Review: Art Nation – Liberation

Record Info Rating: 9/10
Label: Sony Music/Gain Reviewed by: “Westman”
Producer: Jacob Herrmann, Theodor Heström and Christoffer Borg
Release date: April 28th 2017
Line-up: Alexander Strandell(vo), Christoffer Borg (gu), Johan Gustavsson (gu), Carl Tudén (dr), Simon Gudmundsson(ba)

Like all jobs, reviewers choose different ways to approach the task to review an album. Personally, I think an album should be listened to up to 10 times before the verdict will fall. A good album are an album that grows on you and not always hit you like a Sledgehammer.

First song Ghost Town nearly knocked me of my feet though beeing a straight rock song ala The Answer or Bonafide. With the bands as a reference to the song, you might think it does not sound like Art Nation and at a first listening, I would agree with you, except that it is Alexander Strandell singing and his voice got something that stand out. Alex might even bring some of his best performances ever on Liberation.

After that convincing start I got a bit reserved as second song Kiss Up & Kick Down sounded quite different as the sound was way much bigger. But this is were listen to an album several times become apparently important, cause Kiss Up & Kick Down should be the next single. Give it some airtime and it will quickly be a favorite on any rock radio station.
Third song Maniac together with the previous song are my two favorites on Liberation. It has an intro riff that makes me think of funk but that’s just the intro. Just like Kiss Up & Kick Down its arrangement with strings added in production becomes a real pompy song. Carl Tudén varies between a straight rock drums and a more shuffle sound in the verse. The guitar solo, played by Christoffer Borg, is not the most equilibristic of Art Nations solos, but I like this short solo because its neat and melodic.

One Nation feels more of a metal song and Simon Gudmundsson‘s (after the recordings he has left Art Nation) basslines feels a bit progressive intro wise. The chorus is catchy but perhaps a little bit cliche wise when it comes to the lyrics .

The Real Me was the first single out, a choice that I think maybe was a little strange. Action-packed song, absolutely! Powerful as well, but I do not think it’s a single. The solos however are really smashing, in this one as both Christoffer Borg and Johan Gustavsson step up. Liberation does not contain any bad tracks but The Real Me does not tick all my boxes.
Of course a rock band och Art Nation’s dignity should have a ballad and Take Me Home are a real classy power ballad built up slowly with accoustic guitars and finishing off with again with those strings.

My only concern about that kind of string arrangements is that a band gets forced to use backing tracks live, almost everyone does that today but I think that takes away part of the live feel. When listening to an album however those kind of features can be the cream of the crop, a thing that makes a difference.

Second part of the album continues with all quality music, stand out songs to me are When Stars Align and What Do You Want. As said before the arrangements are real classy with extra effects/instruments that are put on overall the production and arrangemets could be the thing that takes Art Nation to the next level and likely their big break, Art Nation 2017 has kept their sound but also developed their sound towards both pop and even some more of the metal than on revelation.

In order to reach to a 10 on our scale, you should make an album that will become a classic. I actually think this could be Art Nations big breakthrough still I won’t give the album 10 as some of the latter songs on the album don’t do it for me. Liberation are close getting a 9.5 but stops at a 9 a band that I think has got even more to give.

Eclipse – Monumentum

Eclipse - Monumentum
Record Info Rating: 9/10
Label: Frontiers Records Reviewed by: “AORSweden”
Producer: Erik Mårtensson
Release date: March 24th 2017
Line-up: Erik Mårtensson (vo, gu), Magnus Henriksson (gu), Philip Crusner (dr), Magnus Ulfstedt (ba)

Eclipse returns with their 6th record since 2001, the 4th since then band “restarted” with their current sound in 2008. Robban Back has left the band, new drummer is Philip Crusner, other than that the band are the same. Principal songwriter are as usual the mastermind Erik Mårtensson, one of the unsung heroes in the business. On guitar we find one of Sweden’s finest, and a guy that yet again takes a few steps forward in his playing, guitar-maestro Magnus Henriksson.

