Nick van der Meulen gives us a round-up of some key new releases…
DIO – Dream Evil Deluxe Edition (Universal)
Originally released in 1987, this was my real introduction to Dio. It was harsh, yet romantic and I couldn’t help falling in love with it. It finally gets the remaster treatment as a Deluxe Edition.
The drawback of this release is the fact that you’ll have all barring a single track on the second disc, as it has been recently released in his “Live in Donington” work. Nonetheless, the remaster is good and if you enjoyed the album the first time around, chances are you’ll be buying this. The liner notes and booklet are interesting to peruse and the digipak gives it a limited edition feel to it.
For those of you who have yet to sample Dio or have yet to hear this album, this is essential. For fans of the album the first time around, buy this again. I did. *****
MY ENDLESS WISHES – S/T (Doolittle Group)
My Endless Wishes is a Swedish outfit formed in 2005 by husband and wife, Martin and Frida Viberg. While they released a nine-track demo in 2009, this work is their debut release, after catching the eye of Christian Liljegren (who else?).
The band cites their influences as Nightwish, Within Temptation and Evanescence – and that’s exactly what you get with a melodic modern rock sound. The music is generally upbeat and the lyrics have a positive disposition, which is something Doolittle Group is gaining a reputation for upholding.
If you have a penchant for female fronted melodic hard rock, you can do far worse than this. Recommended listening. ****
BRYAN FERRY ORCHESTRA – The Jazz Age (EMI)
It’s barely been a year and Bryan Ferry returns with another twist in this long career. At least, one did not have to wait five years or more…
Why Bryan Ferry Orchestra? Simple. Mr Ferry recruits a jazz orchestra to perform 20’s-sounding jazz renditions of Roxy Music and solo songs. He takes the matter even further: he “directs” it and does not sing on ANY of the songs! “Whaat??!” I hear you cry? Fear not, though, for if you liked “As time goes by”, you’re going to love this. Even if you don’t enjoy jazz at all, you will have to admit that this is superbly performed with lots of character.
It’s times like this when one realises Bryan Ferry is one classy musician. Brilliant. *****
SAFFIRE – From Ashes To Fire (Inner Wound Recordings)
Saffire was formed by Victor Olsson and Dino Zuzic in Gothenburg in 2006. The duo had played together in a funk rock band previously, but wanted to explore a heavier route. The band has become well known for their live performances and managed to record three demo’s in between their gigging. “From Ashes To Fire” is the outfit’s debut release.
The music on this work ranges from progressive metal with crunching riffs to driving hard rock with wailing guitars and strong vocals to soulful cries from voice (Tobias Jansson) and guitar (Olsson). There is variety in the work too, with a hint of Blues on “Stormy Waters” and finesse shown on “She Remaions A Mystery”.
Saffire’s opus can be described as a musical adventure that must be explored. Each of the five musicians perform their task with aplomb and the band can be proud of this effort. Highly recommended. ****1/2
DAVID BOWIE – The Next Day (Columbia)
The announcement that David Bowie would release a new album after a ten-year hiatus was one that surprised the music world. As a result, fans rushed to the shops in droves to purchase a copy, vaulting the “Thin White Duke” into the top 10 of the U.K. charts! Not bad for a man who had just celebrated his 70th birthday…but is it worth buying?
While this is not the rich deep voice we are used to hearing, although it does appear from time to time, the rock tunes are a pleasant surprise – confirming producer Tony Visconti’s previous statements. The music is reminiscent of classic 70’s Bowie. There are a few places where Bowie trips the light fantastic with a psychedelic interlude, but thankfully, this is kept to a minimum.
This may not be his finest work in his long career, but it is up there in the upper tier and is a welcome addition to any Bowie fan’s collection. Well worth a listen. *****
TASTE – Taste (AOR Heaven)
Taste is another Swedish rock outfit that delivers melodic Scandi rock. This album is their debut release.
What one gets with this work is classy, ultra melodic rock that will have you singing along with repeated listens. The album is heavily laced with keyboards among the guitars, delivered in a manner that harks back to the 80’s when spandex walked the stage.
