Rock Reviews - Classic. AOR. Prog. Metal.
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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!!!
Every now and then, a band fires a shot
across my boughs, one that I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing before, and
proves to be an absolute delight. This is Palace of the King, with their third
album ‘Get Right With Your Maker’. They are an Aussie band and hail from
Melbourne, they average 100 gigs a year and it shows here. They have also
supported fellow rockers Airbourne.
Not many bands would have the confidence or
balls to open up with a seven minute epic scale song, but POTK have no such
worries. Is pure, unadulterated classic rock – and I am immediately reminded of
a similarity to Scorpion Child – as POTK throw all their musical classic rock
weaponry into ‘I Am The Storm’. It has some great organ and guitar work,
joining Tim Henwood’s great vocals for an aural soundscape, of 70s sounding
rock. On this Henwood even sounds similar to Scorpion Childs Aryn Jonathon
Black. Even the mid section ivory tinkling shows touches of The Doors, giving
it a psychedelic feel.
'It's Been A Long Time Coming' is the second
single from GRWYM, its drenched in nostalgia, with a bit of a Nuff Z’Nuff sound
to vocals. They show that its not a single track sound, and show they have more
strings to their bow on ‘Sold Me Down The River’ which has a 70s funk sound, as
does ‘Dog With A Bone’. Its like being hit with a one-two sucker punch, as the
songs come thick and fast, with not a drop in quality to be seen (or heard),
‘Said The Spider To The Bird’, ‘Move Through The Fire’, and ‘The Serpent’ all
have the hallmarks of band who are as tight as a nut that been tightened with
superglue! Its all pretty damn good as the rhythm section of Travis Dragani and
Anthony Licciardi drive this beast forward. It’s the kind of band and music,
that would sound fucking huge at a live gig. Scrub that, the riff and bass line
on the song Horizon are mega. I could feel it moving my trousers, in a good
way!!! The pacing of the album is excellent, ‘Fly Like An Eagle is short and
sweet, but what they cram into a song under 3 minute is just great,a pounding at your core effort. Finally we
get a POTK showcase with ‘Back On My Feet Again’.Its only 3.46 short, but itstype of song that could easily take up half a
Where’s the other five minutes of song
gone? Bands used to do this quite often, but we actually get a hidden track, a
title track ‘Get Right With Your Maker’, a song that lends to The Black Crowes,
or The Temperance Movement in an acoustic blues style.
The album cover even bears more than a
passing resemblance to Scorpion Childs last album to the point of plagiarism!
If you’re new to them, like me, then you’re
in for a fucking treat. If you’re already a fan, what are you waiting for. For
fans of 70s influenced rock, and the likes of Rival Sons The Black Crowes and
Scorpion Child. As you can tell, what they are doing isn’t exactly new (what
is?), but what they do, they do it so fucking well!!
Rock is meant to be played loud, but none
more than this dirty, and beautiful beast. Crank it up and enjoy!!
There are a few
certainties in life – the obvious ones like death, taxes, nurses and Sunderland
AFC to let you down. Then there’s the others such as Sweden produces probably
the best melodic rock bands in the world.
Please don’t scream
out “Nurses? You misogynist sexist git #metoo” because it was a nurse that told
me that. I forget his name.
Anyway bands such as
Europe, H.E.A.T, Eclipse are prime examples of classic Swedish Melodic Rock and
there are times when I think I might have some Swedish blood in me because I am
a massive fan despite the irony of many having such a US soft rock style.
When I received the
latest release from Sweden by a band from Örnsköldsvik called Perfect Plan I
was at a loss. Apparently Örnsköldsvik is halfway up the coast from Stockholm
(I’d been there once) and on the coast across from Finland. Perfect Plan? Never
heard of them.
The blurb I got with
the album told me the band had been going since 2014 but this was their first
album. The picture of the band gave no real clues but if this was going to be a
death metal album I wouldn’t have been shocked, how bloody wrong was I.
First impressions and
all that went out the window as ‘Bad City Woman’ blasts off with a piece of
awesome melodic rock, the guitar riff sets the tone and then the vocal of Kent
Hilli comes blasting in. His voice is sublime, it has range, depth and power.
