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Music Reviews: Lionville, Cheerleader, Soley Mourning, Alyson Avenue, Isis Child, Soul Seller

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This week we are heading into the realm of AOR and poppy hard rock for a change. Power metal will return in all its iron glory next column.

Lionville: Lionville

What is it with AOR bands and the word Lion in their name (Lionsheart, Pride of Lions, White Lion etc)? I guess it is something to do with the hair of band members. With that snide remark out of the way, let’s concentrate on the music therein.

If you are a fan of Toto, Survivor with the occasional Richard Marx hint then you would love these guys. Based around two brothers with the last name Lionetti (that would explain the band name then), they have drafted in a bunch of talent from the scene to help out. Lead singer Lars Safsund has equal parts Richard Marx (accented a tad) and Fergie Frederickson to his voice. The fact they have Arabella Vitanc of Alynson Avenue along for a nice duet helps.

Overall, this is big chorus AOR that is done to a very high quality. There are no duff tracks on here and the schmaltz is at bare minimum. The combination of Scandinavians and Italians seems to produce some melodic AOR.

Those with an ear to the AOR rail will have probably heard about these guys in one or other publication. This debut lives up to the hype. If you are into quality adult pop rock then you can do far worse than check this bunch out.

Cheerleader: Vegas or Bust

Would you believe a band with the name Cheerleader does not hail from the land of “cheerleading as a sport” aka the Deep South of the US but from Sweden? Stockholm to be exact. Yes that city that seems to have melodic rock in the water supply.

Anyway this bunch have a vibe that is very much like the Foo Fighters. Discovered by Kory Clarke of Warrior Soul, and nothing similar to that band, this bunch have that angst-fueled hard rock vibe down pat. And like the above band this bunch centers around the brothers Ek. UK hard rock punters will have just got a chance to this bunch on a tour all over the month of September.

This is certainly a solid-sounding release that has a whole heck of a lot of attitude. While the sound is quite modern, it is still melodic and has hints of what has come before. What I keep hearing is a touch of Hanoi Rocks seeping into the music; check out the track “Arrange”. An ode to mixing it up with the Klan no less.

The anarchic glam-esque rock style of Michael Monroe and company seeps all over this. UK readers will also sense a bit of Wildhearts here. Cheerleader are modern purveyors of the sleaze and roll that has come before them. There isn’t a duff track on here so it certainly a place in your hard rock collection. And you just know they kick major butt live live.

Soley Mourning: Zaire

First thing that strikes you about this band is their lame name. Then again name your album after a former country in Africa is bit odd as well. The music is melodic as anything. Imagine if Audioslave (especially on their first album) were fronted by Thunder’s Danny Bowes. A bluesy voice over some pretty intense power. It’s an interesting mix-up of sounds that for the most part actually works rather well. Course the second track, “Gimme Sumthin” sounds almost Spin Doctors in its funky vibe. There is a touch of Living Colour in both sound and vocals.

One thing is for certain: this is catchy as stink and will get under your skin. It’s a slick sound complete with lashings of keys. Lodged somewhere between bluesy hard rock and outlaw country, this should be huge. Its feel good music that is obviously a treat live. Despite being an odd choice for the tour, the band were well received when they opened for Magnum.

Never mind the daft name, if you like catchy blues rock that you can dance to, then check these guys out. Overall it’s a solid release that is mostly consistent in quality.

Oh yes and they don’t come from either Africa nor America but hail from the UK’s midlands. Yet another great band of rockers from the Black Country. Is there a “crossroads’ in that part of Britain they aren’t telling the rest of us about?

Alyson Avenue: Changes

Best known as the band that lost their lead singer to Nightwish after Tarja left in a strop. The title of album no doubt hints to the turmoil Anette Olzon caused by leaving the band. Then again there are obviously no hard feelings because Olzon appears on this album providing backing vocals. A cynic might suggest she is trying to keep her oar in in case Tarja makes a welcome return to Nighwish. What is interesting, of course, is find out where Olzon learned her chops. Some would say that AA has way too much influence on Olzon’s current band.

AA is much more pop rock and could have been huge in the 80s. Followers of female hard rock might remember Romeo’s Daughter and they would have some idea what this band sound like. This is a huge chorus pop rock with bite. Bringing in Michael Bormann of Jaded Heart fame to duet on “Will I Make Love” probably didn’t hurt. Sweden could do far worse than chose it as its next Eurovision entry. Then again “Amazing Days” has all the positive vibes you need for an entry as well.

It is not just Bormann and Olzon that do a turn, other Scandi-rock musicians like Rob Marcello lend their talents as well. If you like Swedish female-led pop hard rock then you can do far worse than this bunch. There is nothing not to like about this record. Light on the cheese and heavy on the melody, just the way we like it.

Isis Child: Strange Days

Despite the name this is not a death or black metal band, nor are they from Egypt. In fact they are a band formed round Freddy Mazzucco from the French Riviera, who has returned to his home-land after a dozen years playing in band in the New York City area. Vocals are provided by Nathalie Pellissier with sufficient prowess and ability. She has a Patty Smyth quality about her voice and delivers a similar vibe to the music.

The band reminds me quite a bit of Scandal in their hey-day. Songwriting is a tad predictable, if decent enough. This is a fairly standard female-fronted melodic rock that would not be out of place in the 1980s. As with many such bands, bluesy ballads rather let the side down with a combination of bad pronunciation and lack of feeling limiting the impact.

Much of the music on here smacks of movie soundtrack. You know the catchy track that appears during the emotional scene or the credits. There is nothing inherently back here but just nothing special either. The songs are pleasant enough but have no grip. In one ear and out the other is another way to describe it. Maybe next release there can be a bit more in the song-writing department. Everyone involved is talented and capable, just not enough variety to make this something special.

Soul Seller: Back to Life

Yet another band taking advantage of the revived melodic scene. And not the black metal band you might expect from the name. This bunch are Italians who had a go in the early 00s got fed up, gave it a rest and now are back to life. To be honest this bunch sound quite a bit like Jon Bongiovi and his band Bon Jovi. Well at least before BJ went all serious on us and Richie headed off to rehab. Lead singer Michael Carrata has an excellent voice for this type of music and has no problem keeping up with the band behind him. Centered around the Zubiena brothers, yes that is the third band with a couple of brothers this week. And no, it’s not deliberate.

Oliver Hartmann of At Vance and Avantasia fame pops along for a duet on the track “Keep on Moving” which has less of a Bon Jovi feel and is more Foreigner in sound. No matter how you cut it, this is 80s style pop melodic hard rock that hits the spot.

This band seem to have figured out what we liked about that style of music and left the cheesy side of it where it belongs. The ballad “Hell of Tears” could have been left off both for its name and painfully funny lyrical content (its a blend of every power ballad lyric ever). Solid song-writing and a sense of pace make sure this is a quality release. This is a solid release of great rock that would not be out of place in a AOR rock fan’s CD collection.

On that pomptastic note it is time to end for another week. Have a good one and stay rocking.

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