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Music Review: Crash the System, The Trophy, Constancia, Out Loud

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Its 2010 already and it's time to get back to reviewing my CD pile, both virtual and physical. For this week's column I think I will make an effort to reduce the number of CDs in my “review” folder in iTunes.

Crash the System: The Crowning

This is very much 80s sounding power pop rock: huge choruses, multi-layered vocals and keyboards aplenty are the order of the day. Think Aha and Mister Mister, then add some modern production techniques. Do you have sense of revulsion, angst, or nostalgia? If the answer is the last of these then this band might be just up your street. There is no doubting the catchiness of each one of these tracks. “Loves in Your Eyes” is the uber-stadium rocker that Europe never wrote.

Then again the guest vocalists on this project come from bands like Brazen Abbot, Yngwie Malmsteen, Candlemass, Mind’s Eye to name a few. The songwriter is none other, I kid you not, than a former Swedish 400 meter hurdle champ. He has written for people such as Michael Borman and House of Lords. There is plenty of melodic rock pedigree. This is another one of those Scandi-rock projects that seem to pop up from time to time.

This is certainly not for everyone, but it's great at what he sets out to do. Unabashed in its retroness and melody, if given a chance it will put a smile on your face. Certainly a welcome break from the uber-heavy fare that normally fills this column.

The Trophy: Gift of Life

Todd Wolf used to be in a band called Human Fortress which was straight ahead metal. To be specific, I mean the modern variety known as power metal that is popular in Europe. Considering the melodic nature of this album, it seems he wanted to go for something a bit more rock. While there is a heaviness here and it's by no means poodle rock, there is a touch of something lighter about.

Then again Wolf found the right voice to make this release something special, even though it’s a debut. Michael Borman, of Bonfire and Jaded Heart as well as solo fame, provides the vocals to counter Wolf’s fiery guitar style. In the end the band sound quite a bit like Jaded Heart. That is no bad thing, with tracks all through the album proving this is no slouch of an album. Very much a solid melodic rock release, we shall see what the band can come up with on their next release.

It's not surprising, considering the experience of the two major players on this disc, that it shines. That said so often these sort of collaborations don’t work as well as they should on paper. Well worth finding for those who like solid hard rock.

Constancia: Lost & Gone

If it catchiness that you are seeking look no further than the epic sing-along “Life is a Mystery”. It's one of those songs that will have most people singing along by the end of the track. The chorus is so catchy it stays with you long after the song has ended. The band name-check Styx and other pomp rock bands for inspiration. While not always obvious in the tracks, many of them comes across as what you would expect from the harder end of the Scandinavian melodic rock scene. There is a clear desire for “big” songs.

The band is brainchild of a keyboardist with a whole bunch of Scandinavian bands that never made it across the pond. The guitarist comes with a similar pedigree. Andromeda singer David Fremberg and Jaded Heart’s bassist feature in the line-up. Fremberg’s vocals are good if not as distinctive as some of the other vocalists doing the rounds in this sort of band.

While not ground-breaking in any way, the band do shine on some of the tracks on here. There is a lot of potential and you can see the band gelling nicely for their next release. Certainly a band to watch, if not quite there yet.

Out Loud: Out Loud

Ever hanker for the older heavier version of Foreigner or maybe miss Hurricane? Then this is the band for you. This is straight ahead rock that sounds very American circa the mid-80s. There is not much of the fluff or over the top riffing that you expect from European rock bands. Considering the band is made up of a couple of Greeks from the band Firewind, Mark Cross of Firewind/Helloween/Kingdom Come fame you might be surprised at the result..

Clearly this band want to keep it stripped down and simple. The result is some great hard rock that really gets you going. Now they do occasionally slip back into Euro-rock mode, but for the most part this is the type of band you can remember opening for the big bands of the 80s. “What I Need” is a clear example of the sort of straight-ahead rock they are trying to peddle.

Considering the pedigree of the members of this group, it's not surprising the musicianship is as good on this, their debut. What might surprise is that the band delivers the goods so well. Rarely do you get to hear great rock albums like this from new bands. Figures it would take a bunch of Europeans to remind Americans of the great music they used to produce.

Have a safe and rocking week, be sure to check out live music where ever you might find it.

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