We review and rate the new records by Murderdolls, Papa Roach (pictured) and hardcore punks Terror. Plus there’s the lowdown on melodic rock’s finest in the shape of Terry Brock, First Signal, Stan Bush and Ken’s Dojo.
But there’s more! Sonic Syndicate, Shadowgarden, Nightfalland Tristania all get the rushonrock treatment and don’t forget – every Sunday we look at what’s hot and what’s not.
Murderdolls – Women & Children Last (Roadrunner)
On this infectious follow-up to 2002’s intoxicating debut, the natural heirs to Alice Cooper up their game and deliver a punchy piece of pop metal perfectly suited to the present climate.
It’s silly, sleazy and slightly disturbing but there’s nothing here to give you nightmares – just enough dark comedy and shock rock to make you dream of classic Coop (Drug Me To Hell) and vintage Rob Zombie (Chapel Of Blood).
Joey Jordison and Wednesday 13 might be prolific in their day jobs but this quality collaboration brings out the best in both men and the singalong splendour of Summertime Suicide and Blood Stained Valentine stands alongside to best work from either muso’s back catalogue.
Nowhere’s mass appeal and electro riff will appeal to pop pickers and punks alike and that’s the trick with this record – it spans genres and spanks the opposition. Maybe this time Murderdolls will stick around to enjoy their moment and make their mark. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Mass Murder
Terry Brock – Diamond Blue (Frontiers)
His unassuming name may conjure up images of the local window cleaner, rather than a slick singer, but this is a gleaming example of highly polished melodic rock.
Terry Brock is a seasoned showman, fronting the likes of Strangeways and the newly reformed Giant, and he brings all of his guile and experience to the table on Diamond Blue to deliver what may well be a career high.
For those missing Def Leppard during their year-long hiatus check out the title track and the superb It’s You – both songs flirt with the ‘blatant rip-off’ tag but you can’t blame Brock for tapping into the Hysteria-era catalogue when he does it so well.
Elsewhere there’s a heady mix of full-on rockers and steamy ballads and this album is the ultimate accessory for all owners of a soft top sports car looking forward to some late summer sun. Haul down the roof and turn up the volume – let Brock’s dulcet tones do the rest. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Brock & Roll
Hardcore punk of stripped down thrash metal? This rollicking record by the cult US crew blurs the boundaries of two brutal genres but never sits comfortably within either – and a result it’s a true triumph.
On opener Your Enemies Are Mine and follow-up Stick Tight it’s impossible to ignore the Anthrax influence but the latter is even reminiscent of an early Beastie Boys live show. Terror trade in short, rarely sweet, blasts of channelled brutality and they have it down to a tee.
Nailing nearly every one of Keepers Of The Faith’s 13 tracks, vocalist Scott Vogel is vicious in his delivery and it’s doubtful the underground hero could front any other band right now. This is a work of aural art and Century Media might well have a hit record on their hands – just don’t utter the phrase ‘commercial success’ in earshot of these anti-establishment troopers. It might be your last. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Terror Rise
Stan Bush – Dream The Dream (Frontiers)
The soaring intro to ballad Don’t Give Up On Love belongs on an 80s action movie soundtrack and Stan Bush’s inoffensive tones, which kick in at the perfect time, would perfectly complement a clip featuring a busty blonde driving a red Corvette along the Californian coastline.
This is pure saccharine pop rock hewn from another era and it sounds oh so sweet. There are the heart-wrenching choruses, the finger picking guitar solos and, on In My Life, an acoustic flavoured Toto/Foreigner-styled flash of Bush’s true potential.
Almost 30 years after the release of his self-titled debut it wouldn’t be overly critical to suggest that potential should already have been fulfilled and on In My Life Bush admits ‘I’ve been around for long enough’. He has but this album screams of a late bloomer. Expect a raft of reissues to follow… SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Bush Fire
First Signal – First Signal (Frontiers)
Former Harem Scarem singer Harry Hess might sound like Joe Elliott’s double but that’s a distinct advantage when your stock in trade is pedalling classy AOR.
Hooking up with Harem buddy and accomplished tub thumper Darren Smith – and benefiting from a typically neat Dennis Ward production – this is a supreme statement of intent.
There are two tracks penned by the peerless Richard Marx – in fact this classy brace are pinched from the Right Here Waiting man’s last record – and the decision to lean on external writers has really paid off.
Hess has star quality and First Signal point the way to future success. Stay tuned. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 First Choice
Five years since the apparent demise of the Greek melodic death/gothic powerhouse that was Nightfall and the band is back.
Concentrating on Maiden-esque riffage, without discarding the trademark keys and orchestral twists, there’s a cleaner, more focused edge to the music delivered by Efthimis Karadimas and his new colleagues.
US guitarist Evan Hensley’s bid to become the axe hero who actually makes the Nightfall pedals his own appears to have got off to a blistering start and on this evidence he could well outlast his myriad predecessors.
Incredibly the jaunty pace of Hensley’s Malmsteen-influenced playing on Astronomica/Saturnian Moon complements the pseudo growling of frontman and bassist Karadimas in a way few could have foreseen.
And on Astra Planeta/We Chose The Sun the American six stringer blossoms – delivering a confident masterclass in symphonic metal. Could this be a match made in heavy rock heaven? We think so. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Greek Triumph
Papa Roach – Time For Annihilation…On The Record & On The Road (Eleven Seven)
Less than 18 months after Top 10 US album Metamorphosis confirmed one of the most unlikely comebacks in rock and the newly sleazed up Papa Roach are not about to let that fresh momentum slip.
