About Me

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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Inglorious - 'II' Album Review







Inglorious – II

Somewhere in a Faraway land, a Change Is Coming. Come Hell Or High Water, I Got A Feeling that Inglorious 'II' has been fed n watered on Black Magic. Read All About It here -


I am hoping that the album had a bit more planning and substance in the songwriting and performance than the meeting to name the album. Serafino, “Ciao Nathan, any names for the new album?’’ Nathan, ‘’Er, I quite like ‘II’’’ Meeting over.

I am a big advocate of these fellas, especially ‘The James’.  I liked the debut album, I really did, but the ‘shining light’ moment comes in the live performance, as they are eons better in the flesh

The theme of the debut was infused with influences like  Purple, Zeppelin, Whitesnake, bad Co., and Aerosmith.  With II James wanted to make inspires=d and incredible rock in a very honest fashion. Nathan thought to himself, “Why are those classic albums so awesome?” He realised it was because “the musicians were recording in an organic way; they could track it live and capture amazing energy."

“Not only in rock but in Motown and even classical music they tracked everyone in the room at the same time,” adds Nathan.  “The air movement from a bass drum, that same excitement you get when you perform, and that's exactly how I wanted the album to feel."

Nathan wanted all his fellow musicians in the room at the same time, no click tracks, no auto tune and no overdubs. He wasn't willing to compromise.  Says Nathan - "For so long people have been hiding mistakes, singers using auto tune to make them sound perfect, double tracking to make it sound bigger and using click to play in time. There is none of that on this album.

This record is about vibe, feeling, excitement, energy and performance of songs we all wrote together. That's how it came out that day and it will never be exactly the same again. We captured a series of moments that make up our debut album."

Well said that man. What I can say is that if you’re a big fan of any or all other the aforementioned bands (and their debut) then look no further. Even if you’re brand new to Inglorious, this is a perfect opportunity to get on board the Inglorious train, as this is a little belter.

‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’ teases you into thinking its this demure, quiet opening before letting loose into a typical Inglorious rock explosion with James’ vocals being the fifth and most prominent instrument. ‘Taking The Blame’ picks up the batten and is faster than Usain Bolt with a case of the trots! I don’t think this will be the first reference to Coverdale in this review, but James is one of the few who can match and out-Coverdale’s Coverdale!  ‘Tell Me Why’ has one of those instantly memorable choruses that just sticks like glue, and wont let go. ‘Change Is Coming’ looks to lull you into a false sense of security, before the riff and pulsating bass line kicks in.

I warned you about the WS references, and its here in abundance with ‘Makin Me Pay’. It’s the great WS, not the fluffed up and Harmony hairspray version. ‘Hell Or High Water’ takes me straight to LLRNR era Rainbow, and is short but very sweet.

The album ends on a high. ‘Faraway’ gives any of your fave singers in the World a run for their money. It’s an acoustic triumph and knocks the album up into sixth gear for me. This is old school brilliance that few do nowadays. Its almost part Soundgarden/Mother Love Bone/Zeppelin and Whitesnake rolled into one gem. Awesome. When I think its peaked, then comes this riff….’into ‘High Class Woman’, its one of my riffs of the year. Damn!

When people say ‘it ends on a high note’, never has a saying been more truly stated? If James were a beer, ‘He hits the parts other singers cannot (and dare not) reach!’

A good friend and me resort back to a conversation regularly whereby new bands don’t do their homework and listen to what made great albums and great bands. Well not on this watch, it’s all in abundance. I’m expecting the probably named ‘III’ to be epic! Somebody get these lads on a major US tour, as they will destroy the headliners.

A mere handful of bands for me are driving rock forward at moment – Alter Bridge, Rival Sons, and Inglorious. Great things await Inglorious.

‘II’ is great. Its no 100/100, but also its no ‘Back In Black’, ‘Burn’, ‘Heaven & Hell’

95/100

Inglorious are
Nathan James – Vocals (and sonic boom!)
Andreas Eriksson – Lead Guitars
Wil Taylor – Guitars
Colin Parkinson – Bass
Phil Beaver – Drums

Tracklisting
I Don’t Need No Loving
Taking The Blame
Tell Me Why
Read All About It
Change Is Coming
Making Me Pay
Hell Or High Water
No Good For You
I Got A Feeling
Black Magic
Faraway
High Class Woman


