Phantom Elite – Titanium

Phantom Elite Titanium Album Cover Art

Phantom Elite – Titanium
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 22/01/2021
Running Time: 48:00
Review by Simon Black
9/10

This seems to be the month for this kind of music. Maybe it’s because Rick knows he can throw this stuff in my direction and I will take it on, but it really does seem that Symphonic Prog is taking over my feed. I shouldn’t complain – it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was casting around struggling to find recommendations in this field. When they are of the calibre of Phantom Elite, this is a nice problem to have…

“Titanium” is the sophomore album from this Progressive / Power Metal quartet, whose singer Marina La Torraca I was vaguely aware being one of the live Avantasia wall of vocalists. Sound-wise this is also dripping with Modern metal heaviness to go with the liberal lashings of Prog, Symphonic and Power and blast beats aplenty. Technically they are actually a five piece, as After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans is a song-writing contributor to this record, as well as taking the Producer’s chair. There is something to be said for having a key writing partner delivering the sound mix – it effectively allows the same creative influence to book end the whole end product, which ensures a tightly focussed end result aligned to the original vision (which is why so many bands naturally progress to getting involved in this area as they gain in experience).

As for the record, what we have are ten and a bit tightly crafted and sound-sculptured Modern Prog Metal tracks, whose technical delivery is faultlessly tight. There’s a rich fat sound in here, over which La Torraca’s vocals have absolutely every chance to soar, even though they keep her balanced in the mix. So often these kind of records push the cleaner female vocals too much to the front of the mix, with the instrumentals disappearing to the background, but not so here – the net effect being that she is an equal partner in the soundscape to the formidable musicians. I am going to particularly call out Koen Stam’s keyboard work interlaced with Max van Esch’s guitar, which has the kind of harmonic interplay of the calibre of the partnership Petrucci and Rudess share in Dream Theater. Yup, that good. La Torraca’s vocal prowess is considerable. Many female-fronted Symphonic bands have a tendency to strike the same tone throughout, but she has much more of a range on her and consequently we have a real variety within the sound of this record. Having fellow Avantasian Amanda Somerville on hand for a couple of tracks to boot is just the icing on the cake.

The result is an album that sounds fresh, technically blistering and really damn relevant.

‘Glass Crown’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Conjure Rains
02. The Race
03. Diamonds And Dark
04. Worst Part Of Me
05. Glass Crown
06. Titanium
07. Bravado
08. Silver Lining
09. Haven
10. Deliverance
11. Eyes Wide Open

LINE-UP:
Marina La Torraca – Vocals
Max van Esch – Guitars/Bass
Koen Stam – Keyboards
Joeri Warmerdam – 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.

Labÿrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

Welcome To The Absurd Circus Album Cover Art

Labÿrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 22/01/2021
Running time: 60:17
Review by Chris Galea
8.5/10

Progressive Rock tends to be a strong part of the genetic identity of Italian bands in general and around the turn of the millennium Labÿrinth infused that approach with a Power Metal where the keyboards, guitars and the rhythm section are equally emphasised. Over the course of several albums the band tweaked with that formula to varying degrees but in their new album “Welcome To The Absurd Circus”, my impression is that Labÿrinth have gone stylistically close to “Return To Heaven Denied”, the band’s 1998 magnum opus.

There are several qualities that make “Welcome To The Absurd Circus” a Power Prog Metal gem. One of the first things to impress me, however, is the superlative quality of the sound, courtesy of Frontiers mainstay Simone Mularoni. But then, as the album hits its stride, other factors become apparent…

…the lead vocals, for example. After having fronted Labÿrinth for most of the band’s existence, Roberto Tiranti’s singing is still in solid form. Guitarists Olaf Thorsen and Andrea Cantarelli imbue the album with strong melodies, melancholic swoops and moments of sheer virtuosism. ‘Finally Free’ is a good place to find most of that.

Completing the line-up are keyboardist Oleg Smirnov (Death SS, Eldritch…now on his 3rd Labÿrinth album), Nik Mazzucconi on bass (who also plays with Joe Lynn Turner’s band Sunstorm) and newly recruited drummer Mat Peruzzi (who replaced John Macaluso just before Labyrinth started working on this album).

