Stark Music Reviews

A.C.T – Rebirth (MCD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 17:52



My favorite Swedish melodic progsters are back!!! YES!! The band’s new EP (hopefully just a taste of what’s to come) is a 5-track release in a nice digipack. Opener “Ruler Of The World” throws us straight back to A.C.T in their prime. Poppy, proggy, melodic, rocking, the perfect mix! “Running Out Of Luck” continues in the same vein. This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for! Rebirth? Hell yeah!! “Digital Affair” starts off in a humanoid, futuristic vein, with a touch of early Saga (can’t remember the track right now), continues in the classic half-tempo, heavy yet melodic A.C.T manner. A different, but really cool track! Love it! “Meet The Past” is a poppy, up-tempo number, with the true happy-rock A.C.T vibe to it. Ooops, there was a bit of reggae, then comes an ABBA-esque part, going into City Boy territory. That’s what I love about this band, how they seamlessly go from style to style without missing a beat or making it feel strange. Closing track “A Broken Trust” brings out the heavy artillery! Powerful guitars, heavy rhythms and chugging guitars, but still so melodic. This is melodic prog in its finest form. Ola’s guitar solo is just genius! One of my favorite tracks! Quite honestly, A.C.T have always sounded great, but now they sound better than ever!! Now my appetite for a full album has really been awoken (so… what was that little teaser at the end of the last track?)!! Damn, this band is great!!
Janne Stark

Label: Self-released
Year: 2019
Country: Sweden


Coldharbour – Subject & Symmetry (MCD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 17:51



UK three-piece Coldharbour has just released their debut EP and it’s a pretty nice installment, I must say. Stylewise, they are a bit hard to pinpoint (which I like). There’s a bit of metal, a bit of prog, a bit of post-grunge, a bit of metalcore, a slice of nu-metal and various other bits and pieces thrown into the mix. To be honest opening track “Blackest Days” didn’t grab me that hard and I wasn’t entirely impressed, fearing the worst. However, already in the second track “Hour Of The Wolf” it picks up and some cool and powerful guitar riffs grab my attention. It’s almost a stoner vibe to this one, which I really like. Fat riffs, me like! I also like the clean, but quite powerful vocals. Third track, “Dorje’s Wish” is a powerful, proggy heavy rocker with a hint of Twelve Foot Ninja. Another great number! “Somewhere To Call Your Own” starts off as a slow and ballady number, but soon the guitar power chords come crashing in. A bit too nu-metal for my taste, though, and not really my cup of tea, I must admit. “Battlestar Spectacular” brings back in some hard and heavy staccato riffing, almost with a touch of Pantera to it, while the verse goes off in a totally different direction which is cool. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks! A powerful stomper, but still with lots of musical twists and turns that makes it an interesting listen. The closer “Fall Away” is another crusher, but with a cool dynamic verse that takes it down, builds it up and the throws in the power gear, but still with a lot of melody. All in all, a really good effort and a new band to keep a look-out for. The production is good but could do well with a bit more bottom and power in the sound, which would bring this up yet another a notch. Great vocals, great band (lacking guitar solos, though) and the song material is well above average.
Janne Stark

Country: UK
Year: 2019
Label: Self-released


Cirkus Prütz – White Jazz – Black Magic (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 17:50




This combo features quite a few years of Swedish music history. Prütz himself, is bass player Jerry Prütz, formerly of the bluesy hard rock band W.E.T (not the recent melodic rockers) who released a bunch of singles and albums between 1987-2002. Guitarist Franco Santunione has played with bands like Glory Bells, Glory Bell’s Band and Electric Boys, while singer/guitarist is most known for his guitar magic in The Quill. He turns out to be a great singer as well, with a cool low down and half-dirty blues voice. The drums are handled by Per Kohlus. Cirkus Prütz plays classic bluesy hard boogie rock with a southern rock swagger. Shotgun Wedding Blues takes us to southern shuffle country, while Aim To Please has a classic Steve Ray Vaughan swagger to it. The Gary Mooreish bluesy “Blues For Fallen Heroes” is a very nice tribute to two of the band’s former guitarists, who sadly passed away: Mikael Fässberg and Robert “Strängen” Dahlquist. “Hell To Pay” is a kick-ass groovy, riff rocker that really hits home! One of my favorite tracks! “Friends” and “Hats And Strats”, both remind me a bit of early Molly Hatchet and Christian actually has a bit of Danny Joe Brown in his voice, come to think of it. A really nice footstompin’ classic southern style blues rock album!
Janne Stark

