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4.2.12

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....