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Demon Dudes Revenge - 'An Adolescent Fantasy Vol.1' (self released) 4.5/5

For most of the 1980's keyboard wizard Steve Watts was a key member of Demon, one of the NWOBHMs most eclectic and influential bands.Playing on and later writing the music for classic albums such as The Plague, British Standard Approved, Breakout and Taking The World By Storm he helped pave the way for and create a whole new sub genre of music, progressive metal. Steve left Demon in 1991 and since then has been below the radar. But now he's resurfaced with a whole new project, Demon Dudes Revenge - a project involving something like 20 other musicians, and has just issues this new album.

Now anyone who has heard any of Steve's work with the mighty Demon will know not only is he a mercurial talent but also has a great ear for forging some wonderful soundscapes and wrapping them up in a blanket of first rate rock and roll attitude. This album shows those attributes off to the max. You get some great out and out rockers like the glorious instrumental prog metal workout of The Slicer, the disturbingly driving Tea Cosy Mong and the punk fueled It's Message Is... (Brimstone And Treacle); and by contrast there are some wonderful spaced out and trippy moments such as the sample powered Air Conditioned Ego (a track that hints at the wonderful Hemispheres from the classic Demon album British Standard Approved) and the superb acid soundscape of Damaged, a track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Quarkspace album.

However a word of warning for anyone picking this one up expecting something like those classic Demon albums, while indeed the ghost of Demon does haunt the tracks on offer (and the albums cover for that matter - Demon fans will spot it), this album is far more diverse and far far darker than anything Demon ever recorded. There are no Dave Hill style upbeat vocals to lighten the mood and get you chanting the chorus. Instead this album is dark, in your face and and takes the progressive rock element into places Demon just didn't get to (well maybe just a bit on British Standard Approved - but they didn't take it this far).

But that's not to to say this album isn't one incredible piece of music, that works on so many levels. My personal highlight has to be the three part Glorious Pretension of Being, an epic piece of music that sends a real shiver down my spine every time I play it.

Inshort, Mr Watts has with this project cooked up a rather remarkable album that reminds us all what a talent he is. Volume 2 of An Adolescent Fantasy is due out late 2012 - I for one can't wait.

Very Highly Recommended

For fans of... Demon, Quarkspace, Eloy, Wim Oudjik, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind....


6FearS7 - 'Little Green Box - ep' (self released) 4.5/5

I first discovered Bristol funk rockers 6Fears7 about a year back, playing in the back room of a local pub as part of a local street festival. I blagged a copy of their debut ep, 'The Sky Turned Black' which received a fair bit of airplay on the show, and their single Break Me Down became a listener fave later in the year on its release, becoming the 'earworm' featured track for September 2011. Since then the band have been gigging heavily all over the UK and are now hitting us with this their brand new four track ep.

Now the bands mission statement reads, '6FEARS7 want nothing more than you, on your feet, dancing your tits off.' and listening to this ep it's not hard comply with their wishes. This ep is a superb nugget of rock infused high energy funk that bounces into your ears like a hyper active puppy and sets your body mind and soul dancing along on waves of pure infectious energy.

It kicks off with Fetch The White Coats, a cut that the Greg Badman /  Michael Goodman rhythm section drives into a sweet funky frenzy that sounds a little like Parliament jamming with Primus and Blind Lemon coming in on the chorus. And it just gets better. Dirty Town (Northampton) is a sleazy little slow funk work out that bops along with a joyous beat that perfectly counterpoints the sneering downbeat lyrics. On Your Knees kicks off with a riff thats pure James Brown and intermixes it with some guitar work from Tom Agg that is dripping Led Zep style classic rock sensibilities; and the ghetto strut of closer Indignation features a killer vocal delivery from  Tamsin Cullum and has hints of early Faith No More about it. All great stuff indeed.

All in this another great ep from one of Bristols most promising outfits. I can see big things ahead for this band, oh yes, definitely one to watch.

Bloody great!!

for fans of... Primus, Faith No More, Parliament, George Clinton, James Brown etc.....

