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SAPPHIRE EYES

“Breath of Ages”

Album Review by Ryan Dainty

Welcome to another slice of Swedish AOR/Melodic Rock! It seems very little time goes by without Sweden/Scandinavia producing more and more melodic musical greatness and this release is no exception let me tell you. I need to be careful here and of course tip my hat to the vocal qualities of the man on vocals Kimmo Blom who is in fact from Finland but only next door geographically.

So, ‘Breath of Ages’ the second and much anticipated album from Sapphire Eyes recently landed internationally in September this year and is somewhat of a supergroup project with many protagonists in collaboration making this a very approachable, easy to listen to set of songs.

It kicks off with ‘My Desire’ which leads me to hearing the intro on keyboards akin to Rick Springfields ‘Affair of the Heart’, the comparison ends there however and it is hard not to get hooked on this one from the get go as the melodies are just infectious. Now unlike the self-titled debut where the plan was to use multi vocalists this album has used just one in the guise of Kimmo whose pedigree comes from being the lead vocalist of Urban Tale and Heartplay both from his native Finland, his overall vocal versatility has enhanced this release and taken the sound on even further from their debut. The line-up consists of Emil Knabe – Guitars, Mikey K Nilsson – Guitars, Christer Engholm – Bass, Fredrik Eriksson – Drums and finally Niclas Olsson on Keyboards, who also produced and mixed the album. There also a host of guest musicians, most notably Anette Olzon ex vocalist of Nightwish fame. She duets on two versions of the song ‘I won’t leave with a lie’ which sits in the middle of the release as a ballad then as a bonus track at the end which is the rock version, the latter my preferred listen but the former is still a good track nonetheless but edging more towards the Pop styling of things.

In summation the overall formula and sound of ‘Breath of Ages’ is not anything new in the execution of sound, but it does deliver in the sense of a clean, crisp sounding production with the right mix of guitars, keys and well delivered vocals. If I were to make my pick of songs they would be, ‘My Desire’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Alone’, ‘Never Again’ and ‘Maybe’. It’s an extremely catchy affair and a must for fans of AOR/Melodic rock as the sound is very reminiscent of 80’s material, which is no bad thing of course as most fans of the genre long for the old days. With new offerings like this one and with new bands emerging on the scene all the time there is surely plenty to keep all fans of the genre satisfied for some time to come. 

This for me is a solid 8/10 with I’m sure, more to come from Sapphire Eyes.

RD

EVIL SCARECROW

Chapter IV: Antartarctia

Album Review by Nicholas Ross


This is Evil Scarecrow’s fourth studio album and it is packed with a wild mix of songs. Songs about aliens and time travel are just some of the quirky things on offer here. The album contains some really catchy songs that will have you humming along by the second listen. The album, while a metal album, features riffs that wouldn’t seem out of place in classic rock songs as well as orchestral accompaniments and synthesizers that add an 80s vibe to the songs at points. These combinations make the album quite unique to listen to and at times it reminds me of a cross between the bands Ghost and Avatar.

The album starts really strong with ‘Skulls of Our Enemies” – a song which features chunky, distorted guitar riffs and a sing along chorus before moving onto the second track, ‘Red Riding Hood’, a song which revolves around a really punchy bass guitar riff and extremely fast drumming. These opening tracks immediately hooked me and had me nodding my head along to the frantic instrumental playing they displayed. The album overall is a very technically proficient work with high tempo guitar solos (Red Riding Hood in particular) and rapid drum beats backed up by interesting synthesizer accompaniments. I did find however that at points the bass was not always very easy to hear in the mix as it sometimes was completely pushed out of the way by the drums and electric guitars. The vocals contained a mix of clean, hard rock style singing and heavier growls typically found in very heavy forms of metal and these varying vocals helped make the songs flow quite well and transition into each other effectively.

