Everybody’s favourite rock n roll heroes return to the fray this week as the Quireboys are captured live – we review and rate their latest record. Plus there’s our verdict on Queensryche, Weezer, Nelson, Therapy?, Dio, Helloween and more!

Queensryche – Empire Anniversary Edition (EMI)

There are two Queensryche records every self-respecting rock fans should own. You probably have the classic Operation: Mindcrime gathering dust in some far flung corner of your album collection but if you missed this then you missed out.

The follow-up to the ‘Ryche’s major label breakthrough saw Geoff Tate et al eschew the concept concept for a glossy collection of stand alone modern rock anthems. It might have divided the critics but it proved this band had what it took to embrace the hair metal era full-on – the radio-friendly Silent Lucidity proving to be one of the best ballads of all time.

Empire always sounded good but on further listening it sounds great. Having shared Def Leppard’s management, Queensryche also shared the Sheffield band’s love of FM-friendly layered guitars and vocals on this slick body of work. Lesser known tracks including Resistance and Hand On Heart could have come straight from the Hysteria out-takes and yet it’s the bluesier, more emotive material which stands out.

Jet City Woman and Della Brown deserve to rank alongside the very best the Queensryche canon has to offer and Tate never sounded better – before or since. This record completed the band’s rapid transformation from NWOBHM sympathisers to modern rock tend setters and, more so than Mindcrime, represents their creative peak.

Bundled with a bonus disc showcasing a previously unreleased 1990 Hammersmith Odeon set this is every completionist’s dream. But it’s also an unexpected opportunity to add that missing metal classic to your collection. SR

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Empire Building

Quireboys – Live In London (Global Music)

Judging by this week’s raft of new releases live music is alive and well. But the proof isn’t exactly in the pudding here.

On the face of it this could and possibly should be a bang-up-to-date record of one of Britain’s hardest gigging and hardest living rock and roll bands. In fact what we have here is a performance dragged from the archives and released just weeks before the band’s ‘new’ live CD hits stores.

Quireboys fans – and indeed anyone who caught their set at this summer’s High Voltage Festival – will testify to the fact that there is no better band of showmen around right now. And while Live In London is typical of their on-stage brilliance it fails to do justice to where Spike and co. are in 2010.

Back in 2004 the Quireboys were just beginning to get back to their best. A support slot on the Monsters Of Rock arena tour had gone swimmingly but the band was still feeling its way after the relatively recent decision to reform. And this is, by their standards, a ‘safe’ set lacking the confidence and swagger you’ll witness on this winter’s UK headline tour.

The complimentary DVD is well worth watching but it’s nothing like the real thing. If money’s tight give this a miss and save it for what are sure to be the perfect rock n roll Christmas parties – kicking off in Sheffield on December 2. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Quire Practice

Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (Frontiers)

File under: Guilty Pleasure. And when you have sit back and enjoy one of the finest hair metal records you’ll hear all year. Possibly ever. Two decades after the brilliant After The Rain topped album charts across the globe the Nelson boys are back – and they sound better than ever.

If you’ve given up on Bon Jovi ever releasing another classic rock record then this is what you’ve been waiting for. If you used to live your life surrounded by a haze of hairspray and wrapped in spandex then you’ve hit paydirt with Lightning Strikes Twice. And if you’re a lady of a certain age (or even a man) then the return of the made-for-Timotei twins will have you sweating like a starstruck teen.

The Bros for the soft rock generation, Nelson rapidly clocked up record sales in excess of 6 million using the tried and tested formula of good looks and catchy hooks. These days they’re not exactly old and wrinkly but it’s easier to judge them on the music alone. And this album rocks.

Mixing late 80s vintage Jovi with Poison and Leppard they bring quality AOR back to the table and if To Get Back To You dabbles with one or two instrumental disasters it’s a rare rough diamond in amongst a pile of sparkling gems. Take Me There is terrific and the Hysteria-esque intro to In It For The Money is magical.

If you yearn to feel like it was 1990 all over again then Nelson have delivered the passport to retro heaven. Amazing stuff from one of music’s most talented families. SR

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Full Nelson

Helloween – 7 Sinners (Nuclear Blast)

Halloween might have been and gone but here’s a record far more menacing than a few trespassing trick or treaters.  If you’re a bit of a misery like me, then you’ll need some relatively extreme security measures to keep these over-excited juveniles away.  I suggest you hibernate with a copy of 7 Sinners.

But of course there’s a lot more to Helloween’s new release than that and we won’t be using it solely as a glorified guard dog.  While 7 Sinners exhibits some of the heaviest stuff Helloween have done it’s still charmingly charismatic and epic as hell.

Where The Sinners Go is a more than appetising starter, laden with the coherent and distorted edginess of Michael Weikath’s guitar and Markus Grosskopf’s deep bass completed with Andi Deris’ trademark, screeching vocals to create a classic opener.

