Posts Tagged ‘ Bluesrock ’

Album of the Week 31-2017: The Joe Perry Project – Let The Music Do The Talking


Guitarist Joe Perry is often seen as the one who guards Aerosmith’s musical integrity next to Steven Tyler’s showmanship. Anyone with some in-depth knowledge about Aerosmith knows that grossly oversimplifies the band’s complicated dynamic, but it is a fact that during the Perry’s time away from the band, Perry released two excellent albums with The Joe Perry Project while Aerosmith released one mediocre record. And while sophomore album ‘I’ve Got The Rock ‘n’ Rolls Again’ of Perry’s project may have higher peaks, ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’ is one of the most consistently engaging bluesrock records of the early eighties.

First off, the title of the album is not without meaning, of course. It could be interpreted as a provocation towards Aerosmith, but it could also just represent the fact that Perry burned all the bridges behind him and decided to just focus on what he likes doing best in the first place: making music. Regardless, Perry sounds like a man unburdened on ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’. There is a spontaneity to this debut that some of the late seventies Aerosmith albums lacked, no matter how good they were. The songs sound raw and energetic, but not underdeveloped.

Another reason why ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’ sounds so fresh and spirited is the fact that Perry put together an excellent band. Nowhere is this more obvious than during the short, high octane instrumental ‘Break Song’. Drummer Ronnie Stewart and bassist David Hull are perfectly in sync with each other and Perry, ending up sounding positively on fire. The upbeat, uptempo closer ‘Life At A Glance’, the massive and somewhat dark ‘Shooting Star’, the swinging boogie of ‘Discount Dogs’ and especially the powerful, catchy title track that opens the record profit from the tight, spirited interplay of The Joe Perry Project.

In addition, adding a lead singer to his project was a great idea from Perry. His own voice is cool and a perfect fit for the dark, bluesy ‘The Mist Is Rising’ and the sarcastic tone of the strong rocker ‘Conflict Of Interest’, but his range is not particularly wide. The higher, more powerful registers of Ralph Morman are the perfect fit for songs that demand some more vocal prowess. His clean voice has a slight raw edge, which really lifts songs like ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’ and the otherwise somewhat mundane ‘Ready On The Firing Line’ to higher level. His duets with Perry work remarkably well too and should maybe have been featured more prominently here.

Without the big budget and the business acumen of Aerosmith’s management, ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’ never quite took off the way it should have, but the album is still available and very much worth checking out. Somehow, the record still sounds fresh today and I suspect that Perry’s drive is largely to blame for that. It may be a cliché, but the debut album of his Project – capital P – does actually let the music do the talking. There may be some bitterness in a few of the lyrics, but it does not dominate the record. The strong bluesrock songs and excellent performances do.

Recommended tracks: ‘Let The Music Do The Talking’, ‘Life At A Glance’, ‘Break Song’

Album of the Week 50-2016: Chris Rea – The Return Of The Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes


More than three decades after his biggest successes, Chris Rea only does whatever he wants. Freed from the shackles of label pressure and being given a second chance after pancreatic cancer nearly took his life, Rea went back to the blues that has inspired him since he started playing guitar in his early twenties. Often employing a theme as the framework for his later records, ‘The Return Of The Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes’ is a tribute to the importance of the relatively cheap Hofner guitars for the development of British sixties music. The music, however, is pure, unadulterated Chris Rea blues.

Rea was always too much of a songwriter – and a really good one at that – to be taken seriously by fans of the delta blues that influenced him strongly, but that’s also what makes his music so interesting. Sure, in the eighties, producers often smoothed his sound to the point that there was more pop than blues, but his slide guitar playing is full of bluesy soul. And then there’s the voice. His sandpaper vocal cords are instantly recognizable and therefore, it’s difficult to categorize ‘The Return Of The Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes’ as anything else than a Chris Rea record.

However flawed it is as a period piece – save for the Shadows-like instrumentals of the fictional group The Delmonts – the songs are amazing. That’s also where Rea’s songwriting comes in: these aren’t just vehicles for live jamming, a considerable amount of effort has gone into the structure, atmosphere and attention span of these songs. Especially when Rea and his rhythm section of Colin Hodgkinson (bass) and Martin Ditcham (drums) adopt a somewhat more laidback approach, like they do in ‘I Will Be With You’ and ‘The Shadow Of A Fool’, something magic happens. It’s almost as if Rea whispers incantations.

