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Quick Play: A round-up of July 2009 album releases

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

RAGING SLAB Raging Slab (Rock Candy)

Formed in the mid 80s in Manhattan, New York, this gritty hard rock band mixed contemporary punk with boogie. With the energy of Black Flag and The Ramones, the band finally settled with three guitars and boogified it all.

This, their second album, was originally issued in 1989 on RCA, and was described at the time as Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Metallica. The sleeze is there, as is the rock’n’roll. Boogie Metal it may well be. 'Don’t Dog Me' is a decent opener, and 'Sorry’s All I Got' is as punchy as it is intricate. Some bluesy moments and slide make for very pleasant listening.

Rifftastic and full of slide, this band had the New York metal scene going 'Yee Haw'.

An album as good as the usual Rock Candy packaging. ****

Review by Joe Geesin

SONDURA  Live Before You Die (Cargo)

Sondura are a youngish band whose influences can clearly be heard on debut album 'Live Before You Die'. Those influences being Metallica, Nickelback and Iron Maiden - not a bad mix, as you get some good elements of these bands throughout. With good melodic songs, strong harmonies and some decent guitar work the band have already been tapped-up to help promote the Guitar Hero World Tour game.

The album was produced by John Mitchell, who has already produced the likes of Enter Shikari and Funeral For A Friend, and the production work does the band justice. Highlights amongst the 10 tracks on offer include 'Scars', 'Never Get Enough', 'A Thousand Miles' and 'Fake'.

Sondura are worth a listen if you are after a heavier-sounding Nickelback or a reminder of The Black album era Metallica. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

DECADENZE Beyond Obsession (Rocksector Records)

Modern mainstream metal with high vocals (not quite Rush, more Hammers Rule), deep churning and driving riffs, and solos too. A few EPs and demos down the line and this is a solid affair for a debut album. Some of the guitar harmonies on 'Shoot Me High' mix The Eagles with Iron Maiden. Elsewhere there's an Aerosmith influence in an almost dark and extreme unrecognisable form.

Sometimes the rolling riffs are a little disjointed. Even so, there's some good moments.  ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ILIUM Ageless Decay (Escape)

Australian power metal, and their fourth album. Now with new vocalist Mike DiMeo (Riot, Masterplan) the band are still producing from solid and smooth power metal. From the outset the vocals have power and range, and there’s plenty of guitar and keyboard interplay.

The creative forces here are founder guitarist Jason Hodges and guitarist / bassist / keyboard player Adam Smith, and when they mix riffing with noodling there is some great music that nods at progressive metal. Opener 'Mothcaste' is a solid affair but is let down by the metronomic monotony of the machine gun drums. This, in bursts, affects other tracks too, but when it’s broken up there are some good rhythms about.

'Omnipaedia' is one of the standouts, the riff/solo interplay making a captivating metal track. 'Xerophyte' has a gothic intro before a crashing almost extreme metal comes in. Again a few intricate bursts sound like Beethoven on speed.

Definitely one for power metal fans, with touches that most other rock fans with like. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

CHRIS THOMPSON Back Track 1980 - 1994 (Voiceprint)

Since fronting Manfred Mann and Night in the 70s and early 80s, Thompson has recorded 4 solo albums and worked with more rock artists than you can list, either as a vocalist or a song writer.

This compilation highlights some of his solo work, and kicks off with his own / original version of 'You’re The Voice', a world-wide hit for John Farnham. That song is typical of much of the work here, very 80s MOR big sound pop/rock, with commercial guitar, piano and electronic drums. From ballads to searing guitar, the sound of the 80s is here.

What is interesting, however, is 'Finale', with the orchestra arranged and conducted by Don 'have keyboard will travel' Airey.

A good intro. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

BRIGHT LIGHTNING Taking A Vacation From Me Playground Music

Bright Lightning is not the band’s name but the main man behind the music and he originally hails from the US but has lived in Sweden since 1985. To back him he has a whole host of Swedish musicians the most recognisable for rock fans would be Conny Bloom of Electric Boys/Hanoi Rocks fame. The music is alt country in flavour with songs like ‘Walking The Streets (For Maria)’ and ‘Lifetown’ sounding like they wouldn’t look out of place on an album by Steve Earle or the Counting Crows. The former would make an ideal single release from this album.