With contributions from songwriters Miqael Persson and Johan Becker, the guys has written 11 new songs that clocks in for just under 42 minutes, and it’s 42 minutes of pure joy.
It opens up with the first single, Vertigo, a uptempo song with great punches and guitarplaying, top 3 song for sure. Next is the equally uptempo Never Look Back, another great song. Killing Me and Downfall Of Eden are up next. The first one is one of the heaviest song the band has written, the latter more in the AOR-vein (minus the keys of course). The first ballad is Hurt, which also is the latest single (video). This song is brilliant, great lyrics and very emotional, just close Your eyes and listen to this fantastic piece of work. Hurt is followed up by Jaded, now we’re back with the uptempo songs, and this is another great tune. Born To Lead and For Better Or For Worse follows the same pattern, punchy guitars and great choruses. It ends heavy, really heavy, with Black Rain. Get hold of something, or else You will fall of Your chair when listening to this one, and the guitarsolo is unbelievable.

Surely this will be one of the highlights this year, the record is phenomenal in all senses. It doesn’t quite reach the same heights as Armageddonize, at least not yet, but it’s a superb melodic record. The songs from Erik Mårtensson (and co-writers) just keeps popping out, it seems so easy for them at the moment, I’ll bow down in envy. Then Magnus Henriksson, what a fantastic guitarplayer he has become, better from each record. It’s hard to think of that many guitarists today that are better in the same genre. And do You know what? The band are even better live, just imagine that if You haven’t seen them. Get Your butt out and buy this in a hurry, You won’t regret it.

Review: Creye – Straight To The Top

Creye - ep
Record Info Rating: 9,5/10
Label: Self released Reviewed by: Kimpan
Producer: Erik Wiss
Release date: March 10, 2017
Line-up: Alexander Strandell (vo), Andreas Gullstrand (g), Joel Rönning (keyb), Gustaf Örsta (b), Arvid Filipsson (dr)

Back in August of 2016 I had the privilege of reviewing the debut single Never Too Late of Swedish newcomers Creye on behalf of Planet AOR. Since then, the band have been working firmly in the studio on new songs and the result is a three song EP that besides the previously mentioned Never Too Late also features a cover of the Robert Tepper classic No Easy Way Out and a brand new track called Straight To The Top.

While the band’s debut single didn’t blew me away, I still gave it a cautiously optimistic 7,5/10 rating stating that there was potential for greater things with this band. With the new release I certainly feel that potential has been realized and the only question now is: when will we have a full length album from this band?

Straight To The Top is the new original song and also the first track of the EP. It’s a great song, what I would almost call perfectly executed melodic rock, with just the right guitar/keyboard balance and a flawless chorus. It kinda reminds me of H.E.A.T which at least partly could be due to the fact that singer Alexander Strandell sounds like a deadringer for Erik Grönwall in certain parts. Great stuff nevertheless.

Never Too Late is up next and is, as mentioned earlier, the band’s first single that was also previously reviewed on Planet AOR. Despite my slight criticism in that review of the chorus being a bit weak the song has actually grown on me since then and maybe I will give it a bit higher rating today. Good AOR, no doubt about it.

I must say that I was very impressed by the band’s remake of No Easy Way Out, the last song of the three song EP. The band has obviously worked very hard at getting the 80’s retro sound right and the cover stays pretty close to the original. Maybe they should “do a Houston” and record an album full of classic AOR covers cause judging by the performance on this track I think they would probably outdo the Houston guys there!

In summary, I will certainly keep my eye on this band in the year to come. Another act to add to the evergrowing list of quality Swedish AOR and melodic rock bands.