‘Blues For Janice’ is the album’s highlight. In essence, the song isn’t that much different than some of Rea’s eighties hit songs, but the rawer approach gives the song an air of sincerity that you don’t often hear anymore. It’s great how the rawness of Rea’s guitar enhances the dreamy atmosphere of the song rather than clashing with it. Other songs, like ‘Legacy Blues’ and ‘Don’t Give Your Ace Away’ have a rhythmic drive that is a trademark of Rea’s later work. It’s remarkable how much variation there is on the record; there are elements of blues, rock, jazz, pop and soul throughout the record, but the unique sound never really becomes one of each.

Whether you get the trimmed down version on one cd or the huge audio book version where The Delmonts can be heard on one cd and the Hofner Bluenotes on the other – in case it wasn’t clear, it’s all Rea, Hodgkinson and Ditcham – there’s enough variation and good songwriting going on to keep any listener interested all throughout its length. Like any of Chris Rea’s latter day albums, ‘The Return Of The Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes’ is full of great, blues-inspired music that doesn’t care if it’s marketable or if it fits any category. That’s how the best records get made.

Recommended tracks: ‘Blues For Janice’, ‘The Shadow Of A Fool’, ‘Legacy Blues’

Album of the Week 43-2016: Bad Company – Bad Company


Back in the seventies, supergroups sometimes actually were bigger than the sum of their parts. Led Zeppelin could be considered one, but the first band to release an album on their Swan Song label is an even better example. Bad Company combined the talents of Free’s Paul Rodgers (vocals, piano) and Simon Kirke (drums), Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and bassist Boz Burrell, who played on one King Crimson album. Their debut is one of the best albums ever released; practically every track is essential seventies rock with all the riffs and melodies you could wish for. And the album art is iconic.

Maybe this is sacrilege, but as much as I like Free, I have always preferred Bad Company. It’s a matter of performance versus composition. Free had loosely written structures that could be adjusted to the immense improvisational talents of – primarily – their late guitarist Paul Kossoff. Bad Company has tight, concise songs with highly memorable choruses and nice tension and release workings. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any impressive performances; Rodgers is one of the world’s greatest singers and always delivers, while Burrell is one of the very few bass virtuosos whose busy playing works on a bluesy rock record.

Sure, the market was flooded with bluesy hardrock by the time ‘Bad Company’ was released in 1974, but in the midst of excessive, drug-fueled jamming, the quartet brought the genre back to its bare essentials. Armed with a handful of good riffs and a bunch of melodies that will forever stick to the back of your mind, the band recorded a record of which almost every song is still a staple on classic rock stations worldwide. And it makes sense: songs like ‘Can’t Get Enough’ and ‘Movin’ On’ just feel right and have you singing – or at least moving – along during the first spin.

Even more interesting are the moments when the band takes things in a somewhat darker direction. The namesake track is beyond brilliant. From a brooding piano intro, the verses only have the guitar adding atmospheric touches before exploding in the chorus. Rodgers’ vocal is among his most moving performances yet. The same can be said about the subdued, bluesy masterpiece ‘Ready For Love’, which Ralphs took with him from his Mott The Hoople days. ‘Rock Steady’ is fairly straightforward, but has a brilliant, dangerous sounding chorus. And while the album sounds fairly American, the beautiful closer ‘Seagull’ brings the folk of Bad Company’s British home soil to the forefront.

While the original lineup of Bad Company would go on to release more fantastic albums – and even their less impressive records feature a number of mindblowing songs – their debut album is one of those moments where all the stars align and everything sounds just right. Of course it helps to have so much talent in one band, but that alone will not result in a timeless classic that still sounds as fresh today as it must have sounded the day it was release. I’m just assuming there, because I wasn’t born until twelve years after its release. Songwriting as it’s done on ‘Bad Company’ transcends trends and technological development. That’s why it’s still amazing.

