Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Somewhere back in time, an Iron Maiden album would be purchased, listened to and the cover/lyrics digested, day after day after day, until the next album.

And I kept doing it like this up to their Bruce II era albums “Brave New World” released in 2000 and its follow up “Dance Of Death” released in 2003, along with the “Rock In Rio” and “Death On The Road” live releases.

And then things started to change. “A Matter Of Life and Death” released in 2006 and “The Final Frontier” released in 2010 are like unknown albums even though I own em and have heard them more than a few times.

“The Book Of Souls” album released in 2015 is one that I listened to a lot more and I also watched em playing half the album on tour, so it’s more familiar.

Now in 2021, we have “Senjutsu”.

A lot of the reviews I have read mention how there are no Dave Murray contributions to this album, in the same way reviews mentioned how Kirk Hammett didn’t have a co-write on “Death Magnetic”. But James Hetfield summed it up when he said, “Hammett’s riffs just weren’t there at that point in time”. And if Murray was struggling to be creative or stuck in a rut, lucky for Maiden, they have other songwriters who can step up in Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Janick Gers and of course, Steve Harris.

Kevin “Caveman” Shirley is producing and mixing again.

And once upon a time, Iron Maiden artwork was just Derek Riggs. Now it’s a team of artists. There is a person leading the Art Designs, there are illustrators, calligraphists and translators.

But Eddie still remains. The constant throughout it all.

“Senjutsu”

It’s an Adrian Smith and Steve Harris composition, and you can immediately hear the Smith riffage, its almost Tool like.

How good is the melodic lead in the Chorus?

The section from 3.30 to 5.20 is pure Tool in the way Nicko McBrain sets the groove with Steve Harris. But the way the guitars decorate the section is more metal and hard rock and Bruce Dickinson’s melodies also stay within the hard rock and metal domain.

The minute outro returns to the Tool groove while the guitars lay down riffs which could come from the “Gates of Babylon”. After eight minutes and twenty seconds, the title track is down.

“Stratego”

A Janick Gers and Harris composition with a riff that reminds me of the “Fear Of The Dark” album and songs like “Judas Be My Guide” with a bit of the Iron Maiden gallop chucked in.

Listen to the section from 1.28, which I think is the Chorus and how the vocal melody and the guitar melody are the same.

“The Writing on the Wall”

A Smith and Dickinson composition.

I like the Steve Earle – “Copperhead Road”/Aerosmith – “Hangman Jury” like influence in the intro and main riff, Then again “Scars” from Smith/Kotzen also comes to mind.

But my favourite part of the song is the lead break from Adrian Smith between 4.26 and 5.08. Its emotive and it gets me playing air guitar.

It brings back the same feeling of the solo in “2 Minutes To Midnight”, the section between 3.26 and 4.06. You know the section I’m talking about, as they build back up into the main riff.

“Lost in a Lost World”

Steve Harris equals nine minutes and thirty one seconds on this one.

The acoustic intro with the vocal reminds me of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and their song “From The Beginning”, which Dokken also covered on their “Dysfunctional” album.

At the 2 minute mark it blasts out into the typical Maiden metal sound.

Listen to the section between 3.38 and 4.14 and tell me if it reminds you of “The Evil Than Men Do” musically.

And I like it, especially the “Revelations” section straight afterwards.

As the song flows, the “Revelations” riff becomes the backing riff for a bunch of harmony solo’s that remind me of “The X Factor” and “Dance Of Death” albums.

The last minute, Harris showcases how tasty bass arpeggios can be when done right, with Synths, a Celtic inspired guitar line and a haunting vocal.

“Days of Future Past”

A Smith and Dickinson composition and the shortest song on the album at 4 minutes. It’s also my least favourite.

“The Time Machine”

The disc 1 closer.

It’s a 7 minute Gers and Harris composition. The fingerpicked clean tone intro gives way to another Southern Rock inspired riff at the 1.10 mark. If anything, Jethro Tull comes to mind.

At 3.11, the galloping feel is back and a Celtic like harmony lead kicks in, something which Maiden have done before, but still enjoyable to hear over and over again.

But the piece d resistance is that change at the 4.30 mark, it’s still in 4/4 but it sounds progressive. Then it goes into an ascending riff for a guitar solo.

At 5.24, the Celtic like harmonies are back and Dickinson kicks in with his melodies.

At 6.20, the Celtic harmony is played in clean tone and I’m thinking of “The Clansman”.

“Darkest Hour”

A Smith and Dickinson composition which clocks in at 7.20 and it’s the disc 2 opener.

The intro has echoes of “Paschendale” and I like it. At the minute mark, the verses kick in.

As soon as the Chorus kicks in, I’m reminded of “Tears Of A Dragon” from Dickinson’s solo career and I’m ready to break my desk.

At 4 minutes, the intro is back in and the lead break starts.

Wow. Brilliant.

