CD REVIEWS


Ratings: 2=crap; 4=poor; 6=average; 8=great; 10=superb!!!


Autumn 2009:

AMBERIAN DAWN-The Clouds Of Northland Thunder (Ascendance Records)
Haunting rhythms open this new album by AMBERIAN DAWN from Finland. I already liked their previous album, but I think “The Clouds Of Northland Thunder” sounds even better. I hear neo-classical parts in “Incubus” and the male vocals match very well here. AMBERIAN DAWN consists of Heidi Parvainen on vocals, Tuomas Seppällä on keyboards and guitar, Tommi Kuri on bass, Joonas Pykälä-Aho on drums, Kasperi Heikkinen on guitar and Emil Pohjalainen on guitar. Emil is a new face and he comes from a band, called THAUROROD. He replaces Tom Sagar, who played the keyboards. Tuomas switched from guitar to keyboards to fill this gap. The guitarsolos in “Incubus” sound absolutely breathtaking, by the way! AMBERIAN DAWN already supported EPICA on tour and their music definitely shows some resemblance to EPICA and NIGHTWISH, because of the bombastic sound. However, when you hear the ballsy guitarwork by Emil and Kasperi, a name like YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN pops up once in a while, too. Just listen to the solos in “Kokko – Eagle Of Fire” for example. In “Willow Of Tears”, the band takes back some speed and we hear the first sensitive ballad. While the next song “Shallow Waters” pulls away in the fifth gear. The guitarsolos are a welcome addition and turn this song into something really special. This in contrary to some other bands, who overwhelm you with fast riffs, but don’t play any solos at all! It makes the music of AMBERIAN DAWN even more pleasant to listen to. This band could easily fill the gap, where NIGHTWISH anno 2007 left off. These million sellers have been heading into a different musical direction with Anette Olzon, but there are still many die-hard fans, who are dying to hear the old sound back. Besides the solo efforts by TARJA TURUNEN, they can now listen to AMBERIAN DAWN instead. Just listen to songs like “Lost Souls”, “Sons Of Seven Stars” and “Saga” and you’ll know what I mean. That does not nessesarily make them copycats for me, because what they do sounds too good to call them clones or copycats. The twelve songs on this second album play for almost fifty minutes. Website: http://www.amberiandawn.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANDEM-Doch’ Lunnogo Sveta (Moonlight Daughter) (Irond Ltd.Records)
ANDEM hails from Russia and presents their second album here. After the short instrumental opener “Principium Et Fons”, the band collapses in the fast and haunting “Hranitel’ Mechey”, after which they take back some speed in title track “Doch’ Lunnogo Sveta”. In “Pravedniki Sveta”, we even hear some symphonic influences, while the brutal grunting male voices are very much upfront in the mix of “Master I Margarita”. As you can see, the sound of ANDEM is quite varied. Sometimes, they sound melodic or slightly catchy, while at other times they even sound a bit brutal. However, their music always has got a great sense of taste and class. “Molitva” is a very modest, ballad type of song, in which the band takes back a little speed again. While in album closer “Pesni Peschankyh’ Bur’”, a short song, we hear some Russian influences by this very talented band. Only this time, these influences are very obvious. This second album contains ten new songs, worthy of forty-five minutes of Russian melodic metal. ANDEM consists of Yuliana Savchenko on vocals, Sergey Polunin on guitar, Natalya Ryzhko on keyboards and Daniil Yakovlev on drums. The bass player has left the band shortly after the release of this album. By the way: the brutal male vocals on this album are performed by Artyom Styrov and Ilya Alexandrov to complete this information for you. Website: http://www.myspace.com/andemmusic. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AYIN ALEPH-Ayin Aleph II (Invencis)
The second full-length album by AYIN ALEPH is a fact. And ever since the debut album, I am really amazed by the original way, that she performs her songs. Mostly accompanied by a piano, a choir or an orchestra, sometimes modest, at other times bombastic, but most of the time very spooky and innovative. Opener “Choirs ‘Waters Death’” is actually a cacophony of voices and choirs and a vocal introduction to “My Bloody Marriage”. The title already suggests, that the spooky, horror-like character of the music and the lyrics have not changed much. The voice of AYIN ALEPH shows some resemblance to KATE BUSH, only with a more operatic feel this time. “Grey Ashes” is a fast song with the piano as the main instrument here. On this new album, Ayin has added very small interludes, sung by a choir. They sing a short song, which smoothly changes into the next one, so the album stays easy on the ear. Actually, these small intervals will keep you focussed from one song to another. “Foggy God” is such a short song, which is an introducing to “Es Muss Sein”. The heavy feel has changed into a more bombastic sound, but the KATE BUSH-like vocals are still there. “Bridge” is another short interval, before she starts the song “Aleph”. Most songs (or as a matter of fact every song!) move into the operatic gothic rock genre and the thrashy and loud guitar riffs are gone. There is no ‘real’ band anymore and in fact only die-hard KATE BUSH or TORI AMOS fans may want to listen to this rather modest second album by the Russian opera singer/pianist. “The Purchase Of The Cathedral” is the absolute highlight here, because of the beautiful church organ sound at the beginning of this song. “The End” closes this album, which is definitely not easy to comprehend for the average (heavy)metal fan or Metal Maidens’ reader, but what this Russian lady is capable of, is still quite innovating and of very high quality. Fifteen songs are on this new album, which runs about forty-five minutes sharp. Website: http://www.ayinaleph.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BAD SISTER-Because Rust Never Sleeps (Distinct Music/CMS Sony)
I never thought, that BAD SISTER would release another album, but with “Because Rust Never Sleeps”, this German AOR, melodic rock formation really knows to surprise me again. Opener “Surrender” is the new single and the first riffs reminded me in a way of the RAINBOW classic “Since You’ve Been Gone”. “Surrender” is a song, that you want to sing along to from the beginning ‘till the very end and it’s an excellent candidate for a single. Great guitarwork, a catchy chorus and the great voice of Suzie Lohmar are the main ingredients in this song. The video clip was shot in the red light district of Hamburg, by the way. Next on is “Zone Zero”, which starts off kind of spooky. The vocalists sound like they are hunted down by the police and there’s no way to escape…. The music of BAD SISTER could be compared to NIGHTRANGER, SURVIVOR, STARSHIP, GIANT or other adult oriented (melodic) rock (A.O.R.) bands. Due to health problems of the band’s previous singer Petra Degelow, original singer Suzie stepped back in and that was a good move. In “Take Me As I Am”, the band takes back some speed. BAD SISTER has succeeded to relive the feeling of the eighties in the sound of today. I just love this classic hard rock style, which sounds like coming home to me. The high class, catchy and very tight songs, that are well-known for the sound of the eighties, can be heard back on this great album. Rockers and ballads – they all run approx. four minutes each and within that time frame, the band makes it happen to create thirteen rough diamonds. “Unless You Talk To Me” sounds slightly melancholic, while “Carry On” is a piano-ballad with another beautiful guitarsolo at the end of the song. “Rocky Road” is again a reference to the mighty RAINBOW and I’d like to put them in their list of influences for sure. This rocker definitely breathes that well-known RAINBOW atmosphere. Don’t worry, because that’s the way I like it!!! Next on is “Heat Of The Night”, which has got the keyboard sound of the old SAGA material - warm and pumping - and it’s another great rocker. “Hard Times Shuffle” starts off with a Ritchie