Label: Metalville
Year: 2019
Country: Sweden

Shaggy – Fighting Angels And Demons (LP/digital)

Stark Music Reviews - Tue, 04/09/2019 - 19:37



If you have read my review of Swedish hard rockers Shaggy’s pompy/proggy return album “Destination Nowhere”, you noticed I said I was expecting a hard/heavy rock album, but instead they went proggy/pompy. Well, THIS album is actually what I would have expected. Opening track “Black Hearted Angel” kicks off in a full-throttle Heep/Purple vein with power and conviction. It has some cool twists and turns in the solo section which really makes it stand out. “Bouldless Love” brings me back to Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” but with a touch of Black Sabbath! Damn, this is REALLY great stuff!! Fat and heavy mix, killer vocals by Ulrich Carlsson (ex-M.ill.ion). The line-up again features original members Fidde Rognås on guitar and Tom Ryan on keyboards, introducing Stefan Husar on drums, Robert Ottosson on bass and, I presume, Fidde’s son Hannes Rognås on guitar. “No Soldier Of God” continues in the heavy vein, with a touch of prog. “A Thousand Miles” started with a quirkt loop-thing and continues in a vein more akin to the previous album, until the bridge kicks in with a ton of bricks weighing it down. A really cool and quirky song, indeed! “Dark Symphony” starts off with some really dark and heavy Sabbathy semi-tones and could have been something from “Seventh Star”. Heavy and dark, but not completely doomy. Love it! “Runner In The Dark” really reminds me of Uriah Heep, like a mix of “Salisbury” era Heep and the latter day albums. The album finishes with “Self Destruction” kicking off with a mean and brutal guitar riff, distorted Hammond organ and a kick-ass drive! One of the best tracks on an album filled with killer stuff! This rocks, big time!!

Janne Stark
Year: 2019
Label: GMR Music
Country: Sweden

Rockicks – Keep On Rockin’ (A Retrospective Anthology)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 17:05


FINALLY!!!! G’daaaam! I’ve been waiting for this 70s classic to be released on CD since Moses was running around in shorts. Rockicks classic album “Inside” was released on RSO Records back in 1976 and I bought the LP back then. The band delivers a big chunk of southern influenced hard rock with dual guitars all over the place. There are heavy rockers like “Consideration”, rockers like “Rock N’ Roll Band”, powerful hard rockers like “Sweet Wealth” and “Keep On Rockin”. What was a huge surprise was that besides the 8 tracks from the original album there’s a SHITLOAD of previously unreleased bonus tracks here!! 7 tracks on the CD containing the album AND an extra CD with another 14 (!!) tracks!!! There’s a whole lot of killer stuff here! Damn, I wish they would have been given the opportunity to record a follow-up. Not that these tracks are badly recorded, but they could have been even better! 16 of the bonus tracks are from 1977! Damn! That’s even two albums (ok, there are a few alternate versions). There are also three really great tracks from 1991-1992. The quality of these tracks makes me wonder why there wasn’t another album there and then! The quality, both musically and soundwise is killer! The final track is a 2005 alternate version of “Consideration”, a sort of lounge version. Not bad at all, but I do prefer the heavy version. Unfortunately, two of the original members have passed, Rick Altschuler in 2004 and Brian Naughton in 2012, so I guess a Rockicks re-union is out of the question. Well, this double shot will at least give you the bands outstanding music in digital shape and form. A must!!

