Reviews in short !

Gypsy / Demo CD / Self financed

Gypsy - Enthusiastic but as yet unsigned band from England! Tracklisting:I don't want you; The Axe man; Chill out man; Back to you; Riding with the Wind.

Gypsy is a foursome from Yorkshire, England. The band features the talents of Mick Norbury on vocals, Andy Ledder on guitar, Stuart Lockwood on drums and Paul White on the bass. I reviewed their demo "Phantom" a little while ago - and this demo is even better.
The vocalist is new and according to their website the band has a lot more live-experience up their sleeve. And some tracks here are really promising: Opener "I don't want you" is a riff based sleazy hard rocker, whereas "Chill out man" is more mellow and almost ballad-esque in the beginning.But my favorite track is the melodic "back to you" - with a more slick production it would have been big in the 80's - great classic rock song!
Let's hope the best for these 4 enthusiastic musicians - they work really hard for their money.

Mars II Mercury / Loaded / Self financed demo

Mars II Mercury! Tracklisting:Loaded.

Mars II Mercury is a band from England and the musicians has financed this "little" album here themselves. While the band is currently in the writing and pre-production process, it has been decided to issuse a series of work in progress demos - the first is "Loaded".
The first impression is that it is very much in the vein of Judas Priest and Metallica - and the band is well of in the business already, good luck!

Griffin / Lifeforce / MAS PC494

Griffin - Norwegian power metal produced by Andy LaRocque! Tracklisting:Accelerate; Rest; Premonition; Recipe for Rage; Utopia; Dungeon; Moment of Madness; Building a Future; Lifeforce; Bound in re-runs; Leylines; Unforgiver (bonus track).

As a sign of the great diversity in Scandinavian rock scene right now Norwegians Griffin enters as a representative for the power metal genre. And they do it with style.
The band features the talents of Pete Beck on vocals, Kai Nergaard on guitar, Marcus Silver on guitar, Johnny Wanberg on bass and Marius Karlsen on drums - on the actual tour Pete Beck has been replaced by Rolf Bakken, as Mr. Beck suffered from a heart attack last year - but I can't figure out if it is on a permanent basis..?! The "Lifeforce" album is excellent produced by Andy LaRocque who is features as a guest guitarist on the bonus track. The style on the album is very diverse - in some weird form it kindda reminds me of the two Lynch Mob albums (?) with effective hooks and powerful drumming as the backbone of the songwriting tecnique.
There are a lot of excellent tracks on "Lifeforce" from the rauncier opener "Accelerate" to the more melodic "Utopia" - but as a surprise the have a semiacustic instrumental track called "Leylines", too and the bonus "Unforgiver" is a speedier version of The Darkness, featuring Pete Beck going falsetto! A very diverse album with a lot of power and inspiring guitarwork - but with a good melodic angle to it all. Great!

Ben Jackson Group / All over you / EMUS 20011

Ben Jackson - Former Crimson Glory-guitarist on his own! Tracklisting:Turn it on; Mean Machine; All over you; Falling Down; Ghost in the Mirror; Eyes of Ice; Far and away; Heavy on my Mind; Break it; Rock & Roll Heaven (or bust).

Ben Jackson Group is first and foremost the former Crimson Glory/Sector 9/Parish guitar player/singer Ben Jackson - but with him on this solo effort are Rich Tabor on drums,Dano Binz on bass, Mark Borgmeyer on lead guitar and the rather sexy Rose Marie Sexton on background vocals - and as a special guest star appears legendary Midnight former band mate from Crimson Glory.
The musical style of this one is less pompous and progressive than his past with Crimson Glory but much more American hard rock and heavy metal. Some of the big tracks here are opener "Turn it on" and "Heavy on my Mind" - but to me especially the slower and almost country-feel-esque "Far and away" very much shows the many qualities featured in this band. They are excellent musicians with a splendid sense of melody besides the harder and edgier attitude on most of the songs... good!

Brazen Abbot / My Resurrection / FR CD 244

Brazen Abbot - Nikolo Kotzev & Co. is back with their strongest effort to date! Tracklisting:My Resurrection; Bad Madman; Godforsaken; Dreams; Flyin' blind; Another Day gone; More than Money; The Shadows; Beggar's Lane; Rage of Angels; Lost; Shades of Grey.

