Plus we deliver our verdict on the latest offerings from Dogs D’Amour legend Tyla, Venom, Fate, Voodoo Six, Nickelback and The Man-Eating Tree.
For almost a decade Fate stood on the cusp of melodic rock greatness but the combination of multiple line-up changes and the onset of grunge served to kill any lingering hopes of world domination. And Denmark’s answer to Van Halen slipped quietly into the shadows.
Fast forward almost 20 years and Fate’s fate is still shaped by a revolving door policy of band members drifting in and out when the mood takes them.
But with Dagfinn Joensen on the mic and Mikkel Henderson’s keyboards flowing (check out the cracking At The End Of the Day) the remarkable Ghosts From The Past is a ‘Phoenix from the flames’ moment for the chart busters that never were.
Faroe Islander Joensen delivers the performance of his life on an album surely referencing Fate’s troubled past. But if this is a nod to line-ups of old then it’s by no means a record rooted in strangulating history. Ghosts From The Past is a glorious statement of what Fate could be in the future given a period of much-needed stability.
The Halen-esque intro to All That I Want again allows Henderson an opportunity to play out his boyhood dreams and he does so with some aplomb. This is a party album for the retro rocker in all of us and Fate deserve a fresh taste of success – just don’t be surprised if there’s a whole new bunch of guys playing these songs live next summer. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Fate’s Warning
Very much like Def Leppard in their late 80s prime Nickelback have developed a sound and style that might draw whoops of derision from rock and metal’s aloof cognoscenti but it works. And, more to the point, it sells bucket loads of records and gig tickets at a time when money’s tight and times are hard.
In fact Nickelback even sound a little like the Lepps on some of the more over-produced tracks here. There are tribal beats reminiscent of Hysteria’s heyday and layered vocals Mutt Lange would kill for.
But the big difference between Sheffield’s finest and Canada’s biggest rock export is that frontman Chad Kroeger is still a little too rough and ready to pull off the ultimate pop metal record. And as such he sounds incredibly uncomfortable on Here And Now’s lighter moments.
The juxtaposition of Radio Two-friendly hits and a voice made for gruff metal must make mixing the ultimate Nickelback album one hell of a task. Overall Here And Now is about as good as it gets with When We Stand Together and Trying Not To Love You proving opposites do attract. Kroeger can operate on a different emotional level but, let’s face it, he’s never going to be Bryan Adams (and that’s got to be a good thing).
Nickelback have made a number of solid rock records in their time and Here And Now is no different. If the title refers to the band’s hope that they’ve captured the sound of the times then don’t be fooled. They’ve simply replicated the sound of every other Nickelback record. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Nickelback To Basics
Voodoo Six sound like they should be jostling for position with Black Stone Cherry as the stadium rockers of the future. And yet, while the latter are already more than halfway there the former are still paying their dues in sweaty clubs on a meagre budget.
Musically there’s little to choose between V6 and a plethora of established hard rock acts and the Falling Knives EP serves up more of the quality blues-tinged post-grunge fare we’ve come to expect from one of the hardest working acts on the live circuit.
Vocalist Luke Purdie was born to front a band like V6 and One More Day might well be his finest moment in a band that’s been bubbling under for far too long. Marrying the powerful with the subtle, the accomplished singer manages to find the balance needed to deliver crisp vocals against a backdrop of some jaw-dropping musicianship.
The perfect follow-up to magnificent long player Fluke?, the Falling Knives EP is more than just a stopgap. It’s a progression and it’s proof – proof that V6 really can reach the next level and, more significantly, stay there. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Six Of The Best
Tyla J Pallas – Quinquaginta (King Outlaw)
Twenty years ago Tyla was the king of the rock n roll troubadours, jousting with old buddy Spike from the Quireboys as the raspy-throated storyteller of choice.
Blending sensational lyrics with thought-provoking artwork and blinding live shows, the amiable Dogs D’Amour frontman might have looked like an extra from Pirates Of The Caribbean but he was often a class apart as the multi-faceted muso flying the flag for artistic independence.
Two decades on and that hasn’t changed. Technically unable to call this new record a Dogs album it’s probably just as well – Quinquaginta is somewhat darker than die-hard fans might remember but these days Tyla is deadly serious.