I don’t have my CD delivered yet, but I am presuming it’s Smith on the lead break as he is the most technical of the three guitarists and the flow of the solo sounds like a nice worked out Smith solo, a song within a song.

And as the Chorus kicks back in, different melodic guitar leads lay underneath the vocal melody, bringing the song to a close.

“Death of the Celts”

Harris equals ten minutes and twenty seconds.

Again, Harris showcases how musical the bass guitar can be as the whole intro is driven by the bass.

But the song is way too long, lacking a distinctive vocal section and it does get boring.

However I do like the solo section from 7.20 to 7.50. I think it’s Smith and then Gers kicks in.

“The Parchment”

Harris bookends the album with songs over 10 minutes. On this one, Harris equals 12:39.

The start of this song reminds me of “Sign Of The Cross”.

Guitar wise, there is a Ritchie Blackmore “Rainbow” influence.

And how good is that head banging verse riff?

The lead section that starts from 6.40 is familiar and I like it. It comes back in at the 9.28 mark.

The song speeds up for the last three minutes, as different shred lead breaks kick in. But by the end of it, it also could have used some editing.

“Hell on Earth”

The closer, in which Harris equals 11:19.

I think they should have done away with “Death Of The Celts” and “The Parchment” and gone straight into this for after “Darkest Hour”.

The intro is haunting, yet familiar, reminding me of “Alexander The Great” and “Seventh Son”.

At 2.16, the Maiden brand of rock and metal kicks in. The galloping riffs are there and a Celtic like harmony lead is also there.

At 2.49 to 3.08, there is a melodic lead which is a favourite.

The vocals kick in at 3.31.

The chorus (I think it’s a Chorus) comes in at 5 minutes.

Man, check out that section from 9.10 to 9.40. Those harmony guitars are perfect and sing-a-long like.

Then the song quietens down and returns to the haunting intro, reminding me again of “Alexander The Great” and “Seventh Son”.

And the album ends. Iron Maiden is like an old friend that returns for a visit now and then.

So welcome back old friend, let’s have a drink and catch up.

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The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic II

Bjorn Strid did an interview on Robb Flynn’s “No Fucking Regrets” Podcast and Flynn explained em as “80’s Miami Vice Pop”. You can check it out here on Spotify.

Guitarist David Andersson is the main songwriter in TNFO (and he’s also the main songwriter in Soilwork), bringing in his influences of Swedish Pop, Brit Pop, Funk, Disco and Strid’s love of late 70’s, early 80’s radio rock into the mix.

Two of my favourite Kiss albums are “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” because they brought in other styles of music into the Kiss rock sound and they still made it sound hard rock. So I wasn’t surprised to hear that “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” are also favourite albums for Strid and how Strid sees the song “Easy As It Seems” from Kiss as the foundation of Disco Rock and the blueprint for a TNFO song.

Kiss cops a lot of flak for those albums from their U.S fan base, but those two albums basically set up a new sound in different parts of the world. It’s no surprise that Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway liked em along with Australia.

The late 70’s and early 80’s had a certain way of writing and performing songs, which has been lost as the years have gone on.

Strid now feels balanced creatively. He can’t do Soilwork if he can’t do TNFO and vice versa. And by doing TFNO which is out of his comfort zone, has made him a better singer overall.

They missed out on touring the “Aeromantic” album because of COVID-19. Actually they were one week into the tour before they had to go home. And the promoters wouldn’t cancel the shows because they would be up for costs, so they waited until the last minute until the government shut everything down, putting the band into a difficult predicament.

The whole band also got COVID-19. No one went to hospital but David Andersson coped it bad.

And because the band wasn’t done with “Aeromantic”, they remained within the “Aeromantic” vibe and zone.

Recorded at Nordic Sound Lab, 90 minutes from Gothenburg, they do their albums by booking studio sessions and they just write for those sessions. By the end of the writing, they have about 40 songs down. Quantity equals quality.

Originally the core audience back in 2012 was Soilwork fans and general metal fans curious to check the band out, but 9 years into it, the audience is made up of different people who are not generally metal fans, but fans of good crossover rock music.

For Strid, his Mum listened to hard rock music and popular acts like Eurythmics and Bruce Springsteen.

Iron Maiden and WASP was an early experience for him. But Twisted Sister “Stay Hungry” album was very big for him.

A guy in his class had a few compilation tapes from his Tennis coach who was into extreme music and Strid borrowed those tapes and copied em. When he was asked which artists he liked, it was always the fast songs and that’s how he got his nickname “Speed”.

So on to the review.

TNFO are Bjorn Strid on Lead and Backing vocals, David Andersson on Guitars, Sharlee D’Angelo on bass, Sebastian Forslund on Guitars and Percussion, Jonas Kallsback on Drums, John Manhattan Lönnmyr on Keyboards and Anna Brygard / Anna Mia Bonde on Backing Vocals and known as the “Backing Anna’s”.

