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Updated 25th February 2003

Jim Jidhed - Styx - ACT - Demon Drive - Biss - Final Frontier - Drive, She Said - Dragonforce - Firefly - Fire Alley - Rare Form - Mikael Erlandsson - Shiva - Visionary - Mad Margritt - Animal

All reviews by Andrea Bertamino except where noted

 

JIM JIDHED

"Full Circle" (Atenzia Records)

Rating: 95

Hey you, we’re in front of a stunning AOR album that will fight for the first medal in the 2003 Top Ten, an album beautifully written and recorded and even better sung by the ex singer of Swedish band Alien, now at his second solo album after "Jim" released back in 1990 (but I read of another solo album called "Snart Kommer Natten" that also the "Melodic Rock Bible" ignored).

Yes, we’re again in front of some music owing a lot to Journey and Toto, to the ‘80s, but when we hear songs like these 13 tunes included in "Full Circle", well, just hats off and let’s get our ears ready to be slaves to the great voice of Jim, here helped by Tommy ‘everywhere’ Denander.

The start is very good and "I Will Never Leave You Now" recalls of Journey circa "Raised On Radio" and Jim’s voice similar to Steve Perry makes more evident my comparison, while the titletrack is an introspective and melanchonic song (a little like Boulevard’s second album) and the support of Sweden Rock Orchestra’s strings gives one emphasis to this song featuring an irresistible refrain.

These only two tracks would be enough to knock you out, but Jim and Tommy are ‘sadists’ and go on recovering "Silence Of The Heart" with very nice sensations in refrain and pre-refrain. In "Someday" important hints of Toto emerge (Denander’s ‘fault’) with a refined instrumental arrangemets typical of this band early in the ‘80s and some Chicago flavour in choruses, then we reach the passionate slow tune "I Can’t Go On" once again featuring the Sweden Rock Orchestra and Jim shows an emotive singing for a classic Top Of The Charts single.

Following "Anyway You Want It" hardens the sound led by Denander’s guitar and by Marcel Jacob (Talisman) driving bass althought it always hits the AOR and shows a nice refrain, but soon Jidhed softens again the music with mid tempo "Now We Cry" featuring Bruce Gaitsch on acoustic guitar and female vocals to exalt the perfect AOR refrain.

"Lost Angels", written by Steve Perry and Cliff Magness, was already recorded by Raine for their album "Peace" but this version, with Kimmo Blom and Erkka Korhonen (Urban Tale) on back vocals, is much better even if I think it would have been better with a faster pace, and the singer from Gutenberg does anything to be ‘forgiven’ with "I’ll Be Ready Then", a mega ballad where all is at very high levels, a song worth of massive airplay and sales.

If compared to such opulence, the Journey like uptempo "Falling In Love" is ‘simply’ a nice tracks and effectively its more linear and cheerful structure makes it sound more banal (but lend your ears to keyboards and Orchestra’s parts) and similar fate is for the warm mid tempo "Wish You Were Here".

"Don’t Close Your Eyes" is danceable and revisits Toto in the typical Skandi AOR with a less catchy refrain, but also in this case Jim places a great song as follower, the acoustic slow "Marie" guesting the endless great and romantic singing.

A couple of songs just below the high averate won’t be enought to take "Full Circle" in the lower scale of my next AOR Top Ten, wishing that Atenzia’s economic and Jidhed/Denander’s artistic efforts are more than rewarded by huge success and sales, the only way not to wait thirteen more years before listening excellent albums like this one.

http://www.atenziarecords.com


STYX

"Cyclorama" (Sanctuary Records)

Rating: 90

Often called The Rock Dinosaurs, Styx release their first studio album without former member Dennis DeYoung showing to be very competitive also with this line-up led by Tommy Shaw (vc, gt) and James Young (gt, vc) who coordinate the experience brought in by Glen Burtnik (bs, vc) and Lawrence Gowan (keyb, vc), derived by their past solo albums (and Glen had already joined Styx when Shaw left for Damn Yankees), with Todd Sucherman (dr – substitute of John Panozzo, passed a couple of years ago) to complete the band.