His reach may no longer extend into the fringes of the top 30 – and he’s not alone in the rock world there – but who cares? Tyla still possesses that natural talent for penning some of the most mesmerising music around and Quinquaginta’s bizarre name is the only thing ridiculous about this record.
Everything else is heartfelt, well-crafted and offers a sharp social commentary. These songs tap into deep emotions and create familiar images – all through the eyes of one of the country’s most creative minds.
Tyla remains a much-ignored British musical treasure but this magnificent record poses the inevitable question: why? SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Who Let The Dog Out?
The Man-Eating Tree – Harvest (Century Media)
It only seems like yesterday that The Man-Eating Tree’s marvellous mix of prog metal and ambient rock gained an entirely deserved rushonrock rated 8/10 as debut Vine more than tickled our fancy.
But 13 months on and founder member Vesa Ranta is back with more melancholic, meandering and mightily impressive music in the same vein. And yet this is no lazy imitation of what went before.
For starters singer Tuomas Tuominen (doing his best impression of Geddy Lee and Serj Tankian’s lovechild) has developed a vocal style far more suited to The Man-Eating Tree’s uniquely subversive sounds. And the biggest change? Two guitars instead of one.
Ranta admitted that Vine was axe-lite and the response was to add Antti Karhu to a band already boasting the considerable talents of Janne Markus. And for a partnership still feeling its way the twin guitar sound they produce enables Harvest to eclipse its meaty predecessor.
Yet it’s lighter fare, in the vein of the piano riff underpinning Like Mute Companions, that makes the heavier impression. Tuominen takes full advantage of the opportunity to stretch his pipes and push the boundaries. And pushing the boundaries is what The Man-Eating tree does best. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Harvest-ed Interest
Alfonzetti – Here Comes The Night (AOR Heaven)
Enjoy your rock with no frills and plenty of cocksure energy? Miss the 80s and often imagine yourself sinking a few swift ones on the Sunset Strip? Looking for something to warm the cockles as winter draws in? Alfonzetti is the answer to your dreams.
Frontman Matti Alfonzetti was big news at the back end of the hair metal era after landing a job leading the much missed Jagged Edge and touring the UK with the likes of Dan Reed Network, Vixen and David Lee Roth.
And there’s no reason why he can’t ride the new wave of hair metal if Here Comes The Night is evidence of what the sugary-toned Swede still has to offer.
The superb title track is an example of why the Stockholm native was in such demand two decades ago – boasting all the caramelised AOR coating of a classic Europe-meets-Whitesnake 80s ballad.
Alfonzetti’s love of the power ballad is beyond question and I’ll Wait For You is another delectable slice of retro goodness guaranteed to melt the hearts of Mr Big fans everywhere. And there’s more than a hint of Eric Martin about Matti’s bluesier tones.
That Here Comes The Night is hitting the streets at the back end of November shouldn’t preclude it from crashing the end-of-year Best Of lists. It’s a cracking record from a singer gloriously revisiting a star-crossed past. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Night Songs
Listening to Pedal To The Metal and there’s a nagging feling that Cronos and his buddies have watched the Anvil documentary one too many times. It’s almost a parody of the very music Venom sought to usurp 30 years ago and doesn’t do the latest line-up any favours at all.
Yet it’s probably fair criticism of the revered black metal pioneers that much of their work doesn’t come close to the groundbreaking albums that shook 80s rock to its core. As an album judged in isolation Fallen Angels is a fairly impressive slab of polished metal but it’s hardly the evil and foreboding Venom we came to love and fear in equal measure.
So to ignore the comparisons between old and new for a moment – and it’s by no means easy – and this long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s promising Hell marks a significant progression in the career of guitarist La Rage. Two albums in and he’s found his feet as the fret-burning foil to his older and wiser mentor. Some of the guitar work here is among the best we’ve heard all year and long after the latest incarnation of Venom perishes La rage should flourish (in spite of the ridiculous name).
Had Fallen Angels been released by an upcoming British metal band with aspirations to follow in the footsteps of the UK’s classic NWOBHM icons this would be judged as a promising effort. That we’re talking about a Venom record means it can only be deemed an interesting addition to an increasingly varied back catalogue. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Venomaly