Robin McAuley – Standing On The Edge

Standing On The Edge Album Cover Art

Robin McAuley – Standing On The Edge
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 07/05/2021
Running Time: 44:39
Review by Simon Black
8/10

I have to confess that my engagement with Robin McAuley is fairly limited, despite my predilection for the more Melodic end of the Hard Rock world. Somewhere in my vinyl collection is a battered copy of “Perfect Timing” – the original collaboration with Michael Schenker, which at the time I was slightly disappointed in, as it felt that the great axeman was very much in the background. Look at the cover if you don’t believe me, he literally is standing in McAuley’s shadow – or at least the shadow of his rather spectacular mid-80’s bouffant. The fact that during this period the MSG band acronym was physically branded as the McAuley Schenker Group, rather than the Michael Schenker Group probably tells us all we need to know about who was in the driving seat during this period and at the time it felt like a misfire and somewhat passed me by. Time, however, is great at pointing out that actions based on knee jerk teenage reactions are not always the right ones…Although music was about to do a complete body swerve not long after its release and this sort of Melodic Hard Rock rapidly fall out of favour with the major labels, over time it has proven to be a stone cold classic, if not a classic Schenker album. Clearly there were other MSG releases with this line-up, but when you are fighting against, or being pushed to follow the rise of Grunge and everything that followed it, these did not make an impact in the same way.

This is a slightly different direction than McAuley’s Black Swan project and as ever when Serafino Perugino at Frontiers assembles a project, there’s a particular era, ethos and feel that he is trying to capture in amber with an added modern take and “Standing On The Edge” is very much picking up where “Perfect Timing” left off – with deliberate precision. The opening track ‘Thy Will Be Done’, feels like it could have been a B-Side from those 80’s sessions, right down to the dated keyboard arrangements, but what saves it from being a retro footnote is the fact that McAuley’s voice is absolutely on top form and the song-writing beautifully crafted. The rest of the album has a slightly more modern sound to it, so I am taking this opening track for what it was probably intended to be – a message to the listener that this is where the album is starting from, but it’s not where it will finish.

To prove the point, the title track kicks things up a notch significantly with a catchy riff, solid mid-tempo beat and then steps back to let the man show how good a shape his vocal chords are actually in. Generally, there’s some really robust song-writing on here and the eleven tracks stand up quite well, with a bit of a slowdown in the middle as ‘Chosen Few’ feels a bit like a filler, but the power ballad ‘Run Away’, whilst pure Melo-Ballad in tone, is more Gary Hughes than USA 80’s in style, so does not feel dated. The record works because it varies the pace to demonstrate McAuley’s range, rather than going for the tried and tested formula of a record of belters plus a lone ballad or two (the fast and slow share equal billing here), but also because a lot of care has clearly gone into crafting a recording that has its back foot in the 80’s but its front foot forward a few decades. As always with these Frontiers releases the production melds the retro sound as we remember it in our heads with modern recording standards and values. I would be interested to see if this incarnation takes a live turn, or is just a studio project, but either way it works just fine.

‘Standing On The Edge’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Thy Will Be Done
02. Standing On The Edge
03. Late December
04. Do You Remember
05. Say Goodbye
06. Chosen Few
07. Run Away
08. Supposed To Do Now
09. Wanna Take A Ride
10. Like A Ghost
11. Running Out Of Time

LINE-UP:
Robin McAuley – Vocals
Andrea Seveso – Guitars
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass, Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Nicholas Papapicco – Drums
Howard Leese – Guitars on ‘Supposed To Do Now’

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

ScreaMachine – ScreaMachine

ScreaMachine Album Cover Art

ScreaMachine – ScreaMachine
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 45:25
Review by Simon Black
7.5/10

Most of the material I get sent to review that hails from the shores of that wonderful nation Italy tends to fall into either the Power, Progressive, Symphonic or Operatic sub-genres and I had started to wonder if these were the only styles of Metal that had a market over there. Of course, I am wrong (and it’s all the editor’s fault as he chooses what I listen to), so when I received this delightfully fresh slab of good old-fashioned Rock’n’Roll influenced Heavy Metal today I was pleasantly surprised.

