It’s a bumper week for new releases as rock’s biggest names and rising stars battle for your pre-Easter pounds.

We review and rate the latest batch of Frontiers releases from Crazy Lixx (pictured), Treat and Auras.

And there’s a look at the finished version of the Quireboys‘ Halfpenny Dancer – last year’s fans-only release made our 2009 Top 20.

Records from Kids In Glass Houses, Elvis Jackson and Mills mix things up. And we bring you yet another cracker from Tony Mills (not to be confused with Mills) in the shape of Serpentine – plus Sedona and Sven Larsson from the Avenue Of Allies stable.  

Elvis Jackson – Against The Gravity (Antfarm)

You have to pity the guys at iTunes sometimes. The thankless and brain-wracking task of putting Against The Gravity into a genre must have taken quite literally hours.

The Slovenian punk rockers(?) blend a delicious mix of rock, metal, ska and pop before marinading their creation in a thick reggae sauce. The result is ludicrously catchy and far more memorable than anything else that’s ever come out of Slovenia.

The constant switching of styles can be slightly jarring and occasionally sounds like the bizarre love child of The Offspring and Bob Marley, but the reggae-rock based songs are standout hits.

Album highlights are easily This Time and What Took You So Long but metal heads may disagree with something for everyone. Not Here To Pray deserves a mention for a steady and solid effort too. Andy Spoors

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Elvis Lives!

Kids In Glass Houses – Dirt (Roadrunner)

Considering Kids In Glass Houses played in front of fellow Welsh rockers Lostprophets on their latest tour, Ian Watkins and co. should actually be watching their backs.

The brilliantly anthemic Sunshine really gets the album moving, in a way chart listeners would go crazy for. Lillie Rose is smooth pop-rock effort that even Lostprophets would be proud of and The Morning Afterlife is probably the closest you’ll come to a rock ballad this side of the noughties.

Having already appeared on Radio 1’s live lounge, hardcore rock fans may lament a wasted talent, but write them off at your peril. They will be big!

Dirt is a clear warning shot across the bows and signals there’s a battle brewing deep in the valleys. AS

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Kids’ Stuff

Quireboys – Halfpenny Dancer (Jerkin Crocus)

Originally available via the band’s website before Christmas, we rated the initial pressing of this phenomenal record one of the albums of 2009. The Quireboys are the malt whisky of British rock and roll, maturing over time and always hitting the spot – quenching our thirst for all things retro cool and emotively charged.

Frontman Spike is one of those veteran singers fortunate to still command the pipes which made him such a likeable frontman in the first place. On Halfpenny Dancer he actually sounds better than ever – the stripped back arrangements and background strings forcing the gravel-toned Geordie to up his game. He does just that.

Keith Weir’s keys have, of course, become as essential to the Quireboys’ sound as Spike himself and this album allows the meticulous Ulsterman the opportunity to fully showcase his considerable talents. But every member of of a band renowned for its live prowess steps up to the mark to deliver an unlikely triumph of career-defining proportions.

We said it first time around and we’ll say it again – the cover of UFO’s Love To Love is the standout highlight. But new tune and title track Halfpenny Dancer runs it a very close second. Buy this record and be prepared to be very pleasantly surprised.

rushonrock rated: 10/10 From Boys To Men

Crazy Lixx – New Religion (Frontiers Records)

For Crazy Lixx time stood still at some point around the late 80s and listening to their fresh take on hair metal’s golden age is an absolute delight. This is unashamed, unadulterated, unfussy pop rock underpinned by glam’s excess and the slack morals of sleaze.

And for the most part it sounds uncannily like Def Leppard.

That, in itself, is a huge compliment but many fans of the Sheffield stars will feel Crazy Lixx are simply ripping off the tricks of Mutt Lange’s trade with multi-layered vocals, harmonised choruses and some neat little instrumental breaks. We simply stand by the opinion that imitation is the best form of flattery.

But when the Lixx aren’t aping Leppard they happily borrow from the Sunset Strip and the riff behind My Medicine sounds eerily like that which cuts through Poison’s Unskinny Bop. Again, it’s no bad thing because a resurgent genre requires more than the old stagers to fly the flag into the future. And the future is where these boys belong.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Lixx Your Lips

Treat – Coup De Grace (Frontiers Records)

Following on so soon from Europe’s triumphant 2009 offering Last Look At Eden, this fabulous slice of Scando-gloss hints at a new golden era in melodic rock from across the North Sea.

