Stark Music Reviews

BONEDOG – Gone Fishing (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:11

Gone Fishing is the third outing from the Swedish southern style blues rockers Bonedog. I’ve been spinning this disc quite a few times, but this time the fish ain’t biting as hard as it used to I’m afraid. Yes, the band sounds great, they are tight and groovy and the songs are fine. I’m not really sure what it is, but this one feels a bit more light-weight. It may be that the production is a bit thinner and I lack a bit of attitude. It is also a bit more laid back in the musical approach, more akin to vintage Sky High or Blues Bag, which is not a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. Well, enough of the negative attitude. Despite my somewhat jaded outlook I think it’s a really good and even album. Micke Landréhn is a great guitarist and I really like his vocals, especially when he really brings on some attitude like in Messed Up By The Painand Riding With The King. There are some really good songs in here and not any real lows, so as a whole it’s well worth checking out.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015   

Label: Self-released

BLACKSMITH LEGACY – Metal Never Dies (MCD 4tr)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:09

These Swedes made their debut in 2013 and now follow it up with the four-track EP entitled Metal Never Dies. They do sound like they believe it 100 %. All the heavy metal clique boxes are ticked. The lyrics and song titles are “metal”, the band name and title are “metal”, the sound is definitely metal and the songs are very metal. They have even snuck in a section from The Hall Of The Mountain King. I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing. I think it’s great that bands keep the legacy (excuse the pun) alive. Metal Never Dies is definitely a step up from the debut Let The Game Begin in terms of production, songs and overall quality, plus the lead vocals sound better (the singer has now unfortunately left the band). If you’re into bands like Gamma Ray, Metalium, Running Wild and Manowar, lend these boys an ear.
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden

Label: Self-released

HELLSPRAY – Bring On The War (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:08

Swedish heavy melodic rockers released their first album Full Moon In Plainfield in 2008. The debut featured former Renegade singer Magnus Tallåker, who was soon replaced by the more rough-edged Anders Moberg. Anders made his debut on the 2011 release Part Of The Solution. On Bring On The War the band has brought up the heaviness factor a few steps. The new CD opens with the title track, which to me felt a bit heavier than the band really is. I was slightly disappointed. However, Song For The Deaf put things back into place. Still very heavy, but more melodic and it didn’t feel strained. Shine Like The Sun takes it yet another step in the right direction. It actually reminded me a bit of Dirt-era Alice In Chains, but with a more positive view on life. This good, really good! Anders is a powerful singer and he fits the style perfectly. Great, tight and powerful mix. Well done!
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden

Label: Self-released

THE DEEP – Premonition (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 19:00


With their roots in bands such as Deep Machine and Airrace, new UK melodic metal rockers The Deep take their first step with the debut Premonition. I was truly blown away by their down to earth, classic melodic hard rock, with the roots in the 80s NWOBHM era. By coincidence, just recently purchased the High Roller release of the old Deep Machine demos. They kicked ass back then and I love that stuff, but I have to say, I actually like The Deep even better. Maybe it’s the maturity of Tony Coldham’s beautiful voice, the years of honing their musical craftsmanship or simply the songs that sits better today. They actually featured a re-recording of the old 1982 demo track Saga. In that case it’s not the latter, but probably the better recording and the band that has become better. Great version! When I learned The Deep was ex-Deep Machine I was actually a bit worried since I saw a recent video of the band with quite horrible vocals, but I guess there are two camps out there (not that uncommon these days). This camp clearly takes the prize in my book. Anywayz… Premonition kicks off with classic NWoBHM style rocker The Rider, a bit reminiscent of early Samson meets Raven. Timeless metal! You Take My Breath Away kicks off as a classic metal number, but goes into a Praying Mantisstyle melodic rocker with nice harmony vocals. Ok, I’ve mentioned some other bands here, but The Deep definitely have their own sound. I’m totally blown away by Tony Coldham’s fantastic vocals, strong, powerful and clear! Night-Stalker is another track that could have been (was?) written in the early 80s with it’s classic plodding guitar riff. I love it! Cold-Hearted shows a slightly different side, with its almost Lillian Axe style heavy power balladry. A really cool song indeed! I won’t go into each track, but there’s not one single weak track! 10 tracks, you don’t need more. 10 great tracks makes you long for the next album already! Highly recommended!
Janne Stark
Label: private
Country: UK
Year: 2015

Link: http://www.thedeepuk.band/

KICKIN’ VALENTINA – Super Atomic (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 18:56