It’s rough, it’s raw, it’s gutsy and it’s refreshingly good, with twin harmonised guitars coming out of every bar, galloping rhythm lines aplenty, plus some blistering lead work and a soulful, no frills, powered vocal delivery. The Metal is definitely of the traditionally influenced NWOBHM and German ends of the spectrum, but it’s not sounding dated or derivative and has the freshness of a band who know what they liked in their parents record collections, but know what works for a modern audience. Not that these are fresh faced newbies either – this may be a debut album, but the musicians involved are all experienced hands with a good history of delivery in acts such as Stormlord, Kaledon, and Lunarsea dating back to the 1990’s. That experience shows well, as there is a maturity in the song-writing and sound that has the fresh energy of a project that they all clearly dig…A lot! They’ve also dragged in an impressive roster of guests as well, with guitar turns from Steve Di Giorgio and a whole bunch of Italian shredders, plus a vocal turn from Avantasia and Firewind singer Herbie Langhans, but frankly the core five-piece at the heart of this are more than capable of delivering the goods on their own.

Vocalist Valerio Caricchio has a powerful presence in this act, with a solid rough round the edges delivery and a hint at a little top end screamage where it’s needed, creating the impression that he could take the wallpaper off if he chose to, but it’s not what they wanted in this instance. The album flies by quite quickly and if it has a down side it is that most tracks are very much of a similar tempo, and a little more variety in tone might have offered a broader appeal, but as far as straight ahead riff based Metal goes, it can’t be faulted.

‘The Metal Monster’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Demondome
02. The Metal Monster
03. The Human God
04. Darksteel
05. Mistress Of Disaster
06. 52Hz
07. Wisdom Of The Ages (Feat. Steve Di Giorgio and Herbie Langhans)
08. Silver Fever
09. Dancing With Shadows
10. Scream Machine

LINE-UP:
Valerio “The Brave” Caricchio – Lead Vocals
Francesco Bucci – Bass
Alex Mele – Guitars
Paolo Campitelli – Guitars
Alfonso “Fo” Corace – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Sweet Oblivion (Featuring Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Relentless Album Cover Art

Sweet Oblivion (Featuring Geoff Tate) – Relentless
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 42:44
Review by Simon Black
8/10

Since about 1995 I’ve had an increasing sense of trepidation whenever I have seen Geoff Tate’s name attached to a recording. The man was an absolute vocal hero of mine when I discovered “Operation: Mindcrime” at the end of the 80’s – an album I must have spun a thousand times and which still sounds fresh and wonderful over thirty years later. Pretty much the same can be said about the two ‘Rÿche albums that followed it – the Progressive Metal text book that is “Empire” and the terrifyingly dark story of Tate’s own mental breakdown and recovery that is “The Promised Land”. I still remember his absolutely captivating performance on that latter album’s tour at Nottingham’s Royal Centre which is still one of my top five live gig memories ever. They seemed unstoppable and Tate’s iconic voice and showmanship unmatchable…

…Until the wheels came off of that particular tour bus with the departure of Chris DeGarmo and a series of increasingly disappointing albums trickled out. Eventually Tate split somewhat acrimoniously from Queensrÿche, who promptly recruited a younger version with almost exactly the same timbre of voice and spent the next ten years shitting on his legacy and fan base. The next time I came across Tate was a few years ago at a low key gig in the Welsh valleys, as he toured his greatest hits under the Mindcrime band moniker. Although fantastic to see him in such a small and intimate setting it seemed like a long way down from the lofty heights of yore, as a much physically larger and slightly immobile Tate struggled to hit the notes having become his own tribute act. I felt like crying.

But then Tobias Sammet worked his magic.

Having plumbed the lower depths in the last decade, Tate got on board the Avantasia train – contributing a track to 2016’s “Ghostlights”, then again for “Moonglow” and this time as part of the world tour. If you’ve not come across this man’s Avantasia project, then you may not be aware that Sammet has an absolute gift for persuading rock’s heroes to contribute a track to his increasingly successful Metal Opera projects and frequently reboots their careers. He has the knack of penning a track that totally encapsulates the essence in the fans’ minds of the greatest achievements the guest artist was known for and capturing a performance on record to go with it. If he’s really lucky, the response is so positive that he can persuade the guest to join the Avantasia road crew, where the artists will get to sing a whole bunch of songs with ten other singers in a gruelling three hour but totally sold out live show which normally includes a headline slot at Wacken, get their mojo back and get to feel like it’s the 1980’s again.