I consider "Cyclorama" as Styx’ best album since reunion, a cd that amalgamates the old songwriting model with others more of nowadays, the whole with a hint of Gowan / Burtnik’s personality, and Styx can release an interesting and pleasant album, not comparable with the best ones of the ‘70s or early ‘80s, but still able to command younger bands.

"Cyclorama" is opened by "Do Things My Way" whose flavour recalls Damn Yankees and live will seduce the fans, but it’s not the best song and following "Waiting For Our Time" has a fine refrain and is much more in the band’s means.

Even better the ‘70s infected "Fields Of The Brave" marking the debut as studio lead vocalist by Gowan, a beautiful and paced song bringing back the old instrumentation in which I can hear traces of Queen circa the same period, and the same goes for "More Love For The Money").

Then it’s up to Burtnik to sing "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" that’s more power pop oriented with a touch of ‘ancient’ pompous rock and it’s one of the roughest and hard to drive track, followed by "These Are The Times" and James Young sings this charming and epic six minutes pomp rock song.

"Yes I Can", written by Tommy Shaw/Jack Blades, was to appear on the unreleased third Damn Yankees album and luckily it’s now here to ease the tension with its delicate acoustic guitar licks and perfect vocal harmonies.

A couple of songs slightly below average ("Together" and hard rocker "Captain America") are the necessary tribute to pay to reach the haunting slow "Killing The Thing That You Love" that Burtnik beautifully sings sustained by greater and elevated pompous parts in the best Styx tradition. Shaw leads the hard and pompous rock called "One With Everything" that carries the typical Styx sound but I still wonder how it would have been played by Neal Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson (no Rush member can substitute Gowan and his great solo and backing work on keyboards) with all Styx members singing choruses.

The six minutes of "Genki Desu Ka" are used partially to joke with that electronic pop that MTV shoots in heavy rotation and partially for some studio talking.

Anyway, if you like some great music, just buy "Cyclorama"!

http://www.styxworld.com/


A.C.T.

"Last Epic" (Atenzia Records)

Rating: 90

For their third album, the Swedish progsters A.C.T. opts for Atenzia Records which invests money to offer a complete product also under the visual aspect, not satisfied with the high level as songwritings and productions. The five piece walks along their usual paths of melodic rock, prog rock and symphonic waving that enrich arrangements, instrumental passages (always dominated by good Herman Saming on vocals) and phrases that risk to bore listener as sometimes happened with previous "Imaginary Friends".

ACT don’t change their strategy but recognize the past mistakes and the songs are now more complete and throw a bridge among the most different needs as the frivolous walk of "Mr. Landlord" and "Wake Up", the elaborated metal prog of "Torn By A Phrase" made precious by delicate acoustic pieces, from the passionate ballad "Ted’s Ballad" to the theatrical metal prog teatrale of "Manipulator", to the cohordinated passages of instrumental "A Loaded Situation" (there are not only Liquid Tension Experiment to create such situazions).

As happened in the past, I fear that some shallow persons marks think very find album as ‘a concentrated of mindless inconclusiveness’, but I admit that to face "Last Epic" you need a solid music background, you have to accept to be wrongfooted in any moment and have a large auditory ‘stomach’ or there’s risk of indigestion.

A last note: in this album you can hear a human strings section.

http://www.atenziarecords.com ; http://www.actworld.nu


DEMON DRIVE

"Four Play" (Escape Music)

Rating: 80

Compared to the weak "Heroes" album, the new release from German rockers Demon Drive (always headed by singer Michael Voss) seems coming from another planet: funny, lively, solid, catchy and fresh.

The eleven songs belong to the well known history of AOR and melodic hard rock and DD are not brave explorators of new ideas, but it’s such a pleasure to listen to similar professionists.

Cheerful opener "Roller Coaster Ride" sounds like a harder verions of REO Speedwagon (and in the refrain I hear some hints of Styx in the vocal layout), so following "Devil Woman" (originally written by Cliff Richard) is filtered thru’ the British hard rock and refrain sounds here like some old Deep Purple hits.