This isn’t a bad little album at all with enough musical variety to keep you listening and for those who like a bit of alt country/Americana then grab yourself a copy of this pronto. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

MIND KEY Pulse For A Graveheart (Frontiers)

Some solid prog metal here, and a very full sound on this second album, from this Italian four piece. From the outset, it crosses progressive and melodic boundaries, with changes of pace, searing guitar, solid keyboards, the works. Vocalist Aurelio Fierro does a fine job, replacing Mark Basile shortly before the recording of this album. At times he mixes Dio and Coverdale.

The lengthy 'Dead Fame Hunter' has some interesting rhythms, and some moments hint at classic rock. From staccato uptempo, the song will slow and speed up again, with both bass and keyboards punctuating the guitar lines.

'Ventonene' is a short acoustic track, and could be the soundtrack to standing on a beach on Sunday morning listening to the waves. Compare that to the full on sonic assault of the title track!

There are elements of Dream Theatre, Symphony X and Evergrey, and with Whitesnake’s Reb Beach and Dream Theater / Alice Cooper’s Derek Sherinian guesting, it’s a pretty enjoyable set throughout. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ZERO ILLUSIONS Enter Eternity (Media Logistics)

If you want something brutal, a sledgehammer in the face, this is it. Rough and heavy doom laden riffs from the outset. Solid, high vocals to match the pounding rhythms and riffs, that repeat in a circular spaced out hypnotic fashion. For the first few songs, imagine Black Sabbath playing Porcupine Tree, with the occasional Stoner moments adding a Pantera feel.

The vocals sometimes sound almost female (at the very powerful end), giving a Mother's Finest feel.

And amongst all this, like in 'Face Of The Fortune', there are some trad metal touches and decent guitar solos. These increase throughout the album, giving a power metal feel.

Good but equally hard work. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

MR TEMPER Origin Of Brutality

Heavy metal from Surrey, full of riffs and dark vocals.

'Devil Down' is a great example of their chucky riffs, and the rough edge - rough without being too extreme or incoherent. The rhythms and solos are reminiscent of 80s Metallica but played with a more modern savagery. 'Evil Standpoint' has a big epic sound and some more intricate guitar work, sadly the vocals to sometimes delve into hardcore realms. When the vocals are clean and not grunting it has the potential to be a classic metal track.

'Drink Destroy' as a nod at post punk and grunge, again beefed up considerably. Temper? It is indeed angry.

Some good stuff, but pretty noisy too. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

NYMPHO V.I.P (Perris Records)

Brazilian rock bands seem to take their favourite bands and almost make a melting pot of the best bits, and then write an album of original songs that you could have sworn you have heard before. Nympho have done exactly that and, to be fair, they haven’t done a bad job of it. Vocalist, and main songwriter, Chris Sexx has added elements of Kiss, Poison, and Bon Jovi and come up with new album 'V.I.P'.

Highlights include 'You Gotta Love', the Poison-style ballad 'Say It', I Ain’t Over You', 'Resurrection' and the AC/DC-like 'All Night Long'. My main criticism here is that there are too many slower songs - they are not bad, but there are just too many of them. One song that should really move is 'Tits & Ass' which, unfortunately, just doesn’t live up to its title.

That said, the band do a sterling job of playing the songs the way they were, no doubt, intended to sound. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

LUST UNDER VIRGO Both Sides of the Dime

Lust Under Virgo is the brainchild of Izzy Lust, an Italian singer/songwriter who plays virtually everything on 'Both Sides of the Dime' (with exception of the drums and, er, the cello).

There are some very good songs on the album, and the guitar work is consistent throughout the 14 tracks, however, the problem here is that some of the songs do sound a bit like demos and without the production quality of some of the others.