Having been suitably refocussed, enter the Sweet Oblivion project – which is one of a long line of projects initiated by Italian label Frontiers Music. It is a Geoff Tate solo album in all but name and one assumes that the moniker and branding has something to do with the complex legal minefield left in the wake of his split from Queensrÿche. I had not come across the debut in 2019 but this incarnation sees Tate bringing in musicians from his Mindcrime touring project and for the first time in a long time I hear the voice and musical tone which has been missing from his delivery for far too long. Musically this is pure “Mindcrime” / “Empire” era Tate and main collaborator Aldo Lonobile has clearly been annotating the DeGarmo / Wilton song-writing tropes to create music that is more classic Queensrÿche than the current incarnation of the band themselves (a trick he also pulled recently with Savatage). The songs have the progressive complexity of that period, but are commercially accessible as well and Tate’s performance feels right out of that wonderful three album glory period benchmark. Gone are the instrument down-tunings to support his older vocal chords and you can hear him moving through the keys in a manner lacking in recent years. Gone too are the lazy intonations and enunciations of those downward years. This latter element drove me to distraction whenever I saw anything he did live this century and it made me question whether he still had all his own teeth, but a quick check on some of the live Avantasia clips shows a Tate pulling out all the stops when he finds himself on the same stage and with equal billing with the likes of Sammet, Michael Kiske, Eric Martin, Ronnie Atkins, Jorn Lande and others who are at the top of their game. He’s had to pull his socks up, with that work ethic clearly carried forward into this project and not before time too. The highlights include ‘Let It Be’, ‘Strong Pressure’, ‘Fly Angel Fly’ and the quite wonderful ‘Aria’, complete with Tate singing lyrics in Italian.

So yes, he’s well and truly back. Let’s hope he can stay there.

‘Another Change’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. One Again One Sin
02. Strong Pressure
03. Let It Be
04. Another Change
05. Wake Up Call
06. Remember Me
07. Anybody Out There
08. Aria
09. I’ll Be The One
10. Fly Angel Fly

LINE-UP:
Geoff Tate – Vocals
Aldo Lonobile – Guitars
Luigi Andreone – Bass
Antonio Agate – Keys
Michele Sanna – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

FM – Tough It Out Live

Tough It Out Live Album Cover Art

FM – Tough It Out Live
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 113:00
Review by Simon Black
8/10

You know, I am lucky enough to get to review a lot of albums from new bands that missed out on the 80’s but try not to let it show. I spend a lot of time making comparisons to what came out at the time, whilst forgetting how different it was on the ears back then. A rich production sound was a dream for most bands, so consequently live recordings really had a lot of power, as the band frequently got to make their true intentions audible and clear in a way that couldn’t be done in the studio without the support of a major label. FM were amongst the lucky ones back then and often had a rich and lustrous polish in their mix that many other bands envied, thanks to the support of label Epic. None more so than 1989’s ‘Tough It Out’, which is probably the album and song the band are most well-known for, fortunately firmly establishing them in the Melodic Hard Rock market before Grunge came along and upset the apple cart.

So, this release is interesting for a number of reasons – firstly in that this is in fact the first time the band have played the full album in its entirety but mostly because they’ve done a superb job in recapturing the original studio sound on this live recording. Recorded over a couple of UK and German shows in 2019, this is a double disk set with the full studio running order retained for the first disk, plus a full second disk of classics and rarities. At the time I was not so fond of AOR, and let’s face it, they don’t come much more ‘classic’ AOR than FM – whether you like those tinkling insipid 80’s keyboard melodies from the likes of ‘Everytime I Think Of You’ or not. Despite the fact that a fair few of these tracks were firmly in the ‘filler’ category back in the day, they come off surprisingly well live, mainly due to the fact that the band’s delivery is tight, focussed and absolutely held up to the rafters by the support of a crowd who are clearly loving every minute of it – and tracks like ‘Burning My Heart Down’ in particular sound spectacular with the interaction of the audience.

The second disk is more eclectic, with quite a few tracks I am not familiar with, but clearly with a hard core following in the audience this is not slowing them down in the slightest. And I defy anyone not to boogie along to the cracking rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine‘ Steve Overland’s voice sounds remarkably good after all these years and although the recording skips much of the banter with the audience, you still get a sense of the immediacy of his contact with the crowd. For fans of the original album, this is probably a must, but for anyone looking for a good introduction to a band that can still deliver the goods after very long time then you can do much worse than this.