Sunstorm - 'Emotional Fire' (frontiers) 3/5

This is the third studio album from Sunstorm, the latest project from former Rainbow / Deep Purple frontman Joe Lynn Turner, a guy who was perhaps one of the the most distinctive voices of the 1980's. Now I was a huge Rainbow fan back in the day, and whilst I did tend to prefer the Dio fronted version of Blackmores boys, Mr Turner did much to win me over, especially on the Straight Between The Eyes album, and I even like that album he did with Purple. So whats this one like then?

Well I'll confess that I'm finding this one enjoyable rather than mindblowing. This is nothing to do with Mr Turners vocals, his power, range and distinctive inflections are all still here and just as engaging as they were back in the early 80's. However the rest of Sunstorm are most definitely not Rainbow, they do try and in a few places such as tracks like The Higher Your Rise and Torn In Half they almost succeed in invoking the ghost of the Difficult to Cure album, but a lot of the rest of this album sounds a little like a Journey or Foreigner tribute band. Thats not to say this record isn't well played and produced by talented musicians, it's just that I've always preferred to hear Mr Turner when he leans on it a bit and belts them out, but on many of the songs on offer here, such as Emily, Follow Your Heart and Lay Down In Your Arms Sunstorm tend to be content to cruise along in AOR safe mode and as a result Mr Turner never gets out of third gear and his power and talent is a little wasted. The result is to me at least a fair bit of listener frustration, I know Sunstorm are a good band, I just wish they would lean on it a bit more and give Mr Turner some good old school rock he can really get his throat around.

Still, this is an old 80's headbanger talking, and I'm sure stadium rock nuts will find a lot here to satisfy them. Horses for courses and all that.

Competent, but nothing too special

For fans of.... Journey, Foreigner, House Of Lords, Work Of Art, Mecca.....


Cannibal Corpse 'Torture' (metalblade) 4/5

For a shade under a quarter of a century US splatter metal kings Cannibal Corpse have been offending everybody and their dog with their distinctive brand of musical gore-no, and now we have studio album number 12 to shred the nerves of the moral majority and subvert the children of the Christian right.

Now like many of the 'think of the children' brigades hate figures, there is nothing here to really cause that much offense. There are 12 tracks on offer here and whilst listening to this album, or any other Cannibal Corpse opus for that matter, is a bit like watching yet another edition of the SAW or Hostel movie franchises, its all good blood soaked fun. Although this album is played for maximum shock and full of mummy baiting possibilities there is nothing here really to take offense at, and fans of the band know that from the off. Tracks like As Deep As The Knife Will Go, Torn Through and Sarcophagic Frenzy are all nice and horrific little studies in death and psycho slaughter that sounds like a collection of short stories by Shaun Hutson, all played out in the bands trademark death thrash style.

And musically Cannibal Corpse are really rather good, although the band stick firmly to their tried and tested formula of brutal as fuck ear ravishing riffage, blast beat drumming and menacing death grunt vocals, they show enough imagination and creativity to still keep themselves interesting and listenable after all these years, and every so often, such as the bass lick in the middle section of The Strangulation Chair, you get hints to remind you that these guys really do have a bit of talent in the old playing department as well.

All in all this is another worthy offering from the Cannibal Corpse guys and one I would recommend to fans of gore metal everywhere

For fans of... Whitechapel, Hell Hammer, Decapitated etc.....


Stone Axe - 'Stone Axe II - Deluxe Edition' (ripple music) 5/5

It's only been a couple of years since this, the second album from Washington (US) based retro rockers Stone Axe first hit the racks, already the band have decided to give the whole thing a revamp and re-issue the whole thing as a double disc set featuring a whole album of live tracks, rare b-sides and other lost goodies.

If you've not encountered the main album before, you've been missing out big time. There are 10 cuts on offer that take a delightful wander through the classic sounds of 70's rock. You get cuts like the Free / The Who influenced instrumental One More Time Before I Die, the Thin Lizzy inspired David Bowie tribute Those Were The Golden Years (where vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff manages to pull off a fantastic Phil Lynott impression (see comments below)),  We Know It's Still Rock and Roll with its head nods to the likes of Status Quo, The Sweet and Mott The Hoople and the wonderful organ lead Turn To Stone which brings back memories of Uriah Heep, The Moody Blues and Procol Harem. This record is flawless, perfectly performed and produced by a bunch of guys who have a real love and understanding of the classic era of rock music.