Review: Coastland Ride – Distance

CR - Distance
Record Info Rating: 8/10
Label: Avenue Of Allies Reviewed by: “AORSweden”
Producer: Coastland Ride
Release date: March 10, 2017
Line-up: Marcus Nordenberg (vo, keys), Anders Rybank (gu, ba, keys, prog.), Mikael Bohlin (gu, keys, prog.)
Additional musicians: Sven Larsson (gu-solos)

This is the 3rd record from the swedish AOR / Westcoast-band since their debute in 2003, the first in 6 years. It’s still the same 3 core-members (se above) as from the start, with a great addition (particulary on the live-scene) in guitar-maestro Sven Larsson, maybe best known from his days in Street Talk. Stylewise it’s a little harder again, as it was with the last record, but it’s still in the more “lightweight” AOR. Since the last record the band has played live 2 times, both times with us from PlanetAOR present, and as a liveband (including Sven Larsson) they are really good. Now on to this record…

It opens up strongly with Winds, one of the top 3-songs on the record, a song that sets the standard for how the songs are built up (with the choruses as the main thing). Saviour and Love Is On Your Mind follows, with the latter being very similar soundwise to fellow swedes Sonic Station, a great song. Dead For Seven Days and the beautiful ballad Here In My Heart is next up. Another highlight, Eye Of The Storm, is next, a nice uptempo song with a great guitarsolo from Sven Larsson. Nation Of Grace got to be the heaviest song the guys have done, for a (once) westcoast-band to write such a song is surprising, top 3-song for sure, it brilliant. The tempo goes down again with Spotlight Sun, a song more common for the guys. Up next is the best song of the record for me, the magnificient Higher Ground, a perfectly keyboard-driven song that has it all. Princess Little Wonderland is another heavy song, once again with at superb guitarsolo. Another great ballad, Hardcoded Life, is next, Marcus voice fits really good here. Last up is Reasons To Try, which ends a really great record.

To sum it up, this is a really good record from the guys, easily the best one they’ve done yet, and I do like the previous 2. The songwriting are better, the voice from Marcus are better, but mostly it’s the production who stands out compared to the previous ones, way better. The including of Sven Larsson turned out to be a really good decision, he add another dimension to it, even if it’s “just” for the guitarsolos. If I had say something bad, it’s that the drums are programmed, which I always complain about. The band has evolved and are now more of a AOR-band than Westcoast, it’s tougher here. It’s a record that are well worth buying.

Review: Osukaru – The Labyrinth

Record Info

Label: City of Lights Records
Producer: Fredrik Werner and Oz Osukaru
Release date: February 24, 2017
Line-up: Fredrik Werner (vo, g), Oz Osukaru (g), Lisa Eugenia (vo, keyb), Olof Gadd (b), Vidar Mårtensson (dr), (Fredrik Svensson, bass on The Offering)

Rating: 8/10
(10: A Master Piece / a future classic, 9: Superb, near perfect, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Good, 5: Average)


We’ve followed Osukaru pretty much all the way since the start where band leader Oz Osukaru has brought forward his vision with the band, a band that has evolved from a more or less project form with all the line-up changes although Oz song writing always been the red thread.
Since 2013 Osukaru for sure became a stable band keeping the key members in the band, even if the release of Triumphant was a bit hasty.
Ever since the 2012 release of Salvation where the band released a bit tougher songs like Tear It Down and Hot Blooded Woman the band has kept coming back to that kind of songs. With singer Fredrik Werner (who came onboard 2013) Osukaru has got a sound I think suit the band and his voice.  2013 they also got onboard a female vocalist Cecilia Camuii (now replaced with Lisa Eugenia) that fits very good with the AOR songs.