Violent Indigo

If you like Whitesnake, just think of those big chord synth chords at the start of “Slip Of The Tongue”. Well the chords at the start here are even bigger.

Midnight Marvellous

Each album has a track like this. “West Ruth Ave” on the first album. “Living For The Nighttime” on the second album. “Star Of Rio” on the third album. “Turn To Miami” on the fourth album and “This Boys Last Summer” on the fifth album.

And “Midnight Marvellous” is just as impressive.

Check out the interlude breakdown just before the solo when bassist Sharlee D’Angelo grooves and new keyboardist solos.

How Long

Strid described this song as “90s Deep Purple on cocaine”. And he’s not wrong.

The Chorus is excellent, but it’s the guitar playing and leads that make me a fan.

The ending is smashing.

Burn For Me

As soon as this song starts you will either think of “Modern Love” by David Bowie or “Straight For The Heart” by Toto or “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John or “I’m So Excited” from The Pointer Sisters.

And it’s a favourite to me because of those familiarity.

Chardonnay Nights

It’s going to be a good night of drinking and kicking back. Instead of chardonnay, my poison is Shiraz or Cabernet Merlot.

Change

How good is the intro?

Genesis (their song “That’s All”) comes to mind, but the Chorus is perfect AOR Melodic Rock.

Amber Through A Window

This feels like a New Wave rock cut, for driving in the night, with the window down in summer.

I Will Try

“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” from Tears For Fears comes to mind in the verses.

The Chorus is like 80’s Journey and Cher circa 1987. The guitar work feels like its Neal Schon. Brilliant.

You Belong To The Night

The TNFO sound has a Rolling Stones influence and Mick Jagger solo influence. This song is evidence of that.

Listen to “Tattoo You” and “Just Another Night” which TNFO covered for “Amber Galactic”.

Zodiac

Songs from Michael Jackson come to mind listening to this and it’s a great piece of pop rock song writing.

And just listen to it for the joy of Sharlee D’Angelo’s sultry bass lines.

White Jeans

The first single released as part of the album pre-release. I think it hit Spotify about 12 weeks before the album drop.

Can Judas Priest and ELO be combined?

In the world of TNFO, it can. Everything goes.

And that Chorus. Brilliant.

Also check out the clip for it as it’s hilarious.

Moonlit Skies

What a closer.

As soon as you press play, the intro just takes you away. It reminds me of “Edge Of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks and those guitar lines of something else and I like it.

BONUS TRACKReach Out (Cheap Trick cover)

It’s worthy of inclusion on the proper album. Musically is like new wave hard rock and vocally Strid merges Robin Zander with Rick Springfield. Brilliant.

As Strid said in his interview with Robb Flynn, the album is a continuation of “Aeromantic”. And I became a fan of TNFO first and then went back and became a fan of Soilwork.

Maybe one day in the future we’ll get a gatefold issue of both “Aeromantic” albums together.

And if you grew up in the 80’s listening to hard rock and melodic rock, then you need to listen to this.

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Dee Snider – Leave A Scar

I grew up on the 80’s Twisted Sister albums. I have em all, from “Ruff Cutts” to “Love Is For Suckers”. Albums like “Stay Hungry” I have four times. On cassette, vinyl and on CD I have the original issue and “Still Hungry” anniversary edition with extra tracks and demos.

I eagerly waited for Desperado, only to read it got shelved. Then I heard about Widowmaker and waited for those albums, which finally got a release in Australia, almost half a year after it was released in the U.S. And I never stopped following Snider’s career.

“Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down” had Dee digging into the vaults to grab songs written for Twisted Sister and Desperado albums. “We Are The Ones” showcased an alternative rock vibe with massive anthemic Choruses. And while I like it when artists branch out, I didn’t like the Showtunes covers album.

Dee Snider has a voice for heavy metal.

If you don’t believe me, check out tracks like “The Fire Still Burns”, “Burn In Hell”, “Under The Blade”, “Stay Hungry” and “Come Out And Play”.

And his metal vocal style was forgotten behind the big clips of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”.

A simple dare from Jamey Jasta, brought forth “For The Love Of Metal” and it caught a lot of people by surprise. “Leave A Scar” carries forth the metal torch that Dee Snider has recently lit. I’ve got the Dee-Lux Wooden Box Edition (limited to 500) on pre-order via Napalm Records which comes with a 7 inch single of a non-album track.

The band line-up is Dee Snider on vocals, Charlie Bellmore on guitar, Nick Bellmore on drums, Russell Pzütto on bass and Nick Petrino on Guitar.

“I Gotta Rock (Again)”

The intro riff from Bellmore is excellent and the drum groove smashes you awake.

A fitting title for a return to live music after a pandemic.

I can’t stop
Be a lifer til I’m done
Gonna ride it til I’m gone
For as long as I’m breathing!