From songs such as ‘Live Today’ – driven by some furious double-bass drumming, to ‘A Reason to Survive’ – a power ballad which I really liked, “Welcome to the Absurd Circus” is a solid album. ‘Den of Snakes’ wouldn’t sound too inappropriate on an Iron Maiden album. ‘The Unexpected’ strikes me as a song that would fit snugly in live scenarios…once the ongoing pandemic loosens its grip on society.

Negative points? Well, I felt that the cover of Ultravox’ song ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’, while not badly done, was pointless. And if I were pushed further, I’d say I wasn’t excessively enthusiastic about the songwriting of ‘Sleepwalker’ and ‘One More Last Chance’, although the latter contains some great guitar solos.

But perhaps I’m being finicky because in truth I really enjoyed listening to this album very much. In fact, while some Labyrinth albums needed time to grow on me, “Welcome To The Absurd Circus” is one that I fell for immediately…from the very first spin. In fact, I dare say that no self-respecting Power Metal fan should be without this album.

‘The Absurd Circus’ (Official Video):

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Absurd Circus
02. Live Today
03. One More Last Chance
04. As Long As It Lasts
05. Den Of Snakes
06. Word’s Minefield
07. The Unexpected
08. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
09. Sleepwalker
10. A Reason To Survive
11. Finally Free

LINE-UP:
Roberto Tiranti – Vocals
Olaf Thorsen – Guitars
Andrea Cantarelli – Guitars
Oleg Smirnoff – Keyboards
Nik Mazzucconi – Bass
Mattia Peruzzi – Drums

LINKS:

Labÿrinth Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Galea 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.

Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination

The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination Cover Art

Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 02/12/2020
Running Time: 60:01
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Progressive Metal is not everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure. I’ve always had a fondness for it, because before I discovered the dark side of Metal, classical music was a significant backdrop to my early life. Music doesn’t always have to be about the three and half minute hit, but if you can meld the musical complexities and long format elements and combine them with those mainstream pop sensibilities, say as a Dream Theater, Pink Floyd or Rush do then you truly get the best of both worlds. Even those that liberally pour in the Metal on top as well can create a hybrid with cross border appeal – and I am thinking here of the likes of Symphony-X, who have an unerring way of winning people over at festivals who would not normally think twice about this style of music. When Prog works, it works well, but when it gets distracted by its own complexities and forget the commercial sensibilities, it can lose its way.

Vanden Plas have many of the positive elements of the movement going for them. Musically and theatrically these guys have many of the strengths of the likes of Dream Theater and certainly comparable experience, but Dream Theater have learned the hard way that even in the rambling long form that is Prog that less is sometimes more. When they did allow their indulgence to carry them away with the fairies, the result was the utterly disappointing and widely panned “The Astonishing” and for their German genre cousins sadly this feels like a mistake of similar magnitude.

This record is not for the faint of heart. It’s the second part of a massive concept piece, the story is based on a true paranormal event and it’s an absolute beast of an opus. This is an approach they have tried before with the two “Chronicles Of The Immortals” records and as with that arc, I can’t help but feeling that a consolidated double album release would have been a better option when trying to tell this kind of story than splitting the releases into two separate recording blocks. I suggest this for one reason – when you split a concept over a several year release cycle and don’t write and produce them together, you sometimes lose some of the flow and continuity that comes of producing them together.

That’s the negatives out of the way. For the positives I cannot fault what I am hearing from any of the performances. Backed by a rich and epic sounding production standard the soaring vocal delivery of Andy Kuntz cannot help but grab your attention. There are also some real slabs of rhythmic melodic metal driving this disk. There’s plenty of instrumental proficiency on display here, and although perhaps not on as grand a scale as the Petrucci/Rudess machine, nonetheless delivers a prodigious display of technical wizardry from Stephan Lill (Guitar) and Günter Werno (Keyboards). Perhaps I need the luxury of the time to give this pair of albums a few more spins to hook myself in with, but sadly this album doesn’t quite grab the attention immediately as well as some of its peers.

