Private Angel – Nailed

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Sometimes you just want some noise. Enter Private Angel. They play melodic traditional metal and fit the bill nicely.

When I put in the words "traditional metal" you probably guessed that they guys aren’t trying to push the boundaries, but are content doing what they do well. They certainly have plenty of experience under their belt as the band has been around for quite a while. These guys have known each other for 25 years and on this, their third album, they are all comfortable with each other and indeed with the music they are creating.

The opening track, "Human Wreck", is an up-tempo one which does what it needs to. Accept are the obvious reference point for this track. I guess they are useful overall. I heard plenty of other influences throughout the album all put into the mix with the underlying Accept sound. "Nailed" mixes in Manowar, "Last Chance" Led Zep (mainly the drums), "Shine On" UFO/Scorpions, "Tramp Stamp Boogie" GnR, "My Haunt" & "Valiant Song" Bon Jovi and Blackfoot on "Private Shelter". On "Kush" the band fuse Eastern sounds on this slow chugging track where the call to bring the troops back home is the obvious modern theme amidst all the retro rocking.

This album is all about friends getting together to play the sort of music that they love. It is straightforward, maybe a bit basic in places, but when your ears want a bit of trad metal they fit the bill perfectly.

www.private-angel.de , www.private-angel.com

Alyson Avenue – Changes

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This band were on my radar at one stage, but I never seemed to find out much about them. In fact, the bands history goes back to 1989 and they released their first self-financed album, "Presence Of Mind", in 2000. They followed up in 2004 with "Omega".  After this the band went on hold for a period until interest picked up when singer Anette Olzon became a member of Nightwish. The band re-released their earlier albums in 2009 and started looking for a new singer. Arabella Vitanc got the gig and band set about the long process of recording this album.

On first track, "Liar", I was expecting something resembling Heart, but there is a bit more of an edge to the sound – maybe a little bit of Romeo’s Daughter in the mix as well. This is followed by a duet with Michael Bormann on which the voices work well together, but perhaps it is little too early in the album this this type of track.

Around the middle of the album on tracks like "Amazing Days", "Don’t Know Love Is Alive" and later on with "Somewhere", I’m hearing lots of Robin Beck in the sound and it sounds good. A couple of tracks, "Fallen" and "Into The Fire", prove that the band can cut it on slightly heavier material. I mentioned Romeo’s Daughter before and they are again a reference point for these tracks.

Elsewhere the other tracks are of similarly high quality, making this a very consistent album. Chris Laney does a good job on production. The net result is a great album of female fronted rock.

Swedish Hitz Goes Metal – Swedish Hitz Goes Metal

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Abba are the universal music source in our house. When my wife and I, plus the two girls are in the car and we have all had enough of listening to the girls choice of Bruno Mars or JLS, inevitably Abba gets put on. I have seen the movie and I have been to see the stage play of Mamma Mia, so it fair to say that maybe I’m a bit of a closet Abba fan.

With a few exceptions, the family generally ignore the music I’m reviewing. My eldest daughter, who has just discovered the art of instant opinions declared this album waste of time – why not listen to Abba instead of some blokes messing up the songs. My wife’s initial interest waned when she realised that the title of the album’s title was Swedish Hitz and not Abba’s. Hitz. More about the other famous Swedish people later, for now let’s discuss Abba.

I have to admit that I haven’t heard the Black Sweden album, against which some of you might be judging this. For me, metalised versions of Abba songs seem like a good idea and this album does a good job of creating symphonic metal versions. I would have preferred a version of S.O.S rather than a power ballad version of "The Winner Takes It All", but I guess Abba’s back catalogue is big enough for there always to arguments about the song choices.

Of course, it is not all about Abba. Not quite in the same league are Ace of Base. The covers of these tracks don’t seem to work quite as well as the Abba ones. I think the problem is the that the song structure, with the constant repeating of a chorus over and over, just doesn’t sit well in the metal  format. Still, it is interesting hear their couple of hits rocked up.

The third band whose material gets the metal treatment is Roxette. Roxette’s tracks are sort of melodic rock friendly already. Often when listening to their albums, I wish that the band would rock out a little more. Tommy ReinXeed has made my wish come true. These tracks work well and the only problem I have is that I think some of these are a little too close to the originals and I just wish the band rocked out a little more.