Recommended tracks: ‘Bad Company’, ‘Ready For Love’, ‘Seagull’

Album of the Week 37-2016: Led Zeppelin – Presence


Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is generally considered their best work, along their two-disc magnum opus ‘Physical Graffiti’ and possibly the rawness of their debut. Opinions on their seventh studio album ‘Presence’ are a little more divided, but I personally consider it the last of their perfect albums. It’s a relatively heavy affair, which may have been disappointing to those who enjoyed the sprawling nature of ‘Houses Of The Holy’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’, but if you view the album for what it is – an excellent bluesy Hardrock record – it’s thoroughly enjoyable. And a lot more influential than you might think.

‘Presence’ came together in a time of turmoil for Led Zeppelin. The band was more popular than ever – they even outsold the Stones – but the touring machine had stopped because of the injuries Robert Plant sustained from a serious car crash in Greece. He allegedly recorded the entire album from a wheelchair. Maybe the touring hiatus saved the rest of the band some energy, because this is easily their most “live” sounding record. The songs are relatively simple in terms of arrangement, but that’s also where quite a lot of the album’s propulsive spirit stems from; Jimmy Page’s riffs and John Bonhams drums are all over the place.

As a Heavy Metal fan, there’s no way I couldn’t enjoy opener ‘Achilles Last Stand’ (sic). It’s simply impossible. Its galloping rhythm predates Iron Maiden’s debut album by a few years, but it’s consistently strong and works wonders in terms of dynamics. The other book end is another long song and it’s one of Led Zeppelin’s most underrated masterpieces: ‘Tea For One’ starts out with an uptempo Rock feel, but quickly transforms into a slow, brooding, minimalistic blues with excellent riff work and a mindblowing vocal performance even by Plant standards. It’s like a darker, riffier brother to ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ and should have been valued as least as much as that one.

The shorter songs are every bit as impressive. The band’s take on the traditional gospel song ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ is really their own thing and one of the few songs they took to the stage from this record. ‘For Your Life’ has an irresistible start-stop feel, which almost makes it feel heavier than it actually is. ‘Candy Store Rock’ is one of those forgotten classics of which I really like the restrained, yet powerful rhythm and the fifties R&B licks courtesy of Page. ‘Royal Orleans’ is another one of those unconventional, yet recognizable songs. I think they were shooting for something Funky here. They didn’t quite succeed, but the results are great nonetheless.

While it’s hard, if not impossible, to overstate Led Zeppelin’s brilliance and lasting influence, I feel that music fans generally attach themselves to a limited number of their albums, while really, each and every one of their first seven records is just about perfect. ‘Presence’ is definitely the first one I’d suggest someone who leans towards Hardrock. Sure, some of the songs need some time to sink in, but it’s always been that way with Led Zeppelin. In hindsight, maybe the forced touring hiatus was a blessing in disguise. Whatever the reason, ‘Presence’ should be heard by anyone who loves good Rock music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Achilles Last Stand’, ‘Tea For One’, ‘Candy Store Rock’

Album of the Week 14-2016: Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent


Sure, we could spend all day discussing how obnoxious Ted Nugent can be as a person, though I suspect him of making it seem much worse than it actually is, but let’s not forget that his debut album is easily the best Hard Rock album from 1976 – a year that also spawned Aerosmith’s ‘Rocks’ and the amazing debut album of Mother’s Finest, no less! Nugent himself has been quoted saying that it’s the only album you’ll ever need if you want to know what Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about, but for once, he might actually hit the nail on the head.

Nugent’s debut album certainly profits from the fact that it’s not yet “Ted Nugent the solo artist”, but rather “Ted Nugent the band”. Derek St. Holmes’ blue-eyed Soul voice definitely makes the songs better than they would have been without him and Nugent has yet to find a better singer to work with, but let’s not forget the work of the rhythm section. Nugent’s former Amboy Dukes bandmate Rob Grange may not stand out immediately, but leaves an indelible mark on the album with his at times unconventional bass lines. Nugent himself is in super overdrive, but his solos are remarkably memorable as well. After a few spins, you’ll remember every note.

