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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 13 October 2011


Nuff said!!

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Pain Of Salvation - Road Salt Two

Sweden’s Pain Of Salvation are likely the very opposite of a predictable and standardized act. In Daniel Gildenlöw, Pain Of Salvation has a man who, to me, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Portnoy / Wilson and Akerfeldt, such is his influence on his band and rock music in general. One thing is certain; Gildenlöw is becoming an expert in expecting the unexpected. If you think he will produce an album in a certain style – forget it. This attitude is what will make Pain Of Salvation recognized. A cult band already, their music deserves to be heard by many more

They once more prove their unmatched reputation as true artists and modern rock expressionists by delivering ‘Road Salt Two’, the twin-companion ‘Road Salt One’. Meticulously anticipated, the sophomore part of the “Road Salt” double-album concept is now ready to make its overdue public appearance, after what can easily be called a very eventful last year for POS: Record company in financial difficulty, several chart entries with “Road Salt One”, Russian train bombs, a successful appearance at the mainstream-oriented Swedish “Melodifestivalen” song-contest (Sweden’s entry comp for getting into Eurovision!), the release and ban of a highly controversial video clip for the song ‘Where It Hurts’.

‘Road Salt Two’ once again presents POS at its most emotionally intense and stylistically colourful, with a predominant 70’s almost classic rock vibe, yet, in direct comparison to “Road Salt One”, it might strike the listener as being a bit darker (hence the code name – Ebony – I suspect). It basically serves as a perfect breed between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Pain Of Salvation, while also presenting a different and previously unheard Pain Of Salvation.

Put it this way, if you are expecting the style of albums like ‘The Perfect Element’ and ‘Scarsick’ then you’ll be left wanting. Gildenlöw has opted for a darker, moodier piece than RS1 or anything previous come to think of it. But RS2 fits perfectly with its predecessor

To the album. First track ‘Road Salt Theme’ which by the way doesn’t appear on RS1, is a short stringed piece which seeps into ‘Softly She Cries’ which you notice right from the off is more of a departure to a time of the rock giants of the 70s complete with Gildenlöw s soaring vox, and the trademarked harmonies that only come from POS. The Road Salt Theme again appears within the song in the latter half. This time the guitar is pushed to the forefront with an overdrive effect, and make for a more doom laden piece. ‘Conditioned’ is a more riff and groove driven piece which sounds like Lenny Kravitz. The acoustically driven ‘Healing Now with its mandolin make me think of Zeppelin’s ‘Battle of Evermore’. ‘To The Shoreline’ is probably the closest that Pain of Salvation get to ‘classic’ Prog rock, and its haunting composition and instantly catchy chorus makes for being a contender for best track on the album. 

‘Eleven’ contains a really pulsating bass line, and the instrumental middle section is both intriguing and captivating. Pair this with Gildenlöw’s gruff vocals and the end result is stunning. A definite live song to look forward to. ‘1979’ is again a nostalgia driven piece which is short, but very, very sweet. ‘The Deeper Cut’ is where Gildenlow’s vocals really shine, the song building its intensity before dropping away suddenly. If ‘Mortar Grind’ sounds familiar, it first appeared on the 2009 Linoleum EP. ‘Through the Distance’ gives another little break with its fragile sound, before the coming storm in ‘The Physics of Gridlock’, the longest and best track on RS2, and sums up the 2011 Pain of Salvation perfectly – heavy, slightly psychedelic, progressive and even theatrical (due to the French monologue) proving that Gildenlöw takes his fans on a weird and wonderful (never to be repeated twice) journey. Finally the ‘End Credits’ kick in to give the listener a breather!

It’s not necessarily a grabber and may require a few listens to fully grasp what Pain of Salvation is up to. Like the recent Opeth release, it gives more than a passing nod to the music of the 70s with a modern twist. 'Road Salt Two' is a perfect complement to 'Road Salt One' and closes this chapter of POS…or does it? Daniel Gildenlöw will not conform to the fans expectations and is more than happy taking the listener out of their comfort zone for the sake of his musical beliefs, and rightly so.

I beg you to catch them on tour with Opeth in the UK in November.


Gary Barden - Eleventh Hour

Gary Barden was in the 80s one of my fave singers and was one of THE voices of British hard rock. The first time Barden appeared in the scene was as part of the newly formed MSG (Michael Schenker Group) founded by the former Scorps guitarist of the same name. Their first collaboration resulted in the highly acclaimed album “The Michael Schenker Group” which was released in 1980. Besides the great songs and the great guitar output BARDEN’s voice was one of the reasons why this album became a huge success and allowed the band to hit the road in Europe, Japan and the USA.

Their second album “MSG” saw the light of day in 1981 and followed an even more melodic direction than its predecessor. After the following world tour BARDEN was informed that he was no longer part of the band and replacement was found soon in ex-RAINBOW singer Graham Bonnet. Cue for the Sounds letters page to be inundated for months ober an infamous Bonnet Sheffield gig that has passed into legend. Chrysalis, however, released a live disc recorded in Japan by the original MSG entitled “One Night At Budokan”.

Searching for a new band, Barden started to write some songs with the late Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore which later on ended up on Moore’s “Corridor of Power” release. Their working period was short and so was the collaboration between Bonnet and Schenker (see above ref to Sounds). Bonnet sang on the 1982 record “Assault Attack” but Barden was back with MSG for some live appearances including Reading Festival in the same year and the 1983 (poorly received) record “Built to Destroy”. The label’s pressure to steer more into a commercial direction made the band quit business in 1984.