Brazen Abbot is always interesting of several reasons. One is because of band leader/guitarist/producer Nikolo Kotzev's quality choise of singers - on this one it is Joe Lynn Turner, Göran Edman, Tony Harnell and Eric Martensson (Eclipse). Besides these very competent vocalist the "backing group" is changed this time to Nelko Kolarov on keyboards, Wayne Banks on bass and Mattias Knutas on drums - not to forget the full monty in the Sofia String Orchestra of 31 people, just to give the sound a boost!
In my opinion this is the stronest record as Brazen Abbot, Nikolo and friends have ever recorded - the songs are very well written. As always in the vein of classic Rainbow and/or Deep Purple. There are a lot of good ol' rock songs here - in fact the first half of the record is one tour de force in melodic hard rock. Lots of catchy hooks, high pitched vocals and great refrains. There are a couple of fillers in the middle - but the end is great, too. My favorites are the tracks with Joe Lynn Turner, they kindda fit the whole concept and a track like "More than money" is a blast. Great intro, blazing vocals and a guitar/organ duel in the middle. It puts everything in place for me... But also the track "Beggar's Lane" featuring Göran Edman is like going back to the mighty 80's.
Don't expect something new and innovativ here - but you get everything in energy, effort, musicianship and joy in playing, very authentic!

Harem Scarem / Over:Load / FRCD 241

Harem Scarem - with a more modern sound! Tracklisting:Dagger; Afterglow; Rise and Fall; Don't come Easy; Can't live with you; Forgive & Forget; All you're getting; Leading me on; Understand you; Same Mistakes; Wishing (bonus track).

Harem Scarem has never been easy to categorize. They had their periods of evolving and even changed their name to Rubber at one time, but as the two previous records on Frontiers was a return to a more "classic" sound from key album "Mood swings" this new one "Over:Load" includes a more modern sound and up-to-date songwriting... like it or not!
Personally i'm not excited by bands like Linkin Park and System of a Down etc. but the team featuring Harry Hess, Pete Lesperance; Barry Donaghy and Creighton Doane manages to incorporate the more melodic sides, too. There are some songs here that can seem a bituninspired, in my opinion! But tracks like "Afterglow", "Can't live with you", "Forgive & Forget" and "All you're getting" is still great stuff and Lesperance's fret-work and Hess' vocals is all worth it! Just check out the bonus track "Wishing" - good!
This may not be the first Harem Scarem record i pull down from my shelf if i had to present the band to a complete beginner - but it won't be the last either! And thank God for renewal and evolution - otherwise no one would never get any further!

Powergod / Long Live the Loud / MAS PC369

Powergod - A German power trio doing covers!! Tracklisting:Fall Out/Long Live the Loud; Screams from the Grave; Mind over Metal; Heavy Chains; Bombs of Death; Rocking through the Night; I'd rather be sleeping; Ready to Rock; Motormount; Better off dead; Deathrider; Total Desaster; Cutt your Heart out; The War drags ever on; Heavy Chains (bonus track).

Powergod is a German power trio featuring President Evil on vocals, Riff Randall on guitars and Hama Hart on drums. This time these three crazy men has done some covers of the lodest/meanest/speediest 80's metal tracks around!
This is in fact the second tribute to the 80's metal scene by the German threesome - and actually they are not only covering the tracks, they also has invited some of the original artists to join them! And invited some guests, too! Let me mention Tom Angelripper (sodom), Schmier (Destruction), Lips (Anvil), Rod Gonzales (Die Ärzte) and Ferdy Doerenberg (Axel Rudi Pell/Rough Silk).
So if you loved the first Lesson in Metal from 2001, you will also love this one... cool tribute! And with the Danish management Intromental behind them they can't be that wrong!

Lee Z / Shadowland / EMUS 20016

Lee Z - progessive rock in the style of Dream Theater and Queensr˙che with touches of Spock's Beard and A.C.T.! Tracklisting:Shadowland; Enemy in me; Cold Days; Save me; Alive; Nights in Dover; Troublemaker; Sweet Surrender; Fallen from Grace; Peaceful Lake.