Blackmore-like guitar attack and adding that great keyboard sound here, it’s another classic rock song that sounds simply awesome! “Don’t Love Me Again” is a very sensitive ballad-type of song, but they know to keep it simple and catchy. And with “Through The Night”, the tempo goes up again a bit. “Blackmailed” is definitely one of my own personal favorites on this album. Yeah, let that body swing, baby! A nice surprise is the song “Talk To You Later”, where we can hear Petra Degelow on vocals. Hearing the two singers back to back, you can tell that Suzie has got a more rocking and rawer voice than Petra, but this excellent track fits very well to the rest of the material. The CD closes with “Last Train”, another melancholic and this time acoustic ballad. BAD SISTER is back and I’m glad they sticked to their guns. They really surprised me in a very positive way with this new album. Besides Suzie Lohmar on vocals, BAD SISTER consists of Sven Lange on guitars, Kai Beyer on keyboards, Werner Kaul on keyboards, Jörn Saul on bass and Kai-Ove Kessler on drums. The thirteen songs are worthy of a full hour of one hundred percent old shool hard rock sound and it will hit you in the face right away. Hooray, there’s still hope for the old-fashioned hard rock in 2009. Welcome back BAD SISTER!!! Kind regards from your bad brother in rock. Website: http://www.badsister-rock.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BIF NAKED-The Promise (Her Royal Majesty’s)
MELISSA ETHERIDGE released a brilliant new album after being cured from breast cancer. “The Promise” has been written, while Bif received her chemo therapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. And I must say, that she has also managed to come up with a brilliant new album. Some songs may sound a bit odd in a way, but I can understand the situation she was in, while writing these songs. The album sounds very diverse, whereas the heavy “Honeybee” is definitely one of the highlights here, next to “Sick”. The music of BIF NAKED is very suitable for radio airplay and sometimes you might even recognise some bits-n-pieces, that’ll remind you of songs that are played on your local radio station. The rock level is about the size of KELLY CLARKSON or AVRIL LAVIGNE. Although “Red Flag” sounds definitely much louder and I think I’ll put it in my list of personal faves, because of that. The pumping sound of the beat and the riffs are just fabulous and the guitarsolo at the end of this song is mindboggling, too. “Ciao Baby” sounds a bit industrial at times, while “King Of Karma” could very well become a summer hit for BIF NAKED. “Amazon Hotel” is a good candidate for that title as well. It’s quite easy to sing along to, it’s catchy and rocking. “River Of Fire” is a sunshine reggae song, that also has some raw edges. “Welcome To The End” sounds very laid back and has a relaxing vibe. The album closes with “Save Your Breath”. Just like MELISSA ETHERIDGE, BIF NAKED proved to be a very strong woman, who doesn’t give up. Even when something as terrible as breast cancer messes up your life. They go on and stand tall and put all their strength in creating new songs. If you liked the previous albums by BIF NAKED, you will absolutely love this one as well and that’s a promise! A nice present to all the die-hard fans of this Canadian rock singer and songwriter. Website: http://www.bifnaked.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BITCHFIRE-Bitchfire (independent)
When I hear the first notes of “Headlines”, I know that this CD might be very interesting indeed. BITCHFIRE sounds like they have stepped back into the eighties. A solid based heavy metal sound enters my room, which makes me happy right from the start. The band found themselves a suitable name too and the CD cover shows, that we don’t have to expect any alternative or tearjerker songs on this silver disc. Let me first introduce the band members to you. Sharyn Peach (ex-SHE’S SO LOUD, INDECENT XPOSURE, SCUBA STEVE, THE BRAT PACK, SEE SPOT RUN) is the female vocalist of the band, and she is accompanied by Eddie D (ex-SEA OF BLACK, TURBULENCE) on drums, Donny Sutton-Brown (ex-SEA OF BLACK) on lead guitar and Robbie Plast (ex-GENIUS, STRATOVARIOUS) on bass. “Fly High” is eighties based as well, and the opening riff of “Pleasure Is Pain” makes my level of pleasure even go up a bit a little bit more. What an amazing sound does this Boston based band create! Just listen to the guitar solo in this song. This is absolutely mindblowing! “Bitchfire” has got a steady beat and that guitar solo is yummie again. I am glad that Donny, who originally comes from Jamaica, never choose to become a member of some reggae band. What a waste of talent that would have been. For sure, this guy was made to ROCK!! Just listen to the solo in “Found Me Again”. He did it again! “Toxic Waste” opens with the sound of sirens, that return every now and then. It’s a furious rock song, in which this sound effect fits very well. “Vampire”, as the title suggest already, sounds a bit darker. Better watch out for the fangs of this vicious man. “Breathe” has a steady beat and another great guitar solo. You won’t be disappointed when listening to this album, because there’s a lot to enjoy for people, who like the sound of bands like DOKKEN, LITA FORD or ICRI'S WITCH. The CD closes with “Selfish Heart”, the obligatory ballad on the album with sphereful keyboard parts in the beginning of the song and “Run To You”, which opens in the well-known IRON MAIDEN / Steve Harris style. BITCHFIRE’s debut album contains ten songs and forty-five minutes of some of the finest old school heavy metal. Fort Lauderdale can be proud of this band, which amazed me with this great sounding album. Website: http://www.myspace.com/bitchfire. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BOANERGES-Hora Novena (independent)
Hands up, who still remembers the 1998 album “Señales Antes Del Fin” by Argentian Christian metal band BOANERGES?!? It received a full score back then and I have some great news for you all. After the band released a five track EP in 2003, they are back with a new full-length album, called “Hora Novena”. Twelve songs run for sixty-five minutes. After the short instrumental opener “Consumado Es”, the band explodes in the HAMMERFAL-like “Una Mundo Differente”, which shows the talent of the band again. Title track “Hora Novena” is another wild song with some very nice guitarwork. The first highlight announces itself in the fast and furious “Todo Pasa Nadie Sabe”, which has some wild and exciting guitarduels. While “Vidas Macadas” sounds much more doomy and heavy. The music on “Mucho Mas Por Vivid” sounds magnificent and the orchestral part is an interesting break and I think many bands can learn from that. The intensity of the sound and the lyrics go deeper than ever before and in a way it’s a shame that I don’t understand the lyrics, that are all in the Argentinian / Spanish language. However, I am able to enjoy their music though and there’s a lot to enjoy here. “Tierras Liberadas” is an epic metal song, which covers the strength of this band at its very best. There is a little Eastern atmosphere to this song as well. Just listen to the final part. “Siglo Virtual” sounds very bombastic and in the best NIGHTWISH tradition, but slightly heavier. “El Vador Del Presente” is a ballad type of song with a very nice, emotional sounding guitar solo, that seems to come right from the very heart of Walter and Javier. “Extraño Quijote” is another highlight for me. It’s furious and heavy and contains a very nice mid-piece, in which the acoustic guitar takes over as a short piece of rest in this hunting fast song. “Sueña” is another fast song in the best HAMMERFAL / STRATOVARIUS tradition. The CD closes with an acoustic bonus track, called “La Profecia Cumplida”, in which you can take a deep breath. BOANERGES still knows to impress me with their great sound. And it’s so good to see, that they’ve survived after so many years. BOANERGES consists of Gabriela Sepúlveda on vocals, Gastón Morales on keyboards, Walter Estébez on guitar, Javier Fracchia on guitar, Marcelo Rodriguez on bass and Alberto Sabbatini on drums. You can find all the other details on the band’s website at http://www.boanerges.com.ar. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CIRCLE OF FATE-Back To Life (independent)
