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

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

MANSTRAND Hell With The King

Led by vocalist / guitarist Carl Manstrand, this is as heavy and fast as trad metal can get without being extreme in any way.

Opening track 'Come On' is catchy, blistering, and pretty damn enjoyable. Carl Manstrand lists his influences as diverse as Sabbath, Zeppelin, Blackmore to Savoy Brown, ZZ Top, The Sweet, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

'Classica' sounds like a Sabbath / punk pop crossover band playing a doomy classical piece. Yes, really.

Other tracks are a little grungier, and 'Demon Fighters' nods at Judas Priest too.

Really Really worth a listen. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

TAKING DAWN Time To Burn (Roadrunner Records)

Blistering hard rock, modern sensibilities, roots in classic 80s metal.

Twin lead guitar, mixing shredded solos and riffs galore, and big sounding sleazy vocals that the press release quite rightly say could have come from Sebastian Bach's kid brother.

As I go through the CD, I definitely get the 80s feel, from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest up to big hair FM metal, all given a modern roughing up without any alternative or extreme touches. Some big choruses and even bigger guitar sounds make for an enjoyably deafening metal album.  ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

VARIOUS Bristol The Punk Explosion
(Bristol Archive Records)

When you think of the punk explosion, London springs to mind. Bristol? Perhaps not, but they had their own scene and it is well documented across the 20 tracks here.

The Corninas open proceedings with a high tempo guitar riff, noise and touch of pub rock and rock'n'roll. The Pigs' 'National Front' is bit more jangly, and not the most politically correct theme either.

From the pub rock roots and Mod influences, there's many a jumpy, high octane track here. Earthy DIY production, there are bands here who make the Sex Pistols sound commercial.

Other bands on show include Social Security, Vice Squad, Chaos UK, The Undead, Court Martial and The Primates, amongst others. And the set finishes with Onslaught, while they were still a hardcore punk band (trust me, this is very hardcore). 'Thermo Nuclear Devastation Of The Planet Earth' a great song title too.

Seven tracks previously unreleased, 20 tracks in all (mainly dating 1977-83), a great intro to the scene and one for punk collectors too.  ***½

Review by Joe Geesin


A very young band this, where the oldest is 17. The four piece play twin guitar lead alternative rock. There are strong elements of classic hard rock and softer pop/rock, this 8 track features some good work.

At times, the production and guitar work are minimal, but the work well and the fuzz on the bass sounds good too. The overall approach is basic but well written, with some good riffs and melodies.

Some great young talent that we'll no doubt hear a lot more of. Watch this space.  ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

BIG BALL Hotter Than Hell (AFM Records)

Do you prefer your balls big, hot and crunchy? Then these balls are for you.

Is there a college somewhere in the world that has a course called 'AC/DC 101?' If so, then Big Ball obviously took the course and got an A+. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. There's not enough music like this in today's market for my tastes, so this is a welcome change.

The thing I can't past with Big Ball is the same thing that bugs me about AC/DC; the vocals. I don't care for the vocals on this, and I've never cared for Brian Johnson either. Give me Bon Scott any day of the week.

Definitely some nods to the Gods here. The band is called Big Ball, AC/DC has a song called Big Balls. The album is titled 'Hotter Than Hell.' Seems like some other famous rock band had an album by that title around '74 or so.

Any one of the 13 tracks on this album would fit perfectly on any given AC/DC record. So if you're hungry for some Angus styled rockin' pick this one up. If you're not a fan of the boys from down under, this is not one for your collection. ***½

Review by Gary Richie

LEGACY Legacy (Eonian Records)

Just when you thought it was safe to file your last 80s hair metal track, along comes some unfamiliar 'lost' work. Legacy formed in 1987 and they are now getting another airing on the self-styled 'world's premier hard rock and metal archive label'. This appears to be a compilation of the band's recordings made between 1988 and 1990.

