This week we have several releases that sound like other bands we know and love. The bands pull it off with mixed results.
Alpha Tiger: Men Or Machine
The song title is misspelled on the promo and up until early this year this band was called Satin Black. The real trouble is they are trying so hard to be Iron Maiden, it hurts. This is a bunch of guys trying old school metal and getting the big points, but missing the nuances of it all. Alas, they also have a lead singer who sings high the entire time and never wavers. Put that together with poor songwriting and samey sounding material and there is not much of worth here. Obviously they are guys with some talent, as they play pretty well, if unimaginably.
Their biggest problem has to be their one-note singer who just irritates the crap out of you. It would have helped before they released this CD if he had a few lessons on modulating his voice. Yes, he can hit the high notes, but that ain’t all that counts.
For their next release, Alpha Tiger needs to get to writing some decent tunes and controlling their singer. This band does have raw potential. It’s just a shame this is such a poor example of it. Check out the musical break on “Crimson Desert” for proof the guys can actually play. Better luck next time maybe guys.
Voodoo Circle: Broken Heart Syndrome
This lot peddle something very recognizable. But rather than stick with one ’70s/’80s band they have done a wonderful mash-up of at least two. Listening to this album the first time, two bands jump out at you: Whitesnake and Rainbow (at their most accessible period). Then you listen to the disc again and there is a strong whiff of Deep Purple about it. And so it goes with each listen; there is a hint of all sorts of classic bluesy rock.
It’s as if this bunch of well-known musos in their own right, have taken all their favourite songs from that era and written sequels. I mean just check out “Strangers Lost in Time,” a bonus track on some versions, which might just be an homage to the late Ronnie James Dio. It’s a tune that takes little imagination to hear the great man singing. David Readman of PinkCream69 fame is involved, as is Matt Sinner of Sinner & Primal Fear fame, plus Silent Force’s Alex Beyrodt. “Devil’s Daughter” is the follow-up to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” (original version) and David Coverdale just might wish he had written it.
I can say nothing against this CD, because I enjoyed every minute of it and am sorry to have to move on to other things. If you like any of the bands mentioned in the above two paragraphs, get this and I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.
Rival Sons: Pressure & Time
When you are talking dead ringer bands, it’s hard not to think of Rival Sons. Despite the lead singer protesting that it annoys him when people compare them to Led Zeppelin, it’s hard to miss the comparison. Hard rockers and uber-geeks outside Canada might find this lot a less-Eastern instruments version of The Tea Party. Anyone wanting a taste of this band before going for the full CD should check out the Classic Rock taster this month.
You could argue that this bunch is the U.S.’s answer to The Answer. When you consider that this bunch have opened for AC/DC, Kid Rock and are now doing a tour with Judas Priest, that isn’t far off the mark. Rival Sons don’t bother modernizing their sound. It’s pure late ’60s white boy blues as peddled by Led Zep, the Yardbirds and all their ilk. It’s timeless music that doesn’t have to be modernized at all. “Burn Down Los Angeles” might in fact be a reaction to that musical modernity.
Long and the short of it, it’s easy to understand why there is a lot of buzz in classic rock circles about this group. I have a prediction. You get this CD and you will probably find yourself getting their first one. Yes, it is that good. For once, all the hype is not a load of ole’ bollocks. Robert Plant is off doing Band of Joy. Rival Sons will scratch that need for Led-Zep-esque quite nicely, thank you. The first truly essential release for hard rockers of this year.
In Legend: Ballad’s n’ Bullets”
I bet you never listened to Ben Folds Five, during the bit you remained awake, and said to yourself the following. “I know what would be cool: a metal Ben Folds Five!” Fortunately, In Legend had that thought and have produced this quite enjoyable album. Instead of having a guitar as the focus instrument, it’s a piano. Now you could argue that various classic composers of the heavy variety have been doing this for years. This might center around a piano, but it’s still heavy.
This stripped down metal is nothing new for Bastian, the man behind this. He is in fact the drummer for a cappella metallers Van Canto. When not doing that, he is a member of thrash metal band Narakam, as their drummer, though he does not play drums on this album. You could possibly argue that the guy plays the piano like it is the drums. Oh yes, he has a James Hetfield-like voice to add to the mix. But it all somehow works rather well. For good measure, on the track “Stardust” he has his Van Canto colleague Inga along for a nice duelling vocal track.
“At Her Side” is where it all comes together in a power ballad of epic proportions. Overall, the album is less metal and more hard rock, but it works (whatever you want to call it). If you ever wondered where the half-way music between Van Canto and normal metal/heavy rock is, this would be it.
Gamma Ray: Skeletons and Majesties EP
This is pretty much Gamma Ray taking the piss with this release. There is a karaoke version of the track “Rebellion in Dreamland” on here and an extended version of the second track “Brothers”. That said, this five-song EP is rather good. I mean, they manage to toss in a bit of harpsichord on the track “Hold Your Ground”. This is a great little EP that will keep the fans happy until they get around to releasing their next opus. And there is nothing wrong with a band having a bit of fun, is there?
“Send me a Sign” is not even metal but just an amusing rock ditty. This is clearly a band having a wee bit of fun on the side. There is nothing wrong with that when we are in on the fun. It’s a band trying stuff that is not necessarily the normal power metal galloping music.
In short, this is not an essential purchase, even for Gamma Ray fans. However, you would be hard-pressed to regret such a purchase. And who knows? You might even have a go at singing it yourself. And I am not talking the karaoke, but the rather Queen-esque “Wannabes” towards the tail end of this EP.
Suidakra: Book of Dowth
It starts with bagpipes, but no, this is not another sub-genre, bagpipe led metal. Though it has to be said, a set of bagpipes keeping up with the guitar on the instrumental intro to the first track “Over Nine Waves” is quite good fun. (I wonder if the bagpiper is wearing a leather kilt?) This band has been around for 13 years and has peddled death metal, straight ahead heavy metal and now folk. (Should be volk metal, as they are German, surely?)
This is the heavier end of the genre for sure and a lot less fun than some who play in it. It’s heavy, dark and epic, but never ventures into the death territory, though it comes close. On “Birog’s Oath,” they venture into the realm of duelling female/male vocals but still retain the emotional intensity. Though some fans of the band might object to a feminine touch, it’s a touch that works wonderfully. In fact, it’s with this track that the album turns into something special. The album is said to be inspired by Celtic lore and on this track it bubbles to the surface.
“Mag Mell” continues the more folky Celtic interlude, veering into the Blackmore’s Night vein before the album returns to its more heavy metal norm. Sticking two such songs in the middle is a bit odd. It might have been better to put them at the end. “Stone of the Seven Suns” returns a bit to the Celtic/Viking vibe, a la a band like Tyr.
This is certainly a varied release and one that is hard not to like. One has to wonder what their fans will think of it.
Well, that is your lot for this week. Keep it safe and rocking next week.