And a bumper list is headed by serial romantics Foreigner – with a power ballad fest – and rising UK rockers The Treatment (pictured).
There’s a glossy debut from all-girl pop rockers Indica and some ‘proper’ metal courtesy of label mates Grand Magus.
We run the rule over Ektomorf, Lake Of Tears and arena-ready US alt rockers Augustines.
Plus there’s new music from Bram Stoker, Algiers and The Unguided.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Alt Rock
Formerly We Are Augustines, it seems the Brooklyn-based indie chart botherers no longer need to shout about who they are (or were). And maybe it’s because the music does the talking on the follow-up to 2011’s promising yet patchy Rise Ye Sunken Ships.
Warning: don’t read on if you like your rock even remotely raucous. Walkabout is more Elbow than Eagles and there’s a whiff of Kings Of Leon taking a stab at U2 on the sweeping Nothing To Lose But Your Head.
But if you’re partial to some inspirational, well-crafted, heartfelt songwriting capable of giving the boss and The Gaslight Anthem a run for their money, then settle down and enjoy an engaging alternative rock record.
Cruel City is cutting, Weary Eyes wonderfully pessimistic and Now You Are Free a refreshing shot at writing ‘that song’. Augustines always had the tools of the trade but this record suggests the apprenticeship is complete. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Augusto
BEST OF THE REST
Death pop? Eurovision core? Whatever you want to call it, The Unguided’s synth-heavy second opus is smeared in so much cheese it should carry a health warning.
The band, featuring former members of Sonic Syndicate, are accomplished enough, and Roland Johansson’s leadwork is at times, electrifying. And it’s not that the band don’t have a hard edge, with Johansson’s co-singer, Richard Sjunnesson supplying the ‘harsh’ vocals, and tracks like Inception boasting plenty of chugging riffs.
But Fragile Immortality simply lacks the songwriting spine to go with all the bluster, technical wizardry and silky smooth production job – which is a shame.
Will these songs sound good pumped through a PA at a huge, mainland Europe metalfest? Probably. Will they make a lasting impression? Probably not. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Un-inspiring
Genre: Alt Rock
After months of collaboration and a great deal of anticipation, the Sheffield based duo have produced an enticing record that flows smoothly from start to finish. From the off, this album grabs your attention with its feelgood, truthful lyrics showing William K J Anderson’s heart on the sleeve approach, with a strong opening five numbers.
Tracks such as Miles And Miles Of Rosary Beads, The Glue and Lighthouse are all radio friendly tunes that could easily be hits, however there is nothing on this about this record that makes you sit up and say WOW!
While every track on this album fully justifies its place, the band go a bit wayward when it comes to the mid-point track, Flowers – slowing everything down and coming up with some fairly questionable lyrics in the process.
But this album is a good album. No mistake. However, it feels more like an album to build on rather than a record that hits the mark from the off. Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Algiers And Cheers
Genre: Classic Rock
They’ve seen Airbourne claim the ‘heirs to AC/DC’ crown, watched fellow Brits Heaven’s Basement craft a killer hard rock sound beloved on both sides of the Atlantic and allowed label mates Reckless Love to dominate the revivalist hair metal scene.
So it’s high time The Treatment remind the rock community that they deserve to be considered on the same terms as all of those bands – and deserve their place at the front of the chasing pack.
Running With The Dogs drops three long years after feisty debut This Might Hurt and the winning formula has been condensed. Just as Airbourne took the Leppard route with last year’s Black Dog Barking (what is it about our four-legged friends and rock right now), The Treatment have upped the production values and piled on the cheese.
Crazy Nights-era Kiss dominates opener I Bleed Rock N Roll and Get The Party On is like listening to Paul Stanley trading riffs with Angus Young. Emergency suffers from some misplaced backing vocals (as does the bluesy Electric Boys-inspired Cloud Across The Sun) but the effort is there.
This is The Treatment’s open letter to 80s rock fans imploring them to go back to the future. As dreamy Mr Big-meets-Extreme ballad Unchain My World kicks in it becomes clear it’s a trip worth taking. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Running Wild
Genre: Progressive Rock
It takes balls to christen your band after a world famous gothic novelist and considerable talent to deliver a record worthy of the name. But Cold Reading is Bram Stoker at their brilliant best – 42 years after seminal prog classic Heavy Rock Spectacular made waves it proves there’s life in the old dogs yet.
Wisely allowing the music to take centre stage – vocals are almost an afterthought on this engrossing album – this is a feast of sweeping soundscapes, pulsating rhythms and surprising twists.