‘When The World Is Falling Down’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. When The World Is Falling Down
02. Under The Horizon
03. Black Waltz Death
04. The Lonely Psychogon
05. Fatal Arcadia
06. The Ouroboros
07. Ghost Engineers
08. Krieg Kennt Keine Sieger

LINE-UP:
Andy Kuntz – Vocals
Stephan Lill – Guitar
Günter Werno – Keyboards
Andreas Lill – Drums
Torsten Reichert – Bass

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 said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Palace – Rock And Roll Radio

Palace – Rock And Roll Radio
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 04/12/2020
Running Time: 46:19
Review by Chris Galea
8/10

Just like your typical blockbuster film, “Rock And Roll Radio” is all about the ride not the destination. Musically the songs strongly remind me of Dare, the band of Thin Lizzy’s ex-keyboard player. So, we’re talking about infectious Rock music with lots of harmony vocals and hooks to spare.

Songs such as ‘Castaway’ or ‘She’s So Original’ are great to let off steam at the end of an intense day. ‘Cold Ones’ uses the saxophone to give the song its own identity. Right after the wistful ‘Eleonora’, ‘Hot Steel’ provides a little contrast with some hard rocking riffs.

At other times, the music goes so far away from Metal that what you’re listening to is actually Pop music (one example is ‘When It’s Over’). To be clear I’m not saying this in a derogatory sense because Palace is truly excellent in what it sets out to achieve. After all, the clue for that is in the album title.

Unlike the previous 2 Palace albums, almost all instruments on “Rock And Roll Radio” are played by Michael Palace, the Swedish singer spearheading the ‘band’, but the outcome is still surprisingly good. It’s only the sound of the drums that counters the album’s organic feel.

This is an album that perfectly encapsulates the 1980’s spirit of Melodic Rock.

‘Way Up Here’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Rock And Roll Radio
02. Castaway
03. Way Up Here
04. Cold Ones
05. Eleonora
06. Hot Steel
07. My Gray Cloud
08. Origin Of Love
09. She’s So Original
10. Strictly By The Rules
11. When It’s Over
12. Fight

LINE-UP:

Michael Palace – Everything

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Galea 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.

Persuader – Necromancy

Persuader – Necromancy
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 04/12/2020
Running Time: 44:04
Review by Simon Black
8/10

The Power Metal genre has its fair share of problems. Firstly, it’s a very fluid sub-genre. Traditionally it was a direct descendant of traditional Heavy Metal at the great point of divergence and diaspora in the 1980’s – taking the more upbeat, melodic and lighter route, whilst pinching the speed elements from Thrash. Secondly it is very much a European phenomenon – so much so that I can usually tell within a few bars of the opening track whether a band hails from Germany, Italy or Sweden (which let’s face it, the vast majority of them do). Thirdly it can be a frustratingly formulaic format, with repetitive structures and an unhealthy obsession with mythical concept story arcs. All this can be helpful when you fancy a singalong in a festival field somewhere in Slovenia with a band whose material you’ve not encountered up to that point, but far more challenging when trying to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace, or find yourself reviewing the fifth concept album that month about some obscure pre-Christian mythical hero. So when something like this comes along that doesn’t quite play by these three rules whilst still most definitely being Power Metal, it’s a refreshing change from all the cookie cutter efforts flying around out there (even though Persuader are in fact Swedish!).

Despite being around for twenty-three years, the band have been far from prolific, as this – their fifth album in that quite lengthy period, illustrates. But then it’s far, far better to produce one really good album every five years than three forgettable ones in the same period, and this one is very, very good. This is a very dark offering for a start and also has a very Blind Guardian feel to it, not least because Jens Carlsson is a vocal dead ringer for Hansi Kürsch, with his slightly folky / nasal timbre and powerful presence. In all other respects this album is nothing like them at all – being a far more brutal affair than the German kings of the Power genre have so far mustered.

