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

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


You may have caught this band at a few not so well known festivals over the last few years for which the band must have obtained experience since their first professional album release "Nightly Ray". (with the help of Melissa Etheridge - Def Leppard, Phil Collins etc.)

Brilliant fast finger fretwork from guitarists "Vlad Doose" and Udo Slmon" along with beautiful harmonised acoustics for songs such as "Unbeing" for the acoustic work and "Next, In Line" for those fast finger solos.

The electronica songs such as "Double suicide" and Gold & glass" work very well and fit very nicely amongst the gruff growls of vocalist Matthias Kupka" and swift drum work from "Chris Wildmann". I still cannot decide whether there is also a slight glimpse of a drum machine for some of the double bass pedal work.

This album is a most definite grower, and I am quite impressed with the different sounds of each track and originality of bar, chord and rhythm changes and I was even caught up in one of those "head bang, lips in a fish shape "moment.

For any fan of 'Bullet For My Valentine' and 'In Flames' who also appreciate ballads, synthesisers and keyboards or for anyone who appreciates metal or just something different! ****½

Review by Fluffmeister

NAKED Get Naked (Stattin Music)

Swedish band Naked started life as a studio project, which has since evolved into a fully functioning live act, and they are about to release debut album 'Get Naked'.

The band’s sound takes influence from a number ‘70’s and ‘80’s hard rock bands and the album contains 11 tracks packed with big choruses, harmonies and great guitar work, in keeping with these influences.

Singer Petri Vehvilainen’s vocals sit comfortably alongside the (at times) Malmsteen-style guitars (courtesy of Ronny Zander and Mats Stattin) and, complete with keyboards, saxophone and backing singers, there is a real ‘80’s European rock feel to the whole album.

Highlights include opening track 'Guardian Angel', 'You Stole My Heart', 'Hideaway' and the Bon Jovi like 'Why Can’t You See'. There are also a couple of ballads in 'Until Death Do Us Part' and 'Black Roses Turn Red'.

Fans of early Europe, Bon Jovi and Bonfire will appreciate 'Get Naked' and the band will no doubt receive a warm welcome in their native Scandinavia. ****

Review by NikkGunns

SOUNDSTORM Twilight Opera Rising Records/RSK

As the album title suggests, this is very much operatic metal affair, with power metal mixing with strings, concepts, solos, the kitchen sink.

The concept follows the battle between good and evil, but with good not always being the absolute winner, and the immortality of true love.

As operatic power metal goes, it's not quite in the same league of Rhapsody, it certainly doesn't have that narrative, but it's in that direction. Touches of Freedom Call. Guitar riffs mix with some very fluid piano, the solos are sublime, and bursts of machine gun drums are punchy, and there are plenty of layered strings. The vocals are a little on the rough side which adds to the power metal edge.

The feel goes from chunky power metal to fluid Uli J Roth guitar solos to operatic and back again, a good mix with odd gothic moments. The falsetto is one thing I could do without, nodding at The Darkness, but thankfully a rarity.

Very much worth checking out. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin


Canterbury. Not a great name for a band. Try a Google search - no chance. Add Thank You. Not a great deal better - not a single hit on the first two pages. But you do get a youtube hit at the bottom of page 3. You need to think of these things if you're planning a serious aural assault. If people can't easily find you on the web, you're history before you play a note.

In fact, there's bugger all about the band on the web - a myspace page and a page with a single message 'Canterbury / Thank You / 26.11.09'. Hardly enlightening. Who are these guys, what are their influences, what are the writing, playing and production credits?

The PR blurb answers only a few of these mysteries - a Hampshire based quintet, allegedly not long out of short trousers and still at school when they recorded the album with unknown producer Peter Miles in drummer Scott's living room.

Now, 2 years later Thank You is about to see the light of day, and remarkably the boys are planning to release the album on free digital download (with payment optional).

And that's about all we know, although having watched one of the This Is Canterbury youtube videos, I'd hazard these lads are public school educated.

Now you might think all these facts - recorded by kids, diy production and free downloads would point to a single word - 'naff'. But he surprise is that Thank You is a mightily accomplished and very mature piece of work.

It's a really difficult band to draw comparisons. There's no obvious reference points - there's echoes of everyone from the Beachboys to the Police, from The Coral to Coldplay and way beyond. Perhaps the best analogy is to the likes of Sad Café, because Canterbury look capable of walking that thin tightrope that connects serious rock credibility with commercial success.

Canterbury. Remember the name. But don't try to find them on Google. Try instead. ***½

Rerview by Pete Whalley

LOCH VOSTOK Reveal No Secrets

'Loch Vostok' are named after a subterranean lake in the Antarctica, who rose out of the collapse of Progressive Metal band 'Mayadome' in 2001. After 10 years Drummer 'Teddy Moller was tired of the cheese and decided to start something meatier. They also released a critically acclaimed album "Destruction Time Again" worldwide in 2006 and toured with 'King Diamond' in April 2006 which generated a more high profile shows at various European Festivals.

Instrumentally, this album is pure metal from start to finish and is actually very impressive on a potential scale. However, there is one small matter of the not so angelic vocals which will determine your like or dislike of this album.

For example, if you love your 'Dio's, 'Dickinson's etc then you are simply going to adore this album. If you are more of a 'Lamb of God' dirty screech fest fan, then you may find that this release will take a few listens to get used to.

A favourite instrument of the Swedish, seems to be the ever so apparent keyboards, which can sometimes ruin a sound or happily sit along side guitar riffs without a notice.

