It’s time to cast our eyes over the week’s new releases and top of the list is the brand new two-CD Savatage retrospective

There’s a piece of ambitious electro rock from emerging crew North Atlantic Oscillation.

And there’s some good old fashioned rock and roll from AC/DC clones Big Ball.

Plus we check out the debut album from US singer/songwriter Kenni DeNile

Savatage – Still The Music Plays (earMUSIC)

For a decade from the early 80s Savatage looked like they would become America’s biggest metal act with Jon Oliva’s Robert Plant-esque vocals complementing crunching riffs akin to Priest, Maiden and Dio.

This double CD confirms as much with tracks like Hall Of The Mountain King, Legions and the massive Gutter Ballet mixing NWOBHM steel with focused nods to the prog rock movement. Oliva’s vast range means he was always able to rock out with the best of them while, at the same time, appearing just as comfortable belting out the ballads.

Listen to some of Savatage’s keys-influenced quieter moments and it’s not difficult to see why major label bosses wanted to turn them into the next Journey but heavy rock was always at their heart.

The death of Jon’s brother and the band’s guitarist Cris, in 1993, effectively killed a band destined for even bigger and better things but this double CD package is the perfect record of a near-perfect band. If you missed them first time around then seize this second chance while you can.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Sav-our The Moment

Kenni DeNile – Dreamer (Self Released)

This seven track mini album is one man’s mission to put super slick pop rock back on the map. And as he leans heavily on classy crooners in the mould of Paul Rodgers, Sammy Hagar and even Richard Marx it becomes apparent DeNile might do just that.

In Indigo and Hey You there’s a real sense of Young Guns-era Bon Jovi and that’s not a bad thing. The lyrics may seem a little contrived but the delivery suggests they’re from the heart and it’s a surprise DeNile hasn’t hit the global rock radar before now.

At a time when late 80s hair metal is back en vogue this could fill a gap for fans looking for more than Steel Panther as a fresh take on an old style. George Tutko – the man who crafted the original Quireboys’ sound 20 years ago – does a phenomenal job twiddling the right nobs and his work makes DeNile’s debut one to watch.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Dream On!

Big Ball – Hotter Than Hell (AFM)

It’s not as if Big Ball hide the fact that they ape AC/DC and Airbourne as if their rock lives depend on it. In fact these Teutonic riff meisters do an even better job than Airbourne in recreating that classic ‘DC sound – welcome to rock’s very own clone wars.

If the original remain the best then what makes the prefect impressionist and what makes Big Ball any better than the numerous AC/DC tribute bands scattered across the globe?

For starters the production job on this belter of a record gives it a gloss more akin to major label heavyweights than hard gigging wannabes. Secondly, the songs may sound like they’ve been penned by the Young brothers but there hasn’t been anything quite as funny as the urgent Porna Lisa and the reassuringly predictable Hell, Whores & High Heels on any AC/DC record in the past 20 years.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 On The Ball

North Atlantic Oscillation – Grappling Hooks (Kscope)

A word or warning before we begin: this is not rock in the conventional sense. And yet, right from the opening bars of the sweeping, epic Hollywood Has Ended there’s more than enough here to keep any nu-prog devotee interested.

The synth-heavy approach will put off fans of a heavier persuasion and NAO do have a dangerous habit of veering towards Scissor Sisters territory before narrowly averting a major musical disaster.

This album requires an open mind to be fully appreciated and perhaps more than three, four or even five listens. They’ll not be supporting Slayer anytime soon and might be more at home getting remixed by the Pet Shop Boys and covering the Beach Boys. But when the guitars are given the freedom to breathe this rocks – even though it’s not rock.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Hooks Into You