Well 2012 is upon us, and the music keeps coming. Before I start the proper reviews I need to mention the delightfully odd art prog of Central Park’s Reflected. If Kate Bush did prog rock it would sound like this.
Magnificent – The Magnificent
It takes a lot of something to name your band The Magnificent. Critics all over will be itching to let people know just how the name does not fit. Unfortunately it would be total rubbish were I to do so. This is a wonderful album of arena rock that just hits all the right buttons with every track. There is not one turkey on here. Yes, it’s heavily produced and wholly derivative, but there is still nothing twee or lame about it. There is nothing anywhere to be heard that makes the veteran AOR fan cringe.
There are elements of Whitesnake, Europe and any big AOR band that you can think of. Michael Eriksen fully embraces his inner David Coverdale on “Angel.” It’s prime 80s fare at its very best–you know, choruses that stick after the first listen and music that soars from your speakers. Try not to sing along in the car– I dare you. It’s a AOR goodness in concentrated form.
What makes it most amusing is that the guys behind this band Eriksen and Spoof are better known for their progressive metal output than anything this AOR. As would expect with this sort of release the two guys bring in all sorts of musical talented mates and have a damn good time doing it.
PRINCE OF PAUPERS +1 – The Grand Illusion
If the drumming sounds a bit familiar on this record it might because it’s none other than Gregg Bissonette of David Roth fame on the drums. The band went to LA to record this album, and while they were there had Toto’s Steve Lukather show up to lend a hand. There is a certain sense that this is a Scandinavian take on Toto at their heaviest. The title track oozes class and AOR goodness. As you might expect it’s all big choruses and soaring vocals.
Oddly enough, despite the name of the band there is not the slightest bit of resemblance to Styx. Per Svensson and Peter Sundell share the vocals to give the band a reach that many such acts don’t have. Check out the vocal workout “Believe in Miracles” for a good example of why it works. The soaring “So Faraway” combines a heavy take on AOR with a great singalong aspect. This consistency of the album suggests while this band have endured through the ups and downs of the AOR music scene.
It’s no wonder these guys continue to be lauded in AOR circles from Japan to the US. If you like classy AOR that never manages to get to mushy and wimpy then check this bunch out.
In Progress – Work of Art
Work of Art is yet another band with a name ripe for a backlash. And yet again it would be unwarranted. This bunch produces a variety of music that reminds the listener of House of Lords and their ilk. Its big choruses with lashes of keyboards and soaring vocals. In fact Lars Sarsfund sounds a bit like an amalgamation of Mark Free and James Christian’s voices. “Eye of the Storm” could have appeared on Unruly Child’s debut with ease.
This is a very slick trio who are not afraid to produce radio friendly AOR at its highest quality. Most of the band met at yet another college of music, this time in Sweden. There is a clear sound of Scandinavian AOR on here. Sweden seems to be able to produce this sort of quality AOR like the Sunset Strip of the LA produces sleaze rock.
There is no denying the quality of the music and now you can see why Melodicrock.com gushed so much about this band. Work of Art is a great AOR band that deserve all the kudos they get.
You Want It All EP – Sons of Icarus
Normally I don’t review EPs because most don’t have enough meat on the bones to make it worthwhile. This is a very big exception, as it features a bunch of young up-start British hard rockers itching to give bands like Rival Sons a run for their money. Well actually that is a bit lame because Sons of Icarus sound like they come from the LA strip and Rival Sons (from LA) sound like they were part of the London scene in the 70s. Not surprisingly, this bunch of hard working young rockers have opened for Rival Sons as well as the other hard rock hope The Answer.
Despite the fact the band met at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, Surrey they have not ended up as a progressive metal band. Instead this is clever hard rock that is less Guns n Roses and more Blue Murder or Mr Big (if you ignore the ballads). They won a battle of the bands in 2010 and played both Download and Sonisphere. There is no wonder why they won with this collection of tracks.
They are certainly a band to watch in 2012. Lets hope they make it to the U.S. this year.
Invisible Empire – Riotgod
Founded by two former members of Monster Magnet, Bob Pantella and Jim Baglino, Riotgod is some serious blues rock. Sunshine, a NJ singer of note, handles the vocals. This has a serious Led Zeppelin vibe on tracks like “Slow Death” and the the acoustic track “Gas Station Roses.” This band could give Rival Sons a run for their 70s hard rock vibe. This is their second release, their first being a self-released effort.
There is a much more bluesy vibe to than they stoner rock of Monster Magnet. It helps that Sunshine has got such a great voice for this sort of music. While he does come across as times like a total Plant clone, it’s hard not to like the band. Page should stop worrying about Myles Kennedy to front a Plant-less band to play Led Zep tunes and grab this guy. That said, on “Loosely Bound” he sounds like Kennedy on the latest Slash CD as Sunshine has that chameleon ability with his voice.
It’s easy to see why this bunch were signed and why they went down so well on the touring circuit. The band are derivative as anything on more than one track, but it’s of such quality that it doesn’t really matter. Another band to watch for 2012 methinks.
Wolfsbane Save the World – Wolfsbane
It’s about bloody time that Blaze Bailey got back with his original band and got back to producing decent music. Wolfsbane originally called it a day, then Bailey went off to front Iron Maiden while Bruce Dickinson was finding himself. I used to say Blaze’s move ruined two bands. This new release reminds us all what a waste it was when he left. Wolfsbane has that rare something that is hard to quantify.
Blaze never really mustered much post-iron Maiden; his solo work is patchy at best and mostly nothing worth remembering. Wolfsbane fans everywhere wanted him to pull his finger out and get back to where he belonged.
It’s as if the almost two decades since their last release never happened. Like an old jacket, it just feels right. The pretentious album title is backed up by some damn fine quality British hard rock. Though “Illusion of Love” does have a certain Meatloaf quality complete with female vocals in a sort of call and reply. It’s Wolfsbane’s answer to “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.” I quite like the final track “Did it for the Money” which could be construed as an explanation for the Iron Maiden move back in the day, or am I reading too much into it?
Did It For The Money – Wolfsbane
The only question is whether or not the band will finally get their due in 2012. On the basis of this album they certainly deserve it.
Well, that is your first bunch of reviews for 2012. As always, stay safe and rocking next week.