One minute it works, other times it does not. I always deem keyboards as the 'mister meaner' of any release and Rammstein they are not. Ruined or not ruined is the question and the answer to that is "some tracks are ruined" but we are not all perfect.

Gnarly guitar riffs, standard drumming and sometimes quite dodgy lyrics; yet quite appealing on the sound front. What I am saying is "try this for yourself". ***½

Review by Fluffmeister


The band name, the mini album title, the artwork. I was expecting the worst.

But it turns out Prozac Daisies are rather good. If perhaps, a little 'different'.

With an unusual line-up, Vinnie D on vocals and guitar, Rocco Rado on bass, Jeff Ducket on drums, Patrick Christie on guitar, and last, but by no means least blonde bombshell Michelle Tess Oberline, on cello who [allegedly] gives the band their trademark sound.

The mini album includes their first single - a superb remake of the Tommy Tutone classic 867-5309 / Jenny - the band come on like ELO meets Kiss. In other words, great rock songs with superb hooks, and infectious choruses, with the cello providing that classic ELO sound. And with a whiff of David Lee Roth thrown in for good measure.

It's confusing though, because the credited musicians include only Vinnie D, with producer Jeff Silverman having a major hand in the guitars, bass, drums, keyboard parts and song writing. Which leaves more questions than answers.

But Krazzy is nothing if not great commercial rock 'n' roll that doesn't take itself too seriously. Big fun. ***½

Review by Pete Whalley

SAHARA RAIN Sand In Your Hands

Debut album by a band hailing from Switzerland and they have Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart/Rain) handling production and adding backing vocals. Michael Bormann also adds his considerably songwriting talents to the music on here as well. The album cover catches the eye with a belly dancer and what appears to be a pair of humping camels.

Overall it is not bad at all, coming across like fellow Swiss rockers Gotthard and the Scorpions at times. The ballad 'Higher Sky' is a highlight building nicely and allowing a chance for vocalist Ricci to shine. The rockers 'Shadow' and 'Blinded Eyes' remind the listener of Bon Jovi (when they were good!), both featuring some neat guitar solos.

Not a bad album at all and one you can see yourself still playing in years to come. There second album due next year should be one to look out for.  ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie


Melodic prog rock here, with a strong throwback to the 80s but keeping a modern solid sound. It’s too heavy to called pop, and not quite commercial sounding enough to compete with Asia, but it in verging on that territory.

Opening tracks 'Lighters' and 'Wrong' both feature strong choruses, and some searing vocals and guitars that stand out. Later on the vocal effects (think a poor radio broadcast) don’t work so well, but the guitars remain strong.

The strings on the more balladic tracks work well, the vocals strong too. 'Wasted Years II' mixes guitar and keyboards too, and there are some Marillion-esque intricacies too.

'In The Air' mixes some heavy riffs with gentle moments.

The two guitars mix well, but the music is so melodic it’s almost MOR in places. There are no bad songs, but with only occasional prog hard rock moments, it’s not always as gripping as it could or should be. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

JEFFERSON STARSHIP Performing Jefferson Airplane At Woodstock 2009 (Voiceprint)

The current Starship, who evolved from Airplane in 1974, recorded this live album in California, and celebrates the original band's 40th anniversary of playing the original Woodstock.

It's a good live set, solid, even if the West Coast sound is watered down a little. A big and full sound, with 'Somebody To Love' and 'The Other Side Of This Life' standing out. Classics like 'Eskimo Blue Day', 'White Rabbit' and 'Volunteers' are there too, and Grateful Dead pianist Ton Constanten joins the band for two GD tracks 'Deal' and 'I Know You Rider'.

This kind of music lends itself to the festival circuit, and is pretty enjoyable. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin


Recently issued on DVD too, this live set captures the ongoing saga of Daevid Allen and Gong well.

With all the usual craziness you would expect from Gong, or should I say the unexpected, this is zany sounds and light shows and Allen’s usual meanderings. With roots in psychedelic prog, the band perform here in Sao Paulo with The Invisible Opera Company Of Brazil, and feature the tracks “Master Builder”, “You Can’t Kill Me” and “Radio Gnome Invisible”.

This is pretty far out, definitely one for fans, but the passing listener may find it hard to get into. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE Live At The Quarter In Lounge, New Orleans, July 1977 (2CD) Bear Records / Voiceprint

Quicksilver Messenger Service were one of the most successful West Coast acid rock bands of the late 60s and early 70s, along with Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. From the mid 70s, there have been many partial reunions, and this 1977 performance was well captured. With Dino Valenti and Gary Duncan leading the way with an enthusiastic crowd, tracks from the reunion album Solid Silver (including “Bittersweet Love” and “Cowboy On The Run”) are played next to “Mona” and “Who Do You Love” (the latter running at over 10 minutes).

The rock is solid, if a little jangly in West Coast fashion in places, the 14 tracks all seem to go down well.

Always a successful live band, in America at least, and this album shows why. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin


Modern classic metal from Sweden, which kicks off with the excellent yet clichéd 'Whom The Gods Love Die Young'. The riffs nod at Iron Maiden, the vocals and solos to modern European power metal bands like Mob Rules. The chorus is quite anthemic too.

'Battle Within' nods at Helloween, in a more melodic way, and there’s some vocal harmony on chorus too. Later on there’s a nod to 90s Sabbath too, which is a riff filled metal sound with strong mid range vocals. 'Eyes Of A Stranger' adds a touch of 90s Judas Priest too.

The vocals are pretty strong throughout, the twin guitars work well together, and the pace changes too; from uptempo trad metal to slower grinding darker tracks, it’s pretty classic metal really.