The song is a triumph, it has a superb hook of a chorus and the voice of Hilli
is outstanding. It was so good I replayed it again immediately to double check
it was that good. Trust me it is.
My fear that they had
played their ace too soon was dispelled as the keyboards of Leif Ehlin kicked
off ‘In and Out of Love’. A slower but layered song with real depth to the
music that builds to a superb sing-a-long chorus. As with ‘Bad City Woman’ the
guitar solo of Rolf Nordström compliments the songs showing his undoubted skill
but not taking over the feel of the song.
‘Stone Cold Lover’
maintains the feel of the album with the backing vocals supporting the outstanding
Hilli voice. Another superb melodic rock song, decent stuff indeed.
By now I was captured
and mesmerised. The keyboards and kinda bluesy feel to Gone too Far reminded me
of something the new Whitesnake only sniffed at. This was cemented by ‘What
Goes Around’ with a chorus of “She’s breaking me, taking me, bringing me down,
what goes around comes around” snapped out in time to fit the music perfectly.
‘Too Late’ opens with
a Europe-esque keyboard intro. It’s then I realised how the keyboards had
underpinned the songs in an unobtrusive way but without them the tracks
wouldn’t be as multi-dimensional as they are. Also top marks for using the
correct version of “Too” as opposed to “to” or “two”. Grammatically and
‘Can’t Turn Back’ is a
wonderfully upbeat song with typical melodic rock style. “We Can’t Turn back to
love that’s gone” should surely be miserable but oh no, this is a bouncing tune
that back in the 80s would have had me screaming it out with real life
experience passion. The guitar sounds, vibe and feel actually make it a song of
hope for the future (or maybe that’s just my warped memories!).
‘Never Surrender’ is not
a cover of the song by Saxon with the same name. Don’t get me wrong the Saxon
song is raw and from the heart, this song is a modern more polished tune from
the heart but definitely not British Heavy Metal. It has a driving rock sound
but Saxon doing wonderful backing vocals and a keyboard? Not that I remember.
‘1985’ sums up All
Rise as an album and its massive nod to how albums by AOR bands in 1985
sounded. It has the overtly US rock style lyrics but with a superb modern
sound. The Hilli voice and range is immense, where the f*ck has he been all
‘What Can I Do’ is
another superbly crafted piece of the 80s sound and again I just feel a
Whitesnake influence, the chorus and backing vocals, key change and keyboard
solo just simply make me smile and take me back to a more innocent (and
personally a more stupid) time of my life.
‘Heaven In Your Eyes’
ends 11 tracks of wonderful nostalgia mixed with a modern sound, yet another
melodic bounce along “if you have a pulse” track.
Perfect Plan are not quite
a breath of fresh air but they are certainly refreshing. Judging by their
picture they aren’t a bunch of kids, instead I get the feeling these are a
bunch of well accomplished musicians who have taken their time to release an
album of pure melodic quality. The 3 years from formation to All Rise has been
well worth waiting for.
Oh maybe the song
titles and lyrics may be slightly clichéd but I tell you what, a cliché doesn’t
mean a lack of quality and it definitely isn’t second rate or wrong. This is a
release that I know many of my AOR friends will wet their pants over (no pun
intended) because it is that good.
To those going to
Frontiers in Milan, don’t you dare miss these, they are proper quality and you
won’t be disappointed. If Kent Hilli is as awesome as he is on this album
you’re in for a treat.
Given that it’s Easter
I think a solid 8.5 that will “All Rise” to a 9 on Easter Sunday is appropriate.
See what I did there, badly?
Of all the bands from the
80s that came and went, then came and went, and came back again, the one that
did it for me, more than any other U.S. band, or any other Country come to
think of it, was Dokken. One of their songs appeared on a mix tape done for me
by my mate, and I was hooked, like a salmon. I even got a newsagent in Wrexham
to get me Hit Parader from the U.S. every month so I could catch up on all the
Dokken in-house fighting. For a band so bloody good, I could never understand
why Dokken and Lynch hated each other’s guts. They were a match made in heaven,
yet they seemed unable to be in the same room together. When they went their
separate ways they could not match the heights that Dokken made - Don Dokken
went solo, Lynch and Brown became Lynch Mob, and Pilson did ........find out
and insert here.
