Melodic Rock Fanzine #31
new issue includes reviews and interviews of Great White, Wetton / Downes, Street Legal, Impellitteri, Shakra, Nasty Idols, TXS, Highest Dream, Sunstorm, The Trophy, Hardline... and more!
CONTENTS 04 06 08 09 10 11 12 14 15 16 19 21 Great White Wetton / Downes Icon Street Legal Impellitteri Shakra Nasty Idols Reviews TXS Highest Dream Sunstorm Trophy Hardline The official Frontiers Records magazine Year #5 - Nr. 2 / Issue #31 Editor-in-chief: Elio Bordi Design: Elio Bordi Writers: Bruce E.J. Atkinson, Fulvio Bordi, Duncan Jamieson, Barry McMinn, Vitale Nocerino. Headquarters and general contacts: Frontiers Records - Via Gonzaga 18 80125, Napoli - Italy Tel: +39.081.2399340/7753 Fax: +39.081.2399794 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.frontiers.it Myspace: www.myspace.com/frontiersrecords Editor and publisher: Frontiers Records US Headquarters: usa.frontiers.it Copyright�2009 Frontiers Records. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Printed in Italy. Melodic Rock Fanzine Band: Great White Album: Rising Interview with: Jack Russel / Michael Lardie Interviewed by: Alessandro Ariatti Focus on: GREAT WHITE - Rising (Frontiers Records) One band that never say die are Great White, a band that have overcome massive adversity and rose above it all and kept it together as band. Following on from their `Back To The Rhythm' album the band are back with `Rising'. This is without a doubt the bands finest release since `Once Bitten'. It has all the trademark bluesy rock that made the band such a phenomena back in the 80's. Russell's vocals haven't been weather by time are still sound superb and Mark Kendall and Michael Lardie are again superb. It would be easy for the band to live of their past glories and tour with greatest hit shows, but this band simply won't let go and still manage to continue to produce great albums with great tracks. This latest release features more than its fair share of classy tracks, tracks such as `All Or Nothin', `Is It Enough' and the rocker `Danger Zone', all of which are just a few of my favourites and even the Rolling Stones `Let's Spend The Night Together' gets a great makeover. Anyone who thought `Back To The Rhythm' was a class album will be simply blown away by `Rising'. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water you're wrong, the Great White's back! Barry McMinn (94/100) 4 | MRF Question: At first tell me about this new album, the second for Frontiers Records. Were there any differences in the working/songwriting with the last cd "Back To The Rhythm"? ML: We approached the recording in a different way by not having all the material written for the record before starting, always wanted to do it this way, I believe the tracks have a spontinaiety and freshness to them, Recording and mixing only took 65 days !!! Q: Your blues roots are still very present in the sound of the album. If you had to quantify, how much is this kind of music important for Great White. And which are your favourite blues artists or those you listen to more frequently? JR: Very Important, I think when the band found it's way through channeling its blues roots, Kendall is a disciple of Johnny Winter, Alvin Lee, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, so as you can see with that and the bands love of Zeppelin, it was a natural progression for us to find our place in the blues element. Q: You changed your bass player. Was it for musical or personal matters? JR: Personal matters. Lifestyle changes that were made, made for an inability of Common ground to be reached between the Sean and the band. Our New Bass player Scott Snyder, is a perfect blend of talent and personality, the shoe that finally fits !!!! Q: I think that your sound is perhaps less spectacular/big than in the 80's, but more solid and concrete. Do you agree? ML: Actually, No. The approach for this record was more along the lines of a 70's record, and I can assure you that those classic 70's records are not small sounding, LOL !!! Q: When I bought in the late 80's your two albums "Once Bitten..." and then "...Twice Shy" and then listened to them, I did'nt understand why magazines included Great White into the hair metal/glam metal scene. I think it was just a matter of look. ML: We were catergorized as a shortcut to thinking, we were always a blues rock band that came up at the time when it was the thing to do to dress decade appropriate, L.A. Band, long hair, " oh they must be a Hair Band " LOL !!! Q: an album of yours that I have always liked, but that is perhaps underrated, is "Hooked". What do you think about it? JR: Great Songs, band should have all been in Re-Hab , LOL !! except for Michael At the end of the day, a feat to have finished the record, but it is a strong statement Of the time and we are glad that people like the record. Q: "Shot In The Dark" was your first great success: what do you remember about it and the beginning of your career? JR: The introduction of Michael as a band member, opened the possibility for different arrangements and textures in our music. Q: You had a very long stop after "Can't Get There From Here", another great album in my personal opinion. How was the situation in the band at that time and what do you think now about this album? JR: One of my all time favorite records, a quantum leap of songwriting and performance within the band. Another very quick recording, but we have done a lot of records together and it ges easier each time !!! Q: You made the 25th anniversary tour. Did you imagine, at the start of the band, to gain such a result? JR: Never thought of it, but Great White will end when the band says it is time to end, just like cockroaches, we keep surviving. We are blessed to be still playing together for our fans. Q: During 2008, we've experienced a great rebirth of hard rock spirit, as many of the greatest bands have come back with solid albums and a lot of new musicians, have begun to bring something new to the scene. What's your opinion on the nowadays rock scene, and what about it, if compared to the eighties? JR: NOTHING will ever compare to the 80's. it was a different time for us as people, and the world as well, We are blessed that fans are now teaching their children about our music It helps to keep it alive in a generational way. Q: Have you heard some new band latterly that, from your point of view, could pick up the heritage of the eighties big ones? ML:Black Tide gets my interest !! they are so young but sound very erly 80's metal to me. Will be watching how they develop. Q: Many classical bands seem to prefer touring than releasing new albums because of the market crisis. You don't seem to think like that, fortunately. I think that an artist should have always to create new music and new songs. Do you agree? JR: Great White will always enjoy the process of writing new material, as soon as that becomes a work or a burden, it would probably be time to bow out. We do not wish to become a band that covers only just our catelougue. Q: If you could change something from the past about the band, what would that be? JR: Obviously, wishing the tragedy in Rhode Island would have never happened. ML: Perhaps changing management back when we thought to, 1991 or so could have been a good move. Q: Your great kindness and affordability to the fans is ascertained. Well, at this point of your career, how much is important the contact with them? JR: It is everything, the fans, without the support, you cease to have a career, we have always been lucky to feel very comfortable with being around our fans, never liked to put up walls.We like to hear what they have to say Q: US have just elected the new president. Are you satisfied with the results? What do you think about the last administration? ML: It's always diffucult to express Political views, when music is involved, music for us has always been a celebration and escape from reality, and the reality for me concerning the previous administrtion whas not very positive !! I am personally very satisfied with the choice our country made for President. Q: Did you already plan any dates for the tour? Are you coming to Europe and Italy? JR: It looks like September is the plan to come to Europe, We are very excited to come back to play and especially Italy, fans are very warm !!!! MRF | 5 Band: Wetton / Downes - Icon Album: 3 Interview with: John Wetton Interviewed by: Vitale Nocerino Focus on: WETTON / DOWNES Icon - 3 (Frontiers Records) Icon 3: a musical masterpiece that elevates the talents of John Wetton and Geoffery Downes to never before reached heights. This album is a heroic journey set upon which both Artists lay bare their hearts in both musical expression and lyrical articulation. Like its predecessor... Icon 3 brims over with vast rivers of fluid song, exquisitely joined together forming a statement of musical magnitude that has no equal. This Recorded Work will never fail to move you...and move you in spaces you have never been! An album full of swirling undercurrents--propelling one from aural peak to another! Icon 3 will literally sweep you off of your feet. In 2006 I ended my review of Icon 2 with; "...an outstanding collection of musical expression from the souls of John Wetton and Geoffrey Downes." � three years on and I'll end this review with; Icon 3, a stupendous collection of Musical Expression elevated to a Spiritual Experience from the souls of John Wetton and Geoffrey Downes. Bruce E.J. Atkinson (91/100) 6 | MRF Question: One year has passed from the release of "Phoenix". Did you have already prepared the songs for this new Icon album or did you write them during the Asia tour? Answer: We started writing the album in June last year. Both myself and John had a few ideas around before then. It's quite hard to write songs on the road. There's a lot of other stuff going on. Q: Do you have a different