ASTRA – Broken Balance
Scarlet Records [Released 15.04.14]
Progressive metallers Astra return on the scene with their third album with their last album being 2009′s ‘From Within’ (Lion Music). The band are centered around keyboard wizard Emanuele Casali (DGM) although he doesn’t take over the band’s sound, allowing for plenty of metal riffs and vocal gymnastics from Andrea Casali.
Songs like ‘Losing My Ego’ have a distinct Dream Theater feel, not that surprising as they were/are a Dream Theater tribute band. They also have a penchant for Queen-like backing harmonies as can be heard on ‘Sunrise To Sunset’ and ‘Break Me Down’, which sounds like Queen if they ever did a prog metal song! ‘Ending Season’ sounds like relative new boys Neonfly, a cracking tune and one to hear even if you don’t buy the whole album.
They don’t pen epics either as most songs clock in under the five minute mark and they do experiment a little, like on ‘Understand’ with its double bass drumming and weird backing vocals.
This is a good album and if you like Dream Theater and their ilk you will enjoy this. Not a ‘must have’ but not far off either! ***1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
DEAD END HEROES – Road Kill
AOR Heaven [Released 30.06.14]
This band started out as a possible solo project for Swiss drummer Daniel Voegeli, who was swiftly joined by guitarist Rolf Munkes (Empire/Majesty), vocalist Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One/Domain/Lavalle), bass player Paul Logue (Eden’s Curse/Lavelle) and on keyboards/Hammond organ Holger Seeger (Midnite Club). A pretty impressive musical line-up but do they deliver? Yes they do! They were aiming after a classic hard rock sound in a Deep Purple style and they have done that. ‘Dead End Heroes’ and the title track are prime examples of this, strong vocal and riffs with a layered chorus and in the case of ‘Dead End Heroes’ driven along by some tasty Hammond playing.
For a good hard driving rocker look no further than ‘Hands Off The Wheel’. Check out the riffs and solos from Rolf Munkes, he certainly deserves a wider audience as he is a very accomplished guitar talent. ‘Gambler’s Crusade’ is another good, solid rocker and is that a James Bond riff I hear on the opening of ‘The Fire’s Worth The Loneliness’? Good song and nice to have an extended musical intro.
Let’s hope this turns into a live band too and we get more music from them as this is a very impressive debut. There is always a place for classic hard rock bands with a nod to Deep Purple/Rainbow and these guys do it so well. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
ROXIE 77 – The Ameriswede
Bellyache Records (EP)
One of my favourite songwriters/guitarists in the last few years – whether it be through his work with Roxie 77, Casablanca or the legend that is Alice Cooper, Ryan Roxie’s output has been nothing short of prolific.
“The Ameriswede” EP is his latest offering and comes via Roxie 77. Originally planned as a two track 7” single, the project soon grew to become an EP of six brand new songs and then two mixes of each. The EP will be released on limited red vinyl or standard black vinyl format (do not fear a CD and digital download are included) .
The first side of the EP was produced by fellow Alice Cooper guitarist Tommy Henriksen and on the second are “Swedish Mix” versions of the songs on side one, all mixed by producer Jon Bordon. The songs themselves are melodic and catchy, and with sound influences that could be placed anywhere between the ‘60’s and today they almost have a timeless quality to them. With a sound that blends the likes of Enuff z Nuff and Cheap Trick (and therefore The Beatles by proxy) you will unintentionally find yourself singing along quite easily.
The sugary opening of “Downtown” soon gives way and the track bashes along nicely, “Anna” is a simple love song whilst “Simpleton Girl” is made for radio. However, “The Solution” is an up tempo, darker snarling track that is joined by “Silent Confrontation”, with its big drum sound kicking it up a notch, and opening track “Idiots & Idols” in balancing out the EP in a way that it will appeal to a large number of music listeners. On those last three songs, and “The Solution” in particular, the late great Johnny Thunders has got his celestial fingerprints all over some of the guitar work.
“The Ameriswede” is a great record and, as I’ve said, will no doubt appeal to a number of music fans.
If you live in or around London Roxie is playing The Underworld in Camden on the 12th June alongside ex GnR man Gilby Clarke. *****
Review by Nikk Gunns
THE GHOST WOLVES – Man, Woman, Beast
Plowboy Records [Released 14.07.14]
According to the press release husband and wife Carley and Jonathan Wolf named their band after the ferocious sounds they make. Well after listening to this they made a wise choice, coming across like a female fronted White Stripes with some seriously heavy blues riffs. Grab a listen to ‘Gonna Live’ with its immense distorted blues guitar and ‘Baby Fang Thang’ has some serious Sabbath approved guitar. ‘I Was Wrong’ has a 60’s psychedelic feel to it, then ‘Dangerous Moves’ sounds like the sort of song Quentin Tarentino would use on his film soundtracks.
Interesting listen and if you like blues based garage rock check this album out.
Review by Jason Ritchie
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BAD WOLVES Killing Me Slowly (Eleven Seven Music)
THE DEAD DAISIES Righteous Days (SPV)
DEEP DEEP WATER Something In The Water (indie)
MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST Sleeping With The Light On (Nuclear Blast)
GHOSTS OF MEN Crooked Back (Regent Street Records)
ANNIE HASLAM Blood And Water (indie)
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STACKRIDGE A Victory For Common Sense (2009)
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