Reviews in short !

Brunorock / Interaction / MTM 0681-130

Brunorock - Bruno Kraler & friends featuring among others Fredrik Bergh from Street Talk! Tracklisting:Interaction (Intro); It's all been done 4 me; Now dies the Truth; Pray for the Rain; Let me be the one; Castaway; Take the Trophy; hard working Day; No more Promises; One Way one Life; La fonte Dei sogni.

Former singer/guitarist of German melodic hard rock band Dark Sky Bruno Kraler is ready to release his third album in his own name - the debut was way back in 1994 and in 2002 he released the "X-Over" album.
The album is a cream-of-the-crop of melodic friends and ace musicians like Fredrik Bergh on keyboards (Street Talk), Rachel Bolan on bass (Skid Row), Bobby Altvater on guitar (Affair), Alex DeRosso (Dokken) and Paolo Morbini (Eva) - all produced & mixed by Michael Wagener (White Lion, Stryper, Dokken, Extreme...) and that gives this splendid album a boost! And the album IS a tour de force in melodic rock with all its facets - the melodic radio friendly track "Hard working Day" with the semi-acustic chorus and enchanting choir and not to forget the brilliant guitar solo in the middle! The more straight forward "Now dies the Truth" with the great drumming and more "agressive" choir - great.
It seems that Bruno Kraler has put up the ideal team for creating the 80's style melodic hard rock with a modern sound and expression - putting Fredrik Bergh and the keyboard parts slightly more in front than you did in the classic haydays of the mid 80's. Just listen to the heartwrenching acustic ballad "Let me be the One" - it is nice!

Stefan Morén / The last Call / SM 02 CD

Stefan Morén - a very talented Swedish multi-instrumentalist! Tracklisting:Can you see; The last Call; Try your broken Wings; Pick up the Pieces; Ask you why; I am astray; Too many waysted; Wig wam bam; The old Man will show me the Way; Give it up; When I'm out here alone.

First time I ever heard of excellent guitarist Stefan Morén was in 1993 when the Swedish band Keen Hue released their second (I think) album called "Juicy Fruit Lucy" - he was their lead guitar player and the band made an excellent perfomance mixing the best from Europe and Warrant...:)
Nowadays this band is doing covers - but Mr. Morén has taken some time of since the year 2000 for making this second solo effort - the first one "Yippie Ya Ya" was made in 1000 copies only. And belive me - it is a solo record, indeed. Stefan Morén has written all songs, he is playing all instruments and he is producing, too. There is a cover though on the album - the old Sweet classic "Wig wam bam" and it is delivered with a lot of attitude, updated but with a lot of respect and love for the glam genre!
As i said before the man is an outstanding guitarplayer - and his influences vary in a spectrum from early nineties hardrock to modern rock of today. Heavy tunes with catchy refrains and in the lyrics and the overall sound there is an air of seriousness. For example the title track "The last Call" deals with the pollution of our environment. In the ballad "Pick up the Pieces" he is very close to the sound of Soundgarden and/or Alice in Chains. He is trying his more punk-like attitude, too. "Try your broken Wings" and "give It up" are pop/punk in the very amusing way...
So as you can figure - this record is absolute worth a listen - it is varied, NOT confused - it makes sense all over! Do yourself this pleasure by ordering this album here!

Darren Smith Band / Keep the Spirit alive / MTM 0681-124

Darren Smith Band - a bit more in your face than Harem Scarem! Tracklisting:It all comes back; Keep the Spirit alive; There you go; When I was you; King for a Day; Love hurts; Still on my Radio; Everybody knows; Tragedy; Black Star; Why do I; So low (bonus track); Taking on Water (bonus track).

The band originally started out as Black Star after a period when Darren Smith had quit Harem Scarem, Juice and Live Sex Show (with former Harem Scarem bass player Mike Gionet) but after a while the guys settled for the moniker Darren Smith Band. It features the talents of Mike Hall on guitars (Killer Dwarfs and Helix), Stan Miczek on bass (Honeymoon Suite) and the for me unknown drummer Pat Carrano! and as guest musicians the old pals from HS is called in - Pete Lesperance on guitar and vocals and Harry Hess on vocals and guitar, too - and he produced the album as well. But hey! Darren Smith used to be doing the background vocals on newer Harem Scarem stuff.
The album is far more direct and in-your-face than i remember any Harem Scarem record in the past - the songs are more raunchy, dirty and (sexual) direct too! But there are similarities too - the magnificent sound picture and the dynamic production, with the crystal clear guitars and Darrens hoarse voice packed in nice arrangements and good working songs. The opener "It all comes back" is a powerhouse with great riff and a blistering solo but the next song "Keep the Spirit alive" is more melodic and more in the vein of "classic" HS-stuff - not that far away from another HS-side-project Fiore...
There are some balladesque tracks too - not that they are suger sweet and sticky like - more the kind of ballads that Little Ceasar did a long time ago. "There you go" has a good vibe to it and "King for a Day" is contagious in all of its facets. An album almost without errors - but one little strange thing is there, though. The mother of all ballads, "Love hurts" with Nazareth is not a ballad in the hands of Darren Smith band it is sheer rock n roll! Great...