After a long break Barden returned to the scene with Praying Mantis’ “The Power of Ten” and the live album “Captured Alive in Tokyo City”. In 2000, Barden hit the road again for a couple of live shows with Company Of Snakes and founded the band Silver together with Michael Voss (CASANOVA) and Bernie Tormé (IAN GILLAN).

‘Past & Present’ marked the first solo album by Barden and included  new interpretations of some all-time MSG classics. With his long time pal ´Michael Voss´(Casanova, Bonfire) and a couple of friends he went back to the roots to perform his bluesy smoky songs on the release “Agony and the Xtasy”. In 2007 the more rockier “Love and War” was released.

Gary now presents us with “Eleventh Hour”. Once again Michael Voss is ever present and the end result is pretty average to say the least. ‘Baghdad’ opens up proceedings well enough on this up tempo rocker. Even at 56 his voice hasn’t changed a great deal from the MSG days I remember so well. Its weaker, but then again Barden never had the greatest voice, but he has a pretty unique tone to it. Similar can be said of ‘Fallen By The Wayside’. After this the producer (Voss) has inadvertently hit the ‘average’ button on the console. Songs like ‘Child Of Sorrow’, ‘Would You Wanna Do’, ‘We Are The Dead’ are pretty much uninspiring and just deemed as passable. Currently there is a huge number of rock/metal albums being released each and every month and in this economic climate it’s impossible to scratch the surface. I’ve heard a lot more decent stuff recently that will leave 'Eleventh Hour' by the wayside.

There’s a small chink of light with ‘Blackmail’, but that’s about it really. For some reason he has covered a song written with Gary Moore for ‘Corridors..’ and that’s ‘Don’t take Me For A Loser’ and doesn’t have the spark of the original – either vocally or musically

All in all there’s better albums (also some worse ones – SEKS) out there currently to spend your hard earned cash on. Unless you are an avid fan of Barden, there’s nothing much to listen to here. I prefer to dig out my ‘One Night At Budokan’ LP and remember the great times


Monday 3 October 2011

Shy - ST

I can probably give you the name of a dozen or so bands that deserved to be huge on the back of AOR/melodic rock in the 1980’s. Three of the best at the time were FM’s ‘Tough It Out’, Strangeway’s ‘Native Sons’, and Shy’s ‘Excess All Areas’. One thing these three bands had in common is that they all failed…and failed miserably for some unknown reason. This still irks me to this very day, can you tell???

Shy have been a mainstay in the melodic rock scene right back to the mid 1980’s. Crowned by the success of Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Europe, the 80s were the golden era of AOR and for a while every record company craved its own poodle-haired, tight-trousered offspring. Shy made albums for two different major labels and for a while seemed in with a genuine shot at glory, but like all the above (Strangeways etc) ended up biting the dust. Their debut album Once Bitten… Twice Shy was described by Kerrang! as perhaps the greatest English pomp rock album of all time”. 

Before undertaking their all-important third album, 1987’s Excess All Areas, RCA relocated Shy to Los Angeles to soak up the Californian hard rock radio vibe. “In any genre, there will only ever be a couple of winners,” reflects Steve Harris. “But it’s surprising how many people talk of that album in hushed tones and don’t actually own a copy – or only bought the reissue.” The last few years have seen Shy ring the personnel changes.

A settled line-up is completed by keyboard player Joe Basketts and drummer Bob Richards Frontman Tony Mills has left the band for Norwegians TNT, and Lee Small (Phenomena / Surveillance) has taken the mike stand. So what of the changes and the resurrection of this once great band?

Well readers, on the very first listen ‘Shy’ definitely gets the melodic juices flowing, and not for a single moment did I question the fact that ‘ol ‘high pitched’ whats-is-name Mills is missing! In fact I was quite taken aback by the quality of Small’s vocal prowess. Should Glenn Hughes ever decide to not carry the flaming torch as ‘the voice of rock’ Lee Small could pretty much pick up the ‘Soul Batton’ and carry on seamlessly. The bloke is a pretty good ringer for the ex-Purple/BCC frontman. In replacing Mills’ higher pitched vocals, Shy have pretty much nailed it with Smalls lower, bluesier register, giving the songs more breath and warmth
Opener ‘Land Of A Thousand Lies’ is a great example of this polished ‘old AOR school style’. The pace continues with the superb ‘So Many Tears’. Yes it’s all AOR by numbers, but the tested formula they have used is paying dividends – keys, check; great riff, check; instantly sing-able chorus, check! Make that double-check!! The keyboard is planted firmly at the forefront of ‘Shy’ but not in an annoying Dare kind of way.

‘Breathe’ come straight out of the Glenn Hughes school of balladry. ‘Blood on the Line’ is yet another well-polished melodic rock belter, and so far into the album, there isn’t a filler to be seen. If I do have a small gripe it’s that the songs are so well produced and polished, they are a bit similar, and need a couple of ‘great’ songs to add to the ‘good’ ones on offer. The closest they get to this is the longest song, 'Sanctuary' with keyboard power chords a plenty setting off the whole tone against Harris' superb guitar playing

Well, Shy have certainly done themselves justice with this cd, and in a continuing decent and resurgent year for Melodic rock, Shy keep the high quality going. Yet another good release that sits high amongst the best work that Shy have produced over the years

Lee Small – Vocals
Steve Harris – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Roy Davis – Bass
Joe Basketts – Keyboards
Bob Richards – Drums