Tragik, The Power Of Suggestion, 2019

tragik - the power of suggestionThe man that never sleeps is back! This time with Tragik and the Power Of Suggestion. Of course I am talking about Phil Vincent, singer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire.  On this album he is joined by regular mates Damian D’Ercole and Dirk Phillips, but also by Vince O’Regan. And Tom Bushell, who co-wrote Her, plays bells on that track.

Opening the album are a couple of rockers, Victim, All I Have and Crazy, which are carried by the trademark vocals and harmonies as well as by more guitar extravaganza from O’Regan. Then comes Learning To Live which has hit written all over it. Should there be any justice in the world…
Already Gone is another rocker, where Over You has a pulse akin to Maneater by Hall & Oates. Done in Vincent style of course. Through It All has a nice solo section where the spotlight is on keyboards and guitar. Told You So is another track with a chorus you sing for days. It is kind of a Seventies classic rock track transported into a modern metal song.
The album closes with the epic (almost 10 minutes) of Her. Opening with an a capella vocal line after which the piano comes in and the song really takes off. Of course the song moves through several arrangements, including a couple of beautiful solos.

In short: he’s done it again!

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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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Nitrate, Real World, 2018

Nitrate - Real WorldIf you are a fan of Eighties melodic rock and never can get enough, than you must be familiar with Melodic Rock Records from Down  Under. Label boss Andrew has been at it for over 20 years, vigorously supporting the scene. And one thing is for sure, he always delivers with his releases.

For me, this one is a bit special as it sees local hero Joss Mennen (Zinatra, Mennen) return to rock. No matter how much I enjoyed his dialect solo work, it is nice to hear him sing stuff like this again. Yet Nitrate is based around guitarist Nick Hogg and bassist Rob Wylde. Besides Joss they also recruited Pete Newdeck on drums. And the mastering was handled by the mighty Harry Hess from Harem Scarem fame.
Enough name dropping, to the music.

On the surface this is a release that hits all the right spots, had it been released  in 1984; a good mix of keyboards and guitars, catchy choruses, huge backing vocals, uptempo rockers and slow driving songs. And a bit cheesy lyrics…
As is often the case for me, once past the first few plays, the songs gain depth. All is done well and sounds like it.
My only point of criticism (besides the lyrics) would be that on a few occasions the rhythm guitars and drums feel not locked in 100%, with the guitars pushing harder than the drums. But that could be just me.

So if you are a sucker for rock as it used to be, surely one to check!

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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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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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Marenna, Livin’ No Regrets, 2018

marenna - livin no regretsAfter releasing an EP in 2015 and a full length in 2017, Brazilian band Marenna, built around singer Rod Marenna, decided it was about time the world got to know their stage presence.

The way I look at it, if you decide to do a live album, do it right. So raw and in your face, and no studio overdubs. And I am happy to say Marenna did just that. Recorded in their home town of Caxias do Sul in 2016, if anything, this is a fitting testament of a band on fire.
After a short intro, we are treated with a fierce rendition of You Need To Believe. And talking of fierce, the energy the band put into their performance is noticeable throughout the album. And yes, here and there small things appear that prove this is natural and as is. But what the album proves most of all is that the output of the band is a delicacy for anyone into melodic rock and AOR. I know Brazil is most known for bands on the heavier side of the rock spectrum, but melodic rock is also very much alive in that part of the world.

So if this is the genre for you, than treat yourself to the likes of Never Surrender, Reason To Live or whatever song on the album, you will not regret it!

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Classic: Signal, Loud & Clear, 1989

signal - loud and clearNot entirely sure, but I think that this album was my first encounter with the mighty vocals of Mark (now Marcie) Free (King Cobra, Unruly Child). And even if this album is a one off from the band, the trademark melodic rock with huge choruses and a great balance between guitars and keyboards would feature heavily in his/her subsequent career.

Opening with a gem like The Arms Of A Stranger, the mood is set. Great energy, great chorus, and after a interesting break a nice little solo.  Next song Does It Feel Like Love is another belter. Keyboards and guitar open and after the half time verse the song is lifted high when the chorus breaks. And a mighty fine one it is!
But of course every song on offer is aiming to nest itself in your brain and refuse to let go. One of my personal favourites being My Mistake, with it’s tongue in cheek lyric and powerful riff. This Love This Time is a medium tempo power ballad, carried by another expert delivery of Free, using melody to the fullest extend. I could go on, but trust me when I say this serves 10 Songs and 42 minutes of bliss, all killer no filler.

I cannot remember how often I have played the album, but it never tires me. A genre classic if ever there was one.

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!

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Brother Ape, Karma, 2017

brother ape - karmaFor me personally, this is a giant treat, a new Brother Ape album. Finally! The last couple of years the only releases becoming available were EP’s in digital format, alas. As you might know, I prefer CD’s, so I am very happy to present their new album here. I also was so lucky to be able to buy one of the Deluxe Editions. Those 3 EP’s I mentioned are all present on the bonus disc, including 2 extra songs, making that bonus disc a 14 track miracle of listening pleasure.

The regular album on this release holds 8 songs with a playing time of just over 40 minutes. Now I don’t mind because of my extra disc (even when 6 of those 8 originate from those EP’s), but for modern standards that is… well modest. But hey, you do get totally awesome songs as opener Oblivion, the instant Sixteen and the hauntingly exciting Hina Surawa. As well as 5 other killer songs of course, no fillers here.
Because in my humble opinion, every Brother Ape album is a testament of beautiful crafted songs with emotional depth, coupled with instrumental prowess, hooks and melodies. It is sometimes hard to believe how the trio of Damicolas, Maxen and Bergman keep coming up with brilliant idea after wonderful arrangement.

Every lover of melodic rock music infused with prog elements will absolutely love their music. No doubt in my mind.

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Bryan Cole, Sands Of Time, 2016

bryan-cole---sands-of-timeMelodic Rock Records releases are becoming a regular guest here on the blog. And now it is time for Bryan Cole to be featured. More specifically with his debut Sands Of Time. Anyone familiar with the label will already have a clue as to what to expect. And if not, then I guess the name of the label is giving it away easy… 🙂

And while I can honestly say the name did not ring any bells with me, looking at the song writing team, there are quite some names present besides Bryan: Jim Peterik of Survivor and Pride Of Lions Fame, Brett Walker and more… not bad!
So one of Pittsburgh’s most talented sons sure got on a head start here. And while we are throwing names around like candy on Halloween, more musical references are Giant and Bad English. That should in fact tell you all you need to know. Because let’s face it, mister McNeice has a knack for delivering artists that fit his label and Cole does not disappoint. At all!
If anything, for a debut this sounds confident and mature. Soaring vocals, guitar solos, tons of harmony vocals, all there. And the songs are there too, but with the names involved that was kind of a no-brainer.

So another simple one, buy!

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PS: turns out this is also blog post 1000! Reason to celebrate a bit, YAY!