Another change in "Misdemeanor", a little more modern (but with no exaggeration, that’s not the DD’s DNA), and in "Dance Into The Music", a classic US melodic rock of the ‘80s with a light touch of Doobie Brothers.

Staying on more than good levels, "Four Play" flows to the end for the pleasure of fans of Bon Jovi, Enuff Z’Nuff and Nelson, with the only break by "Room N.17", a hot and ironic hard rocker led by the burning guitar of Thorsten Koehne, driving along similar tunes of Dave Lee Roth, Motley Crue and (without its raw approach) George Thorogood, but with refined and delicious jazz/blues inserts.

Not a masterpiece, "FP" is a nice and happy brother of travel in this period of time, and I’m sure it’ll be able to be your friend, too.

http://www.demondrive.com


BISS

"Joker In The Deck" (Point Music)

Rating: 80

Singer Fernando Garcia left and it shocked a little the band, but producer Michael Voss and guitar player Doc Heyne have faced the fate and called Barend Courbois (bs – Vengeance) and Jos Zoomer (dr – Vanderberg) for the second Bliss chapter making more solid the rhythm section, while just Jaded Heart’s Michael Bormann has been chosen as singer and he records some hot and fiery vocal parts.

Thunderous Biss’ hard rock always hits the target driven by the Heyne’s guitar inexhaustible riffs, and he gives new life to old writing models using also more modern tricks and licks easy to find in the tremendous mid tempo "C-Y-A" and "Dogfighter" written with Paul Sabu (also guesting on back vocals in this tune).

The fat and raw production by Voss creates a mighty wall of sound where each instrument has a well definite role and is a thumb up for the final rating of "JITD".

Dogface second album would have benefited by featuring tracks like "Rebel Without A Cause" whose young hard rock aggressivity (with some passages of neoclassic heavy rock) inspirates headbanging and on stage will involve fans with its melodic load.

A blemish of Biss is to always keep too much electric tension even when, IMHO, a greater dose of grace would be needed as in "Flying High", a heavy ballad to which keyboards give an important dramatic feeling, and in "The Flood". Metal defenders will appreciate above all the epic and wicked pace of "As Known As" whose catchy and almost AOR refrain is curiously based upon a very fast guitar playing in solistic mode, but the whole works very well.

A really nice album with some passages out of the usual.


FINAL FRONTIER

"The First Wave" (Z Records)

Rating: 75

I have no idea kow long can last the partnership between singer Rob Moratti (Moratti) and guitar player Mladen (Von Groove) or if Final Frontier are a one-off band made of friends, anyway there’s quality in this project based upon an AOR/Melodic Rock of the ‘80s plenty with keyboards, catchy choruses, lovely riffs and easy lyrics.

As happening since a quite long time, we’re in front of an album offering again a style that had its own part in music history, an enjoyable and well crafted cd (not the ugly artwork) with a nice songwriting so I cannot throw such albums in the wastebasket, even if you’ll find all of the ingredients used twenty years ago lacking of that quid that brings 91 Suite or Jim Jidhed to a higher level above average.

If you agree to go on, you’ll find in "TFW" eleven tracks that find in the more linear and mainstream Styx the godfathers above all in the vocal parts (listen to "Long Live Those Golden Years" loyal and honest just from the title), but also REO Speedwagon, Journey and early Bon Jovi play a important roles.

Don’t miss the vigorous "Restless Heart", the teenager "The Power" with Pete Lesperance (Harem Scarem) as guest on lead guitar and semi ballad "Ambrosia", similar to those American college movies of the ‘80s and the mentioned "Long Live".

Less brilliant, but not so much, even the remaining songs are worth a listening (and I can use the same words used for Departure’s "Corporate Wheel") and fill and album that in the ‘80s would have gained five more points, but if buy you won’t need a whip for wasting money!