Ivanhoe / Walk in Mindfields / MAS PC0364

Ivanhoe - The return of German power prog-rockers with a new lead vocalist! Tracklisting:Walk in Mindfields; Bless my Soul; Scared; Arrows; History...; ...or Crime; Enemy; Take me to the Spirit; What Love is for; Who will I be; + Video bonus clip: Walk in Mindfields.

Ivanhoe was called Germans answer to Dream Theater way back in 1992 when they released their much hailed debut " Visions & Reality". But the first part of the fairytale ended when original singer Andy B. Franck left in 1998 and guitarist Achim Welsch and bass player Giovanni Soulas joined Charisma - a critically acclaimed prog-rock project featuring jazz-singer Annette Kienzle.
But now Welsch and Soulas are back with a new incarnation of the band Ivanhoe - with new frontman found in singer/actor Mischa Mang who Welsch met when he was sound designer for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and Mischa Mang played the role as Judas - also new in the band is keyboarder Richard Seibel, who also was in Charisma and new drummer Sebastian Brauchle.
The musical style of Ivanhoe is like idols Dream Theater big and conceptual with a lot of complex guitar work, advanced keyboard structures and breathtaking drums to point out the many tempo changes. But the songs are held in a "normal" length of around 4-5 minutes and the whole expression is melodic with Mischa Mang's dramatic performance all over it - on the atttached video clip regarding the title track one can really see his acting qualities in full scale. He is as mentioned a educated actor, but has also played in bands like Deadly Toy and Moraine.
To me it was a very interesting listen - so get a hand on this one!

Sandalinas / Living on the Edge / MAS PC0470

Sandalinas - Spanish/Swedish power metal! Tracklisting:LIving on the Edge; All along the Everglades; The Ritual of Thruth; Follow me; If it wasn't for you; The Day the Earth died; The Conqueror; Heaven in you; Back in Time; Die hard.

Jordi Sandalinas is a very gifted Spanish guitarist who took lessons at New Milford's NGSW. He is this kind of unusual "guitar-hero" who not only leaves space for himself - but also is a team player and plays the essential chords allowing the other band members to perform.
The band Sandalinas is completed with Swedish ace vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Time Requiem, Meduza), Swede drummer Daniel Moilanen (Runemagick, Notre Dame) who producer Andy La Rocque introduced to Sandalinas and he brought in fellow country men Victor Casado on guitars and Fran Duarte on bass.
As I said the bands constellation and musical picture is very much the work of producer/mentor Andy La Rocque (King Diamond, Gutrix) and as I must confess i think that he is a bit to tough for my taste - but to my surprise he has managed to create a sound that combines the power and the fury in bands like Iron Maiden with the guitar tour de force in Malmsteen over the melody and feeling in Rainbow and Gotthard. And with the Danish based management Intromental in the back it can't go that wrong... great cover by Claus Jensen!
My favorite track on the excellent album is the melodic and straight forward "If it wasn't for you" with some nasty solo work and a split solo by Sandalinas and La Rocque - and the semi acustic "Die hard" is great. But also vocalist Apollo Papathanasio is pretty amazing spanning from super sonic screams to rap! Quite a performance.
If you like your rock a bit more loud and the guitars a little over the top - you will not be disappointed with Sandalinas.

PEO / Look what i've started / MTM Classix 0681 - 121

PEO - Swedish guitarist with poor eyesight but rich guitar feeling! Tracklisting:Could this be Love; Doesn't matter to me; Only one Love; Two strong Arms; Long Time no see; Endless waiting; Day and Night; Good Soul Companion; Two Wheels on Fire; Don't you ever leave me now; Looking for Love; Can't bring me down; Queen of the Night (bonus track); Calling Paradise (bonus track); Still believe (bonus track); I must be dreaming (bonus track); Amanda - instrumental (bonus track).

