VOODOO CIRCLE – MORE THAN ONE WAY HOME

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Released 22nd February 2013 on AFM Records

After two albums of 70s inspired hard rock with more than a little hint of Purple (and the major Purple descendants), Voodoo Circle have decided the time has come to update their sound.  Update meaning, in this instance, pull it into the 80s…

As opening track “Graveyard City” demonstrates, Whitesnake’s eponymous USA breakthrough album was a major inspiration this time around.  The trend continues with “Tears In The Rain”, where David Readman makes a even more concerted effort to emulate Coverdale.  “Heart Of Babylon” starts off with a whiff of Rainbow but the Snake soon takes over, whereas “Cry For Love” is a fairly generic power ballad.  “Alissa” is another subdued track that relies mostly on its groove. Not a highlight of the album.

“The Ghost In Your Heart”, yet another slower song, is fortunately followed by some more uptempo fare. “Bane Of My Existence” is classic Voodoo Circle while “The Killer In You” is another nod to the good year 1987.  Upon hearing the title track, you would be forgiven for picturing skanky redheads rolling lasciviously on Jags.

“The Saint And The Sinner”. Hmm, subtle…

“Victim Of Love” is a bit bland but album closer “Open Your Eyes” ends the album on a high with guitars and keys engaging in a Blackmore/Lord type of confrontation.

Axeman Alex Beyrodt toggles between Sykes and Blackmore throughout. He pulls off both with equal panache even if he can’t really match the frenetic onslaught that was Sykes in his heyday.  The keyboard sounds have evolved from the Hammond stylings of the first albums to the more stringy sounds that typified 80s radio rock.

A minor departure from their earlier sound but another highly enjoyable album from this German retro combo.

Rating – 87% (what else?)
Review by the ever ready an’ willing Sancho

Related Articles:
Voodoo Circle – Broken Heart Syndrome Review
Alex Beyrodt Interview  2011

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KAMELOT – SILVERTHORN

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Out now on SPV/Steamhammer

Kamelot have always been one of the better symphonic prog bands with classics album like ‘Karma’ and ‘The Black Halo’ always seen as benchmarks for the genre, yet to these ears the band were on the wane for the last few years.  2012 saw some big changes in the band with lead vocalist Khan leaving.  Now when one of the world’s most praised metal vocalist leave’s your band it can sometimes lead to problems, not so for Kamelot as they have enlisted the glorious pipes of one Tommy Karevik who previously (and we are led to believe will continue to do so) came through the ranks with Swedish prog metal and V1 faves Seventh Wonder.

‘Silverthorn’ as such as peaked my interest in the band and I’m pleased to report this is the most I’ve enjoyed a Kamelot album in sometime.

The whole band sounds reinvigorated by Karevik’s arrival with guitarist Thomas Youngblood in particularly fine form.  Those that know Karevik from his work in Seventh Wonder might be a little surprised by his lower timbre performances on many of the tracks yet he also delivers the more associated higher pitch stuff as flawlessly as ever on ‘Song For Jolee’. Just view it as another string added to his bow.

Elsehwere there is plenty to enjoy in the likes of single ‘Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)’, the dark pulsating groove of ‘Veritas’ and the atmospheric title-track.  Given many of the tracks are more streamlined than those heard on previous album makes ‘Silverthorn’ a more immediate release and one that is likely to appease fans both new and old.

Production is pretty much flawless, dark and powerful and another fine sonic statement from producer Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Edguy, Rhapsody).

Overall ‘Silverthorn’ marks a very strong return to action by a band that has cleared the lead vocalist change hurdle with ease.  Good stuff.

Rating – 88%

PINK CREAM 69 – CEREMONIAL

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Released 25 January 2013 on Frontiers

Pink Cream 69 can usually be relied upon to deliver a solid hard rocking album.  On their new album they do just that. While some “modern rock” influences are noticeable in a couple of tunes, there’s been no effort to go Nickleback or Stonesour on us.

The style of this album isn’t too different from Jeff Scott Soto’s rock oriented material. Groovy hard rock with plenty of attention to melodies, harmonies and the odd funky moment. That being said, PC69 do have more of a metallic edge than Soto.

PC bass player Denis Ward is a sought after producer, so it comes as no surprise that this album sounds excellent. Long serving guitar player Alfred Koffler dishes up plenty of tasty guitar work.  If ever a band benefited from a lineup change, it’s them. Replacing Andy Deris (who went to Helloween) with the amazing David Readman was nothing short of a masterstroke.

While not all the songs are equally strong (particularly on the second half of the album), there’s plenty to enjoy here.