Why this band never captured a wider audience is probably more down to circumstance or - more likely - there was stiff competition at the time. Now that there is warmer regard for this period of rock, we can evaluate the album in the light of their more heavyweight rivals. And whilst not terrible, the songs here aren't that strong and the whole lacks any true spark of originality.

At times, though, this does evoke happy memories of early MTV and the glory days of bands like Dokken and Christian metallers Stryper whom the band cite as influences. ***

Review by David Randall

EDGEHILL AVENUE Off The Edge - Live At The Highlands Festival

Second album, and a strong 70s feel. The press releases lists The Black Crowes, Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers and Bruce Springsteen, and I pretty much agree with that.

Opening track 'Just Another Day' (already a radio hit) mixes southern rock with Americana; both great styles in their own right, but here they mix and water each other down, giving an MOR feel.

'Rambler' is a slow bluesier number, with honest dirty vocals and some excellent guitar work. Again some good stuff, but the organ chords (rather than any intricate playing) do add to that MOR sound.

Music you can sit back in the sun and sip whiskey to. Personally I would prefer more rock'n'roll, but it's pretty good all the same.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

PRESSGANG  Outlandish

Who are they? A four piece who take an 'alternative' approach to folk. Formed in 1986, the band quickly became regulars on the indie folk circuit, turning professional following a successful European tour in 1989. Six albums and gigs in over 12 countries followed before the band was put on ice in 2000.

What's it like? Think of the more folkly aspects of Jethro Tull, or the more rocky side of Steeleye Span and then imagine them being interpreted by a band with the combined attitude of Lemmy, John Lydon, Ozzy and Bob Geldof.

In other words, mayhem. And while the reformed original line up of Pressgang may sound nothing like these rock luminaries, they do play with a passion and rock orientated style that adds a unique slant to these nine medieval and traditional ballads (three of which are re-recorded new arrangements of songs on the band's first album).

Should I buy? Never less than entertaining, Outlandish is most likely to be a post gig purchase and it's certainly a well played talking point. As for longevity, I have my doubts. But for that moment in time it will have your toes tapping and a smile on your face. File next to Sergeant Buzfuz. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MAD LEE RIOT Terror Incognito

Best described as a cross between grunge and indie rock, this high tempo set is choc full of riffs, jangly guitar and vocal harmonies. Just don't expect too much of a melody.

The bass is heavy, fuzzy and riff-tastic. A cover of 'Toxic' is grungy, slow and has a drone feel.

There's a strong touch of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and QotS, and I think you really need to be into that to appreciate this. Good, but it didn't grab me in any way.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

THUNDERBIRD MOTELRockIt Til The Wheels Fall Off

Lo-fi garage metal from Seattle, with strong influences from the 70s (Who, Led Zeppelin), and late 80s AC/DC / GnR. That said, the music is 90s grunge with indie thrown in. Repetitive riffs, fuzzy dirty gritty sounds, and the odd spoonful of rock'n'roll.

If you like your grunge and garage metal with a mouth full of dirt and a hint of classic rock, you'll love this.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

SINITH HALL Synesthetic Perceptions

No press release so I can't tell you much about the band, but the album opens in symphonic power metal style, building nicely, before the extreme metal comes in.

Heavy riffs, machine-gun drums, and vocals that occasionally sound like vocals but are largely growls and throat.

'Dream Sequence' opens with piano and noises, with whispered/narrated vocals, an atmospheric change of pace, before the extreme comes in again. Some good guitar work stands out at times.

If there is such a thing, this could be best described as symphonic thrash. Worth a listen.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

HAKEN Aquarius

Debut album from this progressive/jazz metal band, which kicks off with a lengthy number that is very much in the 90s King Crimson mould (circa Thrak). There are many virtuoso moments, some with an orchestral or operatic nod.

The second track adds the odd Acoustic feel in places, and early Genesis and Marillion in others. Some good touches but we could do without the segment with dark deep death-metal style vocals.

