NEW RELEASES FROM ALICE COOPER, BEYOND THE BLACK, RUSH, MAGNUM AND MANY MORE
18th December 2016
Edition Six of You Spin Me Round and the very last of 2016. We'll be resuming this hightly successful column in early January...
Here's the latest selection of the best of the recent releases.
Let's do this...
GOTTHARD: 'LIP SERVICE, 'DOMINO EFFECT', 'NEED TO BELIEVE', FIREBIRTH
Reissued: 27th January 2017 (Nuclear Blast)
2017 sees Swiss rockers Gotthard celebrating a quarter of a century in the business. Despite having not reached the higher echelons of stardom, they’ve still offloaded nearly three million albums and with new album 'Silver' all suited and booted and ready to roll, four of the last five Nuclear Blast releases are now reissued as a timely reminder of the band's impressive body of work.
This was Gotthard's first release with their new label and represented a real return to form with a much meatier sound twinned with fine melodic anthems.
Opener 'All We Are' sets an energetic tone with a pure smack of classic 80s rock, a vibe which flows relentlessly throughout the album. 'Dream On', 'Lift U Up' and 'Stay For The Night' all get the blood flowing with their outstanding hooks and strutting rhythms.
But it's the ballads where they hit the home run. If they were trying to pull off the greatest Def Leppard impersonation ever, 'Everything I Want' and 'I've Seen An Angel Cry' did the job impeccably.
Following 'Lip Service' was always going to be a tricky affair, but by opening tracks 'Master Of Illusion' and 'Gone Too Far' you get the feeling this is a band who were at the peak of their powers.
A much darker offering than its predecessor, the title track is a grinding and gritty thumper, laced with razor sharp melody. Towering power ballads 'Falling' and 'The Call' have all the muscle and addictive hooks to stand toe to toe with the best of them.
Teeth baring 'The Cruiser (Judgement Day)', 'Heal Me' and the rib shaking 'Bad To The Bone' all get the knuckles whitened with their snarling delivery. While not quite a heavyweight of a rock album it still packs a seriously formidable punch.
'NEED TO BELIEVE'
Unfortunately this was to be vocalist Steve Lee's last record with the band. In October 2010 the motorbike enthusiast lost his life in a horrific accident in Las Vegas.
So while this record is no doubt bittersweet to a lot of Gotthard fans, it's still marked with some seriously memorable tracks. 'Shangri La', 'Unspoken Words' and it's pummelling title track should be marked with a health warning, such are their ferociously addictive choruses.
Axemen Leo Leoni and Freddy Scherer completely tear it up on the classic rock treated 'I Don't Mind' and the ball breakers 'Right From Wrong' and 'Rebel Soul'.
Six years after his passing, it may be easy to say this album belongs to Steve Lee but vocally this record is a master class and the mammoth 'Tears To Cry' will reaffirm that.
Replacing any prominent band member is always a daunting task but when you're replacing a singer whose voice has been a band's trademark for their previous nine albums, you've seriously got your work cut out.
Enter Nic Maeder, the man assigned with filling the massive shoes left by the late Steve Lee.
Unfortunately the opening bunch of tracks don't grab you by the lugholes with the same vigour as with the curtain raisers in the Lee era. 'Starlight' and 'Give Me Real' are sprinkled with flecks of promise but come up short, however it's the exquisite ballad 'Tell Me' where Maeder really introduces himself, a no-frills gem that will stop you in your tracks.
Overall the album is a decent listen, and as good as tracks like 'Shine', 'Right On' and 'I Can' are, there's still a nervous and rushed feel about the record. But I suppose considering the circumstances, it's the best anyone could have done.
ALICE COOPER: 'RAISE THE DEAD' (3LP, 2CD + blu ray)
Release Date: 16th December 2016 (UDR Music)
Originally released on CD and DVD back in 2014, this wonderful Wacken show gets the complete works on this 3LP, 2CD + blu ray set and it is the complete Mutt's Nuts from the outset.
Not only do UDR know how to package things properly, but Alice really is the first and last word when he puts on a show. Mr Cooper doesn't just do a live set, you get the theatrics, the spectacle, the performance and, as this set shows, some damn fine glam Metal tinged classic rock too.