I was never really a huge fan of sleaze and glam, to be honest. I’m more of a heavy riff seventies hard rock guy. However, some bands did catch my attention. Skid Row and Guns did have their moments, as well as bands like Tora Tora and Enuff Z'nuff. To be honest I actually like the current heavy sleaze/glam bands more than I did in the 80s. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s them. However, bands like Crazy Lixx, Crashdïet and Hardcore Superstar have their fine moments. When I was introduced to American band Kickin’ Valentina I was not really sure it would be my bag, since my good friend, Ken Anthony, who introduced me to them, if way more sleaze/glam than I am. Well, lo and behold, these boys do rock! Super Atomic is definitely a car album. It’s custom made for front seat headbangin’ and it is highly speed inducing. Maybe it’s because they are from Georgia, but there’s a southern feel to it that sets them apart from a lot of the mainstream bands in the same genre. I’m also a fan of singer Joe Edwards’ raspy whiskey voice. There’s no rocket science involved when it comes to the song writing, but this genre doesn’t need it. It’s based on attitude, power, performance, delivery and a great sound. Kickin’ Valentina check all the boxes. I actually like this one!
Janne Stark
Country: USA
Year: 2015
Label: Highway9/Target


SKY HIGH – Stone & Gravel (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 18:52



Swedish heavy blues rockers Sky High, lead by guitarist/singer Clas Yngström, refuse to give up. They were around when the burning bush still hadn't caught fire and they are still going! And, damn I’m glad for that! What I’m even more glad for is that they never fail to deliver. What makes me EVEN MORE glad is that Stone & Gravel is their best album in years! I was afraid Clas would embellish the big band stuff and walk down that road. But not, noooooo way! Stone & Gravel should actually be entitled Rock & Concrete! This album is one heavy mother! It starts out with the groovy Pretty Young Women (And Dirty Old Men), followed by the slightly ZZ Top:ish stomper One Step Back. If these two tracks haven’t convinced you already, just move on to the power shuffle A New Old Style (Old Farts Boogie), rolling on like a heavier updated long lost cousin of their old classic I Ain’t Beggin’. This is the top of the boogie class! There are no signs of wear or old age, even if some of the titles suggest that should be the case. F’get about it! This is power trio galore! It’s also nice to see the classic trio featuring Clas, bassist Arne Blomqvist and drummer Marcus Källström together again. It sounds like they were never apart in the first place. Tight, groovy and rockin! I also must give a heads up to producer Jonas Kjellgren who has given this platter the ultimate power and heaviness without making it sound too modern or artificial. It still sounds like real tubes, old Strats and acoustic drums! Welcome back guys! A killer album, indeed! And, the artwork looks absolutely killer!
Janne Stark
Label:Pike Records
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015

Link:www.skyhighblues.com

OZONE – Self Defence (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 08/05/2015 - 12:42


On paper this looks like the perfect melodic rock album! Two excellent singers: Steve Overland (FM, Wildlife) and Chris Ousey (Heartland, Virginia Wolf, Snakecharmer) and on of my all-time favorite guitarists Mike Slamer (City Boy, Streets, Steelhouse Lane) team up to make melodic rock magic. Tommy Denander is also part of the project, as songwriter and guitarist. I don’t have an info sheet, so I don't know who’s written what, so it's guesses on my part. The album starts with the Slamer sounding “Tiger By The Tail”, which would fit perfectly on any Steelhouse Lane or Seventh Key album. The vocals give the song a different touch, though. I can’t help it, but every time I hear Ousey sing I think of Eric Martin (which is not a bad thing in my book). “Let The Good Will Out” starts off with a simple, but perfectly ok guitar riff, while the song itself feels quite “safe”. “So Blind” is a classic AOR semi-ballad where the outstanding vocals really lift the track. “Destiny” starts off with a cool guitar riff and continues in a more classic British hard rock vibe, with a touch of Overland’s home turf, with a Slamer-sounding chorus. A great track indeed.  “Shadow On The Sun” continues in the same vein, and also makes me think classic Slamer riffing, but with a chorus very close to Kenny Loggin’s “Danger Zone”. As much as I think Denander is a great lead guitarist and he is heard on the most part of this album, I really miss Slamer’s light, funny and highly personal solos. Not sure why he’s not featured more, and I think it’s a real shame. It’s something I actually looked forward to. “Save My Soul” is another classic melodic rocker with a pre-chorus dangerously close to Foreigner’s “Feels Like The First Time”. “Smile Before You Lie” also sounds very classic Slamer and the interplay between Ousey and Overland really works great in this track (well, it’s not “bad” in any sense in any other track, just a notch better here). “Lifetime” is a big, bluesy ballad where the vocal twins really make a home run. “Practice What You Preach” is another solid melodic rocker with some nice riffing and a very Slamer-sounding chorus.  But, where are Slamer’s solos? The album closes with the up-tempo rocker “Visionary Man”. All in all this is a really good, albeit quite a “safe”, melodic rocker, with a production close to Seventh Key and Slamer’s solo stuff, which feels quite secure. There are some typical Slamer riffs here and there, but I really miss his soloing (as you may have gathered...). Steve and Chris really shine and their voices mix very well together. Works fine for me!
Janne Stark
Label: Escape
Country: UK/US/Sweden