So, this album: it’s dark, it’s heavy and it’s doesn’t drag at all (which is an affliction too many concept laden Power Metal albums struggle with as they try and retain your interest in an idea that might have made a punchy EP, but becomes somewhat strained by the half way point of a full-blown album). Like all the best Power Metal it plays around with the sound and dips its toes into the waters of other sounds, whilst staying firmly in the genre. Where this works well is that there is just enough speed and brutal aggression to fire energy into the belly of the beast, without branching too far into Speed / Thrash territory.

Unusually for a Power act, there’s no full-time keyboard player. Presumably one of the four of them is doubling up when needed given some of the technically tight, Progressive flourishes that occasionally add colour to an instrumental section, but the net effect of this is a much heavier dynamic, which allows the proficiency of Emil Norberg and newcomer Fredrik Mannberg’s guitar work to stand out hard, loud and clear. From opener ‘The Curse Unbound’, this album crashes in with some brutally fast rhythms, effortlessly switching pace and tempo to play with your emotions and taking you on a roller coaster of technical musical proficiency.

For those of you that, like me, can appreciate a technically proficient bunch of musicians, then you will be in for a treat, and one that holds the attention throughout as Persuader wrap this technical skill up in well-crafted song-writing that does not sound overtly showy. It’s got the melodic hooks to suck you in, but enough brutality, intensity and epic heaviness to perhaps keep even the more extreme fans interested. Like all well-crafted works, it reveals more of itself with every listen, and I can tell that this is a gift that’s going to keep on giving.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Curse Unbound
02. Scars
03. Raise The Dead
04. Reign Of Darkness
05. Hells Command
06. Gateways
07. The Infernal Fires

LINE-UP:
Jens Carlsson – Vocals
Emil Norberg – Guitars
Fredrik Mannberg – Guitars
Efraim Juntunen – 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.

Jeff Scott Soto – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) (2CD Edition)

Jeff Scott Soto – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) (2CD Edition)
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 06/11/2020
Running Time: 88:30
Review by Chris Galea
7/10

If you’re vaguely familiar with Jeff Scott Soto’s musical career, “Wide Awake” should not surprise or bewilder you. This is quintessential JSS as we have heard in his solo repertoire but also in bands such as Takara, Talisman and, to a lesser degree, Yngwie Malmsteen.

So, what the album offers is melodic, catchy and excessively-polished Rock songs with lots of bombastic choruses and a few tasty guitar licks as embodied in songs such as ‘Paper Wings’ or ‘Lesson of Love’. One stand-out song is the title-track…a brooding and groovy number that provides the album with some musical variegation. Besides some familiar faces, the line-up also features Italian guitarist Fabrizio Sgattoni, who makes a positive impression without detracting from the songs’ spirit.

“Wide Awake…” doesn’t score high on originality but the material is put together and delivered to high standards. Scott Soto’s instantly recognisable voice sounds as strong as ever.

The album comes with a bonus live CD featuring Soto’s performance at Frontiers Rock Festival in Italy in 2019. At that festival he had performed a selection of songs from most of his solo releases. I’m not generally a fan of live albums but I must say this recording provides added value to “Wide Awake…” and the band sounds heavier when performing live. So make sure there’s this bonus CD when purchasing your copy of the album.

‘Without You’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:

CD 1
01. Someone To Love
02. Mystified
03. Love’s Blind
04. Without You
05. Lesson Of Love
06. Paper Wings
07. Love Will Find A Way
08. Between The Lines
09. Living In A Dream
10. Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)
11. Desperate

CD2
01. Drowning (live)
02. 21St Century (live)
03. Believe In Me (live)
04. Look Inside Your Heart (live)
05. Eyes Of Love (live)
06. Band Intros (live)
07. Soul Divine (live)
08. Our Song (live)
09. Holding On (live)
10. I’ll Be Waiting (live)
11. Stand Up feat. Dino Jelusick (live)

LINE-UP:
Jeff Scott Soto – Vocals
Fabrizio Sgattoni – Guitars
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass, Keys, Guitars, Backing Vocals
Edu Cominato – Drums
August Zadra – Backing Vocals, Lead Guitar on ‘Between The Lines’

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Galea 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.