Other tracks build slowly, with atmosphere, with keyboards, guitars and effects fading into each other. Elsewhere it gets a little noodly too. Touches of Eloy in places, only much heavier.

Some decent prog metal, but at times the music is a little jumpy, disjointed, and the vocals are occasionally rather harsh too. Worth a listen though. Several lengthy numbers do prog metal justice.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin


Modern hard rock from this Illinois based band. Solid melodic pop/rock guitar that gets fuzzy and dirty, and clear clean vocals.

From the outset there is a singer/songwriter feel, from a band playing it hard rock style. A serious nod to the 90s, and the occasional nod to The Storys. Solid but not pounding, it's pretty smooth, and a nice alternative to the current plethora of indie/guitar pop bands.

Melodic and easily approachable, the songs are well written, the solos well presented. At times the guitar and vocals are searing.

Enjoyable and midweight.  ***

Review by Joe Geesin

A J UNITY Sweet Roses

Who are they?
London based musicians Naomi Suzuki and Philip M Moll. Naomi is a Japanese actress (she appeared next to Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary), presenter (MC of Japan Festival In The UK and Japanese FM radio) and singer songwriter. And Philip is a bass for hire (who's played with the likes of Simply Red, Morcheeba, Jamie Cullum, KD Lang and many more), producer and entrepreneur.

What are they like? Their mantra is 'fusion is harmony' based on a philosophy of thinking outside the box, and freedom of expression. What that amounts to in musical terms is eight free flowing chill out pieces built around Namomi's sweet vocals, delicate keys, guitars and violin. It has a soundtrack / soundscape feel reminiscent of Imogen Heap's more surrealistic moments.

Should I Buy? If you want to see what happens when cultures clash in an idealistic, experimental and artistic way, and Imogen Heap gets your juices flowing, you won't be disappointed. Music to meditate to. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

CLONECIRCLE Behind The Wire MSM Productions (2010)

Tagged as a industrial/gothic metal band with Korn cited as an influence this Danish band sound more like they want to be a Paradise Lost tribute band! It is well played and produced of that there is no doubt but the songs don't entice the listener back in. Being brutal it has all been done before and much better as well.

Worth downloading are the title track and 'Your Own Worst Enemy', otherwise stick on your Paradise Lost CD's as they are what this band wants to be. **½

Review by Jason Ritchie

SUNROAD Long Gone (Oxigenio Records)

Modern heavy metal that is very hard, with lots of technical yet heavy guitar. A range of styles intertwined doesn't always make for smooth listening, it's not easy to pin the music down.

This is the sixth release from this Brazilian band, they have many Christian influences / tones, and in places a nod to Van Halen.

What I found hard about this is that it's actually pretty good, mainstream if a little rough, yet I just couldn't get into it. Some good guitar work, but nothing grabbed me.  **½

Review by Joe Geesin

ELOA VADAATH A Bare Reminiscence of Infected Wonderlands (West Witch Records)

An odd mix this, very odd. It's certainly different.

After the slow intro, that builds without actually going anywhere, before a brutal extreme metal comes in. Thing is, the music is largely power metal with operatic/classical touches, but the vocals are more extreme. Grunts, growls, screams, over operatic power metal (even the lighter bits).

'The Navidson Record' has an acoustic segment with whispered vocals, before the power chords and strangled cat vocals come in.

The music, although on the heavy side, is largely outstanding. Plenty of shred, classical runs, the works. But the brutality and vocals let it down.

The bastard son of Napalm Death and Rhapsody Of Fire. Enter at your own risk.  **½

Review by Joe Geesin

STAIRWAY Interregnum (2010)

This is this UK band's fifth album and they play 80's flavoured NWOBHM with a strong Christian lyric. It is well played and the sound is good, although I doubt you'd play this very often as there are better bands out there playing this style of metal.

