About Me

My photo
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!!!

Monday 29 August 2011

Toby Hitchcock - Mercury's Down

Powerhouse American vocalist Toby Hitchcock came to the attention of Melodic Rock fans when former Survivor founding member Jim Peterik chose him as the lead singer for the band that would mark his return on the scene: Pride of Lions.

With Pride of Lions, Toby had the chance to sing on three studio albums which are considered as true classic among the fans. Often compared to Bobby Kimball (Toto), Jimi Jamison (Survivor) or Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Hitchcock’s voice has the depth, the feeling and the extension of each of them, still keeping his own identity and trademark.

While Pride of Lions took a small hiatus Toby took the chance to hook up with the Swedish songwriter and producer Erik Martensson (Eclipse), whose name came to prominence when he wrote and produced the very popular W.E.T. album which saw the return of singer Jeff Scott Soto to Melodic Rock. Erik by the way plays ALL instruments on Mercury’s Down. What a talented bastard that bloke is!

Considering the luminaries that Hitchcock is compared to, the opening track ‘Strong Enough’ is so close to being a Journey song, I half expect Perry or Pineda to come kicking in with the vocals. If I were him, I’d sell the song onto them for the next Journey album; it’s that good a tribute – big opening riff, sumptuous vocals and a huge, HUGE chorus that is destined to say in your head for weeks. Similar to Work of Art, Mercury Down seems to tick all of the AOR boxes, ‘This Is The Moment’ again coupling huge melodic riffs with an even bigger melody. ‘How To Stop’, again a decent track is overshadowed by the first two it almost seems like it’s a filler. On separate subsequent listens it’s a solid track indeed. ‘Let Go’ is another soaring AOR track. If this were the mid 80’s, Mercury’s Down would be selling by the sack load and reminds me of the good old days of bands like Tradia in particular. ‘One Day I’ll Stop Loving You’ is a ballad in the old school format and shows how good Hitchcock voice really is. It’s a bit AOR Ballad-by-numbers but is good all the same.
‘I Should Have Said’ again falls into the heavy riff/big vocal chorus category. ‘Summer Night in Cabo’ has Peterik/Survivor written all over it, it’s the kind of song I expect to hear popping up on a US TV drama. ‘Tear Down The Barricades’ again borders on the power metal side of melodic rock.

Both Hitchcock and Martensson have delivered in droves. Mercury’s Down definitely pitches itself into the heavier side of AOR, and that is a great thing, as he is not drifting into the slushier side of AOR that many bands feel that they have to ‘pop into’. Hitchcock and Martens son are a match made in AOR Heaven (I know it’s trademarked). Hitchcock’s excellent vocal range, combined with the excellent guitar work of Martennson really has hit gold, or should it be Mercury with this big debut album. I await a follow up with baited breath

TOBY HITCHCOCK “Mercury’s Down”

Toby Hitchcock – Lead Vocals
Erik Martensson – All Instruments

Produced and written by Erik Martensson

Label - Frontiers

Tracklisting: Strong Enough;This Is The Moment; How To Stop; Let Go; One Day I’ll Stop Loving You; I Should Have Said; If It's To Be (It's Up To Me); Just Say Goodbye; Summer Nights In Cabo; Tear Down The Barricades; A Different Drum; Mercury's Down.

89/100 Highly Recommended

Saturday 27 August 2011

Work Of Art - II - In Progress

 A modern masterpiece!
In today’s modern arena, unless you are virtually guaranteed of selling shitloads of albums and ticket sales  (Bon Jovi/Rush/Muse etc etc) the current (particularly rock music) band member has to have at least one or two side projects/another band/ producing/ writing on the go. Work of Art fall into this category despite their superb debut and subsequent follow up ’In Progress’. Säfsund appeared on the recent and excellent Lionville, Sall has W.E.T., and no doubt Furin has other business sorted
Work Of Art is what AOR music is all about! Have you ever dreamt of soaring melodies, heavenly hooklines and a musical technique to die for? Then these Swedish boys have it all for you! This band was put together for the first time in 1992 when Herman Furin and Robert Sall met while attending the SÖL school of music. However it took them about 15 years to convince singer Lars Säfsund to come in to the project full time and devote his time and efforts to the amazing songs the two of them wrote during the years.
To say that Work of Art is influenced by Toto is an understatement of EPIC proportions. Toto had ‘Rosanna’, Work of Art had ‘Maria’ on the debut, and ‘Emelie’ on the current. Apart from using girl’s names the style is 100% Toto/Westcoast AOR, with a bit of the likes of Journey and Giant thrown in for good measure – just because they can!