That said, tracks such as 'We Wanna Dance With Somebody', 'I Won’t Stop The Fire', 'Cult of L.U.V' and 'I’m Doing That' are well worth checking out. There are also a couple of covers included on the album, these are Roxette’s 'The Look' and T-Rex’s '20th Century Boy'.

Interestingly, on tracks 'L.U.V Oversize Me' and 'Cult of L.U.V', Lust’s vocals remind me of Hanoi Rocks’ guitarist Andy McCoy on his solo work. You can hear some of his influences throughout the album and these include The Cult, KISS and a number of Scandinavian glam/sleaze bands. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

FOOBAR THE BAND Your Friend My Friend
(Reside Records)

A CD with no press release, and the album title not clear on the sleeve. Not a good start.

The music is a mix of trad metal and alt.rock with nu metal, sleeze and rock'n'roll influences. A stoner guitarist and an over active bassist. It's a very loud blast with riffs and shouts, fuzz and distortion. Danko Jones, Clutch and Audioslave fans would like this for sure.

'Revolution' has a punky feel, chorus of shouts in unison, and a guitar solo that temporarily shreds. 'Dawning Of A Day' has a bass led riff, and the song moves in and out of punky alternative and back again.

Lots of energy, the twin guitars make plenty of noise. Fun but 11 tracks I found too hard work with low levels of captivation. But that's me. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

STRANGE DAZE ‘97 (Voiceprint)

The day space rock first landed in America - this 2 day space rock festival was America’s first, and Hawkwind’s first festival appearance over there. If you like live space rock, you’ll love this, with tracks from the likes of Nik Turner, Red Giant, Quarkspace, ST37, Nucleon, Freak Element, Planetscapes and, of course, Hawkwind. Lots of hard rock meets trip out city. Hawkwind tracks include 'Kauai', 'Assassins Of Allah', 'Brainstorm' and 'Hawkwind In Your Area'.

Some good and well recorded music, one for space freaks everywhere, but the package is a bit of a mess, with lack of a comprehensive track list, and notes that only refer to the second disc. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

O.M.T. Anamantium Rising Records

A fine example here of brutal metal, which is at the melodic end of hardcore.

With two guitars mixing riffs and shred, the opening track has all the guitar work you could want, and some surprising big choruses too. This is let down but the bursts of grunting (the lead vocals mix lead vocals and gravelly screaming). Currently suffering a sore throat myself, this brought a tear to my eyes, but at its most extreme the grunting is akin to explosive farting down a drain the day after an egg/lentil vindaloo. Oh My God They Killed Kenny. And everyone else in the front row!

The second track is just as good guitar wise, with some brutal riffs, and NWoBHM style riffs.

At times the backing vocals produce some nice harmonies with the lead vocals, the riffs and rhythms match those of early Metallica.

Some top moments, as brutal and energetic extreme metal goes it’s melodic and easy to listen to, but please control the screaming and leave the grunts at home, tied to a very strong leash! ***

Review by Joe Geesin

ALEXISONFIRE Old Crows/Young Cardinals (Roadrunner)

Fourth album from this Canadian post hardcore band. Crashing noise aplenty, with huge helpings of alternative rock jangliness.

There is some melodic work here, and some good guitar work too, but most of it is lost in the noise. Whatever they do, whether vocals or riffs, there is apparently a need to bury (or mask) it in noise, so the shouted vocals are distorted, and the distorted guitars sound shouty.

'Young Cardinals' is a good melodic number, while 'Sons Of Privilege' some good fast riffs that nod at 70s proto punk (think Ramones). 'No Rest' could be Green Day gone metal and on some very messed up drugs, and 'The Northern' has a more gothic rock feel.

The songs are good, but let down by everything being so noisy, which makes the album as tiring as it is deafening. You can't kill a shout by shouting at it, but they have a damn good go.  **½

Review by Joe Geesin


Hailing from the Cheshire town of Northwich, Helsinki Seven are being touted as one of the UK's most promising new UK rocks bands. There are but three of them though - Joe Perry (guitar /vocals), Adam Beven (bass / vocals) and Nick Cowling (drums).