Fusing five new tracks and a slew of live classics, TFA is the definitive record of a band on the rise – the new tracks even further removed from the band’s nu-metal past and the live songs bursting with Jacoby Shaddix’s trademark swagger and manufactured cool.
And if Papa Roach in 2010 do sound so much better than the band circa 2002 then there’s no doubt there’s something staged about their rock and roll makeover. Kick In The Teeth and No Matter What lean towards Motley Crue but fans of Avenged Sevenfold will also find much to admire in the Roach’s second coming.
This diverse album proves there’s plenty of life left in a band once consigned to history. Enjoy it while it lasts. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Time For Admiration
For most people Kens Dojo sounds like the title of Jean Claude VanDamme straight- to- DVD effort. The reality is the debut solo project of guitarist and Kung Fu black belt enthusiast, Ken Ingwersen.
A strange combination but ironically so is his opening effort. With four guest vocalists on the album including, quite bizarrely, the one and only Chesney Hawkes, the album feels choppy and misdirected in places.
But taking each track individually, there are some superb AOR anthems that wouldn’t be out of place on Europe’s back catalogue.
Kicking off with Forever the vocals sound incredibly similar to a certain sunglasses wearing Irishman, but works well with some solid guitar solos. Nils K. Rue features on Keeping The Flame which as is the case for the vast majority of the record is just solid.
The biggest surprise is the title track Reincarnation featuring one time pop idol Chesney Hawkes. It feels almost surreal to write these next words…It’s actually rather quite good! In another lifetime Hawkes could have been a power ballad band’s front man, with smooth vocals that match up to a rhythmic rock track exceptionally well.
There’s a couple of instrumental efforts, Momentos A Solas and El Recreo that both become a little tedious towards the end. And if the thought of an 80s popstar turned rocker didn’t feel bizarre enough, the aforementioned tracks sound like a tribute to Steve Stevens’ Top Gun theme. I defy you to say differently!
There’s a cover of Uriah Heep’s Rain, with a guitar replacing the backing piano in the original. It’s likely to have appeared on the album as a nod to Heep’s keyboard player Ken Hensley, who Ingwersen has played with.
The whole album is summed up quite eloquently by the last track Soundcheck Bonanza. Heavy metal riffing into tranquillity and back again. The expression mixed bag is the phrase that springs to mind, but there is so much potential if Ken can decide on a sound and stick with it. AS
rushonrock rated: 6/10 That’s Kentertainment
Sonic Syndicate – We Rule The Night (Nuclear Blast)
Sonic Syndicate are building up a lot of pace in a short time. The Bandit Rock Awards presented them with best Swedish newcomer in 2008, and best Swedish Metal act of this year. Their new album We Rule the Night isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s a catchy record.
Hosting a healthy mixture of screamed and clean vocals with straightforward lyrics, they have the credentials to pick up more mainstream popularity than anything.
Revolution, Baby reveals this. With a chorus that could get anyone bobbing along and some groovy rhythms on guitar, it’s no wonder it was chosen as a single release.
Whilst the album is still considered to be metalcore, it is less break-downy than other pure metalcore acts around now. There is more of a pop punk twinge to it. Miles Apart shows that they have room for a lovesick acoustic song that will have teenage girls screaming in high pitched annoyance.
Not one song on the album is more than five minutes, which further confirms to me that these guys are actively targeting a popular market. However, pick of the short tracks has to be Leave Me Alone. Powerful screams in coherence with clean vocalisations make it a standout track that’s worth a listen.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this new release from Sonic Syndicate does lack in substance, but at the same time there are some simple but effective riffs and chorus’ that make it at least enjoyable. CR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Sonic Boom
Draconian duo Andreas Hindenas and Johann Ericsson may have put their day jobs on the backburner but the result is the rather catchy and incredibly mournful Shadowgarden.
Tapping into the rich commercial seam which made early-era Evanescence such a money-mmaing machine and never straying too far from classic HIM this is a gothic metal masterpiece with depressive moments to die for and choruses crafted to make grown men cry.
Bringing in female vocalist Lisa on With Love And A Bullet is a smart move and proves Shadowgarden’s potential as major stars. There’s nothing radically new about anything on Ashen but then familiarity, in this case, certainly doesn’t breed contempt.
By sticking to the tried and tested conventions of the Gothic genre this remarkably adept record has a ready made market but there’s a certain edge to tracks like Sorrow’s Kitchen which could draw in a far wider audience.
If you liked the major label debut of Roadrunner faves Dommin then you’ll love this. Or at least love to hate it. SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Out Of The Shadows
The studio debut of Italian warbler Mariangela Demurtus launches a brave new era for the symphonic metal powerhouse that is Tristania and it’s fair to say this is a record riddled with teething problems and a clear lack of confidence.
The sudden departure of Vibek Stene undoubtedly left a void in the Tristania ranks and while the Norwegians didn’t, by all accounts, rush into replacing their experienced female singer the jury’s still out on whether her successor is the right fit.
Bird (that’s no way to describe a woman in 2010, ed) is truly awful and to select it as the opener here is a clear mistake. But its follow-up, the pounding Protection, is the perfect showcase for Demurtus and her rich vocal range – juxtaposing these two tracks simply emphasises the best and worst of a band in transition.
Of course the Sardinian songstress faces a constant fight for top billing with screamer Anders Hoyvik Hidle and Tristania’s third vocalist, fellow newbie Kjetil Nordhus, and she may need two or even three albums to stamp her mark on a band with 14 years’ experience and a revolving door of members.
Given time Demurtus could blossom – her duet with Nordhus on Exil is a highlight – and while this record is, of course, about so much more than one member’s studio debut it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this is a band grappling with an identity crisis in the full glare of fans and critics alike. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10
This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Andy Spoors and Calum Robson.