I absorbed every bit of
newsprint, I hammered the albums (both vinyl and CD) to a point where ‘yes you can, you can wear
out a CD. Fuck You, Tomorrows World!’ They were not a Hair Metal band. Yes,
they had the hair, and the outfits, but from 81-89, they were one of the best
heavy metal/hard rock bands on the planet
I’ve heard recent ‘best
of’ albums, that have been down tuned and re-recorded to meet Don Dokken’s
vocal range, after his operation, and if I’m honest, they are not a patch on
the originals. In fact, a more recent version of events where T&N (Lynch,
Brown and Pilson) re-recorded some Dokken classics and became a Poundland
version of Dokken.What it did conclude
for me is that the classic ‘Dokken’ sound, comes from none other than the man
himself. So because of the past vocal issues, (there is video evidence of
regaining some of his range), and anecdotes from friends who have seen Dokken
in more recent times, I’ve not wanted to see Dokken as it would ruin my 1980’s
God-like opinion I had of him. Until now.....
Never mind the recent
snow issue the was the ‘Beast From The east’, Dokken fashioned this phrase way
back in ’89, what we have now is the companion piece and follow up to the
blisteringly good ‘BFTE’, with ‘Return To The East - Live 2016’. This is just an
opinion, but I guess that an absolute shit load of money from the lucrative
Japanese market put the seminal line-up together, as I never thought I’d see
the day when this would happen, but was surprised when it was announced. This
comment from DD taken from ‘The Classic metal Show’ ‘’I don't see why I need to
go back in time and do this. What's the point? If it's just for money, they
know how I feel about that. And there's more to life than money. You can live
in a mansion and drive a Ferrari and be miserable. And I said, 'I'm not
interested.’’ I honestly don’t believe this for a single second.
I wanted to see the four
of them perform again, but had severe doubts it would take place what with
Pilson being happily ensconced in Foreigner, and probably had a small window
when all the timings fell into place and converged for a few gigs.
Here it is, almost two
years down the line from when it was recorded, and I wondered to myself, would
it be good, great, average, or just plain ‘shite’. Well reader, I have to say
that ‘RTTE-Live 2016’ is a pale imitation to the Dokken of the 1980s. Sure,
musically and harmony wise the Dokken of 2016 is as it was 30 years ago. Lynch
nails all the solos, to pin point accuracy of the originals and is on imperious
form. Pilson and Browns backing vocals are good, and make up for the
shortcomings in Don Dokken’s range. All semblance of a high note from the
original is pretty much wiped away and discarded like the come on a porn stars
tits. If you can get over what’s left Don Dokken’s vocal range, then it could
make for pleasant listening.
For me I was just left
lamenting the glory days of Dokken.
Just like ‘BFTE’, ‘RTTE’
has a new Dokken track in tow. ‘Its Another day’ has all the Dokken hallmarks
that we have come to love, it has the Dokken sound of old, a good riff, which
is tuned to work well with Dokken’s range; you don’t get the upper register or
‘Dokken wail’ of old, but you get everything else. It has the feel of ‘Alone
Again’ or ‘Will The Sun Rise’ but is a distant relative of the aforementioned.
The like part kicks off with the classic ‘Kiss of Death’ and if you are waiting
for a classic rendition, it’s not to be found here. Everything is down-tuned to
assist Dons vocals. You are singing along, then when it sums to the chorus of
‘Kiss of DEAAAATTTTHHHHH!’ its nowhere to be seen (or heard). ‘The Hunter’ even
sees the BVs much lower than the originals, and I know that Pilson can still
hit the original notes. If he did then it would further expose how far DDs
vocals have dropped.
