It’s that time of the week again when we look forward to the very best of Monday’s new releases. We review and rate Marya Roxx (pictured), Intronaut, The Shadow Theory, Middle Class Rut, Engrained, Saint Jude, The Ocean, Poison Sun and Michael Bormann.
We’ve been waiting a while for the UK release of the pocket rocket Estonian’s full length debut. And after more or less wearing out our copy of her four-track 21?! EP it’s about time Tyneside label Global got behind Ms Roxx and distributed Payback Time the length and breadth of Europe.
It’s a year since LA-based Marya blew away the Hard Rock Hell crowd on the main stage but for various reasons this record’s been left on the shelf for the past 12 months. As a result the ambitious frontwoman has already moved on and started writing material for album number two – the songs you hear right here have been doing the rounds back in the US for the best part of two years.
But it’s unlikely Marya will be deviating too far from the blueprint which makes Payback Time a rewarding and raucous listen to new converts and old fans alike. With a nod to The Runaways it’s more metal than punk but the attitude is rooted firmly in the latter. Tracks like 21?! and Oh Yeah might not be the most original tunes you’ll come across this year but there’s no doubting the aggressive and heartfelt intent.
Loverboy combines a relentless rhythm with an over-produced chorus to give Marya her best shot at shot term stardom but this lass is in it for the long haul. Ready to repel the knockbacks and accept the inevitable rock chick criticism, Roxx is rolling. And rolling. SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Roxx On
It’s been a long time coming for German Punk rockers Engrained. Formed in the early 90s, their extensive touring history has paid off, with success ultimately crowned with this debut effort.
Surfacing on a higher pedestal, Engrained now have a chance to build on the popularity they have in their homeland and distribute themselves to a wider audience with this rocky ride of catchy hardcore punk.
If the intensity of Black Flag is too much, but you like a touch of hardcore, then this album will probably strike the kind of balance you’re looking for. Definitive rock and roll influences are made even more obvious with the lyrics shouting a repeated ‘rock n’ roll’, but Dead Man’s Hand is a strong opener from Intro, with a bundle of energy that allows one to ponder about the potential it has in an intimate venue on the live stage.
Deep Rooted undoubtedly has teeny aggression and angst embodied within it, which is partly reflected by simplistic lyrics and also by the catchy riffs throughout. This culminates in You’re The One For Me, which flirts with the fringes of melodic vocalisation and raw, street angryness.
A reflective track at the end of an album is always a nice way to wind down, but For All… is about as inventive as it’s title suggests, wrapping things up in a sleepy and unimaginative aura. Deep Rooted isn’t a complete disaster by any means, it’s simply lacking that extra propulsion to spark inspiration, making it an average record. CR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Rooted In Mediocrity
Dodgy American spelling aside, newcomers Middle Class Rut couldn’t have turned up on the music scene with a better effort than debut album No Name No Color.
The duo from Sacramento, California have an edginess that rather bizarrely makes them slightly endearing. The pomp that MCR (that’s Middle Class Rut not My Chemical Romance) display is phenomenal managing to create a sound that most bands struggle to achieve is a big enough feat alone.
But somehow Sean Stockham and Zack Lopez use their chemistry to create an indie, heavy rock blend-almost like an angry version of Stone Temple Pilots.
It’s impressive the boys recorded these songs for playback and later refused to try and recreate the sound in a studio, The result is an emphatic victory for a couple of music enthusiasts that have put in their fair share of hard work to get to this stage.
Opening track Busy Bein’ Born sets the stall out for an epic 60 minutes of listening. At times you won’t believe it’s just two guys making all that sound. First single New Low is a foot-tapper that really could herald the duo’s arrival. Final track Cornbread ends the record the same as it began, in a blaze of glory.
It may sound like an over the top review but it’s hard to describe it any other way. Again a small criticism is not enough diversity on the middle tracks but there’s more than enough to go on for now!
The best analogy I could use is everyone has that musician friend that wants to make it, the little guy who won’t give in when everyone’s written them off. This CD alone proves that hard work and talent goes a long way and by the end of the record you’ll be proud and impressed of two new friends. AS
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Class Act
Wow! Within the first two tracks of Behind The Black Veil it’s immediately clear that this is a modern prog rock classic. That’s quite a statement but then so is this veritable feast of sonic foreplay and climactic metal joy.
I Open Up My Eyes even features a full flute solo as The Shadow Theory’s folk leanings are allowed to run riot but it wouldn’t be too wide of the mark to suggest that listening to this band is like catching Jethro Tull and Yes pumped full of steroids and drinking the elixir of eternal youth. Never allowing the lure of overblown symphonic metal to cloud their focus, band mates Devon Graves and Arne Schuppner engage in the kind of aural jousting made for dark winter nights and several shots of Jagermeister.
This engrossing horror story is up there with Queensryche’s genre-leading Operation: Mindcrime in terms of its concept-led class. The supercharged Welcome combines a countryfied acoustic lick with some seriously heavy stuff before the band bursts into the pacy, almost perturbing intro to By The Crossroads. A huge amount of thought has gone into the story, its sounds and its journey and that foresight has paid off – big time.
Brilliant doesn’t quite do this justice. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Shadow Monster
If the Quireboys ever ditched Spike and drafted in a female singer then this would be the result. Lynne Jackaman’s superb vocals sit comfortably alongside some of the vert best blues-based rock and roll you’ll hear this side of classic Black Crowes and it’s little wonder a certain Ronnie Wood has been backing Saint Jude for some time.
