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Quick Play: A round-up of January 2010 album releases

We've listed albums in order of star rating. Best first.

SARAH JEZEBEL DEVA A Sign Of Sublime (Rising Records)

Vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva has sung backing vocals with a number of bands, most notably Cradle Of Filth and Therion. This is her debut solo outing and a couple of former Cradle Of Filth members help out on the music side.

As I am not a fan of Cradle Of Filth it's interesting reading various metal message boards about her and she certainly divides metal fans.

I am sure this will continue with this album that sees her veer from operatic metal on 'The Devil's Opera' (very similar to the Diablo Swing Orchestra) to the pomp metal of opener 'Genesis'. 'Newborn Failure' sounds like Engima, a very strong song as is the closing song 'Daddy's Not Coming Home', which has a few Kate Bush vocal stlyings and a stirring piano/strings backing.

Definately a mixed musical bag and perhaps this album will prove a bigger hit for people like me who know little of her previous music and can enjoy this album with no pre-concieved expectations. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

VARIOUS 25 & Alive SPV SPV/Sony (2010)

A low priced double CD to celebrate 25 years of this German based label who have just come back from a rather sticky patch thanks to Sony's help. Twenty five tracks in all with an unreleased track ('Sweet Vampire Girl' by Engrained) and a couple of new recordings of classic songs from Saxon (the only band to get two songs) and Molly Hatchett.

Strangely some of the label's bigger names are missing like Motorhead and Whitesnake who would have been welcome replacements for the average Sodom and Destruction. Of the band's I had not heard much from before Demons & Wizards sound like Dee Snider fronting a prog metal band; Moonspell have a nice gothic tinged metal number and Steeler are like an 80's metal also ran.

A good introduction to the varied roster the label has had in the past and still does today but as mentioned before there are a few big names missing.  ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

ANGELS OF BABYLON Kingdon Of Evil (Metal Heaven )

This band is the brainchild of former Manowar drummer Rhino, who has ex-Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson along for the ride as well. Apparently Rhino has had these songs around for awhile and was just waiting for the right line-up to record them with.

Music wise this is your typical melodic/classic metal release and although none of the songs are really substandard you can't imagine playing this album much. 'Conspiracy Theory' is worth downloading though as is the slower 'Tear My Heart Out'. The title track tips a hat at Megadeth but Manowar fans beware as there is little if any of that bands sound on this album.

Not a bad album, just one that won't be reagrded as essential. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

DELORENTOS You Can Make Sound

Delorentos are not quite what I was expecting from a band that emerged from a Thin Lizzy cover band. But maybe the NME seal of approval should have been a warning sign.

So what you get is a million miles away from Lizzy or any of their classic rock component parts. Instead, Delorentos are another on the long conveyor belt of NME lauded bands that in all honesty, Iíd rather hoped had finally broken.

Thatís perhaps doing Delorentos a disservice, in that they serve up a perfectly palatable blend of post punk indie pop / rock. Think the like of The Wombats and The Editors and you wonít be wide of the mark.

2009 saw the band enter the Irish charts at #2, and in 2010 theyíll be dominating a festival stage near you. This NME style of pop / rock may be new to the Emerald Isles, but itís the curse of classic rock fans on this fair isle. And with the likes of Delorentos stepping up to the mark, itís a genre thatís going nowhere soon. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

GRAHAM LANDI Halfway Home

A child of the sixties, it has taken UK based singer songwriter Graham Landi some time to get his debut album together.

Although he's been scribbling lyrics and song ideas for many years, it was sharing them with friends and musicians in 2007 that finally saw Halfway Home emerge. And if your bag is clean cut, Radio 2 friendly songs that you can sing along to, then it's an album worth exploring.

Probably closest to the likes of David Gray, crossed with maybe David Gates, Halfway Home is an easy on the ear collection of gentle crossover rock, folk and country songs. Nicely played and produced, and with lyrics both melancholy and uplifting, it may not break new ground, but is the perfect accompaniment to the Sunday newspapers. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

ALAN WEST The Way Of The World

A strange one to appear on the GRTR! site. Because Alan West is more country than country. But then Nashville has expanded its influences in recent years. And while country was once frowned on by the rock fraternity, Whispering Bob has spread the word, and even Robert Plant has fallen to the genre's many charms.