It’s from the beginning of this opening track that you immediately realise that the production quality of the album is second to none. If A Mountain Could Talk was written by Grosskopf and would border on over-the-top for some, but if you like a heroic tune with even some symphonic elements in thrown in, then you’ll probably love it.

Deris has written almost half of the songs, and that’s no problem for me but might be for other devout fans.  Weikath’s writing is still present on The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner and on Raise The Noise, which momentarily confuses when a flute comes into the song out of nowhere. However, it takes less than a few seconds to realise that – no, Ian Anderson hasn’t hijacked the record and this actually sounds fantastic when layered on top of the driving riffs. CR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Hell Yeah!

Dio – Live At Donington 1983 & 1987 (Niji)

2010 could have turned out to be a very dark year in the world of metal with the passing of one of the genre’s founding fathers and foremost frontmen. In fact we’ve enjoyed a celebration, rather than a wake, and after the Dio-era Sabbath reiussues comes another reason to revel in the brilliance that was Ronnie James.

Duplication might deter the casual fan from investing in this two-disc package featuring Donington sets separated by four years: five tracks appear twice. However, the chance to hear new kid on the block and future Whitesnake/Def Leppard/Thin Lizzy alumni Vivian Campbell as an exciting raw talent makes the ’83 set stand out. And his successor, the underrated Craig Goldy, turns in a terrific shift four years later in the set which saw Dio rolled out as main support for headliners Bon Jovi.

But for all of their sharp riffs and superb solos there’s no denying the focus of this latest addition to the Dio back catalogue. The man himself is in lung-busting form on both occasions and his affinity with the Monsters Of Rock crowd is clear for all to hear.

Dio was a born performer and listening to him engage with the masses is almost as entertaining as hearing the Sabbath/Dio standards he delivers with trademark assurance. Both versions of Children Of The Sea (the latter, albeit brief) send shivers down the spine while the 1983 version of Holy Diver marks the post-Sabbath era with due respect.

There are myriad opportunities to enjoy Dio in the year of his passing. But if you want a true flavour of the pint-sized pocket rocket in his element then this is really all you need. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Dio Don Good

Allen/Lande – The Showdown (Frontiers)

Completing their hat-trick of top class metal collaborations, Russell Allen and Jorn Lande appear to have saved the best until last. Picking up where 2005’s The Battle and 2007’s The Revenge left off, The Showdown is yet another meaty chunk of melodic hard rock which will surely curry favour with fans of both artists the world over.

Significantly there’s a unique flavour to the duo’s sound which means you won’t find yourself revisiting the very best of Symphony X, Masterplan or Avantasia here. Both Allen and Lande play to their strengths but such is their ability to diversify and develop as leading rock musicians that this always feels like a powerful project in its own right.

Perhaps that’s because the driving force is the man who plays bass, guitars and keys – and writes the songs. Multi-talented Magnus Karlsson might not lend his name to this pseudo-supergroup but without him there would be no Allen Lande.

The opening tune and title track sets the tone for melodic rock with an obvious nod to the NWOBHM classics. And the trend continues with Bloodlines thru The Guardian and into Eternity. Consistency is the key to the longevity of this collaboration. And Allen Lande’s best work is consistently good. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Promised Lande

Weezer – Pinkerton Reissue (Universal)

Rivers Cuomo could be viewed as one of rock’s wasted talents. To those in the know Weezer have been making cutting edge music for many years but the fact remains that they’ve never really broken out of the underground (if album sales in excess of nine million can be considered underground). This long-awaited reissue of their definitive album could finally change all of that.

Cuomo could and should be a far bigger name than he is. His intoxicating voice and ability to pen cutting edge lyrics with a great degree of humour has been the glue which has bonded Weezer together. With the remarkable Pinkerton the wacky frontman excelled himself.

El Scorcho is a singalong slice of punky pop referencing Green Day and still brings a smile to the face 14 years after its conception. Getchoo ramps up the riffometer to 11 and the titilating Tired Of Sex is tear-inducing funny.

The 16-track bonus disc is the kind of meaty companion die-hard fans will demand from a record which will already command due prominence in their alt rock collection. Pick of the bunch are the three Pinkerton classics (Why Bother?, El Scorcho and Pink Triangle) from the band’s chaotic Reading 1996 set but we like Across The Sea Piano Noodles too…there may be a good reason Cuomo has never become the new Bono. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 What A Weeze

Therapy? – We’re Here To The End (Global Music)

Incredibly this is the first 100% official record of Irish punk metal heroes Therapy? – a mere 20 years into their wide and varied career. Thankfully Andy Cairns and his crew have come up with a rather neat two-disc resume which spans every era and perfectly showcases the shades of dark and light for which this essential band have become known.