Kicking off with 'Hello Hooray', the early part of the show also throws in 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and 'Billion Dollar Babies' always goes down a storm. The older tracks and the 80s commercial comeback (a storming 'Hey Stoopid') sit well together. Then there's the Nightmare Alice part of the show.
Hits, theatrics, commercial successes, and even the politically incorrect 'I Love The Dead', a triple guitar led attack with Alice leading the band, performance and crowd alike, a true MC.
A wonderful performance, show and recording, a little background noise adds to the live feel and the surprise covers of 'My Generation' and 'Foxy Lady' and the medley of 'School's Out'/'Another Brick In The Wall' all add to the live experience.
MAGNUM: 'THE VALLEY OF TEARS - THE BALLADS'
Released: January 6th 2017 (SPV/Steamhammer)
Some people are just born to write songs, and Magnum's composer Tony Clarkin is most definitely one of them. As well as giving life to some stirring rock anthems, he ain't too shabby when it comes to penning resonating ballads. So for any hardened rockers out there who are not of a romantic persuasion, 'The Valley Of Tears - The Ballads' may just be the key to unlock your inner Romeo.
With tracks chosen from a discography that boasts nineteen studio albums, picking ten ballads must have been a full on nightmare but as they have always been at the top of their game with luvy-duvy numbers, whatever was chosen would have hit the spot either way and this collection does just that.
Not choosing to go down the easy route of just slapping down the originals, the boys re-recorded a few beauties. 1994s 'Back In Your Arms' and 1992s 'Broken Wheel' have been given a new lease of life with Bob Catley's eternally flawless vocals caressing every note. Newbie 'Your Dreams Won't Die' from the latest album. 'acred Blood "Divine" Lies, got some extra pampering with a bit of remastering, and is positively gleaming.
Of course their signature 1986 album 'Vigilante' was never going to be ignored. A quite simply stunning reworking of 'Lonely Night' couldn't have been any more perfect, but the money shot is the ballsy live take of 'When The World Comes Down', a track that doesn't but should hold it's place among the elite rock anthems.
It was Clarkin's daughter who came up with the concept for this record, and having already proven he is a sensational songwriter, he seems to be a bloody good Daddy too.
RUSH: '2112' (2CD+DVD)
Release Date: 16th December 2016 (UMC)
Mixing progressive and classic rock, the Canadian's fourth album finally saw them settle and find their feet. Originally released in 1976 this 40th anniversary edition adds load of extras.
Epitomised with an often technical sound, science fiction themes and bassist Geddy Lee's high vocals, the trio produced a fine album that surpassed all earlier efforts and put them firmly on the world map.
The opening '2112 Overture' is a twenty minute, eight part epic with futuristic sounds and themes. Spanning the whole of side one of the original LP, there's searing guitar balanced by solid, technical and often changing rhythms. From power trio to acoustic and back again via King Crimson and Cream, it's epic in every way.
The remaining five tracks of the original album are classic prog rock and the work is dazzling and simply one album that you must own. The expanded edition adds several bonus tracks including period live and outtake material that compliment the album perfectly.
But then the otherwise ten star album goes off piste, as additional bonuses include covers by other artists. The Steven Wilson tracks are good, but just the thought of the Alice In Chains and Dave Grohl contributions are baffling. And with the omission of previous remaster bonuses, it's quite a missed opportunity.
ENUFF Z'NUFF: 'CLOWN LOUNGE'
Out Now (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)
Enuff Z'Nuff's long coloured history is full of tremendous highs and dismal lows since their inception in 1984. The band used influences like The Beatles, Squeeze, and Cheap Trick to incorporate a sound lush in power pop intertwined with flamboyant harmonies and the dynamic duo of Donnie Vie and Chip Z'Nuff were the one constant element amongst a revolving door of musicians while they released a slew of great records.
After Donnie left the band in 2013, Chip assumed the lead vocal duties and put together a band around him to help carry the Enuff Z'Nuff brand and the new album, 'Clown Lounge', is a collection of early demos and rarities that have been partially reworked by the band. These songs were written in 1988-89 and recorded on 2" analog tape. This material has been stored for decades until now.