approach when you write for Icon or for Asia? A: Yes, I think we address the Icon material from a more orchestral standpoint. Asia requires more of a `band' feel. Therefore the approach is a little different. Q: How has writing songs with Asia, and primarily Geoffrey Downes, changed from 1982 to now? A: Very little, in that there is no formula. The process usually starts with one idea (occasionally there is a complete song, but rarely), and then snowballs from there. Geoffrey Downes and I write at a piano, usually the same one in my house where we wrote all the original Asia songs. We collaborate on music and lyrics. Sometimes I'll write the whole lyric--if I have a good direction--but collaboration is usual. People come horribly unstuck when trying to guess what our individual contributions have been, and we are quite compatible. Q: Now that Asia is reformed, do you feel more free to experiment different sounds with Icon? A: We always felt that Icon was something where we could let the music breathe. Some of the ingredients such as female vocals, and orchestral instruments are something we never employ within Asia. So yes, we can stretch out a bit on the treatment of songs. Q: You have Dave Kilminster on guitar: are you satisfied with his work? And why did you choose him? A: Dave has worked with John before on various projects, hence the connection. He has added some very interesting and original guitar elements to Icon 3. Q: The lyrics of "Rubicon" were very introspective and personal, for example the song "An Extraordinary Life". What about the lyrics of "3"? A: Generally I think the lyrics for `3" are a little more upbeat. If you go back to Icon 1 & 2 there are some fairly introspective lyrics � so yes I think there is some interesting vari- ety lyrically on the new album Q: Are you playing live as Icon to support "3"? A: Having just completed an Icon mini-tour and live DVD, we are now about to embark on a new Asia European tour. Of course, when that has finished we will always look at the possibility of more Icon dates. Q: I know you're coming to Italy with Asia. Do you feel satisfied with the response of the reunion, both with the album "Phoenix" and the live shows? A: I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be doing it three years (from the point of the re-union) later if there had been an adverse reaction to the reformation. The tours and album have been pleasantly well-received, and as long as the audience is there, and the enthusiasm amidst the band is still there, then I can foresee us going on for quite some time in the future. Q: When you recorded the first Icon album, did you expect that this project could last so long? A: We took it really each step at a time and it grew from there. I suppose we never thought it would be so productive, but again it's a very enjoyable project to be involved with. Q: From the solo John Wetton album I love "Battle Lines". What do you remember about it? A: That was something John was involved in on his own, so I had no input with regard to this. However, the track Battle Lines is a beautiful song, and John had recently been performing this with Icon. Q: Did you hear any exciting new band or any exciting new album in the last months? A: To be honest, I don't listen to much new music these days. My influences were very much in the 60's & 70's, and if I play music, I tend to listen to stuff from this era. Q: Over your lengthy career you've worked with everyone from David Cassidy to Robert Fripp to Ringo Starr. Is there anyone that you've always wanted to work with but have never gotten the chance? A: No, there isn't. I'm blessed to have worked with many wonderful people over the years, but I'm afraid that I would see the crack in some people if I volunteered to work with them. Having said that, I met Joni Mitchell once (she was with the same record label during the '80s), and I would jump at the chance to work with her. Such is her deity in my particular firmament, but I'd struggle to see in what capacity I'd be of any use. Q: We were talking about King Crimson, of which you were a member a little over 30 years ago. A lot of people believe the line-up you were part of was a definitive version. How do you look back at your experiences with Crimson? A: With great fondness. It's funny I was having a conversation with Steve Howe, and we were talking about the halcyon years of Yes, and, for my money, the best version of King Crimson ever. I have an attachment to that 72-74 incarnation. Steve said something I had to jump on. He asked, "What was it like working for Robert Fripp?" And I said that was never the case. And he would tell you that himself. He picked people like myself or Bill Bruford to work with because he knew we had very strong personalities. The rhythm section was so strong in King Crimson -- sometimes it overpowered the lead instruments. I'm still very fond of Robert. We meet regularly and talk for four or five hours at a time. It was very much a situation where ideas were thrown into a pot. Occasionally, Robert would come in with a change. But aside from that..."Starless" is a perfect example. It's probably the best thing we did. The first part is my ballad, the intro was Robert's, the harmonic riff, which everybody thinks is a bass player riff, is Bill Bruford's. Things are never exactly the way you would like them to be. When you have four people in the ring and they start throwing ideas around, it comes out in several different ways. It's never the way you envisioned. Bearing that in mind, much of the first and second (Crimson) albums were my ideas, which were given to the band. They were kind of synthesized by the band. I think I probably should have taken a more organic approach, but I don't know. It depended on who came up with the best idea at the time. Q: Which are your next moves, both with Asia and Icon? A: Well the European tour coming up is going to take us to the end of April. Then we have some dates coming up in the States in summer and back to Europe for some late summer festivals. I imagine then we may be looking at another album (for Asia). Re: Icon, we'll see what's available later in the year. And, I've got a solo album to complete at some point. It's turning into a very busy year ahead!!! MRF | 7 Band: Street Legal Album: Bite The Bullet Interview with: Bj�rn Boge Interviewed by: Alessandro Ariatti Question: Firstly thanks for finally getting Street Legal back on track... Answer: Thanks. We are very happy and honoured that we are here.We've had our share of both personal and professional disasters,- selfinflicted or not, since Thunderdome in 2000.The fact that Serafino actually bothered to send me an email last year and ask . What's happening ?- Still amazes me. It' s not to our credit- that's for sure. In 2007 we hired the best manager in Norway to negotiate with Frontiers, he's an old friend of the band and did it almost for free. He comes up with a totally decent deal for a band at Street Legals level. What happens? Stupid assholes goes back and says. No. This is not good enough. We want more! What happens. Nothing. Frontiers says. No way. You have to prove yourselves first. He was right. They were right. We were the morons. So here we are. Older, and wiser. You only learn from the mistakes that you pay for yourself... being a stupid asshole only takes you in one directionthe toilet. I know. I felt the smell of it. Q: Were the songs on the new album specifically written for this album or were there songs written a long time ago but never seen the light of day. A: It's a mixed thing. I always have ideas for songs. But you need the right people to play them. And if you change one member in a band, it's a different chemistry. So the songs evolved over a period of time, but we're mainly written quite fast. What took time was getting them right in the studio.Cause I knew we had to make a killer album to follow "Thunderdome". It never felt like a pressure though. I don't see it that way. I don't believe in divine inspiration. I believe in hard work. That's why I wasn't afraid when we started working on "Bite the bullet". And now I only look forward to create the next album. When AC/DC can do it. Why can't we? Q: You are joined on the album by Tore Ostby and and Rolf Bjorseth, will they become a more permanent part of the band? A: Two superb guitarists in their own particular ways. Most people know Tore from Conception and Ark. Rolf and me goes back to when we where 7 and started in the same class at school. Had our first band toghether from the age of 12 to 19. Tore lives in Stockholm, and Rolf is the key account manager of a major computer company. So it's the schedule factor that the lead us to the situation where me and and my brother decided to run the ship as it is now. We won't rule out any possibility when it comes to liveshows. It's only a matter of who's available. Me and Oystein will be there with two world class guitarists- that's for sure. It can be Tore, Rolf, Ken Ingwersen, Tore Moren, or Tommy Kristiansen(who did some additional work on the album). And if possible with Dag Selboskar (ex Da Vinci) on keyboards too. What we can promise is that it will be a smoking unit. Q: When writing where do you draw your inspirations from is it art reflecting life or nothing that deep? A: I read a lot and watch movies. I do martial arts, I hike and I love Nordic skiing. Being in the forest for hours makes your head work Listening to music is not so interesting anymore when it comes to the creative side of it. Jamming is great. You need other angles to make fresh ideas that can carry a song. Having said that,- what usually triggers a new riff or idea is the fact that you sit down with your guitar and just start playing. And then suddenly, there's a new idea. 10 % inspiration- 90 % transpiration... Q: You cover Maniac on the album, what made you choose that particular