Monday, 1 May 2017

Ayreon - 'The Source' Album Review


The conversation was short and simple, “Do you want me to review the new Ayreon album?” “Yes” says Chesy “Ok then”. I’m such an idiot.
How hard can it be? I’ve listened to every Ayreon album a hundred times (except The Theory of Everything) so I know what’s coming: lots of top notch singers and musicians coming together under the experienced eye of musical maestro Arjen Lucassen, weaving a convoluted story with over the top prog rockness (MS Word won’t believe that’s a word but we know differently don’t we?).
Well the answer is both easy and difficult, easy because it is bloody brilliant and difficult because I want to get across how brilliant it is and I feel I’m going to fail. How can I encapsulate this intricate work of genius whilst retaining my aloof reviewer cred and general cynical outlook on life?
Ayreon (Arjen) has carved a niche for itself by not compromising and following the vision of the universe it wants to create. If you’re not familiar with their work it is a creation of one man, Arjen Lucassen, who gets together the biggest names in rock and metal to play characters in the rock operas he writes. The whole thing inhabits a universe plotting the birth, death, rebirth, interstellar migration, death, rebirth and probably death again of civilisations across eons of time, you know; the stuff your average pop song is about.
I’ve made this all sound very complicated and a difficult listen but like Coheed and Cambria you can go right in and follow the story to its nth degree or just listen to the songs and tap your foot, it’s up to you and you’ll enjoy it either way probably.
For people familiar with Ayreon, this is a more rock focussed affair than previous offerings with the drums and guitars more up front in the mix. Less flutes and strings, more killer riffs. As a (terrible) drummer myself this is direction I can get behind, it is properly head nodding at times and my air drums are getting a work out.
It goes without saying that the musicianship is top notch and with vocal performances to match. With names like James LeBrie (Dream Theater), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), vocal gymnast Michael Mills (Toehider), Simone Simmons (Epica) and a host of others on board the whole thing is in safe hands.
The album races along without getting bogged down like ‘The Theory of Everything’, TTOE was the last album Ayreon put out and for me was their only misstep. Don’t get me wrong it is an impressive work, but with four 20 minute tracks on it and no discernible hooks it was hard work and I can’t get through the thing anymore. Some people love it, I do not.
Arjen has gone off in a completely different direction from TTOE though, this is full of killer hooks, melodies, riffs and Ed Warby gets to let his hair down (if he had any) on a few tracks showing why he is the drummer of choice for Ayreon. You can hear lots of musical nods to other Ayreon albums plus nods to the various singers styles, at times you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to ‘Dream Theater’ when James LaBrie is singing or ‘Between the buried and me’ when Tommy Rogers is front and centre.
This is the album Dream Theater’s ‘The astonishing’ should have been instead of a wet, boring, navel gazing waste of my time and I hope James LaBrie goes back and makes the rest of DT listen to it. Nightwish too could have a listen and realise that now they’ve got a talent like Floor in their midst they should write something better than their last outing for her. Grumble grumble.
A quick word about the packaging, I got the CD/DVD digipack containing the two CDs plus a DVD containing music videos, behind the scenes footage and a 5.1 mix of the album. The booklet is full of great artwork and shows just what you miss if you only buy digital downloads. There are a few choices when it comes to formats so check out which suits you before buying this.
If you aren’t sure you’re up for this look up ‘The day that the world breaks down’ on YouTube. If you like that you’ll like the whole thing.
This is my new benchmark for Ayreon and the album I would recommend anyone new to them to start at. I’m going to be playing this all year I suspect; several listens are needed to experience the whole thing without becoming overwhelmed. This is an genuinely epic piece of work that deserves to sell a million.
It’s that good.
10/10 (I could not think of anything problematic enough to knock a point off)
Cast
James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as The Historian
Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) as The Opposition Leader
Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me) as The Chemist
Simone Simons (Epica) as The Counselor
Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind) as The Prophet
Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia) as The Captain
Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) as The Astronomer
Mike Mills (Toehider) as TH-1
Russell Allen (Symphony X) as The President
Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) as The Diplomat
Floor Jansen (Nightwish, ex-After Forever, ex-ReVamp) as The Biologist
Will Shaw (Heir Apparent), Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg (Scarlet Stories) as The Ship's Crew
Zaher Zorgati (Myrath) as The Preacher

Tracklist

Disc One
1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea Of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star Of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live

Disc Two
1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry Of A Race
4. Into The Ocean
5. Bay Of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey To Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March Of The Machines

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sainted Sinners - S/T Album Review


Sainted Sinners

Sainted Sinners release their self-titled debut album. Fronted by the unique, much travelled (but still got it) soul-driven voice of American born vocalist David Reece (ex-Accept) and highly gifted guitar player Frank Pané, they are completed by legendary keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell) and the dynamic rhythm section of the two former Purpendicular members Malte Frederik Burkert (bass) and the Hungarian drummer Berci Hirleman.

“The idea first started with me thinking about forming a band where I can follow my natural taste of music without compromises. I was writing music and then basically formed the band around who would fit the direction it was going”, remembers Pané, whose first step was to contact his former band mate Reece.  “Being one of my all-time favourite singers, he was my obvious choice. It just clicked immediately and so we agreed to lead the band together as we trust and respect each other.”

My own dalliance with Reece only is a ‘toe dip’ into his back catalogue with Reece Kronlund, and for me in particular, one of the highlights of the early 90’s, Bangalore Choir’s debut. Now then, if your idea of ‘rock’ is served with a huge slice of ‘classic’, then you need look no further than Sainted Sinners. If you’re of a certain age then the sound of a Hammond will make parts of your anatomy tingle like they used to in the 70s and 80s. I’m a sucker for a Hammond organ (oo-er! F’narr!) and SS has it in bleedin’ abundance. That much so, it should have its own credit in the sleeve notes.