The album opens with a bonus track done by the current line-up. 'Dog On A Bone' was released as the first single and it's a straight-ahead rocker with a memorable chorus. There are some brilliant nuggets on this release that bring back the bigger more boisterous power pop sounds that defined the first two albums. 'She Makes It Harder' feels like it was taken right off the debut record with its infectious groove and hooks while Donnie provides an unmistakable flavour on 'Good Love', 'Radio' and 'Runway' with his phrasing and unique vocal styling.
Along with Donnie and Chip, song credits for 'Rockabye Dreamland' also included guitarist Derek Frigo and drummer Vikki Foxx. This is the track that hits home and brings back the feelings of when you first saw the 'New Thing' and 'Fly High Michelle' videos on MTV. It's a perfect mix of glitter being sprinkled onto a Beatles influenced melody. The psychedelic 'Devil Of Shakespeare' features Jani Lane (Warrant) and James Young (Styx).
'Clowns Lounge' takes us back to those early building blocks that gave Enuff Z' Nuff a foundation on which to build an unprecedented catalog. If you're a fan of the band it's a 'must own' as you will enjoy takin' a ride back to the beginning.
Released: February 3rd 2017 (UDR Music)
If you've been the drummer for both Amon Amarth and Opeth, you're probably going to be a bit good, right? Wrong - Marin Lopez is way better than that and here, he's produced a stunningly good piece of work, ably assisted by the dynamic voice of Joel Ekelöf, bassist Stefan Stenberg, new guitarist Marcus Jidell (ex-Avatarium) and new keyboard/guitarist Lars Åhlund and collectively, Soen have been taking a trip into uncharted waters for the past few months at Ghostward and Deepwell Studios in Stockholm, Sweden.
The result is their third album, 'Lykaia', the follow-up to 2014s 'Tellurian' and it's an incredibly rich and powerful experience which stands out for three very big reasons, firstly the absolutely brilliant song structures on each and every single track. Song by song, you are taken on a journey which will captivate and mesmerise you and have you searching for more.
Secondly, the musicianship is jaw droppingly good and 'Lykaia' delivers some of the best high calibre performance heard all year. Lopez is clearly one of the top Metal drummers in the world at the moment and he's set the Soen bar incredibly high, yet his colleagues match him on every track with utterly top class skillsets that reach total perfection at several points in this album of delight.
Finally, the production is the best I have heard all year from anyone, anywhere and the intricacy of surprises within this stunning album will more than keep your interest; they'll have you returning for more and more.
"This has never been about genres, it's always been about the journey we need to take both musically and personally," says Lopez, "and what we're working on right now is another adventure, another journey which in some ways is quite different again but also builds upon the experiences we've had over the last few years."
Soen's experiences over the next few years should be very rich indeed.
HEART: LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA (DVD)
Out Now (Eagle Vision)
Last June Seattle rockers Heart made their first visit to the UK in twelve years. For the London show the Wilson sisters invited along the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for this one off occasion and a ragged 'Magic Man' got the ball rolling before the sixty-seven piece orchestra took their place. Ann and Nancy Wilson both look beautiful as they drift along with 'Dreamboat Annie' and the sublime 'What About Love', one of only three of their mega 80s hits included in this set as Heart are far more comfortable performing their own brand of hard folk rock.
The orchestra was a missed opportunity as they added little when the songs really should have taken on a longer journey with depth. Rehearsals were limited to the afternoon of the actual gig and despite being billed with Heart, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra only appear for half of the show.
However, the strings add power to the Zeppelin flavours of 'Heaven' and 'I Jump' while an ethereal 'Two', sung by Nancy, is magical and the strings sounded delightful on the ballad 'These Dreams'. Ann Wilson's vocals soar on the acoustic led 'Alone'. Heart then rock out with the title track of their recent 'Beautiful Broken' while the Eastern promise of 'Mashallah!' would have benefitted with added strings from the orchestra.
'Crazy On You' really brings the cavernous and grand Royal Albert Hall alive and encores of Led Zep's 'No Quarter' and a tremendous 'Barracuda' prove what Heart are really made of. A release for the Heart connoisseur rather than lovers of their highly successful 80s period.