German progressive rock band formed back in 1988. In fact their first album "primeTime" is only available on vinyl! The bands third album "Time will Tell" way back from 1995 was released by InsideOut/SPV and was at that time one of the most wanted and hot new releases in the genre. "Shadowland" is a very worthy come back album and every fan of "classic" progressive rock should check this one out. It incorporates the best sides of Dream Theater, Queensr˙che, Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and Swedish A.C.T. - it is great - the band reallygot a hold of the melodic elements mixed with the progressive ones in an almost perfect balance. "Shadowland" is produced in the famous Barfly studios in Germany with Michael Voss behind the producer's desk!
My favorite tracks on this one is the mellow "Nights in Dover" - which is almost a ballad in a classic sense, but also the more heavier riff based "Troublemaker" is great!.
Originally the singer was Thomas Zink but nowadays the bands features the talents of Thomas Zink on guitars, Peter Pauliks on vocals, Matthias Rethmann on bass and finally Dirk Brand on drums!

John Wetton - Geoffrey Downes / Icon / FR CD 242

John Wetton and Geoffrey Downes - reunited! Tracklisting:Ouverure-Paradox; Let me go; God walks with us; I stand alone; Meet me at midnight; Hey Josephine; Far away; Please change my Mind; Sleep Angel; Spread your Wings; In the End.

Icon is as you probably know the new project of the two "icons" of symphonic rock John Wetton on keyboards and Geoff Downes on vocals and bass two founding members of Asia. They made the foundation for this collaboration a few years back when Wetton released the "Rock of Faith" album.
The musical style is (of course) very synth based smooth and soft AOR/prog and on the record the two gents are backed up by Steve Christley from Jadis on drums and John Mitchell from Arena on guitar - along the guest musicians are Annie Haslam from Ranaissance on vocals, Ian McDonald from Foreigner on flute and Hugh McDowell from ELO on cello.
I personally miss some more speedier tracks along the great amount of beautiful but mellow ones. Opener "Let me go" and Asia-like track "Hey Josephine" are my favorites on this album - but don't get me wrong "Sleep Angel", "In the End" and so on aren't bad - but they just loose their identity along the road!
I am looking forward to the the EP Icon has planned during the summertime - it's the mega-track "Heat of the Moment" originally on the Asia debut licensed as lead song for Pierce Brosnan's latest movie "The Matador"!

Zeno / Zenology II / MTM 0681 - 133

Zenology II - 11 tracks of big historical documentation! Tracklisting:Call of the Heart; Tonight; Hard Beat; Dreaming the Night away; Good Game bad Game; Victoria; On my Way; Keep your Love; Troubled Love; Time; Free again (Eagle og Love).

I have always been a sucker for Zeno Roth's flair for a good melody and his larger-than-life attitude with a lot macho riffs, great vocals and top production - and let's say German phrasin'...
"Zenology II" is obviously the follow-up to "Zenology" (surprise) from 1994 and Zeno & Co. has been in the dungeons to find previously unreleased material which was recorded between 1983-1989 with a a line up including Zeno Roth on guitar & keyboard, Michael Flexig on vocals and the later Fair Warning crew - Ule Ritgen bass, CC Behrens on drums and TommY Heart on vocals (on "Hard Beat" and "Dreaming the Night away") and finally Rainer Przywara on keyboards.
Even though these tracks was dropped in the first place they cetainly are better than the average rocker from todays'music scene - "Call of the Heart" is THE opener for an album of this carat and character, "Hard Beat" has all the 80's kithch keyboard patterns, "On my Way" has the background vocals as we remember them from way back when...;-).
So if you want to be updated in between the not-so-often-released records by this German guitarist and backing - we are expecting the third album before long - "Zenology II" is a must, even if you just want to update your German melodic hard rock encyclopedia!

Timeless Miracle / Into the Enchanted Chamber / Mas PC0482

Timeless Miracle - Melodic power metal from Sweden with touches of folklore, classic, melodies and fantasy!!! Tracklisting:Curse of the Werewolf; Witches of Black Magic; Into the Enchanted Chamber; The Devil; The red Rose; A minor Intermezzo; Return of the Werewolf; Memorioes; The Gates of Hell; Down to the Gallows; The dark Side Forest; The Voyage.