DRIVE, SHE SAID

"Real Life" (Frontiers Records)

Rating: 75

D,SS took elevn years, since "Excelerator", to release a new album, since I consider "Road To Paradise" (1998) as an ‘enhanced’ best of, and today Al Fritsch (vc, gt, bs) and Mark Mangold (keyb) are back under the spotlight with Jonathan Mover (GTR, Joe Satriani) on drums, releaseing 13 songs of classic and pure AOR.

Since opener "Real Life", written as requested by the genre with airy keyboards, iper melodic vocal parts, guitar in the forefront as needed. "Stronger" remarks the more pompous side of DSS and its refrain is cathcy and anthemic, but also quite banal (it recalls a little Bob Catley circa his first solo album) because based upon chords whose sequence has been pillaged in the past decades. I’ve been quite irritated by the hard pomp rock called "What’s It Gonna Take" that echoes of classic Touch hit "Don't You Know What Love Is?" adding a slice of early Toto, so I resist very little and skip to following "Silver White", elegant and romantic slow number for voice and keyboards with a nice performance by Fritsch.

A less brilliant sound for the fast "Overdrive", hard rock like Joe Lynn Turner circa "Slam", but the pomp/AOR roots appear agin in "Find Your Place" that seems to be stopped when it had to flow more liquid, guesting anyway a fine Mangold’s solo.

"All Your Heart" is a placid tune that brings us to late ‘70s pomp rock with a open refrain and I found myself singing it with Fritsch, followed by mid tempo "Hold Me" with some parts close to Dare, but the average quality of these songs is surpassed by urging "When Will It Be Love?" in typical DSS style, good or bad it may ever be.

We’re arriving to the end with delicate semi ballads "How Can I Be Sure" (the singing in refrain is similar to Damn Yankees’ "High Enough", the organ in the verse plays the dominant theme of classic "A Whiter Shade Of Pale"), "Always And Forever (Godz)" (once again with the emphasis of first Bob Catley’s solo cd and one Kansas’ approach) and "Believe" bouncing AOR and pop in a nice marriage of interests.

Mark and Al offer some good tunes, a great work in the arrangements and vocal departments, so this is a positive come back, but nothing so exceptional.


DRAGONFORCE "Valley of the Damned" (Sanctuary) Rating: 75

For reasons more to do with some form of cultural arrogance than the quality of the music, power metal has tended to have an audience of devoted acolytes in the United Kingdom, dismissed by the arbiters of taste who would rather promote the highly intellectual posturings of (c)rap than something so passe darlings as metal. Signs are suggestive of a stirring, with the emergence of bands such as Power Quest, Intense, the warm reception afforded Primal Fear, and Stratovarius, and the willingness of at least one national magazine to cover the scene without fear or favour.

Thus Dragonforce, who out performed Blind Guardian and Nightwish on mp3 charts,and having acquired support slots with Halford and Stratovarius, and pulled in 300 souls to their first headline show in London ( and there's a few more critically cool bands who could not manage that) hooked up with Sanctuary for this their debut album.

"Valley of the Damned" as a whole is classic double bass Helloween meets Nocturnal Rites( circa The Sacred Talisman), power metal with infectious melodies, a Kai Hansen-esque vocalist in the form of ZP Theart, and contrasting yet complementary guitar styles form Herman Li and Sam Totman, while Vadim Pruzhanov's keyboards add texture and weight, emphasising the melodic thrust of proceedings, all wrapped up in a warm production from Threshold's Karl Groom.

"Disciples of Babylon" is rampaging drums, towering hooks declaimed from the heights of Babel, and some nicely arranged and surprising acoustic guitar runs supported by a piano figure from Pruzhanov that brings Billy Powell ( Lynyrd Skynyrd)of all people to mind, whilst "Starfire" is a stunning piano led ballad with a thread of British steel that welds itself into the heart of one memory cortex.