Way back in 1995 the Swedish/Australian duo PEO and Rod West recorded this rare melodic gem! PEO is the nickname for a splendid Swedish guitarist who grew up with poor eyesight, but a good ear for music - which according to the notes on the inner cover meant that he didn't learn to drive a car, but was great at changing the cassettes in it. He started his musical career at the age of 15 with his first recording studio. Besides that he was in numerous pop and rock bands and even toured internationally.
He has written for, recorded and produced many Scandinavian artists. I have found his name related to bands like Axia and the melodic Christians Leviticus - with whom he recorded an album produced by the famous Elephante brothers.
PEO anno 1986 in Axia - nice hair, on the head, too ;) The songs on "Look what i've started" is a collaboration between PEO and Australian lyricist and song writer Rod West. And each and every song is well produced, powerful and emotional - a real melodic rock/AOR treasure. There are some songs and arrangements here that reminds me of Torben Schmidt's "A Bit on the Side" - some solos, too BTW!
The original cover from 1995 There are a lot of memorable tracks here like opener "Could this be Love" with an acustic intro and a massive chorus, and a ballad like "Only one Love" could be made by Europe in the late 80's. And on this re-issue there are 5 bonus tracks added as well - great value!
I have have heard that he has made a second album "The Man behind the Face" but if any of you know more about the past, present and/or future of this splendid guitarist - please let me know. I must say that i was pretty surprised by the quality of this album when I got it back in the mid 90's - a must have!

Rhapsody Sweden / Strange Vibrations / MTM Classix 0681 - 118

Rhapsody Sweden - Swedish pomp/hard rock/aor from the late 70's re-released ! Tracklisting:I've done all I can; Been so long; Crazy Dance; Belly Dancer; Strange Vibrations; The Creepers; Take to the Highway; It's gotta be alright (new and unreleased bonus track); Sweet Rock'NRoll (new and unreleased bonus track).

Rhapsody Sweden was originally formed way back in 1974 in Sweden (surprisingly enough) by Benny Ahlkvist on vocals, Kjell-Åke Norén on guitar, Torbjörn Persson on drums and Rudolf Janszky on bass - but in 1977 the band wanted to make a bigger sound and added keyboard player peter Åhs to the line up.
I think this record is made in 1977 - because the band went on a month tour, in Hungary! With over 25 gigs, TV performances and a radio show for the national Hungarian Radio & TV. When they returned to their homeland the tour continued and the played a lot of concerts in all Sweden and the album became a hit on the charts.
Drummer Torbjörn Persson comments the re-release: “Now after all these years we're very proud that MTM wants to re-release our album again, and that we could get hold of the mastertapes. We have remastered the old songs carefully and we have also recorded two brand new songs as bonus tracks for this re-release. When we recorded these new songs our old chemistry was back and it almost felt like if there were 4 teenagers back in the studio. It was great fun and we decided to record new songs for an album right away.”
Even the style of "Strange Vibrations" is heavily influenced by bands like Deep Purple, Sweet, Rainbow ond the likes the band was great at that time and still is as they add some good melodies to their pomp/glam rock - just listen to tracks like "Belly Dancer" and/or the title track! As a constrast to the first two songs every track on the album seems to go on and on and on...- there are a lot of tempo changes (as a sign of the times, i presume) and "The Creepers" are over 8 minutes long and "Take to the Highway" is almost 10 minutes!!
The two new bonus tracks are much more straight forward - especially "It's gotta be alright" has a catchy guitar intro and a contagious chorus with a lot of great guitar riffing along the line, a track that has clear Scandinavian sound and expression. "Sweet Rock'N Roll" is a bit more complex and sounding like a heavy version of Deep Purple anno "Perfect Stranger"! But great to hear stuff like that re-released and if it's causing that the band as in this case re-unites, too it is all worth it!

Jordan Rudess / Rhythm of Time / MAX-9068-2

Keyboard wizzard Jordan Rudess - with a lot of good friends joining him! Tracklisting:Time Crunch; Screaming Head; Insectamongus; Beyond tomorrow; Bar hopping with Mr. Picky; What four; Ra; Tear before the Rain.