CIRCLE OF FATE hails from Chicago, Illinois. The album contains ten brandnew songs and runs for about forty minutes. Opener “Sanctify” shows that the sound of this band can be described as alternative rock with some slight metal influences. At the end of this opener, there’s a small part, a sort of improvisation part, that I would certainly call innovative. A good start. “Skeletons” is also pretty much straight forward and easy on the ears. Again there’s a small part at the end of the song, that makes it a bit different from all the other straight forward radio rock songs. “My Religion” may not be as straight forward as the former two tracks, however they chose this song to become the first single from this album. A choice, that may not be that obvious maybe, but it also shows that the band is ready to take a risk or two and that they are not afraid to show their own face. In “What If” and “Broke My Heart” the band develops their rocking style and sometimes they really turn it up real loud. “Unshattered” also sounds very uptempo and a treat to my ears, especially when the guitarsolo is announced. “Your Gone” is a highlight to me, because of its rough temper. “Fill The Void” takes back some speed, but that still doesn’t really turn this song into a ballad. If you like the more alternative side of rock, CIRCLE OF FATE can be something for you. The band consists of Michelle Caruso on vocals, Danny Charatin (ex-DESTINY, MORIAH, LATENT FURY, ION VEIN) on guitar, Ethon Burns on drums and Jeff Barker on bass. On the CD though, we hear Dan Thompson and Mike Holewinski on bass. Step into the circle of fate, I’m sure you’ll like it. Website: http://www.circleoffate.net. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRIPPER-Devil Reveals (SAOL)
CRIPPER are from Germany and they present us their new album “Devil Reveals”, which contains twelve loud thrash attacks, worthy of forty-five minutes of mayhem. Britta is the loud grunting lady in CRIPPER and obviously, she makes the way to compare them to HOLY MOSES and ARCH ENEMY. I think, that CRIPPER is the perfect mix between these two bands. They have the bone hard riffs and thrashy feel of HOLY MOSES and the melodic parts would fit to ARCH ENEMY a bit more. In “I”, they already show us what CRIPPER is all about. While in “Junkie Shuffle”, I hear a few nice PANTERA-like riffs, which makes this an outstanding song to me. “I Am The Pit” can best be described as a death ‘n’ roll song, if you catch my drift. Title track “Devil Reveals” starts slowly and dark, but when the speed goes up we’re in for another real treat! “Faqu”, which stands for ‘Fuck You Too”, is ultrabrutal again with some furious galopping riffs. The CD closes with “Methods In Madness” and “Hysterica”. CRIPPER is ready to take on the world by storm and I think, that the world is ready for their brutal attack. If loud grunting female vocals are your cup of tea, then you’d better prepare yourself for “Devil Reveals”. CRIPPER consists of Britta Görtz on vocals, Christian Bröhenhorst on guitar and backing vocals, Jonathan ‘Mad’ Stenger on guitar, Bass-T on bass and Dennis Weber on drums. Check out http://www.cripper.de for more information about this German brutal death metal band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA-Sing Along Songs For The Damned And Delirious (Ascendance Records)
Fancy some jazz music or some dixieland? I guess, that you’re reading the wrong online webzine then. Unless you like these swinging styles of music, beefed up with some loud guitar riffs and high pinching female soprano vocals. We walk the thin line of what is possible and what not and this band simply falls on the right side of the borders of metal music. The band is called the DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA and consists of Daniel Hakansson on guitar and vocals, Pontus Mantefors on guitar, Andy Johansson on bass, Johannes Bergion on cello, Andreas Halvardsson on drums and Annlouice Loeglund on vocals. They hail from Sweden and nothing is strange enough to do for these people. Play a tango and put some rough guitar riffs in them… Okay, that’s a deal. How strange it all may sound, everything is possible in the world of DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA. “A Tapdancer’s Dilemma” for example is pure jazz, “Lucy Fears The Morning Star” is a beautiful tango, while “Vodka Inferno” is a gypsy-like song with some Russian influences. Shortly, there’s a lot of variation on this album. People, who like the original styles however will say that this music has got nothing at all to do with the tango or with jazz music. Metal lovers will mis the loud screaming voices and heavy guitar solos. And that’s why the DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA composed ten songs that can only been seen as original music and cannot be easily categorised as music, that has been done before. It’s too much a style of its own. Perhaps people, who like FRANK ZAPPA, could comprehend what’s going on here. He also had a lot of pro and contra supporters around him. Either you hated the man or you thought he was a musical genius. We thought he was a musical genius and ahead of his time. Same goes for this Swedish sextet, who put ten new songs on their second album, called “Sing Along Songs For The Dead And Delirious”. This title alone should make you wonder, whether this music is suitable enough for you to try or not. If you’re not open-minded enough, please leave this for what it is, or you’ll go crazy. If you have fifty minutes of spare time and you want to swing on some groovy sounds, just try this album and you’ll be amazed!! [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EDENBRIDGE-Live Earth Dream (independent)
This live CD is an exclusive, limited, website-only release of EDENBRIDGE containing fourteen live songs, worthy of almost seventy minutes of Austrian symphonic metal. The CD was recorded on various locations and captures the band in their best possible way, and that is live on stage. Together with the Czech Film Orchestra, they turned this recording into something really special. The input of the orchestra works very well in “Undying Devotion” for example. It makes the music of EDEMBRIDGE even more bombastic. In “Wild Chase”, the band also uses some flute sounds, which creates a more medieval atmosphere. The CD sounds very sphereful. Nice is the way, that they covered the James Bond Original Soundtrack song “For Your Eyes Only” here, too. A nice surprise for the fans. The voice of Sabine Edelsbacher is crystal clear and she has developped herself to one of the leading ladies in the symphonic metal genre for me. But she couldn’t have done it without the input of the other bandmembers; Frank Bindig on bass, Max Pointer on drums and mastermind Lanvall on guitars, keyboards and piano, bouzouki and pipa (Chinese four string lute). On the album though, we hear that the drums were played by Sebastian Lanser. Their musical ability is highlighted at the end of “Terra Nova”, where the band gets a little bit more space to show their talents. “Move Along Home” sounds very catchy, whereas “Centennial Legend” is a dreamy ballad, in which Lanvall shows his skills in a beautiful guitarsolo. Another highlight can be found, when the band ends this CD with “My Earthdream”- an epic masterpiece, that runs for about nine minutes. As guest musicians on the album we hear Karl Groom (THRESHOLD), who also mixed the album, Dennis Ward and our own Dutch pride Robby Valentine (VALENTINE). Again I must state, that this release is strictly limited and I must say that it was defintiely worth the wait to finally be able to hear the final result of this great live album. Website: http://www.edenbridge.org. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPICA–The Classical Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)