The Way Of The World, could be massive stateside, but the surprise is that this cover album of Steve Black songs was recorded on these fair shores and includes guest appearances by Albert Lee and Sarah Joy. It's a quality piece of work that should go down a storm on the country / folk circuit, but for some it may be just a little too traditional. Expect regular airing by Mr Harris. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

BREABACH The Desperate Battle Of The Birds

An immaculately played and executed traditional Scottish folk album from one of the emerging names on the roots and folk scene.

With foot-stomping jigs and reels, twin lead bagpipes, fiddle, flutes, whistles and bouzouki aplenty, its little wonder that this young band won Best Folk Band at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2007 and 2008.

While the album is largely a traditional affair that would only enhance any Martin Clunes documentary set north of the border, it does in places hint at the future possibilities of a cross over in the same way as say, Nickel Creek.

That said, The Desperate Battle Of The Birds is, for the most part, instrumental and the band would probably need to introduce more contemporary song writing elements into their act if they wanted to make that step. But their musicianship here is second to none and highly recommended to fans of the genre. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

ACACIA AVENUE Lion Music  www.lionmusic,com

Acacia Avenue is a new band led by guitarist and songwriter Torben Enevoldsen (Section A/Fatal Force) and features vocals from Tony Mills (TNT/Shy), Geir RŲnning (Radioactive/Prisoner) and Torben Lysholm (Pangea/Mysterell) with drums by Thomas Heintzelmann (Section A) and bassist Carsten Neumann (Savage Affair).

The music on here is certainly more melodic hard rock than Torben's other band the prog metal minded Section A. It has some stand outs, namely the two songs featuring Tony Mills 'Don't call Me Tonight' and 'Wait No More' and the ultra catchy 'Can't Make You Stay', shades of Journey and the Stage Dolls on this song.

Otherwise I am afraid itís a case of well produced and played songs but not ones that have you wanting to hear them again and again. The problem is there are so many melodic/hard rock projects releasing albums and Acacia Avenue just lack those few killer tunes to set them apart. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

THE JADE Seconds Away From Salvation

Formed in Helsinki in 2004, The Jade are a hard working rock band.

Simple as that, really. Nothing overtly flashy, no obvious prima donnas, just a band who deliver no nonsense, loose grooved rock 'n' roll. And with more than a third of a million listeners on MySpace, they wear their influences - Bowie, The Clash, The Pistols, The Beatles, Zeppelin and The Stones - proudly.

Seconds Away From Salvation the band's debut album - is like a collision of The Stones, Guns 'n' Roses, and The New York Dolls, with Willie Rosen's vocals reminiscent in places of the thin white duke (Yesterday's Rain, for example). So you get the picture - bad boy rockers who like to deliver their rock with a swagger.

With a line up completed by Pekko Mantzin on guitars, Jann P.H. on bass and Sirpa - their female drummer, the album's an enjoyable ride that is no doubt a blast delivered live. Well produced and with a nice 'bright' production it seems that some of the most exciting good time rock band are emerging from the northern most outposts of Europe these days. Vanity Ink (Finland) and Vanity Blvd (Sweden) being two cases in point.

Long live rock 'n' roll. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

STARGAZER Stargazer (Seriouz Records)

Stargazer is the self-titled debut album from Norway's Stargazer, a band who's sound is reminiscent of John Sykes era Whitesnake, early Bon Jovi and a little bit late Ď80's Ozzy Osbourne - yet still has an air of originality to it.

Featuring alongside the stunning guitar work of William Ernstsen and the very European sounding vocals of Tore Andre Helgemo, are a solid rhythm section comprising of bassist Morten 'Morty Black' Skaget (ex-TNT) and drummer Steiner Krokstad (ex-Stage Dolls).

'Stargazer' will appeal to fans of good, honest melodic rock- the songs are catchy, to the point and hark back to a time where you could hear songs like this on the radio. The band is musically solid, and although the vocals have that European sound to them, it does not detract from the well-written songs.