song? Are there any others you have a burning desire to cover one day? A: I love Maniac. Its one of my favourite songs. I got the album "Bossa Nova Hotel" from a friend who was into west coast music. And it's a brilliant album. Very 80s. But excellent songs. I didn't realize Maniac was a hit until later. Only listened to hard rock, and my brothers albums at the time. And we demoed it as the first song ever in 1990 with Street Legal. Q: Finally how do you see the future for Street Legal, any tour plans at the moment? A: I love the fact that Bite the bullet finally is out. This means that Street Legal have a chance for a fresh start. We will tour, and currently I 'm working on the funding part of it. There will be gigs, and all we can say is � Let there be rock. It's great to be back in business! Focus on: STREET LEGAL - Bite The Bullet (Frontiers Records) Well it's been some nine years since Street Legal's renowned `Thunderdome' album and now Bjorn Boge is back with brother Oystein to bring back the band with a new album in tow. `Bite The Bullet' is great mix of classic rock and melodic hard rock, while still retaining that modern feel, which helps to make this release stand out from all the rest. The brothers have brought in the guitar duo of Tore Ostby (ex ARK, Conception) and Rolf Bjorseth, who really bring this album to life in my opinion, with some great riffs throughout. Standout tracks have to be the rocker `Warriors Of Genghis Khan', with producer Tommy Newton on guitar. The bass ridden `Unconditional Love' and even the cover version of `Maniac' brings a smile to this face. All-in-all a classy album that sure to put Street Legal back on the Hard Rock map once again. Barry McMinn - 90/100 8 | MRF Band: Impellitteri Album: Wicked Maiden Interview with: Chris Impellitteri Interviewed by: Duncan Jamieson Q: It's taken you three years to record. Why so long? A: We wanted to make an Impellitteri album that would be competitive in nature to the records I grew up listening to such as Van Halen 1, Ozzy Blizzard of Oz, Metallica Master of Puppets, Pantera Cowboys from Hell, etc... As you can imagine, when you set your goal that high you have to be prepared to work for a very long time to make the music special!! So, we took about 2 years to write the songs, another year to record the demos, a few months to rehearse, and then about 1 year to record and mix the record. Before we knew it, about 4 years had passed since our previous release. Q: Rob Rock's back in the band after an absence that saw Graham Bonnet and Curtis take on the lead vocalist spot. What's it like to have him back? A: Fantastic !! Rob Rock really fits well in the band. Both Rob and myself grew up playing in clubs and we have a writing chemistry that is special. I think you can really here how we compliment one another on Wicked Maiden. I write all of the music, and Rob writes all of the lyrics and most vocal melodies. Q: How did you go about writing the songs on the record? I'm guessing the guitar parts come first. A: Yes, I write the music by playing the guitar for 8 hours per day. I usually go into my private studio and record ideas with a drum machine. Once I find a great guitar riff that is inspiring and memorable I then develop the riff into a song. On Wicked Maiden I developed each song by working on all aspects of the compositions such as riff, Focus on: melody, song structure, lead solos, and orchestration. It is a lengthy process, but it works well for me. Is there a Christian element to the record with song titles such as "Garden of Eden", "Holyman" and "The Battle Rages on"? Q: It's been said that you're the fastest guitarist in the world. Is it true? And, how do they measure that kind of thing? A: I am the first guitar player to be called the fastest guitar player in the world in the media or press. I think it is a funny title. It is true that I can play very fast, but I do not believe anyone is the fastest guitar player in the world. We must remember that you can only play as fast as the song tempo will allow, and complication of the scale intervals used. I got the title fastest guitar player in the world after many people listened to the 1st Impellitteri Black 4 song EP with songs Lost in the Rain, Burning, etc.... Q: Do you still practice as much on the guitar as you did when you were younger? A: Yes I have to practice many hours to play accurately. I am only human, so it takes a lot of practice to play complex musical passages, and to play accurately at fast speeds. Q: Are there any young guitarists out there today that impress you? A: Yes!! The young guitar players have an advantage because they grow up with You tube. They learn by watching guitar players like Impellitteri, Yngwie, Van Halen, etc....Because of the Internet young guitar players are able to visually watch established guitar players and see how those established guitar players physically play their insturments. So they can mimic them with ease. Q: How do you think the scene has changed since you first started out? A: It has become more competitive and corporate. When I started out you could play any style of music ranging from rock, pop, metal, etc... and play this music from one band. But today, if you step out of the boundaries of your musical category the critics and fans get really angry. We notice this when we change from a song like Wicked Maiden to Hi Scool Revolution. One song is a fast aggressive metal song, and the other song is an anthem sing along reminiscent of early Van Halen. Also, the corporations now run the record companies so they do not allow artists to grow. If an artists does not sell a million records on their first release the record companies usually drop them. Fortunately for Impellitteri we have sold over 1 million records and have established a strong market in different countries. That has been our secret to success Q: You're coming to Europe to play. Is there anywhere in particular you're looking forward to playing? A: I am trying to book an entire European tour for the support of Wicked Maiden. I am scheduled to start by playing the Sweden Rock Festival. Impellitteri will then play Japan and the United States followed by Europe. If all goes well with the European promoters Impellitteri will play concerts in many European countries. It will be fantastic to play for the European audiences!! IMPELLITTERI - Wicked Maiden (Metal Heaven) After listening to Impellitteri's latest offering I'm sure I'm typing this review at lightening speed. Such is the effect of hearing the reputedly fastest shredder in world race up and down his fret board. Rob Rock returns to the band after an absence of several years in which time he pursued a solo career . He's the perfect foil for Impelliteri's guitar wizardry as his voice is as histrionic as Impellitteri's fretwork. This is straight heavy metal with Impellitteri pumping out dark riffs on "Wicked Maiden" and "Last of a dying Breed". They also show why they once garnered MTV rotation with the more melody friendly "Eyes of an Angel" and the rebellious "High School Revolution". Although, they can't be the smartest guys on the block if they haven't yet graduated school at their age! "Weapons of Mass Distortion" is a great title that isn't quite as incendiary at the title would suggest. For an album that was three years in the making, the lyrics at times rather lazily use every rock clich� in Rockdom. However this is hard, heavy and fast and it will appease all Impellitteri and shredder fans alike. , Duncan Jamieson (80/100) MRF | 9 Band: Shakra Album: Everest Interview with: Thomas Muster Interviewed by: Duncan Jamieson Question: Hey, how's life? Answer: It's 2009 and life is a fucking bitch... Little joke, we're doing fine because it's only a few weeks until EVEREST will be released! Q: Do you think "Everest" is you best album to date? A: Yes! The newest album is always the best one! You can ask whoever you want, everybody will tell you that!:-) There are a few pretty cool songs on the album and I think if this album would be released by another band I would buy it immediately! That's exactly the style of music I prefer right now! You know in the past I sometimes wrote some cool SHAKRA-songs while I had a Nightwish or Rush or whatever period. But at the moment I'm totally into our music! Q: I like "Ashes to Ashes" and "The Journey" in particular. What tracks do you think are the strongest on the record? A: I agree! But also "Right Between The Eyes", "Insanity" and "Illusion Of Reality" belong to my faves! I guess "The Journey" is our most progressive track so far! Q:You have your own distinct style and sound. How would you describe what's Shakra's Focus on: sound? A: Let me say it with the words of an english journalist: It's a rock'n'roll ride with a dash of heavy metal! I always call it hardrock with modern elements but the other term sounds much better :-) Q: Who comes up with the ideas for the songs? A: I'm the main songwriter. I record a lot of ideas at home. Very simple with drum-computers and stuff like that. I also write most of the vocal-lines, we try them out in the rehearsal-room with Mark and he finally writes the lyrics. That's it! Q: How does the band go about composing a song? Has a song ever gone from a hardrocking tune to a ballad or vice versa? A: No, we never turned a heavy song into a ballad! Every song we write has its own soul and requires what it earns. You can't change it into something really different because it wouldn't sound good anymore. It's like you can't change a dog into a rabbit... Q: With two guitarists in the band, is there a lot of competition between them at times? A: No, absolutely not! Thom is a brilliant lead-guitarist and I would never ever thinking about playing some lead-stuff! To be honest, I'm not a very good guitarist. Of course I can play all the rhythm-riffs because I compose them, but I'm not