Then you have the bonus disc, and the delights continue, from the first track, the semi-psyche rock out of SWLABR to the closing cut of Transmissions Pt 2, which sounds a little like the tripped out sounds of the pre-Michael Schenker UFO, you have one your hands a treasure trove of some wonderful rare gems. Just to point out a few personal highlights; there's grinding and dirty blues of The Devils Hand, the Stray-U-like For All That Fly, the Groundhogs influenced When I Come Down and my fave cut offer The Last Setting Sun, a tune that to my ears has hints of long forgotten New York outfit Starz about it. Hell if you have already got this album its worth getting again for the bonus disc alone.

All in all, this this one helluva album, and with all the revived interest in 60's - 80's rock and metal going on at the moment this set will help mark out Stone Axe as one of the very best in their field. and long may they continue.

Buy or DIE

For fans of... Crash Street Kids, Mos Generator, The Muggs, Budgie, Thin Lizzy, Free......


Sonic Station - 'Sonic Station' (frontiers) 4.5/5

Sonic Station is a new project assembled by Swedish guitarist and songwriter Alexander Kronbrink, and is his attempt to recreate the classic West Coast AOR sound of acts such as Mr Mister, Chicago and Kenny Loggins. To this end he assembled some of the great and good of the Swedish rock scene around him and recorded this the projects debut album.

Now in his drive to recreate the classic soft rock sounds of 30 years ago Mr Kronbrink has delivered the dream perfectly. Using no fewer than sixteen other musicians on the project, including four separate lead vocalists, he has forged a record that is a perfect tribute to those times. I Wish I Could Lie To You - a track that features some excellent vocals from his collaborator Marika Willstedt - has hints of Heart at their most commercial about it, The sax lead Hold On To Me is pure Christopher Cross, The Most Beautiful Fear is a haunting ballad that Foreigner would have sold their souls to have penned, Never Let The Sunshine Die is a cut that wouldn't sound out of place on a classic Toto album.... And so it continues, there's even few couple of nice more uptempo rockier cuts like You Have To Let Me Go and Running Through The Night to keep a bit of beat going and counterpoint the slower tracks.

Now there is nothing here to excite my inner metal head, or titillate my progressive rock side, but as for a slice of nice chilled out late night glass-of-wine-in-a-darkened-room listening this album is pretty cool. in fact I'll go as far to say its one of the best in this genre I've heard for a while now. The whole album intelligent and completely devoid of cheesy cliche, expertly penned by writers who have a real love of this genre and performed by a group of musicians of the highest caliber.

There is still a fair market for this sort of stuff world wide and I can see Sonic Station becoming the Toto of the new millennium.

Very very good indeed

For fans of... Heart, Toto, Xorigin, Work Of Art, Journey, Mr Mister, Christopher Cross, Chicago.....

Mr Big - 'Live From The Living Room' (Frontiers) 3/5

This one is interesting, based on a live acoustic set recorded live for Japanese TV last year, this is the eleventh live album from LA rocker Mr Big, and no less than the seventh to be recorded in the land of the rising sun. (A pretty impressive output from a band who have only managed to chalk up 7 studio albums in their entire career), Now I know the whole unplugged thing has been around and popular for a while now, but my jury's still out on the whole concept. Occasionally it can work, other time it can come over a bit flat and be to quite honest as entertaining as watching paint dry.

With a set thats based mainly around tracks from the bands most recent studio opus 'What If...' with a few old classics like Voodoo Kiss and To Be With You thrown in as crowd pleasers, this one isn't to bad. Surprisingly the high point of this one is the guitar work of Paul Gilbert, stripped of his fx units and power drills his playing comes over as solid and inventive and with none of the hysteronic widdle and twiddle he has become renowned for. Hats off to the rest of the band as well, Mr's Sheehan, Torpey and Gilbert all put in some good solid and technically good performances, which go to show they have lost none of the style and swagger that made Mr Big one of the more interesting outfits of the late 1980's.