Even a strain of COVID-19 couldn’t stop Dee from rocking out again.

And the lead work from Bellmore and Petrino is Judas Priest “Tipton and Downing” like.

How good is the foot stomping riff after the lead breaks?

“All Or Nothing More”

It could have come from a Megadeth or Metallica album as the riffs are super head banging material.

What is your life?
Choose a path, decide what you will do
Anger and strife
Won’t get you where you need

A new call to arms for a new generation needing some guidance. Choose a path and enjoy the journey and remember it’s okay to take some twist and turns along the way.

The Chorus is anthemic.

All or nothing
All or nothing more
Make a choice
Use your voice
It’s your soul you’re fighting for

Its written in a period of political upheaval and if people didn’t use their voice for change, then the same corrupt leaders would remain.

There is this bass riff after the Chorus that reminds me of “Holier Than Thou” and I like it.

And the wah-wah is out for the lead break.

“Down But Never Out”

Its furious, more Killswitch Engage like. Another empowerment anthem for the S.M.F’s.

Musically, its excellent.

And we could be down, it happens from time to time especially now, trying to survive a pandemic and lockdowns, but we are never out.

As the Chorus states, we’ll battle on and fight to turn things around.

“Before I Go”

My second favourite track.

The guitar work from Bellmore is excellent especially in the riff department.

Like the verses.

From the cradle to the grave
You’ll be judged by those that you saved

Truth.

And how the hell do you fit the words “gossamer wings” into an anthemic chorus?

They did.

The simple dynamic of quietening down after the solo is excellent.

“Open Season”

The opening riff gets the head banging immediately.

Hey motherfucker, are you kidding me?
You better get ready

The intention of the song is clear.

Now it’s open season
I aim and never miss

If there was any confusion about the message in the song, I think this sums it up.

The riff after the second chorus. Fist pumping devil horns epic-ness.

“Silent Battles”

My favourite track on the album.

The guitar riff to kick off the song reminds me of all the good things I like about the 80’s. I’m hearing George Lynch, EVH, a bit of Vito Bratta and Nuno Bettencourt.

Did I mention that Snider can rock pretty hard?

Fighting silent battles
The war some must go through
Now let us be guided
Guided by the truth

The Chorus is one of the best I have heard for a long time.

Rising bravely to face this new day with hope
Some kneel down with solemn pause

And the harmony solo. How good is it?

The only thing I can do once the song finishes is press repeat.

“Crying For Your Life”

It reminds me of “Reason To Kill” from Widowmaker. The clean tone intro hides the anger of the song.

You left your mark every step of the way
You were so sure you wouldn’t have to pay
Now look in the mirror, what do you see?
Look in the mirror, no ride’s for free

Actions will have consequences.

Check out the riffs/music from 2.36.

It’s like a funeral march, very Paradise Lost like, aka “Draconian Times” album.

“In For The Kill”

A bone crunching riff along with the bass drum acting like a metronome starts the song off.

But it’s the harmony solo in the intro that gets me ready to break my desk.

I’m tired of waiting, sick of holding back
Been ready for this day
It’s not a reckoning and it’s not an attack
I’ve got to have my say

If there’s any confusion to the songs intention, well the first four lines lay it all out.

Make sure you check out the excellent lead breaks.

“Time To Choose”

A thrash metal cut, with “Corpsegrinder” from Cannibal Corpse on backing vocals. Typing it feels strange. Death metal backing vocals.

How can death metal vocals be backing vocals?

It is.

Your dreadful choices you just can’t defend

Check out the technical guitar playing in the outro.

“S.H.E”

A great melodic Chorus for a super heavy groove metal cut.

And it’s the most hardest rocking and metallish love song I have ever heard.

“The Reckoning”

A speed metal cut with a riff that reminds me of “Don’t Tread Of Me” and “Of Wolf And Man” in the intro. In the verses it reminds me of early Megadeth.

Your reckoning
Is here
There’s nothing that you can do
You’re living
In fear
You’ll never know what hit you

And the drumming is relentless.

“Stand”

I like the ominous and slightly distorted intro which also serves as the Chorus riff.

Stand up
Don’t leave your mark, leave a scar

“I carved my name in a tree. 55 years later, I went back to my school, and I saw the tree, and my name is still there. That’s a scar. That’s the difference. And that resonated in my head. When I was writing the song, ‘Stand,’ that line that’s where it comes from. Don’t leave your mark. Leave a scar.”
Dee Snider in HollywoodLife.com

There aren’t a lot of artists in their mid-60’s producing quality music like this. Dee Snider is doing it and he’s making it look very easy. The Bellmore brothers are underrated talents as songwriters and instrumetalists, on the guitar and drums.

And hopefully my box set with the 7-inch single will arrive someday from Germany.

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Daniel Tompkins – Ruins

I never heard “Castles” the debut album which came out in 2019.