On June the 14th 2008, Holland symphonic metal legends EPICA played a very special show in Miskolc, Hungary. The concert was dubbed The Classical Conspiracy and it saw the band backed by a full orchestra for the entire gig. It was no small production as you can tell by the contents of this two disc set. Most of the first disc is comprised of classical favorites, while the last six songs of disc 1 and all of disc 2 are made of EPICA performing their classics backed by the orchestra. There is a lot of music contained on this collection, so let's get right to it. The CD opens with a Yves Hut (bass player) composition called "Palladium". Straight away, it shows you how multi talented the band is when they can include a classical piece that they wrote to include amongst the other classics here. "Dies Irae" and "Ombra Mai Fu" are definitely worthwhile tracks, and the nine minute "Adagio" is also very well done and quite the musical journey. The band and orchestra are at their best when playing music soundtrack stuff, like the "Spiderman Medley". I have always felt that EPICA's music lent itself quite well to the cinema, so it is appropriate to hear them doing some movie stuff. "Presto" and "Montagues & Capulets" are also nice additions. To me, the highlight of the symphony part is their rendition of "The Imperial March" (a.k.a. Darth Vader's theme from the Star Wars movies). In my opinion, this is one of the coolest pieces of music ever written and the band succeed in doing it justice and respect. Other highlights include another Yves Huts composition "Unholy Trinity" and the final number "In The Hall Of The Mountain King", I am sure, that most people will recognize this song even if you didn't know the title. With the orchestra portion of the show complete, disc 1 is completed by some EPICA classics, while the band is still backed by the orchestra. The intro track "Indigo" from "The Divine Conspiracy" starts things as the band launches into the great track "The Last Crusade". The favorites keep on coming as that is followed by, "Sensorium", "Quietus" and the eight minute track "Chasing The Dragon". The first disc is concluded with one of the very underrated ballad "Feint" from "The Phantom Agony". It's cool to hear the band dust this song off and play it live. Disc 2 begins with a couple of songs from awesome "The Divine Conspiracy". First up is the albums first single "Never Enough" and that is followed by the equally lethal "Beyond Belief". Front woman Simone Simons is in fine voice here and it is easy to see why many fans consider "The Divine Conspiracy" EPICA's best recorded work to date (although that is certainly debatable). The band delve into their past a bit for "Cry For The Moon" as the crowd reacts favorably to this live favorite, the chemistry between Simone and Mark Jansen is really on display here as Mark adds his grunts to this one. "Safeguard To Paradise", "Blank Infinity" (from the excellent "Consign To Oblivion") and "Living A Lie" are next. The highlight of all highlights comes on "The Phantom Agony" from their debut album of the same name. This is just a big epic song that is made to be played with an orchestra, it is just a great song that I am sure will be played at every Epica show and the audience just eats it up. The final three songs "Sancta Terra", "Illusive Consensus" and the twelve minute "Consign To Oblivion" brings things to grand, satisfying conclusion. I would say, that this CD is a huge achievement for the band. It definitely shows another side to them and their cohesion along with the orchestra is seamless. Even if you are not into the symphony stuff, there is a lot of their own material included and that definitely makes it an essential release for any EPICA fan. [8 points] (Tony Cannella)

FANNY-Rock And Roll Survivors (Cherry Red Records)
“Rock And Roll Survivors” was the final album by all-female outfit FANNY. At that point, the band existed of Nicole Barclay on keyboards, Brie Howard on drums, Jean Millington on bass and Patti Quatro (Suzi’s sister) on guitars. The band still knows how to rock and prove is given on this album, which was originally recorded in 1974, when most of the early rock bands actually started their career. FANNY had started their long lasting career in 1970 already and paved the way for many female rockers, who followed their example. “Rock And Roll Survivors” is already a nice example of the musical skills of the band. They actually play their instruments very well and this is rock and roll to the max. The album also contains the band’s most succesful song “Butter Boy”, which reached number twenty-nine in the Billboard Hot 100. If you listen very carefully to “Long Distance Lover”, then you can tell that this is a song with the input of Patti Quatro. Somehow, the vocal parts gave me that feeling right from the start. A song with a remarkable heavy guitarpart in the middle, especially for that time. The band also cranks out the FANNY version of the ROLLING STONES classic “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, which sounds especially nice because of the keyboards. The keyboards are also very much upfront in the beginning of “Rockin’ (All Nite Long)”, which will definitely get you rocking out all night long, which the title predicts already. “Get Out Of The Jungle” has got that same stomping atmosphere and that well-known Quatro beat. “Beggar Man” is the flipside of the single “Butter Boy”, that became so succesful. This song however is one of the highlights on the album for me. Maybe because it shows so well how outstanding the musical ideas of FANNY were. Innovative and controversial, but ignored by far too many people, who simply didn’t understand the band. “Sally Go’ Round With Roses” sounds very floating, while “I’ve Had It” is another great uptempo rock song. After forty minutes, the CD closes with “From Where I Stand”. Soon after this release, the band would call it quits and the legendary FANNY would make room for bands like BIRTHA, THE RUNAWAYS, GIRLSCHOOL, ROCK GODDESS, to name but a few. This great rock legacy is now released by Cherry Red Records and it’s a must for every rock fan, who wants to make his female rock band collection complete. We want to thank Cherry Red Records and Tim Madgwick for making this CD review possible. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FIRST CHILD-Queen Of Hearts (Onslow Records/Twilight Distribution)
FIRST CHILD hails from Germany and they present their new album “Queen Of Hearts” here. The CD is filled with sixteen ‘easy-on-the-ear’, wild kick ass rock and roll songs, fronted by crazee wild bass babe ‘Queen Of Hearts’ Cat The Cat. The rest of the band consists of Mr. Buddy S, Buddy Schlemmer on guitar and Stephan Preussner on drums. After some wild introductions by means of title track “Queen Of Hearts” and “Gambler”, the band takes back some speed in “Every Bullet”. “Rock This Town” has got a very high rock and roll level and it shows that this band knows to deal with it. “Just The Way I Am” starts off as a slow ballad, every good rock album needs one, which slowly develops into a powerful slowbanger. “Bones” is a good mix of WHITESNAKE and MÖTLEY CRUE, which means it’s very powerful feel good music. “Don’t Mess Around” sounds more laid back and it has got a bit of ZEPPELIN / PURPLE-esque atmosphere. Next one “For The First Time” is a true ballad and “Back At Home” is another feel good song, but a lot more modest than “Bones”. “Face In The Mirror” is another great rock song with more ZEPPELIN-esque rhythms. While “Gypsy Woman” is a STRAY CATS’ type of rock song. “When I Dream” is another link to the fifties and sixties and it sounds like a love song to me. “Shout At The Devil” (not the MÖTLEY CRUE classic!) is a more rocking tune. Just like “Have Mercy”, which comes thereafter. CD closer “What Are We Fighting For” is another LED ZEPPELIN type of song, which is slow, but definitely rocking hard. People, who like their rock hard, sleazy and dirty, but also laid back at times, should check out this wonderful and varied album. If you put this CD in your PC, then you’ll be able to view a video trailer, including the songs “Queen Of Hearts”, “Rock This Town” and “Shout At The Devil”. Check it out! Website: http:// www.first-child.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE GATHERING–The West Pole (Psychonaut Records)