Normally I would never put an album labelled "speed/power metal" in my player - but for some strange reason I did - and Timeless Miracle is one of my biggest surprises EVER!. I was totally blown away by the incorporation of folklore and classical element in the rather melodic power metal outlet of this Swedish quartet!
The band has a unique blend of speed and control - incarnated in the very fast but precise drummer Jamie Salazar (Flower Kings, Campo Di Marte) who is a sheer pwerhouse - but also the Mikael Holst on vocals and the twin guitar duo from Fredrik Nilsson and Sten Möller are outstanding and the whole album is excellent produced by Anders Theander (Pain of Salvation, Majestic). Theander gives the folklore part a significant outlet by using the keyboard as "violin", that too gives Timeless Miracle a very special strength - if I can compare "Into the Enchanted Chamber" to something it must be the Danish band Wuthering Heights. The album has over 60 minutes af sheer amusements with lots of great hummable tunes with a lot of power and tempo change - the best track to me is the title track, which on 6 minutes very much puts the whole concept of the band in perspective.
If you want value for your money - check this one out, I was very surprised! And backed up by the Danish management Intromental - and artwork illustrated by Mattias Norén at Progart it can't be that wrong...

Cry Holy / AlieNation / MM00054

Cry Holy - Christian melodic rock! Tracklisting:America The Beautiful; Aliennation; My Lord; Shine; Strangers to the World; Everlasting Love; Count on me; masquerade Ball; History; Extraterrestrial Suite; Tommy; I wanna be free.

Cry Holy is a Christian rock band with all the qualities that lies in that - text-wise and musically. Right now the band is a five-piece (i think) and the band hails from Seattle, WA.
Cry Holy's second release "AlieNation" gives a debut to the bands newest member Monty Smith who has joined to help with guitars, vocals & producing this new project. Monty has worked with Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, and the Joseph Lee Wood Band. He has helped fill the void since lead guitar player James Henry left the band in 2000 to pursue leading worship at Calvary Community Church, and rhythm guitar player Scott Loran also left in 2000 to move back to Syracuse New York, but both can be heard on tracks on the album as well. But key members are lead vocalist Randy Loran, drummer Mike Maxwell, Gary Reems on keyboard and Eric Routson on the bass.
Every lover of melodic rock bands like Survivor, Journey and/or The Storm will adore this one - i think that the band has matured a bit since their debut into a more guitar based approach - with a lot more guts and on several bits with even more edge. But first and foremost they have a flair for beautiful melodies and a nice arrangement! Covering the spectrum from acustic no-nonsense melodies (like "Masquerade Ball") to pompous rock (like the title track) all well produced giving all members a fair treatment.
There are a lot of great songs here - but some of my favorites are "AlieNation" with its great chorus and catchy refrain, but also "Everlasting Love" with its acustic base and great high pitched lead vocals is an absolute monster! But the most catchy and a track i had in my head for days was the radio friendly "Count on me" with a great guitarsolo in the middle and a piano break - this is what melodic rock is all about!
So if you want to support the independent part of the melodic rock scene, you must get in touch with this one - it's great! Just listen to the instrumental tour de force "Extraterrestrial Suite" - thats is musicianship.

Clearland / Gift from Time / UBP 047

ClearLand - a melodic hard rock duo from Bulgaria! Tracklisting:Feel the World; Gift from Time; I keep trying; Love and Tenderness; The Way to love you more; I will fly; Temption; Keep Spirits high; Vechen Sun; S Teb; Bohemian Rhapsody (instrumental bonus track).

ClearLand is an ambitious melodic rock/AOR duo from Varna, Bulgaria. And I must say that these two guys Nikolay Raikov on vocals and Konstantin Jambazov on guitar/bass/keyboards has taken me by surprise - this is excellent!
The duo ClearLand started out back in the year 2000 - in 2002 one of their numorous demoes reached the desk at Bulgarian record label UBP International Ltd. and their debut "Gift from Time" was released in Bulgaria last year and now they are heading for the rest of the world. And their musical style is very international orientated - with strong influences by bands like Yes, Queen, Styx and even Chicago (especially "Love and Tenderness" and "I will fly").
Nikolay Raikov once was the singer of THE melodic rock band from Bulgaria - Diana Express, and has worked as a professional musician for 15 years. Mostly of course in the genres melodic rock and AOR, but also the progressive rock has his interest. Konstantin Jambazov picked up the guitar at the age of 16, he was then influenced by Malmsteen, greg Howe, Steve Morse, Frank Gambale, Steve Vai and Tony MacAlpine. So his main influences are progressive rock and/or metal, but always with a significant melody and a grand approach - even jazzy sometimes.
On the record Konstantin and Nikolay got some help from drummer Peter Petrov and especially track 9 and 10 are kept in Bulgarian language with clear influences from the traditional Bulgarian folk scene. The last encore is an instrumental version from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" - impressive musicianship!

