PARADISE INC – TIME

Out now on Avenue Of Allies

Debut offering from a Brazilian band fronted by German vocalist Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One, ex Domain) and its nice to see musicians from outside European or North American lands getting a shot.  Home to 11 tracks clocking in at a reasonable 53 minutes, this is a strong first offering full of enjoyable melodies and strong musicianship in the melodic rock field.

Opener “Time (Live And Learn)” sets a high bar from the off with its strong chorus refrain, before “Close Your Eyes” serves up some scandie rock overtones reminiscent of the now sadly defunct Damned Nation and again has a very worthy chorus – home to some trademark vocal harmonies from Schulz.  Dual guitar team of De Grigo and Marcos Peres combine well on “Who’s Fooling Who” with a commercial edge reminiscent of Bad English. The track written by Eden Curse’s Paul Logue is a heart-warming number with another strong vocal. The power balladry of “I Will Wait” is another winner with a nice modulation into the chorus. The fast paced “Wait And See” is another Paul Logue number and is carried along by a pumping riff.

The piano intro of “No More Mistakes” originally had me thinking its was going turn into Savatage’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ but instead it develops into an east coast AOR infused number, the vocal from Schulz is again commendable working around a low-end smoky Coverdale-ish timbre. The drums samples (one presumes) do get a little overwhelming here but otherwise it’s another highlight.  Likewise “You” begins with humble piano beginnings before developing into a heavier number than its predecessor and again works well.  This heavier timbre is continued with the mid tempo of “Set Me Free” which has another nice refrain to it.

The first of two versions of “Steel Or Stone” sets us on the home run.  The first is geared towards radio although I prefer the bonus acoustic version to the electric one.  Both versions sandwich “Not In Paradise” which sees a guest vocal from Doogie White (ex Rainbow, ex Malmsteen, Cornerstone) although sadly he has the weakest track on the album with it just lacking some of the fire of the music heard elsewhere.

Overall Paradise Inc has served up a strong debut.  Whilst it could be argued there is a lack of a totally original sound, this is something that could be thrown at the majority of the melodic rock scene.  As it stands they are good songwriters, good musicians and possess more than many that command a bigger following and the best band yet to have come from the Avenue Of Allies roster.

One to check out.

Rating – 84%

GRAND ILLUSION – PRINCE OF PAUPERS

Out now on AOR Heaven

Sixth release from Swedish melodic metal outfit Grand Illusion yet I must admit my first taste and rather impressed I am too.  Ice cool Scandinavian tones are littered throughout with some mind-blowing lush vocal arrangements from the dual vocal prong of Peter Sundell and Per Svensson  (with the lyrics written by Arlene Matza-Jackson), whilst the bulk of the music is written, performed and produced by Anders Rydholm (keyboards, bass, rhythm guitars).

Throw into the mix guitar solos by Steve Lukather (Toto), Tim Pierce (Rick Springfield, Micheal Jackson, Phil Collins), Jay Graydon (Airplay, Manhattan Transfer, Air Supply), Muris Varajic (a Bosnian guitarist and a real find) and Robert Säll and the whole package is more or less complete, aside from some extremely well done orchestrations.  This is a big sound for sure, with excellent arrangements and a great production.

Granted fans of the true metal might well guffaw at the melodic approach of Grand Illusion but those that appreciate well crafted and performed rock music will find an awful lot to enjoy on “Prince Of Paupers”.

Highlights are plentiful but “Gates Of Fire”, “Prince Of Paupers”, “Eyes Of Ice” and “On And On” are amongst the pick of the bunch for me.  Fans of the likes of Styx will get a big kick out of this, but then I hear some parallels in a more pompous way with fellow countrymen Nation in a lot of the big vocal arrangements. Fans of 1987 era Whitesnake will undoubtedly get something out of this – the sound though is always more European than American so keep that in mind.

Overall this makes me very keen to check out the back catalogue and its easily the best thing I have heard in a long time from AOR Heaven.

Melodic rock fans, add this to your shopping carts without delay.

Rating – 90%

GRAND DESIGN – IDOLIZER

Out now on AOR Heaven

Second strike from the Def Leppard wannabes otherwise known as Grand Design.

Led by vocalist and producer  Pelle Saether (Zeelion, Zello), “Idolizer” is in the same vein as the bands debut “Time Elevation” and again does everything it can to rewrite “Pyromania” or “Hysteria”.

The comparisons are so blatant you can either praise them for being authentic enough to get the drum and guitar sounds nailed or indeed just shake your head and ask why bother?

So as with the debut, if you want to hear stuff like the aforementioned Leppard albums – but again not as good – then Grand Design are for you.

One presumes there must be a market for this to even get to second album, are Leppard fans really buying into this? Personally I’d rather just listen to Pyromania and Hysteria and hear it done perfectly by the originators.  This is now starting to wear thin.