able to play any solos. No way! Q: You've supported some big bands such as Iron Maiden and Guns n Roses. Which festivals or gigs of yours have stood as out as most memorable? A: Well, these two shows with Maiden and G'n'R were fantastic. Of course it just feels great to play in front of thousands of people. But they spend their money for the headliners, not for us. That's why it makes me proud when we do a headliner-show for 500 or 1000 people. Because all those people bought a ticket to see us, not anyone else! Q: What's the rock scene like these days in Switzerland? A: Hmm, I don't think that we're part of a scene here in Switzerland. We're just SHAKRA, we go our own way. And I'm not hanging around with other bands. So actually I can't tell you something about the rock-scene here. Q: What's the next step for Shakra? A: Climbing the Everest!!!:-)) SHAKRA - Everest (AFM Records) On this, their eighth CD, these Swiss rockers have their own distinctive take on melodic rock. Mark Fox's voice has a pleasing raspy throatiness that doesn't betray too much of an accent. Thom Blunier and Thomas Muster's guitars are heavy enough to give them a modern edge and this separates them from the bands of the 80s. Their style relies a lot on rhythm and it gives Shakra their own recognizable sound in a field of copyists. They're less cock rock than fellow Swiss band Gotthard who they are often unfairly compared to. Bands like Shakra are the future of this genre, fusing the old radio friendly choruses to post 90s riffage. Tracks such as "Ashes to Ashes" and "Love and Pain" are cool examples of modern rock. "The Journey" and "Money" see them rocking that little bit harder to good effect. On the down side, a lot of the tracks have similar tempos and some choruses don't soar quite as high as they might. However they deserve recognition beyond , their Swiss borders and with a big name producer at the helm next time could see them taking their music to a higher peak. Duncan Jamieson (80/100) 10 | MRF Band: Nasty Idols Album: Boys Town Interview with: Dick Qwafort Interviewed by: Bruce E.J. Atkinson Question : I would like to begin with perhaps a stale question...what happened that brought you all together again after all these years? Answer: It's was a reunion gig at the Swedenrockfestival and after that we went on the "Rejects on the road tour", witch included Denmark, England and Italy.. Q: During the 1990's the Nasty Idols were slagging away, working hard, but faced many hardships... what, if anything, is different now? A: Well, the internet for sure, it's a good media to spread your music! You seem to have stayed with your roots, the new album is vintage Idols... it is almost like the last thirteen years didn't happen... It's always good to have a new kickass comeback and not ride on the old stuff, it hookes up with you sooner or later... Ha! Ha! Q: I realise that you are serious about the reformation... does this also continue in wanting to do Live work? A: Absolutley, that's one of the reasons we made the new album, so we could go on tour again with new freash stuff! Focus on: Q: Let's talk a little more about the new release... "Boys Town", where did you record and was the creative process any different from the Idols method beforehand? A: We worked with a new producer Matti Engdahl, and he understood the sound we we're looking for..! Q: Having another 'kick at the can', where do you hope to go with the 21st century Nasty Idols? A: Touring, touring and more touring... and hope everyone will like our new album! Q: Looking at the present music scene, do you feel that the atmosphere is better for your style of music? Are there any Artists similar to the group that stand out in your minds? A: Hanoi Rocks, Sex Pistols, Kiss and Sweet... that's our influences anyway.. ! Q: How do you see the new Swedish Glam/sleaze scene with Crash Diet (RIP), Hardcore Superstar, Gemini Five etc? Has the scene accelerated the comeback of Nasty Idols? Everything in the musicbusiness comes back one way or the other, it's like a vicious circle. Our type of music is hype again and we would be idiots if we let this oppertunity go to waste! Q: If you could freeze one moment in your career and relive it - what situation comes to mind? A: Our opening concert for the "Cruel Intention" tour. It was in our home town at a rockplace called Kulturbolaget, and the whole crowd sang along to every song, they knew the lyrics better than Andy! Ha! Ha! Q: Which song is your favorite song to perform live and why? A: All of them! The show will mostly contain songs from the "Cruel Intention" album, but there will also be songs from the other ones. The concert includes the best of Nasty's career for Christ sake! So it better be good or else we can kiss our asses goodbye! Q: There are many who are elated that the Nasty Idols are back... as is my tradition, please leave us with some parting words... A: I hope we get on the road fast so we can meet all our fans and friends again... NASTY IDOLS - Boys Town (Metal Heaven) It's all about attitude with these lads! After a ten year vacation, these Idols decided to walk back on the stage and take the rock world by the throat! "Boys Town" represents album number five, and just ten years after number four...however it is like they never left! Their hard edged sound and f**k you attitude is still intact! A solid effort, "Boys Town" is full of angst ridden rock that will bring you to your feet. The group actually got back together back in '06, and have been playing and recording...re-inventing themselves. Nothing watered down here, it seems the years have been kind to this foursome. Nasty Idols are about to re-take the world, and with no compromise.....check out the title track, and "Method To My Madness". If there is anything different in the Nasty Idols, it is most likely a higher degree of confidence...but everything else is intact...Nasty Idols have always been `take us as we are' and they are true to this....with `Boys Town' get ready to just simply rock out! Bruce E.J. Atkinson (88/100) MRF | 11 THE CHELSEA SMILES - S/T (DR2 Records) Taz Taylor's name came to prominence at the time of the release of his debut album "Welcome to America" in 2006. That album saw former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet at the mike and sported a very nice and Classic british Hard Rock sound. So how do you follow on from Graham? Enter Keith Slack a vocalist and frontman that already proved his worth with solo MSG and on the now classic Steelhouse Lane album "Slaves of the New World". And the combination between Taz incendiary riffing and Slack's raspy tone is really cool on this record which is definitely heavier and more straight ahead compared to the debut. Check out riveting songs like "Razor Tongue", "Information Overload" or "Lock and Load" to testify that this album has a strong live feel and is ultimately an attention grabber for all fans of the heavier side of Rainbow sound mixed with some early 80's Metal influence. Check it out, it will not disappoint. Vitale Nocerino (82/100) TAZ TAYLOR BAND - Straight Up (Escape) From his time with New Model Army and The Almighty the name of Ricky Warwick has been associated with some massive Hard Rock songs, but there is more to the man than driving guitar riffs and raspy angst filled vocals as his new solo album Belfast Confetti shows. The album is a real joy to listen too and Warwick displays a real knack for the acoustic with this album. He has always been a social commentator in his lyrics and this album is no different, but the unplugged Warwick can tell a soulful tale and put it music like no other. With great tracks like `Throwing Dirt', `The Arms Of Belfast Town' and the excellent `Hanks Blues', this album will show there's more to Warwick than you'd expect and hopefully a few live shows will follow in promotion of this superb album. Barry McMinn (85/100) RICKY WARWICK - Belfast Confetti (DR2) "The Chelsea Smiles" are categorised as a punk -rock/garage rock uartet...not my terms, someone else's...and I cannot agree! These four, highly infectious, group of musicians, are quite simply a straight ahead Rock group, and a darned good one at that! This, their new self-titled effort is full of contagious rock n' roll lullabies! This record is a stompin' good time � with twelve no-nonsense highly driven musical escapades' that'll have you bomping long after the damn record is over! A raucous rhythm soaked smoker. This self titled gem should gain these four gents some notice around the globe. Ahh!...it certainly is good when The Chelsea Smiles (sink your teeth into "The Last Time" � a Rock Revival � yes siree!). So go out and buy this album if you want some amaging time or if you want go out and have fun with music and fiends! Bruce E.J. Atkinson (80/100) DAVID FOSTER - Fly Away (Zink Music) Judging by the muscly lads on back of the sleeve, I'd better give them a decent review as they look like they could kick my ass. Fortunately, for me, it's thumbs up for Bi Bang's fifth album. Imagine an orgy of 80s LA glam bands making out together at a frat party, add a Swedish accent and you've got their essence. In the past, production let them down but here they've layered chanting choruses over cracking bubblegum tunes to make this a party worth going to. The door policy is simple; the bouncer's letting in anyone willing to forget daily reality and rejoice in tales of rock n roll excess, bad boys and naughtier girls. Standouts include "I Love the Things you Hate", "Are you Ready I'm Ready" and "Party Queen" which are the equivalent of Poison French kissing Def Leppard while groping Kiss. This kind of feelgood party metal is back in vogue and Bai Bang do it better than the competition and deserve a wider audience. On closer "Bigtime Party" they invite you to attend. I recommend you go as a good time is guaranteed. Duncan Jamieson (89/100) 12 | MRF BAI BANG - Are You Ready (Metal Heaven) ASTRA - From Within (Lion Music) If rock music were a drink it would be a whisky and coke or perhaps a cold beer. What we have here is more of a posh cocktail complete with a glace cherry and an umbrella. David Foster is a famous producer, arranger and songwriter who has produced almost every middle of the road pop star from John Parr to Whitney Houston. Here Tomi Malm produces, while a whole host of quality West Coast session musicians, including thirteen lead singers; over fourteen tracks give their mellow interpretations of Foster's tracks. They play everything from soft rock, blue eyed soul, and light jazz to syrupy ballads. The saccharine factor is diabetes inducing on some tracks. The songs that would appeal most to melodic rock fans are Bill Chapman making "In the Stone" sound like Chicago, Bill LaBounty singing the Marc Cohn-esque "No Explanation", and "Through the Fire" with its tasty guitar break. "Jojo" sung by Arnold McCuller would appear to be related to Toto's Georgie Porgy. Fans of Steely Dan or Hall and Oats will find much to chill out to here. If you're looking to rock however, this is unlikely to be your tipple. Duncan Jamieson (82/100) Hailing from Rome, Italian metalheads beware the force that is Astra, who return with their powerful second album `From Within'. The band's mixture of Power Metal and Melodic Rock might seem a little diverse to some, but the band sure make this combination work, mainly due to the vocals of Titta Tani who comes across as a power infested James LaBrie at times and then Joe Lynn Turner at others. This mix of metal and melody is a powerful combination that might seem alien to some but works rather well, with some outstanding tracks like the pummeling `Promises You Made' and for that Melodic Rock element you can't beat the excellent `Save Another Day'. All out favourite track off the album being the superb 7 minute epic `Hypocrisy'. A thunderous mix of melody and power and for me depicts what Astra are all about and long may it continue. Barry McMinn (82/100) COLDSPELL - Infinite Stargaze (Escape Music) H.A.R.D. - Traveller (Hammer Records) A very ambitious and adventuresome collection of music � "Infinite Stargaze" is this Swedish quintet's first release. `Coldspell', founded by Michael Larsson � a well known guitarist & songwriter � has banded with some of Sweden's most respected Rock Talents. A combined guitar/keyboard attack... Coldspell create towering, rhythm driven musical soundscapes that will hold you and draw you in to each sonic expression. A very elegant package; "Infinite Stargaze" is highly supported by the group's label... Escape Music. Beautiful artwork and the liner notes are extensive. Adventuresome in the music � but also in the production. This debut is produced by Michael Larsson and Coldspell, but avoiding the over indulgent pitfalls of many self-produced records. "...Stargaze" is vibrant and slick... all five musicians are showcased ever so refined-ly and not weighing down the complete musical creation. Coldspell have a lot to say-sing and convey musically... this debut opens so many vistas and glimpses of future potential, leaving one with a feeling that the Coldspell will be upon us for a very long time. Bruce E.J. Atkinson (85/100) LYRIAN - Nightingale Hall (Medieval Rec.) This is the first time that I get the chance to listen to a Melodic Hard Rock band from Hungary. I came across other bands from Eastern Europe, but these guys have apparently a good experience in the local scene and gathered around a project that saw the support from the leading Rock label of the country. "Traveller" is a cool record with roots in the anthemic US Hard Rock of the 80's. Especially a cut like "Rock Is My Name" can work very well in a live environment, with its big commercial hook along with "Troublemaker". More AOR oriented are "Stay" (not miles away from Valentine), the title track "Traveler" and the radiofriendly tune "Dreamworld". All in all a more than pleasant release which will be interesting for all Melodic Rock fans. PS: last news is that the guys started working with Beau Hill (Winger, Ratt, Unruly Child etc.) who is remixing some of the songs of the album, so the future looks bright for the guys ! Vitale Nocerino (72/100) FREE SPIRIT - Pale Sister Of Light (Carpet Music) So here they are, the new sensation from Finland! There is nothing you can do about it, for some reason when you have to face a new band coming from the land of the thousand lakes, there are always good reasons to awake your attention for some good Melodic Hard Rock music. And this sextet is no exception to the rule: with a deep concept behind (the band's name is based on Friedrich Nietzsche's book 'The Antichrist' and also lyrically there are interesting concepts developed), these guys are able to deliver a cool debut album which melts cleverly some folki-sh and spacey elements in more acoustic driven songs like the excellent "Heroes Don't Cry" and "Easy Days", with a typical taste for great hooklines and arena rock numbers. There are also some different influences here and there, which may appeal to some and put off others, in fact especially the singer Sami Alho low tone reminds of Him at times. Still, tracks such as "Moonlight Ride", "Strangers" and "Far Way From Heaven" are truly Superb Melodic Hard Rock anthems which are sure to please everyone. This album definitely begs for your attention and this band can definitely stand up together with Brother Firetribe and Leverage up there in the Finnish Rock Heaven! Mario de Riso (82/100) Although a highly accomplished songwriter and producer, Chris Laney has displayed colossal courage in deciding to release a full fledged solo recording. It is totally different playing and singing your own creations with your heart being completely exposed...as all of a sudden you are under the `hot lights'. But...no worries, Chris delivers a knock out cavalcade of punches with `Pure'. He has surrounded himself with a high calibre group of musicians that meet with his own multi-talent musicianship. "Pure" is twelve vital, high energy, uncompromised Rockers full of dynamics � straight on steel tinged vibrating sounscapes. Chris' vocals are strong...clear and harmonious, taking you and each song to a higher level. This album just keeps building. Filled to the top with confidence and attitude, Mr. Laney has given us a very muscular and pure aural delight! May his recording career reach ever higher.... Rock music in its purest form � thank-you Chris!...we need this. Bruce E.J. Atkinson (89/100) CHRIS LANEY - Pure (Metal Heaven) Lyrian is the brainchild of John Blake along with fellow librarians Alison Felstead and Paul W Nash. A progressive folk band whose fourth band member is a drum machine. This is not my usual fair, more my wife's to be honest, but I'm used to the dulcet tones of Folk Rock around the house and I've even seen a few Folk bands live, so my life is not all Rock n' Roll, I sometimes have a mellow chillout now and again. And this album is definitely that, the mellow Prog feel is very British summer garden croquet on the lawn and cucumber sandwiches, which after a hard days rockin' really brings you down to earth on a fluffy cloud instead of a crashing thud. This may not be to everyone's taste but it definitely is a great winding down album, what with the 17 minute serenity of `Nightingales' and the 15.29 minutes of `He Who Would Valliant Be', being two of the most divine musical pieces I've heard this year. Truly haunting and mesmerizing. This sort of album I use as my pallet cleaner akin to a wine taster who needs something to refresh his pallet after a hard day, this is mine. Leaving me ready to face another guitarladen riff frenzied day. Barry McMinn (60/100) SAXON - Into The Labyrinth (SPV) "Into The Labyrinth" is, in good and in bad, the nth album by Saxon. The historical band of Byford has never changed too much along the years � for that reason only Manowar are slammed, for evident media reasons � and in the end, as it always happens when speaking of NWOBHM bands, the differences among the various albums are made by the different balance between proper metal pieces and more rocking tracks. After the disappointing (but not ugly) "Inner Sanctum", quite a more hard rock album, Saxon get back to their most fitting dress, and offer us some real hymns of metal power: "Battalions Of Steel" and "Valley Of The Kings" in particular, some huge epic pieces to scream out loud on the path of the unforgettable "Power And The Glory" (maybe with some more familiarity with the use of the keys), with some harder songs (the granite riffs of "Protect Yourselves" and "Hellcat") and some faster ("Demon Sweeney Todd") but also more rocking, like the involving "Live To Rock", fairly chosen as opener single. And then? Then nothing, as usual the quality is swinging, among the ups all the tracks mentioned above, among the downs the rest of the album, among which it does not shine, but intrigues, the acoustic version of "Coming Home", originally released for "Killing Ground". Well, it's nice but not historical: another album by Saxon. Fulvio Adile (75/100) MRF | 13 Band: TXS Album: Transmission Interview with: Kenneth E. Kristiansen Interviewed by: Barry McMinn Question: For some of the band this is the second time around, what makes TXS different from Hush? Answer: A lot, the main thing I think, is that Dag and Terje had 6-7 songs written when they did ask me if I wanted to produce the album for them, and that Dag sings and writes different from Patrick. At that point, they had no name or plan so we had to work that out. We knew that we wanted to do something else than Hush. More in the pop direction but keep it rocking. I guess that there will be some common ground here. I play guitar, writes a bit, producing, mixing and Ragnar plays the drums, so that have to show some similarities. Q: The album has that more commercial/modern feel to it, was this the intension from the beginning? A: Yes, it was the intention. But, the way it sounds is how it ended up because of what we are as a band. We use real instruments, loads of acoustic guitars, piano and REAL drums, as we did in Hush, but the songs are written and produced as rock tunes with more radio appeal. Q: How long did it take to put the whole album together from its initial conception to the final product? Focus on: A: I did hear the first 3-4 demos March 2008. Then we carved out the direction and made a plan. I sent Escape a mail earlier on asking him if he wanted to work with my company (Raido) to release my productions. So, I sent him some demos we did, and he said YEA! About the production, we were actually writing and recording at the same time. No rehearsals. We had Ragnar coming in to do the drums 1-3 songs at the time. Actually, the entire album was done that way. About September/October it was ready. It just had to be mixed. I mixed it in November/December the master is done in Dallas, Texas. January 09. Q: What has been the reaction so far from the fans and media regarding this new album? A: Pretty good! We are happy. 