Luckily, Derek St. Holmes sings almost all the songs on this album. Don’t get me wrong, Nugent’s vocal insanity is especially what ‘Motor City Madhouse’ asks for – hence the title – but it’s St. Holmes who adds a distinctive melodic edge to the high octane Blues Rock riffs. His own composition ‘Hey Baby’ has a very strong fifties R&B vibe, but his high range is indispensable for material like ‘Queen Of The Forest’ or the downright amazing and nostalgic ‘Just What The Doctor Ordered’. A yin to Nugent’s yang, if you will.

Despite the album being consistently great, two tracks stand out for me. First of all, ‘Snakeskin Cowboys’ has a surprisingly large number of hooks for a four and a half minute song, seems to be tailor-made for St. Holmes’ voice and has a downright irresistible groove. The latter also is true for the epic monster that is opening track ‘Stranglehold’. Dark and menacing, with powerful performances by both Nugent and St. Holmes it’s a masterpiece. I have even heard someone call that riff the number one Rock guitar riff of all time. Okay, it was Nugent himself, but again: he may be right.

All subsequent albums – with the possible exception of ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ – were plagued by consistency issues. Then again, how many musicians release an album as intensely and consistently awesome as Nugent’s untitled debut album? Every riff is classic Bluesy Hard Rock, every song is memorable and the production is just about as perfect as it gets for the mid-nineties, both capturing and cultivating the band’s ferocious prowess. Like “Uncle Ted” himself, the album is loud, brash and immodest, but it’s also a work that many Rock musicians should pay very close attention to. Easily the finest hour of everyone involved.

Recommended tracks: ‘Stranglehold’, ‘Snakeskin Cowboys’, ‘Just What The Doctor Ordered’

Best of 2015: The Albums

Halfway through 2015, I suddenly realized the new profit model of record labels is more in effect than ever. Not unlike last year, most of the releases I was looking forward to were either live records or re-releases, while less and less effort is put into giving promising young artists a chance. Of course, there’s still labels that offer opportunities for artists that are potentially less attractive commercially, but that’s more common in genres where independent labels get a little room to manoeuver; progressive Rock and Hip Hop come to mind.

That doesn’t mean there was nothing to enjoy this year, it just means that I’ve had less of a hard time compiling this list than two years ago, when I struggled on the last few titles quite some time. In fact, most of the titles I predicted would be “end of year list material” ended up here, while quite a lot of surprises popped up in previous years. The inclusions are based on their European physical release dates, so that closes the discussion on two of these, including the number one. These albums are definitely obligated listens for fans of the genre. I may request some open-mindedness for a few, but more on that later…

Trivial, but interesting enough to mention: with this album of the year, Asia and Australia are the only continents left to provide an album of the year, though Asia has had a DVD of the year.

1. Angra – Secret Garden

No one knew what to expect from Angra’s first record with Fabio Lione on vocals. I sure as hell didn’t expect anything this good. ‘Secret Garden’ is almost as good as ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Aurora Consurgens’ and the slightly more progressive sound has a pleasantly dark vibe. Also, the surprisingly large number of appearances by guitarist Rafael Bittencourt as a singer – an amazing one to boot! – makes the transition to a different frontman somewhat more fluent. New drummer Bruno Valverde is good enough to forget about his predecessors and I love his big, more natural drum sound. Every fan of both Power- and progressive Metal should own ‘Secret Garden’, it’s very well worth your time.

Recommended tracks: ‘Storm Of Emotions’, ‘Perfect Symmetry’, ‘Newborn Me’

2. Thunder – Wonder Days

Talk about an amazing comeback… Shortly after Thunder called it quits with ‘Bang!’, they were already gigging again. That wasn’t the first time in their career, so a new album was only a matter of time. But that it’s their best since ‘Behind Closed Doors’ was a very pleasant surprise. All the Thunder elements are firmly in place here: Bluesy Hardrock riffs, beefy drums, big and catchy choruses, strong melodies and Danny Bowes’ vocals are still as clean and powerful as they were on ‘Backstreet Symphony’. Luke Morley is one of the best songwriters in Rock history and ‘Wonder Days’ is another chapter in his Great British Songbook. Also, ‘The Thing I Want’ is probably my favorite song of the year.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Thing I Want’, ‘When The Music Played’, ‘Serpentine’

3. Jupiter – The History Of Genesis

Although Jupiter’s second record isn’t as consistent as its brilliant debut ‘Classical Element’, which totally reawakened my love for symphonic Power Metal, it is once again a thoroughly enjoyable record. It does show the band branching out a little more by incorporating more aggressive elements – ‘Darkness’ is technically Melodeath – and Zin streches his voice a little more, but the J-Rock aspect is a little stronger on a few songs as well. Hizaki and Teru deliver some delicious guitar work both in the riff and the solo department. Versailles, the former band of every band member except Zin, recently booked a reunion gig and I hope that will be a one-off thing, because Jupiter is a better band. Much better.