NIGHT RANGER: '35 YEARS AND A NIGHT IN CHICAGO'
Out Now (Frontiers Music)
After thirty-five years in the game and over seventeen million albums shifted, Californian legends Night Ranger show their live prowess with a sumptuous seventeen track album and accompanying concert film.
Despite their massive success in their homeland, it's fair to say Night Ranger are still not looked upon in the same glowing light as melodic rock heavy hitters such as Foreigner, Toto or Journey but aside from that they have still given their genre some serious memorable moments.
Still enthusiastically led by Jack Blades and his low slung bass, titanic anthems like 'Growin' Up In California' and 'Rock In America' always exuded a muscle clad delivery with their fist pumping intent but in the live domain, they're a completely different animal. However it's the ballads where they really leave a mark. The always elegant 'Sentimental Street', superbly sung by Kelly Keagy, has aged gracefully, but the monster that is 'Sister Christian' was always going to be the highlight. Vocally it's a master class and the chemistry between band and audience is dangerously infectious.
While it may not rub shoulders with live album royalty like a 'Strangers In The Night' or a 'Live And Dangerous' for example, it's still a genuine, solid slab of work and the DVD only enhances the experience. Each track smacks of a band that are still clearly very much in love with their music and you can't ask for more than that.
ULI JON ROTH: 'TOKYO TAPES REVISITED - LIVE IN JAPAN' (2CD+DVD, 2CD+blu-ray)
Release Date: 16th December 2016 (UDR Music)
Sky guitar innovator, early neo-classical exponent and celebrated lead guitarist of The Scorpions during the 70s, guitarist Uli Jon Roth here celebrated the classic 1978 Scorps release 'The Tokyo Tapes' with this performance. Recorded in 2015 at the Nakano Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo, where the original Scorpions live album was recorded, it's a fantastic live show with tracks from across Roth's time with the German legends.
Opening with 'All Night Long', it's a polished set and from the outset Roth's guitar stands out. Given the music's calibre, the crowd are surprisingly polite, as are some of the elements of the performance.
What I love about his set is that music is from the far more interesting Scorps period and with many tracks running over the usual five minutes, some to over ten (check out 'Fly To The Rainbow'), there's scope for much that grabs you. From the finesse of the gentler moments to the shred when he lets rip, Roth can make the guitar talk like many can only dream of. The fifteen minute 'Dark Lady' is an epic in its own right.
Well recorded both visually and sonically, this sees Roth in his element and he surely remains one of the most underrated guitar Gods and innovators. And look out for the 4LP+8disc book box, limited and extravagant to the extreme.
BEYOND THE BLACK: 'LOST IN FOREVER'
Released: 13th January 2017 (UDR Music)
After hearing many, many good things about Beyond The Black in 2016, I just had to have a good listen to 'Lost In Forever' and I'm absolutely delighted I did because this is an exceptional album, and that's said by somone who is not the female fronted Symphonic Metal genre's biggest fan.
'Lost In Forever' simply soars in many, many places and as with the previously mentioned Soen, here is another offering where truly excellent production is a standout feature of a really great album. It must be a UDR Music thing and it puts their future releases up to the top of the priority list because we're hearing sonicality like never before here, as on other UDR releases too.
Jennifer Haben lost a complete band earlier this year, just before they were due to play Bloodstock but she somehow managed to make it to Derbyshire with a makeshift line-up and pull off a memorable performance and now with a confirmed Beyond The Black membership of Christian Hermsdörfer (guitar and backing vocals), Tobias Lodes (guitar and backing vocals), Jonas Roßner (keyboards), Stefan Kerkenhoff (bass) and Kai Tschierschky (drums), BTB are all set to conquer.
This is possibly the best female fronted Symphonic/power Metal album I have heard all decade and with their own headline tour in November being a big success, support slots with The Scorpions under their belt and more to come with Powerwolf and Epica in January and February 2017, here's a band with an enormous future beckoning.