You often get albums like this, there is nothing bad about them music or playing wise but you are hardly desperate to play it again anytime soon. They do however have an ace up their sleeve in the cover artwork as it was done by famed artist Rodney Matthews.  **½

Review by Jason Ritchie


Second album from this group of young Welsh rockers who follow in footsteps of fellow Welsh band Lostprophets, although truth be told Kids In Glass Houses have some way to emulate that band's success and sound.

Fair play to this band as they have tried a few new ideas on this album, some work like roping in Frankie Sandford of the Saturdays for the enjoyable 'Underover Lover'.

Others however fall wide of the mark, like hooking up with US dunderheads New Found Glory on the instantly forgettable 'Maybe Tomorrow'. The opener 'Artbreaker 1' (see the pun there?) is another one to skip, just a shouty mess.

They will have their fans and good luck to them but give me Biffy Clyro or Lostprophets any day of the week... **½

Review by Jason Ritchie

MARK SWEENEY All In (Pie Music)

Second solo from singer Mark Sweeney, with a host of guest musicians, and produced by Michael Voss who also plays on the album.

The first two tracks are very alternative, a little jangly; could be an even mix of hard rock and guitar pop. 'Still Alive' is lighter, and sounds quite programmed (a sound that's in the background of several other songs). Later on there are some decent more traditional hard rock moments, which I wish the band would stick to, as some of the guitar work and vocal harmonies do stand out.

Guests include Robin Beck, Bruce Kulick (Kiss), Stefan Kaufman (Accept) and Offspring's Pearl (apparently comparable to Mariah Carey - ULP!!) on a power pop ballad.

Track to listen to: 'Give Me A Sign', the stand out trad rocker.

Some excellent moments, but too much is passable. If this is 'The sound of rock for 2010' as the press release tells us, I'm going back to the 80s and staying there.  **½

Review by Joe Geesin

(Pangea Recordings)

I think I am in hell, because this is brutal and noisy grindcore.

Although this a lot more melodic than Napalm Death (not difficult), this is machine gun punk metal with cement mixer vocals. There's plenty of room for a riff or two, but certainly no room for solos in this high tempo set. 15 tracks that run to less than half an hour, it's very much in-your-face and deafening.

If grindcore can be melodic (an oxymoron I know) then this is as close as it gets. Like finding a tune in the roadworks.  **

Review by Joe Geesin


Who is he?
Front man for the Australian 'classic' rock group Sharp Practice. Face is his second solo album, a follow up to his 2007 debut Americana album Book Of Days.

What's it like? Sorry, but to my mind it's like a poor karaoke attempt at post Dire Straights, Mark Knopfler territory but without any nifty fretwork. In other words, it's a nasally Dylan/Knopfler style vocal delivery of a dozen laid back, and at times cheesy, acoustic based folk numbers.

Should I Buy?
John Illsley's excellent Streets Of Heaven shows to perfection how less can be more in this part of the marketplace. In the case of Face, it's simply dire. *½

Review by Pete Whalley

TRACE Under Cover

Who is it?
Trace is an electronic project by David Impey - a composer and producer with a track record in soundtrack production for corporate clients and TV advertising. Influenced by the likes of Mike Oldfield, Brian Eno and Steve Reich, it's a chill-out electronica reworking of Tubular Bells - Part 1, an interpretation of George Winston's September - Colors / Dance, and The Neighbours Complain - a piece written by his father as a showpiece for the drummer in a 1940s big band.

What's it like? Some things - like Tubular Bells - are things of beauty that should only be tackled by their composer. Trace's reworking is a hideous cacophony and abomination. Colors / Dance fares marginally better - electronic meanderings over a backbeat that after a while begins to gnaw at your sub consciousness like a rat gnawing at rotting flesh. And as for The Neighbours Complain, they would if you played it at any volume - it sounds like an extended Michael Jackson remix - without the vocals.

Should I Buy? Best kept under, or in the cover, Under Cover is self indulgent tosh. Which probably qualifies it for a Brit nomination. *

Review by Pete Whalley


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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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