We review and rate the return of hair metal heroes Warrant, fellow 80s chart botherers Black N Blue and a slice of pure metal mayhem from the super Swedes of Portrait.
Plus we check out Manchester Orchestra (pictured) and the major label release Simple Math.
There is an abundance of classy Kiss tribute acts out there rolling out the hits with all the wit and enthusiasm (if not the fortune) of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and co. but the majority don’t purport to be an original band in their own right.
Black N Blue have no shame in that respect – ripping off the very best of their rock n roll idols and claiming it as their own. And it’s as good as it always was with Jaime St James in simply fantastic form – belting out one party hit after another after his stint with fellow hair metal favourites Warrant.
Two tracks in and Target sounds like the track that never was from the cracking Kiss comeback album Sonic Boom. But Black N Blue have always been inextricably linked to their bigger and ballsier brothers – touring with Stanley and co. in the late 80s, roping in Simmons to produce back-to-back records at the same time and even spawning current Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer.
It’s no surprise this sounds the way it does but there are unexpected moments of sheer quality on the Leppard-esque Fools Bleed and Falling Down – reminiscent of Ozzy’s Mama I’m Comin’ Home.
For all their reliance on the very best of the Kiss back catalogue, Black N Blue have made a rocktastic record worthy of recognition – at least until the follow-up to Sonic Boom materialises. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Singin’ The Blue
Even with four fifths of Warrant’s classic line-up back together there’s something missing from the hotly anticipated Rockaholic. And that something is most certainly Jani Lane’s irrepressible personality.
Like Skid Row without Sebastian Bach, the 2011 version of one of hair metal’s biggest bands are occasionally brilliant. And in singer Robert Mason they boast a pipesmith the equal of Lane in so many respects.
But perhaps it’s that old schemer nostalgia playing tricks with the ears or perhaps it’s just a fact that all of the original ingredients are required to make the perfect Warrant record. Whatever the reason, Rockaholic lacks that star quality every fan of overblown late 80s pop metal will crave.
What this accomplished record does boast is variety, confidence and some pretty cool hooks. The AC/DC-style intro to Innocence Gone works remarkably well and there’s a Southern Rock Skynyrd-cool underpinning album highlight Sanke.
What’s clear is that Warrant have grown up. Two decades on from the release of the band’s double-platinum smash hit Cherry Pie it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they’ve carved out a more mature sound with the songs to match. But maybe that’s not what Warrant’s original fans really want. SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Warrants Consideration
Now we’re not ones for clever Latin album titles (though this one may not be that clever) but we are partial to trad metal par excellence. And we’ll gladly forgive Portrait their bid to appear like university boffins just as long as they sound like axe-wielding titans.
In the best traditions of Priest, Maiden, Helloween et al, the super Swedes have only gone and made the record of their careers with some of the heaviest riffs you’ll hear all year welded on to Per Karlsson’s achingly cool vocals.
Opening with the near eight minute epic Beast Of Fire tells you everything you need to know about this bunch of no-holds-barred Scandinavian superstars in the making. This is metal at its most inventive and basic in the same considered breath and, far from allowing the listener to drift away, the first of many magical tunes has you coming back for more.
And there’s much, much more. What we like most about Portrait is their ability to adhere to the rules of metal without becoming boxed in at any stage. Squeezing the delightful instrumental In The Wilderness Beyond in between two meaty growers in the mould of Beast Of Fire proves they won’t always go where the age-old conventions of this powerful genre would normally dictate.
If you like your metal forged from the old and the new then Portrait fit the bill with perfection. Underground today – global tomorrow. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Self (Congratulatory) Portrait
When Manchester Orchestra first muscled their way into the rushonrock consciousness a couple of years back we lazily, and, on reflection, rather hastily, referenced Kings Of Leon in seeking a comparison to this multi-facted, multi-talented co-operative of musicians.
Thankfully, unlike the Kings, this lot have stuck to their guns, stayed true to their vision and not allowed major label intervention to alter their spellbinding approach to songwriting in any way.
This might mean it may take another year or two before they blast onto stadium stages the world over but when that does happen Manchester Orchestra will have earned it and be so much better for it.
Managing to marry some occasionally squeaky vocals with riffs hewn from the 70s is no easy feat and yet the Atlanta, Georgia mob have got that uncanny combination down to an art form.
Then there’s the sprawling soundscapes reminiscent of Biffy Clyro at their most expansive – Leave It Alone is lusciously arranged – which demand attention just as your mind starts to wander.
Using kids on backing vocals on Virgin works an absolute treat and has the effect of making Manchester Orchestra a much more endearing prospect almost at once. Listen and you’ll understand.
There’s nothing simple about Simple Math – this is very clever stuff. And if the Orchestra continue to pull the strings the way they want then the world is their oyster. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Orchestral Manoeuvres
This week’s reviews: Simon Rushworth.