I can’t say that the
performance is being dialed in as I only have the audio, but classics like
‘Unchain The Night’, ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘Dream Warriors’ are all pale
imitations of the originals. There’s only one ‘live’ track that made me sit up
and take notice, and that is ‘Alone Again’ as the original was not a ‘scream
and wail’ effort. It is a fairly reasonable replication, but asking the crowd
to sing along in ALL the parts where you expect a wail, shows up what is
lacking here. But one decent-average rendition out of 15 just isn’t good
enough. All of the harmonies for ‘Its Not Love’ are coming from Lynch, Brown
& Pilson. We are even subjected to a poor ‘sing-a-long with Don’ passage
and even a bass solo. Really?!
‘In My Dreams’ 2016 is out
there in YouTube land (ABOVE) for all to witness. So I will not add further to this
when you can witness for yourselves the out of sync, lacklustre vocals. The
album finishes with two studio acoustic tracks - ‘Heaven Sent’ and ‘Will The
Sun Rise’ and along with ‘Its Another day’, are the best songs on this, because
they are tailor measured to Don Dokken’s current range, and they actually carry
over very well indeed. Which in itself is a sad thing whereby the best tracks
on a live album are the studio songs. As a live album, ‘Return To The East’
fails on numerous levels.
All I can say is that the
Japanese must be very easily pleased. Whether it’s a case of being ‘in the moment’
which gigs can have a tendency to do, you get taken along with the emotion.
Listening to just the audio, I can’t see what the enjoyment and crowd hysteria
Frontiers are offering
this an a couple of different (and nicely packaged) version for the US and EU
markets, a box set which includes a tee shirt, CD and DVD. This is strictly for
collectors, as this does not sit alongside the Dokken back catalogue at all
well. Fans can stick up for Dokken as much as they like, but watch the two
versions of ‘In My Dreams’ above and tell me I’m not wrong!
Return To The East? I
wish it was a single ticket.
For those of us of
a certain age and a rock/pop inclination, Kim Wilde was one of the artists in
the early 80s who made an impact when 'Kids In America' was released.
It possibly helped
that Ms Wilde was stunning besides being capable of belting out a rock/pop
anthem that has stood the test of time, oh that and the fact I was a spotty
immature hormonal teenager.
It was probably the
closest thing to a rock song that I remember by a female artist that year.
To be honest as the
80s progressed I lost interest in pop music as rock began to consume my world.
However as the years have progressed I’ve gone soft (or mellowed and broadened
my musical taste as I prefer to call it) so it came as a pleasant surprise when
I was asked to listen to 'Here Comes The Aliens' by “THE Kim Wilde, you know, the
The album cleverly
starts with the sound of a radio being tuned to different channels with that
crackle and hiss that youngsters of today’s digital age won’t understand. The guitar
kicks in and '1969' starts and it’s a decent catchy track with its roots firmly
set in the 80s (and includes the album title in the chorus).
It becomes clear very
early on that over the years Ms Wilde has not suffered from her voice losing
any of its distinctive sound, there are even tracks where she lays it bare and
it delivers in style.
'Pop Don’t Stop'
follows and shock horror, it’s a pure pop song even down to having a keyboard
intro that is so Buggles that the video will most probably kill the radio star.
I suppose there is a clue in the title and Kim (oooh look at me getting all
personal) is ably supported on the vocals by brother Ricky and it’s as pop as
you can get.
The album is like a
nostalgic trip back to the 80s but with a modern twist added, the synth based
tracks such as 'Stereo Shot', 'Yours Til the End' and 'Addicted To You' firmly offer
a nod in the direction of disco/dance with catchy choruses to match. You can
imagine certain tracks making it onto a Miami Vice re-make without being out of
'Birthday' and 'Rock
the Paradiso' are massively upbeat good time songs. They are in the same vein as
Kids in America but competently stand up in their own right. 'Rock the Paradiso'
in particular has a real B-52 Love Shack vibe to it, proper rock guitars and a
bounce along catchy chorus.