So “Ruins” the “reimagined” album, which came out in December 2020, is my first album experience from Daniel Tompkins.

Tompkins was in Tesseract, then he left to be replaced by Ashe O’Hara, only to return again circa 13/14. In between and before and after, he’s lended his talents to many different projects and collaborations.

So the songs on “Ruins” are a reworking of the 7 songs on “Castles” with “The Gift” (featuring Matt Heafy from Trivium) as the only new track.

Wounded Wings

It feels like a soundtrack for the first 90 seconds as a piano plays an arpeggio like riff, while the synths swirl around, building in intensity. The drumming kicks in along with the ohhhs and ahhs from Tompkins.

Check out the head banging groove from 3.15.

At 3.54 it becomes quiet and it feels like the sad part of a movie, the death scene. And at 4.20 it picks up with a guitar lead.

Australian guitar hero PLINI is here to lend a helping hand. His biggest influence is Satriani and Steve Vai described him as “the future of exceptional guitar playing”.

Tompkins’s voice is hypnotic throughout.

Ruins

A synth riff on a loop keeps repeating and like “Wounded Wings” it keeps building in intensity.

How good is the section when Tompkins sings “We are the stars, the lords of a new age”, etc.

Stains Of Betrayal

It feels like a ballad as the synth plays chords. Then from the 37 second mark, it starts. A TesseracT style cut, progressive metal based on a feel and a groove.

It’s source material is the track “Cinders”.

The whole “my fire still burns, but was it ever really gone?” sections are essential listening.

Empty Vows

The albums standout track. It’s source song is “Saved” but it sounds nothing like it.

A looping synth is present, as the guitars chop in and out while the bass and drums set a poly rhythmic groove.

At only 4 minutes long, it packs a lot.

A Dark Kind Of Angel

A repeating guitar riff, that sounds like it’s on a loop kicks it off, as the bass and drums set a groove reminiscent of “A Perfect Circle”.

The lead break section from 2.58. It’s head banging and emotive. I’m all in.

The Gift

The closer.

The synth in the verses is excellent.

And that Chorus is anthemic.

It’s almost metalcore but it’s not.

And the closing 30 seconds. Wow. The only thing I could do is press play again.

For an album that’s reimagined from an album released a year ago, I’m a fan. And I didn’t think I would be, because I was not a fan of Lynch Mob’s reimagined “Wicked Sensation”.

Check it out.

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Times Of Grace – Songs Of Loss And Seperation

10 years is a long time between albums.

“The Hymn Of A Broken Man” came out in 2011 and in 2021, we get “Songs Of Loss And Seperation”.

The band for the album is Adam Dutkiewicz on vocals, guitar and bass, Jesse Leach on vocals and Dan Gluszak on drums.

The Burden Of Belief

It’s got a blues country groove, more like southern country rock.

Fall down to your knees / Wash me clean of all my grief

Mend You

Taking its cues from alternative metal.

I lost a lot of sleep with my restless mind

There is no rest, when you’re left alone with your thoughts especially when your relationship is breaking down or if a loved one is doing it tough with addictions or mental illness.

The riffs in the last 50 seconds. It’s wall breaking time.

Rescue

Its classic Killswitch Engage.

After the screaming verses, the anthemic Chorus smacks you in the face.

Dutkiewicz is a great riff meister, who showcases his talents with each album release.

The last 50 seconds, with the swelling sounds and backwards effects, is haunting and soothing at the same time. A paradox but it works.

Far From Heavenless

A simple arpeggio guitar riff starts the song off, with Leach singing about feeling far from heaven. And there is an ascending guitar line underneath it all, which makes it feel like we are rising.

The power in the next section, when Leach is singing “I’m not heavenless”. And the power house drumming from Gluszak hammers the message home.

Then the dynamic shifts again to subtle and serene arpeggios.

At 3.30 there is just a clean tone guitar riff that reminds me of “Living On The Edge” riff from Aerosmith.

Then listen to how the distorted guitars, bass and drums build it up, over the spoken sermon from Leach.

It’s gloom and doom, but inspirational as well.

Bleed Me

Atmospheric cut about looking for the medicine to bleed you and satisfy the demons.

Medusa

How good is the riff to kick off Medusa?

It’s so Iommi and Zakk Wylde like.

And this nod to classic metal gives way to syncopated verses, more in the vein of Meshuggah and TesseracT.

Currents

The intro riff is familiar. The vocal melody very Maynard like in the verses, as the rage explodes in the Chorus.

Lost in a Dream / Dark waves crash over me

This tension between dark and light, carries the song.

To Carry The Weight

The intro arpeggios and vocal melody could have come from Aaron Lewis and Staind. Maybe even Brent Smith and Shinedown. And I like it.

The song percolates in that sombre mood until it explodes and Jesse Leach delivers a worthy vocal performance.

The riff from 2.25. So melodic, yet heavy.