With The Labyrinth the vision has been to create a theme album where the stories are inspired from the sci-fi movie with the same name. If you havn’t seen the Movie, don’t worry as the album could be listened to without having seen it. It start of with a short intro called Maze of Mind that sounds really pompy and are all in the 80’s soundtrack vein. First real song is The Stories We Tell, I do think this song is amongst the best AOR songs Oz has written and the guitar solos shifting from Oz to Fredrik fits the song very well.
Song number three Voices in The Dark are one of those a bit tougher songs that I’ve come to prefer with the band. The lead song are handled by Lisa Eugenia who has got a quite deep voice, but to me it sounds like she’s got a whole lot more to give, now don’t missunderstand me she’s doing a good job even if I believe this young vocalist got even more to give. Fredrik Werner plays a mean solo here, probably the best solo ever on an Osukaru album.
Edge of Night pass me by quite un-noticed not a bad song but nothing special to me.
Powerballad It’s Only Forever on the other hand is something different as its the first ballad after the rockers but also Lisa Eugenia really do the song justice and its one beautiful song.
After that we get another rocker Voodoo (Who Do) where Fredrik Werner both handles the lead vocals and more of that mean guitar playing.
A short interlude (quite cool actually) follows prior to another ballad, Undying Rose, this time a duo not as good as It’s Only Forever.
The Offering is perhaps my favorite on The Labyrinth. The rough sound once again appears and Fredrik gives the song that extra energy when singing from the top of his lungs “can’t stand the thought of losing you”.
Last song of this quite short album (37 minutes) Monlight Silhouette is quite standard AOR and does not raise my eyebrows.

To summarize I’d hold this album equally good as my to date favorite with the band Salvation. But also with a big plus the album got a way much better production. The latter albums from Osukaru there has been a much better budget on the production side and I do think the band got good enough songs to get even better marketing support. With that said I really think you should check this album out, it has got a whole bunch of good songs.

Review: Brother Firetribe – Sunbound

Record Info

Label: Spinefarm Records
Producer:
Release date: March 24, 2017
Line-up: Pekka Ansio Heino (vo), Emppu Vuorinen (g), Jason Flinck (b), Tomppa Nikulainen (key), Hannes Pirila (dr)

Rating: 9,5/10
(10: A Master Piece / a future classic, 9: Superb, near perfect, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Good, 5: Average)

The followup record to 2014’s “Diamonds In The Firepit” starts with a bombastic intro that makes you feel like you’re at the beaches in Baywatch. It’s also a great way to present the “new” drummer Hannes Pirila. Everyone that saw the band on the last tour knows he filled in for Kalle Torniainen, that after 4 albums (3 studio and 1 live) left the band, no announcement of why he left, so we leave it for what it is.

The album sound remains as solid as on the last album, and just by looking at the simple yet beautiful cover you know this is gonna be a fantastic AOR/Melodic Rock album. Brother Firetribe brings a 12-track masterpiece to your stereo system, they bring the elements of the 80’s in to a new fantastic sound as with all of their albums.

The first track Sunbound together with Help Is On The Way starts the album of just as great as Love Is Not Enough on the previous album. The chorus is catchy and get stuck in your head easily, just like the lead single Taste Of A Champion that we got from the band last autumn already, told everyone that is a “Triber” that they keep on doing what they do best. Taste Of The Champion might just be the perfect Melodic Rock anthem, their own Eye Of The Tiger!

The second single (also first video single) Indelible Heroes is a tribute to all the fallen celebrities and idols of the last few years and is a slower paced song and together with Shock it goes more AOR with a hint of Westcoast, but they both suits the album well and brings the perfect balance to the album as a whole.

Last Forever is a summer anthem and it leaves a guy like Jon Bon Jovi wishing he wrote something like this in the late 80’s. This song together with Give Me Tonight are the upbeat, catchy songs you want to hear after a bad day at work. Together with Big City Dream (the upcoming 3rd single), that is another 80’s upbeat keyboard driven song, with a great drum hock before the last chorus. Together they are the 3 best songs on the album.

Strangled brings the feeling of their two first albums with the guitar solo sound and the attack in the keyboards, as does Heart Of The Matter that has a groovy feeling with a great synth-bass going all over verses and it’s a great lead up to the John Parr cover Restless Heart. And as always they bring great justice to their covers, this time is no exclusion.

