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Music Reviews: Artizan, Aeon Zen, Bonfire, Dio, Helker, and U.D.O.

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Heavy rock is on show this week and it is all quite good.

Artizan are a band who have released Ancestral Energy. This is very melodic heavy rock which straddles the line between metal and hard rock. There is a latter day Iron Maiden vibe on this release and that is no bad thing. This Florida-based band have an almost progressive style to their music which adds to its charm. The only minor quibble is the songs are not memorable enough to really push them to the next level. Certainly a band to watch.

Aeon Zen have produced a brilliant collection of catchy prog-tinged tunes on Enigma. If you liked “Pull Me Under”-era Dream Theater, then this is the album for you. This is prog rock/metal at its most accessible and there is nothing at all wrong with that. It is a quality release from a talented bunch who I am sure will see their career go on the rise.

Bonfire are to release an album at the end of this month called Live in Wacken recorded at the Wacken rock extravaganza (festival). It is filled with Bonfire hits as well as some covers like “The Stroke”. It is, however, let down by poor sound. This is not bootleg quality but it is just not up to the standard you expect from modern day live releases. Still, it is a live testament to the popular band and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. They do know how to put together a catchy song, that is for sure.

Dio is back, despite being deceased, with yet another live release called Finding The Sacred Heart – Live In Philly 1986. This is yet another cash-in on nostalgia for the late great Ronnie James Dio – or rather, it could be seen as that if it weren’t as good as this. While some might grumble that some of his best solo tunes are shoved into a couple of medleys, there is no denying the quality of this recording. This is a great example of Dio live.

Helker have recently released Somewhere in the Circle which to these ears sounds like the next Dio album that never was. The bloke on lead vocals, Diego Valdez, is an aural doppelganger for Ronnie James Dio. That said, this is an impressive heavy rock album even if you have no idea who the hell RJD is on its own merits. These Argentinians are firing on all cylinders and really, I can find no reason not to recommend this release. Well worth seeking for ardent traditional metal fans.

U.D.O. has released a new album called Steelhammer and it is exactly what you would expect from Udo Dirkschneider and company. Well ok, some might be surprised to hear Udo singing in Spanish on “Basta Ya,” and do so rather well. That said, “When Love Becomes a Lie” is more a power metal ballad with its backing vocal chorus than it is the normal straight-ahead metal for this band. It is a nice variation on their usual fare.

Stay safe and rocking out there this week.

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About Marty Dodge