This album is very theatrical and just by listening you can tell that the band want to tell stories with their music, albeit very strange stories. In a way it reminds me of Power metal and Progressive music because of the technically impressive compositions and fantasy lyrics. I would say that this album differs from these styles slightly as it is more accessible for people who don’t listen to those genres as at points the album goes from a hard rock sound, to a more laid-back pop sound. I think that this means that most people would be able to listen to this album and enjoy the dramatic flair that the band have regardless of their usual musical tastes.

I would say that this album is definitely worth having a listen to with the highlights being the tracks: ‘Skulls of Our Enemies’, ‘The Magician’ and ‘Hurricanado’. After an interesting album like this, Dr Hell (vocals) and the rest of this Nottingham situated band are sure to attract more attention to their eclectic mix of heavy metal, science fiction and wacky humor. It will be interesting to see how they develop their sound further after this release.

NR


BLITZ

‘BlitZ’

Album Review by

Graeme McAlister

BlitZ are an unsigned 3-piece from Nottingham playing straight forward, no frills, ‘80s influenced rock. Citing Kiss, AC/DC, ‪Metallica‬ and Queen amongst their influences, their sound is closer to the party end of the spectrum. While lacking the sheen and soaring vocal ranges often favoured by melodic rock labels, Stuart Corden‘s rough and lived-in vocals draw the listener in, offering something different to the competition and invite further listening.

Thematically, some listeners might find the ‘rock’ focus of some of the songs a bit clichéd (‘Rock Me’ and ‘Born to Rock’), but it‘s clear that the band know how to write catchy, riff-driven rock with big and memorable choruses, and their powerful, full sound belies their 3-piece status. Stand-out tracks include ‘Falling Down’, ‘Only the Strong Survive’ and ’99 Ways’ which you may find yourself singing along with after only a couple of listens.

Worth checking out if you like solid ‘80s-style rock a little rougher around the edges.

Album available for streaming or download on Bandcamp.

GMcA

THOSE DAMN CROWS

‘Murder And The Motive’

Album Review by Ryan Dainty

Hailing from Bridgend, Wales the pathway is set and these guys are looking like they will follow the same level of trajectory as other successful bands from the Celtic nation. Most current fans will be familiar with some of the tracks on this release but there will be many new fans out there getting their first taste of Those Damn Crows and this is the time to indulge.

From the moment ‘Don’t Give a Damn’ blasts out with it’s heavy, crunchy, riff laden sound it is impossible not to be hooked and the sentiment is clear, “talk all you like, think what you want of me”. They just want to write and play their songs, if you like them, then great, if you don’t so what and move on! ‘Blink of An Eye’ follows on from the opener and vocalist Shane Greenhall takes on shades of Eddie Vedder and Layne Stayley of Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains respectively. My god this guy has a great voice and the chorus is such that you cannot help to sing along, “you gotta hit the lows to feel the highs” and if the lows have been hit the only way is highs for these guys now. If you haven’t already checked out the piano led version of Shane playing solo on YouTube you need to. If it could it probably should have been included on the album as an extra track to pay testament to Shane’s softer vocal range and obvious capability and offer up a more gentler side to the heady riffs and energy of the album, no people I’m not screaming for a ballad here!

‘Someone Someday’ follows on and gives me the initial feeling of Bush and Gavin Rossdale but don’t be fooled by thinking this is pandering to the post grunge genre, this is a solid, contemporary slice of modern Hard Rock that stands by itself but will always have the obvious comparisons to bands that have been around for a while and the relative newcomers, whether that be Alter Bridge, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam or Stone Broken, you get the idea!

Having caught them live recently at the Kentish Town Forum the next track ‘Rock And Roll Ain’t Dead’ just works on every level live, the message is clear and audience involvement was plain to see, it’s not dead, it’s not sleeping it’s alive and well and lives in this anthemic song.

‘Behind These Walls’, ‘Say It’ and ‘Seven days’ are up next and Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas and David Winchurch show their shredding capabilities with some serious breakdowns and string bending precision, my pick of the three was the angry, attitude driven ‘Say It’, words that most people can relate to if they possess the kahunas!