For ‘Knight Of The Long Knives’ the Hammond is right up in the front of the mix, placing their classic rock intentions firmly in front. Its duels with Pané’s guitar as did the greats of old (Blackmore/Lord). Throw in Recces vocals that are a bit more lived in than I first heard, but are still highly effective for this king of style, and it’s in your face, unadulterated ROCK! ‘Beauty In The Beast’ is a fast paced

On times Reece comes over all David Coverdale, and that is not a bad sound. I mean the 70s Coverdale, not the current millennia Bee-Gees version, none more so than on ‘Maybe She’s Got Balls’. It’s even written in the old skool (now almost defunct) Coverdale style.  ‘We Are All Sainted Sinners’ is more blues tinged than its predecessors that goes for the ‘anthem’ effect. My outright favourite is the next song, ‘Blue Lightning Man’. Nudging the best part of seven minutes, it incorporated steel guitar before a Blackmore-esque ‘Kill The King’ inspired song kicks into high gear where organ and guitar trade licks for fun. ‘This Love That I Have Found’ clearly shows Sainted Sinners love of all things Led Zeppelin, from the Kashmir inspired riffage to the Cov/Page collaboration. ‘Did You’ takes me back to my favourite Deep Purple glory days of the ‘Burn’ era. Its just builds and builds to this great crescendo. ‘In Need’ is like a song that VH would have done around the ‘W&CF’ era – its part Take Your Whiskey Home’, part Southern rawk! What’s a classic rock album without a song title with a woman’s name? Nothing I tell ya! It lives up to the legacy of the past – April,  Cherie, Angeline, Luanne, etc. The album finishes with the equally powerful double barrels of ‘Shine Diamond Girl’ and ‘Truth Is A Lie’

Recce, Pané, Doernberg, Burkert and Hirleman have clearly struck gold here. Their love of all things classic has come to the fore in one belting little diamond of an album. They all have their both feet planted in their love for the classics -from Purple to Zeppelin, and from Rainbow to Whitesnake – its all done with an admiration of the great era of the past, than a blatant plagiarism, all with a modern twist. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t expecting this to be so damn good!!

9/10

Tracklisting
Knight Of The Long Knives
Beauty In The Beast
Maybe She’s Got Balls
We Are All Sainted Sinners
Blue Lightning Man
This Love That I Have Found
Did You
In Need
Evangeline
Shine Diamond Girl
Truth Is A Lie

Sainted Sinners are –
David Reece – Vocals
Frank Pané – Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards
Malte Frederik Burkert – Bass
Berci Hirleman - Drums



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Viana - S/T Album Review


Viana – ST

Viana is the brainchild of Stefano Viana, of which the band name originates from. He took up the guitar aged 16 after a typical Randy Rhoads ‘experience’! He is certainly not the first to be influenced by Rhoades, and definitely will not be the last. Basically this album has been a loooong time coming. It’s roots started back in 2009 with Alessandro Del Vecchio writing and performing the lyrics and vocals respectively.  In came some of the more renowned Italian session musicians – Anna Portalupi on bass, Alessandro Mori on drums, Gabriele Gozzi on backing vocals, and Pasquale Indo on keyboards. Apparently a serious personal problem puts his album on hiatus until April 2016 where he handed the reins over to Alessandro for mixing etc. With the ear that Ale has, he decided to bring in an additional guitarist, Francesco Marras to round off the sound and the band.

On early inspection, you can tell that Viana is influenced by 80s rock bands.  Opening track ‘Straight Between Our Hearts’ is standard melodic rock fare, but not in a bad way. ‘Bad Signs’ is the song to pick as a promo/single for the album, as it highlights the vocals of Del Vecchio, and also the interplay with the BVs of Gozzi and the whole composition in general. It typifies the sound and melodic direction that Viana are heading in. ‘Feel Your Love Tonight ‘ is a ballad that ticks the boxes with its lightness of the verse and then the punch of the chorus. ‘Night Of Fire’ has more of an 80s straight for the jugular riff. The verse here is a bit weaker than its predecessors, but again Viana have a knack for a strong chorus that pulls the song up by its britches. ‘Follow The Dawn’ is your melodic rock staple ballad, before ‘A New Love’, ‘Living A Lie’ and ‘Just To Sing’ and ‘Open Road’ pick up the pace and shows the type of songs that Viana are best at, and give the album a strong finish.  ‘Thet Place Is You’ is the one gem of the ballads –Del Vecchio has this nice throaty rasp that displays the emotion needed for a song like this.


Considering the time it has taken to write and produce / mix this album, and what with the talent involved, I was expecting something much bigger. That said, it’s a good album, but its not brilliant. Its let down by the quality of some of the songs. Its consistently average. Average can be good, but there’s currently a lot more bands playing this music much better and effective than Viana. However, the up-tempo rockers are much better than the ballads, and this is where I’d concentrate in future. Hopefully it will not take Stefano another eight years to complete the follow up.

