of Metallica and Ghost, proves the perfect platform for those vocals to shine on.

So the conclusion is simple, they have done it again! Now when is that new album arriving boys? Cannot wait!

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Uriah Heep, Raging Through The Silence, 2017

uriah heep - raging through the silenceUriah Heep have also gone independent and this is their second release on their newly formed label. The band are determined to close all the gaps in their discography so the core fans (me included) will be pleased with this double disc and DVD, as this has only been available on a long lost VHS at the time.

What we have here is the 1989 concert of their 20th Anniversary show. Also included is an interview which was recorded at that very same time. Which makes 2018 their 49th year of existence… In the band besides ol’ Mick Box (RESPECT), Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon, are Trevor Bolder (RIP) and Lee Kerslake. Besides mandatory pieces like July Morning, Stealin’, Gypsy, Easy Livin’ or Look At Yourself, we also get more recent material from that time. Like Bad Bad Man, Blood Red Roses, Too Scared To Run, Cry Freedom or The Other Side Of Midnight.
Because Uriah Heep never was a band content with delivering another greatest hits set and always look to perform their newer songs. And in the process captivate every audience they can play for. A live band par excellence! And even when I own 5 live albums now, as well as all the studio albums, I never get tired of listening to the band. Classic songs and a bunch of guys thoroughly enjoying what they do.

On to the 50th anniversary! And more music please πŸ™‚

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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.

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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,Β  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.

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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!

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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 πŸ˜‰ 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!

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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.

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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.

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