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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Trucker Diablo, Fighting For Everything, 2017

trucker diablo - fighting for everythingThis is the third Trucker Diablo album that has reached the YMB office. Find the 2012 The Devil Rhythm and 2013 Songs of Iron albums amongst these pages. Yet it seems that means I missed album 3, Rise Above the Noise, from 2015. Which also answers my question about the time gap between albums.

In the past I have called the music from Trucker Diablo a combination of Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society. Yet this time around I would like to describe this as the evil younger brother of Nickelback. With which I mean to say that many songs on this are catchy as the flu too, yet brought with a venomous intent and a take no prisoner mentality. Yes a little of that wonderful Thin Lizzy dual guitar attack is still present (check We Will Conquer All for a taste of that), but overall I have found this to be a kick ass hard rock album that grabs you from the go and still manages to get better every time you listen to it.
For me the killer tracks are opener Born Trucker, the already mentioned We Will Conquer All and the beautiful album closer When The Waters Rise. But this surely is a no filler album.

Anyone who thinks that rock is dead should get this served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That will make ‘m change their mind. Rocks, and rocks hard!

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Tragik, Tainted, 2017

Tragik-TaintedAlbum number 7 for this US hard rock band with many pomp influences. Lead by the unmistakeable voice and talent of multi-instrumentalist Phil Vincent. And what is most striking is that, even after recording for over 20 years and being involved in over 30 albums, the man still manages to evolve. Both as a songwriter, as well as a producer. So even when this is in essence a pomp hard rock album, some things cross new borders. And yes people, that is a very good thing in my book!

Opener Welcome Back is a driving song, built around riffs and melodies and with crunching guitars and solos. And then arrives Not Over You (Listen). I can already hear the critics wail over this… And why? The base of it is a drum loop and parts of the song have an Eighties wave feel to them. It also clocks in at over 9 minutes. But if you are able to listen beyond that; you will hear it is an adventurous take on something familiar. And people who follow the blog on a regular base, know that I am all for experimenting. I think this is a great song that keeps you on your toes!
Songs like Can’t Take It Back or Face Of Sorrow are aiming for the more traditional tastes. And songs like Into The Great Unknown or Heaven (another 8+ epic) aim to blend genres again. And closer Harsh Reality sees Vincent and co groove like never before. The guitar work of the late David Zychek playing a great part in it.

So for me this is another great release from the band. And as with all of the earlier releases, the album just keeps growing on you. Wonderful stuff.

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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 🙂

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 cliché’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 😉

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 🙂

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