It's always a risky proposition, when an established band decide to change singers after having a long successful run with their previous one. Sometimes it works out, other times it is an unmitigated disaster. That is exactly the situation that Dutch rock/metal legends THE GATHERING find themselves in. Out is Anneke van Giersbergen - she left to concentrate on her new project AGUA DE ANNIQUE. In is former OCTAVIA SPERATI frontwoman Silje Wergeland. She has the toughest job of all to win over the loyal fan base, but after only a few listens to the bands much anticipated new CD "The West Pole", it appears that the band has made a solid choice. Silje fits the band like the proverbial glove. The CD opens with the instrumental track "When Trust Becomes Sound". It's rare for a four minute instrumental to start an album, so you have to give the band some credit for trying something a little bit different. Our first introduction to Silje Wergeland comes on the second track "Treasure". It is a song that has a heavy avant-garde pop flavor to it, but it has a definite edge and attitude to it. My first impression of Silje is that she reminds me a bit of Shirley Manson of GARBAGE at times, her vocals are actually quite sweet and passionate. She is certainly no Anneke clone, she really has her own thing going. "All You Are" is next and it starts off with a sweet sounding intro before speeding up and becoming more straight forward in approach, this is one of my favorite songs on this disc, Silje's vocals are just soaring on this one and they really push this tune over-the-top. The next track is the title song "The West Pole". This song has a bit of a "Nighttime Birds" feel to it. Complete with hypnotic rhythms and a sensitive vocal performance, this track is another favorite. Other highlights include: "No Bird Call", "Capital Of Nowhere" and "You Promised Me A Symphony". The final three songs "Pale Traces", "No One Spoke" and the eight minute "A Constant Run" all conclude this CD in style. THE GATHERING sound like a band reborn. The songs boast a confidence and assurance that is undeniable and quite impressive. THE GATHERING have been hugely successful over the past twenty years or so and it remains to be seen, if they can continue with the same level of success with their new singer. For better or worse, this is a step in a positive direction. The band have not rested on past laurels and recorded an album that is unmistakably THE GATHERING. It has all of the ingredients that made this band such a treasure with a few new twists and turns along the way. I have to admit, the ten songs and fifty-five minutes worth of material, that is found on "The West Pole" far exceeded my expectations. [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN WITH AGUA DE ANNIQUE-Pure Air (Aqua Recordings/Jammm)
Former vocalist for the GATHERING, re-introduced herself to the metal world with her new ambient style project AGUA DE ANNIQUE in 2007 with the release of "Air". I have to admit, that I for one was happy to hear her voice again and I thought "Air" was a pretty good debut, that showcased Anneke's beautiful vocal style. Now she is back with "Pure Air". It is not really a new album per se, it is mainly a CD of covers and newly recorded songs that were on "Air", done acoustic style featuring a number of special guests throughout the CD. The opening tune "The Blowers Daughter" is the first cover song to be featured and includes Danny Cavanagh of ANATHEMA. Next is "Beautiful One" from "Air" and that is followed up with another cover "Wild Flowers". I have to admit that some of the covers included are a bit obsure to me and I haven't heard to originals so it is hard to compare Anneke's versions to the originals. A couple of the covers I did know however, were the Ayreon tune "Valley of the Queens" (featuring the great Arjen Lucassen) and the biggest surprise is the cover of the Alanis Morissette track "Ironic". It's hard to say that you like a cover version better than the original, but yes I like this version better. Just great! Other highlights include: "Day After Yesterday", "What's The Reason" and "To Catch A Thief" featuring John Wetton from ASIA (the band not the continent). I have always been a fan of John Wetton's voice and him and Anneke together are just magic. Anneke is also joined by another iconic female singer, Sharon den Adel from WITHIN TEMPTATION for a version of the WITHIN TEMPTATION song "Somewhere" (from the "Silent Force" CD). Just an excellent version of an already great song. Overall, I liked this CD. It's different from "Air", being that it is acoustic and all, but it is still a worthwhile release that should please fans of Anneke's post-GATHERING work. [7 points] (Tony Cannella)

THE GOSSIP-Music For Men (Columbia/Sony)
“Music For Men”? Now, that sounds quite promising and must be something for me! I’ve seen THE GOSSIP back in 2000 in Glasgow, Scotland, when they weren’t a ‘sell-out’ rock band yet and people just started to get to know them. However, they were already quite controversial at that time and obviously they did have a golden future ahead of them. Better late than never, because it took them a couple of years to become the succesful outfit that they are today. Their new album consists of twelve new songs, which has a playing time of about forty-five minutes. “Dimestore Diamonds” will heat up the fire. It has got a steady beat and gives you the time to get ready for some good rock and roll. “Heavy Cross” is the first hit single, taken off this new album. It sure rocks, but somehow it’s a lot more polished than their previous material. Next song “8th Wonder” is a little bit more like it. The band sounds uncontrolled and rough on this one. Just put this song against “Love Long Distance” for example and you can hear the evolution of these two songs back to back. THE GOSSIP anno 2009 sounds more danceable and polished, than they did when they just started their career. Therefore, it’s a lot more difficult to comprehend the overall sound on “Music For Men”. “Pop Goes The World” is another danceable pop rock song, while “Vertical Rhythm” sounds in the style of “Heavy Cross”. It has got the same guitarsound and although it is a bit slower, it has the same vibe. I’m still searching for some real firework though. “Men In Work” shows the excentric side of the band. The nice, spacy piece at the end of this song is fantastic and they should do this more often to beef up their sound a bit. At some point the music by THE GOSSIP comes very close to BLONDIE and/or DEBBIE HARRY in a way. Sometimes rough and punky, sometimes experimenting with styles and at other times danceable or modest, but always of high quality and with a lot of variation. “For Keeps” for example could very well be on any early BLONDIE album. “2012” has got dance beats and the rock level is kinda low here. I’ve heard them a lot more vicious before, that’s for sure. Please don’t think this is bad, but I kinda expected a much higher rock level. Beth Ditto’s voice is still fantastic and also the rest of the band consisting of Nathan on bass, synths and vocals and Hannah on drums still know to play their instruments very well. “Four Letter Word” contains a lot of electronic synthesizer beeps. With CD closer “Spare Me From The World”, the holy fire starts to lit up again. If this will save the album or if you’re confident with the more polished sound of THE GOSSIP is really up to you. I liked it, but to be quite honest with you, I expected a little bit more power. That doesn’t change my point of view though. THE GOSSIP is a very talented band and they have come a long and hard way to reach the success, that they have achieved now. And I am glad for them. Their hard work has finally been rewarded and many people have discovered the honest sound by THE GOSSIP. This is not only music for men, but music for people of all gender covering a lot of styles. Check it out! Website: http://www.gossipyouth.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GWYLLION-The Edge Of All I Know (Black Bards)
