Recent years have seen the resurgence of ’70s classic rock and metal styles across all sorts of heavy music genres, from mainstream appeal to stranger, more underground sounds, some in the form of Led Zeppelin, some more Blue Öyster Cult or Black Sabbath. Even I, someone whose interest in musical traditions finds its limit in ’80s hair metal, must admit that albeit far from groundbreaking, young bands like Greta Van Fleet have made the music many would call classics, bad or good, and about which most don’t care anymore, more accessible again. Interestingly enough, Buffalo foursome Spacelord avoid affiliation with any kind of trend; and instead of building an altar of worship to just one band, the four lads brew their own kind of mixture out of Led Zeppelin‘s energy and Alice In Chain‘s darker guitar sounds plus their own quirky influence befitting the outlandishly alien retro sci-fi art and concepts. Continue reading “Spacelord – Indecipher Review”
It’s hard to record a bad album when you’re one of the most unique and sovereign voices in heavy metal. This is true for fellow Swedish vocal valiant Jørn as much as it is for Nils Patrik Johansson, releasing his first album with his eponymous solo band. While Jørn Lande’s powerful voice can’t fail expectations, his songwriting sure can. Lucky for him, his voice carried some of his rather monotonous solo albums in the same vein that Nils Patrik Johansson’s voice made his band Astral Doors‘ albums around 2010, even though lacking in songwriting, still enjoyable to listen to. With consecutive releases, Astral Doors recovered to old strength and NPJ proved to be exploding with creativity, fueling both Astral Doors and all-star band Civil War. Having left Civil War in 2016 to spend more time with his family, NPJ is still commited to the metal scene with Astral Doors, writing material for a follow-up to his band Lion‘s Share‘s 2009 album Dark Hours and now releasing his solo album. Hej Nils, while you’re being creative, how about you gather with Wuthering Height‘s Erik Ravn again? Those were some sweet records. Continue reading “Nils Patrik Johansson – Evil Deluxe Review”
Bullet have been around for far more than a decade now, so you’d think they evolved their sound over time. Nope, still the same AC/DC channeling kick ass hard rock/metal as heard in their early days. In this regard they really are following their progenitor; have AC/DC ever not sounded like AC/DC? No. Yet, just like with Bullet‘s first release in 2006, Heading For The Top and every subsequent release by the Swedes, I ask myself: Do we need another AC/DC cover band? I experienced Bullet‘s energy at a live show in 2008 when they toured with Sabaton and the rock stages are where this music breathes and from which it draws its sole right to exist. Is Dust To Gold worth the CD it is pressed on or merely fodder for more live shows?
Dust To Gold‘s concept is grasped easily and quickly: a simple riff leading the song, mostly basic hard rock drumming (think “Thunderstruck”) except when it comes to slightly faster songs, and straightforward choruses you can sing along no matter how many beers you digested during the show. It would be moot going into the deeper compositional facets of Dust To Gold as, plainly speaking, there are no compositional facets. Every song is a copy of its predecessor and all of them are the living legacy of ’80s hard rock spirit. Granted, due to modern hard rock/metal evolution, Bullet are a bit on the heavier side of some rather tame songs considered metal in the ’80s. This in conjunction with singer Hell Hofer’s, well, unique voice, you get a modest, primitive AC/DC/Accept marriage. Hell’s voice reminds of an extremely squealy Udo Dirkschneider – not something for everyone, but in Bullet context it is a powerful performance.
The album’s average song length caps at 3 minutes, which obviously tells you the way Bullet are going. Short, party themed and party suitable rockers. Which leads me to a certain conclusion: You do not want to listen to this album at home, sitting idly and analysing the compositions. Dust To Gold is diverting with its easy listening tracks but certainly made only for the background soundtrack of your heavy metal house party or to be performed live. Songs like “Speed And Attack”, “Rogue Soldier” and “Highway Love” sound full of energy, however they are blatantly lacking innovation and variety to make Dust To Gold a compelling listening experience. Dust To Gold is a good soundtrack – for metal parties, car drives, live shows, but that’s all. Consider supporting true old school metal by visiting Bullet‘s concerts, the album itself is only a must-have for that one person on earth who has listened to every AC/DC song more than a hundred times. Dust on record, Gold on stage.
