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Fergie Frederiksen - 'Happiness Is The Road' (frontiers records) 5/5

2010 was a tough year for former Angel / Toto vocalist Dennis 'Fergie' Frederiksen. in the June he was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, only given a slim chance of survival and facing a period of painful and exhausting treatment. So in order to give himself something positive to work on he set out to record 'Happiness is The Road' an album that could well have been his final work. Now just over a year on Mr Frederiksen is experiencing better times. The cancer is in long term remission and the product of those dark days is at last released.

Now its a bit of cliche to say that often a persons darkest hour is their finest, but it is one that so often holds true. 'Happiness Is the Road' is a truly remarkable album, musically its typical US stadium rock, but I'm convinced that it is one that will be hailed along side the likes of Toto 4, Journey's 'Escape' and Styx's 'Paradise Theater' as one of the true great albums of that genre.

It's not just that this album is superbly played and produced, but that Mr Frederiksen is giving one of the most powerful and emotional performances I have ever heard. From beginning to end this record is a real spine tingler, it takes the listener on the real roller-coaster ride of feelings this guy must have been going through as he wrote and recorded it. Tracks like The Future Ain't What It Used To Be and Elaine with their lyrics of an uncertain future and lost opportunities, are delivered with a heart felt passion that brings a lump to the throat of even this most skeptical of power ballad hating rockers. Then others such as the title track, The Saviour, Angel (Mirror To Your Soul) and First To Cry are real life affirming no regrets uplifting numbers that still dampen the eyes, but this time with tears of joy. Whats more at no point does this album ever get morbid or depressing, but retains a positive vibe through out. It is indeed refreshing that in a world where emotion in rock is all to often over played and false, we have at last an album that speaks from the heart to the heart without ever having to fake it.

Add in the fact that musically this album is dripping AOR sensibilities that hat tips the likes of Toto, Journey, Foreigner, etc without ever becoming derivative or cliche and you have a work that is something very very special indeed and an album that is all set to become an all time classic.

for fans of.... Toto, Angel, Styx, Loverboy, Journey, House of Lords, etc...

Porco Dio - 'Pig Your King' (self released) 3/5

Porco Dio are from Finland, they are a five piece crusty hardcore punk outfit and besides that I know naff all about them.

Now this ep (which in the two weeks since I downloaded it has been renamed 'eka demo') is as rough as fuck, the production, and I use the term very loosely, is lousy. This record sounds like it was done on a cassette recorder in the corner of a practice room, every song starts with a four count on a hi-hat (sometimes with a bit of guitar feedback for added noise), which then launches into a wall of chaotic noise in which individual instruments and voices are swallowed into the maw of sonic bludgeon.

Now, in any other genre I wouldn't even give this stuff house room, let alone write a review. But this is punk, and I always say that in punk, true punk, not yer Green182 style punk, attitude and attack is everything, all else, including production and musicianship is secondary. After all the true ethos of the genre is if you wanna make music and have something to say, then you go head and say it.

And that is exactly what Porco Dio are doing. So what if the result is messy, in the mess theses guys attitude and power comes shining through. There are five tracks on offer, all, with one exception, well under the 90 second mark and all packed with raw crusty hardcore aggression that really is most infectious. As I've said before, I do have a soft spot for this kind of DIY punk and whilst I doubt that Porco Dio will ever reach anything beyond being cult draws on the local Finnish punk scene, anyone who likes it as raw as possible and with less than zero frills, will do well to give this a quick listen, after all its a free ep after all.

Very entertaining.

For fans of... The Swine, The Oppressed, Red XIII etc....

This ep can be downloaded from here...

Hammers Of Misfortune - '17th Street' (metalblade) 3.5/5

No, not a reflection on the current form of West Ham United, Hammers of Misfortune are a Californian prog metal outfit and this is their fifth studio release.

Now I gotta say I'm finding this one interesting rather than mind blowing. The metal side here is very restrained, coming over a bit like some of those lighter weight NWOBHM outfits such as Limelight, Stampede and Jaguar; that's not to say that its a bad thing, after all I am a huge fan of the NWOBHM (after all I was there!!), but in the context of a wanna be classic progressive metal album it does come over a little on the restrained side and doesn't really give the huge impact this type of music demands. The progressive side is also a little short of the mark, whilst there are some nice snatches of folky moments and some rather cool keyboard lead sections, the keys themselves are all to often lost in the mix and loose impact.

All this is a shame, because there is a lot of good stuff going on here, the song writing is first rate with some fairly deep and insightful lyrics on offer. The musicianship is also top draw; vocalist Joe Hutton has a cracking voice, powerful, deep and menacing without resorting to the old cliched pig grunts and power wails, the guitars of Leila Abdul Rauf and John Cobbett are slick, smooth and slice through the sound like expertly wielded katanas. Add in a tight and driven rhythm section and some impressive keyboards (when you can hear them) and you have in HoM a band that could be be great. In fact after a few play throughs I'm beginning to put the lack of 'ummph' down to indifferent production, rather than the band themselves.

To select a few of the gems on offer, we have Summer Tears - a track that reminds me of some of Crash Street Kids more sleazy moments, the epic closer Going Somewhere with its grinding riffage inter-cut with some lovely jiggy proggy moments that are pure Thin Lizzy, and what is in my mind the best cut on offer The Day The City Died, a corking little track that reminds me a little of the great Magnum.

However it all comes back to the production, this album could do with a good remix to make the metal bits a tad more brutal, and the proggy bits a bit more epic, then we would have an album worthy of the band HoM undoubtedly are, cos as it is this record remains a good, but flawed gem.

for fans of... Magnum, Awake, Stampede, Y&T etc....