Janne Stark
Label: Grooveyard Records
Year: 2018

Country: USA

Vindicata – Beneath The Surface (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 17:02

This was not really what I expected to hear from the Grooveyard, I must admit! Vindicata, fronted by the raspy and fiery power pack Mary Magill leans more towards modern detuned riff-oriented hard rock (think Sevendust, Alter Bridge etc.) than the 70s influenced bluesy stuff we’re used to hearing from the guitar label of guitar labels. However, I must say I do not mind at all. This is some heavy shit! The band was previously called Half The World and released two CDs, now really rare and hard to find. The band changed their name to Vindicata and “Beneath The Surface” is a compilation of these two albums. Even though the albums were a few years apart and they were released some years ago, this does feel like a very homogenous and fresh album! You definitely can’t tell it’s a not a new album (I was actually halfway through the album before I was like – Where the hell have I heard this before??). Guess the band was a bit ahead of its time. Great band! Looking forward to hearing some new material!

Janne Stark
Label: Grooveyard Records
Year: 2018
Country: USA
Link: www.facebook.com/vindicataband


Revolution Highway – Revolution Highway (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 17:00

Man, when this album kicked off I was immediately thrown back to when I first heard the debut album by Montrose back in 1973. Earthy, analogue hard rock with phat riffs, pounding drums and a singer that rips! David Fefolt is his name and he’s previously been heard in bands like FireWölf, Hawk and Masi). Nothing wrong with his past ventures, but this one kicks them top the curb! So, who’s delivering the guitar riffs if not the hardest working man in Greece, Mr Stavros Papadopolous of Universal Hippies, Freerock Saints and Super Vintage. He’s really proved to be a riff force to be reckoned with on his other releases, and here he really sums it up, blending his bluesy licks and his powerful riffing capabilities. Two songs in and I’m in hook, line, singer and rod! This is without doubt one of the best albums of 2018! If you’re into bands like Montrose, (the sadly underrated) Manic Eden or Badlands with a touch of heavier 80s hard rock (think Whitesnake “1980”) this one’s for you. As usual it’s got flawless, powerful production from Stavros. When I hear an intro and a riff like in “All The Way Down” a big smile just floats out all over my face. This ROCKS (yes, capital letters required)! There’s honestly not a single weak track on the album! My biggest problem will be, getting it out of my CD-player, as it will probably get stuck from melting of excessive playing. A killer album indeed (if you haven’t gathered that by now)!

Janne Stark
Country: Greece/USA
Year: 2018

Label: Grooveyard Records

Shaggy – Destination Nowhere (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 16:59

Anybody remember the Swedish 70s band Shaggy? They were formed in in 1972 and released one LP in 1976 entitled “Lesson For Beginners”, one hell of a record it was. Classic Uriah Heep style hard rock. It’s now a rare item and it has never been officially re-issued on CD. But, suddenly, out of nowhere, a new album appeared in 2015! According to the liner notes it was a result of six years of recording. The songs were written in the late 70s and the album is also a tribute to original bass player Jan Destner, who passed away the year before the release. The line-up features original members Fidde Rognås on guitar and Thomas Ryan on keyboard. The vocals are handled by former M.ill.ion singer Ulrich Carlsson. Listening to the album, it doesn’t sound dated at all. Opener “All Around” is a mid-league melodic hard rocker, while the title track is a really good slightly heavier installment. “Magic Horses” continues on the heavy path, but with a more semi-soft progressive touch, which made me think of German band Anyone’s Daughter. “Lady Of The Hill” continues on the same path and I must say I really like this! It’s definitely a bit different from the debut album, why it’s a bit surprising that the songs were written in the same era. Thing is, different can be good, and it IS good for this album. It’s a really nice development into a slightly more eclectic vein with a more progressive and pomp-oriented genre. Just listen to a masterpiece like “Poem”. Heavy, proggy and melodic with killer vocals and playing. The rest of the album continues on the same path and I must say I was positively surprised! I was expecting… well, I’m not really sure what I expected, but I thought it would be more hard/heavy rock. Highly recommended!

Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Label: Self-released
Country: Sweden

Sakis Dovolis Trio – Cross The Line (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 16:57



Man, it seems the blues has really hit Greece! They have produced the fantastic talent of Stavros Papadopolous (who has also co-produced this album), with his Universal Hippies, Freerock Saints and Super Vintage. Here, his fellow country man Sakis proves he too can deliver the goods! It does say “trio”, so of course he’s got two fellows taking care of the bass (Fotis Dovolis) and drums (Nick Kalivas), and they do it with power, groove and assertiveness indeed! The album kicks off with the riff rockin’ “All Over You” in same same territory as Robin Trower, Craig Erickson, Philip Sayce. Lance Lopez and with a touch of Stevie Ray in his leads. Sakis is a phenomenal guitarist and also a great singer! If someone had played it to me without saying the band name, I would have said 100 % American. Well, Sakis also knows how to deliver crunchy and groovy riffs. “Everything” is as groovy as they come with Sakis letting that Strat rip the air a new one! Damn, this guy does rip!! He also manages to keep the momentum up delivering one number after another. There’s some heavy, detuned riffing going on in the title track giving it a different vibe, some more mellow, funky and almost jazzy playing in “Show Me Your Love” and he does it a really cool version of ZZ Top’s “Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings”. The album closes with Sakis’ tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a fine one it is. A cool, bluesy ballad with outstanding guitar playing. A killer of an album, indeed!
Janne Stark
Year: 2018
Label: Grooveyard Records
Country: Greece

2018 Top 10!

Stark Music Reviews - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 18:31
Ok, so I've finally come around to compile my top 10 of 2018!
I may (of course) have forgotten some album I later remember and go - daaaamned! Also, I still have a bunch of albums I haven't even had the time to listen to, so some may have gone under the radar.


1. Prins Svart
This is truly a masterpiece delivered by four Swedish musicians that had a band back in the 90s called Four Sticks. They only released a promo album, but it was a kick-ass piece of plastic (now quite a rarity in its original press - it was quite recently re-issued by Grooveyard Records). Anyway, singer Stefan Berggren has also appeared fronting bands like Company of Snakes, Snakes In Paradise (I see a pattern here...), Berggren Kerslake Band as well as released solo stuff, guitarist Henrik Bergqvist was in The Poodles, bass player Thomas Thorberg in Plankton, Snakes In Paradise and drummer Sebastian Sippola has been beating the skins in Grand Magus, Fortune, Southfork, Plankton etc. In Prins Svart (Prince Black) they get to revisit the good old 70s riff arena, surprisingly (but I love it) singing in Swedish! An outstanding album, which really left me craving for more!!


2. Revolution Highway - Revolution Highway (Grooveyard)
Man, this was on the verge! I received this outstanding CD in December, but damn! It really gave me a musical knock-out! Singer David Fefolt (FireWölf, Hawk, Masi, Valhalla) has the perfect bluesy, ripping voice to match the outstanding guitar licks of Greek riff phenomenon Stavros Papdopoulos (Universal Hippies, Super Vintage). I totally love Stavros other bands (and he's a great singer), but this combination just brings the level up exponentially! This is like hearing some of your favorite albums from the 70s for the first time, mixing classic hard rock with a southern groove and a phat bluesy vibe. Outstanding!


3. Lucifer - II
This one came as a total surprise. I had not even heard the band's first album when this gem just dropped down in my lap (well, it wasn't that simple - saw a link on FaceBook, listened, loved it, Googled the band, found the album and ordered it). Another outstanding slab of 70s oriented riff based hard rock with a touch of doom. Fronted by excellent singer Johanna Sadonis and also featuring former Entombed/Hellacopters bender Nicke Andersson. Riffs prevail! 


4. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions
I'm a huge fan of Clutch! The early stuff, not so much, but when I heard Blast Tyrant, I was hooked! The last couple of album have all be EPIC! "Earth Rocker" and "Psychic Warfare" - OUSTANDING! Well, I will admit "Bad Decisions" didn't reach their flawless status, but it's still so much better than so many other albums! A song like "In Walks Barbarella" alone beats 80 % of the releases of 2018.


5. Ty Tabor - Alien Beans
I've always been a huge King's X fan! I've also always been a huge Ty Tybor fan! His solos, his sense for melodic solos, his vocals, his outstanding rhythm guitar playing! A top notch musician in my book! On "Alien Beans" Ty returned to some heavier songs which was right up my alley!


6. Bernie Tormé - Shadowland
Here's another guitar hero of mine that just keeps on delivering! I've been a pledger on his latest bunch of albums, and I've never been disappointed (which has happened with several others). "Shadowland" is not a good album, it's TWO great albums - in one! A double CD! He just keeps on delivering and he sounds better than ever!


7. Earthless - Black Heaven
To be honest I so wanted to like the first two albums by Earthless. The riffs were great, the musicians kicked ass. But... instrumental music rarely does it for me these days. I just wished they would find a good singer to complete the band. Well, now they did! "Black Heaven" is a killer album, indeed! Heavy, stonery/doomy riffing without going over the edge. Actually, more retro than stoner. There are still some instrumental passages, but it works!


8. Judas Priest - Firepower
Man, I grew up on Judas Priest! I heard "Rocka Rolla" on the radio back in 1974 and was hooked! My cousin introduced me to "Sad Wings Of Destiny" and the line and sinker were in as well! I kinda lost them in the 90s and even though "Angel Of Retribution" and "Redeemer of Souls" were quite decent albums, they never really hit home with me. Now, "Firepower" is a different story! It doesn't beat the early stuff, but damn it's a powerful and outstanding effort indeed!


9. Billy Gibbons - Big Bad Blues
I bought Billy's first solo album "Perfectamundo", listened to it, hated it and immediately sold it. I read about the new album being more of a blues album. This time I listened to a couple of songs before buying it. Damn great album! Could have been a ZZ Top album, for sure! And a good one at that!


10. Black Debbath - Norsk Barsk Metal
I just love these Norwegian funny-guys! Musically this is top notch riff-oriented stonerish heavy rock with killer riffs and kick ass songs! The vocals may be the thing that will put some people off. The band sings in Norwegian and the vocals may not be to everyone's liking. The lyrics are funny as shit (which is another factor those who don't understand Norwegian will miss)! "Norsk Barsk Metal" means Norwegian Hard/Heavy Metal. Other song titles include: "Følelsesmessig Inkontinent" (Emotionally incontinent), " Etiske Retningslinjer For Tryllekunstnere" (Ethical guidelines for magicians) and "Pappa lukter tusj" (Daddy smells like ink). Gotta love 'em!

Dirty Dave Osti – Midnight Mojo Man (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:25

Dirty Dave Osti has four more CDs out on Grooveyard Records and they’ve all been pretty solid in my book. For some reason this one really hit home with me. Not sure what it is, but the riffs seem more solid and I like the groove a bit more. Stylewise, Dave, reminds me a bit of Michael Katon. Solid, heavy, guitar driven blues rock with both feet deep in the ground. “Be The Love” has a really cool 70s sounding classic riff that carries the song. The only thing that pissed me off was that Dave recorded an outstanding cover of “Walk Before You Run” by Savoy Brown. Why? Because I had planned to record it. Love that sone. But, since you did such a kick-ass version, you’re forgiven, Dave ;-). Another outstanding favorite track on this album is “Rebel Run”, a kick-ass riff rocker with some killer drumming. The instrumental “Spacewolf” sticks out a bit as well with its cool funky groove. All in all, a really solid album that should attract fans of classic, riff-oriented hard edged blues rock.
Janne Stark
Year: 2018
Country: USA
Label: Grooveyard Records