Recommended tracks: ‘Zetsubou Labyrinth’, ‘Red Carnation’, ‘Last Moment’

4. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Today’s progressive Rock hero is without any doubt the Brit Steven Wilson and there’s a good reason for that: he’s one of the few contemporary progressive musicians who writes great songs. Having said that, I wasn’t too fond of his solo work, until recently, when he started combining his obvious early Genesis influences with a pop sensibility that Genesis themselves didn’t discover until they weren’t all that Prog anymore. Also, Wilson has gathered a fantastic bunch of musicians around him, with guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann especially shining here. ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ is a brilliant progressive Rock record that “regular” Rock fans with more patience than average should at least give a chance.

Recommended tracks: ‘Regret #9’, ‘Ancestral’, ‘3 Years Older’

5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Hip Hop seems to be the only genre in popular music that shows any progress these last years. Even with that in mind, Kendrick Lamar is a revelation. Conceptually, Lamar is miles ahead of anyone in any genre, including people much older than his 28 years. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ takes all the rebellion of old school Hip Hop and elevates it to an art form with a background of Jazz and Funk with extensive spoken word sections. The results offer a great deal of variation and although I prefer Lamar at his most angry and militant, his clever observations and productional choices are worthwhile throughout the record. This is a logical progression from what Prince and D’Angelo do, just with a smarter, broader world view than either of them.

Recommended: ‘King Kunta’, ‘The Blacker The Berry’, ‘u’

6. Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman

Sometimes losing a legendary frontman is a blessing. Case in point: Queensrÿche. Geoff Tate was recently replaced by Todd LaTorre, who captures the classic Tate vibe better than the man himself does these days. Musically as well, ‘Condition Hüman’ is the best Queensrÿche record since the criminally underrated ‘Promised Land’. Michael Wilton injects a lot of traditional Heavy Metal into the band’s sound again and the combination of that and contemporary progressive Rock makes the album sound like the most old school record the band has made since the legendary ‘Operation: Mindcrime’. It’s not quite as good, but it’s much, much closer than you’d expect it to be at this point in their career.

Recommended tracks: ‘All There Was’, ‘Toxic Remedy’, ‘Hourglass’

7. Stryper – Fallen

Two years ago, I praised ‘No More Hell To Pay’ for toning Stryper’s christian message down a little. ‘Fallen’ is less subtle in that matter, but it is the better album of the two. In fact, I might like this even more than the band’s classic material from the eighties, because there’s just a little more variation at play here and the ballad isn’t quite as syrupy as…let’s say ‘Honestly’. There’s simply not much to not like on this album: the guitars are everywhere, Michael Sweet’s voice is still one of the best in the business and it’s got the best production job on a Stryper album yet. There’s nothing as good as the perfect melodic Rocker ‘Sympathy’ here, but that doesn’t make this record any less of a triumph in Rock and Metal songwriting.

Recommended tracks: ‘Pride’, ‘Till I Get What I Need’, ‘Yahweh’

8. Gary Clark Jr. – The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim

Often portrayed as a Blues musician, Gary Clark Jr. rather combines all his influences into a rich, contemporary blend of Blues, Rock and especially large amounts of R&B. Where I considered predecessor ‘Blak And Blu’ a messy, incoherent affair with – admittedly – some great guitar work, ‘The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim’ is a more consistent effort. In fact, it’s an excellent R&B record with Clark playing most of the instruments, including a lot of fiery, passionate lead guitar work. While I must admit that I prefer his chest voice to his frequently appearing head voice, I grew rapidly and unexpectedly fond of this album and I think it should be heard by anyone who appreciates the likes of Lenny Kravitz,  D’Angelo and Prince.