Highlights include 'Push Me', 'Brother Against Brother' - the intro of which sounds uncannily like Neil Young's 'Rockin' In The Free World', and the albums ballad 'The Cage'. Whilst 'This Is The Night' and instrumental track 'Whirlwinds' are as good as anything Whitesnake would put, 'Keep The Good Times' has that early Bon Jovi feel to it.

Stargazer are a very good band and certainly one to watch in 2010. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns
 

PETTER AND THE PIX Good As Gold

The second album from the six piece Swedish shape shifters Petter and The Pix is an unusual amalgam of lo-fi indie pop and the classic song writing style of, say Simon And Garfunkel.

Melodic, uptempo and at the same time, utterly barking, the album has an innocent, endearing multi layered quality despite being recorded Ďliveí over just 2 days.

More likely to find favour with NME readers as opposed to rock audiences, although the band offer more depth and intrigue than most of their contemporaries. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

GLASS HAMMER Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted

I was expecting more from American proggers Glass Hammer - a band who have built a steady following since 1992, with their proggy, reputedly Yes, Kansas, ELP and Tolkein inspired concept albums, adorned in the case of their 2005 Inconsolable Secret album, by Roger Dean artwork.

Chief protagonists are founder members Steve Babb (bass and keys) and Fred Schendel (keys, guitars and drums) and while many musicians (including Jon Anderson who added guest vocals on their 2007 Culture Of Ascent album) have passed through the bandís ranks, Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted is essentially a DIY affair along with vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz.

And therein, perhaps, lies the problem. Because I couldnít for the life of me fathom what the band were trying to achieve. The opening tracks are a throwback to LSD laced sixties heavily reminiscent of The Beatles circa The Magical Mystery Tour, or Syd Barrett era Floyd, with a cover of the Zombies A Rose For Emily underlining the point.

I was even reminded of eighties Human League by The Curse Of The Weave, while the closing track Falling makes a half hearted stab at an Alan Parsons style ballad.

With an absence of the any serious prog, Three Cheers sees a [deliberate?] shift towards a more psychedelic / trippy mainstream sound. But with a distinct lack of focus and any big hooks, Glass Hammer appear to have hit a wall. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

BENT NOT BROKEN To Whom It May Concern (Yearning Communications)

Three piece German band whose vocalist claims the band have influences from their musical tastes including Judas Priest, the Foo Fighters and Green Day. But upon hearing this CD (and believe you me once is more than enough) these bands are not to be heard in the sound.

In every CD I listen to for review I try and find some redeeming feature as I am aware of how much the music means to the musicians but the vocals on here are awful. It sounds like Gene Simmons on a bad day or with a heavy cold. Musically there are some tasty riffs from the Van Halen and Judas Priest songbooks but then those vocals start and you reach for the eject button ...  *½

Review by Jason Ritchie

MIKKO HENIO Vaahtera www.mikkoheino.net

The latest solo album by the former member of Evidence and it is produced by Henning Pauly, who also plays keyboards on the album. It is a very laid back album, gentle AOR with a quite spiritual lyrics on many of the songs. The opener 'Hope' and 'Family' are the pick of the bunch.

There is nothing wrong with the album as a whole, as it is well played and produced but being honest I doubt I'd ever play it again as it lacks anything musically to really draw the listener back again. **½

Review by Jason Ritchie
 

EROL SORA Desire And Truth (Avenue Of Allies)

I wanted to like this album, based on the effusive press release where Sola's goal was to "recapture the spirit and sound of MSG, Whitesnake, Rainbow, UFO and Gary Moore".  It's a bit too retro for its own good.  Nothing wrong with that, but this wouldn't have sounded good in the eighties either.

The production isn't great, the songs are average, and whilst Sora reins in guitar excess there is a sneak feeling that his playing is average too.  The standout is the last song on the album a ballad 'When You Gonna Love Me' which sounds so much better than the rest and the recording quality is superior too.  Perhaps Sora, who spent his formative years in Canada then moved to the UK, should have employed a "name" vocalist to add some interest.

In spite of an impressive sounding CV with a stint in the John Lawton Band, there is no avoiding the fact: there are more exciting - and more durable - listens out there. **

Review by David Randall

 


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly


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