Year: 2015

BOHEMIAN LIFESTYLE – Madame Libertánah (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 08/05/2015 - 12:38


Wow, this new Swedish quartet really kicks off with an outstanding powerful retro style hard rocker! Great vocals, powerful delivery, great production by Sator man Chips Kisbye! Unfortunately there’s a power drop in second track “Fool’s Mask”, where they sound more like a modern pop/rock band, and it spirals even more downwards in “A Brigher Day”, which sounds closer to The Ark (a good band, but not really my cup of tea. The Swedish band, not the Norwegians, that is). In “Woodlands” the guitar is back in action! Cool and heavy riffing kicks this one into gear, even though the chorus sounds a bit too streamlined for my taste. “Coming Back Around” moves back into the pop/rock territory and they lose me once again. “Wake Up Call” has a pretty cool quirky riff, and the song works pretty good actually, but the following tracks continue the hit and miss affair. Half the album works great for me, while the other half just don’t cut it at all. When they’re good, they’re really good!
Janne Stark
Label: Attitude Recordings
Country: Sweden

Year: 2015

IDORA – Above The Law (MCD 5tr)

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 08/05/2015 - 12:34


American melodic heavy rockers Idorafeatures singer Brian Colkitt, guitarist Mike Floros, bassist Mike Talanca and drummer Rob Duran. The band mixes good old 80’s tinged melodic hard rock with a touch sleaze, sort of Dokken meets Quiet Riot. Brian Conklitt is a good singer with a touch of Kevin Dubrow, but not as raspy. My favourite track is “Stand” with its nice melodic hooks and classic pumping rhythm parts, along with the title track, with its slightly Van Halenish touch. The mixing could use a skilled helping hand to take the production to the next level, but this is a good start!
Janne Stark 
Label: self-released
Year: 2015

Country: USA

STERBHAUS – New Level of Malevolence (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 13:45


Most of you know I’m not a big fan of death metal, but there’s one band that I just fucking LOVE!! Ever since I saw the video for The House Of The Dead Dwarf, which proved the level of self-distance and humor this band possesses, I just love their quirky boundary-less technical and quirky, yet quite melodic death metal. Their previous album, Angels For Breakfast… And God For Lunch really rocked my world for a long time. So, I’m happy to say that with the follow-up New Level of Malevolence, they have even stepped it up. This is bloody outstanding! I even have a soft spot for Marcus Hammarström’s evil sounding, screechy, but not painful vocals, which actually fits the music perfectly. I don’t think you’re supposed to fell happy when listening to death metal, but I have a smile on my face every time I listen to this band. The album is full of little surprises which just throw you off in all directions without warning, and I love that. Predictable? No way in hell! There are traces of classic heavy metal, death metal, thrash, prog metal, doom, polka and… you name it, and that is just in the title track alone! There’s actually one band that sometimes comes to mind, and which I also love, and that’s F.K.Ü. They both have the same level of intensity and power. Also, tell me the last time you heard neck pick-up Stratocaster being played in a thrash/death tune? This is a new level of excellence!
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden
Label: Killhead

SEAN BAKER ORCHESTRA – Game On! (pro-CDR)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 13:44

Shredguy Records is providing us with yet another top-notch guitar oriented release. This is definitely not your ordinary shredding metal album. Besides the orchestrated and quite interesting intro, just check out songs like D.T.O.C., the groovy and detuned Hercules Box, the almost Journey sounding Coming Up Roses and Ruth Ann, and of course Sean’s interpretation if Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, actually featuring horns. To be honest, the latter is my least favorite on the album. I really like the song to begin with, and I think Sean could’ve done something more exciting with it, plus the horns sound quite disconnected from the song at times. It could be the mix, where this song doesn’t sound as good as the rest. A minor flaw, though. Of course all shredding fans with get their ears full. The track Shrapnel In Your Ear presents, besides the outstanding Sean Baker himself, shredding colleagues Marc Rizzo, Toby Knapp and Bruce Bouillet. A slice of shredding heaven indeed! Despite being a guitar album, there are two vocal tracks: The grindingly heavy Necessary Evils featuring Racer X man Jeff Martin and the soft Spooky handled by Ronny Munroe. Another Shredguy release to check out!
Janne Stark
Label: Shredguy Records
Year: 2015
Country: USA


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