And today we have the pleasure of reviewing and rating the latest slew of Frontiers Records albums – including a hat-trick of Burning Rain releases plus The Poodles (pictured) and Timo Tolkki.
There’s good time rock n roll courtesy of The Western Sizzlers and a seriously dark album from Svart Crown.
Plus we throw the spotlight on Leprous and Starkill.
Every week we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Hard Rock
Panned for 2011’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Performocracy, The Poodles go some way towards repairing their battered reputation with this reasonable effort at bridging the gap between the band’s pop metal roots and the move into hard rock with a more serious edge.
Two years ago the Swedes sounded bland, washed up and woefully insecure. Tour De Force sees the classy quartet regain their stride and – on Leaving The Past To Pass and 40 Days And 40 Nights – hit the glorious heights that made 2009’s Clash Of The Elements such a fantastic rock n rollercoaster ride.
It’s the mid section of this album that proves The Poodles have still got what it takes to keep pace with the coolest sounds Scandinavia has to offer and the bluesy Kings And Fools is a contender for the band’s best anthem yet with its Beatles-esque bridge and Queen-inspired solo.
There was work to do in the wake of the pathetic Performocracy and if Tour De Force might be an overly optimistic album title this is a record that – at the very least – belongs in the same company as Clash Of The Elements and 2007’s Sweet Trade. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Feel The Force
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Death/Black Metal
While Gojira may be holding the tricolour aloft as standard bearers of the French metal scene, bands like Svart Crown have been busy gaining cult status within underground circles.
The reason? Albums like Profane. The quartet’s nightmarish death/black metal hybrid lures the listener down a dark, twisting path, a path with something very nasty laying in wait at the end of it.
However, unlike some of their more avant garde countrymen, the French foursome regular go straight for the jugular: opener Genesis Architect, for instance, spits acidic bile, with Nicolas Muller’s thunderous kick drums doing some serious damage, while The Therapy Of Flesh blasts away with furious abandon.
Much of Profane’s unholy spirit is down to six stringers JB Le Bail and Clement Flanfrois. Their riffs drip with pure malevolence, but they also know how to give you the creeps, especially when the pace slows on tracks like Venomous Ritual.
Original, unsettling and at times, overwhelming, any more albums like this and Svart Crown could be set to reign supreme. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Svart Move
Genre: Hard Rock
When he’s not holed up in David Coverdale’s Lake Tahoe studio writing new Whitesnake songs, the super-talented Doug Aldrich doesn’t take the chance to take a day off.
Instead he turns his focus to Burning Rain – the band he threw together in 1999 in a bid to keep the hard rock flag flying in the face of mind-numbing grunge and impending nu-metal.
Two albums in quick succession (see reviews below) hinted at a prolific push for sustained success but it’s been 13 long years since Pleasure To Burn brought a premature end to a band oozing potential.
With Epic Obsession Burning Rain are back. And in a big way. Opener Sweet Little Baby Thing boasts an Aldrich riff akin to the ‘Snake’s Good To be Bad and Our Time Is Gonna Come could have come straight from their Slip Of The Tongue opus.
It’s easy to see why the Cov saw Doug as his perfect foil a decade ago but this isn’t simply the follow-up to Whitesnake’s Forevermore. With Keith St John on lead vocals there’s a heavier edge to Burning Rain’s best material – Epic Obsession rocks hard. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Epic Adventure
Genre: Rock N Roll
Welcome to The Western Sizzlers – a.k.a. the Georgia Satellites without the songs.
Founder member Kevin Jennings discovered the Satts and set them on the road to rock n roll stardom before managing the Black Crowes. But all those years waiting in the wings appear to have been wasted.
This cumbersome collection of countrified rock n roll cheese balls is cringeworthy in the extreme. Opener One More Beer leaves a bitter taste and Can’t Win For Losing says it all.
Jennings and co. are either moaning about too many failed marriages or extolling the virtues of the rock n roll lifestyle. Lyrically and musically the toe curling clichés and contradictions flow.
Maybe it’s all meant to be a bit of a laugh and a little light hearted. In reality it’s not even that. So woeful are these 11 ‘songs’ that the joke’s on The Western Sizzlers. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Ol’ Ones Aren’t The Best
Genre: Hard Rock
The first Burning Rain record was released in 1999 – the same year Kid Rock, Foo Fighters, Incubus, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot dominated the rock and metal scene.
It wasn’t the best of times for bands building their reputation on the blues rock cool of the 70s and the hair metal commercialism of the 80s. But Burning Rain bucked the trend – and bucked it with steely determination and fierce ambition.