"Revelations" seems Li and Totman duelling in prime Murray/Smith fashion, whilst Theart has a good old roar before the torches on the mountain top chorus snags you into the exuberance of it all. Sure there stackloads of references to dragons, fires, swords, warriors, and so many valleys/forests/mountains are ridden through the listener let alone the band could be excused for feeling somewhat saddlesore, and in need of a merry wench and baby oil, but somehow that feels a lot more positive than yet another litany of wailing and footstomping moaning from people suckled by the richest societies on earth, or yet another hymn to the marvels of blowing someone away for the crime of wearing the wrong colours. All in all a strong start to one suspects may be a fine careers...and so how about Dragonforce for Donington?

Andrew Paul


FIREFLY

"Automatic" (MTM Music)

Rating: 50

No, I cannot believe that a label with such a name allows to release albums like this one!

Firefly are a band with a couple of albums under the belt labelled Escape Music and today the line-up includes John Pratt, John Thomas, Bob Gilles, Ron Wikso, Michael Alemania and Roger Feits, musicians with a solid background but here offering a really discouraging performance from the bad sound (or in my hands there’s a demo still to be mixed?) that has in the drums the lowest quality: maybe it’s also because of the annoying sound that the song sound flat, impersonal, copies (and badly done) of Def Leppard, Giant and Journey, bringing to one sensation of unwillingness that helps sink "Automatic".

I liked a lot Firefly’s first album, the second one was more banal and below average and the third one marks the lowest point.

Every now and then I can hear a just nice idea, a nice arrangement, a pleasant refrain, a good riff, but all in all avoid purchasing "Automatic", if you can.


FIRE ALLEY

"Fire Alley" (Self Produced)

Rating: 80

 

Fire Alley hail from Scottsdale, Arizona, and they were born thanks to guitarist Jack ‘Jaxxon’ Schwarz and his son James Welch (vc), with Mark Blythe (bs) and Mike Claudio (dr) to complete the line-up.

In the year 2000, at Schwarz’s home, they recorded the songs featured on this cd, but early last year father and son re-worked their own parts, re-arranged and revisited the tracks, so today they release these eleven-songs of old fashioned, sound and pleasant melodic rock with blues hints recalling quite often Bad Company, but with a fresher verve than the one showed by the Company in the ‘90s.

Opener "Wait" (with a malicious slice of Motley Crue) is son of the typical Southern American States rock and in the ‘70s airplay would be massive, but one of the best moments arrives with "Call On Me", delicate AOR semi ballad showing a perfect mix of Richard Marx and Bad Company. "Thick And Thin" (originally written by Bad Angels) is another semi ballad, a little more melanchonic and at the same time a little less fine than "Call On Me", is a good appetizer for "Living For The Moment" alternating powerful blues blows (chorus) with a pompus verse like Styx/Angel, and for the hard rock like Led Zeppelin "Reaching For You" offering a great final portion melodic as Boston.

"Dear Child" was written by Jack in 1977 and results to be a very nice pomp rock with those usual blues hints featured also in melodic rocker "Lost In Yesterday".

"Winner Takes It All" has a rock blues basement over which Jaxxon plays a long solo showing his love for Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix, so it’s up to "By My Side", enriched with piano and keyboards, to give sweetness to the sould before "Black Cat Crawl" (agan between Bad Company and Motley Crue) salutes us.

Fire Alley have released a sincere, old fashioned as still good to listen to rock album that will hit regurarly my cd player.

Contacts: http://www.firealley.com, e-mail jaxxon@firealley.com


RARE FORM

"Rare Form" (Self Produced)

Rating: 80

Rare Form were formed early in the ‘90s by Bill McCracken (gt, vc) who still holds the leadership of this trio completed by Tim Sands (bs) and Don Patridge (dr), evoking similitudes not only in numbers with Rush, from whom they learned the art of writing complex songs bounced with a generous dose of melody.

The sound quality is not of the best around (above all in the drums department), but you cannot be limited by this aspect or you might lose some great progressive with hard rock and, in few passages, fusion accents.

Opener "Stake My Claim" and "10:18" (whose refrain is close to Shotgun Symphony) state at once what the three want to do, even if Bill has a ‘fatter’ voice than Geddy Lee, but the harmonic structures, the instrumental waving and the arrangements bring Rush to our mind thought there’s no carbon copy here, and "Innermission" or "Nocturnal Vacation" are clear proofs that Rare Form can walk with their own legs.