For me, if I am honest the latter part of the release feels like it is repeating itself in regards the musical direction and overall sound, don’t get me wrong the songs are not bad and ‘Breakaway’ has got a great chorus again with some solid playing and it is here that I mention Lloyd Wood on Bass and the drumming of Ronnie Huxford. I was left wanting just a little more, when played live it all works and believe me the live show is a non-stop, guitar chugging, exhilarating experience. The need for a change of pace on the release from the overall sound would have been a welcome addition and may have been where the alternate version of ‘Blink of An Eye’ would have gone some way to diversifying proceedings.

Now not being a ‘fanboy’ I did not wish to come at this without a certain level of constructive critique. Overall, I would have liked to hear a broader sound in the approach to the overall musical direction of the tracks and whether you view this as NWOCR/Hard Rock/Metal/Post Grunge or whatever label you want to slap on it, that little extra edge of an alternative track you were not expecting could have taken this release to another level for me. However, with all that said, it is abundantly clear that these guys are destined for bigger things and the headline shows are there for the taking and with future dates set with Earache labelmates Massive Wagons their fanbase will only get bigger from here on in.

RD


WARD XVI

The Art of Manipulation

Album Review by Fiona West


When the gates of Whittingham asylum were opened it gave a chance for the UKs most dangerous criminal, serial killer; "Psychoberrie"

held in Ward XVI to tell the tales of her murderous past that she lived with her former partner before his own decapitation. She is assisted by fellow inmate and medical staff to unravel these gruesome tales though a theatrical mix of punk rock and metal riffs with a little bit of electro tossed in there as well.

In honesty this band were new to me, but after listening to every EP, single and song on their new album they have the ability and talent to make it far in the music industry. In 2015 the band released their first EP which set them off, leading us to here, the release of their very first and I’ll be first to say it here...awesome 16 track album titled "The Art of Manipulation"

Being a horror nerd, listening to this album took my mind on a journey of gore and deceit, being able to write a song that tells a story like that is a true talent this band holds with each and every song. The album starts off with what sounds like a dictaphone rolling and the voice of what can only be described as a psychiatrist straight out of a horror film talking to a female patient. Sets the album off perfectly.

This album has three interludes each giving more and more insight into the characters of this album and its theatrical background, interlude one gives us an insight into the lead female Psychoberrie's state of mind, interlude two of the album elaborates even more and depicts the reason this album is called “The Art of Manipulation” and interlude three reveals that we have a serial killer here with us.

Track three, the title track of the album ‘The Art of Manipulation’ starts off in an almost chilled out fashion before chaos erupts with heavy power based riffs. One of the bands self stated influences are Alice Cooper the track ‘Crystal Ball’ is one where you can hear that influence shine through and after a few listens you can pick out the clever use of percussion in this particular track to give off that eerie serial killer that stores bones in her wardrobe vibe.

‘Toy Box’ is another that stands out with its electro beats and almost carnival like track it depicts a story of torture and mental abuse "so we slit a few throats, cut off fingers and toes" is probably one of the catchiest lines I've heard.

Another on this album of pure Manipulation is ‘Blackened Heart’ listening to this you automatically start head banging along to the beat and air guitaring at the catchy metal riffs, this song has lead singer Psychoberrie's vocals that are chilling and blend in perfectly with the atmospheric melody behind her. This track gives off an almost pop punk vibe and gives anyone listening while driving that chance for a motorway solo moment.

‘Adrenochromania’ a word that took me several attempts to pronounce and for once my useless nurse knowledge came in handy. Adrenochrome is the oxidation of adrenaline which can have adverse reactions such as psychotic episodes including disordered thinking and euphoria or hallucinations. This track uses quiet backing vocals which gave the effect of hearing voices in keeping with the albums theme. The warping vocals and clashing guitar give that hallucinating response as well.