Now to the big final, Phantasmagoria, that works perfect as an outro to the album, the warm sound of the verses of this song is reflected perfectly in the cover, and the build up to the big pompous chorus with all keyboard and string element, leaves you breathless, and it’s a perfect end to the album!

To sum up the album, it’s the perfect melodic rock soundtrack, Brother Firetribe’s finest to date, and it grows overtime you listen to it. It’s all you can ask for if you already like Brother Firetribe, and surely it will catch many new fans along the way. If it had been released in the 80’s it would have been up their with Journey’s “Escape”, and many more!

Review: Wonderland – Seven Wonders and Four Little Miracles

Record Info

Label:
Producer: Wonderland
Release date: February 23, 2017
Line-up: Klas Ling (vo), Pelle Andersson (g), Bo Karlsson (keyb), Patrik Adiels(b), Joakim Jansson (dr),

Rating: 8/10
(10: A Master Piece / a future classic, 9: Superb, near perfect, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Good, 5: Average)

The band released their seven track debut ep six and a half years ago and now release a professional recording of the same album with an addition of four songs (well six if you count the instrumental parts as different songs). But the band has chosen to call the new additions to their full length debut for four little miracles, miracles that increase the length of the album with 36 minutes. That would mean the band double up the length of the ep with just four songs.

You could ask yourself why? But the reason becomes quite apparent when you hear the result of the re-recorded material. Everything sounds so much better it’s simply a professional recording plus the extra music of course.
When I first reviewed this in August 2009 I made references with Yes and Kansas today 2016 the references would be the same but also add Pink Floyd to the list, not to do so would be a miss, that is if you should mention any references.

During the years I’ve played the old version once in a while and my favorites has always been the same ones, Hold My Soul that starts of the album together with Can’t Get Too Much. But with the newly recorded songs several of the others songs gets an extra boost, especially In Too Deep and Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Also there has been slight changes made to the songs both instrumental and vocal arrangements but most notably is the improvement on the production side.
As the title indicates this releas has been added with four little miracles and out of these four an instrumental piece are the first one out,but this is actually three different songs with common feel to the songs. It’s at this stage you come to think of Pink Floyd as the sound got a quite dreamy touch in a way David Gilmour often would compose and when we get to the following ballad Abandoned Ship a beautiful tale perfect arranged and produced we in fact get the best song on the album and also got that same touch as the previous.
Finishing of are two songs that been around for long and especially the first one has been played live for several years. The Rush of Possibilities is the toughest song of all progressive yet very melodic with great solos from both Pelle and Bo a bit of Deep Purple actually on this one.
In Anticipation ends the album, a song that leaves me a with mixed feelings. The recognition that we get to previous songs are in line with the clever and neat arrangements on the album, but the song also got a gitarr loop that I do find anoying that kind of ruin the song for me.

I gave the ep 8/10 just because I thought the songs was well written and has got a high standard. This time we get a better production we get more songs and perhaps the album should have had a higher rating you think as I’ve praised the production, well this is quality for shure but I got a small objection to make. The four little miracles has perhaps been in work for too long as the seven wonders feels as an entity and the miracles feels a bit different. I do like the songs but should probably been best released on their own.

Cover artwork once again done by the proffesional Mattias Norén

 

Melodicrockfest USA / Sweden

MelodicRock.com is excited to announce the return of MelodicRockFest for one more round.
MRF5 will happen in May 2018.
Stuck with the problem of deciding between two amazing locations and two amazing venues, with two great partnerships to work with, we’ve taken the only responsible option – two MelodicRockFest events, back to back!
MRF-USA and
MRF-Scandinavia

MRF5 will be happening as usual in the Chicagoland area; and for the very first time is also heading to the other side of the globe, for a special event in Sweden!
This initial announcement is being made 14 months out from the events to allow interested fans to plan ahead and save for what will be two unforgettable events.
Full lineups for both events are in advanced planning and will be announced in the not too distant future.
Both MelodicRockFest events will take place in May 2018 and will feature the best characteristics of previous fests, with a couple of new twists to keep diehard fans happy and offer up some tempting VIP options.