Rating – 83%
Review by Sancho

BILL BERENDS – IN MY DREAMS I CAN FLY

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Out now on Stellar Vox

Marking Mastermind guitarist Bill Berends’ debut instrumental offering, “In My Dreams I Can Fly” is a 12 track homage to a time when instrumental rock guitar was not about how many notes one can throw down in a single bar or be as extreme as possible in all facets, instead it offers something more vintage, simplistic and dare I say it wholesome.

Here is an album that is essentially the sound of an experienced guitarist whose been on the scene for over 30 years making an album of the type of music he likes to play when not progging it up in Mastermind.  In a way this harks back to 60’s and 70’s in so much that we get accessible musical themes, melodies – make that oodles of melodies  – and a feel good vibe throughout.  Nothing pretentious, nothing to make your brain hurt trying to figure it out (although some licks will still leave your jaw on the floor), just 12 tracks that will give you as much fun listening to them as you suspect Berends had recording them.

Armed with nothing more than a bevy of Gibson guitars, a cable and a Marshall JCM800; Berends goes to show what can be achieved tonally on such a simple set up, and I hear far more interesting sounds here than on any number of over processed hi gain shred albums I’ve hear of late. In addition to guitar Berends handles everything else except drums which are played by Jason Gianni (Neal Morse).

So onto the music.  What we get is a melee of musical stylists all with the  emphasis on rock from the driving title track and up-tempo bluesy roll of “Rock-A-Rama” and ‘Dream Rider’, there’s the majestic balladry of ‘Remember When’ (great phrasing and tone here) and ‘In A Quiet Place’, 60’s blues rock pastiches in ‘Heavy Cream’ (tipping its hat to one of Bill’s main influences –  Cream) and ‘If Man Were Meant To Fly’ and on to the multifaceted ‘The Longest Winter’.  Fans of sweet tone will find salvation in ‘To Days Gone By’ where the guitar work borders on euphoric with its mix of blues timbres and celtic like melodies whilst even some bluesy country motifs are served up on closer ‘The Long Road Home’.

Overall this is a very enjoyable album that rewards on first listen and reveals new textures on each subsequent spin.  It’s not reinventing the wheel but its well written, well played and well produced and as such is a very enjoyable release and comes as recommended listening for any classic rock fan.

Rating – 90%

SNAKECHARMER – SNAKECHARMER

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Released 25 January 2013 on Frontiers

Is there life after Whitesnake? There might be for Micky Moody and Neil Murray.

After an earlier attempt with Company Of Snakes, that didn’t quite deliver the goods, the former Snakes have regrouped as Snakecharmer. Musically there’s no surprises. Bluesy hard rock. So far so good. Where Company Of Snakes mostly failed because of the wimpy vocals, Chris Ousey does a better job, even if he’s no Coverdale. His voice does have a hint of Glenn Hughes to it, thankfully without the latter’s exaggerated histrionics. The band does a professional job and the songs are well crafted and quite catchy. Take “To The Rescue” for example, or the equally strong “Turn Of The Screw”.

While overall the production is solid, the buzzy guitar sound is particularly grating for this style of music. Murray’s trademark bass sits quite prominently in the mix.

Micky Moody and Laurie Wisefield do a great job on guitars, but does that come as a surprise to anyone?

Quite enjoyable if not spectacular by any means. As much as I like the current incarnation of Whitesnake, I can’t help but wonder what a reunion with Moody and a return to the old sound would bring. The songwriting on this album is actually stronger than it was on the latest Whitesnake albums.

Rating – 85%
Review by Sancho (he would lie to you, just to get in your pants).

BEVAR SEA – S/T

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Out now on Iron Fist records

India is becoming a breeding ground for killer metal bands. The country’s biggest band, Kryptos, blew me away with this year’s The Coils Of Apollyon. Hot on their heels is Bangalore’s Bevar Sea.

After a couple of live demos, the lads now present their first full length CD. Full length, yes, because with only four songs, the album clocks in at 43 minutes. 43 minutes of top notch doom, I might add. No, not the keyboard drenched new wave that passes for doom with 15 year old girls. Think Black Sabbath, Pentagram, early Trouble.

Album opener The Smiler is a statement of intent. From the Iommi stylings of the riffs, through the wailing lead guitars, it’s a slow sledgehammer to the nuts.  It’s second track Abishtu though, that may help the band reach a larger audience. What a scorcher!  Universal Sleeper crushes. 17 minute album closer Mono Gnome could easily outstay its welcome but is so well crafted the end comes as a surprise.

The album was mixed and mastered by Billy Anderson, who has High On Fire and Sleep on his CV, among others. Unsurprisingly, the sound is excellent.

Singer Ganesh Krishnaswamy has a distinctive voice. He snarls, sings and grunts his way through the tracks like a man possessed, backed by a blazing band.

An amazing debut that makes me curious what other treasures India has in store for us.

Rating 94%
Review by ‘making the bastards pay” Sancho