This is one of those albums where rock fans are going to be divided. For some it is a bit of fun and they will enjoy it. For others, it will be pointless and just a really bad idea. You have will have to make up your own mind, but I’m in the ‘enjoy the fun’ camp.

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Sarah Fimm – Near Infinite Possibility

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Sarah Fimm is a new name to me, but she has been releasing albums since 2001, with "Near Infinite Possibility" being her 7th. It seems that her history might not be that important as she is a bit of a chameleon who changes her style subtlety between albums.

Sometimes it is refreshing to review material that is a little bit different to the AOR/Melodic Rock usually featured at Mood Swings. Sarah’s album has afforded me that opportunity. There is a mixtures of styles on offer here including singer/songwriter, alternative rock, folk and pop-rock. Not at fusion that would seems to meet my personal preferences and yet I come away with a positive view of the album.

There is an air of melancholy that infuses the album. Opener, "Soul Let Swim", has an alt rock feel that made me think Nirvana, but then I started to hear Patty Smith and Stevie Nicks. On this track, and also on "Flames" towards the end of the album, the guitar parts remind me of Neil Young. I also wrote down Nirvana for another track called "Yellow".

Maybe it is the name of the song, "Closer", but it made me think of Joy Division and their track "Transmission". I mentioned folk earlier as it crops up on tracks such as "Say No More" where it is not so much folk-rock but folk-alt-rock. And talking of folk-rock, there is an early Heart feel to closing track "Morning Time". What else have we got going on here? Well, there is pop-rock on "Up From Dust" and "Forgive".

As you can tell there are quite a few variations going on here, but the overall feel of the album is lightweight alt rock with a melancholy mood. I enjoyed this as a diversion from my usual listening habits.

Shadowman – Watching Over You

A student is framed by shadows as the sun shines through the windows of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering. Feb. 15-21 is National Engineers Week. Armstrong Hall, which opened in fall 2007, provides educational and research facilities dedicated to teamwork, hands-on learning, community-service learning and interdisciplinary connections. It houses the dean's office; the Schools of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Materials Engineering and Engineering Education; Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), Women in Engineering and Minority Engineering programs; and the Ideas to Innovation Learning Laboratory. (Purdue News Service photo/Andrew Hancock)

Shadowman is a bit of a cult AOR supergroup featuring Steve Overland (Wildlife, FM & The Ladder), Steve Morris (Gillan, Heartland), Chris Childs (various recording and touring gigs including Thunder, Go West & Andy Taylor) and Harry James (Thunder, Magnum).

I remember the Wildlife album I had being impressive stuff and since then Steve has been a favourite vocalist of mine, especially when FM where hitting their high spot. Heartland are another great UK melodic rock/AOR band where Steve Morris hooks up with another good vocalist, Chris Ousey). Thunder are another band that feature in my record collection. Therefore my expectations for this album we pretty high. In fact, I’m pretty surprised that this is my first encounter with Shadowman.

Well, as you would expect from musicians of this calibre, this album bops along quite nicely. The Led Zep influence on "Heaven Waits", "Whatever It Takes" has hints of the Eagles and little keyboard flourishes on tracks like "Waiting For A Miracle" (Gillan influence?) are the other things that kind of surprised me, but otherwise everything is as expected.  Fans of UK melodic rock as performed by FM & Heartland will be very happy with it. It has been a while since I listened to any material featuring Steve Overland, and this is an excellent reminder of what I’ve been missing. Of course, for Steve to shine the rest of the guys need to play their part and this they do so in style.

When the band hit a groove the music seems to flow effortlessly, such as on tracks "Watching Over You", "Waiting For A Miracle",  "Stop Breaking This Heart of Mine" and "Party Is Over".

Coldspell – Out From The Cold

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Coldspell set out a heavy metal/hard rock path with opener ‘Heroes, which reminds of European power metal. There are lots of guitars going on and when the organ kicks in it looks like the guys are covering all the bases early on.

The band keep the pedal to metal pretty much for the next few songs. There is plenty of energy on display and an apt description might be Europe on Red Bull. On ‘Time’ the paced is slowed slightly and the mood is more melodic, making this a song more in tune with my personal preferences. ‘Save Our Souls’ keeps up the good work, reminding me of Winger.