Eddings – Cornelius – All The Madness (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:24

The artwork didn’t really impress, I must say, and the name Eddings-Cornelius didn’t say much. Steve Eddings: vocals and Larry Cornelius: all instruments. What could this be? Well, opening track “Down We Go” kicked off in a very promising way with its up-tempo southern rock vibe. “Burnin’ My Bridges” keeps the southern vibe up and adds some cool slide guitar as well. My only complaint would be the programmed drums, which don’t sound that exciting. The production is overall quite “cheap”, but it does have a certain charm to it. “Tooth And Nail” mixes the southern vibe and some classic 70s hard rock and they sometime makes me think of 70s bands like Hydra and Earl Slick Band. Larry has some pretty cool guitar chops and Steve’s vocals fit the music very well. The album is pretty solid, but there are a couple of tracks that are way too pop/country for me, such as “Eileen” and “Make Me Fit”.
Janne Stark
Year: 2014
Label: Private

Country: USA

We Could Build An Empire – In This Place (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:23


For being quite a small country and on the brink of collapse (at least according to Fox news… I haven’t seen it and I live here) we do squeeze out quite an impressive number of bands and records per year. So, here’s another name to add to the list – We Could Build An Empire. Musically they are really hard to box in. “All In This Together” sounds very Ghost influenced, while “Worry Of The Heart” has a heavier edge. “Red III” is quite proggy and quirky. I find it really hard to pin down this band, I must say. Musically they blend in elements of U2 (which I hate, but they kinda make it sound good), Ghost, King Crimson, Katatonia, Opeth, at times with proggy elements, and at times, as in “In This Place” with an almost gothy feel. “The Rise And The Fall” is another killer track that needs to be mentioned. The band features Marcus Pehrsson (ex-Last Laugh): lead vocals and bass, Pat Wallin (ex-Last Laugh): guitar and Michael Ohsson on drums. This is one of those albums I find highly intriguing. At first I can’t decide if I like it or not, I listen to it like watching an accident waiting to happen, can’t look away, can’t turn it off, and in the end I can’t stop listening to it. A really great album, indeed!
Janne Stark
Year: 2018
Country: Sweden

Label: Mighty Music

Super Vintage – Destiny (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:22


Our favorite Greek guitarist/singer Stavros Papadopoulos is at it again! How many hours does this guy have in a day me wonder? Now it’s time for a new Super Vintage album, Stavros heavy bluesy, 70s influenced power unit. He kicks off with southern tinged “Rock N’ Roll Saviors” and continues with a cool Bad Company vibe in “Brotherhood Of Blues”. The tracks ends with an extended, cool bluesy solo. “Edge of Time” continues in the southern vibe, actually combining the brit bluesy Bad Company vibe with a touch of vintage Lynyrd Skynyrd and a cool slide guitar to top it off. “Naked Tree” keeps it up in the same vibe, while “Streets Of This Town” has a sleazy, heavy edge to it. “Everything You Wanted” picks up the southern up-tempo vibe. The album finally ends with the slow acoustic “Destiny”, a classic southern rock ballad. What can I say? Stavros hasn’t made me disappointed before, and he didn’t this time either. A great bluesy, southern rock album, from Greece of all places!  
Janne Stark
Country: Greece
Year: 2018

Label: Grooveyard Records

Head Honchos - Bring It On Home (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:21



Already reading the band name and the title kinda made me think this could be southern influenced, shit kickin’ hard rock. The CD starts off with ”Not For Me” and I wasn’t that far off target. It’s definitely shit kickin’ hard rock, but I guess it’s more bluesy than southern. ”Old And Tired” continues in a cool swing funk heavy blues vibe, actually with a touch of Stevie Salas, with is great in my book. Nice phat groove! ”Work” kicks up the tempo a notch. Slide guitar, chunky Hammond organ and a cook funky groove. Great energetic vocals and killer guitar licks. In ”Come Strong” they do give it a southern rock touch, but it also has a straight ahead blues rock vibe to it. It’s a track that has ”dance” written all over it. ”Next To You” kicks it off with a cool drum groove and some slide guitar. One of my favorites is the super grooving ”Whiskey Devil” and the band’s kick ass version of ”Going Down”. A really cool, groove oriented, swinging blues rock album with a southern touch.
Janne Stark
Year: 2018
Country: USA