For me the stand
out track on the album and the least “poppy” is 'Solstice'. It starts with a mournful
Celtic style lament with Kim’s voice absolutely nailing a haunting verse before
the piano gently enters and the following lines are delivered:
“They didn’t make
it home, now her hand drops the phone;
She stands so
Your washing’s on
the bed, the last words that was said;
screaming, she’s screaming, she’s screaming”;
The song then moves
into a Carpenter-esque chorus never losing the feeling of loss, sadness and
emotion. It’s a track that screams out “give me a decent budget for a video to
accompany this and I’ll give you a massive hit”. It really is that good.
In conclusion, if
you miss (or missed) the 80s and want to reminisce but with newly written songs
with a modern take then you’ll love this. Well unless you’re my wife who stated
after hearing just a couple of tracks “It’s inoffensive”. WTF!! I don’t think
you can be more offensive with a review if you tried. Her view has nothing to
do with the fact that she is also a 50 something blonde, oh no, not at
Whilst 80s pop is
not totally my thing, the album has hidden treasures such as Solstice and a
range of 80s styles all in one album. To put it in context, I think this album
will allow Kim Wilde to tour and not rely on a short set of the original 1980s
hits she plays at the revival concerts.
I hope to see it played
live in Glasgow in April, I really hope it translates to the live environment.
Whilst the album
has synth/disco/rock moments just forget the snap and crackle, this is POP.
I’ll get my coat……..
7 out of 10– 80s
aficionados will strongly disagree. .
Tracklisting 1969 Pop Don't Stop Kandy Krush Stereo Shot Yours Til' The End Solstice Addicted To You Birthday Cyber Nation War A Different Story Rock The paradiso Rosetta
When I was lucky enough to
be asked if interested in writing a music review my reply was "Yep, just
set the expectations low and you'll not be too disappointed, oh what
artist/album are we considering?
W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’. No
For any non-Melodic Rock fans, W.E.T are a melodic rock fan's wet (pun intended)
dream of a super group. The name W.E.T comes from the bands the members play in:
Work of Art, Eclipse and Talisman (see what they did there?)
The main protagonists are
Jeff Scott Soto of JSS/Talisman/Journey/Malmsteen “and more projects I can
mention” fame, Eric Mårtensson (Eclipse/Ammunition/Nordic Union), Robert Sall
(Work of Art), Magnus Henriksson (Eclipse) and Robban Back (Mustasch).
I've got the previous
W.E.T. albums namely “W.E.T”. and “Rise Up” seen them play at Firefest as well
as seeing JSS and Eclipse in their own right. They've never disappointed.
Anyway, forget the past,
let's consider the future, how have the years affected their chemistry? Can
they still deliver? You better believe they can. ‘Earthrage’ is a stunning
album of melodic rock with the obligatory riffs, solos and soaring vocals.
The opening track ‘Watch
the Fire’ kicks off with a gentle kind of menacing riff that grows with the
guitars kicking in and ramping up the intensity. Erik's vocals come in setting
the tone and then JSS kicks in with his distinctive and powerful voice and the
song then takes off. WOW, just WOW!!
A band that has the
strength of 2 powerful vocalists supported by musicians at their best is
something special. I'm not going to appraise every single song in detail but
take it as read there isn't a weak track.
There is definitely a
massive Eclipse influence on the songs (obviously as Mårtensson produced,
recorded and mixed the album) and when coupled with the Jeff Scott Soto lead
vocals and the Sall keyboards it takes on a character of its own.
‘Kings of the Thunder Road’
is a perfect example, the Soto ability to take a song, raise the stakes and hit
the notes is something magical. He does it time and again. Take a clichéd song
title and then blow it to pieces. Driving guitars with the Soto voice,
supported by the layered backing vocals is a winner. For me it’s a song that
would grace a Rocky film with Soto singing and marching up the road as the
supporting cast fall in behind his massively powerful voice and then the
guitars step up beside to him to blast out a solo and then they all fall in
step to the chorus. Amazing stuff.