GWYLLION hails from Belgium and their new album “The Edge of All I Know” shows that we’re dealing with some very talented musicians here. If there ever was a symphonic, Celtic metal scene, this band would be the kings and queen ranking this particular style. They mix symphonic metal parts with Celtic influences, which hasn’t been done before that much. The instrumental opener “In Silence Enclosed” is an introduction to two good examples of this great sounding mix, namely “Entwined” and “Void”. “Rage” sounds a bit more straight forward in a way, but it’s the perfect song to let off some steam. Think in the direction of very fast SYMPHONY X or STRATOVARIUS songs here. GWYLLION consists of Ann van Rooy on vocals, Martijn Debonnet on guitar, Steve Deleu on guitar, Thomas Halsberghe on bass, Joris Debonnet on keyboards and Wouter Debonnet on drums. In “Beyond Goodbye”, it’s time to slow things down a bit for a beautiful, powerful ballad. While “The Night Awakes” is really a sing along tune, somewhat in the style of SKYCLAD. “Closure” is one of the highlights on this album for me. You could argue, that the NIGHTWISH influences are perhaps a bit too obvious here, but I like the sound of it and the power that it contains. Same goes for the heavy artillery riffs on“A Thousand Words”, which is actually a more modest song in comparison to “Closure”. “Roots Of Reality” is a beautiful epical song, that has some nice mood changes here and there. The slow fading of the song and the violins make it sound a bit sober at times. “Angelheart” closes the album in a really beautiful way. It’s just Ann’s vocals accompanied by a piano…. What more do you need to create a beautiful, emotional ballad? GWYLLION are true masters in creating exiting symphonic music with a Celtic twist to it. Check out their website at http://www.gwyllion.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE- Fields/Church Of Broken Glass (Profound Lore)
HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE grab back to the sound of the seventies, like they did on their previous albums. It may be a bit odd to release two albums at the same time, compiled as a double CD package here. But you can’t hear enough good music like this and HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE didn’t really let me down all these years. The two albums run approx. seventy minutes together. Musically, they’ll get you in a trance and take you back to an era, where everything is about love and peace. Just listen to the first songs on “Fields” to catch my drift. “Agriculture”, “Fields” and “Motorcade”, which makes the ‘Fields Trilogy’, is very flower power-minded and wouldn’t sound bad on a Woodstock or Isle Of Wight. Think about DEEP PURPLE, URIAH HEEP, BLACK SABBATH, JETHRO TULL, BLUE OYSTER CULT, ELO or EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER. Yep, I realise that none of these bands have ever played at Woodstock, but the atmosphere sounds so much alike, while the music sounds more towards the sound of the biggies named here. The line-up of HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE consists of Chewy on drums, Ron Nichols on bass, John Cobett on guitar, Sigrid Scheie on piano and organ, Patrick Goodwin on guitar and vocals and Jesse Quatro on vocals. So now there are two female warriors playing in the band and these ladies really show us how to rock out loud. “Haruspices” is a short instrumental piece, that leads to another cool retro piece, called “Rats Assembly”. In “Too Soon” the band starts freaking along to the main theme, which sounds nice and charming and it also fits perfectly to the music. “Almost (Left Without You)” opens the second album “Church Of Broken Glass”. “Butchertown” opens with some riffs, that would sound fine on any BLACK SABBATH album out there, but soon it develops into a slow PINK FLOYD-like song. The organs are very much upfront in the fast “The Gulls”, which contains more PINK FLOYD-like harmony vocals. And when “Train” approaches, we arrive at the very last station (read: song) on this nice double album. The second album definitely sounds much more heavy than the first one, but they have one thing in common: HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE still knows how to rock!! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HOLY HELL-Holy Hell (Magic Circle Music)
If you want to relive the sound of heavy metal in 2009, then I’d suggest to have a listen to HOLY HELL. We’ve written about this American metal band before and their full-length debut album is out now. It contains thirteen songs and plays for seventy minutes. Produced by nobody else but Joey DeMayo of MANOWAR and released on MANOWAR’s own record label Magic Circle. These are the facts so far, but how does it sound? Well, the beautiful voice of Maria Breaon sounds crystal clear and she would have done well in NIGHTWISH. I’m glad she chose to sing in HOLY HELL though. The band is really putting the metal back into the music. Just listen to the guitars cry in opener “Wings Of Light” or the beating drums in “Prophecy”. No wonder, because these instruments are played by the key figures within the band, guitarplayer extravaganza Joe Stump (who’s also a great guitarplayer on his ultrashredding solo CDs, by the way) and former MANOWAR skinbeater Rhino (who I also found back on the new album by JACK STAR’S BURNING STAR). The line-up is completed by two other highly skilled musicians, called Francisco Palomo on keyboards and Jay Rigney on bass. “Revelations” sounds very nice and in “Eclipse”, I definitely hear some MANOWAR influences. Just listen how Maria sings the lyrics in the beginning of this song. I already have my metal sword held up high to hail the Gods!! “The Fall” is a ballad, while in “Angel Of Darkness” we hear Maria in a more evil role, at least at the beginning of this song, which ends with some nice “Mr. Crowley”-like keyboards. “Holy Water” is fast and heavy again and contains some marvellous guitarwork. And “Mephisto” is a bombastic guitarpiece extravaganza. It’s done quite well and not heard much before. “Gates Of Hell” rocks like hell again - a nice uptempo song., which is followed by the mid tempo “Resurrection”. The latter is filled with strong string arrangements, which gives it a somewhat gothic twist, yet it’s still powerful enough to make it a great song to listen to. “Last Vision” starts dark and mysterious, to explode with fast riffs into a nice headbanger. “Apocalypse” and “Armageddon” close the album. This is not a final apocalypse or neither it is the armageddon of this world maybe, but this album simply must be heard by every heavy metal fan out there, whether you are old school or new school. I think, I better leave the score just below the full score, because the next album will probably be the killer piece by this band and I’m awaiting for that one to give them a full score…..hopefully. Website: http://www.holyhell.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

INDICA-Valoissa (Sony/BMG Music)
INDICA hails from Finland and presents us their full-length album “Valoissa”. Well, that’s not quite unusual, I can almost hear you say. But what if I tell you, that INDICA is an all-girl rock/metal outfit? Maybe that will make you a little bit more interested then. The band was founded in 2001 and they even opened for NIGHTWISH already, too. “Valoissa” is the fourth album of the band and contains eleven tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes of powerful, but slightly commercial sounding rock and metal. Airy and ‘easy-on-the-ear’ songs fill my room, until we reach the fifth song on this CD, called “Askeleet”, which is slower and sounds a bit darker than the previous four. “Pahinta Tänään”, the second song off this album, was relased as the furst single, by the way. As producer, the band received the help of NIGHTWISH keyboard player Tuomas Holopainen, with whom they have been working together since they supported NIGHTWISH. Title track “Valoissa” leans more towards bubble gum pop music, while “Tältää Pois” sounds definitely a bit heavier, although the keyboards are a bit more upfront in the mix. INDICA consists of Jonsu on vocals, violin and guitar, Heini on bass and vocals, Sirkku on keyboards and vocals, Jenny on guitar and vocals and Laura on the drums. “Pyromaani” (one of the song titles you can almost understand), is on next and the CD closes with “Hämärää” and the very sweet and soft closer “El Enää”. If you like your rock with soft and sweet touches, then INDICA might be your next big thing. If you like it ultraloud and you even think, that SLAYER is for wimps only, you’d better leave this for what it is. Fans of VANILLA NINJA (whatever happened to them??) might want to have a listen to “Valoissa”. Website: HTTP://www.indica.fi. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IRONICA-Vivere (Poko Records)