Recommended tracks: ‘Grinder’, ‘The Healing’, ‘Stay’

9. Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

Let’s focus on the negative first: ‘The Book Of Souls’ should have been two songs shorter, so that it could fit on one disc. Having said that, this is a surprisingly fresh and energetic latter day Iron Maiden record. ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ is the band’s best opening track since ‘Moonchild’, Bruce Dickinson’s voice is better than it should be in his late fifties and ironically, the 18-minute ‘Empire Of The Clouds’ sounds nowhere near as overlong and bloated as some of the other recent “epics”. The presence of Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith is felt stronger than before and that is part of what makes ‘The Book Of Souls’ a pleasant surprise. If this turns out to be the band’s last record, it would end their career on a relatively high note.

Recommended tracks: ‘If Eternity Should Fail’, ‘Tears Of A Clown’, ‘Empire Of The Clouds’

10. The Gentle Storm – The Diary

Prog wizard Arjen Lucassen and Holland’s finest singer Anneke van Giersbergen had worked together before, but this full collaboration still caught me by surprise. It’s a very Dutch project too, given the maritime theme of the lyrics. The album offers the same songs twice: one disc of folky, largely acoustic versions (‘Gentle’) and one disc of full blown symphonic Progmetal interpretations of the songs (‘Storm’). I have to admit that I generally play the ‘Storm’ disc, not in the last place due to the supreme orchestration. Van Giersbergen is amazing – as per usual – and though there are plenty of Lucassen-isms in the compositions, it does sound different enough from his other projects to warrant a different name.

Recommended tracks: ‘Shores Of India’, ‘The Storm’, ‘Heart Of Amsterdam’

11. Walter Trout – Battle Scars

If the cliché that suffering brings forth great Blues music is true, ‘Battle Scars’ is the epitome of that statement. Two years ago, Walter Trout was nearly dead, only barely saved by a liver transplant and now, he has channeled all of this misery into his best album yet. It’s not just that his suffering has brought forth great, passionate Blues, it’s that his songwriting is better than it ever was. So is his voice, by the way. ‘Battle Scars’ is a musical diary of a man who has looked death in the eye on a daily basis, but delivered so joyously, that it hardly ever gets too dark. Also, there’s a nice variation of electric Blues, Rock, ballads and an excellent Country Blues finale. This album belongs in any Blues and Bluesrock collection.

Recommended tracks: ‘Omaha’, ‘Haunted By The Night’, ‘Playin’ Hideaway’

12. Leprous – The Congregation

Norway’s Leprous was already one of the more interesting progressive Metal bands these days with 2011’s manic ‘Bilateral’ album, but the more spacious sound on ‘The Congregation’ really puts them into a league of their own. I really can’t think of any other band that quite sounds like their unique and bizarre mixture of twisted, jazzy chords, Electro-influenced synths and Einar Solberg’s hyper-theatrical vocals. ‘The Congregation’ definitely transcends the Metal tag, making way for something that is at times more unsettling than what the average Norwegian Black Metal band does, but it’s truly beautiful. Also, I somehow really, really like Jens Bogren’s production job for this record.

Recommended tracks: ‘Slave’, ‘The Flood’, ‘Triumphant’

13. Killing Joke – Pylon

Initially, I approached ‘Pylon’ with caution, because its predecessor ‘MMXII’ was a bit of a letdown. I shouldn’t have: ‘Pylon’ is a fantastic album that offers everything one could be looking for in a Killing Joke record. The major improvement in Geordie Walker’s guitar sound is part of the great first impression, but the song material is really strong as well. Once again, the song that is something of a departure is my favorite (‘European Super State’ on ‘Absolute Dissent’, ‘Euphoria’ this time around), but almost all the songs show Killing Joke what they do best: gradually building upon a simple riff and slowly turning up the rhythmic intensity. ‘Pylon’ is a bleak effort, but that’s exactly how Killing Joke should sound.