However, no mater how proficient this album is, there is still some thing lacking, there's no real 'wow' factor. Take Around The World, a track that features some fine interplay between Mr Gilbert and Mr Sheehan, as good as the performance is you end up think that was 'nice' rather than 'bloody hell that was great'. And that holds true for most of the album. There are a couple of stand out moments however, Stranger In My Life is the true stand out cut on offer, just because of the shear quality of the song writing, nd the aforementioned Voodoo Kiss, toned down a little from the rocking original comes over with a nice sleazy groove; but that's it for highlights I'm afraid, the rest of the record is ok, but damned ordinary. That is until the encore cut of Nobody Left To Blame, when the band return plugged and show all the drive and fire the rest of this album lacks.

Over all I think you have to be a real fan of Mr Big or acoustic style sessions in general to get the most out of this one, everyone else should try before they buy.

Competent, but nothing that outstanding.

For fans of... Mr. Big and unplugged sessions

Halestorm - 'Hello, It's Mz Hyde' (roadrunner) 4/5

Pennsylvania outfit Halestorm are a prolific lot, they only issued their first album and single in 2009, but since then they have clocked up a studio album, a live album a clutch of singles and no fewer than five EP's of which this is the latest. Now this five tracker is in all intents and purposes a sampler for the bands second studio album which is due out in April, and I gotta say if the album is half as good as the tracks on offer then I can't wait to hear it.

Now the first three songs on offer here are real balls out rockers. We kick off with Love Bites (So Do I) a storming slice of dark and deadly kick butt rock that sounds a little like Lesbian Bed Death on a Megadeth trip. Elizabeth "Lzzy" Hale has a voice to die for, sounding a little like the great Doro Pesch, full of gutsy hard rock attitude and gritty attack and here she shows it off in fine style. Rockshow is a little more restrained and commercial, but as a slice of hard rock it is still more than enough to make the likes of Paramour look like the third rate pop band they really are. Daughters Of Darkness by contrast is  storming anthem that fuses tribal drumming, air punching chorus and bang and bludgeon riffage into a tastefully vicious hard rocker that sounds like Within Temptation striped of the prog rock and faux-operatic trappings.

The final two tracks are a couple of slightly different versions of Here's to Us (the original album version and a cleaned up radio edit). Now this isn't really my bag, its a lighter waving ballad, a tad Nickleback or 'Bad Animals' era Heart, but its not that bad a track over all, and I suppose you've gotta include at least one track to keep Kerrang fm happy.

Over all this is a pretty good release with three great songs to counterbalance the one pretty ordinary one, and its really whetted my appetite for the album when it comes out.

Worth a look

for fans of... The Dirty Youth, Lesbian Bed Death, Psycho Kiss, Six Hour Sundown.....

Dawn Of Ashes - 'Farewell To The Flesh - EP' (metalblade) 0.5/5

Oh dear no.... I hate albums like this. When I write reviews I do try to find something good to mention about a record no matter how bad it is, but sometimes you get something to write about with no redeeming features what so ever, and this new EP from LA death metal outfit Dawn of Ashes is one of those.

This is another case of a band jumping on the new and oh so trendy dance-rock fusion bandwagon. There are eight tracks on offer here, three new tracks (well two and one mercifully short and pointless synthy outro) and five remixes of tracks from the bands earlier albums.

I'll start with the two new songs. Farewell To The Flesh and Torture Device (part 2) aren't that bad songs over all, however any enjoyment you may have got from these cuts is immediately shot down by some terribly shocking production; the drums sound like they are in fact boxes of matches shaken in time inside a large biscuit tin, the guitars sound like a couple of bored wasps trapped in a jam jar, the vocals are flat and one dimensional and the whole lot is buried behind an over loud and all intrusive one finger synth line which washes over and at times drowns out everything else on offer. Believe me it's that bad, I've had demos from groups of 14 year school kids recorded on lap -tops in bedrooms that are better produced and mixed than this.

Then we have the remixes, five track, but only two songs, (Carnal Consummation In The Empty Space being murdered no less than FOUR times is quick succession). Once again we have what may have been once good songs totally wrecked by drum machine monkeyisms, mindless insertion of bleeping noises and inane repetitive patterns that after just a few seconds have this reviewer choking down the bile and reaching for the off button. OK it could be that I'm an old hippy and just don't get dance music (I never have done), or maybe I don't do the right drugs; but I like my metal rocking, brutal and metallic not sold out and diluted for the pilled up rave heads.