No less than seventeen massive, memorable songs with huge choruses and heavy hooks have put BTB in prime position to become the biggest thing in this genre and after Jennifer's trials and tribulations this year, she's proved that nothing can possibly stop her on her relentless march to the very top.
ETERNAL IDOL: 'THE UNREVEALED SECRET'
Out Now (Frontiers Music)
Fabio Lione is one hard working singer. With associations with bands such as Rhapsody Of Fire, Kamelot, Angra and Vision Divine, the Italian vocalist has still accumulated the time, energy and passion to pursue yet another project in Eternal Idol.
Symphonic Metal is a subgenre which has exploded in popularity over the past twenty years and we know all the big hitters; Nightwish, Epica and Within Temptation are just a few who have combined classical and gothic tones with masterful results, however there are others that have hopped on the bandwagon and sound like an eternal bore (no pun intended). Thankfully Eternal Idol ain't one of them.
Opener 'Evil Tears', followed by 'Another Night Comes', both go for the jugular straight away with a full on melodic attack. The addition of rising Metal vocalist Giorgia Colleluori has proved a mastersroke as her performance across the record is nothing short of mesmerising. No disrespect to Lione who has a seriously fine set of lungs in his own right, but as soon as a word leaves Colleluori's lips, you're transfixed. Colossal tracks 'Is The Answer Far From God' and 'Sad Words Unveiled' are glorious evidence of this.
Backed by some fine musicianship including the guitar and keyboard wizardry of Nick Savio (ex-Hollow Haze) and who also handled production duties, the album does not put a foot wrong and the chemistry between Lione and Colleluori gives the record a pounding stamp of class. Closer, 'Beyond', is one of twelve tracks of supreme power and majesty, and you clearly get the impression this project has plenty left in the tank. Superb.
Out Now (Independent)
Drenaï are a French folk Metal band from Normandy who were founded during summer 2011 and in true folk Metal style, they've got a lot of mouths to feed as the band line-up now numbers seven members. Six of them are named in the 'choirs' while frontman Diego sticks soley to chant/vocals while the instrumentaion contains clavier, a baroque-era instrument similar to the harpsichord, and flutes, plus plenty of guitar.
The project is a tribute to the fictional work of the British author David Gemmell who is best known for his debut, 'Legend'. Gemmell went on to write over thirty novels and his works display violence, yet also explore themes of honour, loyalty and redemption. There was always a strong heroic theme but nearly always the heroes were flawed in some way. With over one million copies sold, the David Gemmell Legend Award was established in 2008 and is intended to "restore fantasy to its proper place in the literary pantheon".
'Nadirs' is most definitely folk but there's little Metal within this epic tale which features the youth and rise of Nosta Khan, the powerful shaman who brought The Uniter to his throne. It's gentle music but with an edge and while being full of tension and intrigue, the musical pace never exceeds slow to mid-tempo, yet it's an atmospheric delight that will have you listening intently and wondering just where this story is going.
If you want to find yourself locked in a medieaval mystery, with all the sorcery and undercurrents that would entail, this is most definitely for you. Diego has injected more than a hint of menace and desire into this story which I very much doubt has finished yet. Viva la Folk Metal. Viva la Drenaï.
Edition Seven of You Spin Me Round here in early January...
ALL EDITIONS OF YOU SPIN ME ROUND
15th January 2017: Pain Of Salvation, Stephen Pearcy, Jack Russell, Powerwolf and many more...
31st December 2016: Damaj, Mercy Isle, Krampus, Wretched Soul...
18th December 2016: Alice Cooper, Beyond The Black, Rush, Magnum and many more...
28th November 2016: Graham Bonnet, Civil War, The Doomsday Kingdon, Departed and many more...
15th November 2016: deVience, AC Angry, Solitude, Pretty Maids and many more...
30th October 2016: Testament, Sonata Arctica, Drescher, The Answer and many more...
16th October 2016: Kix, Tyketto, Joan Ov Arc, Kingbreaker and many more...
2nd October 2016: Twisted Sister, Extreme, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Pain, Raveneye and many more...
#heart #nightranger #drenai #eternalidol #rush #magnum #soen #ulijonroth #enuffznuff #alicecooper #gotthard #beyondtheblack