Reviews March/02

Cornerstone / Human Stain / Massacre Records MASCD0310


Cornerstone - Mr. Mogensen & Mr. White Tracklisting:Unchosen One; Wounded Land; Some People fly; Singing alone; Future rising; House of Nevermore; Midnight in Tokyo; Sail on stormy Waters; Resurrection Sympathy; Forever young.

Cornerstone's second release "Human Stain" - again features the two well known musicians vocalist Dougie White from Rainbow and bassist Steen Mogensen from Royal Hunt. This time they have made an alliance with drummer Allan Sørensen, who was featured on the debut as well and guitarist Kaspar Damgaard known from his work with Mike Tramp.
"Human Stain" has more of a band feel towards it, and the inspiration way back to bands like Rainbow (of course), Deep Purple and Dio - rather than the epic sound from the debut. Steen Mogensen handles the keyboards as well - and does it very delicate, indeed. He was in the producers seat too, by the way! And the sound is kept in respect of the group or band effort - big and with a focus on the melody and all over expression.
Let's hope they will take these tracks to the streets some day - a tour is highly missed! Some tracks will do it on a large stage like the powerful opener "Unchosen One" with a tour de force in vocal artistery from Dougie White. But more memorable tracks are the melodic "Some People fly" with a great chorus, and the big big ballad "Singing alone" with a nice acustic intro and a epic attitude. But on the record there are all kind of moods from silent ballads to sheer power tracks like "Midnight in Tokyo" - but one track sticks out, and that is the elegant "Resurrection Sympathy" with a slide guitar in the intro and White partly singing through a megaphone! and a great guitar solo in the middle - followed by an awesome chorus!!
I was a little surprised with this one - because of the debuts more epic sides. But luckily Mogensen and White has come with some new melodic power tracks with a clear reference to 70's inspired hard rock - but made with an up-to-date sound and expression including the other members as equals. And the two masterminds of Cornerstone can't deny their own musical background either. This is even better than the first one, almost 50 minutes of 100% musical pleasure!

Magnum / Breath of Life / SPV 085-72902


Magnum - Back with a vengeance after 6 year of abscence! Tracklisting:Cry; This Heart; Everyday; Still; Dream about you; Breath of Life; After the Rain; That holy Touch; Let somebody in; The Face of an Enemy; Just like January; Night after Night.

Magnum is definitely one of the highest valued bands in my record collection. I don't hear them very often but when I do it is for days! This new effort called "Breath of Life" I have had in my CD player for a couple of days now - and it is still good! A very powerful an worthy come back album, after 6 years of abscence - the last time something was released under the Magnum moniker was "The last Dance" 1996.
Magnum these days are Bob Catley on vocals, Tony Clarkin on guitars and Mark Stanway on keyboards - that to me represents the "classic" Magnum sound and bassist Al Barrow known from the Hard Rain project! The bands typical flair for melody and pompous/orchestral performance is intact, and I am familiar with most tracks from the first note!
Clarkin who also produced the album has managed to create a sound that dresses the well-known Magnum sound up in a more modern contemporary outfit - not far away from Hard Rain either. Clarkin himself says: "The tracks basically have the same feel to them as Magnum material from other eras - but you can feel the amazing potential of modern technology. But at the end of the day the compositions is still the basis of a perfect sound - even the most advanced studio technology can't really save the day".
The symbosis of old and modern days Magnum can be heard on the powerful "That holy Touch" or even on the atmospheric track "Still" wich has a acustic guitar and piano intro and a very tasty chorus with a reference to Britsh folk music - thank God, that Mark Stanway represents the "old" Magnum sound - there are a lot of canned drum sound on the album because of the missing drummer. But to me the albums highlight (one of them) is the big ballad "Let somebody in" - even though the intro is "inspired" by Bette Midlers "The Rose"...
I am still thrilled about the fact that good old Magnum is back with such a powerful release - they have managed to survive all trends happening in the last 25 years - and kept their own identity. The CD's first edition will feature six bonus tracks recorded live or unplugged - i am off to the music store....!

Timo Tolkki / Hymn to Life / NB 614


Timo Tolkki - Mr. Stratovarius on his own feet! Tracklisting:Intro; Key to the Universe; Now I understand; Divine; Little Boy I miss you; I believe; Are you the One?; Father; Fresh blue Waters; Dear God; It's Xmas Morning; Hymn to Life.

Finnish prog-metallers Stratovarius agreed to take abreak until 2003 - but guitarist Timo Tolkki has always been a busy songwriter, so a while we wait for the next Stratovarius release Mr. Tolkki has given us his second solo effort "Hymn to Life".
His first album "Classical Variations and Other Themes" from 1996 was more like a typical axe hero thing - where Timo played alot of melodies from some classical compositions together with some of his own instrumental stuff. But this time around he has invited former Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske to sing lead on "Key to the Universe" and Sharon Den Adel from Within Temptation to sing on "Are you the One?" - the rest is sung by Tolkki himself. The drums is handled by Finnish sesion drummer Anssi Nykänen and keyboards is gently swung by original Stratovarius keyboarder Mika Ervaskari.
Timo Tolkki has these comments to the record on which he played the guitar, the bass, produced, recorded and mixed: "The album is a trip into my childhood and into my life in general. I'm writing about painful childhood experiences, about love, life,the world, the universe, God, religion, war etc. I didn't set myself any limits musically or lyrically. Many times is is hard to categorize what style of song is playing" - and he is right the album expands from the Blackmore's Night inspired "Are you the One?" to the potent prog-rocker "key to the Universe".
I must say that the album is a very personal but also very honest album from one the best and fastest guitarist in Scandinavia - although all fret work on this one is delivered very elegant and with style!

© Steen Peitersen 1999-2002