I was dreading this review; it is hard to write an interesting piece about a boring album while staying objective and not bashing too hard. Axel Rudi Pell, guitarist of his eponymous band most notably featuring singer extraordinaire Johnny Gioeli and keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg, clearly is a legend. His time with Steeler and groundbreaking releases under his own name such as The Masquerade Ball (2000) or Black Moon Pyramid (1996) are testament to his status. Alas, being a legend is no prevention from releasing bad albums. Even bigger greats like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the likes are no strangers to this.
Anyone who knows ARP knows the band’s characterizing trait: no change, ever. So let me start this off with a funny one. You might have the feeling Mr. Pell’s music sounds the same every time, but it goes deeper than that. Let me get my tinfoil hat. Consistently since 1998, the band has been putting out studio albums with new material exactly every two years. 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018. That is a… feat? Moreover, all of those albums have exactly 10 songs. Is this a joke? Moreover, all 11 of those albums except one (Tales Of The Crown) start with an instrumental intro track between 1 and 2 minutes long. This convinces me that Axel Rudi Pell is playing some kind of long time practical joke on us. I don’t know the exact outcome of this, but it surely manifests the evident stubborness of releasing the same album every two years.
ARP history can be divided in three ages. The glorious early years, the downfall and the end. The glory years ended with Kings And Queens, maybe including it, maybe not, continuing with the downfall until 2014’s Into The Storm (already part of the end times), followed by the end. The end not as end to the band who are clearly still eagerly releasing albums, but an end to musical quality. Yes, you can listen to The Masquerade Ball (2000) and then this new Knights Call and you will know it is the same band. The music still sounds the same. It just has been getting more and more stale. That is not because of repetition (even though that is not exactly great either); I’d be more than happy if Mr. Pell was releasing Masquerade Ball after Masquerade Ball, but the great compositions and energy of such records are fading with each subsequent release. Which leads us to 2018’s Knights Call (who are they calling? It is not Knight’s Call!) which is the bottom end of ARP routine (until the next one comes along).
“The Medieval Overture” is the obligatory instrumental introduction featuring midi sounds stolen from Summoning mid 90s. What follows is a mediocre hard rock track with “The Wild And The Young”. Johnny Gioeli’s first line is “Sometimes I am dreaming of the past”. I understand. Accordingly, the track addresses the energy and carelessness of youth. Very meta of Mr. Pell who seems to be aware he is lacking this energy. Even Gioeli, one of my favorite singers, is lacking in his performance. Compare his singing even to recent examples like 2012’s album opener “Ghost In The Black”. Wow, the screaming, the ass kicking! Nothing of this to be found here. The riff is forgettable and the rhythm as thrilling as the glass of coke sitting on your desk from the other day. Stale, let’s pour it away.
This might come as no great surprise, but the other tracks on the album sound the same. Uninspired hard rock songs, not even edging on power metal anymore, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. There is an inexplicable almost-5-minute instrumental called “Truth And Lies” which you could delete right off the album (except it would break the holy sanctity of 10-track albums) and two songs longer than 8 minutes. This was great when those songs were called “The Masquerade Ball” but these days it is an experience as captivating as ironing.
I found myself having some of the choruses stuck in my head, being able to sing along, but that is more the type of begrudgingly stuck song similar to a famous pop song you’ve heard too many times on the radio or in public. The songs are as unremarkable as can be and since they, musically, sound just the same as earlier efforts of ARP you might as well ignore this new album and enjoy old masterpieces or visit a Pell show, the latter probably being great fun since Mr. Pell and his companions still seem to have the will and energy to play, but this does not translate to the once dashing power of his songwriting anymore. I feel Axel Rudi Pell enjoy playing live and just press out something every two years so the label doesn’t complain. So, get merch or go to shows, but definitely keep away from this album unless you like to self-castigate.