Recommended tracks: ‘Euphoria’, ‘New Jerusalem’, ‘Into The Unknown’, ‘War On Freedom’

14. Kenn Nardi – Dancing With The Past

Essentially Anacrusis’ fifth studio, because Kenn Nardi was definitely planning to use this material for the band. It sounds a lot like the band’s progressive Metal sound with Thrash Metal and New Wave flourishes, although Nardi’s typical voice has some influence on that as well. He’s not technically a great singer in the sense that he doesn’t have a wide range, but he is able to wring so much emotion out of it, that it’s an absorbing listen. And with 28 good songs, Nardi could have easily spread this out over two, maybe even three albums, but somehow the sequencing and flow makes a lot of sense here. Obligated for anyone who likes Anacrusis, but also for anyone who agrees with me that Thrash Metal is getting a little rusty lately.

Recommended tracks: ‘Submerged’, ‘Creve Coeur’, ‘The Scarlet Letter’

15. Galneryus – Under The Force Of Courage

Allegedly, ‘Under The Force Of Courage’ is Galneryus’ first concept album. It does explain the large doses of theatricality, but I’m not complaining about that at all. It does take Galneryus back to the sound of ‘Angel Of Salvation’, though it falls short of that amazing record. Ironically, the tracks that sound least like that album – the darker sounding ‘Rain Of Tears’ and especially ‘Reward For Betrayal’ – are among the better moments of the album. As for the rest, it’s anything a Galneryus fan can wish for: high tempos, blazing solos by both Syu (guitars) and Yuhki (keyboards), passionate vocals by Masatoshi Ono and highly catchy choruses. Better than most European Power Metal, slightly above average for Galneryus.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Force Of Courage’, ‘Reward For Betrayal’, ‘Soul Of The Field’

16. Enslaved – In Times

Seriously, I would have loved this band so much if it wasn’t for Grutle Kjellson’s guttural rasp. Enslaved have taken their Black Metal roots and mixed them up with an increasing amount of progressive Rock influences since the beginning of this century, which luckily also means that the absolutely beautiful clean voice of keyboard player Herbrand Larsen gets a bigger role with each album. ‘In Times’ contains six songs with a combined running time of 53 minutes and shows the band at their most free and adventurous. This leads to occasional pleasantly surprising musical choices and interestingly constructed songs. Hell, in ‘Building With Fire’, even Kjellson’s growl sounds good. Also, I just realized that both Norwegian bands in this list don’t sound like anyone else.

Recommended tracks: ‘Building With Fire’, ‘In Times’, ‘One Thousand Years Of Rain’

17. Dew-Scented – Intermination

Ever since Dew-Scented became more Dutch than German, things have been looking better for them. In fact, the band now has three amazing songwriters who all contribute something different to the band: guitarist Marvin Vriesde contributes the more in-your-face material, his fellow axeman Rory Hansen brings some modern Death Metal influences to the table and bassist Joost van der Graaf’s takes care of an amazingly dark atmosphere. It all still sounds like Dew-Scented though and Jensen’s trademark Thrash bark isn’t the only factor in that. ‘Intermination’ just shows the band stretching the boundaries of what is possible within the Dew-Scented framework. And the result is a more than admirable job.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ode To Extinction’, ‘Means To An End’, ‘On A Collision Course’

18. Mother’s Finest – Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts

More than a decade after ‘Meta-Funk’n Physical’, there’s finally a new Mother’s Finest album. And it rocks quite hard! Some of the modern production techniques equipped on its predecessor have remained, but ‘Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts’ is heavier and more energetic than you’d expect from a band made up largely of members in their late sixties. It’s always been all about the guitars and the grooves for Mother’s Finest and it’s no different here. In a couple of Funky Hard Rock tracks, the band proves why they’re still relevant and I’m surprised how much power Joyce Kennedy still has in her voice. And they still blow everyone off the stage. Another album like their inimitable debut is off the table, but this is as close as it gets.