Almost everything I touch comes from Finland nowadays. Not that I have any problem with that. Especially when this particular band is sounding like IRONICA’s new album “Vivere”. The band’s debut album “Consequences” was already a good start, but they have grown immensely ever since. Just listen to the nine new tracks on this forty minute album and you’ll know what I mean. And if you want me to point at one of the highlights, I would definitely go for the heavy and fast “From The Dark”. Opener “Dive” is is the new single of the band, which already received a lot of airplay in their own country and other countries are starting to discover the talent of this five piece melodic metal outfit as well. IRONICA consists of Elina ‘Iron’ Järn on vocals, Ville ‘Nepal’ Palin on guitar, Jani Paavola on bass, Jukka Rajala on keyboards and Aki Herrala on drums. The melodic touches of IRONICA’s sound totally disappear in the wild and exciting sounding “Little Princess”, which is another highlight, if you love it loud! Same goes for “Suffer For You”, which proves, that IRONICA is nothing for the sweet and the innocent kind. They rock out loud and still have enough melody in their songs to make their music suitable to a bigger audience! Even death metal fans can safely have a listen to this CD, just check out “The Beast” and you’ll be amazed! If more bands from Finland would sound like IRONICA, the world would look a lot prettier. The CD closes, much too quick, with “Reflections”. My reflections on these forty minutes are very positive indeed and although many other mags may not write a word about IRONICA, they can definitely count on my vote, because “Vivere” has become an album, that you must have heard. On http://www.ironicarocks.com and http://www.myspace.com/ironicarocks, you can read all the information you want to know about this band from the land of the thousands of other metal bands. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JACK’S FAMILY-One Big Disguise (independent)
JACK’S FAMILY was founded in 2002. After releasing the album “Poetry Of Souls” in 2002 and the EP “White Coat” in 2004, it’s time for a new six tracker. “One Big Disguise” is a prog metal fantasy with a melodic undertone. The band from England consists of Jean-Paul De-Havilland on guitars, Rich Potter on bass, Nicholas J. Spall on drums, Darren Tansley on keyboards and piano and the female input in ‘the family’ comes from Kelly Jones on vocals and violin. The rock, that the band outs, is dark, bombastic and this very skilled band takes us on a progressive trip in their instrumental outings. Listen to the dark side of LACUNA COIL to get an idea of their sound, but I do like the approach of JACK’S FAMILY more. They are darker than the Coil and if I take a close look at the pics from their live shows, I like their visual aspects during their shows a lot, too. The violin sometimes adds a gothic touch to their music, but a song like “Round And Round” sounds much more ‘open’ and even a bit heavy. The album has been produced by former TYGERS OF PAN TANG guitarplayer Fred Purser, which makes it especially interesting for the NWOBHM fan in me. “Ideal Me” starts off very chaotic and heavy, but when the structures come in, it’s surely one of the highlights on the album for me. Next to the lengthy, epical CD closer “Cruelty OnA Pedestral”, which sounds a bit like THRESHOLD to me. In the meantime, Stuart Armitage has become the new drummer of the band. The sad news is that in October 2008, Nicholas J. Spall died of cancer. The band has continued with this six track album though, because Nicholas would have wanted it that way. What a great way to honour your fellow band member and friend. I truly think, that JACK’S FAMILY is a very promising band and I’m hoping that the rest of the band still have a long and fruitful future ahead of them. http://www.jacksfamily.co.uk is the place, where you can find out more about this band. However, if you buy the CD, you can also have a look at the multi media part, which shows a documentary, called “Behind The Disguise”, which captures the recording of this six track album on film for twenty minutes and the video clip that the band made for “Pretty”. Now that’s what I call value for money! [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KREZIP-Sweet Goodbye (Sony Music)
Last time that we reviewed the greatest hits album by KREZIP, I already predicted that this double live CD/DVD would come out. I couldn’t foresee though, that I would have to review it a few months later already. Anyway, it’s here to review now and it has become some kind of ‘best of’greatest hits live thing and a perfect way to say goodbye to your fans. The two CDs together have a running time of about ninety minutes. CD one is a bit over forty minutes and contains eleven tracks. The band opens with the hit singles “Go To Sleep” and “All Unsaid”. “Life Is Sweet” is on next and it rocks just a little bit harder than the rest with a rocking guitar part in the middle of this song. “Not Tonight” takes back some speed and contains some warm, sphereful guitarwork. “Out Of My Bed” is one of the big hits of the band and I don’t think I need to say more here. “Mine” is another strong rock song. I wonder why the band never tried a good, heavy rocker as a single release - just for one time maybe? “Why Do I” is on next, followed by “Can’t You Be Mine”. This last song opens almost the same as “Sweet Dreams” by THE EURYTHMICS. “Waiting By The Phone” is a short, acoustic song and a nice introduction to “I Apologise”, which is one of their hit singles again. The CD closes with another sentimental highlight in “Everything & More”. It’s quite nice to have a good overview of what this band has done over the years, because they have not only been very succesful, but also very productive. The second CD contains their last gig at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. This last show took place on June 27th 2009, by the way. “All My Life” opens this second disc, which contains twelve tracks and runs for almost fifty minutes. “You’re Wrong” starts off with a drum intro. It shows, that the band were also very talented musicians and not only able to play commercial songs. In that aspect, we definitely loose one of the most talented bands in our country. I know, that they are not a part of the heavy metal community at all, but I also dare to say that they knew how to rock. “Won’t Cry”, although not mentioned in the box (SHAME) is on next, another song that the fans will sing along to. “Give My Life” is a less well-known song, just to break the hitmachine a bit. Then there is a section, which probably features their most well-known songs. It starts off with “You Can Say”, followed by their biggest hit and their breakthrough; “I Would Stay”. Everytime I hear this song, I have to think back to their Pinkpop gig as a very young band. The success that they had over there was really incredible. The band has come a long way ever since, but they always remained successful, until the very last day. This evening they also pay tribute to MICHAEL JACKSON in a jazzy verion of “Billy Jean”. As I review this on Michael’s birthday, it’s a strange idea that he’s not there anymore. “Bored” is something you will never be, while listening to the songs of KREZIP, not even with this song, I guess. “In Her Sun” gains some speed again and slowly we’re preparing ourselves for the very last song of the evening. But first we get “Plug It In & Turn Me On”, another very successful track, which is the inofficial last song of the evening. “Play This Game With Me” is the first encore so to speak, in which the band gets an introduction for the last time. Well okay, let me do this as well, just for ol’ times sake. KREZIP consists of Bram van den Berg on drums, Joost van Haaren on bass, JanPeter Hoekstra on guitar, Annelies Kuijsters on keyboards and vocals, Anne Govaert on guitar and vocals and Jacqueline Govaert on vocals and piano. We at Metal Maidens wish them all the best for the future. Having said this all, we’re ready for the title track of this CD/DVD set “Sweet Goodbyes”. After that, it’s all over and these musicians can look back at a very successful career. Goodbye from all of us and see you hopefully next time! [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LACUNA COIL-Shallow Life (Century Media)