200+ people came to see us at the release gig. We had an hour+ signing session, wore out some pens, had some drinks... and... Yea... Well, we hope we can get enough publicity to make people aware of the album and a lot of airplay. We have had some of that, but, we want more! So, now you know what songs to ask for when you call your local radio stations. Q: When putting a new band together it must have been eas- ier with three of you already familiar with each other. Has this helped the band on a whole? Yea, I guess it did. I have known Ragnar since we were kids. Playing in different bands. Dag and Terje, from hush and other projects as session musicans. Kjell on bass and Robert (Ragnars brother) on guitar, is fresh blood! And that is good. Now we are six in the band! It sounds HUGE!!! Q: Who's idea was it to put a new band together? A: I think it just escalated; it became a band along the road. Dag and I spoke about making an album for years, and Dag and Terje wrote some songs. Here we are! Q: Will we be seeing TSX on the road soon and if so where and when? A: We really do hope we can do some gigs in UK, Germany... Everywhere. But right now, there`s only plans for Norway. Q: Finally where do the band plan to go from here? A: We will promote this album for a while, do gigs and stuff and have a second album ready in 18 months from now. Some songs are ready actually. But, you know, we are simple guys, one thing at the time. TXS - Transmission (Escape Music) It's great to hear new bands flying the flag for Melodic Rock and another band that are surely to make their mark on the genre are Norwegians TXS. Formed by three members from the highly regarded Hush, Dag Aspen (vocals) Kenneth E Kristiansen (guitar, vocals, programming, percussion) and Kjell Reierstad (bass) with Terje Smelfold (keyboards, guitar, vocals) completing the line-up. The band have kept their love of good Melodic/Hard Rock going with a great album that shows that the scene has a wealth of talent willing to remain steadfast to their roots. The album boasts some great tracks like `Man Chameleon', the great ballad `Time To Say Goodbye' and the uptempo `Breathe You Out', even the bands cover of Unbelievable', a song covered originally by Def Leppard sounds new and very commercial. Although all out track of the album has to be the excellent `Stay', which has to be Barry McMinn (85/100) one of the best Melodic Rock songs I've heard this year. 14 | MRF Band: Highest Dream Album: Far Away From Here Interview with: Riq Ferris Interviewed by: Bruce E.J. Atkinson your best. It's very important to put your "truth" in the work. We heard AOR bands since we were children so, put our influences in Highest Dream, was almost unavoidable. Q: Obviously, you will be gathering huge fans for your music... and as is my tradition, please leave us with some final thoughts... A: Without demagogy, this CD was made for ourselves and for the AOR fans for all around the world. This work was just a way to express our musical influences and also the realization of a dream. The Highest Dream is having a very positive response from people. This is very exciting and gives us strength to keep on working. I can say without any fear that the HD can be considered as a craft work, but done with a great dedication and affection. I guess that this musical truth is what do people identify themselves with our work. I really hope to meet more friends and fans of AOR style in another countries and can be part of this musical universe, sharing the stage with the new bands that are also emerging and with our eternal idols and inspirations. Thank you, Bruce, for this opportunity to show our work and also to everyone who has helped us so far. Question: May we begin by telling us about yourselves and the group Highest Dream... A: The Highest Dream began as an AOR project and now is growing up and getting a big shape as a band. Me (Leo) and Riq, we always had the same way of thinking and the same feelings about music. We use to hear the same bands and it was very important for the success of the compositions. It was easy to mix the ideas. The songs, the chords and the melodies came in a natural and spontaneous way. Another crucial point on the production was to recruit the right people to the recordings. All the three guitar players involved on it have a great personality and competence. Q: You both have experience within the Brazilian Music Scene... how did the two of you meet? A: We met each other for the first time in band named "Hardhits". It was a cover band that played songs from great bands like Journey, Asia, Survivor, Europe, Kansas, Toto, Whitesnake, etc. Since then, we kept in contact and, after a time without see each other, we met again to make real all the things we use to do, but now, making something of ourselves. Q: Also, you both have experiFocus on: ence in recording and producing... how has this factored in to the making of your debut? A: The experience is really important. First, because the recordings go fast and easy, making less stress at the studio! lol Second, because we can put all of our musical influences in the work, and that's important to know what may sound good or bad. Q: As we say in North America, 'you wear your influences on your sleeve'... you have created a beautiful recorded work, please take us through the recording process? A: Well, first of all was to select the right set list. We had several songs and ideas. Riq showed me his songs (melodies and lyrics) and I showed him my material. After this, the second process was to make the arrangements. I use to say that the arrangements are the "clothes " of the songs. We have to understand the personality of the songs to know what it should wear, and we got have an appropriate cloth for a specific occasion and place. For example, if you wear a "kilt" in a brazilian guy, something will be strange, not natural. It's the same with the songs. You can't please the whole world, but you have to know where's your place on it and make HIGHEST DREAM - Far Away From Here (Escape Music) What do two restless young lads from Brazil have to convey musically to the rest of the world? A melodic dreamscape of sonic radiance � that's what!! "Far Away From Here" is the debut effort of `Highest Dream'...two extremely talented musicians that time after time conjure up finely orchestrated classically shaded melodic musical epics...now that's a mouthful! Riq Ferris & Leo Mendes have re-explored the musical rich plateaus first visited by such Artists as Journey, Kansas, Asia and the like. However during their explorations � these two musical friends have revealed new sound, scapes and captured them in this refreshing debut. Dazzling--energetic melodic creations topped with rich and towering vocals � a sure recipe of sound delights. An album full of emotive music and singing, `Highest Dream' is just that...reaching the pinnacle of pure Melodic/Rhythmic musical gems. "Far Away From Here" will continue to get closer to your heart and always stay fresh, listen after listen after listen! Ohh! For those with the courage to dream! Bruce E.J. Atkinson (80/100) MRF | 15 Band: Sunstorm Album: House Of Dreams Interview with: Joe Lynn Turner Interviewed by: Duncan Jamieson Focus on: SUNSTORM - Souse Of Dreams (Frontiers Records) This is the second album where Joe Lynn Turner dusts off some old tunes he wrote back in the day but for one reason never released until Serafino Perugino at Frontiers suggested recording them for his label. The first record was full of terrific tunes and I'm delighted to report this album, including outside writers, is too. Dennis Ward and Jim Peterik are on board to add their own class to the proceedings. It's not as heavy as Turner's recent solo output instead it's sophisticated AOR with standouts including the up tempo "Divided " and "Gutters of Gold" with choruses more infectious than the plague. The ballad "Say you Will" demonstrates what an exceptional singer Turner is but be warned it's unabashedly soppy! A couple of tracks you might've heard before such as Terry Brock's "Forever Now" and Only Child's "Save a Place in Your Heart". His own "Walk On" graced Jimmy Barnes seminal "Freight Train Heart" album and is as strong as anything Desmond Child or Diane Warren used to write for....well, everyone. It should have earned Turner more money than the world banks are currently losing. This is AOR at its best. Duncan Jamieson (95/100) 16 | MRF Question: Welcome back Joe to Melodic Rock! How?s life treating you at the moment? Answer:Thanks. It's all good! I have some new projects that are taking off well and now House of