Rating – 40%

CHICKENFOOT – III

Out now on Ear Music

After an enjoyable debut the super group comprising Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith skip straight past the difficult second album in favour of III.

More focused, more fun and more streamlined than the debut this is an enjoyable romp from start to finish.  Hagar’s voice is in fine fettle, Satriani’s tone is much improved over the debut and the rhythm section cooks over this collection of groove laden tracks.

Straight ahead for the most part, this is a good time record, straight up good time hard rock, full of cock sure radio appeal yet with the odd darker moment for contrast; like ballad “Come Closer” and the social economic commentary of “Three And A Half Letters”. There is very little to dislike except for the fact they make it seem too damn easy.

If you liked the debut you will like this more.

Rating – 90%

IRON SAVIOR – THE LANDING

Released 18th November 2011 on AFM Records

Sixth album from German metal outfit Iron Savior who show no signs of let up in their approach some four years on from their last offering ‘Megatropolis’.

Big riffs collide with chanty anthemic choruses with nary a let in pace throughout.  Vocalist Piet Sielck may well sound like the love child of Chris DeBurgh and Blackie Lawless but oddly it works over the enjoyable music, blaring out the speakers with military precision.

The aforementioned Sielck also forms a formidable guitar duo with Joachim “Piesel” Küstner who work up quite a sweat throughout but particularly on the likes of “The Saviour”, “March Of Doom” and “Faster Than All” with their fast tempos.

More mid-tempo waters are visited on the Accept like timbres of “Heavy Metal Never Dies” (you can envisage the front row head banging in unison here) whilst “Hall Of The Heroes” has an early Queensryche appeal to it and is arguably the highlight.  “R.U. Ready” could be seen as a little naff in the lyrics department telling the story of heavy metal (proving that bands do indeed still sing about this sort of thing!) but its infectious riff will draw you in.

The album slows for one power ballad “Before The Pain” which is rather forgettable before “No Guts No Glory” sees the album out in stronger style.

Clocking in at 47 minutes “The Landing” certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and is an enjoyable slice of honest rocking metal and comes recommended for further investigation.

Rating – 84%

AWAKE – FOREVER MORE

Released 14th October 2011 on Lion Music

Awake’s 2007 debut ‘Illumination’ was a solid debut, if a little too  Evergrey in places (but then it was produced by Tom Englund) so its with interest we see where the band is now at 4 years later with album #2 ‘Forever More’.

First thing we notice is a change in band personnel with a new guitar tag team of brothers Andy and Steven Coles and then some great cover art, and upon first listen the Evergrey edge of the debut has mostly been replaced with a more original sound and one that is still to our liking; but one that still retains the elements that made the debut enjoyable.

Heavier and more direct than many of their Lion Music label brethren such as Sun Caged, Seventh Wonder etc,  Awake are all about big heavy riffs, with atmospheric keyboard parts and dark vocals.  The band is also more intent on working a song as opposed to flawing us with their technical brilliance.  Most tracks are concise clocking in around the 4 to 5 minute mark with short solo passages but are arguably more enjoyable for this trait.

After a brief instrumental opener “Into The Storm”, the 1-2 punch of “Out Of Control” and “Release Me” are powerful dynamic numbers with some scorching guitar riffs and excellent kick drum work from Alex Townsend not to mention solid vocals from Simon Shedwell.  The more mid tempo water of “Drifting Away” is dark and oppressive and rather tasty all round and this vein is continued for “Taken”.  The piano darkness of “Closing The Doors” is gothic in nature before “Bleed From You” displays a keen commercial edge and moves at a swift pace and is a highlight.

From here on in with get more of the same as before really, but the quality level is on a par with the rest of the album with later highlights coming in “Hold On”, the multi-faceted “One Wish” and the closing title track which is home to a killer chorus and some more tasty riffery, a nice way to go out.

With “Forever More” Awake have cleared the difficult second album hurdle with no problems.  More coherent and powerful than the debut in all departments this is a progressive tinted metal band the UK can be proud of and should see the band score a wider fan base.  One to check out.

Rating – 85%

GLYDER – BACKROADS TO BYZANTIUM

Out now on SPV/Steamhammer

I’m not familiar with Glyder’s earlier output. I’ve heard them touted as the second coming of Thin Lizzy on several occasions. Well, they must have changed their tune quite a bit then, because there’s little to no Lizzy on this album…

Sure, the music has that seventies, British hard rocking vibe. It’s exciting, upbeat and surprisingly heavy in places. There’s even a slightly punkish edge to some songs, like the kicking “Fade To Dust”. For some reason, I’m thinking “Gillan” while listening to this album. Only with better songs and a completely different singer (more in the vein of John Sykes, actually). The guitar playing is of the meat and potatoes variety. Solos that fit the tunes, but nothing that will make you look up and go wow. The poppy “Something She Knows” is as close as it gets to Lizzy.

A rough and ready hard rocking album. Simple as that.

Rating – 76%
Review by Sancho