Don't get me wrong, whilst ‘Earthrage’ is Eclipse influenced, it is not an
Eclipse album, the combined talents ensure that this is a W.E.T album through
‘Elegantly Wasted’ is a
superb 3 minute piece of angst. The lines "I meet your tantrums with a
smile, won't lose my cool or lose my style" followed by "another
glass of wine and I'll be fine" resonated with my wife. "Has he met
me?" she asked. Obviously not because whilst she’s been wasted it’s never
‘Urgent’ ups the tempo as
does ‘Dangerous’. ‘Calling Out Your Name’ starts slowly but it builds and as we
in Glasgow would say, the chorus is a belter. A word of advice, if you work in
a quiet office then don’t play this in your headphones when pretending to be
working, one of my colleagues thought I was having a stroke.
As you would expect and hope there are the slower songs and for me ‘Heart is on
the Line’ is simply beautiful. Yes, beautiful. Oh take the piss, I don't care,
I'm old, big and ugly enough to take it.
It is a heartfelt ballad
and the softer side of JSS showing off his vocal skills without getting twee or
even worse, X-Factor winner like. The killer guitar solo to back it up and the
backing vocals scream out that this would, God forbid, be a radio friendly hit.
‘The Burning Pain of Love’
isn't as I first feared a song about an STD or a urinary infection. Instead
it's a classic mix of guitar and keyboards with a haunting layered vocal
chorus. It leads into the final track that doesn't exactly slip off the tongue –
‘The Never-Ending Retraceable Dream’. A stunning finish to the album.
Quality from start to finish, top song writing and delivery, catchier than a
dose and surely there must be live shows planned because this is simply too
good to listen to without a few hundred other like-minded fans.
In conclusion, welcome back W.E.T, I've missed you. I listened to Earthrage the
first time in nervous anticipation just in case the hype and expectation would
end up in disappointment. Shame on me for ever doubting.
I doubt I'll hear better this year but the gauntlet has been thrown down. I'll
be right here waiting as Richard Marx sang.
Review by Lawrie Willcox
1. Watch The Fire
3. Kings On Thunder Road
4. Elegantly Wasted
7. Calling Out Your Name
8. Heart Is On The Line
9. I Don’t Wanna Play That
10. The Burning Pain Of
11. The Neverending
PRODUCED BY: ERIK
RECORDED BY: ERIK
MIXED BY: ERIK MÅRTENSSON
MASTERED BY: ERIK
He also makes a mean cup of tea!!!!!
Erik Mårtensson: Guitar,
bass, keyboards, vocals
Jeff Scott Soto: Vocals
Robert Säll: Keyboards
Magnus Henriksson: Guitar
Robban Bäck: Drums
Additional guitar solo on
“Urgent”: Thomas Larsson
I think quite a lot of the Melodic Rock
/AOR community could easily name a band that back in the day 83-91, that could
have been a household name, only to fall by the wayside and then fade into
obscurity. Loads of bands took a wrong turn (like Spinal Tap) that wasn’t their fault, it
just didn’t happen. A few from this period have decided to dip their toe in the
water and make a ripple. Some are riding the crest of a wave, and this is what
I hopefully expect No Hot Ashes to do. There’s a cluster of bands in the UK
that stand head and shoulders above the rest (Angels or Kings, Moritz, Vega,
Dante Fox, Blood Red Saints, Airrace, and FM), and on this standing, I expect
No Hot Ashes to join them.
Formed in 1983, they were influenced by all
the great bands, Journey, Foreigner, Whitesnake, Lizzy and Ozzy. They put out
their first single ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ in 86. Around this period they landed
support slots with Mama’s Boys, Magnum, Girlschool, and Steve Marriott.
They managed to sign a record deal in 1988,
joining Motorhead, Girlschool and Hawkwind on the roster of talent, recording
their first album later that year. The band upped sticks and headed off to
London (with a stick and knotted hankie) to be nearer to their record company.
Like many, what began with a new hope, ended in disaster, as the album was
Fast forward to September 2013 where NHA
formed for a one off tribute gig, which has snowballed from here. Since this,
NHA have supported Aerosmith, Foreigner, UFO, and Scorpions, and have had a UK
four with FM and Romeos Daughter and have graced some major festival stages
along the way.