Present Dream Theater keyboard wizzard Jordan Rudess took some time off the band and made an AMAZING album. This "Rhythm of Time"-album is his third under his own moniker! But besides that he had played with a lot of people in alot of different musical appearances - from jazz to progressive rock over pop and classical...
Joining Rudess on this album are some the giants of instrumental music - it not an understatement to say that this is THE cream of the crop of progressive instrumental music. The basic band on the album are personificed by Rudess on all keyboards, Rod Morgenstein on drums, Kip Winger on vocals (on two tracks) and Daniel J on guitars, with back up vocals by Kip, Jordan and Bert Baldwin. But the guitar solos are performed by no one else than Joe Satriani on "Screaming Head" and "Insectamongus", Steve Morse on "Bar hopping with Mr. Picky" and "What four", Greg Howe "Beyond tomorrow" and "What four" and finally Vinnie Moore on "Time crunch" and "Ra". Additional work by John Guth on acustic guitar on "Beyond tomorrow", Dave LaRue on bass on "Screaming Head", "Beyond tomorrow" and "Bar hopping with Mr. Picky" and finally Bill Ruyle who plays tablas on "Ra"!
So if you like the previous work by Jordan Rudess on such albums like Liquid Tension project and Rudess/Morgenstein you won't be disapppointed with this record. It is solos gallore - but there are a lot of airguitar and -keyboard here for many an enthusiastic melodic freak who likes jazz, metal, rock, pop and classic!

Daniel J / Xited / VMM

Daniel J - An up and coming progressive guitarist and composer! Tracklisting:Black; Theories in her Head; End of Summer; Losing Time; Insane; Xited; All the same for you; The best; Save me; Innocence; Replaced; Out of Reach; Rush.

Multi instrumentalist Daniel J - son of saxophone player Jaroslav Jakubovic, is a great deal of Jordan Rudess's new album, and vice versa. Mr. Rudess plays the keyboard part on this first release from Daniel.
Daniel J takes care of the drum parts, the vocals and of course the guitars which is his main instrument. Bass is handled by Iyasu Nagata and daddy is playing the sax... And on the live side he has got "old" Damn Yankees drummer Michael Cartellone with him.
The musical style is as varied as it is on the Rudess cd - it features the raw progressive metal as on opener "Black", almost speed metal on the title track but turns mellow and more melodic on tracks like "End of Summer" - great stuff.
Be sure to support some of the new talents, too - check out Daniel J!

Kaminari / Faraday's Daydream / PM001

Kaminari - Promising power from the Southern Germany! Tracklisting:Vampire Vanity; Eye-Borg; Night without Dawn; Philip Marlowe; Halfway to Heaven; Guardian Angel; My black Colors; Fire and Dice; Babylon; Stairway to the Galaxy; My black Colors*.

This is the first "real" full length album with the German hard hitters Kaminari. They had a EP released some time ago where the 5 last tracks (on this one) was on, too.
The album kicks out with the very powerful with the track "Vampire Vanity" and like it says in the following press material the band has being descibed as a "hard rock oriented version of Iron Maiden" - not far from the facts! Lead vocals is handled by Roland "Bobbes" Seidel, guitars by Bernd A. Wick, rhythm guitars by Timo Reichle, bass by Jens Ribeaux and finally drums by Pascal Vannier. All very qualified musicians that gives the listener a varied experience - from the more bluesy notes to the sheer power supplied by amazing guitar arrangenment and bobbly bass tunes (like Iron Maiden, in fact). The lyrically variation is also wide - from themes like Science Fiction, historical facts and literary figures!
But don't get it wrong - Kaminari is very much their own - and like I said when I heard their first EP outlet it was powerful and well produced - this one is taking the band on a further level - once again with the powerful production by Achim Köhler (from Brainstorm and Primal Fear).
Let's hope thios Cd gives Kaminari the opportunities to get their music out to a larger audience - they deserve it.

Greenhouze / Greenhouze / MTM 0681-114

Greenhouze - A Norwegian power duo! Tracklisting:The Point; Waterline; Here in the Air; Remember; Train Song; Insanity; Tall Grasses; Clouds (instrumental) Rain; Snow on the Roof (instrumental); Everything; Highway in the Sun.

Greenhouze is a group based around the two Norwegian musicians - namely the outstanding vocalist Solli known for his jobs in Psycho Motel and 21 Guns and guitarist Lars Levin from Second Heat. On this very great record they have recruited session drummers Frank Tostrup and Celio De Carvalho to take care of most drum parts assisted by some samples by Asia/Psycho Motel skin basher Mike Sturgis - on backing vocals they have fellow Norwegian Leif Johansen from 21 Guns/Phenomena.
The music stretches from sheer westcoast - like on "Remember" with Solli's airy voice shining right through, it reminds me of Mr. Mister in some parts. But there are also big sophisticated rock anthems like the magnificent "Waterline" with a contagious riff and a great chorus!

Tak Matsumoto Group / TMG I / FRCD 217

Tak Matsumoto - With a lot of good friends backing up! Tracklisting:Oh Japan- Our Time is now; Everything passes away; Kings for a Day; I know you by Heart; I wish you were here; The greatest Show on Earth; Signs of Life; Red, White and Bullet blues; Trapped; My Alibi; Wonderland; Train, Train; Two of a Kind; never goodbye.