Def worth checking out. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

MELY Portrait of a Porcelain Doll

This is the fourth album release from Australian spawned "Mely". Fourth release? I have not even seen or heard the other 3 so can not imagine they have been worth while!

Sound quality is not that great, the further I turned my volume knob nearer to 11, the sound seemed crackly and not that well produced. A good huge sub woofer turned to max can easily deter the crackling gripes, but for me it ruins the atmosphere of what the album is trying achieve. Furthermore, the guitar work is very light and not as heavy as you would expect from this kind of release, and I did not even notice the drum work!

This is an album that can be played in the background without upsetting anybody, but be prepared for a monotonous sound of all the tracks.

This album is very laid back and if you like your slow heavy Goth/Doom with melodic vocals, yet happy and not so miserable as usual, then this release will certainly get your juices flowing.

Preferably for fans of "Paradise Lost" and even a few fans of early "Alice in Chains" or even "HIM". Or maybe you just fancy checking out the new 'Melancholic' metal style. ***

Review by Fluffmeister

THE GILES BROTHERS 1962 - 1967 (Voiceprint)

The Giles Brothers Michael (drums) and Peter (bass / vocals) are best known for forming Giles Giles & Fripp with guitarist Robert Fripp, the band who would later become King Crimson.

These recordings come from the brothers’ own vaults, and are very typical of the sixties, mixing skiffle, pop, psyche and R’n’B. There are some great tunes along the way, across different line-ups of various bands they worked with. The recording quality varies, and is often a little bright or tinny, but for 60s pop fans it’s all good stuff and a good piece of pre KC history.

Also, with a thick booklet, it is very well annotated, with band sleevenotes and the source of each track documented with line-up.

Unless you’re really keen, the music is passable in places, but it is well packaged.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

STAR*RATS Screw The Consequences (Swedmetal)

Danish heavy/sleaze metal band Star*Rats release their third album on Swedmetal Records.

With new frontman Magnus (aka Mr Whattafuck) strutting his stuff, the band serve up 14 sizzling 'in your face' anthems of love, hate, stimulants, sex and (self) destruction.

In their 5 years the band have predominantly been confined to northern European circuit, although have managed to get support slots with the likes of Alice Cooper, Skid Row, Dokken and Magnum.

With a pounding rhythm section, plenty of crunchy riff work, some big melodies, and explosive lead guitar breaks this is how Guns 'n' Roses may have mutated if they'd not self imploded.

Self produced, but mixed by Grammy Winner Chris Laney (Europe), eat your heart out Axl. Star*Rats are loud, horny and depraved. But, that's rock 'n' roll, and with the right break Stateside, the sky could be the limit. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

ORANGE Phoenix Hellcat Records

Orange are a US based punk pop band who sound uncannily like Green Day at times. This is the band's third album and it does have a few top draw pop punk moments including ‘Standing Still', which given its catchy chorus is the single released of the album.

‘Catching Up' and ‘Each Other' both remind the listener of prime time Green Day. Elsewhere though the songs sound like many a pop punk pretender to the Green Day crown and I doubt bar the aforementioned three songs you'd play the album much. But the album does end on a high with a high quality version of Lou Reed's ‘Perfect Day' complete with strings and piano making for a welcome change of pace and style.

An album to dip into selectively although Green Day fans will doubtless enjoy it more than most. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

VANITY INK More Senseless Random Behaviour

Female fronted Fin rock. Fin as in Finland, that is, not as in Jaws. Formed in Helsinki in 2002 and with one album - On Your Skin (2007) - already under their studded belts, More Senseless Random Behaviour could so easily have been a banana skin.

But it's actually a great piece of commercial pop/punk/ rock from a classic female fronted line up of Sam Junni (drums), Jussi (guitar), Juha Bandit (guitar), Miki Peltola (bass) and Annabella (vocals).

Think Motley Crue meet Vixen, with Annabella's vocals falling somewhere between Pat Benatar and Lita Ford and you won't be far wide of the mark. Unashamedly good time rock 'n' roll, perfect for blasting down the strip with the top down.

The excellent power ballad Breathe shows the band are no one trick ponies, and one can't help but feel that the US market would lap this up.. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

KINGS OF MODESTY Hell Or Highwater (Escape)

Although they have never truly made a name for themselves in UK, in Finland and Switzerland Kings Of Modesty have quite a fan base and are a well known name amongst progressive metal fans. I was surprised by the quality of the melodies on this album; there are some excellent tracks such as the imaginative 'Deep Down' and the meaty 'Suicide Mission.'

The musicianship is very strong with some firm riffs and short but memorable solos and there is an underlying bass which is worth paying attention too. Admittedly it took some patience to appreciate Jason Flicnk's vocals which go from being whiney to superficial but after a few plays of the album his vocals grew on me. This is a good album that has its weak spots but enough encouraging songs to prove the band can deliver the goods. ***

Review by Neil Daniels


The name is Russian for Blacksmith, and this old school metal is just about as rough, in the best possible way.

There is a NWoBHM feel, the indie rough black kind. I'm not talking about Venom as there is some talent and melody here, but it is the cement mixer kind that could have been influence by Black Sabbath (early and late) and then influenced later proto thrash bands. The music is very heavy, the vocals rough yet coherent, the guitars mix chunky riffs with solos.

There are some more modern moments, but everything except the keyboards sounds dragged over a cheese grater. The vocals get almost (slow) operatic at times, giving a doom metal feel.