‘Tough It Out’ Live (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:

CD1
01. Intro
02. Tough It Out
03. Don’t Stop
04. Bad Luck
05. Someday (You’ll Come Running)
06. Everytime I Think Of You
07. Burning My Heart Down
08. The Dream That Died
09. Obsession
10. Can You Hear Me Calling?
11. Does It Feel Like Love
12. Feels So Good

CD2
01. Digging Up The Dirt
02. Tough Love
03. Hollow
04. Dangerous
05. Hard Day In Hell
06. Wildside
07. Breathe Fire
08. Only The Strong Survive
09. Blood And Gasoline
10. I Ain’t The One
11. I Heard It Through The Grapevine

LINE-UP:
Steve Overland – Vocals & Guitar
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass
Pete Jupp – Drums
Jem Davis – Keyboards
Jim Kirkpatrick – Guitar

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The End Machine – Phase2

Phase2 Album Cover Art

The End Machine – Phase2
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 55:08
Review by Simon Black
8/10

You gotta love the gall of the guys over at Frontiers. You want to sign your rock heroes, but can’t because the brand names they are famous for are locked up in legal rights hell over at a major label somewhere. The solution – create a new ‘Power Group’ act built around said hero (providing that they and their great-grandchildren are not locked into some kind of exclusivity deal), add a bunch of associated musicians, with the brief to recreate the sound and sensibilities of the glory years and thereby bypass the legal landmines. The End Machine basically does this with George Lynch, so you end up with an act that has an uncanny resemblance to a hybrid of Dokken and Lynch Mob without having to spend more money in legal fees than on studio time and session musicians, in a day and age where, more than ever, making money is about high volumes and wafer thin low margins for labels.

This really has a very strong classic Dokken feel to it, but the Lynch Mob ethos predominates, with lots of blues tinged Hard Rock vibes to it – and this is not surprising when the musical backbone is Dokken stalwarts George Lynch and Jeff Pilson, with Lynch Mob singer Robert Mason and Steve Brown, the brother of retired classic Dokken drummer Mick Brown, on the sticks and skins. The classic Dokken / Lynch Mob tropes are all there, with the added benefit of Lynch really allowing his love of the Blues to free flow, with some extended and soulful guitar solo work that positively ripples from the speakers. OK, we’re always going to miss that lovely vibrato of old Don, but he’s got the brand locked away tight and having Mason on board works really well regardless.

What I was not aware of was that this is the second time around for this outfit, which has the maturity and stylistic ease of a group of musicians who are all comfortable with working together. This is really solid, well-crafted Melodic Rock, where no one member of the band is allowed to hog the lime light. It’s got that really cohesive feel to it that and I cannot point a finger at one track on here with the accusation of “filler”. So consistent in fact, that it’s a struggle to point you to a stand out track, although ‘Prison Or Paradise’ and the harmony-laden ‘Plastic Heroes’ come pretty close, which is pure anthemic Hard Rock heaven. As always from this genre we get the odd syrupy ballad (stand up ‘Scars’) but this is saved from any hint of mediocrity from that soulful gutsy voice and Lynch’s anthemic guitar lines.

So, loving or loathing these Supergroup records is a matter of personal tastes and faux ethical pride. To be honest I’m all for these projects where we know nothing is ever going to get the originals back in a studio together in this lifetime and if the quality can be kept this consistent who the hell really cares?

‘Blood And Money’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Rising
02. Blood And Money
03. We Walk Alone
04. Dark Divide
05. Crack The Sky
06. Prison Or Paradise
07. Plastic Heroes
08. Scars
09. Shine Your Light
10. Devils Playground
11. Born Of Fire
12. Destiny

LINE-UP:
George Lynch – Guitar
Jeff Pilson – Bass, Keyboards & Background Vocals
Steve Brown – Drums & Background Vocals
Robert Mason – Lead & Background Vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Treatment – Waiting For Good Luck

Waiting For Good Luck Album Cover Art

The Treatment – Waiting For Good Luck
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 44:25
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Cambridge UK-based Hard Rock band The Treatment have been cranking out solidly delivered Rock ‘n’ Roll since 2008, although this (their fifth) album is the first time I’ve had the privilege of coming across their work. This might be a great place to start if you haven’t either, as after a quick exploration of their back catalogue on stream, this album would appear to be a full couple of notches up from previous releases.