Rising Steel – Fight Them All

Rising Steel – Fight Them All
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 04/09/2020
Running Time: 54:01
Review by Chris Palmer
9.5/10

Hailing from the shores of France comes Heavy Metal quintet Rising Steel. Armed with second full-length album, “Fight Them All”, the band are hellbent on joining legendary bands Iron Maiden and Judas Priest at the summit of the Heavy Metal and NWOBHM genre.

Formed in 2012 and comprising of Emmanuelson (Vocals), Steel Zard (Drums), Flo Dust (Bass), and the twin guitar attack of Tony Steel and Mat Heavy Jones, the band delivers a delightful concoction of explosive riffing, crushing rhythms, and soaring vocals. Such an arsenal has been developed and perfected across an EP (2015’s “Warlord”) and debut full-length album (2016’s “Return of The Warlord”).

This year sees these warriors return to wet our palates once again with the superb “Fight Them All”. Released back in September via Frontiers Records, this second full-length offers the listener eleven slabs of Heavy Metal epicness across fifty-four minutes. And, you know that you’re in for a treat the second you press play, as the sound of beautiful heavy riffs launch you into opener ‘Mystic Voices’, which sets the tone for the album.

Title track, ‘Fight Them All’, is a battle cry of epic proportions. With its combination of powerful vocals, pummelling riffs, thunderous basslines, and pounding drums, it ploughs forward at breakneck speed and is topped by exquisite shredding solos during the song’s second half. With excitement and anticipation increasing, you’re not disappointed, as you come face to face with the storming, neck-breaking ‘Steel Hammer’. At 6+ minutes in length, it’s the longest track on offer in this collection, and what a masterpiece it is.

With your pulse racing after the opening three numbers, Rising Steel offers absolutely no respite, as the quintet pound the senses with the fast-paced ‘Blackheart’ and savage…erm…’Savage’! The tempo decreases a teeny, tiny notch for ‘Gloomy World’, yet the heavy rhythm will still urge you to nod along passionately. After 5+ minutes of being reminded of this gloomy world, these Frenchmen lead into the evil, enchanting sorcery of ‘Malefice’ and its wonderfully heavy reverberations. Such is the pull of evil sorcery here; you’ll feel obliged to press the repeat button numerous times.

Swiftly following is another avalanche of insanely heavy riffs, ‘Metal Nation’. This is another battle cry to Heavy/Thrash Metal, and will surely become a signature song in Rising Steel’s live playlist. Afterall, we all ride our lives for musical passion in this scene, and play heavy music for a Heavy Nation! Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the sounds of ‘Pussy’ blast through the headphones in an ode to our favourite type of music and feline friends. Surely, we all pray that Rock ‘N’ Rolls saves our souls, and listen to Heavy Metal and love our pussycats!

‘Led By Judas’ keeps the momentum going with those familiar riffs and an excellent vocal attack, as Emmanuelson and Co lead you into album closer, ‘Master Control’. They leave one of the heaviest numbers until last, and what a delight it is! Its heavy, chugging riffs will literally pound you into submission, leaving you feeling battered and bruised as the deafening silence greets you at album’s end. Although satisfied, the temptation to repeat will prove too hard to resist, and around you’ll go again…!

Overall, “Fight Them All” is an intoxicating piece of work. Although nothing new is being done here, that’s not the point, for this is a wonderful collection of songs that should help Rising Steel climb further up the ladder of the Heavy Metal/NWOBHM genre. It is an album chock full of soaring vocals, punishing drums, pounding basslines, and purely outstanding guitar-play, all put together with a battle cry, and a delightful sense of humour. An essential addition to anyone’s heavy music collection, and remember to love those pussycats!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Mystic Voices
02. Fight Them All
03. Steel Hammer
04. Blackheart
05. Savage
06. Gloomy World
07. Malefice
08. Metal Nation
09. Pussy
10. Led By Judas
11. Master Control

LINE-UP:
Emmanuelson – Vocals
Tony Steel – Guitars
Mat Heavy Jones – Guitars
Steel Zard – Drums
Flo Dust – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Palmer 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.

One Desire – Midnight Empire

One Desire – Midnight Empire
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 22/05/2020
Running Time: 51:32
Review by Tsarina Wilson
9.5/10

When an album starts with a creepy voice that gives you goose bumps and then the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, you know you’re in for a good time. And this is how “Midnight Empire” by Finnish rockers One Desire begins. It is a feel-good album and the tracks just get better and better.