They certainly hit the ground running with the stunning ‘The Rain’, a gorgeous keyboard led track with Säfsund’s vocals dripping like honey over proceedings. ‘Nature Of The Game’ just oozes class, and have nailed AOR music by numbers, turned up a notch or three, and produced a song that others can only dream of writing. ‘Once Again’ is just another example of the class on offer, a more laid back, chilled offering, before they pick up their pace with ‘Never Love Again’.
 Considering that most people think of AOR as the wimpy side of rock, Work of Art have certainly turned it up a notch and have kicked some serious arse  with at least five tracks having major and heavy riffs pushing things along, with ‘Eye of The Storm’ being a perfect example. ‘ The Great Fall’ has an instantly sing-able chorus and will stay with you for days on end.  ‘Emilie’ is their let’s use a girl in the little homage to Toto, and is another classic slice of 80s AOR. ‘Castaway’ ticks some big boxes, very heavy and melodic, and hits you right between the eyes

Technically the album is faultless. The production is absolutely superb. With all of the instruments blending together (I include Säfsund’s vocals in this) to form a musical version of Jo-Lo covered in ice cream (nice!)
In Progress is definitely a very consistent album, with at least 6 songs AOR classics in the making, the others are simply very good!

Forget the recent Journey album, this is the best AOR album you will hear all year without a shadow of doubt. I’m that confident

Tracklisting: The Rain; Nature Of The Game; Once Again; Never Love Again; Eye Of The Storm; Until You Believe; The Great Fall; Call On Me; Emelie; Fall Down; Castaway; One Step Away. Includes bonus videoclip: The Great Fall.

WORK OF ART “In Progress”
Lars Säfsund – vocals
Robert Sall – guitars, keyboards
Herman Furin - drums

97/100 Stunning!

Slaves To Gravity - Underwaterouterspace

I know it’s been a few months since Underwaterouterspace was released, but occasionally it does no harm whatsoever to keep the momentum going/ flame burning/ on a release or band that is worthy of the cause. In Slaves To Gravity, that certainly is the case.

I first came across them in 2008 before their debut album was released, and (it wasn’t me) STG were tipped for bigger and better things. Whilst that hasn’t happened it doesn’t mean that will not be the case. Now in 2011 they have a decent record label behind them in SPV which should enable them to make the grade and give them the much needed promotional push and assistance to get them on some major tours. I caught them late 2010 supporting Alter Bridge, and their performance was brilliant.

Also assisting with the potential for greatness is the acquisition of a heavyweight producer in Bob Marlette (Black Sabbath/Iommi, Marilyn Manson, Airbourne, Shinedown, Filter, Anvil, and many many more you’ve never heard of but I can recommend), and on top of all this he is a talented musician in his own right
With these two major pegs filling the correct holes, STG have everything going for them, but have they benefitted from the decent label/producer combo????

 I feel that STG are a bit of a Marmite band, you’ll either think it’s all a bit contrived, taking its lead direct from the grunge movement, or like me, you’ll think they have much more to offer with the big riffs, huge choruses, and all with a hard rock assault on your senses.

There is no doubt whatsoever that STG aren’t influenced by grunge, but this by now way makes them unlistenable in my own eyes. The have taken an influence, particularly Soundgarden, and mixed it up with the guile and energy of the Foo Fighters.

The storming opener ‘Good Advice’ has a huge riff, and great catch chorus, and the sound that emanates from just these three are amazing. ‘ Honesty’ sees STG take its foot of the gas a little, which isn’t difficult, and sees them going more into the Foo Fighter driven mode. Whilst on that subject ‘She’s Got Big Plans’ with its great flow thru to the instantly sing-a-long-able chorus. They knock it up a gear with the mesmerising ‘Misery Pills’. ‘Silence Now’ sees STG kicking off their boots and putting some slippers on, with a more chilled (In their own inimitable style) and more radio friendly mode.

As a bonus they have included a DVD of videos from their debut album, and long with a ‘making of’ and makes for a really decent ‘extra’.

To be totally honest, it’s just one great song after another, and they have certainly upped their game from the debut album. STG are probably the best band you haven’t heard yet!


