Gene Simmons claims that ‘’rock is dead’’. Sorry Gene, but you are most definitely wrong. In actual fact, we’re currently at an age where so many great new albums and singles are being released every month that it would be impossible not to get pumped about the quality and variety of the music out there.
Maybe Mr. Simmons is right in respect to some of the classic bands that are now either retired or on farewell tours (such as KISS) but the following are most definitely well worth checking out. Here’s a quick stroll through a few and hopefully this will whet your appetite, encouraging you to give most, if not all, a listen. Forget what others are saying, buy a CD, get to a gig and get inspired by music again.
Edenveil – ‘Seen Not Heard’ (single)
This Cambridge based symphonic rock band have only been around for a short few months but are already causing quite a stir.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1csPHHdFgk&w=560&h=315]
Fronted by twin vocalists Onyx and Vera the band edge more over to the folk/prog side of the sub-genre but there is grit in the guitar that adds a real edge and their classically trained voices blend perfectly together to form a heady brew on this, their debut single recording. Seriously bewitching, this is something to get lost in and points to a great future for the fledgling outfit.
H.E.A.T. – ‘One by One’ (single)
No-one quite rocks with such melodic style as this crew of amped up Swedes and this new single is the perfect taster for their forthcoming ‘II’ album due out early next year. Produced by guitarist Dave Dalone and keyboard player Jona Tee, the track is a distillation of all that makes H.E.A.T.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFaPjl9jYNw&w=560&h=315]
so good and clearly illustrates why the band are constantly getting more and more popular way beyond their home country. Vocalist Erik Gronwall’s manic energy practically leaps out of the speakers as the rest of the band blaze along like a nitrous fueled muscle car. It will leave you breathless.
The Dark Element – ‘Songs the Night Sings’
Former Nightwish singer Anette Olzen and former Sonata Artica guitarist Jani Liimatainen are Symphonic Rock royalty and this, their second collaboration after their critically acclaimed debut in 2017 taps fully into their pedigree. Brilliantly produced by Liimatainen, the album sounds huge and epic throughout, kicking off with the rampaging ‘Not Your Monster’ through to the chilled out closing track ‘I Have to Go’.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-vyg5Vvg3I&w=560&h=315]
There is some truly brutal riffing that powers things along as Olzen’s crystalline voice swoops and weaves her magic in the eleven tracks herein with ‘When it Comes Down’ being a prime example of this. ‘Pills on My Pillow’ mixes the industrial heaviness of Rammstein with the classic pop sensibilities of ABBA, whilst ‘Get out of My Head’ and ‘You Will Learn’ are Symphonic Rock nirvana, both instantly bringing images of dramatic clifftops, sweeping vistas and long helicopter shots over artic landscapes. Overall the album is one of the finest examples of its type this or any other years and an absolute ‘must hear’.
Valcata – ‘Valcata’
Valcata is the hugely ambitious concept album by Brooklyn composer Oha Cade who has brought together a truly international cast of five musicians and eight singers to produce this tale of escape from a dying planet.
Cherry picking some incredible talent from diverse backgrounds, the whole comes across as a West End rock musical written by Steven Spielberg. The music veers from the frantic speed metal of ‘Horror Machine’ through to the doomer sludge of ‘The Termination’ with the latter’s epic length really pouring everything into it. Skittering guitars, manic fiddles, scorching fretwork and some superb vocals by Angel Wolf Black are highlights of this release and the cohesion of a project where all the members of the team never got to play face to face together is a testament to Cade, producer Ilias Gogakis and modern technology.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DifjqC3xdwg&w=560&h=315]
Sometimes making Jim Steinman’s overblown style look reserved, this album isn’t going to be everyone’s taste but those who want to seek something a little more interesting and intelligent compared to a lot of the straight-ahead hard partying rock and metal out there will do well to seek this out.