For those of you not familiar with One Desire, they formed in 2012, initially as a project put together by drummer Ossi Sivula. Fast forward a couple of years and they were working with renowned producer, Jimmy Westerlund (Negative, Sturm Und Drang, Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, Pitbull etc), who has several platinum and gold albums to his credit as a producer, guitarist, and song writer.

This brought them to the attention of Frontiers, but at the time, they needed a good singer. Enter stage right Andre Linman from the band Sturm und Drang, who joined the band in 2016. The remaining member, bassist Jonas Kuhlberg (Paul Di Anno, Cain’s Offering, MyGrain), then joined and the band was complete.

Their self-titled debut album really took off, with the track ‘Hurt’ gaining nearly 2 million hits on YouTube and almost 3 million streams on Spotify! After listening to the track, I can totally understand why! Following a successful European tour with Eclipse, they headed back to the studio to start work on this release. “Midnight Empire”. It took two years of work, but now it’s here!

Throughout the album I found myself thinking, “who do these guys remind me of?” and I kept coming back to two bands. Van Halen and the Scorpions! That upbeat, brilliant, 80’s good listening rock, that’s heavy enough to be ROCK, but not so OTT that your ear drums bleed! “Midnight Empire” is the complete package, punchy guitar playing, good rocking drums, amazing vocals…In fact, there’s nothing I don’t like about this! It’s been a while since an album I’ve reviewed has had such an upbeat vibe to it. It makes you just want to put it on repeat and listen over and over again.

Track 2 ‘After You’re Gone’ is definitely one of those tracks that is made for the summertime, window down, volume up, playing finger drums on the steering wheel (yes most of us have done it)! It has that feel good factor throughout. Not all the tracks are full on rockers though, you get some slightly slower tracks, but it just gives the whole album more appeal. I said earlier they remind me a little of Van Halen, by this I mean where you get an almost ballad type track, which then suddenly jumps to a faster tempo. It certainly keeps you on your toes which helps maintain interest throughout the album.

I have to give a special mention to the vocals here. You not only get some amazing melody vocals, but the harmonising is spot on as well! Not too overpowering but complimenting the main vocals of Andre whose vocals are crisp and clear, but with such an edge.

Track 5, ‘Through the Fire’, takes you in a differently direction all together. This slower, ballad like track, is such a variation to the others. But it’s not “just another ballad” because, out of nowhere, it explodes into another dimension! You can feel the guys passion for their music through almost every track, but in this one it’s especially noticeable. They sound like they’re singing their entire hearts out, and every ounce of energy they had went into it. In every track you can hear and feel how much the music means to them, and they want you to share that experience with them.

The final track, ‘Only When I Breathe, is a real ‘lighters out’ rock ballad, and really gets to you (for those of us who have a heart)! Listening to this, I think it’s something most of us can relate to at some point in our lives.

All I can say is wow. “Midnight Empire” is truly brilliant, and I have already added it to my music collection. The passion on each track is tangible. They have put their heart and soul into it completely and should be so proud!

As a little side note, a quick mention about track 9, ‘Killer Queen’! Just to say DON’T PANIC!! It’s not a cover of the Queen track!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Shadowman
02. After You’re Gone
03. Down And Dirty
04. Godsent Extasy
05. Through The Fire
06. Heroes
07. Rio
08. Battlefield Of Love
09. Killer Queen
10. Only When I Breathe

LINE-UP:
Jimmy Westerlund – Guitars
Andre Linman – Lead Vocals
Ossi Sivula – Drums
Jonas Kuhlberg – Bass

LINKS:
www.instagram.com/OneDesireBand
www.onedesire.net/
www.facebook.com/OneDesireBand/
www.twitter.com/oneDesireBand
www.youtube.com/channel/UCaMXnDg9g7WKw1tHHI69FnA
www.open.spotify.com/artist/1s25YudYTrIRBOSsj917K7

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Tsarina Wilson 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.