Some very good moments, but the kind of sound I personally would get tired of quickly. The DVD that comes with it is worth watching though. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

CAIN The Master Clockwork

This Swedish band mix classic and melodic rock, with heavy chunky riffs and screams.

There's not much on the press release, but mentioning playing with BWO (an electronic, programmed and camp disco outfit with not an instrument in sight) is maybe not the best thing for a metal band to shout about. And the typo of 'Some really god songs' made me laugh too.

The riffs are heavy, the solos are good, the metal a nod at power metal. The only downfall is the drums. Although the playing is varied, the sound makes them sound more monotonous than they really are. There are bursts of more modern metal, and operatic moments too, and the keyboards do fill the sound well even though they are down in the mix.

The album is 6 months old now and has been getting airplay and good reviews locally.

While it's a clean sound, it doesn't come over as smoothly as you feel it should. Some good moments though. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

ELECTRIC EEL SHOCK Sugoi Indeed (Transcend Records)

Energetic Japanese 3-piece metal, where the metal nods to classic metal and the vocals have a punky edge.

The uptempo music nods to stoner - think QOTSA meets AC/DC.

'Mr Toad' has an interesting rhythm, almost off-beat funk, while the title track has more of a Ramones punk thrash feel. 'Nobody Knows' is a decent enough track but is cluttered with the fuzz.

A nice mix of rhythms and styles within classic metal, but at times this comes across as cluttered.

Even so, well worth checking out. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

MERETTO Street Talking (Rockpop Records)

Carrying the same streetwise swagger of Hard-Fi, Meretto's new album 'Street Talking' is due out November 16th. It's a lively blend of indie rock with an electronic edge, mixed by Dan Swift of Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro fame.

On debut single 'Devotion', front man Stu Bell, sings optimistically of not wanting the standard nine to five life over a thumping bass line.

'Caesium Baby' and 'Bust' roll along with tales of modern city life. Electronic monster 'A Kiss' features upbeat synths over jangly guitars.

Energetic thumper 'A Method of Urban Survival' is surely destined to be a future single. Featuring the band's most instant chorus, it sets the direction and tone well for the entire album.

'Once The Dust Has Gone' has a Frankie Goes to Hollywood bass line intro that gives way to a more mature less frantic sound. Final track 'Back To Me' with it's 80's New Romance synths, somehow seems to work and is the most heartfelt track on the album.

Bass player Matt Burgess studied music technology under Martin McAloon of Prefab Sprout fame, which may give a little insight into some of the 80's style synths on the album. T

Think three minute electro-tinged indie rock, with the attitude of The Enemy the electronic indie of Boy Kill Boy and a touch of the 80's. If this is your thing then you should check out Meretto. ***

Review by Darren Coomber

TOJA Train Of Life (Avenue Of Allies)

Third album from this German outfit and the first impression is of a mature modern sounding melodic power metal. The opening track nods to Iron Maiden, with the operatic edge to the vocals that many European power metal bands try.

'Just A Love Song' is an acoustic ballad with strings that nods to Judas Priest’s 'Before The Storm' or 'Evening Star' but more sickly sweet. Other more melodic tracks that nod towards big sounding ballads are more electric and much more enjoyable. 'End Of A Nation' mixes piano and guitar well, like an 80s AOR hit rather beefed up and modernised.

At the classic rock end of melodic power metal, their better moments sitting nicely between Masterplan, Kamelot, Judas Priest and Savatage.

There are some moments that could be more consistent though, otherwise well worth a listen. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

SEASONS LOST After The Storm

This Florida band’s debut album kicks off in fine style with some crunching guitars on 'To Hell And Back'. Solid modern metal with power metal influences, some good clean vocals and a decent guitar solo too.

Some of the rhythms come in bursts, staccato fashion, the only let down being the bursts of intelligible growls / screams. Shame as some of the cleaner vocal harmonies are great.

'Confession' is a more consistent melodic hard rock, a touch of Nickelback.

The tracks mix melodic rock that verge on pop/rock, and others back to the heavy end with growls, quite a mix. Not an album to please fans of any one genre; the variation is good but extreme. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

FREEDOM Black On White (Angel Air)

Freedom were formed by drummer Bobby Harison and guitarist Ray Royer, both formerly of Procol Harum. This 1969 debut (recorded the previous year) is a lot more psychedelic than the later hard rock efforts and was the soundtrack to the Dino de Laurentis film of the same name.

The sound is keyboard led with a melodic bass line, vocal harmonies, it nods at hard rock in a very whimsical way. Some light strings add to the atmosphere, and there is in places something sounding like a harpsichord.

Elsewhere it does go into proto-hard rock territory.

As period music goes it is strong, and will please fans, especially with the plethora of sleevenotes (including band involvement), remastering and extra tracks (including two 1968 singles). But this is far from the band’s best album. Whether their hands were tied to the soundtrack or the musical period, Freedom did go on to much better things.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

GO WEST Live (Angel Air)

Angel Air play a canny one with this live release as they seek to cash in on the current 80's revival of which Go West have been enjoying by touring arena sized venues as part of the Here And Now package with fellow 80's artists. Angel Air also release a live album by the Spandau Ballet members less the Kemp brothers and as the fully reunited Spandau Ballet embark on a tour this autumn, good timing yet again for the release. Go West still feature the core duo of vocalist Peter Cox and Richard Drummie and this live show was recorded back in 2003.

The hits are all here including the parptastic keys led 'we Close Our Eyes', 'Goodbye Girl', the Smokey Robinson cover 'Tracks Of My Tears' and 'The King Of Wishful Thinking'.