Cold

It starts off like a country tune. A simple acoustic guitar riff and vocal melody. It’s campfire material.

And from the 3 minute mark, it explodes. The melodies are hypnotic and the music inspirational.

Have I mentioned that Dutkiewicz is a great riff meister?

Forever

The closer. 6.30 minutes long.

All different musical roads lead to here. A combination of country, blues, metal and rock.

For those looking about positive messages, this isn’t the album for you. It’s melancholy lyrics and metal like riffage is music to make you crash your car. You can feel the sadness, a pain at the world, society and the various demons within the mind.

The album title is indicative of the theme. And having gone through loss recently this album is becoming my companion, riding shotgun with me.

So I press repeat.

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Soen – Imperial

It’s the kind of metal I like.

Soen is a Swedish progressive metal supergroup consisting of various extreme metal musicians. Their debut album “Cognitive” came out in 2012.

It was like hearing Tool and I was all in.

“Tellurian” came out in 2014 but their rise really started with “Lykaia” in 2017 and “Lotus” in 2019. And in 2021, we have “Imperial”.

And while the debut sounded a lot like Tool, this one is more metal and hard rock with some progressive grooves and textures.

And the band has been stable in the line-up. Founding members Joel Ekelöf (vocals) and Martin Lopez (drums) are still there along with Lars Enok Åhlund (keyboards and guitar), Cody Ford (lead guitar) and new bassist Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel.

Lumerian

How good is the Intro riff?

And the Chorus, so melodic and haunting.

In the middle, the band introduces its main dynamic, which is heard throughout the album, in which they quieten down the song and rebuild it.

Deceiver

It’s almost Disturbed like from the “Believe” album in the Intro.

Monarch

That Intro riff. So heavy and intricate.

Listen to it.

A Pink Floyd Pre-Chorus gives way to an anthemic Chorus.

Illusion

A Pink Floyd like cut. Think “Sorrow”.

And the solos. Wow.

Antagonist

Another head banging killer metal riff kicks it off.

The Chorus. Wow.

From the 3.50 mark it goes into a mellow interlude with an emotive solo. Then the vocals come in and I get emotional.

And it becomes quiet. And once you hear the words “fire up your guns”, the music crashes back in.

Modesty

The Chorus is so haunting.

From 2.10 a Maiden like harmony riff plays while a shred-a-licious and emotive lead is played over it.

The last 40 seconds are excellent.

Dissident

The Tool like track on the album but with a heavy dose of metal and hard rock.

Listen to the Chorus riff when they sing “we are one”.

At 2.50 it quietness down. A piano plays and the vocals come in. Then the drums and everything else comes in as they build it up slowly.

By 4.36 it’s back to a being a metal tour de force.

Fortune

Dio and the Sabbath “Heaven And Hell” version would be proud. The groove and feel is as doomy as the influences.

That Chorus is haunting, with the violins and emotive vocal melody.

I like the lead break. Almost bluesy and the phrasing is excellent.

At the 3.20 mark, a sing-a-long ohhh and ahs happen. This section happens again for the outro but this time the guitars are in harmony.

The only thing left to do is to listen to it again.

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Joel Hoekstra 13 – Running Games

I was interested to hear this but I didn’t think I would have liked it as much as I did.

It’s excellent.

I am a Russell Allen fan. I knew of Allen long before I heard of Joel Hoekstra. Allen has a voice which can suit power symphonic bands, metal bands, melodic rock bands, hard rock bands, nu-metal bands and blues rock bands.

And I’m also a Jeff Watson fan, so I wasn’t too thrilled with any Night Ranger version without Watson. Then again Watson hasn’t done much being away from the band and I still want to hear new Night Ranger music.

So I still listened and Hoekstra impressed but I felt he was restrained within that band as Blades and Keagy are the alphas.

And with Whitesnake, Coverdale has two great guitarists to write tunes with but they need to comply with what Coverdale desires.

Which means that Hoekstra 13 is the true Joel Hoekstra.

“Running Games” is album number 2 for his Frontiers label.

The musicians for the album are Russell Allen on vocals, Tony Franklin on bass, Vinny Appice on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards with Jeff Scott Soto doing backing vocals. Yep, you read that right, the great JSS is doing backing vocals.

It feels like the 70s ethos, when you see so many guys from different bands jamming together and releasing music.

I was reading some of the interviews Hoekstra did when the album come out and fuck there are some shit interviewers out there, who just do the simple Wikipedia style of interview without even listening to the album.

But the one at “The Rock Pit” is what an interview is about. The interviewer actually listened to the album, liked it and wanted to know more about it. And you get exactly that.

“Finish Line”

“We Rock” from Dio is merged with “I’ll See The Light Tonight” from Malmsteen for the Intro riff and I’m all in.

And that Chorus. Wow. What a hook!

Make sure to check out the lead break as Hoekstra is doing his eight finger tapping.