Kicking off with a harmonised vocal intro and chorus that Def Leppard would have been proud of in the 80’s, ‘Rat Race’ gets things moving with mid-tempo guitar riff-driven rocker. It’s probably the most commercial sounding song on here, and belies the direction the album takes after this, but hints at the main musical influence from here on in. The first and most blatantly obvious comparison is with early AC/DC, with riff structures that are straight off of either the “High Voltage” or “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” era albums. That comparison was probably not lost in the mix down either, as stalwart producer Kevin Shirley has done a fine job in echoing that rich fat rhythm guitar ripping-riffage sound that Malcolm Young probably should have trademarked. Add to this vocalist Tom Rampton is definitely channelling his inner Bon Scott for his sophomore album with these guys. I don’t have a problem with this, as this style of music is truly timeless and always storms the barn live and his voice has a nice soulful gravelly edge to it that literally drips charisma. This is particularly audible on the slower or more openly bluesy tracks, such as ‘Eyes On You’, where you also get to hear a slightly higher register to his vocal range to go with a catchy fag lighter-waver of a chorus.

With a dozen tracks averaging at the three and a half minute mark, this is not an album that wants to out stay its welcome, and to be fair it positively flies by. Lyrically it is in places a bit dated and sexualised for this decade and age, but it’s more cheekily cheesy than offensive or crass and even the worst example of this ‘Lightning In A Bottle’ is frankly not going to upset anyone. All this will go down just fine at a biker rally, but I would hope that this album opens them up to bigger and wider audiences. Just don’t let yourself be put off by the rather trashy photographic cover, as the music and production are nowhere near as tacky as that image implies.

I really hope that this album takes them up a level, as this kind of soulful and gutsy Rock ’N’Roll never gets stale when done properly and once in a blue moon a band coming along and opening up the audience to this style of music is never a bad thing.

‘Rat Race’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Rat Race
02. Take It Or Leave It
03. Lightning In A Bottle
04. Vampress
05. Eyes On You
06. No Way Home
07. Devil In The Detail
08. Tough Kid
09. Hold Fire
10. Barman
11. Let’s Make Money
12. Wrong Way

LINE-UP:
Tom Rampton – Vocals
Dhani Mansworth – Drums
Tagore Grey – Guitars
Tao Grey – Guitar and Bass Guitar

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Infinite & Divine – Silver Lining

Silver Lining Album Cover Art

Infinite & Divine – Silver Lining
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 47:11
Review by Simon Black
7.5/10

Another day, another debut album. The core of the band is two established Swedish song-writers; Tezzi (Terese Persson ) on vocals, and Jan Åkesson on guitar, bass, and pretty much anything else other than the drums. Åkesson has declared publicly that he has taken a back seat from live work and this definitely has the feel of a studio only project. It is pitched firmly in the Melodic Metal camp that is occasional known to dabble its nose into the Synth-tinged Symphonic instrumentally. I say that because despite having some blisteringly good lead work in there, the majority of the riffage takes a slightly further back seat in the mix to the epically expansive keyboards.

As debut’s go, it’s got a lavishly rich sound and production values, but then these are not new hands (with Åkesson  producing) and by all accounts the project has been baking in the oven for a few years before getting released. Tezzi’s vocal performance is quite something however and quite rightly is there front and centre in the mix for most of the songs. Her voice is gutsy and soulful and clearly full of heart and presence, but if I have a criticism it’s that she chooses to follow the main song melody lines a little too closely and a little more experimentation or some subtle Symphonic vocal touches here would have gone a long way.

Notwithstanding, there are some belters on here, ‘Keep Moving On’ is particularly memorable, along with the almost folky intro to ‘Burn No More’ which then takes a gutsy rockier road, but the fact that the album dips its toes into a number of different styles whilst staying close to the melodic core is quite refreshing. Although some of the tracks can be a little average, there is nothing bad here and the production values are so strong that even the weaker song structures pass by the ear unless you’re being deliberately critical (which is sort of my job). Time will tell if this is a one-off studio project or a full blown band, but it’s definitely a promising start and with a bit of confidence to be more experimental, then things could get very interesting indeed.