MRF organizer Andrew McNeice:I was initially reluctant to dive into another event, but the partnership offers on both side of the Atlantic give me the confidence and enthusiasm to really deliver two exclusive events. I’m doing this for the fans. The true fans of this small, but amazing genre. I want to put on the two best MRF events yet and discussions with artists I’d love to take part suggest they will be.
I’m going to deliver lineups that offer something you won’t get at any other event, with the emphasis on the hottest acts fans in both locations have been demanding to see.
You can expect there to be a crossover of some artists at both events and for those looking for a double holiday, there will be ticketing options that cover both events.
It’s also a great opportunity for some artists to perform that wouldn’t otherwise get a chance and I’d love to deliver a few surprises from yesteryear that the diehards will embrace.

Further details will be announced in coming weeks including locations, exact dates and the all-important lineup and ticketing details.

There will be various vendor and sponsor opportunities. If interested, please contact: ajm@melodicrock.com
Any other questions, enquiries or comments can also be directed to: ajm@melodicrock.com

Note to viewers: This articles will be updated when there’s more info about bands who will play, dates, times, VIP and more. Stay tuned….

Review: Bonafide – Flames

Record Info

Label: Off Yer Rocka
Producer: Pontus Snibb and Martin Ekelund
Release date: February 24, 2017
Line-up: Pontus Snibb (vo, g), Anders Rosell (g), Martin Ekelund (b), Niklas Mattsson (dr)

Rating: 9/10
(10: A Master Piece / a future classic, 9: Superb, near perfect, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Good, 5: Average)

Review by Jonas Rydén

2017 Bonafide celebrates their 10th anniversary with the release of their sixth full-length album
Flames. Bonafide, one of the most hardest-working bands in the business with several album releases has been frequent touring over the years. After seeing them live a couple of times I rank them as one of the best live acts in Sweden at the moment. During this spring Bonafide will follow up their latest album with touring in Europe and Sweden.

Bonafide has always stood with their boots deeply buried in the classic rock and roll mud, their latest album does not change this fact. Recorded in the classic Swedish resort Klippan, the guys in Bonafide have recorded a flammable album that sparkles and sizzles, filled with plenty of fat riffs and southern boogie rock inspired by Airbourne, Black Crowes, early AC/DC and the best of the seventies rock. Hardly innovative but this is classic rock and roll when it is at its best and Bonafide know their craftsmanship.

On this album, they show a vital rock band with plenty of spirit whose album title, Flames, makes the album justice. Pontus Snibb, singer and frontman, welcomes us with a “Good afternoon” and then he kickstart the rock and roll machine with the track Back in flames, followed up by Smoke and Fire. Two tracks with plenty of energy which sets the standard for the album and summarize the band, pure rock and roll with a lot of energy.

The fire dies slightly with the anonymous Power Down which is the weakest track on the album but they make up for it by pouring gasoline on the fire with one of the best tracks on the album, Bottle of Jack, which partly could have been taken from the classic AC/DC album “Powerage”.

Written in Stone and Like it now, together with the stomping Keep a safe distance, is soul rock at its best, spiced with powerful gospel choirs. Gotta go belongs to the category “Best track on the album”, where a driven riff together with Niklas Mattsson’s exploding drumming gets the song into full speed.
Flipside groovin is boogie rock with a catchy groove that makes me want to dance. The flames fade into a perfect embers and ends the album perfectly with the bluesy ballad Under your spell.

With Flames, Bonafide proves that they still after 10 years of existence is a vital rock band that is still going strong, and even if the album has some beauty misses and isn’t a perfect album, it is their best album so far. What I miss is a track that gives the band their big break, as a “Highway to Hell” or a “Paradise City”, a song that defines a band. With that I want to say that Bonafide deserves a wider audience and for which they have the potential but Flames is good enough for now.