Perhaps predictably, they're yet another band hot off the production line that churns out NME style pop rock bands - every song played at 100 miles an hour, shouty vocals and big hooks. Subtlety is not a subtext.

I've nothing against Helsinki Seven - they're perfectly competent and good at what they do. And perhaps they do have a marginally harder hitting edge than some of their contemporaries.

But one song sounds like much like the next to me. And one band of the genre sounds much like the next. Surely every town up and down the country has at least one band like this?

Maybe I'm simply getting too old, but isn't this just like revisiting the punk era, except the kids can actually play their instruments these days? Sorry, but it's just not for me. Now, where's my pipe and slippers and some classic rock? **½

Review by Pete Whalley


Australian band who not surprisingly have a healthy following in London and this double live CD set was recorded at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Musically they cover many bases from Latin through to ska and good time summer tunes.

Vocally they are competent but nothing special and to be honest a band like this you'd enjoy live or at a festival but not something that you'd play much on CD, maybe bar the odd BBQ. If you're a fan then this will be great but for the passing listener there is not much here to capture your attention. **½

Review by Jason Ritchie

POPE Tall Tales And Cheap Thrills ASPOP

Two multi instrumentalists, Brett Ascroft and vocalist Chris Pope, give us 12 torrid and tall tales of revenge, romance and rock’n’roll. A couple of guests too.

Opener 'Most Of What Follows Is True' has a strong post punk feel, almost new wave done with guitars and raw vocals. In this sense there is a strong indie feel throughout the album, with a jangly feel to the guitar.

'Be Careful What You Wish For' hints at U2 / The Cult in their own indie manner but, much like elsewhere, the voice through the radio effect is over used. The track is also misspelt on the back.

Despite the changes of pace (there’s a touch of Big Country roughed up in there too, with a hard rock edge), the overall sound doesn’t vary too much and although it does have its moments in terms of melody and performance, I’m going to sign off now before I run out of things to say; I personally found it all a much of a muchness and not particularly gripping. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

TIEDYE KEITH Welcome Home/ Portrait Of Claudine

Two reissued albums here from San Francisco guitarist Tiedye Keith, and 2004’s debut Welcome Home showcases his love of jazz funk with a blues influence.

Opening track 'Big World' is a fast modern fusion number with influences of Jeff Beck, while 'Lining Of Gold' is a more mellow country infused number.

There’s a strong feel of 80s MOR rock with the jazz and country throughout the album, so although there’s plenty of riffing, guitar solos, some well written tracks, there’s a backing piano that adds an easy touch. Some of the effects and noodling do drift off, a strange mix of forgettable and annoying.  **½

Keith’s fourth album Portrait Of Claudine has a similar feel, with opening track 'Focus On It While Can' adds some brass to the fusion. Later on I found the foray into acid jazz quite offputting.

Some tracks have a good feel, others sound disjointed, it’s a strange mix.

The packaging on both albums, like the website, is full of garish colours and ambiguity on when the albums were originally recorded.

Some good moments, but def try before you buy. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

DIRTY NOVA Wild Ride (Sliptrick Records)

These Europeans do seem to love their 80s British and American metal. And in this case, Finnish too. This is classic sleazy rock'n'roll, bluesy metal.

Not as sleek as the big hair stuff, think Hanoi Rocks with a rough drunken edge, or a Motley Crue home demo. With a sly nod to AC/DC too, this is ballsy, rough, party heavy metal.

Riffs and solos aplenty, there is some good guitar work here, above the solid heavy rhythms. Sadly the first three tracks are pretty samey, and all suffer the same poor production (this kind of music really doesn't need so much distortion or fuzz) and the fact that they go nowhere.

The first track to be different is 'Silent Scream', a nice touch but it is equally pedestrian. Then 'Angel' tries to be a ballad, it's a couple of minutes before the drums come in. This sounds a mixture of Bryan Adams and Guns 'n' Roses.

As sleazy rock'n'roll goes it's pretty heavy, some good moments, but there's a LOT of rough edges that need smoothing off. **½

Review by Joe Geesin


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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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