FAIR WARNING – SUNDANCER

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Released 24 May 2013 on SPV / Steamhammer

After the unpleasant taste left in the mouth by Axel Rudi Pell’s latest live offering , Fair Warning deliver the perfect teutonic tonic.  Hopefully this band should need no introduction to our readers, classy melodic hard rock performed by truly great musicians in Tommy Heart (vocals), Helge Engelke (guitar), Ule Ritgen (bass) and CC Behrens (drums).  Sundancer marks the bands 11th album and once again yields high dividends in the songwriting department.

Tommy Heart is a wonderful vocalist, powerful with great melody  and pitch whilst guitarist Helge Engelke’s  guitar work with is A1 as ever, the guy knows how to utilise a variety of amps and guitars to build textures within tracks and his fluid lead work is as awe-inspiring as ever – think a rockier Uli Jon Roth.  Bassist Ule Ritgen (formely of Roth’s Electric Sun) is again his busy yet solid self and it’s a delight to hear his flowing bass lines combins with CC Behrens hard hitting style.

Highlights come from most tracks but the punchy opener “Troubled Love”, “Jealous Heart” and the anthemic “Living On The Street” all combine soaring melodies with punchy riffs and commercial hooks.

Well produced (as ever) with good artwork  (a nod to the bands classic Rainmaker album), Sundancer sees the band get close to the quarter of a century mark with fine apblomb.  If you haven’t heard this band before this is as good a place to start as any.

Rating – 89%

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AXEL RUDI PELL – LIVE ON FIRE

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Out now on SPV / Steamhammer

German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell releases his 3rd live album (to my knowledge) in a career spanning 20+ years.  You probably know the drill by now, great band, great vocalist in Johnny Gioeli and a good set of songs, all ruined when it comes to Pell’s “solo antics”. I find it quite amazing that in his extended career he’s never learnt to bend a string to pitch or develop a vibrato that sounds anything other than hack, both key elements of Blackmore’s style he failed to rip off. Kirk Hammett and Axel really should join forces.

I know the majority of Pell’s fan are not musicians and do not have such a keen ear for technique, and to be fair he can pen a good song in the classic Rainbow/Purple/RJD era Sabbath vein but if it weren’t for his band holding it all together then would anyone really be giving this guy props?

Plus points, running time is decent, good sound and it looks like the accompanying DVD is well shot.

Long term Pell fans will buy this.  Newbie’s should probably stick to a studio album and guitarists with a keen ear for pitch and taste will avoid like the plague.  I want to like this. Alas I can’t.

If you ignore the solos – 78%
Overall rating – 40%

SEBASTIAN BACH – ABACHALYPSE NOW

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Out now on Frontiers

Ever since quitting Skid Row (I thought they sacked him? – Ed), Seb’s career has been a bit shaky. His last two solo albums were rather decent though. Almost inevitably we are now treated to a live album.

Much like Paul Dianno, Bach mostly relies on material from his former band’s first two albums to form the core of his live set. Unlike Dianno, he has surrounded himself with top notch musicians.

Bach’s voice has held up quite well, all things considered. No surprises in the set selection with the big Skid Row hits represented and the odd solo track thrown in for good measure. Nick Sterling (no longer in the band by now) impresses with some very nice guitar work.

Production is excellent but for some reason not consistent. Some tunes sound a lot less live than others.

For your money, you get two concerts in a 2CD/DVD package. Obviously there’s plenty of overlap between the sets, with only a couple of songs different between the gigs.

Not indispensable, but very entertaining.

Rating – 82%
Review by Quicksand Sancho

PRETTY MAIDS – MOTHERLAND

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Out now on Frontiers Records

Pretty Maids have been on a pretty strong run, culminating in 2010’s excellent “Pandemonium”.

On this year’s “Motherland” most of the typical PM elements are included, but unfortunately there’s been a fair amount of contemporary melo-metal injected into the proceedings.

Whereas the Maids used to have the perfect balance between keys and guitars, the former have now taken over the mix. I suppose the Nightwish generation will love those big washes of synthesized tone, but I’m less impressed. The cod Harry Potter interlude “Confession” might raise an eyebrow or two.

That’s not to say this is a bad album. These guys usually manage to craft strong tunes and there’s no denying their skills as instrumentalists. Despite the keyboard overdose, “The Iceman” is a killer song. The following track, “Sad To See You Suffer” is as trite as it gets though…

“Motherland” is a subdued release. Ronnie Atkins and Ken Hammer sound restrained and the overall energy vibe seems low, despite the obvious attempts at contemporary heaviness. The title track is about the only one that comes close to capturing classic Pretty Maids intensity. Take it up a notch for the next one guys, and don’t overthink it.

Rating – 75%
Review by Sancho

STRYPER – SECOND COMING

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Like plenty of bands before them, Stryper have done an album of re-recorded classics. The same question applies that applies for all of them : why?

Especially when the new versions stay so faithful to the originals you can barely tell the difference… It has to be a matter of rights and royalties I guess.

If you’re new to Stryper, you will want to check this album out. There’s rock solid versions of some of their best songs with a consistently good production. The only sign of the times is some very minor rough spots in Michael Sweet’s vocal delivery. For some tunes, this actually works better than the too smooth performance on the original versions.

There’s also two new songs. They’re decent, a mix between classic Stryper and the better moments on Reborn, but you won’t be buying the album for these two tracks.

In conclusion, this is an enjoyable album, but the final score depends a bit on your outlook. If these were all new songs, this album would rate a score of 95. Deduct points at will for the lack of new material.

Review by Sancho.