Vega – Grit Your Teeth

Vega – Grit Your Teeth
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/06/2020
Running Time: 42:11
Review by Beth Jones
9.5/10

I have an eclectic taste in music. I spent a good part of tonight listening to Mozart (who is incidentally the finest composer to ever grace the face of the earth, in my humble opinion). When I’m not indulging in a bit of classical or jazz, I like to get stuck into the heavier stuff. Anything from industrial and djent to power metal and classic heavy rock cuts it for me, as long as it’s got a bit of vim!

Enter stage left, “Grit Your Teeth”, the new release, and sixth studio album from Vega, the UK’s answer to Bon Jovi and latter era Aerosmith (who incidentally I both love)! I first became aware of these guys at Amplified 2017 and was instantly a fan! Their album release of that year, “Only Human”, is still on my regular playlist, and I’ve been hotly anticipating this new release for some months!

The band bring a certain edge to the classic 80’s AOR sound, which makes it current, and I really enjoy. This album is certainly no exception to their ‘classic with a modern twist’ feel. Every tune has an ‘anthem’ quality about it, and you can picture huge crowds at massive festivals having an absolute ball to it!  This release has been created with the help of “The Graves Brothers” (Asking Alexandria, Funeral for Friend, The Family Ruin), and, for me, the production has stepped up a big level. I’m a stickler for production, as you may have noticed, and it’s superbly done here.

So, what makes Vega’s sound so good? Well there are a number of things. First and foremost, Nick Workman’s vocals. He has the perfect voice for this sort of music and has a brilliant range. He can deliver power and punch right to the top of his range, but also has the control to bring it down when the music requires. Vocal harmonies add an extra layer, and that backed up by the riffs and melodies on multiple guitars. There are some blistering solos throughout this album, but nothing is over-done. The rhythm section don’t over complicate things, instead opting to do solid well! This sits perfectly within their style. And finally, the atmospheric keyboards and synth elements add a variation in colour and depth which tastefully nods back to the classic sounds of the 80’s (also a superb musical era, and anyone who says any different is wrong).

This is an up-tempo album, which has you nodding your head and tapping your toes right from the start. Every track is perfectly positioned within the album, making it ebb and swell in all the right places. Even though every tune is a banger, and we do get a cracking ballad in the shape of ‘Consequence Of Having A Heart’, I think my favourite track on the album is ‘Battles Ain’t A War’, which is slower than the rest, and the most stripped back and deep song on the album. It is in a minor key, which gives it a lamenting feel that is pleasing, in a melancholy kind of way. It also has a great choral backing vocal section towards the end, and the addition of strings, which give it an extra layer.

Another one that sticks in my head is ‘Save Me From Myself’. It has a ridiculously catchy chorus hook, which I was singing along with by the second listen!

But, and you’re going to get sick of me saying this, we have another example of the cardinal sin of music, the fade out, putting in an appearance. It was all going so well, and then the penultimate track goes and does a fade out to finish! Tut tut! For the love of god, please will bands stop doing that and find a way to bloody finish the song instead!! It’s a double shame as there’s an epic little guitar solo in this track too, which is beautifully panned from left to right for effect. It would have been a ten out of ten album for me, but in keeping with my musical morals, half a mark docked for the fade! Sorry chaps!

Apart from that though, stunning album! A huge step forward from their last, and I hope that this is the start of a wider recognition for this immensely talented band, as they thoroughly deserve it! If you like classic AOR, with a Bon Jovi and 80’s/90’s Aerosmith feel, seriously try this album out for size, as you won’t be disappointed!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Blind
02. (I Don’t Need) Perfection
03. Grit Your Teeth
04. Man On A Mission
05. Don’t Fool Yourself
06. Consequence Of Having A Heart
07. This One’s For You
08. Battles Ain’t A War
09. Save Me From Myself
10. How We Live
11. Done With Me

LINE-UP:
Nick Workman – Vocals
Tom Martin – Bass And Guitar
Marcus Thurston – Guitar
James Martin – Keyboards
Mikey Kew – Guitar
Martin Hutchison – Drums

LINKS:
www.vegaofficial.co.uk/
www.facebook.com/OFFICIALVEGA
www.twitter.com/VegaOfficial
www.youtube.com/user/FrontiersRecords/search?query=vega
www.instagram.com/vegaofficialband/
www.open.spotify.com/artist/4fn3t2tBoP4nIOoqXAENIT

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.