Bill and Tim know deeply their own instruments so they can write and play the suggestive ballad "Matthew’s Song", united through the short as evoking guitar / keyboards instrumental "Möbius Trip" to the faster "So Many" with a majestic refrain next to Styx.

After "No Strap, Bad Back", another instrumental track with a typical ‘70s like structure, we reach "Senses", a dynamic song building a bridge between Rush, Shotgun Symphony and Styx, with a simple as catchy refrain.

The delicate "Found By Each Other", for acoustic guitar and voice, closes the official tracklist (there are seven more traces, but they’re short jokes) with a guitar waving coming stright from Alex Lifeson’s guitar, finding a moving orchestral support in Sands’.

Rare Form are skilled musicians, both under the technical and the writing point of view. They donate us this collection of songs maybe not so trendy, but for sure timeless.

Contacts: movingspirit@mail.del.net


MIKAEL ERLANDSSON

"The Gift" (MTM Music)

Rating: 85

 

It was a quite long time since the last album from Swedish singer / multinstrumentalist Mikael Erlandsson who started his career in 1987 as drummer with a punk band, then he joined as keyboardist The Studs in 1985, in 1987 he eneterd N’Gang (with whom he had a successful single in Sweden and partecipated the Eurovision Song Contest with a song written by Tommy Denander) and in 1991 we find him with hard rockers Crush (one album and one tour) to debut three years later with album "The 1", followed by "Under The Sun" (1996) and "Unfamiliar" (1997).

The present deal with MTM makes him release his fourth solo album "The Gift" that sees him dealing with a nice mix of pop and rock as Swedish musicians often know to combine, raging from Roxette (maybe it's becuase he has Mats Persson as producer?), Bryan Adams, Rick Springfield, Danny Wilde, Bon Jovi and Queen, with no particular low moment, but loads of catchy melodies.

Among the best tracks we have the cheerful opener "Out Of Champagne", with some Queen-like choruses in the verse and a nice refrain that will ensalve your ears, mid tempo "Stop", where I find similitudes with Nelson, The Beatles and Danny Wilde, the more modern rock oriented "I Love You", the intense blues ballad "Soul Is My Name" filled with taste and class, the ultra-catchy pop rock "Excuse Me Baby" with a great refrain and the cheerful again "24 Hours" placed at the end of this cd.

The not mentioned tracks are a little less brilliant, but they're no filler at all because they anyway are full of good arrangements, very melodic vocal parts and really catchy refrains.


SHIVA

"Shiva" (Z Records)

Rating: 75

There's some buzz about Z Records, about it's unethical behaviour, but I have to tell you about Shiva's debut album anyway.

Born from the ashes of Yankee Heaven, Swedish band Shiva is formed by singer Anette Johanson (a kind of blend between Sandy Saraya, Darby Mills and Lee Aaron) and multinstrumentalis Mats Edstrom, debutting with eleven class rock songs whose sound is unfortunately the one now sadly typical of Mark Alger's label releases.

Shiva don't venture along new roads, but follow well known in the '80s standards as songwriting even if they're not an useless carbon copy of what was done years ago.

Since the first track "Marilyn" (close to Shy) the duo delcares its own wills with a nice choice of vocal melodies and energetic riffs, passing to more sharp and heavier sounds with ass kicking "Stay Out".

"Dow Jones Index" (quite close to Kiss circa "Asylum") was written last September 10th 2001 and deals with bad things in the financial/commercial world, but under the music point of view it is powerful and one of the best song of this album. In "Would You Lie To Me" (written by Mats for Renegade's thrid album) I find a continous alternating of Heart and Whitesnake hints, but "Free My Soul" is doubtless a mighty example of Melodic Metal so as "Lead You On" jokes with ZZ Top and Dokken in its verse to flow into a more melodic refrain and "Right On Time" recovers some Winger influences.