Dreams is coming out soon. Q: This is another terrific Sunstorm album. How did you choose the songs by outside writers and do you still have any of your own songs tucked away that you haven't aired yet? A: Thanks! I did not pick the writers or musicians although they are all excellent. I only submitted songs from my vault and the guys at Frontiers, with all of their melodic rock connections, picked the others. The final song list was submitted to me by Frontiers. I do have several songs still tucked away but I would have to dig very deep into my library of tapes. Q: You recorded this record through the magic of modern technology, sending your vocals over to Dennis Ward to produce. How do you feel about being able to record in this way? A: It's great! This is what's happening today and the beauty of it all is that people can do all kinds of collaborations that were either not technically or financially feasible in the past. It's like"hands across the water." Just the other day Dennis sent me some files through the Internet, I had some thoughts on the mixing, he made some adjustments and sent them back. To be able to do all this without having to be in the same studio really saves a lot of time. I have really grown to embrace all this technology and in the end, the fans benefit because artists can put out more material, more CDs, participate in a variety of projects, which is creatively fulfilling. Q: You're a busy man and you've always got your fingers in a number of pies at once. What other projects are you involved in at the moment? I know there's your "Field of Dreams" inspired Rainbow project. Can you tell us a little about that and anything else you're up to? Q: LOL about the fingers in a number of pies. I see the fans on the JLT Yahoo Message board have been joking about this but in reality, as I said in the previous response, it allows for more creativity. It's healthy to work with different people and on a variety of projects. Right now I am packing for a show down in Florida with Rock and Pop Masters... band that has this incredible roster of musicians from Orleans to Blue Oyster Cult and Grand Funk. I am getting ready to hit the road with Big Noize in Spain and the UK in May. The project you are referring to is called OVER the Rainbow... please don't call it Rainbow because we do not want to confuse fans. The band features ex-Rainbow members from 3 different eras of Rainbow's past: Tony Carey, Greg Smith, Bobby Rondinelli with Ritchie Blackmore's son, Jurgen, on guitar. We just got back from Russia, The Ukraine and Belarus where we played for mostly sold out audiences in the thousands---not clubs... theaters and arenas. We'll head to Japan later this spring and are working on lining up more dates, hopefully in Europe and the USA. I'm always doing studio sessions and writing sessions. Q: How do remain so busy? What keeps you working and rocking so much and so well? A: I am always busy but people get up and go to work and most work at least 8 hours a day or more. Music IS my fulltime job. It's how I earn a living and it's what I enjoy most. Many people do not love their jobs. I am fortunate that I have a fulltime job that I love. It may be hard to believe but I actually have to turn down more than I agree to do. And, a lot of the things I do, people don't ever read about. The Internet, email, phones that are now internet connected, Skype, all these social networking sites make artists more accessible than ever before. My assistant receives emails with dozens of offers a month. It's incredibly flattering and I feel honored to have a lot of opportunities to choose from and somany venues to do what I like doing best... making music. And, I am grateful to the fans who continue to support my music and record companies, like Frontiers, who have the vision to keep it alive. Q: Some of your songs have been recorded by other artists such as "Walk On"on this record that Jimmy Barnes covered on his great "Freight Train Heart" album. Is there a version of one of your songs that you particularly like? A: Sure, Jimmy's is a good example right there. I like his version a lot. Bonfire's version of "Sweet Obsession" was great also. Q: Of course you're one of the best rock singers of your generation. On this record you really show off your vocal range such as on "Say you Will". How do you keep your vocal chords in such good condition? A: Thank you for the compliment and kind words. That was one of things I enjoyed most about that song is the ability to show off my range. I do have a five octave range and one of the good things about doing different projects and singing a variety of songs is that it allows me to keep my vocal chops up. As for my voice and health, I try and limit bad habits and do things like smoking or drinking in moderation. I take a lot of supplements for health reasons and get a lot of rest. One of the things I try not to do is schedule more than two shows back to back without one "off" day. Q: You've worked with some of the best rock musicians around. Is there anyone currently playing that you would like to hook up with if you had the chance? A: Lately I have been thinking that it would be great to work with Gary Moore. I would also like to work with some younger musicians and writers like the guys in Nickelback or Chris Daughtry. There are some country artists that I have been in touch with about possible future collaborations. Q:Your own song writing is top class but on this record you've also recorded a number of songs by other artists. What other song writers in general do you admire and which song do you wish you had written? A: Other writers I admire? Too many to name. I am sorry if that sounds like a lame answer but it's the honest answer. There are so many from Springsteen to Dylan, Desmond Child to Diane Warren. There are excellent writers in Nashville... Dan Huff is amazing and so is Willie Nelson. As far as songs that I wished I had recorded, "Heart of the Matter" by Don Henley is definitely one of them and Jimmy Barnes' "Too Much Aint Enough Love" is another. Q: You've played with a number of guitarists who have a reputation for being difficult. Do you ever have Diva moments? A: I get asked this all the time about certain artists being difficult. That's really a matter of perspective and situation. I think every artist, just by the nature of the work we do (and how personal music is to us) can be difficult or have their diva moments. I also think it's a matter of perception. As I have often said, out of fire comes steel. Even if a musician or writer is hard to work with at times, often the result is worth any personal struggles. As far as my diva moments, I guess you would have to ask people I have worked with...LOL. As singers go, I do not think I am unreasonable and I do not make rediculous demands. I don't have any "no green M and M's in my candy bowl" type clauses in my contracts. Q: You've been around the top flight for a long time. Can you remember the first time you thought, "This is it! I'm a rock star" A: I always knew I would be and I do not say that in a conceited way at all. I just believed in my dreams. When I was around 10 years old I started chasing this dream and then when I played Madison Square Garden for the first time with Rainbow, that was when I felt I had arrived. The Garden was the venue where I saw all my rock heroes growing up so being able to stand on that stage was one of the thrills of a lifetime for me. It was also like a "homecoming," being that I grew up only about 10 miles away. MRF | 17 Band: The Trophy Album: The Gift Of Life Interview with: Todd Wolf Interviewed by: Duncan Jamieson Question: Hi there. You must be delighted with the way the album has turned out. Answer: Yes we are really happy with the result. I hope the people out there will love it too. Q: How did the pair of you team up? A: At first I want to say that THE TROPHY is a band. Marco Grasshoff (keys) is also a part of the trophy. But we teamed up with him a little bit later. I met Michael in the studio with Tommy Newton, who engaged him to sing the background vocals on the Human Fortress debut album. Luckily we kept in touch and when I finished the first songs, I sent them to Michael and he liked them immediately. So we arranged a meeting and the rest, as you will be able to hear, is history! Q: How did you write the songs? Was it together or did you come armed with your own songs? A: I wrote 70% of the songs in my homestudio. During the preproduction Michael and me wrote further four tracks. Three of them are on the album now. Michael added one of his own tracks he still had in his songpool. The chemistry was really good and we had a lot of fun. Q: What do you think the other brought to the record that otherwise you couldn't have achieved alone? A: Well, I am songwriter and guitar player. I am no producer, no drummer, keyboard player or singer. Therefore I needed bandmembers to make my dream come true. On the other hand I am not really a fan of projects. Michael immediately shared my musical vision. He is one of the best hard rock singers from Germany and a really nice guy. He is able to turn great songs into real jewels. That�s what I wanted. Marco and Dirk (guest) suppied great ideas to make the tracks more interesting. Q: How did the direction of the album come about? Did you decide to mix the harder elements with the pop sensibilities from the off? A: We did not want to write a typical melodic hard rock album. We thought it is more interesting to create something new. We wanted a modern production. I am a big fan of bands like "Seven And The Sun" or "The Rasmus". I also like the energy of bands like "Breaking Benjamin" or "Linkin Park". I love heavy crossover riffings and the wonderful vocal lines of many aor bands. I think THE TROPHY is a cocktails of all these influences. Q: There are a number of killer tunes on the CD