After a slow start to 2010 we review no fewer than nine new releases this week and there’s something for everyone to bring January to a suitably raucous close.
Whether you want to check out vintage Saxon (pictured) in the shape of expanded editions of three of the band’s often overlooked 80s standards or US Saxon-alikes Keel we slate and rate ’em right here.
There’s the brilliant Bruce Kulick and his start-studded BK3 album plus a thrilling hair metal throwback as Wig Wam return to take on allcomers.
Frontiers standard-bearers Murder Of My Sweet bid for your listening pelasure and Kerrang! tour headliners All Time Low show their softer side with an acoustic mini album. Enjoy.
Wig Wam – Non Stop Rock N Roll (Frontiers)
Where Steel Panther choose to parody hair metal these guys fly the flag with meaning and this magnificent record deserves its place at the forefront of the genre’s vibrant revival. Every song is soaked in killer riffs, cool-as-fuck choruses and enough spandex to squeeze the life out of your most experienced rocker.
Referencing Europe, Leppard, the Crue and Van Halen before three quarters of Non Stop Rock N Roll is out is some achievement and yet the Wigs manage it with ease. C’Mon Everybody‘s Dr Feelgood-esque rhythm is a winner and Eddie Van Halen would be proud of the licks which kncok All You Wanted into shape.
We’ve always dismissed these Scando pop metal masters as a crazy gimmick due to their silly name and even sillier stunts. But this is brilliant stuff and an absolute must for any fan of late 80s rock excess.
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Wig Wam Thank You Mam
All Time Low – MTV Unplugged (Hopeless Records)
Underwhelmed by the US buzz band’s latest studio offering we weren’t expecting much from this six track acoustic sampler timed to coincide with their headline slot on the latest Kerrang! tour. But (All Time) Low and behold those pretty pop punk boys have gone and blown us away with their softer side and the four piece suddenly look a whole lot more impressive.
Dear Maria, Count Me In is a pretty cool track anyway but stripped down and allowed to breathe it takes on a whole new life. Closing the mini set with this ATL standard is predictable enough but leaves the listener aching for more. Coffee Shop Soundtrack actually sounds better in its acoustic guise than as a full metal racket and soon you start to wonder whether this is the way forward for one of the brightest new bands on the planet.
It’s unlikely the bar stools and tambourine will make an appearance on the Kerrang! tour but perhaps they should. Rock fans deserve the odd lighter moment and that’s why the MTV series should be a big success all over again.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 All Time High
Bruce Kulick – BK3 (Frontiers)
If slick as oil axe work and riffs to cut through steel are your bag then the new solo album by Bruce ‘Kiss’ Kulick is absolutely guaranteed to hit the spot. In fact his collaboration with Toto’s Steve Lukather on the instrumental Between The Lines is just one bloody good reason for buying this record on Monday morning. But there are many more.
Like Heart/Bad Company’s Howard Leese before him, chord cruncher Kulick has invited a number of sstar guests to complement his work on the outstanding BK3. And just like Leese, he’s seen a good album morph into a great one thanks to the input of Gene Simmons, Tobias Sammet, Eric Singer and more.
Simmons takes his Sonic Boon form into the anthemic Ain’t Gonna Die and Sammet joins forces with Singer on I’m The Animal to deliver the perfect post-80s pop metal classic. A joy of a record from start to finish.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Bruce Kool Licks
The Murder Of My Sweet – Divanity (Frontiers)
As far as new bands go this bunch of symph rock wannabes are the next big thing as far as Frontiers are concerned. Sadly a label known for getting it right more often than not has made a Meat Loaf-sized blunder by signing The Murder Of My Sweet.
There’s little doubt singer Angelica Rylin has the face to launch a thousand record sales and her voice is decent enough. But that’s where the positive comments end.
Aping Within Temptation, Evanescence and Nightwish – but never consistently matching the aforementioned bands’ better material – TMOMS clearly have grand visions and a whole lot of ambition. But forgetable tracks like Kiss Of Death and Bleed Me Dry lack the spark to make a lasting impact in an increasingly congested rock opera market. In a word it’s bland. And that’s a bad adjective for any band.
rushonrock rated: 5/10 The Murder Of My Metal
Saxon – Innocence Is No Excuse Expanded Edition (EMI)
This Simon Hanhart-produced slab of reconstructed NWOBHM was the first sign of Saxon’s move towards mainstream rock and manages to marry the best of the band’s early promise with an ambitious approach to cracking the world market. Tracks like the mammoth Back On The Streets and Rock N Roll Gypsy really stand the test of time but one tune stands out above the rest.
