Wallow in nostalgia as Uriah Heep (pictured) and Wishbone Ash release their latest career-defining Best Ofs and welcome back one of the UK’s greatest melodic rock bands in the shape of FM.
If the softer stuff is your bag then you’ll just love the new record from Scando superstars H.E.A.T. but if an ear-blasting is more your bag we review and rate the new Nevermore album.
There’s the latest releases from AFM label mates Magica and Triosphere plus a slice of classy indie rock from Geordie newcomers Detroit Social Club.
It’s been 15 long years since the melodic masters that are FM released a new record but Metropolis has been well worth the wait. Steve Overland’s typically emotive vocals coupled with a slew of soaring hooks from the fretboard of Jim Kirkpatrick make this an absolute must for anyone who cut their teeth on late 80s pop rock.
If opener Wildside is strangely weak by comparison to the bulk of the faultless material here then by track two – the stunning Hollow – the FM of old are back in the groove. But this isn’t just a simple nostalgia trip with new titles. In 2010 FM have developed into a band confident in their own ability and quite capable of adding a modern slant to their trademark sounds.
Who’ll Stop The Rain is one of the best songs this accomplished band has ever released but the big question is: who’ll stop FM? Is that the sound of a bandwagon starting to roll…
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Road To Salvation
We’ve got to hand it to Edel and their earMUSIC imprint – at a time when rock and roll was searching for a vibrant new home this German label stepped up to the mark and delivered.
And hot on the heels of their biggest release to date, Europe’s Last Look At Eden, earMUSIC have rolled out another slice of tasty Swedish fare with H.E.A.T.’s gloriously uninhibited Freedom Rock.
Long before Steel Panther decided to celebrate the art of hair metal bands like Europe did it for real. And if their fellow countrymen are all grown up these days then H.E.A.T. have turned back the clock to 1986 and created a masterclass in melody and musical excess.
Black Night, featuring the guest vocals of Edguy’s Tobias Sammet, and Beg Beg Beg are ludicrously catchy and Nobody Loves You Like I Do deserves top billing on any summer rock disco playlist. Two albums in and H.E.A.T. already sound like superstars.
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Freedom Calls
This much hyped Seattle prog metal crew may well possess ideas above their station – seven albums into a prolific and relatively successful career, this patchy record is bedevilled by over-ambition and an overblown production.
It’s hard to know why The Obsidian Conspiracy has gone so horribly wrong but it’s abundantly clear that the layered vocals favoured by frontman Warrell Dane and co-founder Jeff Loomis just don’t work on this record. Too crisp, too high in the mix and too much to take, they are the first hurdle to overcome when attempting to analyse a frustrating bunch of tunes.
Moonrise (Through Mirrors Of Death) is a decent enough stab at meaningful prog metal with a more accessible vocal and a cracking riff. The foreboding intro to And The Maiden Spoke hints at an album finding its feet but it’s a false dawn. Disappointing stuff.
rushonrock rated: 4/10 Never mind
Reinventing the wheel has long been recognised a vital string to Uriah Heep’s bow and after all the compilations and Best Ofs comes a new take on an old idea. Featuring at least one track from every one of the band’s studio albums to date, shuffled iPod-style to keep the listener guessing and the material fresh, this might well be the best introduction to the hard rock masters there has ever been.
The decision to open up with the cover of Russ Ballard’s On The Rebound – the title of this compilation notwithstanding – is intriguing to say the least. Heep godfather Mick Box was keen to present the heavier side to his band on this 36-track career resume and yet here’s a tune an 80s pop rock combo like Duran Duran would have been proud to call their own. But it’s hard to be critical when so much quality shines through.
What stands out across this two-CD retrospective is Heep’s ability to cross genres and revamp their sound across 40 years and numerous chart-busting albums. On the one hand a track like 1995’s dreamy Love In Silence and on the other there’s the uptempo hard rock classics like Easy Livin’. In our ‘umble opinion it’s hard to look beyond Gypsy when picking the piece de resistance of Heep classics but all the ‘eavy stuff is impeccable.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Whole Heep Of Fun
Unlike the Heep’s latest and greatest, this Wishbone Ash retrospective takes the traditional route with 26 tracks delivered in chronological order and charting 11 prolific years from 1970 to 1981.
And while the band’s sound does become more polished by the mid-70s, with New England and Front Page News reflecting a renewed focus, there’s no doubt Martin Turner’s commitment progressive rock never waned. Right from the off this two-disc collection showcases an incredibly relevant band with tracks like Phoenix and The Pilgrim superb examples of Wishbone Ash’s supreme confidence and expert musicianship.
But it’s the quartet of tracks culled from Argus – the album set to be played in full at this summer’s High Voltage festival – which still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. Blowin’ Free and the wonderful Warrior never sound jaded and if you’re new to Wishbone Ash then midway through Disc One is the place to start.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 World Beater
Favoured by NME and the indie crowd, and the last band to support Oasis before the Mancs’ timely split, Geordie boys Detroit Social Club might be deemed too rock-lite for these pages.
But there’s something about one of the best rhythm sections on the British music scene right now which makes Existence more than relevant to the classic rock crowd. David Green appears to be a drummer steeped in the traditions of expansive, psychedelic and soulful percussion and it is his consummate tapping which underpins a powerful rock record.
The vocals may have more than a bit of The Verve about them and of course the guitars could do with more volume but this lot are loved by Oasis and Kasabian fans for a reason. They’ll never be embraced by the narrow-mided rock majority and yet tracks like Northern Man and Chemistry are as good as anything we’ve heard all year.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Club Class
No second album syndrome here then. If straight-ahead melodic metal is your bag then the Norwegians of Triosphere deliver it on a plate across The Road Less Travelled.
Powerful singer Ida Haukland is perfect for the Arch Enemy-lite approach favoured by her fellow musicians. But it’s when the quartet add bluesy touches to their balls-out metal – Human Condition is a cracking example – that you realise this lot could easily appeal to the classic rock crowd.
Crisp solos and cutting riffs complement Haukland’s assured vocals and with The Road Less Travelled the secret’s out: this band is far better than its modest fan base suggests and 2010 could be a breakout year for Triosphere. Ignore them at your peril.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Tri-mendous
Unlike label mate Ika Haukland (see above), Magica vocalist Ana Mladinovici employs a dark operatic tone to showcase her band’s best work but this is both a good and a bad thing.
It sounds exactly like an uptempo classic metal record should. And yet there’s not enough in the stunning Mladinovici’s voice to set her apart from the myriad female singers flooding the European and US scene right now.
Then there’s the mix. If your band does rely on a woman up front then it’s vital the softer notes don’t disappear but that’s exactly what happens as Tonight kicks in. Only two tracks in to Dark Diary and there are already doubts that this patchy record can live up to 2008’s wonderful Wolves & Witches.
In truth it doesn’t. It’s by no means a bad album with belting tunes including Never Like You raising the bar. But overall there’s something missing from Magica’s normally spellbinding metal recipe.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Dark Days