Over all I would highly recommend this band and album, part of me is disappointed there's not a movie to go along with this as the story like is gripping and well displayed through clever guitar work and eerie vocals, I can only imagine how this would be portrayed on stage with the addition of theatrics and props. Part of me at the end of listening to this feels like I was part of it and have been locked up myself. I look forward to hearing or seeing more of these guys!

FW


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BAD TOUCH

“Shake a Leg”

Album review by

Graeme McAlister

Thanks to Rockfiend for welcoming me to the Team and inviting me to review this album from rising stars of British rock, Bad Touch. Writing honestly, I came late to their debut album, ‘Half Way Home’, via their second album, ‘Truth Be Told’, and stand-out track ‘99%’ which hinted at the promise to follow. ‘Shake a Leg’, their third album, shows a band growing in confidence and maturity, and delivers an album which grows on you with each listen as the choruses implant themselves in your memory. For anyone who likes Skin and Little Caesar, this album has much to offer and also encapsulates the contradiction in terms offered by the tight looseness of the Black Crowes. Backed by a solid rhythm section of George Drewry on drums, Michael Bailey on bass and Daniel Seekings on rhythm guitar, Rob Glendinning weaves his lead guitar and Stevie Westwood on soulful vocals lifts this above the pack and establishes Bad Touch as a band to be watched. From the feel good opener of ‘Lift Your Head Up’, through ‘Too Many Times’ (which induced bad dancing on the part of this reviewer), the anthemic ‘Skyman’, the slower pace ‘I Belong’, to the whiskey-soaked, late night closing track, ‘Bury Me’, this offers something for all lovers of classic and Southern-tinged, bluesy rock. Catch them now on their 19 date UK headlining tour, with special guests Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics and Daxx & Roxane, before they progress to playing bigger venues. You will not be disappointed.

GMcA

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 17 Crash

‘Hit the Prey’

Album Review by Ryan Dainty

17 Crash began life back in 2011 and released their debut album ‘Reading Your Dirty Minds’ in 2015 which if I’m honest is one that had initially passed me by but having listened to it I have now rectified that situation so I move swiftly on to their sophomore release and find an album by a band that have grown in style and substance since then. They are clearly displaying the traits required for a melodic hard rock band with the obvious influences that they cite themselves being Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and L.A Guns, the latter a source for the band’s name from the L.A guns song of the same name. ‘Lies’ the opener is a feel good, melodic track that defies you not to nod your head to the beat and look forward to the next tune. ‘Can’t Touch’ for me is where the G n R influence kick in as vocalist Ros Crash has clearly been seduced by Axl Rose on this one – just listen to ‘You Could Be Mine’ and you may notice the similarities in sound and style, for me there also seems to be a vocal similarity to Michael Kiske of Helloween harking back to the 80’s and their song, ‘I Want Out’ with the theatrical approach to the longer held notes by Ros. ‘Don’t You Break My Life’ is another infectious tune which has all the feeling of the best melodic tunes the 80’s had to offer and has me hitting the repeat button.

As all good bands should (in my opinion) 17 Crash have included a ballad to test their softer side and they have found it in the shape of ‘In The Eyes of a Woman’ a borderline power ballad with melodious backing vocals which will satiate the need for a slow tempo number by the listener.

‘Dead City’ incorporates some good changes in tempo as well as a certain groove and has influences of Poison, Warrant and Danger Danger at least musically and rolls along nicely. The title track ‘Hit the Prey’ rounds off the release and has a touch of Crazy Lixx and Scandinavian bands about it and although the lyrics for me are maybe slightly awry in respect of the actual subject matter, this actually may be down to translation and hey these guys do a great job of singing English which fares better than my Italian! That said it works and is a catchy song as musically these guys can play and this is a competent album with decent enough production, not ground breaking at this point but heading in the right direction and I look forward to hearing more from these guys.

RD