ALEX EHRSAM – P.U.L.S.E.

Shredguy Records introduces French guitarist Alex Ehrsam to guitar fanatics around the world with P.U.L.S.E. This ten track, all-instrumental release proves that fusion is still in fashion. Searing guitar and funk/fusion grooves abound.

The album is driven along by the funky grooves supplied by the quality rhythm section of Anh-Quàn Lê on bass, and Olivier Wilhelm on drums!  Alex handles all guitars tracks (except on Morning Cigarette rhythm played by Thomas Gutherlé). Alex’s weapon of choice is the Stratocaster, a perfect machine for his rapid fire riffs and funky rythmn grooves. This platter cooks from start to finish with quality composition, performance and engineering. A funk/fusion extravaganza that is never boring or tedious.

Despite intense and furious fusion motifs, there are a lot of dynamics as well, melodic sections within songs or the totally atmospheric ballad Time Sensitive.

The soloing is to me most reminiscent of the funkier side of Greg Howe, obviously a huge influence, and perhaps something between Gambale and Henderson with also a touch of Mike Stern. This is a must have for those keen on instrumental guitar with serious chops funkiness and melody. Next to Mike Abdow, this is my favourite Shredguy release thus far.

For more information about Alex Ehrsam alexehrsam.fr

Rating – 85%
Review by Mike Blackburn

UDO – REV RAPTOR

Released 20th May 2011 on AFM Records

A new UDO album is a rather unchallenging affair for any reviewer. Mostly because you can write the review before hearing the album. As per usual, UDO has not deviated from the template : solid Germanic metal.  Choruses are catchy in a Viking-chant-singalong way, and most songs are based on a foundation of thundering drums and chugging metal guitars. Of course you can’t help but think of Accept at times…

What differentiates between UDO albums is basically how much you like the songs on offer. Opening track “Rev Raptor” is so typically UDO I’d almost call it generic. “Leatherhead” wouldn’t have been out of place on “Metal Heart”, one of Accept’s more adventurous albums. One of the album’s highlights for me. “Rock n Roll Soldiers” may be a bit pedestrian, but songs like “Terrorvision” and “True Born Winners” more than make up for it.

Overall, this is one of the better UDO releases. The songs are catchier and somewhat less cliché than the last couple of predecessors.

Production and performance are beyond reproach, as you’d expect. UDO sounds a bit gruff, no doubt his age is starting to catch up with him. I do prefer this over the sometimes exaggerated screeching of the past.

There is some particularly good guitar playing on this album. I think it’s the first time the guitar leads on an UDO album have made me sit up and take notice. Check “Pain Man” for a good example.

Another solid addition to UDO’s ever expanding discography. Recommended for fans and a good starting point for those new to the band.

Rating – 85%
Review by Sancho

LARS ERIC MATTSSON – AURORA BOREALIS

Out now on Lion Music

Swedish guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson has over the course of 3 decades in the music industry carved out his own niche of progressive fused neo-classically tinted metal. Now under his own name Lars returns to the instrumental genre for what is arguably his biggest undertaking to date. “Aurora Borealis” is a 12 movement ‘concerto for electric guitar and orchestra’ which sees a classical approach infused with rock idioms. For whilst this is a ‘scored’ orchestral release we have quite traditional rock drumming and bass playing. As a result this is quite an accessible release and actually less challenging on the listener than some of Mattsson’s more “expected” instrumental offerings such as “Earthbound” and vocal releases like ‘War’.

Whilst the narrative of the release is without doubt complex, the overall sonic presentation is relatively easy on the ear and makes for an enjoyable journey from start to finish. There are moments of light and shade (as you would expect) but also a deft use of melody and counter melody.