The band do veer off into soul/R'n'B too much for personal tastes and delve into extended, jazz/fusion themed solos on songs like 'Missing Persons'. Certainly live they seem to have a mellower, soulful edge than the pop sound of their albums and as a result I didn't enjoy this as much as I was expecting too.

Fans will love this release though and the sound quality is very good throughout. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie


With a line up of Anna Libby (vocals), Allen Higgins (guitars), Tom West (keys), Marty Ballon (bass) and Marty Richards (drums), Becoming August are something there aren't enough of these days - a rock 'n' roll band with no samples, no edits, and no computer gimmickry. Just four musicians playing it 'for real' with a female vocalist of real potential in Anna Libby.

To be honest, Twenty One is a mixed set varying from the straight a head rock of Freight Train (a stand out track that has it all great guitar chops, a wonderful organ sound and blistering vocals), Outta Here and Indefinitely, through the country honky-tonk of Famous, the country blues of 4 Nothing, the soft rock acoustic ballads of Unwanted, Lucky, and Amy's Song, and the pop/rock of TV Song and Midnight Moon.

The album has an innocent charm and freshness often missing in today's manufactured music. And in some ways I was reminded of some of those classic bands of the early 1970's like Vinegar Joe. The irony is, I couldn't help but wonder what might have been with a seasoned pro behind the production desk. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

SEVENTH RIZE Full Moon (Perris Records)

Texan band Seventh Rize were formed in 1991, split up in 2000 and then reformed in 2006. Since reforming the band have played alongside the likes of Warrant, Firehouse and White Lion and are currently touring with Slaughter vocalist Mark Slaughter.

New album 'Full Moon' was produced by Bobby Rock and features some additional songwriting from Foreigner's Bruce Turgon. In the bands early days they gained comparisons to Motley Crue and RATT and, on this album, front man Stacy "The Big Daddy" Humphries bluesy vocals are, at times, reminiscent of one time Crue singer John Corabi.

'Full Moon' is a no nonsense hard rock album that, unfortunately, from time to time does sound dated- however, it is not a bad album. 'One Last Time' is a Whitesnake style slow number, whilst 'Quicken' has some very Bonhamesque drumming and soaring guitar work. Other highlights include 'Torn', 'Roller Coaster', 'Wreckage' and 'You're the One'. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns


Brunorock is the brainchild of Bruno Kraler and the band have released three albums prior to this one, the last one being released via the now sadly defunct MTM Records.

The music on here is your standard AOR meets melodic rock, it is well played and produced with some memorable hooks but overall not an album you'd go 'wow' after listening to it.

The slower numbers work best like 'Julia' and the big ballad 'Painless Skies' which closes the album. There is also a very melodic sounding cover of AC/DC's 'Touch Too Much'. Good version but again hardly essential listening.

If you enjoyed one of the band's previous releases then this album will certainly keep you satisfied, however I can't see it bringing in many new fans sadly. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

RAZORBLADEKISSES Twinkle Twinkle Little Scar

Neat name for a goth / rock / shock outfit - RazorBladeKisses - a band formed in 2000 by [now UK based] Persian vocalists Layla and Azadeh.

With an intoxicating mix of rock, goth, shock, opera and eastern promise, the girls are a darker, more mysterious version of Shakespears Sister. And with their strong harmonies and sweet, yet seductive and edgy vocals, it's easy to see why the band is developing quite a cult following in the goth circle.

The ten track set has a quirky, unhinged, yet sexual feel. At times enchanting, but at the same time creepy - with innocently delivered lines like 'I want to make you scream' - you wonder whether it would be safe to succumb to the girls 'charms.

The opening track - Alice - is like a fairytale, but with a slasher lurking in the background - you just know there's something malevolent about those tinkling glock notes.

New Nightmare is broody pop, while Pretty Dead Doll has an eerie undercurrent. Teddy - about 'the monster in the closet' is great fun, The Butterfly a lovely haunting number, while Lure Of The Temptress has an Alice Cooper theatrical feel.

The whole set is spookily unbalanced and designed to tempt and taunt. Perfect for the witching hour and not for those who like to listen to their music with the lights turned off. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


The continuing story of the life of former psychotherapist William Fitzsimmons, is told by The Sparrow And Crow. Chronicling the breakup of his marriage, it picks up the pieces where Goodnight - the story of his blind parents break-up - left off.

And while Goodnight relied on metaphors and analogies, The Sparrow …- Fitzsimmons' first record made in a proper recording studio - is a more direct tale of pain and heartbreak.

Recorded mostly with friends - including Priscilla Ahn and CaitinCrosby - the album has met with rave reviews stateside - iTunes calling it the #1 folk album of 2008, and Fitzimmons gaining favourable comparisons with indie folk singer-songwriter Bon Iver.

It's stripped back, beautiful piece of work. Every breath, every nuance exposed like a raw nerve. Perhaps best known to date for songs that have appeared on Grey's Anatomy and General Hospital, The Sparrow And The Crow will only serve to enhance his growing reputation.

If Paul Simon was starting out today, and had just broken up with Princess Leia, he could well have sounded like this. William Fitzsimmons will be touring Europe, including the UK, this November. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

P.A.I.N. MANAGEMENT Lobotomy (STF Records )

A few seconds of a programmed progressive keyboards before the metal comes crashing in. The opening track is brutal with both alternative and decent touches, and vocals at the rough almost grunted end.

Next up is 'Weak', a strange mix of rough metal guitars and slightly rough vocals, with some very clear cut keyboards. Oddly the rhythm is catchy, it’s a mix you really want to like but there is something stopping you loving it that you can’t put your finger on. The feeling is the same in later tracks, a brick wall of guitars and an atmosphere too.