New Adventure (imagine It Bites meets Marillion) is a great place to start. Seventh up, it’s a long time coming but the song title isn’t the only thing that hints at a bold new era for the Bram boys: this is melodic rock gold steeped in progressive rock heaven.
Tony Bronsdon is a supreme tinkler whose keyboard work stands the test of time. Thanks to his unique talent there’s no longer any need to remember Bram Stoker as they were. Enjoy the band where they are right now. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Bramtastic
Genre: Heavy Metal
There’s heavy metal. And there’s Grand Magus’ heavy metal. Right now no band does the trad approach better and Triumph And Power does what it says on the tin.
Steel Versus Steel is the most metal song of the decade. Maybe the most metal song ever. It would take a brave man to argue against the bearded warriors of Magus should the issue be debated in a dark basement bar somewhere north of Stockholm.
Taken at face value Triumph And Power could scare the shit out of the most hardened head banger. It’s brutal beyond belief, without ever losing sight of the melody every metal record requires to make its mark.
Almost two decades into a spectacularly confident career, Grand Magus have made the record that will finally make their name. The metal gods are smiling on Janne ‘JB’ Christofferson and his place in genre folklore is guaranteed. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Grand Design
Genre: Pop Rock
It’s makeover time in the world of female-fronted rock. Indica are back with their first album in four years and the platinum-selling Finnish pop rockers are more polished than ever.
Imagine a commercially unstoppable hybrid of the Bangles, 80s Fleetwood Mac and Evanescence packaged like Little Mix on a visit to their favourite Helsinki boutique. Indica have always had the tunes but now they have the hairdos and attitude to match.
Here And Now may well go too far for those of a weak constitution – it could be Irish balladeers the Coors at their toe-curling worst. But Uncovered (if only) and Behind The Walls are pop rock belters quite capable of stirring interest far beyond the band’s Scandinavian heartland.
Don’t expect Indica to make the pages of NME anytime soon. But this cute quintet is more than capable of courting the UK’s mainstream media and sparking a revival in all things Roxette, Belinda Carlisle and Vixen. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Shine On
Still searching for that elusive Valentine’s Day gift for the power ballad addict in your life? Those wonderfully thoughtful chaps at Foreigner have only gone and saved you a fortnight of wrestling with underwear websites, unreliable florists and snooty restaurateurs.
This sugary sweet collection of AOR classics might look terribly embarrassing slotted in between Faith No More and Fugazi but every home should have one.
Featuring the familiar radio smashes and a healthy serving of modern-day Foreigner (yes, there is life beyond ‘4’), it’s perfect whether you’re focused on wooing or simply enjoy a good warble in the bath.
‘New’ frontman Kelly Hansen has emerged as the perfect foil for grizzled veteran Mick Jones and expect a number of these timeless anthems to feature in April’s UK headline set. Forget the roses. Smell the cheese. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Love Is Foreigner
Genre: Groove Metal
Flying the flag for Hungarian heavy metal might, to those on the outside, appear to be a pretty thankless task. But it’s a job Zoltan ‘Zoli’ Farkas relishes.
Celebrating 20 years at the top of Eastern European metal’s tree, Ektomorf continue to produce groove-laden heavy metal of a consistent quality. Ten Plagues is a punishing mosh-along monster and when the foreboding Farkas sings ‘this is the day to die’ he might actually mean it.
Escape’s cleaner vocal and dancier groove evokes memories of Slipknot at their party-starting best and that’s exactly how good Ektomorf can be when they hit the creative heights.
Disappointingly the remainder of Retribution falls just a couple of songs short of modern classic status. Everywhere outside Hungary, that is. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 For Farkas’ Sake
Genre: Gothic Metal/Doom Metal
Another band still rolling 20 years on, Swedish metallers Lake Of Tears mark the landmark this month with a debut live album recorded in Bucharest – demonstrating their status as perennial underdogs is wholly underserved.
On Taste Of Hell there are flashes of vintage Metallica and classic Maiden that will have fans of trad metal drooling. In fact given the passionate backing of a frenzied crowd and the freedom to deliver a career-defining set it seems the Swedish oddballs are more than capable of emerging victorious.
Daniel Brennare was born to be a metal frontman and Boras’ answer to James Hetfield delivers a masterclass in passionate performance art. Enjoyed live, Lake Of Tears take on a whole new identity.
With 2011’s critically acclaimed Illwill a fast-fading memory this is a band in need of fresh impetus. By The Black Sea could be Lake Of Tears’ Strangers In The Night. Honest. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Black Metal