The Tak Matsumoto Group (TMG) is based around the Japanese guitarist formerly fronting the band B'Z. B'Z is (or was) a super band in their native homeland. They have sold over 80 millions units in Japan alone, making them the biggest selling band in history on their side of the Yangzekiang.
TMG is a collaboration featuring Night Ranger/Damn Yankees vocalist and bassist Jack Blades and ex-Mr. Big shouter Eric Martin. The drum parts is on the record a split job for ex-Foreigner/Slash's Snakepit/Pride & Glory man Brian Tichy and Lenny Kravitz drummer Cindy Blackman - but for the concerts they have hired Chris Frazier.
My first impression on this album was that it was way heavier than I would expect from folks like Martin and Blades - but it suits Martin to scream and shout on tracks like "Everything passes away" and the bluesier "I wish you were here". The production by Mr. Matsumoto himself fits this hard rocking outfit very well - it is rocky, powerful and uncompromising.
A very good album that rocks!

Mennen / Freakazoid / Escapi NMS016

Mennen - ten years after his departure from Zinatra Joos Mennen and Erwin Musper is back together again! Tracklisting:Down; Above the Waterline; It's over; Rain; Secrets and Lies; Bob; Freakazoid; These good Times; Believe; The World stopped turning; Wicked White; Blue (bonus); Loose somebody (bonus); Taste of Paradise (bonus).

The former frontman from Dutch melodic rockers Zinatra Joss Mennen has got new energy on this - the bands 5th studio album! First they got a deal with Swedish multi media firm Escapi Music - formerly known as Escapi New Media, who also will be recording Cornerstone's forthcoming live DVD. Second after ten years of seperation singer Joss Mennen and producer Erwin Musper have renewed their cooperation resulting in in the very dynamic album "Freakazoid". Musper has managed to put all the creative ideas and little sounds and noises from the four musicians in to a structured and crisp and clear music environment.
From the very first track you can hear that you have something very special between you hands - someone is whistling in the chorus riff! On this record vocalist Joss Mennen, Eric Van De Kerkhof on guitar, Alex Janssen on bass and Fon Janssen on drums combines the melodic anthems from the Zinatra-era with the more metallish and experimantal riffs from the first Mennen records into a magic sound picture. After the whistling on the first track they have recorded a stripped down ballad called "Above the Waterline" which i think is very beautiful. But also the more dark/industrial/experimental tracks like "Rain" works really well!
In some strange moments Mennen reminds me of Mathias Eklundhs Freak Kitchen - spanning from funk to metal from ballads to melodic rock ... all delivered with elegance and lots of attitude. Try and get a listen to the guitar solo on the track "Bob" and you will know what I meen.
So if you're not afraid of trying something new Mennen will be a refreshing acquaintance. Buy buy!

Gypsy / The Phantom EP / Self Financed

Amateur band from England - A lot of fresh attitude! Tracklisting:Shake; Open Letter; Heaven's Fall; One you love to hate".

Gypsy is NOT about big sound and crystal clear production. It is a yet unsigned band from England with a lot of attitude, though.
The band features the talents of vocalist Byron ?, guitar player Andy Ledder and Stuart Lockwood on drums. They hail bands from AC/DC to Skid Row - in an appropriate tongue-in-cheek-kindda way! very powerful and energizing!
The vocals is lousy produced but the guitar and drum parts are good - and the songs are delivered with the energy of a fresh and new band. Hail to the ones who dare!

Melodic Meltdown / Second Skin / MSP123

Melodic Meltdown - Progressive melodic metal from Denmark! Tracklisting:Changing Skin; A new Beginning; One Day; Memory Lane; The Matrix; Illusions of You; Dragon's teeth; Opening another Door; Cold Days to clear your Mind; Gods of War; Fire & Ice; Sleepwalker; SleepWalker (re-mix by Schmid).

Melodic Meltdown is a melodic/progressive/metal quartet coming out of the cold Scandinavia - from Denmark to be precise.
The band is build around the talented guitarist Michael Söbygge who already has released several albums in his own name - check Guitar9 website for more info! besides Söbygge the are Martin Bech on drums, Andreas Hertz Kendellen on bass and Lars Binderup on vocals. According to their website they have excisted for nearly ten years and has suffered a lot due to many lineup changes - Lars Binderup has already left again....
The band is inspired by such bands like Audioslave, Deep Purple, Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Yngwie Malmsteen, Megadeth and Queensrÿche. But they have a very significant sound around some rather complicated - but well played - heavy structured tracks. Great!

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