70/100

Viana –
Stefano Viana – Guitars

With special guests….
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Vocals
Francesco Marras – Guitars
Anna Portalupi – Bass
Alessandro Mori – Drums
Gabriele Gozzi – Backing Vox
Pasquale India – Keyboards

Tracklisting
Straight Between Our Hearts
Bad Signs
Feel Your Love Tonight
Night Of Fire
Follow The Dawn
A New Love
Living A Lie
Just To Sing
Open Road
That Place Is You

Friday, 24 March 2017

Night Ranger - 'Don't Let Up' Album Review


Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up

Night Ranger are probably one of the most underrated bands from the 80s. The fact that they never really stopped despite the likes of grunge getting away is pure testament to their undeniable craft and quality. They are one of the finest bands I have ever seen live in my lifetime of gigging these past 35 years. In fact the stats for Night Ranger are mightily impressive – 17 million albums sold, over 300 live shows, over a billion in radio audience and still shit loads of people have no idea as to who they are.

Night Ranger are old hands at this, in fact they can put albums out in their sleep. One thing is for certain, and that is that Night Rangers guarantee is to pump out energetic, positive and catchy melodies for fun. Not only do they have the twin guitars of  Brad Gillis and Keri Kelli, but also the twin vocals of Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy as witnessed none better than in the opener ‘Somehow Someway’.

“Looking all I’m leaving behind, they say that I’m the Jedi of fools’’ is an inspired lyric, and I didn’t think much of  ‘Running Out Of Time’ after the first listen, bit after repeated spins, its got under my skin. ‘Day and Night’ is a powerful track but is let down by its chorus. It’s the opposite with the title track, the verse is boring and comes to life with the chorus. ‘(Won’t Be Your) Fool Again’ is a standard blues fare.  ‘Say What You Want’ is more like the opener and a typical Night Ranger song – high tempo, rock. When they do this its ever so simple, and ever so easy to listen to. ‘We Can Work It Out’ and ‘Nothing Left Of yesterday’ as songs on the lighter side of Night Rangers repertoire.

One thing that rock bands just love doin’ is to sing about their woman…..and have her name just as the title track – Angie, Rosanna, April, Roxanne as prime examples. Night Ranger have done one with ‘Jamie’ Out of the latter part of the album, this one is the most associated with their trademark groove.

Don’t Let Up sits in well with the last few Night Ranger albums, but they aint no 80s album. Not even ‘Man In Motion’. I admire that fact greatly that they still want to put out albums. Im more in admiration that they still wanna rock out and tour. If I were to see them again would I want half a set of songs from 2007 onwards – probably not.  I’d want to hear the stuff from when they were kings and ruled the airways. But that's just me.

75/100

Night Ranger –
Jack Blades – bass, vocals
Kelly Keagy – drums, vocals
Brad Gillis – lead & rhythm guitars
Eric Levy – keyboards
Keri Kelli – lead & rhythm guitars

Tracklisting
Somehow Someway
Running Out Of Time
Truth
Day And Night
Don’t Let Up
(Won’t Be Your) Fool Again
Say What You Want
We Can Work It Out
Comfort Me
Jamie
Nothing Left Of Yesterday



Thursday, 23 March 2017

One Desire - ST Album Review


One Desire – ST

One Desire formed in 2012 when drummer Ossi Sivula started gathering musicians by leading a trail of M&Ms to his flat! It was not true. A couple of few years passed writing songs, making demos with different musicians with a view to writing music that would apparently change the world. I’m sure the lads over in Wyld Stallyns will have an opinion about that!!!In 2014 they recruited Jimmy Westerlund (Good Charlotte). After trying out various singers, Jimmy suggested they give his mate Andre Linman a go, and not long after One Direction, I mean One Desire was born. Soon after bassist Jonas Kuhlberg (Di’Anno, Cain’s Offering) completed the line up

I’m not sure who comes up with the pap for the press release, but World changing it aint. I’m sure the likes of The Beatles,  Elvis and FM might, but, OD, nah! But, its not a bad debut to be honest, in fact its one of the better ones.

You can tell that the songs have been honed over a long period of time, they bellow with melody, and strong vocal arrangement. Linman’s vocals are very clean and likeable and very easy on the ears.

‘Falling Apart’ is one of the finest ballads you’ll hear all year (until Moritz and BRS release albums this year). ‘ Love Injection’ (f’narr) takes me back to 80s song titles. ‘Straight Through The Heart’ is just a cracking little song, infectious to the core. The pink, fluffiness of AOR comes from songs like ‘Turn Back Time’, ‘Hurt’, ‘Apologise’ and ‘Whenever I’m Dreaming’.

All in all, One Desire have a debut to be very proud of. The whole album just flashes by quickly. Its chock full of good songs, and they have a very bright future.

Catch them on tour in April with Eclipse!