‘Infinite & Divine’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. II Feel Alive
02. Infinite And Divine
03. Keep Moving On
04. Not Too Late
05. Wasteland
06. Burn No More
07. We Are One
08. Off The End Of The World
09. You And I
10. While You’re Looking For Love
11. Perplexed Perfection

LINE-UP:
Tezzi – Lead and Backing Vocals
Jan Åkesson – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals and Programming
Jens Westberg – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Gary Hughes – Waterside

Waterside Album Cover Art

Gary Hughes – Waterside
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 49:47
Review by Simon Black
5/10

Gary Hughes is a name I’ve not heard much of recently, despite the fact that he has a prodigiously prolific rate of output. I first came across him in the late 1990’s when Ten appeared out of the blue and stubbornly refused to acknowledge any of the current fads in rock music and to carry the torch of Melodic Hard Rock firmly forward for long enough to restart the genre. Ten’s contribution is significant, but the man has put his name to many more projects and is probably single-handedly responsible for reinvigorating Bob Catley from Magnum’s career when that act went on hiatus (check his first solo album “The Tower” on which Hughes’ very distinctive song writing and musical tone is clearly audible if you don’t believe me).

This, however, is the first time I have listened to one of Hughes’ solo recordings, although with at least half of the members of Ten playing on here anyway, it feels more like a side-step than stepping out. I was expecting pure Melodic Hard Rock in the Ten vein, but this is a slightly softer sounding piece of work. Vocally he is quite restrained and mellow, despite the sometimes more rockin’ nature of the tracks. Lyrically is a bit more of a mixed bag though. I was less than impressed with some of the lyrics. ‘Lay Down’ with its S&M references invoking a bygone age of 80’s latex-clad bimbos in music videos felt downright cringe worthy and really not what’s needed in this day and age – despite it being attached to one of the catchier sounding songs on the record. But on the flip side of this are thoughtful, evocative and heart-warming songs that showcase his song-writing abilities perfectly. I’m normally quite wary of Melo-Rock Power ballads, but Hughes has a gift for them and plenty are to be found on here.

As always with Hughes you get well-structured songs that lead the ear through gently and tell you where to start waving the phone lights during the live show. The songs individually are fine, but I am struggling to find too many strong tracks on here – the exception being the title track, which has oodles more energy and pace than the majority of the disk and was a wise choice for the lead track. His voice has naturally aged over the decades and this time he’s playing to that tone rather than trying to push himself and generally this works absolutely fine. It’s a calm bit of Melodic Rock, but doesn’t quite have the energy that I was hoping for.

TRACKLISTING:
01. All At Once It Feels Like I Believe
02. Electra- Glide
03. Lay Down
04. The Runaway Damned
05. Screaming In The Half Light
06. Waterside
07. Video Show
08. Save My Soul
09. Seduce Me
10. When Love Is Done

LINE-UP:
Gary Hughes – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitars
Dann Rosingana – Lead Guitar
David Rosingana – Bass Guitar
Darrel Treece-Birch – Keyboards and Drums
Karen Fell – Backing Vocals
Scott Hughes – Lead and Backing Vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Lifeblood Album Cover Art

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 51:33
Review by Simon Black
9/10

This Italian Power / Progressive Metal outfit have been treading the boards since 1999 and having only really come across them latterly, I had to say they had not really registered much on my radar. This is probably because the challenges of maintaining a steady line-up vocally had taken their toll, with the word on the street being that with their original vocalist Roberto Messina having long since departed in 2012, that their best days were sadly in the past. So, the fact that he has re-joined them for this important tenth record, is a significant milestone event for these chaps.

And with his return, comes their mojo, as this record is a very palpable hit.

European Power Metal can be a hit and miss affair, with the Italian acts in particular often having a very distinctive classically influenced sound that makes everyone assume their name is some derivation of the word ‘rhapsody’. Whereas this record, whilst being firmly of Italian heritage, also has a strong transcontinental feel and appeal – which is a convoluted way of saying that these chaps can write lively Power and Progressive influenced material that has the right level of radio-friendly accessibility to guarantee plenty of chorus singalongs in a festival field of your choice with an audience who never actually heard your songs before. A key element of this is the phrasing within individual tracks that keeps melody lines and some of the solo breaks superficially simple and effective, but allows for a few moments of progressive flourish that remind you of how well these boys can play without limiting the accessibility for the more casual ear, that might be put off by the more technically proficient elements. That said, when guitarist Aldo Lonobile and keyboardist Gabriele Ciaccia let rip, they really can shred – ably supported by either a blisteringly relentless when needed or more measured and paced rhythm delivery as required. And because these guys know how to use their Progressive tropes sparingly, it doesn’t jar when a song manages to go both directions within the space of a few bars. This kind of flexible appeal is remarkably rare…