I’ve banged on about AOR on a few reviews
over the years where bands who want to do a melodic rock album should go and
listen to some of the classics and steal (borrow) the best bits and make it
into their own style. I’m not saying they have blatantly stolen riffs, far from
it, but this album is 100% Melodic rock/AOR and will be jumping to the sharp
end come the ‘Best of’ tables come December.
NHA have combined, great riffs, melody,
twin guitars, excellent vocals, and parpy keyboards adding touches in ALL the
right places. Just listen to opening track ‘Come Alive’ and tell me this isn’t
great. If you hadn’t seen any pics, I would swear that Eamon Nancarrow was mid
twenties and decked out like the fifth member of Steel Panther. His vocals
belie his age, they are fresh, and with a great melody. The song includes a
little keyboard refrain that reminds me of ‘Jane’ and ‘Fools Game’. We are
definitely on the right track here folks! ‘Good To Look Back’ is a bona fide
statement, but NHA are definitely in the now and will be looking forward from
here on in. Nancarrow shows his chops after the solo hitting notes and length
that few can muster. ‘Satisfied’ is a song that will be anthem-like in their
live shows with its great solo and bluesy feel.As a melodic rock band, it wouldn’t be one without a ballad in tow.In this case, it’s ‘Boulders’, and reminds me
of Tough It Out-ere FM. ‘I’m Back’ is one of NHA’s gems that survived the 80s,
and you can see why it is here. Halfway in and its clearly the song of the
album so far. Nancarrow wails like a Banshee, and if that’s replicated in a
gig, I’ll gladly buy the bloke a pint! It is 80s heaven, where keyboards tussle
with guitars for prime real estate, where bands like Journey and Foreigner
live, and so do NHA.
‘Glow’ has a pulsating and crunchy riff and
sees them on the heavier side of AOR before the melodic chorus kicks in,
building to its guitar solo. ‘Over Again’ sets out its stall with its lush harmonies
and guitar work. As we get to the sharp end, NHA has a couple of faster paced
rockers in ‘Johnny Redhead’ the final track, ‘Running Red Lights’. Sandwiched
between these is the brown sauce to your bacon butty, an excellent cover of
Rick Springfield’s ‘Souls’ and fits NHA’s style like Alvin Stardust’s glove!!
What I like about this, is that its been 35
years in the making, and it sounds like that have given blood, sweat and tears
to every song. They have not overplayed it either, and at just 10 tracks, there
is not a filler in sight, when they could have had a tendency to put 15 songs
on it, and make it a bit ‘meh!’
Credit to No Hot Ashes for giving it
another bash. Melodic rock is crying out for quality bands and albums, and you
can look no further than this.
For any fan of melodic rock, there are two
books that recount this period, and they will have you reminiscing, laughing
out loud, and possibly crying. One is Tony Bell’s ‘Life In The Bus Lane’; the
other is by NHA’s Eamon Nancarrow ‘Hollywood Star’. In fact if I were Frontiers
I would send a copy of this out with every album.
Tragically NHA lost their bassist Paul Boyd
to cancer in January 2017. Paul plays bass on all the tracks and this is a
fitting epitaph, and No Hot Ashes are respectfully dedicating to Paul’s memory.
I could not be there for the full day, so
managed to cram in 4 bands. First up were The Idol Dead. These are another band
that I’d never come across before, but full marks to the organisers for getting
them on the bill. Again there were as far away to AOR, than Bulletboys are to
enjoyment. They reminded of Teenage Casket Company from 2016 that came on and
blew the place up. The Idol Dead were no different. To say they had the
audience in the palm of their hands was a massive understatement. No solos as
such, but they had some of the best songs and riffs this side of the Pennines, all
played out with an attitude and swagger bigger than Snowdon. They are on tour
in May, I strongly advise you to get your arses over to see them. The
highlights of their set were ‘Blackout Girl’ which reminds me of early Coheed
& Cambria, and the wonderfully titled C.H.I.M.S.A. (Christopher Hitchens Is
My Spiritual Animal). If they had dropped the mic at the end, it would have
rounded off a near perfect performance.