Opener Soul On Fire is simply exquisite in a bustling, smokey bar-room kinda way with Joe Glossop’s keys keeping everything ticking over in a retro cool fashion. But Jackaman really hits her stride on the excellent Garden Of Eden – hitting some incredibly long and soulful notes before Adam Greene bursts into a fret-melting solo topped by a neat final twist. It’s new but with a strong sense of British rock’s proud history.
Little Queen is pure, classic Quireboys with that intriguing female fronted take on Faces-infused dawn-of-sleaze swagger. Jackaman doesn’t have that Spike-esque rasp but like the amiable Geordie she sings from the heart and always delivers – her understated passion perfectly complementing a band which deserves the very biggest stage.
Surely a shoe-in for an early doors slot at High Voltage 2011 and ready made touring buddies for anyone wanting to start a party in style it will be one of life’s mysteries if Saint Jude don’t smash their way into the public psyche next year.
Even the subtle, Cowboy Junkies-esque, refrain of Down This Road is deliciously sweet and familiarly sour. Jackaman makes you want to believe. And we do. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Saint’s Alive
Where The Shadow Theory (see above) choose melodic vocals to map out every twist and turn on a rich and varied musical journey the post-metal proggers of Intronaut prefer a more aggressive approach. On opener Elegy the effect is wholly nauseating and if things mellow considerably on Above – with its jazzy hooks – then this is one band unable to marry the grand ideas with the perfect production.
Pulling off the epic requires intense focus and serious control. Intronaut take their prog tendencies and experimental slant to the extreme but the result is a mish mash of styles and a tendency to overplay their trump cards. This is a band quite capable of creating a swirling soundscape of meaty, modern metal but Miasma‘s desperate vocal intro juxtaposed with jarring key changes just doesn’t work. And that sense of a lack of direction prevails.
In a congested market where ambition and a groundbreaking approach to making guitar-driven music is par for the course, simply being different is no longer enough. Intronaut ooze potential but never reach an engaging peak. It’s a problem with no obvious solution and on this evidence we won’t be racing to find the answer. SR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Smoke Screen
You’ve got have balls to call your latest record Different. And even bigger balls to do all the vocals and play every instrument. And even bigger balls still to produce the whole thing. Somehow we can’t imagine Michael Bormann slipping into any skin tight leather pants any time soon.
So does supreme self-confidence (or the need to exert complete control) equal a hit record? Yes and no. There’s not one song here that any aficionado of quality AOR couldn’t relate to or even admire. Bormann’s production skills are beyond criticism but as a vocalist he still can’t quite compete with the Premier League of melodic rock crooners.
In many ways it doesn’t matter that this multi-talented singer/songwriter/producer doesn’t possess the pipes of a Joe Lynn Turner or his ilk. Why? Because Bormann, in control of his own destiny and unburdened by outside pressures or influences, can make the very best of any perceived chink in his musical armoury – ensuring that voice sounds like it was made to measure on tracks like To The Top and Mr Rock N Roll (another far from modest statement).
Measuring his guitar solos to perfection and demonstrating a sharp ear for nifty percussion, Bormann brings the very best out if his limited vocals and it’s only on repeat listens that you’d realise there was any kind of weakness at all. Whether he can pull it off live remains to be seen. But as a supreme studio project steeped in melodic rock history this ticks all of the right boxes. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Michael Balls-mann
Another prog-infused, death metal-skirting, would-be modern rock masterpiece, The Ocean’s latest and possibly greatest effort fuses some seriously heavy moments with snatches of genuinely emotive melody. Think Mastodon meets Fear Factory on a dismal, biting Berlin winter’s night and you get a feel for an epic, engrossing, ethereal affair.
Opening up with the nine minutes-plus title track there’s no easy way in to a record which demands complete attention. Laying their cards on the table from the moment the first crunching yet carefully crafted chords rip apart the senses, The Ocean are a band seemingly determined to celebrate in style their decade at the forefront of the cerebral metal scene.
Tracks like Sewers Of The Soul will never find their way onto the next Now That’s What I Call Music compilation but that’s what we call success. Showing all the signs of a long and happy relationship with the German underground scene, The Ocean could be on the brink of making a major noise across the globe with this accomplished and astute offering.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Ocean Exploration
Martina Frank might have her husband (Accept’s Herman) to thank for taking a starring role in this trad metal band but nepotism isn’t the start and finish of the Poison Sun story. Trading blows with new girls on the block Marya Roxx, Hysterica and their ilk, Frank makes a play to take on Doro Pesch at her own game – and occasionally succeeds.
Powerful, passionate vocals punch through Herman Frank’s trademark Priest-esque riffs to create a platform for metal heaven. It’s often bland but always incredibly loud and very, very proud. Seven of the 10 tracks here are summed up by single word titles – Frank by name, frank by nature as a series of incredibly honest tunes strive to make that leap to the next level.
Killer, Princess and Excited are typical of the standard fare on offer here. None of these songs are bad but, equally, none will have you rushing to the Poison Sun website for a rundown on the band’s 2011 live schedule. A perfect fit for Wacken, Bloodstock or just about any other truly metal festival you’d care to mention it’s just a fact of life that Mr & Mrs Frank are destined to be forever the leather -clad bridesmaid and never the studded bride. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Virtual Metal
This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson & Andy Spoors