Michael Sweet – ‘Ten’
Best known as frontman for Stryper, Sweet has brought in some heavyweight talent for this, his tenth album and it’s his best and most hard hitting yet. Alongside his distinctive vocals are those of Queensryche singer Todd La Torre with Ozzy O shredder Gus G, Whitesnake axeman Joel Hoekstra and Arch Enemy six stringer Jeff Loomis amongst others bringing the heat to an album that roars rather than purrs.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndz9VEMuFnY&w=560&h=315]
Despite any preconceived ideas borne from his previous output, of the twelve tracks there is only one slower number in the shape of ‘Let It Be Love’, a number built for the waving of thousands of lighters around an enormo arena somewhere in the Mid-West whilst the rest of the album is a truly rampant beast that sits perfectly aside the likes of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden in anyone’s collection. In fact, the frantic riffing and scream at the beginning of opener ‘Better Part of Me’ could well be Halford and Co, making you check that you have put the right CD in the player and the opening moments of last track ‘Son of Man’ are pure ‘Painkiller’.
The vocals are outstanding throughout and it seems as if each guest guitarist is trying to top the others but never to the detriment of the overall feel of the album. Sure, there’s speed but there’s also a great sense of dynamics that adds a huge amount of colour to the project, meaning that there is always something new to hear and grab you. As the old phrase goes, why should the Devil have all the best tunes?
Edge of Paradise – ‘Universe’
In ‘Universe’, Los Angeles five-piece Edge of Paradise have created what could be a prefect soundtrack for a Tim Burton film: dark, mysterious, slightly unhinged and unsettling in equal measure whilst being hugely entertaining. Mixing epic symphonic rock with electronic and industrial elements, the album is streets ahead in terms of individual style and is truly a kaleidoscope of sounds.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW9xRtDNZcA&w=560&h=315]
Margarita Monet has a voice that is strong and supple but also on the edge of psychosis, walking the tightrope between classic rock and Harley Quinn style insanity, so full of character, whilst guitarist David Bates brings riffs that steamroller everything in their way. Title track ‘Universe’ features a relentlessly huge beefy riff, ‘Electrify’ adds a touch of the exotic East and ‘Alone’ rocks hard and features a hugely catchy chorus that is going to get stuck in your head and possibly never leave.
Producer Mike Plotnikoff has brought the same magic touch that he has used with Halestorm and that sense of mixing the heavy with the commercial has seldom been matched, especially when seen through the fractured and multicolored lenses of the band’s songwriting and performances.
A genuinely stunning album with so much to explore and discover that you need to listen to it in headphones to fully appreciate its wild imagination…but don’t forget to keep the lights on or you may not know where you’ll end up!
The Blackheart Orchestra – ‘Mesmeranto’
Broadly labelled as ‘Prog’, The Blackheart Orchestra are so much more, mixing elements of World Music and electronica into an utterly unique style of their own and this, their fifth album, sees them reaching dizzying new heights.
Consisting of award–winning multi-instrumentalist duo Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington, the two weave a cathedral sized soundscape that is both achingly fragile yet toweringly strong and provide the aural equivalent of a New Year firework display.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTvWwZSn9do&w=560&h=315]
Some tracks sooth, such as the beautiful ‘Wolves’, whilst others like ‘All of Me’ and ‘I Am’ grab you with high drama equivalent to the very best of Kate Bush, Mostyn’s heartrending voice soaring throughout. As with their lives shows, there are layers upon layers of sounds, all firing the synapses of the brain and drawing you into their world with an open mouth wonder, proving impossible to resist their siren call.
Having toured recently with the mighty psychedelic warriors of rock Hawkwind, the duo has seen themselves playing some of the most prestigious venues in the country and this has obviously affected their songwriting as the depth and richness of this album exceeds even the giddy heights of those before.
Constantly on the road playing their own shows the length and breadth of the country, another set of dates with Dave Brock’s legendary crew is due to start within days and sees Mostyn and Pilkington ending the tour with a show at the Royal Albert Hall, surely the dream venue to see them in and it’s only a matter of time before they headline the famed London concert hall themselves.
‘Mesmeranto’ is so stunning and beautiful that it will genuinely reach areas of your head and heart that you either never knew existed or had shut off years ago.
They might not rock full-on but if you’re seeking seriously good music that will transport you to a more interesting place, music that will make your soul swell and melt away the rest of the world then this is the album for you. Absolutely glorious.
Reviews by Paul Monkhouse for metalplanetmusic