On the funky, feisty Jungle Queen, singer Keith St John excels as the yin to Doug Aldrich’s Jimmy Page-inspired yang. Standout track Making My Heart Beat fuses Foreigner, Bad Company and Mr Big – even including a cheeky reference to the Scorpions’ Lovedrive.
If this impressive debut failed to break the big leagues then it’s little surprise it caught the attention of David Coverdale – the ‘Snake charmer keeping tabs on Adrich before finally inviting him to join one of the biggest bands on the planet three years later.
Burning Rain might be riding high on the back of new album Epic Obsession (see review above) but this perfect experiment in polished hard rock contextualises a band way better than its record sales would suggest. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Torrential Rain
Genre: Hard Rock
Building with confidence on their brilliant but largely ignored debut, Burning Rain rolled out a second record in two years in the shape of the punchy Pleasure To Burn.
However, fans expecting a slew of similarly slick hard rock albums across the next decade would be left sorely disappointed – it took Dough Aldrich and Keith St John 13 years to follow up this beast of a blues rock record.
Opener Fireball brazenly apes Deep Purple’s Burn and Aldrich’s barely disguised admiration of all things David Coverdale crosses over into the Whitesnake-esque Love Emotion. If it wasn’t quite clear up until this point where the current ‘Snake guitarist saw his future lie then Pleasure To Burn proved to be an application form in all but name.
The spaced-out/Satriani-flavoured Stone Cold N Crazy allows singer Keith St John to open up in the style of Ronnie James Dio and it works a treat. Ballad Cherie Don’t Break My Heart brings it back down a notch or two with the vocal eerily reminiscent of Coverdale at his bluesy best.
Ever wondered why Aldrich is celebrating more than a decade as Whitesnake’s go-to guitar guy? This record explains it all. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Unadulterated Pleasure
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Starkill – or Parker Jameson and a few pals – pack a pretty ferocious punch. The US band appears neither constrained by convention nor ignorant of metal’s glorious history with opener Whispers Of Heresy a lesson in glorious noise.
Jameson is, undoubtedly, the driving force. Responsible for Starkill’s visceral vocal assault, the band’s lead guitarist, keyboardist and programmer has a vision that he shares with confidence.
Fires Of Life engulfs the senses, never fails to shock and deals in metal that is melodious and menacing in equal measure. Sword, Sphere, Blood, Fire might boast one of the most simplistic song titles of 2013 but there’s nothing dumbed down about this monster of a tune and the title track sounds something like Turisas on steroids.
With an average age of 20, Starkill’s four members have no right to drop a debut so devastatingly beautiful. But this is a band that laughs in the face of inexperience and lives by the mantra of blind ambition. It works. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 All Killer, No Filler
Genre: Progressive Metal
Hailing from the metal hotbed that is Notodden (home to fellow noiseniks Emperor, Ihsahn and Peccatum) the Norwegians of Leprous are four albums into a career that continues to push the boundaries of progressive metal.
Both haunting and aggressive, subtle and brazen, the band’s ability to switch gears and fuse emotions makes them a force to admire and a challenge to fear. Nothing is ever as it seems on Coal – the title of this blackened record itself pointing to something far more simple than the multi-faceted music within.
Chronic kicks off with a Muse-like innocence before upping the pace and kicking fresh life into a soundscape constantly changing and never settled. There’s plenty more where that came from with awkward chord changes and misery-inducing vocals making for an uncomfortable journey.
This is either brilliant or mad, inspired or muddled. Make your own mind up – if you dare. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Coal Chamber
Genre: Symphonic Metal
If former Stratovarius guitar hero Timo Tolkki has been biding his time, waiting for the right opportunity to prove he’s lost none of his mojo, then Avalon offers a perfect vehicle for one of metal’s most exciting talents.
This star-studded metal opera also hands Elize Ryd another opportunity to cement her reputation. As Tolkki’s vocal foil of choice (other singers come and go) the Amaranthe singer is one of the many reasons to enjoy The Land Of New Hope again and again.
If the concept behind this record is rather silly – it’s set 40 years hence with most of the world’s major cities wiped out by hurricanes and tsunamis – then the music is magical in its conception. Tolkki has left no stone unturned in bis quest for the perfect production and re-emerges as a fret burner par excellence.
The solos soar – check out the blistering work on Enshrined In My Memory – and the melodies flow (The Name Of The Rose) as The Land Of New Hope swiftly evolves into a gripping genre leader. Symphonic/melodic metal has never sounded this good. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Avalon And On