Label: Grooveyard Records

Miss Willis – Snakes, Fakes & A Holy Cow (MCDr 5tr)

Stark Music Reviews - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 19:09

Swedish retro hard rockers Miss Willis started out as Twilight Zone back in 1986, reformed as Miss Willis Flowerchild and released their first demo under this name already back in 1993. In 2008 they released their first album, “Alpha Male”, under the new shortened name. An outstanding release, indeed! The follow-up EP, “Rewolf” was released in 2010 and in 2015 the album “Coming Home” saw the light of day. This, their latest release, is another 5 track EP, a pro-printed CDR, I should add. It kicks off with a siren and bursts into a kick ass up-tempo guitar-based riff rocker. Promising, to say the least! “When The Devil Gets Old” continues in the upper mid-tempo region with a classic hard rock touch. A hint of AC/DC with a more Black Crowes sounding chorus. “Playground” reminds me a bit of UFO’s “Natural Thing” or Moxy’s “Moonrider” in the main riff. An outstanding hard rocker, indeed! “Först till kvarn” (with vocals in Swedish, as you may suspect) draws more on the early 70s vein, here with the addition of a Hammond organ, something they used quite a lot more on “Coming Home”. This one reminds me a bit of the band Blood From The Sun or Swedish colleagues Thalamus. This is actually my favorite track from this new effort. Uffe’s vocals sort of take on a totally different tone when he sings in his native tongue. The EP finished off with “Hole In The Ground”, which initially and ironically made me think of “Hole In The Sky” (Black Sabbath). It does sound a bit like vintage Uriah Heep meets Black Sabbath. A kick-ass track. A great band that never disappoints! Looking forward to the new full-length!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2018
Label: self-released


Black Aces – Anywhere But Here (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 16:18

When I listen to the Black Aces album I can’t help wondering how many times you can re-cycle the formula created by AC/DC. We already have hundreds, if not thousands, of bands that have used, misused, developed, re-vamped and copied what the Aussies once created. There’s your Airbourne, ’77, Bullet, Rhino Bucket, Rose Tattoo, Bonafide, Dynamite, Upper Crust etc etc. So, what new ingredients have fellow Australians Black Aces brought to the brew? Well, I can’t really find any to be honest. The singer is trying to put his spin on the Bon Scott era high-pitch vocals and the music has also taken on the late 70s AC/DC sound and style of song writing, even the backing vocals have the same rough football choir vibe as AC/DC had once they started adding this to their brew. At least some of the bands, such as Bonafide, put a new spin on the old coin and make it into a beast of their own, but unfortunately this is just blue print material, except maybe for the track “Short Changed” which has at least a slightly personal touch to it. If you’re a fan of AC/DC and have no problem with copy cats, this one’s definitely for you. The band does a great job doing what they do. The musicians are great, the sound kicks ass and the singer does a great job, so this is by no means a bad album in that sense. It’s just, a bit too unoriginal for me. If they had just dared to take a little step or two outside the box, that would have done a great deal.
Janne Stark
Label: Off Yer Rocka
Country: Australia

Year: 2017

Jay Jesse Johnson Band – Down The Hard Road (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 16:11