Some very good touches, but the roughness and alternative influences I found off-putting. A mix of two too different extremes. I wanted to like this so much more but really couldn’t. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

HILARY SCOTT - Road To Hope / Consonance (with Wes Wingate)

The last two albums by folk / country singer songwriter Hilary Scott - Road To Hope (2006) and her most recent release Consonance - a collaboration with singer songwriter Wes Wingate. Hilary started her solo performance career in Seattle in 1999, but moved to Columbia, Missouri in 2000.

While Consonance was inspired by classic male / female duets of Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris (a cover of their cover of Oh Sister is included) and more recently Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Road To Hope is a solo affair.

But covers are a regular feature on both albums - Road To Hope includes Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (before X Factor spoiled it), You Electrify Me by Ruth Lee, Long Ride Home By Patty Griffin and To Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan.

Consonance though is primarily covers - Scott and Wingate contribute one song each - including The Pouges Dirty Old Town, Mama You've Been On My Mind and Oh Sister by Dylan, Come Pick Me Up - Ryan Adams, and perhaps most surprisingly, Madonna's Like A Virgin.

So, are you gonna like Hilary Scott? It depends on whether you like sparse laid back folk / country. Both albums are beautifully played, sung and performed and Consonance has a deep country duets vein.

The revelation of that set though is the stunning mandolin led cover of Like A Virgin. Slowed down to a dreamy ballad, it's a magnificent interpretation and everything a cover should be. It's worth the admission price alone.

In her own right, Hilary carries a 'southern blues rock' tag, but it's of the very soft and gentle folky variety that's going to appeal to those who appreciate the Patty Griffin school of rock.

Less overtly 'country' than Consonance, it's a set dominated by Hilary's sweet voiced soft folk /country blues. Clean cut, it's pleasant on the ear and sooths rather than grabs you by the balls. But while Hilary's got the image, the voice and the players, it's the absence of one or two real 'killer' songs that fails to make either album stand out. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

THE FLARE UP Whip’Em Hard, Whip’Em Good (Criminal)

This young band play a fast solid rock. It is very slightly punky, very slightly guitar pop, but definitely in a very hard rock way.

With twin guitar and piano the sound is bolstered on the opening tracks 'Put It In A Letter' and 'Vicious Seeds', but the sound isn’t quite as full or solid as you’d expect; it is bolstered by the energy though. The title track is more 70s indie balladic, with a nod of Mott The Hoople. A nice melody, but even with the strings it’s a little thin.

The music is chops and riff oriented, there are some decent melodies but all with an indie feel and fuzzy guitar, think a beefed up mix of any guitar pop and with a touch of Flipron, and about as many guitar solos as a Pet Shop Boys album.

This tries so hard to rock, but doesn’t quite manage it. This will more than do for the guitar pop fan who wants to rock and buy the t-shirt but not grow the hair. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

NECK Come Out Fighting!

The Irish love a fight. And often amongst themselves.

Listening to the third album by Neck - a leading force on the Irish folk / punk scene - you can't hold back the images of Horslips, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, The Chieftains and lock-ins at just about every bar up and down the Emerald Isle.

At the forefront of Celtic influenced punk, the London based 6 piece combine the traditional fiddle, tin whistle and banjo with punk electric guitars, bass and drums. It adds up to a frenetic and ferocious concoction of jigs, reels, and traditional folk songs play like you've not heard before.

It's an interesting concept because the fiddle, banjo and tin whistle are mixed up to compete with guitars, and the drums, and the bass, and the vocals into a cacophony of Irish madness.

Think The Clash jamming with The Pogues and seeing who can make the most noise and play the fastest and you won't be far wide of the mark.

Having played over 1000 festivals over 8 years and with 3 international albums under their belts, Neck are quite unique. Fronted by Liam O'Keefe - a former member of Shane MacGowan's Popes who hails from the same North London as Johnny Rotten, you begin to see the overall picture.

Add Pat Collier (Wonderstuff, Primal Scream and The Vibrators) on recording and mixing duties and you're in for one hell of a Guinness infused hammering. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

SANJURO I Want My Money Back

Quirky just about sums up this up beat debut mini album release from Sanjuro - a multi-national group of itinerants.

A five piece spawned from a mad idea to play French tunes in a tunnel located outside of a Tesco supermarket, the set does, indeed, have a distinctly Gallic feel.

Having been 'moved on' from Tesco to the London toilet-circuit, the band now includes founder members JP on viola and Pasquin on guitar and vocals with Tiberiu from Romania on accordion, Lauri from Finland on bass, and Dave from London on drums.

With roots just about everywhere across northern Europe, Sanjuro have a manic gypsy feel. A European Pogues crossed with The Coral and Bryan Ferry. And with plenty of accordion and viola thrown into the mix.

While undoubtedly proficient players, Sanjuro are either niche or novelty. That probably undersells their ability and we can no doubt expect to see them on Later with Jools Holland, where their manic mix of rock, folk, gypsy, ska punk and tango might [briefly] shine bright. **½

Review by Pete Whalley


Hmm. The name Lucky Bastardz, the title Hated For Who We Are and an album sleeve depicting a topless buxom wench in panties and heels, legs akimbo giving herself a good fingering, left me thinking this was not going to be a piece of melodic soft rock.

And how right I was. Because the 3 piece, plus vocalist Geppo, who hail from Alessandria, Italy serve their rock rough, raw, fast and dirty, in the Motorhead style. And they come out of the traps all guns balzing - Devil Come sounding like Lemmy and the boys with a molten copy of the Ace Of Spades 12 incher inserted between their cheeks.