Score 8/10

One Desire are –
Jimmy Westerlund – Guitars
André Linman – vocals
Ossi Sivula – drums
Jonas Kuhlberg – bass

Tracklisting –
Hurt
Apologise
Love Injection
Turn Back Time
Straight Through The Heart
Whenever I’m Dreaming
Do You Believe
Buried Alive
This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins

Eclipse - 'Monumentum' Album Review


Eclipse - Monumentum

One thing that is now certain….Erik Mårtensson and Eclipse have a ‘sound’. That sound is ‘BIG’. Its been a fast two years since the bloody fantastic ‘Armageddonize’. In fact, Martensson has cut through European rock music like a knife through butter, his writing and influence is heard across many a band. Like British rockers Vega, Eclipse don’t know the meaning of the word ‘filler’ or ‘compromise’. They have been building momentum, over these past few albums, and judging by the title of this album, they know it also.

Songs like ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Never Look Back channel their inner Whitesnake and Kiss respectively, and they well and truly set out the Eclipse stall. ‘Killing Me’ for example pulls on their talent for melody that could be a chart-breaker in their homeland and possibly beyond…? ‘The Downfall Of Eden’ could easily be a Thin Lizzy song with its Celtic refrain. ‘Jaded’ is a song where Eclipse cut through the crap and offers up the poppier side of their repertoire, with an edge of course!

However, ‘Born To Lead’ take it all up a notch, So much so I expect to hear an 80s Coverdale ready to break out of my speakers. ‘No Way Back’ is one of those songs I just cant wait to hear live. Its huge listening to it on my computer and that’s no mean feat to achieve.. ‘Night Comes Crawling’ has an instantly sing-able chorus, and closer ‘Black Rain’ has one of the heaviest ever Eclipse riffs and is a monster way to close of ‘Monumentum’.

Eclipse haven’t quite Eclipsed Armageddonize but its bloody close. It’s a massive slice of powerful, melodic rock that very few these days can consistently match. How Eclipse are not playing to bigger audiences that they have the past 2 years is beyond me. They should be playing to large audiences and deserve all that’s coming to them. I’m hoping that some of their Festival appearances this year will get more people in on the game.

SCORE 9/10

Eclipse are -

Erik Mårtensson – lead vocals, guitar
Magnus Henriksson – guitars
Philip Crusner – drums
Magnus Ulfstedt – bass

Tracklisting
Vertigo
Never Look Back
Killing Me
The Downfall Of Eden
Hurt
Jaded
Born To Lead
For Better Or for Worse
No Way Back
Night Comes Crawling
Black Rain

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Hard Rock Hell AOR V - Festival Review - Hafan Y Mor 10th & 11th March 2017


HRH AOR V

Grab a beer and get ready for a long (ish) read......

So a good couple of thousand descended on the tiny Chwiliog,  aka Hafan Y Mor, for this, the fifth HRH AOR. Once shared as a fest, it's now finally gained its own independence as a stand-alone festival which shows how strong this genre has become. AOR has always been an underground scene, but the people who follow it are very passionate and dedicated about their bands. A lot of the audience are returnees, in fact most can be seen at any melodic rock gig across the country and beyond. My only gripe, there was NOT ENOUGH AOR!!!!

Credit to HRH, as this is a mighty fine festival, it's all contained, the stages are close, except the acoustic, the food is a bit 'meh' (OK if you can live off Fish n chips, and Burger King, or Starbucks) and the drink plentiful. It leads itself to a nice warm, cozy and very friendly festival. 

My day started on the Friday with a couple of stunning acoustic sets courtesy of The Radio Sun, and then the same guys being joined by Paul Laine. It's great news to have The Radio Sun returning for second year in succession. The Aussies certainly made an impact last year and gained a lot of new converts along the way. First of all, the banter is great, we got to hear about the guys travel from South to North Wales and their traffic encounters, and Jason being one of the 'Wiggles"! Don't ask! It's the quality of the songs that make the biggest impression. 'One In A Million' is just wonderful, it highlights just how strong TRS are with harmonies, in fact very few of the bands over the whole weekend can match these guys. 'Wrong Things Right' and a sterling Andy Taylor cover 'I Might Lie' (the one with the riff that’s VERY Eddie ‘Beat It’)! 'Maybe' finished off a short but very memorable set. (8.5/10)

Without any further ado Paul Laine stepped up and you knew he was going to be trouble (but in a good and very funny way!). Paul set up a high seat in front of him so he could read some of his lyrics. Bless him. Obviously a forgetful chap, he has self-declared Paulzheimers! 'Going All The Way' eventually kicked off the set. Paul's vocals would be one of the best over the whole weekend. You can tell that both TRS and Paul had spent time with Blood Red Saints as jokes and insults a-plenty were traded between Paul and Jason....'Does The Rock know you've stolen his 80s haircut?', and 'Jase, you're doing this (makes yapping sound with his hand)' and I want you to do this (shut up hand signal).  You had to be there!! There's a new double act in town folks. That said, I think it's all stemmed from love and respect. But, it's his show, so Paul is in charge. Up came 'I Still Think About You' and it was just sublime in this acoustic setting. Laine’s vocal's are undiminished from the fist time I ever witnessed him from his performance at The Gods over twenty years ago (on the telly). After 'Comin Home' we were even given an encore of 'Dont Walk Away'. TRS firmly set the bar for the weekend, and Paul Laine raised it. These two sets were to be one of the main highlights of the weekend. About 120 people witnessed something special here. (9/10)