Khymera – Master Of Illusions

Khymera – Master Of Illusions
Frontiers Music s.r.l
Release Date: 06/03/2020
Running Time: 45:25
Review by Tsarina Wilson
9.5/10

Rarely is it that an album comes along that I start listening to and I think “ooo this is my favourite track!” then listen to next track and think, “No wait! This one is!”, until I end up running out of tracks! But it sure happened with this album, “Master Of Illusions”. From the first track to the last I was hooked and soaked up every note, drum beat, guitar riff and lyric (anyone who hasn’t guessed – I so liked this album)!

For those not in the know, Khymera is a musical collaboration project, originally started by Italian producer/musician Daniele Liverani and Steve Walsh, who at the time was the Kansas vocalist. Then Bassist Dennis Ward (Magnum and Pink Cream 69), known more for backing vocals, bass work and production duties joined and stepped up to lead vocals, adding another string to his bow of skills! It’s been over four years since the last album, “The Grand Design” (guys, please don’t leave it another four years for the next one, thanks!), and for this release, the line-up consists of Dennis Ward on vocals and bass, Michael Klein on guitars, Eric Ragno on keyboards and Pete Newdeck on drums.

“Master Of Illusion” has quite an 80’s rock vibe, but with a modern twist to it. Whilst having a hint of Def Leopard/ Europe, they certainly make this their own. The melodic vocals, which are so easy on the ear, combined with such feel good songs mean you can easily sit and listen to this and drift away, but just as easily put it on the car stereo and crank it up loud and sing along. Think summer trips out, windows down, music loud – yes that much of a feelgood factor just pours from these tracks.

There is also some properly great drumming that seriously starts you table drumming! On track ‘The First Time’, this quickly leads to air drumming! Again, on this track, the harmonising vocals blend so well, and the addition of the keyboards, then epic guitar riffs, make it superb. The album title track follows this, and once again the hint of the keyboards just makes such a great change from the norm. These guys prove great song writing is still alive and very much kicking, in fact kicking ass, big time!

Track 4, ‘The Sun Goes Down’, has such a good summertime rock vibe – the statement ‘sing loud, sing proud’, certainly comes into its own here! From the first drum beat it’s uplifting, with guitar riffs that explode from nowhere, it leaves you wanting more!

Every great album has to have a badass ballad, and of course the guys don’t fail us on this, with ‘Father To Son’ being such a touching song, with lyrics from the heart. Get your lighters out and be prepared to raise them at any gig this is played at, and sing it damn loud! It actually gave me goose bumps whist listening to it, and I had to keep it on repeat a few times, as I was just blown away by it.

Packed full of excellent vocals, beautiful harmonies, on point drumming, and epic guitar riffs, “Masters Of Illusions” is an uplifting album and proves there is so much great music out there.

Khymera, please promise me you won’t take four years for the next instalment of material! I think anyone who hasn’t heard them yet is missing out, and everyone I’ve told about the album has come back to me with the same reaction – “wow they are brilliant”!! Seriously, get listening to this album.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Walk Away
02. The First Time
03. Master Of Illusion
04. The Sun Goes Down
05. Paradise
06. The Rhythm Of My Life
07. Follow The Sun
08. Father To Son
09. After All This Time
10. Victim Of Your Love
11. Just Let It Happen

LINE-UP:
Dennis Ward – Vocals and Bass
Michael Klein – Guitars
Eric Ragno – Keyboards
Pete Newdeck – Drums

LINKS:
www.facebook.com/KhymeraTheGrandDesign/ (FAN PAGE)
www.spotify.com/artist/2cauhM67gAJ8ilHvkNNZa4
www.youtube.com/channel/UCAP7bFhhpU6fhnccffaNtCA
www.frontiers.it/album/5584
www.facebook.com/frontiersmusicsrl/

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Tsarina Wilson 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.