The band then power their way to the end of the album, with only ‘The King’ dropping the pace and the trio of ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Heading for Tomorrow’ tipping the balance more towards melody and creating a really strong second half to the album.

SLP – Perception

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This is a project created by cellist Sebastian Lepine. He has got together with a bunch rock/fusion musicians to explore a musical direction which deviates from his normal classical repertoire.

I’ve got to say right at the start that the melancholy sounding cello isn’t an instrument that I particularly enjoy listening to on a regular basis. The closest thing I have in my collection is Ed Alleyne-Johnston and I haven’t listened to that in ages.

This album is a strange combination of jazz-fusion meets progressive metal, with the cello adding a classical feel. Most of the time there is a lot going on in the tracks, making them seem claustrophobic and I found listening to them becoming more of an endurance test, rather than a pleasurable experience.

If you like classical music and a slightly discordant sound, then this might be for you, but I found it hard going. The playing is pretty amazing and I’m in awe on that front, but it is an album that I found I could only listen to in small doses.

Trioxyde – Hey Carlos

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The title of this album gives it away – it is a tribute to Carlos Santana. It is an instrumental tribute which concentrates on the jazz fusion side of Santana’s music.

Listening to the album transports you back to a period in time when The Old Grey Whistle Test was on the TV featuring blokes with long hair, sweaters and flares, mostly sitting around jamming. This predates my musical journey and I have to say that subsequent attempts to get into jazz fusion have been hit and miss affairs. Quite surprising then that I did ‘get’ this album. Some of the tracks have a real laid back feel that means they serve perfectly as chilli out music. Some of the more jazz elements I do have to in the right frame of mind for, but that happens more often than I would have anticipated.

If you are a Santana fan, or if you fancy a bit of music that would fit into a Starsky & Hutch or Miami Vice soundtrack, then this is one well worth checking out.

Images of Eden – Rebuilding The Ruins

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Images of Eden was born in 1999 when main man Gordon Tittsworth went into the studio to record the debut album.

The band play a mixture of progressive metal and traditional heavy metal. Early on in the CD, for example, when listening to the opening track, ‘Crosses In The Sand’, especially when the vocals kick in all I could think of was Iron Maiden, as on the faster tracks Gordon sounds a lot like Bruce Dickenson. However, later on I noted other influences such as Rush, Dream Theater, Queensryche and Fates Warning.

As expected with this style of music, there are plenty of twists and turns. And talking of twists, one twist to my usual listening habits when reviewing this album was the fact that I became really interested in listening to the lyrics, particularly on tracks like ‘My Stigmata’. I’m not sure if they are Christian, but they certainly do have a spiritual vibe to them. Checking back on the bio at their website I note that there has been a consistent lyrical theme to their albums focused on isolation from the negative aspects of the world.

Given what I have said already it isn’t surprising that the band work themselves up to closing the album with a melodic progressive metal 12 min epic called ‘Sunlight of the Spirit part iv: Images Of Eden’. This turns out to be the track that I think is the strongest on the album. It is a fitting end to an interesting album.

Backdraft – This Heaven Goes To Eleven

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This is the third album from this Swedish band. I haven’t come across these guys before and given that they are Swedish, it is a bit of surprise when the opening track, ‘Idiot’, comes across like a punk version of Molly Hatchet – maybe Molly Hatchet meets Motörhead would be a better description.  Going back and checking on their earlier albums I see that Southern Metal that been the description given.

As the album progresses, I note down descriptions such a blues, blues boogie,  southern rock, but these guys combine a mixtures of styles that makes it quite hard to pin a definite label on them.

Getting the negative out of the way to start with, I found the duo of ‘Stand’ and ‘No Love’, verging on the annoying. Not sure what it is that irks me about them, but in the case of ‘No Love’, it is a uptempo track that never really goes anywhere.

These are followed by ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ which has the band taking things easier and hitting a groove not dissimilar to ZZ Top. Later on ‘The King of Diesel’ is a good uptempo track that reminds me again of Molly Hatchet, or maybe even Nazareth or Gillan doing ‘New Orleans’. Keeping up the momentum, the band close the album with a mixture of blues, funk and Southern Rock on ‘Out Of Here’, finishing on a high note.