It’s not as if Therapy? haven’t tried to recreate and preserve their live sound in the past – for a variety of reasons the timing (and the tapes) just wasn’t right. But the decision was made to play and record a trio of London shows earlier this year with a view to capturing the essence and energy of these alt rock heroes. It paid off big time.

Perhaps Cairns thrives under pressure but listening to this and you’re treated to a focused frontman determined to present his band is the best possible light. After the runaway success of last year’s classy Crooked Timber this is a timely reminder that Therapy? have been delivering a series of chart bothering belters for years.

Opening with the classic Screamager and wrapping things up with the equally wonderful Teethgrinder, what happens in between is some of the best rock you’ll hear all year. Fusing pride and passion, tunes like Diane and Die Laughing represent the polar opposites of Therapy?’s bulging back catalogue. It’s jaw-dropping stuff and about time too.

If Therapy? are her to the end let’s just hop the end isn’t nigh. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 End Game

Dead Letter Circus – Dead Letter Circus (Massive)

There’s something seriously dangerous happening Down Under right now and where The Butterfly Effect and Karnivool blazed a trail, the equally intriguing Dead Letter Circus follow.

A scene spawning alt-rock future heroes for fun, Australia’s rock landscape is changing at pace. If bands like Airbourne continue to fly the flag for AC/DC-esque bar room rock n roll then Dead Letter Circus and their ilk are out to prove there’s more to a diverse nation than heavy drinking, womanising and 24/7 partying.

This six-track mini album precedes 2011’s full-length debut and there’s enough talent spread across six tracks here to suggest Karnivool, in particular, should be looking over their shoulders at a credible threat to their Aussie prog-rock crown. Opener The Mile is an atmospheric snapshot of the band’s better moments but Kim Benzie’s endearing vocal style is given a more expanisve profile on Are We Closer.

Closer to world domination? Maybe. Closer to critical acclaim? Definitely. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Dead Good

Helstar – Glory Of Chaos (AFM)

It’s four years since the most credible Helstar line-up in years fully reformed and after a couple of false starts the speed metal legends are back in the rock saddle. Glory Of Chaos comes mightily close to matching the glory of 1989’s Nosferatu and long-time fans of the band will revel in a return to old school riffing and some seriously delicious shredding.

Helstar don’t pretend to be a band determined to break down barriers and set fresh boundaries but what they do, they do well. The relentless, pounding Pandemonium is a memorable slice of melodic thrash metal which marks this album down as one to watch. And of the odd patchy moment prevents Glory Of Chaos from being classed as a bona fide return to form it does prove this band has plenty to offer moving forward.

If James Rivera can keep the current line-up on track then this impressive record could be the springboard for a new golden era where the nearly men if Helstar are concerned. But keeping it together – literally and metaphorically – has been a problem for the US act from day one and it’s still the greatest challenge they face almost 30 years on from their celebrated formation. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 ‘Star Rising?

Awolnation – Back From Earth (Red Bull Records)

Does the world really need more dance rock? According to Awolnation the emphatic answer is yes but this is Pendulum-lite and lacks the urgency of Innerpartysystem. The latter actually lend their considerable talents to a remix of opener Burn It Down and it’s amazing the difference a cool hand on the desk can make.

Guilty Filthy Soul sounds like it should be Awolnaton at their angriest and dirtiest – in fact it sounds like Scissor Sisters covering Soft Cell and that can’t be a good thing. Anytime. Anywhere.

The pace picks up a tad with the electro fuzz of Sail but even here there’s a crazy sense of Enya’s Orinoco Flow underpinning a made-for-chilling anthem. Bizarre. Of all the dance rock heroes out there Awolnation will have the greatest battle persuading the rock fraternity that their dance music is relevant. They may not succeed. They may not want to. SR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Divided Nation

Star One – Victims Of The Modern Age (Inside Out)

Dutch progressive metal. It’s out there. Really. The signature time changes, the old school organ, the symphonic metal and the mystical references. If you thought Monster Magnet were weird and Focus had lost it then take a good listen to the sillier-than-drug addiction Star One.

These boys don’t lack confidence and certainly don’t lack sprawling, spiralling epic prog sensibilities. Compare Russell Allen’s contribution here to his work on the Allen Lande record and two things become abundantly clear: he’s a man of many talents but the mainstream is where he should concentrate his considerable skill set…

Digital Rain is a rollicking affair which trades vocal hooks for fun and Earth That Was whips up the listener into a space rock frenzy. It’s all very strange and also strangely addictive. You really want to tear yourself away but suddenly the epic album closer, It All Ends Here, is upon you.

This may well be where it all ends for an on-off project rich in potential but perhaps too wacky to make a permanent impression. Who knows? Enjoy the ride while you still can. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Star Crossed