100 = A Classic - Every Home Must Have One
90-99 = essential
80-89 = very good
70-79 = good
50-69 = average
30-49 = below average
20-29 = shite
10-19 = utter shite
0-9   = burn the f*cker like it never existed

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Fancy a great read??

Ive just had the pleasure of buying a number of books from one of the best rock writers of the last 20 years, Martin Popoff. The bloke is so enthusiastic about his work and has such great connections in the music industry, it seems as if he never has a problem getting to the issues that matter and he has interviewed everyone. The upshot is ONE GREAT READ

I already have Rainbow - English Castle Magic, and even as a huge Rainbow fan, he extracts stories never heard or published previously.

If the postage is a bit steep, he is now also offering great value ebook versions of selected pieces of his works at $8.88 (Bargain!)

His latest offering is ''The Deep Purple Royal Family, Chain of Events Through '79'' which is a 'family tree' history of Deep Purple and the bands/people that passed through. A review of this will be appearing shortly

Check out his work here -http://www.martinpopoff.com/html/welcome.html

If youre in the US look out for 'Metal Evolution' on VH1 Classic later in the year. Its a doc series on various metal genres, made with doc producers extraordinare Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn (the guys who did Global Metal / Metal A Headbangers Journey, and the recent Maiden and Lemmy and Rush doc films)

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Def Leppard - Mirror Ball Live & More

So, hot on the heels of headlining Download, the Leps (Def Hoople, or Mott the Leppard as they now seem to be known) release this, a mix of live tracks recorded from their ‘The Sparkle Lounge Tour’ plus 3 new studio tracks and a bonus DVD containing live performances and backstage footage

There is no doubting the legacy of tracks on this album that they have given the rock world. The first British band in the 80’s and NWOBHM band to really have a go and crack the US and succeed big time, they are only one of five rock bands to have two consecutive 10 million plus selling albums (guess the other four, answer at the end of the review)

From a band that have experiences great highs, and some terrible lows that other bands would not recover from, Leppard still remain a live force to be reckoned with. Yeah, they have not had the success since Hysteria, and the 90’s and noughties haven’t brought much success, although the ‘Sparkle’ album was as good as it’s got for Leppard since Hysteria. Let’s face it, the days have pretty much gone where an artiste can shift 5 million, never mind 10 million albums

I wasn’t exactly excited in wanting to review this. I witnessed Leppard on the double headed Whitesnake tour a few years ago,  and I honestly thought that whilst Leppard played as well as ever, Joe Elliott was struggling with a demanding wailing set. Have no fears the fella is certainly back on form for Mirror Ball (pro tools?)

Whilst recent remasters series have included a live bonus cd, this is officially Leppard’s first live album, so expect the next one sometime late 2042

Basically the album is pretty much a ‘Greatest Hits – Live!’ compilation mostly taken from Leppard’s golden period (High ‘n Dry / Pyromania / Hysteria/Adrenalize). Despite Elliot’ts reticence towards On Through The Night, it would have been nice for them to include Wasted and/or Hello America as I feel they are important songs in the Leppard back catalogue.

Musically, Leppard are tight as a nut, and vocally, it’s the best I have heard Joe Elliott sing in the last 4 years. Perhaps I caught him on an off day…twice! Bur fair do’s I wish I could sing like Elliott any day of the week, but if I do have a grip, it’s that he struggles a teensy bit in his upper register, but not that much that it ruins proceedings. It’s just that I prefer to hear him (and remember him )as I did on the Hysteria tour all those years ago
I almost feel that Def Leppard have drawn a line under a 15 year period by not covering anything from 92-2007. I suppose they cant play everything, and there will always be pissing some fans off by missing their fave tunes – then again most people of my age only want to hear 1980-85 Leppard

As a live album, there are better ones, but as a reminder of Blighty’s best ever exports Leppard fans will love it. 

Def Leppard, at the forefront of NWOBHM, and a Bloody British institution!

Answer to the trivia quiz = (so popular, you know them by their 2nd names, Beatles, Zep, Floyd and Halen!)

RATING  75/100

100 = A Classic - Every Home Must Have One
90-99 = essential
80-89 = very good
70-79 = good
50-69 = average
30-49 = below average
20-29 = shite
10-19 = utter shite
0-9   = burn the f*cker like it never existed