such as " On These Wings", "Get the Cup" and the "Gift of Life" for starters. Which songs are your favourites and why? A: Wow, thank you very much! Hard to pick up favorites. The album is full of great melodies. "Rescue Me" is one of my favorite songs. I am feeling blue when I am listening to it. It has a wonderful story, an amazing melody and Michael transfered the feeling perfectly. But you have to listen to the song four or five times. If you get it you can not get it out of your head. Q: "Liar" has an atypical topic for this type of melodic rock as it's about suicide bombers. How did the idea behind this song start? A: I was shocked when I watched news about Bagdad on TV. These people used children for suicide bombers sometimes. Innocent children! They tell them it is a wish of Allah and they will come to paradise. LIAR!!!!! That�s the reason why I wrote the song. Q: "Get the Cup" sound like it was written to be a theme tune for a sports movie. A: Yes, that�s right. I think it is a cool song for all sport events. Q: Are there any plans for the pair of you to play together live? A: Yes, Marco, Michael and me talked about that. At first we want to wait the reaction of the people. If there are good offers - why not! Q: What's next in the pipeline for the pair of you? A: Michael is writing songs for his new solo album and after that he is touring in Germany. In the meantime I am writing new songs for Human Fortress. Focus on: THE TROPHY - The Gift Of Life (Frontiers Records) Singer Mark Bormann (ex Jaded Heart) and guitarist Todd Wolf (Human Fortress) team up to marry heavy down tuned guitars to melodies that encompass rock, pop and metal. Human Fortress fans might baulk at the light verses with keys and loops as backing but for melodic rock fans there's much to like here. This pot pourri approach to styles works best on tracks such as the catchy pop rock of "Get the Cup" which is crying out to be a theme tune for the next sporting underdog movie. "Liar" has a strong chorus and the unlikely rock subject of suicide bombers. "Justice" has another winning chorus and uplifting "On these Wings" sees Bormann adding a bit more grit to his vocals to great effect. Indeed, Bormann shows why he's, perhaps, the foremost German rock singer as he wrings emotion out of every note. Another fine record from Bormann, showing he's not missing his old band and a revelation for Wolf as he unveils his previously unseen commercial side. This ranks as another success story for Frontier's cross pollination of artists. It's so good, you guessed it, they deserve a trophy. Duncan Jamieson (92/100) MRF | 19 Band: Hardline Album: Leaving The End Open Interview with: Johnny Gioeli Interviewed by: Alessandro Ariatti Focus on: HARDLINE - Leaving The End Open (Frontiers Records) Before I listened to this, Hardline's third album, I took their second CD off my shelf to get reacquainted. I was reminded that while it was a good, contemporary hard rock album it wasn't sprinkled with quite the gold dust that Neal Schon's gravitas brought to their debut. Here they've updated their sound even further and gone for a more mature sound, quite different from the guys who once cranked out "Hot Cherie" and the like. Here melody is favoured over muscle and Ramos's riffs support rather than drive songs. A lot of the material is mid tempo and needs a few spins before it sinks in but when it does it reveals some great tracks such as radio friendly "Start Again" and "Falling Free". Unusually, it's the ballads that work best with the piano led "In the Moment" hints at modern US rock like Daniel Powter or One Republic. Johnny Gioeli sings passionately throughout and it's his signature voice that is the remaining link to their original sound. So Hardline still sound relevant and as the title implies, it's strong enough to "Leave the End Open" for their future. Duncan Jamieson (92/100) MRF | 21 Question: Hi Johnny, at 1st many congratulations for the wonderful new album: I really love it! "Leaving The End Open" sounds closer to the Hardline debut "Double Eclipse" than the previous album "II". Was it a declarated choice or did it become out naturally? A: This record was as natural as can be. A great continuation of Hardline. Q: How long did it take to compose the material for the album? A: It didn't take long actually... a few months and then I wrote things last minute... it just sort of happens that way. I just shelved it for a few years because other things in my life got in the way. Q: The album has killer songs and catchy refrain. Do you think it could be a radio friendly record? A: I think it is... yes! Especially some of the lighter songs like "Start Again". Q: Any song you are particularly proud of? A: I really love "Voices"... it's power, it's positive feeling, it puts me in a "I can do anything mood... I love this track. Also, "Start Again"... purely radio... I love singing this track. Q: It's more than ten years since you join A.R.Pell. Do you think this experience with him has somehow influenced your songwriting. For example, "In This Moment" is a wonderful ballad which could remind to some ballad you sang for Axel. Do you agree? A: My involvement with the ARP band actually had no influence on this record at all... I don't hear an similarities at all... not even with "In this moment" Am I missing something here??? Sorry... can't agree with you on this one... Q: Josh Ramos is a fabulous guitar player. Did he contribute also to the songwriting? A: Yes, he and I created most of the music together at my studio in California. And yes, he's a fantastic player. Q: You first got started with Brunette... Why didn't that ever come to fruition? Timing again? A: Probably. I think from a songwriter's point of view we weren't there with the music. We were a little dated. Although we were packing them in Hollywood, we were 22 | MRF breaking like The Doors records at the Roxy and the Whiskey on the strip. The record companies were just thrilled but they didn't quite get the music. Now I look back I can understand. It wasn't right for that period. We were a little dated. In my opinion I think that group had a serious chance because it was incredibly marketable. We had 17 feet of hair and everybody looked like a brother. It was a good looking band I think. Almost the entire audience was girls and not that I minded that at all. I don't think we brought in a good mix of people. Q: After the releasing of "Double Eclipse", did you have any problems with Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo? I read that you had composed material also for a second album with them: is it true? A: Never had any problems of importance.... Neal and I had music on the back-burner... it wasn't recorded or finished but we would have been ready should that line-up continued. Deen did not participate in writing, he usually chose to drive around in his exotic cars and talk on the phone... I love him... funny guy... great talent... all of them are... I miss them all. We had a lot of great times... those were also musical transitioning times making it hard for us to except grunge and the changing times... Q: Is there any unreleased material lying around recorded by the original band? A: There's tons of shit! As a matter of fact a song that I'm doing on this album, 'Face the Night', was completely recorded, and along with another called 'The Gift' were both recorded for MCA. We also did a bunch of extra tracks: 'I will Survive' and 'On and On and On'. Will they make this record? I don't know. 'Face the Night' definitely, but the rest of the tunes... I don't know. I'm flushing out all the ideas that have been running through my mind since 1995... that's a long time man. Q: Are you still satisfied of "II"? I think it's a great album of modern melodic hard rock, but perhaps the old fans were a little bit disappointed of its very heavy sound. A: I think it's a cool record... I like it a lot... It's funny, you detune a guitar for a few songs and shit sounds heavy... Hey guys, Double Eclipse was fucking heavy... listen again. I'm at the point in my life where I really don't give a shit how people compare... if you like my work, then great! If you don't... fuck off. Of course I prefer you do... haaa. Q: Double Eclipse" is considered a classic of its genre, and that's my opinion too. What do you think now of it? And don't you think that, if it were published some years before, it could have reached the top of the charts? Q: I agree with you 100%... I often think when Bon Jovi peaked, we would have been right by his side in some fashion... Cinderella who? We could what if all day huh??? Q: Are you touring to promote "Leaving The End Open"? If so, do you think you're coming also to Europe and Italy? A: I 'd love to tour on this record... as I've always said it's a matter of economics... these days it's hard for fans to spend money on tickets let a lone the costs involved in touring... we'll see if we can somehow pull this off. The hell with playing in Italy, I want to LIVE in Italy!!!! Q: Hardline nowadays is you and Josh. Do you think that there will be a chance to see again a proper line up with a more "band" concept? A: Good question... I'm really not sure, hence the title "leaving the end open" I don't want to plan anymore, I just want to see where life takes me. Q: This is the third Hardline release for the italian label Frontiers: how do you find with them? And don't you feel strange that many AOR/melodic hard rock artists, a genre which is american by definition, are still around with an italian label? A: Call it my Palermo heritage... I don't know... but I have a connection with all at Frontiers... a friendship... it's not just about business... it's about making music with them not for them. A shit load of melodic bands should thank God, the moon and stars for this label and it's constant attempts to resuscitate melodic rock music.