Refugee / Affairs in Babylon / MTM 0681-131

Refugee - A Canadian hard rock band from the mid 80's! Tracklisting:Affairs in Babylon; Thunder of another Night; Listen to your Heart; Hot Words; Dream on Anastasia; Exiles in the Dark; No Survivors/No Way out; Body to Body; Here we go again; These are the good Times; We all go down to the River (bonus track); Let it out (bonus track); Mississippi Side Road (live bonus track); Piano/drum feature (live bonus track); Mighty Quinn (live bonus track).

Refugee is - or was - a band with a very exciting history: originally formed in Canada by Myles Hunter on guitar, Rob Kennedy guitar and Martyn Jones on bass as Michael Fury and as Hunter came from a deep religious background and almost ignored his musical leanings to become a minister.
In the late 1970's he fronted Ottawa band, Avalon, who released one album, "Voice Of Life", before calling it quits. Hunter moved on to write original material for the likes of The Raes' Robbie Rae before hooking up with Jones and Kennedy.
The result was Michael Fury (named after a character in James Joyce's short story, "The Dead") in 1979 who did the predictable round of club gigs throughout Canada with a lot of changes in the line up. They split up and did various other work in 1983 until reforming in 1984. They had pieces of songs lying about, written predominantly by principal songwriter Hunter, so they put a demo together, shopped it around and finally got signed by Passport Records. Their first record was "Affairs In Babylon" - now with Howard Helm from Zon on keyboards and Terry Martell on drums. But it didn't really work out, people couldn't draw the between the band Michael Fury and the artist Myles Hunter. So New York based record label Chrysalis came around with an offer. The album was remixed and modified with additional songs and 'Affairs In Babylon' was re-issued under the name Refugee.
In 1986 a government official from Zimbabwe saw the band's video for the first single, "Exiles In The Dark", and wanted the band to tour Zimbabwe!! They tried but because of some national misunderstandings it didn't really work out :(
The band launched another record later in their caree called "Burning From The Inside Out" and was produced by Pat Glasser (Night Ranger) and recorded in LA, which included references to their African experience on the liner notes and in the album track "Lion In The Cage". In 1988 Hunter had Russell Hitchcock (Air Supply) cover his song "Dreams Of The Lonely" on Hitchcock's debut solo album. By 1989 Refugee itself called it a day, but by 1990 Hunter had landed a solo deal with Island Records and recruited his old Refugee friends Jones and Kennedy, along with Helix drummer Brian Doerner.
Hunter finished his theological education and, as of 1997, was the incumbent Reverend Myles Hunter for St. Agnes in Long Branch, Ontario for the Anglican Church of Canada.
The re-release of this album is great - it shows a hard rock band with a lot of musical depth! Especially "Dream on Anastasia", "Exiles in the Dark" and "These are the good Times" is outstanding - if they had only kept the power they would have been as big as REO Speedwagon! The album features 5 bonus tracks and booklet inner line notes by Myles Hunter, Martyn Jones and Howard Helm.

Pantommind / Shade of Fate / LU20032-2

Pantommind - Progressive metal from Bulgaria! Tracklisting:Shade of Fate; Follow me;Closer to you; Trace to find (A Day without Rain); Spectastral (instrumental); The final Line; Why; Mindtrip (instrumental); Knocking on my Door; After Rain; Orpheus whisper (outro).

I never thought that I would find myself sitting a thursday afternoon listening to a progressive metal band from Bulgaria!?! But it is exactly what I do - and the band Pantommind is great.
I dont know much about the band - but the info material sent to me by their Danish based management Intromental says that the band is a sixtet featuring the talents of Tony Ivan on lead vocals, Pete Christ on guitars, Peter Vichew on guitars, Dido on bass, Sunny X on keyboards andDrago on drums. And their musical abilities seems un-ending - the whole bunch of musicians are outstanding! Among the bands they thank on the inner cover are: Dream Theater, Savatage and Fates warning and they do content all 3 main ingredients represented in those bands, the progressive musical expression with a lot of tempo changes alon the tracks delievered with a lot of power and enthusiasm, but also the melodic and emotional side is represented and last but not least the raw power with energetic metal riffs is definitely present!
Pantommind also manages to let their eastern european roots shine through, too - not that they have put folklore or ethnical elements in - but more as a "warm layer of emotion" as it says in the info material!
I will never laugh (i have actually never done it) of Bulgarian rock music - because Pantommind is just as competent (or more?) than their inspiration sources!

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