We legged it to the main stage for a band I'd only looked at the day before....Walkway. As far as first bands go, Walkway were the best opening act I've seen at 4 AORs. This is a band that clearly tour…..a lot! I missed the first three songs, and entered for ‘Overrated’. That’s one thing that this band definitely are not.  Their set is smooth as silk and very polished. They are not exactly AOR, more classic rock, but when it's as good as this, who cares. Frontman Chris Ready obviously has Robert Plant as an influence, and this is no complaint from me. With a song armoury like ‘Best I Ever Had’, Stutter’, ‘Rise’, and the instantly memorable ‘Streetwise’, I really hope these lads get the major break they deserve. Guitarist James Ready, who was fucking outstanding I have to say, went on walkabout during the final song ‘One Touch Too Much’. Walkway were another memorable highlight of the day and weekend. Catch them live again if you can, you will not be disappointed. If you are, I will refund your money myself!!
(8.5/10)

Last year I loved Kane'd(s) brand of music. More Within Temptation, than melodic rock, but their difference stands out in sisters Steph, Stacey and Chez, and lead guitarist Harry Scott Elliott. At first glance, there’s that many of them, you would think they are a Caucasian tribute of Earth Wind & Fire. However, this time something was amiss, the spark wasn’t quite as bright this time. It wasn't all Kane'd isuue as I had doubts over the quality of the sound. The vocals were too loud and pitchy. It was eventually sorted and the songs do the talking – the highlights being ‘Beautiful But Tragic’, Guilty Of Nothing’, ‘Covered In Roses’ and the utterly infectious ‘La Di Da’. What with a guitarist like Harry Scott Elliot and the vocal assault from the girls, I fully expect greater things from this bunch moving forward. Time for a new album I think and a move up the next step of the ladder….? (7/10)

It was time to show the young whippersnappers a thing or two. Romeo’s Daughter are a class act. I’ve seen them quite a few times over the last (cough), thirty years, and they have NEVER let me or the audience down. The set was to be quite wide ranging, mixing the old and the new seamlessly, proving that the new songs are just as good, if not better than the older songs. Leigh Matty looks gorgeous as ever, and if there were awards for best hair, she would win hands down. In Craig Joiner, Romeos Daughter have one of the most underrated but finest songwriters of his generation. His playing isn’t necessarily flashy, but its honest and from the heart. ‘Heaven In The Back Seat’ - a song that should have made them household names, opened up a short but superb set. The good side of playing a 55 minute set…..all the stops are pulled out. From ‘Velvet Touch’ from the 80s, to the likes of ‘Bittersweet’ and ‘Radio’ from more recent years, Romeo’s Daughter have not lost any of their effectiveness. They finished the set 80s heavy with the upbeat ‘Inside Out’, ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’ - one of my all time favourite tracks, and finishing with a blast of the song that Heart covered, the obligatory ‘Wild Child’. Great stuff. (8.5/10)

All of a sudden, when you thought the main arena couldn’t get any busier, it suddenly became almost unbearably full. In three previous visits, I’ve never seen the arena as full as this. The reason I hear you ask……’Jizzy Pearl’s ‘Love/Hate’. Fair play to whoever built a massive cross out of Budweiser cans. They opened with ‘Wasted In America’ and the crowd went nuts. If anyone on the bill, looked like they had lived, loved and survived the 80s up until now, it was Jizzy Pearl, looking all the part a rock star. I’m going to wind a few people up here but the vocals got on my wotsits a little bit. It was like someone was kicking a bagful of Yorkshire Terriers around. I caught the first seven songs, and whilst I enjoyed the set. I wasn’t as keen as all the people around me, which is probably because Love /Hate aren’t AOR to me. Although I am sorry that I missed the rock classic ‘Blackout….’ (6.5/10)

I trundled over to the second stage to catch HRH virgins Epic. Fronted by the spectacular vocal range of Tanya Rizkala Agostine (she’s not Welsh!), this is a band (Like Bailey) that should have been performing on the main stage. If you haven’t heard of Epic, where have you been? Opening with the extremely powerful ‘Love Will Find A Way’ Tanya’s vocals were even better than the recorded version. Epic give the bigger and more established bands a run for their money. Great things come in small packages, and that’s what Tanya is. Her vocals could strip paint at 50m, and couple this with the fretwork dexterity of Mario Agostine and some Billy Sheehan-esque bass playing from Carlos Bouchabki for great effect. Throw in drummer Souheil Moukaddem, and Epic give one of the performances of the weekend. Again, its more classic rock per se than AOR, but us AOR fans know a good band when we see one. As the set went on the audience grew. My fave was the 80s rifftastic ‘Like a Phoenix’ followed by a great rendition of AC/DCs ‘Highway To Hell’. For some reason their allotted time wasn’t filled, and they finished with the sexy ‘Nah Nah Nah’ five mins earlier than expected.  I’d like to see Epic re-invited as they deserve another crack at the main stage. This was another highlight of the weekend. (8.5/10)