It’s bombastic, energetic and lively stuff for the first half then dovetails into a more melodic and commercially accessible second half, with some real care taken in the song-writing and a highly polished standard of production. For such a long album it also does the honourable thing and does not outstay its welcome. Or worse – drown you in ballads – having only the one. It’s also going to appeal to the more Metal fan base compared to some of the more Melo-Metal sounding releases they have delivered in recent years despite the commercial focus, making this an album with a really broad range of appeal. A hook-laden and well-crafted return to form.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Shaping Reality
02. Lifeblood
03. The End Of An Ego
04. Life Survivors
05. Alive
06. Against All The Odds
07. Thank You
08. The Violent Ones
09. Solitary Fight
10. Skywards
11. The Lie We Love

LINE-UP:
Roberto Messina – Vocals
Aldo Lonobile – Guitars
Andrea Buratto – Bass
Gabriele Ciaccia – Keyboards
Marco Lazzarini – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Ronnie Atkins – One Shot

One Shot Album Cover Art

Ronnie Atkins – One Shot
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 44:48
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

Do you ever find yourself pondering the finite nature of life. I do. Often. The one certainty is that, at some point, it comes to an end. This isn’t a rehearsal, and you have two choices. Drift through it, approaching everything with undue caution, or grab it by the nuts, and have fun while you can. Pretty Maids frontman, Ronnie Atkins, has certainly lived a full life, bringing sweet Rock ‘n’ Roll music to the masses for 4 decades. Our very own high lord of Ever Metal, Rick, has been a huge Pretty Maids fan since those early heady days of the 80s.

It’s fair to say that Ronnie’s been forced to do a lot of contemplating recently, too, after the devastating news that the ‘big C’ he’d battled so hard against in 2019 had come back, and was incurable. Now, for a lot of people, and certainly for me, news like this would take away any strength I had left. But not Ronnie. He’s determined to keep the nuts of life in a tight tourniquet until the end, and speak to the world, through his new solo album, “One Shot.” Lighter than the usual Pretty Maids style, Ronnie describes this album as ‘melodic rock album with a heavy twist,’ and lyrically, ‘more personal and maybe melancholic at times.’

On first listen, it truly is a great melodic rock album, complete with rock-steady beats, classic style riffs, and great vocal harmonies and guitar solos. But dig a little deeper, and it becomes all about the lyrics. It’s a bittersweet journey into the ponderings of a man’s mortality, beautifully moulded into an emotional journey of finding peace and reconciling all of life’s lessons. It reminds me, lyrically, of Queen’s “Made In Heaven” album, where Freddie explored much the same thing.

The title track of the album pretty much sums up what I’ve just said. The whole, ‘you only get one shot at life’ idea. Putting aside the emotive nature of the lyrics, knowing the backstory behind this album, it’s a stonking anthem that you could see on a stadium stage, being chorused back at the band by tens of thousands of adoring fans.

This is true of the whole album, though. Whether it’s an anthem, or a heartfelt ballad, it’s all brilliantly done, with Ronnie’s vocals taking pride of place atop the masterfully constructed melodies and orchestration of every song. It’s one of those albums that fills your entirety with happiness, and, well, life.

There isn’t anything negative about this album. It’s mixed and mastered perfectly, it’s polished, it’s passionate, it’s mature and expansive. It is what musicians spend their whole lives striving towards. Whatever musical genre you prefer, you’ll find something that connects with your soul in this album. And we all need to listen to the wisdom held within the lyrics. Thank you, Ronnie, for braving your fears and sharing this precious album with the world.

‘One Shot’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Real
02. Scorpio
03. One Shot
04. Subjugated
05. Frequency Of Love
06. Before The Rise Of An Empire
07. Miles Away
08. Picture Yourself
09. I Prophesize
10. One By One
11. When Dreams Are Not Enough

LINE-UP:
Ronnie Atkins – Lead and Backing Vocals
Chris Laney – Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards and Backing Vocals
Allan Sørensen – Drums
Morten Sandager – Keyboards
Pontus Egberg – Bass
Anders Ringman – Acoustic Guitars

Lead Guitars/Solos
Pontus Norgren, Kee Marcello, Olliver Hartmann, John Berg, Chris Laney

Additional Backing Vocals
Chris Laney, Linnea Vikström Egg, Olliver Hartmann, Bjørn Strid

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.