Blood Red Saints were on first on the main
stage. My worries that they might not be playing to a decent crowd were
thankfully the opposite. The room was pretty much filled out and BRS deserve to
play in front of numbers like this. They had 45 minutes to make statement, call
it 35 if you can shut Pete Godfrey up. That’s a big part of the show. ‘Another
Freak’ from their latest album was a stormer, a lot of bands try to write
anthems, and very few can do it better than BRS, especially on ‘Mercy’ with the
harmonies from Chemney, Naylor and Revill making it a killer. The band were
trying to move on quickly and pack the songs in, but stopping Pete Godfreyfrom joking, as like tryingto stop Mr Creosote from having a ‘weffer
Pete royally took the piss out of Rob Naylor’s
voice (who, when asked to say something, stated he had a sore throat), with
Pete commenting ‘you sound gay, where did you lose your voice? In the men’s
The large venue suits these bands to a tee,
as this is probably the best I have seen BRS perform. Amongst the golden
nuggets was a brief rendition of Take That’s ‘Back For Good’. Follow this up
with ‘Live and Die’ and ‘Kicking Up Dust’ and the set was glorious. God help
who had to follow this
So, from the Blood Red Saints to one of
France’s patron saints, the all female Joan ov Ark. I would stake (see what I
did there) a good amount of money that a lot of the punters were like me, and
were a new experience. Despite having to follow Ted Bovis and the BRS, Joan ov
Arc were out to prove a point, that it’s not just the blokes who can kick ass. The
crowd had faded by the time they entered the stage. From what little I’d seen of
them on YouTube, it was nothing when compared to their live performance. The
vocals courtesy of Sam Walker were both powerful and ear-bleedingly high. Her
sister Shelley (lead guitar), looked as if she wanted to prove a point. There
was a bit of overplaying, but I can easily forgive that especially when they
want to showcase their talents in a setting like this. Four songs in and the
crowd had returned, and they were very well received. They proved that they could
mix it up, with the more soulful vocals of bassist Laura Ozholl taking lead on
a couple of songs. An anthem for the girls was proclaimed, and it kame with a
killer riff, and clearly one of the best songs of the set. They chose to finish
their set with an all-time classic, Freebird. It takes some balls to play a
track like this, so it was a good job than none were present, and they knocked
it out of the park, with Shelly Walker showing how good a guitarist she is.
My final band of the festival was up next,
and what a band, and performance it was from Wales’ own Nev MacDonald of Hand
of Dimes. I felt a bit like Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire, as he had me at
‘Hello’. Very few singers have this talent; and Nev is one talented bloke. He
sings effortlessly, and for me, it was THE vocal performance of the weekend.
Joining him from eons back was Andy Robbins (ex-Skin and Jagged Edge). The area
was as full as it was for a headliner and it was only 4pm. The set was only
seven songs, but fook me, what a seven songs it proved to be! I was lucky to
catch him a few years back at Steelhouse in 2013, so it was great to them
higher up the bill. ‘Looking at You’ is a classic, and had the whole crowd in
raptures. To be honest, Nev could have sung ‘Shaddup Ya Face’ and I’d like it
at this point. Hand of Dimes was on fire (damn I should have used that for Joan
ov Arc), and in ‘Jacobs Ladder’, a soulful blues number that borders on
perfect. It is without doubt their finest work. It was their final track that
almost took the roof off the place, Skin’s ‘House Of Love’. It was commented
that Nev MacDonald should be a household name. Well, he is in the Buckley
Hand of Dimes came a close second to Night
Ranger, and join Blood Red Saints, The Idol Dead, and Aaron Buchanan and The
Cult Classics as the stand out acts of AOR VI.
I’m hopeful that the guys at HRH will come
up trumps next year and deliver the goods as an AOR festival. To many bands
were either not AOR or were on the wrong stage (especially Midnite City and
Degreed). On the way home, we talked about this in detail, and Styx would be
the choice. One of the few bands that can still cut it and matches the high
standard of Night Ranger.
The festival goes from strength to
strength, they have a brand that doesn’t necessarily cater to the AOR crowd, in
a good way.