Jay Jesse Johnson (not to be confused with disco/funk rocker Jesse Johnson) has released a bunch of high class albums since his solo debut “Strange Imitation” in 2004. Before that he recorded an album with pomp rock band ArcAngel (featuring Jeff Cannata) in 1983 and in 1989 he released the album “Electrocution of the Heart” with AOR band Deadringer (featuring Charlie Huhn and Barry Dunaway among others). His solo albums are however quite far from the melodic rock scene. “Down The Hard Road”, like Jay’s previous solo efforts, are all about the blues. The album is all originals except for Booker T’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” and Roy Buchanan’s “The Messiah Will Come Again”. I remember reviewing Jay’s previous album “Set The Blues On Fire” two years ago. The album was a nice piece of hard edged blues rock. On this album Jay is leaning more towards the classic side of blues rock and boogie and he’s even added some horns on a couple of songs and there’s a piano solo in “Drive Me Home”. Jay is an outstanding guitarist with both incredible feel and great technique. Most of the songs are classic blues rock numbers, while “Tears Of An Angel” is a slow and slightly heavier blues ballad and “Bull In The Barn” offers some swift chicken pickin’. The aforementioned Buchanan cover “The Messiah Will Come” also offers a slightly different touch to the album, and I honestly hadn’t really thought about how this number must have had a great impact on Gary Moore when he wrote “The Loner” and “Parisienne Walkways”. Sweet notes a’ la carte.
Janne Stark
Year: 2017
Label: Grooveyard Records
Country: USA

Universal Hippies – Evolution of Karma (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 16:10

Imagine if you throw a portion of well cooked vintage Wishbone Ash into a blender and then sprinkle a bit of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai on top. You then sift the brew to get rid of all unnecessary shredding. Throw the shredding away and keep all that good tasty stuff. Pour it into a mold and make a nice CD of it. Voila! You’ve got the "Evolution of Karma"! This is the second CD by Greek instrumental rockers Universal Hippies and even though I really enjoyed their debut, “Mother Nature Blues”, this one takes it a step further in terms of tasteful melodies and great song material. There’s not a weak moment on this album and it has a great flow. This is definitely an album album, an album you listen to from beginning to end. The flow from one song to another is just sublime and Stavros Papadopoulos’ guitar playing is nothing short of phenomenal. His feel and tone are just awesome. Not forgetting the highly tasteful rhythm section featuring bass player Jim Petridis and drummer Chris Lagios, who really lay down the perfect grooves for the brew. The mix, also by Stavros, is crisp and clear with a lot of nice ambience. Very analogue and very live sounding. This is an outstanding album, indeed and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s into the melodic instrumental side of Wishbone Ash or Satch, when he slows it down and get his melodic mojo working.
Janne Stark
Country: Greece
Year: 2018
Label: Grooveyard Records

Eynomia – Break Free (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 16:07

I will admit I’m not a big fan of power metal or symphonic metal bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation, especially when the vocals become too “operatic”. I do, however, have a soft spot for some stuff by bands such as Evanescence, but they are a bit too uneven to really grab me. Well, despite these slightly off-turning facts, for some reason, Eynomia really did grab me! They do have elements of power metal and they and Evanescence do have lots of common denominators, but there’s still something different with this band that I really like. Singer Phyllis Rutter is not a high pitch operatic singer but has a more smooth and classic rock touch to her voice, which fits like a glove with the music. I’d also say Eynomia has picked a thing or two from bands like Fates Warning and Symphony X (maybe because basist Mike LePond is in the band as well) to blend into the symphonic rock mix, making it more appealing to fans of prog-oriented metal. It’s melodic yet not poppy or overly commercial. Chris Bickley (Thunderhead) does a great job giving the lead guitars an extra edge as well. There’s some kick ass solos and really nice acoustic work going on here. The songs range from heavy, almost Queensryche oriented stuff like “Let It Go” and “Till We Meet Again” to soft and atmospheric ballads like “Through Your Eyes” with Bickley channeling his inner Roger Gilmour here and there. However, the song I feel could really hit home with fans of Evanescence is “Someday Maybe”. A killer track indeed! Could be a hit! Great production, great musicians and high-quality song material! Highly recommended!
Janne Stark
Label: Pure Legend
Year: 2018
Country: USA

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