“I’m Gonna Lose It”

I like the Intro lead. It reminds me of Thin Lizzy.

And just before the Chorus, there is a little snippet of a riff that gets me thinking of “A Touch Of Madness” from Night Ranger.

The lead break again. Wow.

Over at Glide Magazine, Hoekstra said He came up with the song out at Hook City at the Whitesnake studio.

“Hard To Say Goodbye”

The Chorus feels like a Joe Lynn Turner Rainbow Chorus.

“How Do You”

It’s slower and groovy, more in the vein of Adrenaline Mob in the verses with a Euro classical inspired Chorus.

“Heart Attack”

It is a bluesy groovy cut.

“Fantasy”

It feels like ZZ Top added some Metal to their sound in the Intro, and the verses are massive, Kashmir like.

Their is a keyboard solo and then Hoekstra breaks loose.

“Lonely Days”

What a melodic rock Chorus. I’m a sucker for these.

“Reach For the Sky”

Cliched and overused song title.

In an interview over at The Rock Pit, Hoekstra mentions how he wrote the riff on the Whitesnake Tour Bus. Inspiration strikes all the time.

“Cried Enough For You”

It feels like a Y&T cut from the “Black Tiger” album in the acoustic sections before it moves to an Iron Maiden like old school groove.

“Take What’s Mine”

The fast guitar lead and machine gun riff to start off the song gets me to pay attention, but it’s the verse riff that makes me pick up the guitar and bang my head to.

And there’s another anthemic Chorus.

“Running Games”

It feels like a Toto cut.

“Lay Down Your Love”

It feels like ZZ Top has come to town.

Overall Hoekstra’s songwriting is top level and the performances from the guys are excellent.

Check it out.

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The Writing On The Wall

It’s good to hear Iron Maiden music.

They are one of the rare bands from the 80’s who keep writing and recording new albums. Although the time spans between albums has become bigger over the last 15 years, it’s not because they are lazy, they are just on the road or in the air, touring and doing what they do.

And a pandemic put a halt to their touring plans in 2020. So when artists have time, they normally write and here we are in 2021, with new music.

They have been teasing this new music for about a fortnight, and a lot of internet sleuths started piecing together all the clues about “Belshazzar’s Feast” from a T-shirt that Bruce Dickinson was wearing in an interview he did on Sky News.

And like all things Maiden, I am sure we will get to know more about Belshazzar’s Feast, because that’s what Maiden does, they get people like me into researching and learning.

It’s written by Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson, with production by Kevin Shirley.

The country blues rock in the intro has me interested. It’s a new style into the Iron Maiden family.

The verse riff reminds me of “Stormbringer” from Deep Purple played with a bluesy swagger. Vocally Dickinson is still a powerhouse.

How good are those guitar harmonies after the first chorus?

The lead that comes at the 4.27 mark, I am pretty sure it’s Adrian Smith as it sounds like his style, is excellent.

I keep re-listening to this song just to keep hearing the lead break.

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Durbin – The Beast Awakens

James Durbin’s covers of Judas Priest on American Idol got me interested. The YouTube videos got some traction here in Australia. His debut album released in 2011, “Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster” rocked hard and I was a fan. “Celebrate” in 2014, lost me as it went way to poppy.

Then he hooked up (surprisingly) with Quiet Riot and he made me a fan again with the very underrated and forgotten “Road Rage” album released in 2018. “Space Cowboys” came out a year later but shit was going down in the Quiet Riot camp, as Durbin left the band before the album was released and drummer Frankie Banali was fighting for his life but we didn’t know it at that point in time.

And here we are with Durbin.

Joining James Durbin who does all vocals and guitars, is Mike Vanderhule on drums and Barry Sparks on bass. And from what I have read, different guitarists appear for the lead breaks.

The album came out in February, 2021 on Frontiers.

The Prince Of Metal

A perfect title to introduce his “Metal” album.

It’s like “Phantom Of The Opera” from Iron Maiden in the first few minutes and I’m all in.

James Durbin is killing it vocally and the guitar lead is also excellent. After the solo there is this slower “Heaven And Hell” groove and I’m banging my head to it.

The prophecy says / Raise Thy Horns / Bang Thy Heads / The Prince Of Metal

A QR reference. Perfect.

Kings Before You

Phil Demmel and Fozzy guest on this very Savatage sounding track, ala “Edge Of Thorns” in the verses.

I’ve always enjoyed Demmel’s playing in Machine Head and he delivers another guitar hero lead on this.

From the sky descends the wizard – As he spreads his hands apart / Manifesting right before me – Holding out the sacred heart

A Dio reference.

Into The Flames

It feels like it’s inspired by “Dance Macabre” from Ghost BC and I like it. Then again the riff is an overused riff from the 80s.

If anything the embryo of that riff can be traced back to “Don’t Fear The Reaper” from Blue Oyster Cult.

