REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
Today we check out the brand new record from US stars Shinedown (pictured) retro Brit rockers Reef, Swedish 80s throwbacks h.e.a.t. and killer German crew Kissin’ Dynamite.
We also focus on rising prog metal stars Touchstone as the female-fronted band gets the reissue treatment.
And there’s new music from Axel Rudi Pell, Mad Max and Fair Warning.
Every Sunday we name the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK.
And we review and rate the BEST OF THE REST from the hottest releases money can buy!
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Hard Rock
Shinedown’s recent run of bombastic UK shows proved the mega-selling band is finally ready to emulate their Stateside success over here. And in Amaryllis they boast the perfect weapon to slay all before them in 2012.
It’s the perfect follow-up to hit-laden predecessor The Sound Of Madness fusing the commercial appeal of that standout release with the heavier edge resonant in the band’s early work.
Lead single Bully is all about what Shinedown do best – mixing crunching riffs with radio-friendly melody and leaning heavily on the thunderous voice that is frontman Brent Smith. There is a understated brilliance in everything about the singer’s consistently professional delivery.
Highlights include Unity and Miracle – simple titles belying some serious subject matter at a time in Shinedown’s career when what they say is far-reaching and relevant. Smith and company are doing for hard rock what Machine Head are doing for metal – leading the pack and laying the foundations for a thrilling future. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Down With The Rock
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Hair Metal
If you like your rock replete with spandex, hair spray, huge choruses, weepy ballads and a large dog (see the album cover) then nobody does it better than super Swedes h.e.a.t.
Following on from the critically acclaimed Freedom Rock this belter of a party record is an unashamed 80s throwback that threatens to put hair metal/pop rock’s new breed – Steel Panther, Reckless Love, Houston and their ilk – in the shade.
If beefy opener Breaking The Silence showcases the band’s heavier side it’s honey-soaked tunes like The One And Only, Need Her and Heartbreaker that prove h.e.a.t have evolved into serious players on the melodic rock scene.
They’ve got the looks, the hooks, the mass appeal and even the dog. With the full package it’s difficult to imagine Address The Nation will fail. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Hair Metal On h.e.a.t
Genre: Indie Rock
Warning: this is one package for serious fans only. If your knowledge of Reef doesn’t extend far beyond ubiquitous hit Place Your Hands then look away now – this is about a whole lot more than one radio-friendly anthem.
It may come as something of a surprise that the UK’s post-grunge standard bearers have a back catalogue capable of sustaining a nine-CD (and one DVD) package but as the band approaches its 20th anniversary this box set serves as a timely reminder of their place in modern rock history.
Lead singer Gary Stringer’s instantly recognisable pipes always set Reef apart from the crowd and, that song apart, the band delivered classics Naked, Come Back Brighter and I’ve Got Something To Say to prove their songwriting credentials.
But this lavish collection is about so much more than the hits as it pulls together everything Reef released during a prolific and commercially rich first decade. Often overlooked national treasures, this is the perfect tribute to a fine band. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Place Your Hands In Your Pocket
Genre: Progressive Rock
For those coming late to the Touchstone party this raft of enhanced releases from the UK prog rock heroes is the ideal opportunity to get up to speed with, and become fully immersed in, one of the fastest emerging bands within a vibrant scene.
Last year’s The City Sleeps propelled Rob Cottingham’s wildly creative quintet to the next level and if commercial success has yet to reflect Touchstone’s growing reputation it’s clear German label SPV has immense faith in an extraordinarily talented collective.
Back in the day when the Mad Hatters EP caused a significant ripple it was difficult to imagine Touchstone finding a home on a congested live circuit more likely to welcome a Bangles covers band than a female-fronted prog act. But hard gigging and supreme songwriting prevailed.
With 2009’s Wintercoast Touchstone had carefully honed a sound seamlessly integrating male and female vocals with twists of classic Magnum, Rush and Queensryche to define themselves as the band to watch. Even if it’s all about the future as far as Cottingham and company are concerned, these lovingly revised editions of classic records offer a glorious glimpse into the past. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Stone Cold Classics
Genre: Sleaze Metal
The title of Kissin’ Dynamite’s sparkling new record tells you all you need to know about why this bunch of party-loving German kids decided to form and band and travel the world belting out the very best in cheese metal.
Playing music with a smile on their face and adrenaline in their veins, the Swabian quartet kick ass – and then some. There’s nothing too taxing about tracks like I Will Be King, Sex Is War and Sleaze Deluxe but you can’t accuse KD of not wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
Slightly remodelled since the release of 2010’s Addicted To Metal, there’s more of an emphasis on the sleaze and a little less of the metal but it works an absolute treat for a band determined to back up their big choruses with even bigger hair. On Operation Supernova frontman Hannes Braun even sounds like Axl Rose in his GnR glory days.
KD have been put on this planet to play bubblegum metal with as much energy as is humanly possible: Money, Sex & Power is the band’s brazen blueprint to complete that mission. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Dynamighty
Genre: Hard Rock
Night Of Passion was the record supposed to send Mad Max into the rock n roll stratosphere 25 years ago as the band readied itself for a tilt at the MTV-driven US market.
That the band never got their biggest break is a story of unfulfilled promises and label problems but Another Night Of Passion boasts all the hallmarks of a class act drawing on 30 years of songwriting and gigging experience.
Frontman and founder member Michael Voss doesn’t try to hide the fact that this is a back-to-the-80s reminder of just why his slick outfit were on the cusp of a commercial breakthrough beyond mainland Europe – a territory where they still rule today.
Think Skid Row, Dokken, Great White and White Lion given a Teutonic shot in the arm and that’s the essence of Mad Max in 2012. Metal Edge, Rocklahoma and Back And Alive are bona fide fist pumpers while Fallen From Grace is a peach of a retro anthem using a straight-from-Pyromania riff. Brilliant stuff. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Rock To The Max
Genre: Hard Rock
Tommy Heart’s post-v2 project has produced its fair share of polished hard rock during the last two decades and this cracking career resume proves the point.
Spread across two CDs and featuring 32 tracks there’s a treasure trove of tunes on offer here – from Save Me to Generation Jedi and the Heart Of Summer to Don’t Count On Me from most recent long player Aura.
Heart boasts the kind of passionate delivery guaranteed to get the most reserved of crowds rocking and it’s the slew of live tracks that provide Fair Warning with the perfect platform.
There’s nothing new in this exhaustive collection from one of Germany’s finest exponents of traditional hard rock. But when it’s this good there really is no point reinventing the wheel. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Fair Play
Genre: Melodic Heavy Metal
A 15th solo album in 23 years maintains the kind of prolific strike rate most musicians and bands can only dream about.
Yet such is the similarity between one Pell opus and the next that it’s difficult to imagine why there would be sufficient demand for a record in the familiar style of Circle Of The Oath.
This isn’t a bad record – in fact the former Steeler guitar god has maintained a remarkable consistency in terms of quality over the years. But it doesn’t raise the bar or push the boundaries when it comes to melodic metal.
Pell’s seventh record in a decade is solid if unspectacular and the odd moments of exceptional musicianship are somewhat spoilt by a safety-first approach to much of the material on offer. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Rudi Awakening
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.