And Hated For Who You Are hardly pauses for breath from there on in. Although At What Time - Does My Breath Stop? Showcases the band's more melodic tendencies and demonstartes,there's more to their arsenal, than just nuclear warheads. As does the acoustic jazz blues Another LBZ nite which has a strangely Depeche Mode feel to it. Those tracks apart, the band, and vocalist Geppo in particular sound as if they're about to burst a blood vessel.

Having signed to Swedmetal records the boys are looking for world domination. Woe betide anyone who gets in their way. **½

Review by Pete Whalley


'English singer songwriter backed by Sir George Martin releases debut album'.

That's quite an endorsement. By the 5th Beatle. Wow. That is, until you stand back and ask yourself 'just what are Sir George's credentials post Fab 4?'

Recorded at the Air and Abbey Road studios by, amongst other producers, Giles Martin (nothing like a bit of nepotism) who worked on the Beatles Anthology and Love albums, Dan's debut is a throwback to the early 1970's singer songwriter generation of James Taylor and Paul Simon.

In other words, it's a gentle guitar based introspective set of 10 tracks spread over a vinyl length 37 minutes. Tinged in places with subtle electronica the songs display an innocence and simplicity of some Sir Paul's solo output. Whether that's what attracted Sir George, or whether that's his influence, only Dan knows.

Naturally, it's beautifully recorded but the set as a whole lacks a commercial slant and with one exception there are no tracks that have obvious 'hit single' or 'extended airplay' potential.

The one exception is the closing track - Islands In The Blue - which has a haunting early Chris De Burgh feel. It's an obvious highlight. But as whole the album is likely to be embraced only by aficionados of the niche singer songwriter market dominated by the likes of Rufus Wainwright. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

BELIEVE The Bread Is Mine (Metal Mind )

Polish prog metal (yes really) that has a very modern feel.

It starts off slowly, and is very atmospheric. There are a lot of the quieter moments of Porcupine Tree and modern Marillion. There is a definite feel that less is more here, the keyboards back up the guitar well but gently. There are various ex members of Collage here, and the prog is in a similar vein.

The use of instruments is good, giving a range of atmospheres, but vocals and instruments alike seem to whisper at times.

Some good moments but it's all done so nicely it verges on new world / new age progressive folk. OK maybe I'm being harsh, but it is prog rock for the coffee table, or to sleep by. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

HAZY HAMLET Forging Metal

Brazilian power metal that verges on proto thrash.

The narrated intro is rather OTT, mixing Venom and Manowar - grandiose and naff. The music isn't far off either. The riffs are good, some solos, chunky rhythms, the vocals powerful, with some operatic layering and a forced feeling.

The music soon becomes a lot less Venom like (thank God) and at times the music is almost catchy. Still rough and chunky though. The mellow moments are good if a little out of place, the vocals a little too throaty or forced to be operatic.

Good, but I'd check them out online first. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

RUBY THROAT The Ventriloquist

Ruby Throat are former Queenadreena and Daisy Chainsaw singer KatieJane Garside and multi instrumentalist Chris Whittingham.

And The Ventriloquist is an evolving piece of work. The initial pressing of 500 copies sold out inside a week in 2007. The second, in 2008, was appended by 2 new songs. And now this 3rd 'edition' includes a second disc of 'extras' - an ep of 4 new songs. Which is a bit of a bugger if you've previously invested.

If that's not conventional, then nothing about The Ventriloquist is. It's an eccentric mix of English folk with an Americana blues subtext. KatieJane comes across as a hybrid of Kate Bush and PJ Harvey. In other words, 'barking' - her child like vocals eerie and haunting. It's a notion underscored by the album artwork which includes a self portrait - half woman / half fish, and a poster showing her emerging from a medieval drowning pool like witch returning from the afterworld.

KatieJane's lyrics and distinctive, sparse and breathy vocals are supplemented perfectly by the playing of Chris Whittingham. The moody ethereal set is based around gentle acoustic guitar lines, a little subtle electronica, and some lovely muted David Gilmour style slide guitar work.

It's not an album to have you rocking in the aisle, but at times is equally beautiful and unsettling. Like making love to a nymph only for her to morph into a member of the undead at the moment of climax. The Ventriloquist tests your nerve in taking you to the edge - if you're brave enough to go there. **½

Review by Pete Whalley


Paine's Promise is, in essence, a wife / husband do-it-yourself project. Veronica Hughes - a massage therapist by day, a closet rock star and guitar tutor by night - writes the lyrics, sings and plays the six string, while hubby Daniel sits behind the drum kit and helps with the songwriting. Dave Siff completes the line up on bass.

So, a three piece female fronted rock band.

And they're clearly connoisseurs. With a clear love of progressive (as opposed to 'prog') rock, there's clear Rush reference points throughout the set. In fact, the songs are one of the strongest features of Modius - well constructed with plenty of time changes etc to keep any fan of decent rock music engaged.

But thereafter it all begins to fall a bit short of the mark. The recording and production are pretty flat - the album's clearly been put together on a budget, and in truth Veronica's vocals only just pass muster. The same is true of her guitar playing - as a riff and rhythm player she can hold her own, but the material cries out for some rip snorting guitar breaks.

Which is all a great shame and adds up to a missed opportunity. Get the songwriting right - and they have - and the rest can all be 'fixed' in the studio with a little production magic and a hired gun. So, great potential. But Mobius dates back to 2005, let's hope the band's next release can build on these very solid foundation. **½

Review by Pete Whalley


Described as 'industrial rock' with a gothic twist, I'm not sure about Lahannya.