Broken Heroes is brilliant stuff and deals with Saxon’s favourite staple subject – war and conflict with a feintly political edge. So that’s the original material remastered but what about the extras? As with all of the Saxon reissues there’s a treasure trove of fan friendly fare with the Back On The Streets 12 inch mix and Hammersmith ’85 concert version proving just how powerful this song really was – and still is.
Twenty-five years on and Innocence Is No Excuse deserves greater respect within the cannon of a truly important British metal band. Revisit and enjoy.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Unfamiliarity Is No Excuse
Saxon – Rock The Nations Expanded Edition (EMI)
Barnsley’s finest have always been incredibly prolific and at a time when it was pretty common for bands (unless you were Def Leppard) to put out new records at least once a year this patchy effort followed hot on the heels of Innocence…
The titanic title track is pure Biff Byford bombast and hints at a powerful retunr to the band’s NWOBHM roots. In fact the 1986 release jumps from one style to the next and neither builds on the best bits of its predecessor nor breaks new ground.
Waiting For The Night is a neat enough ballad but Party ‘Til You Puke is far from Saxon’s finest moment screaming filler from start to finish. Closer Northern Lady is a rootsy Whitesnake-inspired piece and possibly the pick of the bunch. But of course there’s more and 24 years down the line fans get a three-song blast of the band’s Reading 1996 set plus two tracks recorded in Madrid – including the classic Dallas 1pm and originally featured on the Northern Lady B-side. Now that is worth getting your hands on.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Limited Sax Appeal
Saxon – Destiny Expanded Edition (EMI)
A certain classic rock magazine review states this was something of a career low point for one of the kings of the NWOBHM. But if you got into rock around the mid 80s and love your hair metal this might very well be the best Saxon record you’ve ever heard.
The band’s most recent efforts might lean more towards their bombastic late 70s birth but there are clear nods towards 1988’s much criticised rebirth. So this might be more Leppard than Maiden but it’s a cracking listen nonetheless.
Opening up with the Christopher Cross classic Ride Like The Wind was a gamble but Biff’s Barnsley growl breathes new life into the track and sets the tone for a smooth and accomplished snapshot of great British rock. I Can’t Wait Anymore is a pleasing enough ballad and, once again, Biff copes with the key changes with admirable ease. SOS and Red Alert might labour the emergency angle but both are powerful metal songs given that late 80s production gloss. If you missed – or dismissed – this first time around don’t make the same mistake twice.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Biff-tastic
Keel – Streets Of Rock N Roll (Frontiers)
In the same week the latest raft of Saxon albums are reissued, Biff Byford-alike Ron Keel returns to the rock scene with a polished reminder of just why his band were the next big thing in America 25 years ago. Recent shows at the likes of Rocklahoma have served to inspire a revival in all things Keel and this competent slice of hard rock suggests this is a band which still has plenty to say in 2010.
Keel’s controlled screech apart, the best thing about this record is the twin guitar jousting of the majestic Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay. Razor sharp solos and blues-soaked riffs underpin an excellent return to form with the Leppard-Van Halen hybrid title track taking some beating. Ballad Does Anyone Believe is pure rock cheese and yet Devil May Care (But I Don’t) is a blistering soft metal anthem.
Where Keel go from here is anyone’s guess but up and up is our considered bet.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Streets Ahead
Keel – Right To Rock 25th Anniversary Edition (Frontiers)
Produced by Kiss legend Gene Simmons and the fastest-selling A&M Records debut, this lesson in mid 80s pop metal pre-empted a stab at MTV domination and worldwide acclaim.
Keel achieved both, to an extent, but a series of high profile support slots for the likes of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue never led to headline glory of their own. Which is strange – because this wild and willing effort suggests Keel should have been huge.
Perhaps frontman Ron Keel’s husky growl wasn’t quite what the major label bosses and en vogue promoters were looking for in the end but he’s in fine form on Right To Rock, Back To The City and Get Down. There’s a brand new market for Keel’s hard rock heaven in 2010 and who knows? This could be Ron’s biggest year to date. Let’s hope so.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Keel For This