Mattsson’s guitar work is also amongst the most unique in the rock and metal field. Never one to play the expected Lars challenges us the listener with unorthodox phrases and note rests. His fluidity when playing extended quick picked lines suggests “pick monster” yet the light touch produces a bounce to the notes. That said one element that the like of Uli Jon Roth seem to favour heavily in their works of this nature are heavily inflected bent notes and a variety of vibratos on sustained notes. These are not always in Mattsson’s ‘book of licks’ and on one hand do lend Mattsson a distinct sound but on the other do leave some licks feeling a little sterile. That said for the most part the guitar work serves to compliment the orchestration and is very good indeed.

Highlights come in the guise of the uplifting “Bounce” with its dancing melody, the dark haunting vibe of “Cold Water Spirit”, the more neo-classical rock tinted “Eternal Cycles” and the most progressive “Planetary Strength”.

Performed almost in its entirety by Mattsson himself “Aurora Borealis” can be considered one of the most complex of Mattsson’s career but also one of the most enjoyable. This along with last years “Tango” sees Lars Eric Mattsson in the form of his career.

Rating – 90%

EDEN’S CURSE – TRINITY

Out now on AFM Records

“Trinity” marks the third strike from melodic metallers Eden’s Curse who to be honest are an outfit I’ve always had a hard time getting into.  Granted they have never delivered a stinker but on the flipside never really produced anything above average to these ears.  So it was with a little trepidation I approached “Trinity”.  Fortunately this is easily the best work to date from the band.

Aided by a strong production from Dennis Ward (who rarely fails to deliver the sonic goods), “Trinity” is a general cruise through enjoyable tracks with a keen sense of melody and upbeat delivery.

Vocalist Michael Eden will always be an acquired taste and his voice again doesn’t blow me away with its shaky pitch and lack of depth in vibrato; but he can pen a decent hook as exemplified on the standout cuts such as the title track, “No Holy Man” (with guest James LaBrie), the storming euro metal of “Dare To Be Different” and the darker Savatage feel of “Jerusalem Sleep”.

A tribute to Ronnie James Dio is served up with a cover of “Rock n Roll Children” where it would be unfair to compare vocals between original and cover, yet its a nice addition to the package.

Overall an agreeable release and recommended for fans of melodic metal.  Lets hope we get more like this on album #4.

Rating – 80%

NO GRAVITY – WORLDS IN COLLISION

Out now on Lion Music

No Gravity are a new progressive power metal outfit and the brainchild of renowned guitarist Simone Fiorletta. Their debut release ‘Worlds In Collision’ features some of the most illustrious vocalists in the Italian power/prog metal field with  Michele Luppi (Killing Touch, ex Vision Divine), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody Of Fire, Vision Divine), Mark Basile (DGM), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth) and Emiliano Germani (Moonlight Comedy), along with German Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas) providing the vocal angle.

Fiorletta may of ( it could be argued) played it safe by allowing the vocalists to devise their own melodies and lyrics, but this could also be seen as a wise move as you are essentially getting trademark performances from all involved.  To label the album notable for its vocalists alone is however doing a disservice to the music on offer, which whilst  mostly progressive is also heavy with even some modern techno elements.  Instrumental leads are perhaps not quite as forthcoming as one would expect from a guitarist of Fiorletta’s stature despite 8 of the 9 tracks clocking in at over the 5 minute mark, so full compliments to Simone for delivering a strong song based release.

Highlights come in the guise of “The Killer”, the middle east tinged “Religious Beliefs” and the Andy Kuntz led “Can’t Dream Anymore” which will please all Vanden Plas fans immensely; yet all track serve up enjoyable moments.

Shortcomings? I preferred Fiorletta guitar tone on Moonlight Comedy’s “Dorothy” album, and the production is a little raw in places but otherwise it’s a solid effort from start to finish.

The host of guest vocalists is initially bound to draw intrigue from fans, yet ultimately No Gravity serve up an identifiable sound no matter who the singer on “Worlds In Collision”, which overall is a very good foundation to build on with future releases.

An enjoyable debut.

Rating – 85%