I scuttled back across to the main stage to view the last three songs of Bang Tango. They were a band I never got into in the 80s and the reason was in these last three songs. The vocals were whiny and just poor. The crowd around me heard a rendition of ‘Highway To Hell’ and went nuts, but Epic did it so much better ten minutes earlier. If I was harsh on Jizzy Pearl, then Joe Lesté fans should stop reading now. This sleaze (not AOR HRH!) was as fun as a root canal without the anaesthetic. And then doing it all again....and again...and again...(4/10)


  I’ve been waiting to see this next band for the best part of 30 years. I’d have killed to have seen them with their original singer, but that was not to be, so I had to settle for two originals…..Steve Lynch and Horny Horn ( I mean Randy Rand) of Autograph! Yes I was like a dog with two dicks, or as happy as pig in shit. They are now completed by Simon Daniels (Vox/guitar) and Marc Wieland (drums). If I were any closer I’d have been either in the photo pit, or as a guitar tech. Autograph exploded into life for me, and I soon forgot about the Plunkett effect. ‘Deep End’, ‘Dance All Night’, ‘Loud and Clear’ came at me faster than a bullet strapped to a greased pig. Lynch’s guitar playing was as I heard on record 30 years ago, and Rand looked like he had stepped straight out of a Marlboro advert. I’ve heard the sound was piss-poor from others, but down the front it wasn’t felt (Most had issues on the main stage – sort it out next time HRH!). ‘Blondes In Black Cars’, ‘Send Her To Me’ and ‘All I’m Gonna Take’ were sandwiched by two fairly new songs, with ‘I Lost My Mind In America’ being the best of the new. After Lynch’s stellar rendition of Lynch's solo it was time to cry like a baby and witness one of the best ever AOR songs laid down on vinyl (or cassette), ‘Turn Up The Radio’, and thanks to GTA its also a song for all ages. It was a perfect ending, and Autograph were the band of the day for me. (9/10)

Again Like Romeos Daughter, FM are as reliable and faithful as a reliable and faithful reliable thing. Its now a full ten years since they reformed and their output has been prolific and also of very high quality. Coming on 10 mins later than planned and finishing near to time, I felt a bit short changed. But what was missed in time was made up in the set list of some FM outstanding classics. Jim Kirkpatrick looked every inch the star with a trimmed look and aviator shades. He’s really added extra punch to FM since his arrival. FM is mainly about one guy, and that is the UK Michael Bolton…..Steve Overland, rightly known as THE VOICE! FM did something I’ve not witnessed in years, opening to a couple of  pyro’s for ‘Diggin Up The Dirt’. Again the first few songs were a bit ropey in the sound dept., not FMs doing. All was sorted for the best song that never appeared on an album, ‘Let Love Be The Leader’. A couple of hardly played songs made this evenings set, the song that should have set their path to stardom, ‘Someday’, and the superb ‘Tough It Out’. They went for the big finish with ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ and on the basis of the songs on offer, in my humble opinion a mistake was made with the headliner, as FM have the songs and substance to highlight this great AOR festival. Considering the type of festival this is, they were the first band to have a keyboardist on show. (8/10)

The headline act is Lita Ford. I saw her in the early 80s supporting Rainbow on the ‘BOOS’ tour. To be honest, I can hardly remember anything from that set, and the chances are, give me a month and I will be in exactly the same position after this set. I cant complain about the sound, as the songs paled into insignificance with other bands on this bill today. One thing I will say is that Lita Ford still looks fantastic. However, looks cant carry you forever, the songs have to do some talking. From where I was stood (on the upper level near the bar), the songs were bland and uninspiring. I was wondering how someone can headline a festival based on 2 solo songs in ‘Close My Eyes Forever’ where she was joined on stage by a crowd member who was dressed like a Poundland Ozzy, miming the Ozzy parts, and the encore ‘Kiss Me Deadly’, and the other well known song from The Runaways…‘Cherry Bomb’. I looked around near me and I think this is a sign
of what I’m thinking, as lots of people near me were having conversations, and at no point in time did people stop and look up and listen, which would be the reaction to have for a great performance, or song. It was not to be. Near the bar, and way before the last few songs, the area, which was packed out at the beginning of the set, was almost empty. If I judged it by colour, it would be Magnolia. (6/10)





Saturday…..