"One More Day" is an AOR ballad but there's nothing too wimpy here, and Annette has the chance to better use her voice, but she's also comfortable in the raw melodic metal "No Place For The Living".

Shiva bring along a genre that many young rock fans have never had the chance to listen to, and Shiva do it right, even if there's a lot to improve in the sound department.

Contacts: http://www.shivahardrock.com


VISIONARY

"Strange but familiar shores" (Nightmare Records)

Rating: 80

As 2003 stumbles in rather bleary eyed, we see that little changes, labels battle each other, bands battle labels, thus it is good to see a label- Nightmare- and a band -Visionary-quietly getting on with the business of creation.

"Strange but familiar shores", as the press release makes abundantly clear, is a second album rescued from the wreckage of legal entanglements and crafted with only the rough drafts and scraps of what was lost to light the way.

Visionary operate in what may be loosely termed the progressive metal field, though they are closer in approach to Shadow Gallery or Ice Age, than a Symphony X or Rhapsody.

Vocalist Tony Horstmanshoff is a bit of a gem, combining the warmth and ache of Geoff Tate with the soaring tones of Tony Harnell, though he is equally adept with 'Harnell delicate', as evidenced by the elegant piano led homage to memory that is "Deserae".

Granted there is nothing on offer here that will hit you like a rhino on rollerskates, the band clearly wanting their songs to unfold, breathe, and insinuate, an approach exemplified by lead guitarist Dawayne King's adherence to melody rather than shred, as demonstrated on the haunting surely Fassbinder inspired " Care of Angels".

"A Part of Me" builds from acoustic understatement with Brett Meyer's bass lines underpinning the soundscape, into a tower Gallery-esque expression of pride and intent, whilst King's guitar solo is straight from the Kerry Livgren school.

Musically "Seasons" soundtracks with it's Latin references, a wander through Mayan ruins, as yearning vocals summon spiritual awareness out of the shadows of memory.

In an age of the sound bite, and the celebrity with a shelf life of a pint of milk, it's good to listen to a band capable of thought, care, and attention to their craft.

Highly recommended.

The album is available via the label's website www.nightmare-records.com

Andrew Paul


MAD MARGRITT

"New Sensation" (Perris Records)

Rating: 55

The press release draws comparison with Warrant and Poison amongst others, and really that's all you need to know...but my editor won't allow me to write a review that short....so......If you enjoy Poison circa the debut with all the trashy charm it entails you'll enjoy this smudged xerox copy.

Naturally, conventions are followed, with a myopic vigour, so there is a "Heaven" moment in the lighters aloft drama of "Believe", and, equally there is a LWTCDI stomp in the form of the high tensile bounce of "Someone to Love".

Despite all the tatterdemalion grime pretensions the band sound more comfortable on a spit and sawdust version of AC/DC's "TNT", and , astonishingly, a neat version of The Babys' "Midnight Rendezvous". Although, it must be stated that 2 covers on a 9 track album is a little-ahem-excessive.

Granted Mad Margritt shows the likes of Push up for the desperate jokers they are, but new or sensational they are not.

Andrew Paul


ANIMAL

"900Lb Steam" (Perris Records)

Rating: 70

Animal. Pretty accurate in view of a line-up featuring Randy Piper, Chris Holmes and Tony Richards of Wasp infamy. Subtle it ain't, raw it is.

The opener and indeed title track flattens everything in it's path like an embarrassed rhino wandering into a tutu shop. It's Soundgarden brought up on Wasp and not whining, with a vocalist who's part Cornell, part Lawless and Mike Matijevic, the latter point emphasised on the driving AIC "Pissed off".

The band call pull the punches and nod at restraint as on the Steelheart circa "Wait" of "Never", which involves the listener despite the upturned wash tub drum sound.

Granted it's a little too one paced, as if the bands dragged their old Sabs albums from the sludge before entering the studio, e.g. " Talk too much", though the Wylde stomp and shriek of "Hunting Season" - " Life is a hunting season"- yup, kill it and grill it boys!- makes up for it.

Promise that may be realised next time around.

Andrew Paul