The Chorus is anthemic.

Now break the chains / Release the spell that you are under / This darkness will pass & give way to the light

The Sacred Mountain

It’s inspired by Dio and Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell”. Durbin, Sparks and Vanderhule are firing on all cylinders here.

The vocal melody from Durbin is memorable and the guitar lead is fast and excellent.

The Beast Awakens

Great title track. More Metallica and Judas Priest like.

Killer vocals and killer leads.

Demons drawing nearer / Is your life forsaken / Time to face your fears / For The Beast Awakens

Evil Eye

Malmsteen has a song with this title.

Great riffs and the lead break is guitar hero worthy.

I’ll walk through hell alone & swear as long as I’m still breathing / I’ll live to overthrow the hellion & blind the Evil Eye

A Judas Priest and Malmsteen reference.

Necromancer

A power metal cut.

Riders On The Wind

One of my favorites, buried deep in the album.

It’s got Dio and “Heaven And Hell” influences all over it and I’m all in.

Check out the lead break as well.

Riders On The Wind / Searching for the sacred night

Calling Out For Midnight

It’s speed rock, Saxon like with a typical Durbin anthemic chorus.

Battle Cry

After the supercharged tracks, we get a slower tempo track, but don’t call it a power ballad. Because it’s not.

And the lead break is so Gilmour like with a bit of Michael Schenker added for spice.

By The Horns

It’s almost Megadeth like, a more rockier version of “Symphony Of Destruction”.

Rise To Valhalla

The closer and a cut for all those power metallers.

I’m ready to ride out and fight for Durbin.

Great lead playing and harmonies.

Also the bass playing from Barry Sparks is excellent on this song and throughout the album.

Durbin possesses a great vocal range and his prowess on the guitar is evident on this album. As a songwriter, all songs are written by Durbin.

If this is his first entry into the realms of Metal, then I will eagerly await his next.

Check it out.

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Australian Method Series: Lord – Undercovers, Vol 1

I dig Lord.

The band is a natural evolution from the band Dungeon, who sounded more in the power and thrash metal style. Lord is like the classic metal and rock sound I grew up with, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We did a some shows with em back in 2010 while they were out supporting their “Set In Stone” album in our hometown of Wollongong. Otherwise known as “The Gong”.

I’ve also seen Lord live a few times opening for overseas acts and on their own run of shows.

The band is currently made up of Lord Tim on lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, Andy Dowling on bass and Mark Furtner on guitar.

“Undercovers” is a 2021 release.

This review is based on the Spotify release. To get the full version (23 songs deluxe), you need to go to Bandcamp.

To The Moon And Back

From Savage Garden.

It’s an Aussie Pop classic. Darren Hayes co-write the song and on Twitter he mentioned how there is a section of fans who like heavy metal and Savage Garden and Lord has given em, an awesome Metal version of the song.

Judas Be My Guide

From Iron Maiden.

That’s how quickly Tim can change vocal styles. From pop rock to Bruce Dickinson.

“Fear Of The Dark” album was maligned for sounding too hard rock but I disagree. To me, it sounded like Iron Maiden.

Send Me An Angel

From Real Life.

There is an 80s like synth as the main riff that makes me think of “Sweet Dreams” from Eurythmics.

I remember this from the “Rad” soundtrack.

Shattered

From Pantera.

This song was Pantera doing Judas Priest on their major label debut. Even Anslemo’s vocals mirrored Rob Halford.

Well Lord Tim is an unbelievable vocalist, so his Halford vocal style was all on show to be heard.

Hard To Love

Readers of this blog know that I have a lot of time for Harem Scarem and their underrated and excellent guitarist Pete Lesperance.

This song is from their debut and Lord don’t mess with perfection much, nailing every part of the song musically and vocally.

(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight

Lord Tim passes the vocal duties to bass player, Andy Dowling.

This song is from Cutting Crew.

I always liked the melodic rock overtones of this song and I still like it to this day.

Reckless

From Judas Priest and the much maligned “Turbo” album.

But.

I like the “Turbo” album. And this version is as powerful as the original with a modern mix. If you like Judas Priest you would want to hear this.

I Want Out (Live)

From Helloween.

It’s faster and energetic. They always delivered in the live arena.

Touch The Fire

From Icehouse.

It’s an Aussie classic and Lord make it a melodic rock classic.

Break The Ice

From John Farnham.

This is an excellent cover of Farnham’s melodic rock era when he was cashing in and singing songs for 80s movies. Before “You’re The Voice” took over the charts around the world.

This song is also from the “Rad” soundtrack.

On A Night Like This

From Kylie Minogue.

Check out the hilarious piss take video clip on YouTube.

Bassist Andy Dowling also has a podcast running called “Nod to the Old School”. Here is the Spotify link.

Finally if you like your 80s hard rock and heavy metal than Lord’s music is waiting for you to invest some time.

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