Treat as a genuine recording force have been away for far too long but Coup De Grace transports fans back to the glory days of 1987’s Dreamhunter. The rather irritating into apart, this record is a non-stop blast of powerful, super-produced soft metal with fast-paced rockers nestled snugly alongside killer ballads like the brilliant A Life To Die For.

2006’s comeback album Weapons Of Choice was way too weak to offer any glimpse of the glory which would follow four years down the line. But make no mistake about it, Coup De Grace is the Treat you’ve been waiting for these past 20 years.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 A Real Treat

Auras – New Generation (Frontiers Records)

There’s some stiff competition in the classic rock ranks this week but it’s all about quality and quantity as far as Frontiers are concerned in March. Not content with offering up Crazy Lixx and Treat, the Italian label is taking a punt on Brazil’s answer to Journey.

Right from the off, and the emotive opener Beauty Of Dreams, this record seeks to marry sweet vocals with soaring riffs and its roots are clearly in North, rather than South, America. Singer Gui Oliver clearly missed out when Arnel Pineda was offered the Journey gig because there’s absolutely no doubt he could belt out Don’t Stop Believin’ note perfect and with heartfelt glee.

But Neal Schon’s loss is Auras’ gain and if the music buying public can get past a dodgy name and the band’s Brazilian heritage this record could be a genuine slow burning success. Delivered by a bigger band it would be huge.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Generation Game

Mills – Decader (Maybe Records)

In amongst the melodic rock fest that is this week’s roster of new releases sits the post-grunge of Mills and if you like the heavier side of Foo Fighters mixed with the more mellow moments of Soundgarden this is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

Opener Exhaust, with it’s crunching guitars and chiselled vocal, sets the tone and midway through feisty follow-up Hello Mellow you realise this is going to be one hell of a ride. It’s raw rock played at a rare old pace and it really works. Over and over and over again.

The fact that lead singer/guitarist Richie Mills has a day job as a drummer is all the more remarkable given the quality of his visceral vocal performance. This bloke is so talented it makes you sick. Or it should, at the very least, make you want this record.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Mills In Bloom

Serpentine – A Touch Of Heaven (AOR Heaven)

Tony Mills is a man who doesn’t stand still. This is the second project fronted by the TNT/Shy man we’ve reviewed this year and with a number of projects on the boil we’re hazarding a guess that it won’t be the last.

His voice undiminished by time, Mills lends a classy feel to any and all of his bands and on Serpentine’s accomplished debut it’s no different. The 80s synth-infused opening to lead track A Touch Of Heaven sounds uncannily like Robin Hood-era Clannad but the keys which underpin this ambitious track perfectly complement the man behind the mic.

Whatever Heartache takes you back to a time when Darren Wharton’s Dare were true melodic rock contenders and once again it’s the mix of Mills’ vocals and Gareth David Noon’s keys which makes this tune truly special. Throw in faultless axe work from Christopher Gould and John Clews and Serpentine’s debut matches any of the other melodic rock gems out this week. Terrific stuff.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 A Touch Of Class

Sven Larsson – Sunlight And Shadow (Avenue Of Allies)

From the opening Satriani-esque bars of the title track it’s immediately obvious this will be well worth a listen and instrumentally it’s a genuine tour de force. Jack of all trades Larsson looks after all the guitars here but he’s also responsible for the vocals and, at times, this is where an otherwise excellent album falls down.

This Is Not The Right Time relies on a strong voice to pull off an understated ballad but it never materialises. And it’s no surprise that the standout tracks are the instrumentals – Tube and Candy prove beyond doubt that Larsson has what it takes to compete with Scandinavia’s finest fret burners.

Overall this is a bright and breezy 80s style AOR stab at mainstream success and if the lighter moments – Daydreamer is one – will turn off true rockers it really shouldn’t.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Sven-try Level Rock

Sedona – Golden Valley (Avenue Of Allies)

You can name all of the great French rock bands on one hand and Sedona, sadly, are not about to join that exclusive club. The three-piece clearly know their way around inoffensive melodies and classic AOR speak but there’s something inherently weak about this 12-track effort.

It’s difficult to take songs like Surfing State Of Mind seriously and vocalist Patrick Liotard fails to convince on pop song with rock ambition. The country vibe underpinning the title track is pleasant enough but once again the lyrics just grate – imagine Jimmy Nail in his Crocodile Shoes incarnation and you get the idea.

It’s hard to imagine Sedona appealing to a UK audience and, certainly, a UK rock audience. Avenue Of Allies love to take a gamble but this time they’ve risked everything on red – and black’s come up. You can’t win ’em all.

rushonrock rated: 4/10 Enough Sed