This is fine work, worthy of any Scandi rock fan’s attention, but falls short of Brother Firetribe – the benchmark of the genre in my view. Worthy of your attention nonetheless. ****
THE POODLES – Tour De Force (Frontiers)
The Poodles return with their fifth studio album, following the well-received “Performocracy”. “No Quarter/In The Flesh” tided fans over with a live release, but fans are hungry for another slice of Poodles Scandi rock. Will they be able to deliver?
Upon first listen, the answer is a resounding “yes”! Jakob Samuel’s voice sounds as melodic and distinctive as ever, but the guitars have a heavier, crunchier edge that hasn’t been heard since “Metal will stand tall” – except it sounds better on this work. The production is crisp, the songs catchy with varied sounds and tempo, keeping the listener on his/her toes.
Could this be their best work to date? Very possibly. It’s essential listening, one of the melodic highlights of the year, so buy it and determine for yourself. *****
DEATH DEALER – War Machine (Steel Cartel Records)
Death Dealer is a new metal outfit featuring the talents of Sean Peck (Cage), Stu Marshall, Ross the Boss (ex-Manowar) and Rhino (ex-Manowar).
The album begins at neck-breaking speed, with Peck hitting the highest notes in the shortest time and one knows you’re in for a metal ride of note! That being said, tempos of songs vary, a power ballad exists where Peck controls his power impeccably and a fair quantity of finesse intertwines with the relentless pounding of the album. I wish the production had more bombast, though, but that is a personal gripe. The band will probably easily replicate this sound on stage should they tour in support of this work.
This is not just a relentless headbanging album, it is intelligently put together to lure lovers of all forms of metal to buy this work. The supergroup have pulled off a metal triumph and I believe fans of each member will buy it and pull in converts as well. *****
AVANTASIA – The Mystery Of Time (Nuclear Blast)
Tobias Sammet is relentless, between releasing music for his band Edguy and his brainchild, Avantasia. The beauty about Avantasia is that Tobi can write and include many guests, which has been an attraction to fans and musicians alike.
This work revolves around science and religion (set in England) and appears to be the first of a saga – so there’s definitely more to come. Many vocalists loaned their talents to the work, including Biff Byford (Saxon), Joe Lynn Turner, Bob Catley and Michael Kiske, with Oliver Hartmann lending a hand on guitars with Sascha Paeth instead of singing! As ever, the music is supreme, each musician making their presence felt on the work and one is left begging for more as the final notes fade away…
Sammet has taken power metal to the next level and with Avantasia will be seen as a pioneer of the genre. The depth to the music is stunning and fans should snap this up instantly. Casual listeners, beware: you will probably be hooked after listening! *****
STRYPER – Second Coming (Frontiers)
Stryper have been around for almost 30 years and in this work they revisit their past, with the addition of two new tracks…
Before I took a listen to this work, I must admit to listening to “To Hell with the Devil” first (still a stunning album after all these years, Frontiers needs to release this as a remaster). “Second coming” is a great piece of work, with the music created sounding as young and as fresh as ever. Michael Sweet actually sounds better now than he did then…strong words indeed. The new tracks are in a similar vein and rock just as hard as the music produced in the band’s heyday.
Well worth your money if you are a fan of the band’s 80’s work and one worth investigating for the uninitiated. ****1/2
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 4 August 2020.
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Featured Albums w/c 3 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LIONVILLE Magic Is Alive (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 MAD MAX Stormchild Rising (SPV)
14:00-16:00 MARY COUGHLAN Life Stories (2020)
Power Plays w/c 3 August (Mon-Fri)
SOUTH OF SALEM Cold Day In Hell (indie)
BLACK LESION Sins (indie)
CAROLINE JONES All Of The Boys (Social Family Records)
BLACK SUN Resist (Rockshot Records)
THE JAILBIRDS Dull My Brain (Golden Robot Records)
FROM ASHES TO NEW Scars That I’m Hiding (Better Noise Records)
THE GEORGIA THUNDERBOLTS Spirit Of A Workin’ Man (Mascot)
THE BEAUTY OF GEMINA Apologise (TBOG Music)
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