In short this is one of the worst releases I've encountered for a while, and one I will be deleting from my hard drive and trying to forget about.

For fans of.. inane dance music.

Dear Superstar - 'Damned Religion' (Blast Recordings) 4/5

Over the past few years Manchester outfit Dear Superstar have been making quite a name for themselves, with a brace of critically acclaimed long players under their belts and an impressive series of gigs that has seen them sharing stages with the likes of Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Bullet For My Valentine and Papa Roach, they have definitely been turning heads. Now we have 'the difficult third album' on our hands, will it help or hinder their attempt at musical world domination?

Well having lived with this one for a few days now, I can safely say I'm finding it very enjoyable. There are ten tracks on show here, everyone a nice tight and well realised package that blends modern Bullet For My Valentine / Avenged Sevenfold / Royal Republic style modern commercial hard rock sensibilities with a good healthy dose of old school hairy type Motley Crue / Ratt / Poison 80's metal. Over all the tracks on offer here are pretty good, even Tomorrow, a ballad that starts out and ends as a terrible cheese fest is saved some what by some nice heavier riffing in the bridge section in the middle. But that track aside this album is a bit of rocker, and anything that rocks is straight up my street. OK some tracks like Glitter Just Like Gold and Anthem To My Life are very commercial sounding with some extremely slick production, but as Black Veil Brides reminded us on their recent 'Set The World On Fire' opus, you can have something commercial and radio friendly, that still rocks like a bastard.

Highlights include riff heavy workout of Crystalized, the highly headbangable Damned Religion, the mean and moody Our City Sleeps and hard and heavy Turn To Dust. But to be honest this is a pretty strong album over all and marks Dear Superstars out as far more worthy contenders to the next big thing crown than some of their rivals such as The Famous Class and the like.

Worth checking out

For fans of.. Black Veil Brides, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine, Motley Crue, Royal Republic....


Rock In Your Pocket - 'Gutterdub' (Artscare) 5/5

I'm often asked who in my opinion is the most promising act in Bristol at the moment, and currently I don't need to think before I answer - Rock In Your Pocket, their second single Doubtbox picked a fair bit of airplay on both Radio 6 and Radio 1, it's b-side Ditch The Witch became a bit of a listener fave on the BCFM show and their first rate live performances are becoming must sees in their native city . Now this is not to say there is not a lot of good and worthy acts in Brizzle at the moment, its just that in my mind RIYP are the cream of a very healthy crop. Now have the bands debut album to remind us just how good these guys are.

Now this album is a bit of a stormer, from the noise rock and pounding drum beat intro of opener and current single Nobody's Bitch But Mine to the down and dirty dub and grind of Le Son De L'Argent (Dirty Hands) every cut here is testament as to why RIYP are hailed by many (and not just me), as one of the finest acts in the South West, if not the UK in general.

Musically RIYP are one very eclectic blend of styles and influences; punk, old school hard-rock, avaunt guard noise experimentalism, post goth darkness, a bit of shoe gaze, glam rock, new wave, dub reggae....all fused together into one truly unique sound and delivered with a swagger and attitude that few acts if any can match. Vocalist and bassist Charlie Beddoes has an engaging and distinctive voice, often sounding almost ethereal and distant but always compelling. Her bass playing is by contrast, solid and driving; linking up perfectly with the drumming of whichever of the three drummers this album features, to keep the whole record driving on and relentlessly pounding on the consciousness like an angry bailiff on the door of a council tax defaulter. All this frees up guitar god in waiting Ben Fisher to do his stuff. Mr Fisher is a rare talent, no post Malmstein twiddle and dive bombs or Santanaesque sweet melodies from this guy, this is a man who makes his amp scream and then tortures the feedback The result is a mind blowing wall of sonic expression that really does have to be heard to be believed.

Highlights of this classic include the dark energy assault of Take It To The Grave, the gloriously black Dreams To Sell, the punk fueled anthem You Only Love Me When You're Drunk and of course the aforementioned dub-tastic Le Son De L'Argent (Dirty Hands).

Over all I was expecting great things from this album and RIYP have not disappointed in the delivery.

A classic debut from a band destined for great things

For fans of... Bauhaus, Jesus And Mary Chain, Talking Heads, Stranglers, The Banshees....