I watched the last three songs of Haxan based on their T-shirt. ‘You don’t need a cock…..to know how to rock’. My kind of band I thought. The reality was a bit different. I have to give them kudos and balls for a three piece that wants to rock out, but they were let down a bit by the quality of their songs. The feistiness is there, which is great, and I hope they develop into a great little band. Their best shout came from a Zep cover ‘Rock and Roll’. There are lots of other AOR bands in a similar position who would have killed for a slot like this. (6/10)

‘Watch Devilstars’ says Dennis, they’re great. So I did, up to a point.  Their intro tape meant they could have almost fit in an extra song. They looked the part, but the sound of the vocals was inaudible. I don’t think it was down to the sound guy, it was just piss poor projection. I lasted just four songs of the set, and was glad to get out to the main stage. Who did I see in there…..yes, Dennis, who had lasted just two songs of his own tip. (5/10)

Summers were well into their set by the time I landed. This is the third time I have seen them and the first two times they were great. The last was at the inaugural HRH AOR at Magna. What I got this time was a disjointed Summers. Whereas a lot of other bands had a theme or a ‘look’ Summers didn’t know what direction they were headed in. Yes the sound was dodgy again, but I give the band the benefit of the doubt. Crash Summers appeared to be disinterested and there had a severe lack of activity up there. Plus, his gran would have been well pissed off when she realises that he was wearing her curtain tie-backs. ‘Inseparable’ was like a Bon-Jovi country track which is now all the rage. They made up for it with decent versions of ‘Shot In The Dark’ and ‘I Came Here To Rock’. Five years ago I thought Summers had a great future, but they have been over taken by bands on this festival that are now higher up the bill. I really hope they pull something good out of the bag in the near future as I still want them to make it. If they do, it will probably be the hard way. (5.5/10)


  The next band should have the previous three I have mentioned, standing in the photo pit taking notes on how a gig should be done. Or at second best giving them all lines. The Radio Sun, making their second appearance in a row at HRH (four if you count their own, and six if you add the Paul Laine gigs), are aeons ahead of most of the bands on this whole roster. I was hoping for a bit of light hearted banter, with say the ‘Home & Away’ theme tune as an intro, but they came out with all guns blazing for ‘Tell Me What You Want’ With Steve Janevski and Jason Old, pulling out the 80s shapes and style, the only thing missing was a Scorpions pyramid. Their ace up the sleeve are Robbie Erdmanis and Ben Wignall. Why you may ask?  I will tell you why, because when these two are added to the mix with Steve’s BVs all backing up Jason, then its pure harmony heaven. ‘Wrong Things Right’ drove this fact home even more, as the final lines send me and hopefully others into a goosey frenzy! ‘One In A Million’ follows the same path. Why if it aint broke, don’t fix it. Highlights for me are ‘Worlds Crazy Now’ and their cover of an Andy Taylor classic ‘I Might Lie’. The Radio Sun are a class act, and should they make it three in a row, they fully deserve at least an hour to perform next time around. (9/10)


The spit and polish effect continued into the afternoon with Brit melodic rock starlets, Vega. I’ve previously stated that these guys get better every time I see them. Well this is the third time in less than 6 weeks, and I still stand by that statement. Vega are built for the big stage. Their songs are made for it, their vocalist Nick Workman is made for it, Bollox, all of them deserve the bigger stage and the chance to play in front of thousand(s). Should Vega stick around long enough, they are at the sharp end of being the best in their field. All the songs are anthems, end of. No expense is spared when it comes to their tunes. You can tell that every note and word has been carefully chosen and sweated over for maximum effect. Vega are the second band of the weekend to have the ‘must have’
AOR keyboards. Vega prove to be one of the best bands of the whole weekend, their time on the road currently with DRN has tightened up their repertoire even more. Its just killer after killer – 'Stereo Messiah', 'Every Little Monster,' and 'WTH' just bombarded us with quality, and 'Fade Into The Flames’ highlights just how good a singer Nick Workman is, he just doesn’t stand still and is the focal point for Vega. The pièce de résistance for me is the set closer ‘Saving Grace’, an absolute defining song for Vega that shows they are ready for the next big step. (9/10)


My final viewing of the day was for Paul Laine (I had a meeting to keep with a real Count! I’m sure it was Count!!). Backed by the lads from The Radio Sun for their third appearance of the weekend, I knew it was going to be a bit special. I caught 8 of the 100 songs of the set and was blown away by how good Laine is, even when he is well on the way to being shitfaced! Some people may find him a bit arrogant due to the drink, but I prefer to let the voice literally do the singing. What with Paul also playing guitar, they are the AOR equivalent of Iron Maiden, because with Steve and Jason also playing, there’s absolutely nothing that can be played.  There wasn’t much solo stuff to be played unfortunately. Then again, he was in D2 after all. I’d love to have heard a
Defiants track if I’m honest, but its no loss, as Paul is still fantastic. His on loan guitar from Lee Revill kept failing in the strap dept., so there’s now’t that duct tape can’t fix, even if it probably lifts the lacquer of it. ‘Under The Gun’, ‘We Are The Young’ and ‘Don’t break My Heart Again’ just tripped off the tongue. I’d love to see him, and as The Defiants invited back. I just hope his liver allows him to! (8.5/10)

One again, HRH have one of the best organised festivals in the UK. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with their choice of bands (at the very least, Epic and Bailey should be on the main stage) as more than a few were sleaze than AOR, but it proved overall to be very good, but it could have been great. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Pictures courtesy of Simon Dunkerley and Sean Larkin