Recommended tracks: ‘All Of My Life’, ‘Another Day’, ‘She Ready’

19. Mojo Man – Mojo Man

Sometimes I get something new on my desk for the review section in Gitarist and it completely blows me away. That’s what Mojo Man’s self titled debut did. First of all: how is it possible to resist a band that has “Balls & Horns” as its motto? That means they’re playing nice beefy Bluesrock riffs with the proper brass backing to give it a soulful edge. And if that wasn’t all, the catchy songs are very well written and Theo van Niel Jr. lays down some fantastic lead guitar work. Imagine The Rolling Stones around ‘Exile On Main Street’, Aerosmith in the late seventies and early The Black Crowes and you’ll get close to the sound on the album, although Mojo Man has a slightly more traditional Blues approach. If that’s your thing, you shouldn’t miss out on this.

Recommended tracks: ‘It’s A Crime’, ‘Searching Man’, ‘The Ship Is Sinking’

20. Faith No More – Sol Invictus

As far as reunions go, ‘Sol Invictus’ is just fine. Faith No More once again are their quirky, obstinate selves. Which means that this album contains traces of Pop, Rock, Metal, Funk, Western, faux-Jazz and even Hip Hop. The songs are generally really good, much better even than on their 1997 effort ‘Album Of The Year’, which was recorded with the same lineup. The songs just don’t flow quite as well as they should have, especially during the first half of the album. It’s a risk of Faith No More’s genre-hopping approach. By themselves, most of the songs are awesome though. And while voice artist Mike Patton doesn’t quite reach as high as in the past, his lows are ominous and sometimes downright scary.

Recommended tracks: ‘Separation Anxiety’, ‘Rise Of The Fall’, ‘Superhero’

Album of the Week 23-2015: The Allman Brothers Band – Shades Of Two Worlds


In the history of The Allman Brothers Band, there’s two eras that I truly love. First, there was the raw Blues era when Duane Allman – to this day one of the most incredible talents ever to touch a guitar – was still alive and then, there’s the period that Warren Haynes dialed the Rock factor back up for the band. No disrespect to the legacy of guitarist Dickey Betts and singer/organist Gregg Allman, but the latter was when the band got its songwriting focus back and the extended jams regained their fire. ‘Shades Of Two Worlds’ shows the band’s fearless multi-genre approach as well as their most passionate studio playing since ‘Idlewild South’.

Part of the album’s live energy is due to the fact that the seven-piece band likes to record everything as live as possible. It shows, because the interaction between Haynes and Betts, as well as the shared swing of drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe and percussionist Marc Quiñones is at its absolute best. The glossy early nineties production has a bit too much sheen for the raw sound of the band, but that hardly is a disturbing factor here, because the songwriting is absolutely stunning.

While I would blame Betts’ greater involvement after Allman’s tragic early demise for the “countrying down” of the band’s music – remember ‘Ramblin’ Man’? – he does show what a truly great Bluesrock writer he is here. The absolute highlight here, ‘Nobody Knows’, is from his hand completely and contains the greatest riffs of the album as well as an utterly amazing vocal melody and long, spirited jams with fantastic climaxes. His compositions with Haynes are highlights as well: ‘Kind Of Bird’ finally brings back the Jazz influence of ‘At Fillmore East’, ‘Bad Rain’ has an unbelievable swing and ‘Midnight Man’ has this irresistible swampy feel and ditto riffwork.

Gregg Allman, however, did contribute two great songs to this record. Most typical for him is the slow, passionate Blues of ‘Get On With Your Life’. No white man can sing the Blues like Allman does, look no further than here for proof. Opening track ‘End Of The Line’, which he co-wrote, is another masterpiece. A journeyman lyric typical of the Southern Rock tradition – although I would categorize the Allman Brothers Band as Bluesrock rather than Southern Rock – supported by muscular Rock riffs, brilliant vocal work by Allman and passionate solo trade-offs by Haynes and Betts and as such, a true winner.

During the aforementioned eras, The Allman Brothers Band never really released an album that was any less than very good, but ‘Shades Of Two Worlds’ is one of those moments when all the stars are aligned just right. The septet gained their reputation as a live band and it is the stage where their music comes most alive, but as far as collections of songs go, none of them is better than this unusually inspired album. Where many jam bands forget to write an actual song and many normal Rock bands just aren’t good enough to keep a jam entertaining, this album really brings the best of the two worlds it may refer to in its title.

Recommended tracks: ‘Nobody Knows’, ‘End Of The Line’, ‘Kind Of Bird’, ‘Midnight Man’