Based around Lahannya - a singer, songwriter, performer and DJ, the full band line up includes Lutz Demmler on bass, Belle on drums and Chris Milden on guitar.

And Defiance, the band's second album is a concept album set against the backdrop of a surveillance society where the non conformists has been banished to live in London Underground tunnels. Sound familiar? Terminator, We Will Rock You?

The ostracized resistance leader is wracked with guilt at his participation in creating this future world hell. Sound familiar? Terminator 2? Anyway, what goes around comes around …

Another feature of the 'project' is the artwork of graphic designer and comic artist John Masse who has illustrated multiple Necromancer game titles.

So it all adds up to a somewhat stereotyped product. And as for the music, well its good solid rock, pop and power metal. Well produced, well played and well put together. But somehow, and I can't quite put my finger on it, it's soulless, and somewhat contrived.

Designed to be all things to all men - spotty youths glued to their games consoles and Dad's who like a hottie in tight black leather and Terminator style story lines.

So, great image, great sound, but a little too formulated for my taste. **½

Review by Pete Whalley


Extreme metal, screamed vocals, and small text in an extremely hard to read booklet (and I wasn't provided with an inlay or press release. No I couldn't be cheered up by the free sew on patch.

Oh you want more? OK then.

The album kicks off with 'Sedated Morning', a solid if noise extreme track, and the vocals are forced and verge on screams at best. These vaguely coherent noises are punctuated by high pitched screams that sound like a witch sent to hell via a painful route, or a cat not anaesthetised during spaying.

'My Haven' is even more extreme, some of the growls pretty deep. Yes you need a haven after listening to this.

The music is VERY brutal, ear ache inducing, but not quite monotonic. Some neat guitar work, a good solo intro to 'Disfigured Beauty' but does get very tiresome. The only track I experienced with half decent vocals and they were shortlived. Even the more coherent vocals are a little tiresome and noisy, why punctuate it with such screams and/or growls.

Extremely metal, extremely noisy, extremely no.

I make no excuses for not even trying to get to the end of the CD. I'd rather feel my body explode during circuit training at the gym, which is where I'm going now.  **

Review by Joe Geesin


Just from the black and white packaging adorned by barbed wire and words like 'persecution, genocide, homophobia, fascism, racism and intolerance' you know this isn't going to be a couple of sweet strawberry blondes singing poppy love songs.

No. Nothing of the sort. These Strawberry Blondes are three nut jobs from Newport - Mickie Stabbs (vocals / guitar), Benji Riot (bass vocals) and Jay Rebel (drums). Three guys stuck in a punk time warp with Ten Pole Tudor.

It's as if time has stood still since punk exploded in the mid 1970s, with a barrage of 15 explosive rabble rousing anthems that add the occasional drop or two of reggae (a la The Clash / The Specials) when the pandemonium briefly subsides (which isn't often).

Fight Back is for angry people with a chip on their shoulder who want to drink a lot, shout a lot, throw beer over each other and generally have a riot. Not one for listening to in the arm chair after a hard day at work with a gin and tonic, but if you want to re-live those days of punk madness and make a mess of yourself down the local pogo pit...

Strawberry Blonde won't be most people's cup of flem, but full marks for doing what they want to do and having a damn fine time doing it. They really do bring memories of that sweaty, riotous punk wave come flooding back. Ah, salad days. **

Review by Pete Whalley

DESPITE In Your Despite

From the opening bars you know you are in for something brutal, with fast and brutal guitars and drums. Ok I think, not too bad for thrash. Then the throat comes in. I say throat because that's what's listed on the CD, and to call it singing would be an outright light. An elephant defecating napalm through a cheese grater would be more apt.

Halfway through the first song the vocals almost become coherent, but then you're back in the gravel pit.

'Beast In The Gags' does start off with some good guitar work, a decent riff, but the screams and grunts sound muffled, that isn't vocals, it's just a noise. A painful noise.

The intro to 'Mechantical' starts off a slow build up in a nice way, keyboards, could be prog, but then in comes the programming, and the distortion is muffled, a very odd mix. This leads into 'Grehate' and you're back to the cheese grater thrash.

I would say that listening to this is akin to dipping one's testicles into sandpaper, then vinegar, then a cement mixer full of broken glass, and screaming through a muslin sack, but I think the ‘singer' beat me to it. Ruins the rest of it, even the half decent moments.

Review by Joe Geesin


It is a bit bad when you have to Google an album title to find out who on earth has released it!?

Right! That's it, I've got to moan. Black metal is old, tired, and not fun and no where near original anymore. It's not fashionable and it is certainly not meaningful. Not only do these bands have to use logos that cannot be read or understood (especially this one), but they also have to follow suit of the boring 'Cradle of Filth'. There's a reason why crowds throw bottles of urine at you; get a life god dammit!

So, now you have an insight on how this album has made me feel. Bored and angry, simple as. Your usual un-rhythmic nonsense, vocals that might as well be in gibberish and a poor attempt of a drum machine that just continuously drones on in the same speed. I can't even tell if the language spoken is English, German, or whatever; but hey who cares.

Screaming, low gruff vocals, silly gothic keyboards and no temp changes, one hell of a frustrated Yawn! Listen to any Black Metal album and you will get my drift of what this sound is all about.

Do not waste your hard earned cash on this album, spend it wisely and buy a Take That CD instead (yes, that is pure sarcasm).

Sorry, but in Simon Cowell's world "You just..don't have it".

Review by Fluffmeister


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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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