It's hard to believe that it has been 11-years since Italy's LACUNA COIL released their self-titled EP. They were definitely leaders in the female fronted metal onslaught that was to come and still exists to this day. Since that EP was released in 1998, the band have released a slew of albums, with each one more successful than the last. Their success has been due to hard work and earned the old fashioned way, through much touring and releasing some good music along the way. The band return with their first CD of new music in about three years with "Shallow Life". The CD begins with "Survive" and as always the great duel vocals between Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro are in tact. "Survive" is a solid opener that is a great reminder about what there is to love about LACUNA COIL. The next track "I Won't Tell You" is an early candidate for favorite song on this CD. It has a great sing-along chorus and just a generally up tempo number, I defy anyone to be in a bad mood after listening to this one. "Not Enough" is a track that is reminiscent of something from "Unleashed Memories", it has that same feel to it. "I'm Not Afraid" is another solid one and Cristina and Andrea really turn in excellent performance's here. "I Like It" is also pretty cool and it's easy to see why it has been chosen as a single/video track. This is a song that should help attract the band even more fans. "Underdog" is just a heavy straight-forward number with a heavy SABBATH-like riff that really dominates the track. "The Pain" is another good one. It's got a cool rhythm to it, that is a bit different then we've heard from them before. Other highlights include: "Wild Awake", "Unchained" and the great title track "Shallow Life". The CD was produced by Don Gilmore who has previously worked with LINKIN PARK, AVRIL LAVIGNE and GOOD CHARLOTTE. It's an interesting choice of producer's for LACUNA COIL and in my opinion "Shallow Life" has more of a polished shine than their previous releases. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It all comes down to the quality of the music and songs and on "Shallow Life" the quality is very good. "Shallow Life" features twelve songs and forty-four minutes worth of music from a band that will not be slowed down one bit. The CD definitely is a mixture of classic sounding LACUNA COIL with some new elements thrown in as well. Overall, I think "Shallow Life" is probably the best CD that LACUNA COIL has done in years. Taking nothing away from their previous works, the band seems poised to go to even great heights with this CD. My favorite LC CDs remain the first EP and "In A Reverie", but I have a feeling, that "Shallow Life" will be joining them as favorites. [8 points] (Tony Cannella)

LEAVES EYES-Njord (Napalm Records)
LEAVES EYES have finally taken position at the highest level in the gothic metal scene. And I think, that they have released their best CD so far with “Njord”. This new album is truly a bombastic, gothic masterpiece, that will certainly please the many fans out there. One of the highlights is presented right away, namely title track “Njord”. What a great song that is! Guitars, orchestral additions, sweet female vocals, brutal male vocals; in short a real classic in the book. Songs like “My Destiny” and “Emerald Island” also contain those brutal male vocals, which gives the sound of LEAVES EYES a much more solid character. “The Devil In Me” and “Scarborough Fair” are on next and in the latter you’ll even hear some medieval instruments to increase the atmosphere. LEAVES EYES consists of Liv Kristine on vocals, Thorsten Bauer on guitar, Matthias Röderer on guitar, Alexander Krull on vocals, Alla Fedynitch on bass and Seven Antonopoulos on drums. In “Irish Rain”, the band takes back some speed and you can literally hear the rain falling down, which creates a nice atmosphere. While “Northbound” is preparing for another highlight on this album; the fast and furious “Ragnarock”, in which Alexander screams out his lungs again. “Morgenland” gives the band some time to catch their breath, after such a brutal explosion. This doesn’t last very long though and soon “The Holy Bond” rushes in. One of the best songs however is saved for last. It’s the lengthy and rather sphereful “Freya’s Theme”, including some beautiful orchestrations, male vocals and riffing guitars. The spoken word part sounds very sensual indeed and I know for sure, that LEAVES EYES have established themselves to the top of the gothic metal scene. And vocalist Liv Kristine truly belongs to the top notch singers in this same music style. Her voice sounds crystal clear and just like Tarja Turunen in her NIGHTWISH days, her voice also controls the overall sound of the LEAVES EYES material. If you’re not convinced of this or still have any doubts after hearing “Njord”, you’ll definitely need a hearing aid. The twelve songs together have a total playing time of about fifty-five minutes. Website: http://www.leaveseyes.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTORPSYCHOS-Coming Of Rage (independent)
Wanna get crazy and wanna have some fun?!?? Better get your motor running and go heading out to the highway to listen to the new MOTORPSYCHOS album “Coming Of Rage!!! This ultra cool hardrocking stuff will get you in the mood in no time! “Apology” will start to drive you wild with its powerful, riffing guitars. Go baby go! “Powerdrive” might even sound a little more brutal and also contains some fine guitarwork. It’s not difficult to hear, that the rawness and brutal sound of this band comes right from their hearts and soul. MOTORPSYCHOS consists of three hard rocking ladies and a male skin beater. On guitar and vocals we hear Abby Krizner, her partner-in-crime is Pamela Simmons, who also plays guitar and sings. Amy Bianco plays bassguitar and sings. And the male addition in the band is called Dennis Brown, who plays the drums. In “Anybody Cares” and “Monster”, the band unleashes some more pure power. Power, that could be compared to bands like L7, KITTIE, BLITZ BABIEZ and NEUTRON CAFÉ, to name but a few. They have got one foot in the new millennium, while they have the spirit of the old school rock bands wandering around as well. In the next song “Mudbucket”, the band slow things down a bit and they kinda develop a dragging beat, while the lazy vocals remind me of L7 in a way. “Miss Diagnosed” and “Busted” are short firecrackers containing enough explosive material to blow up a whole village. And if this isn’t enough, they directly throw in a boogie with “Sweat”, so get those feet moving! These three songs are short punches in the face, that will bring down the enemy in a short blow! A few more beats to go and it will be a total knock out. “Matriarch” will surely take care of that. It’s a slower song, but it’s sleazy and sludgy enough to convince. Just listen to the icely screams in this song! The album closes with the lengthy “Big Hurry”. After so much noise and brutalness, you want to leave as quickly as you can! This last song is recorded live. MOTORPSYCHOS are letting off tonz of steam on this album and this band from Pittsburgh, P.A. proves a full hundred percent, that they still know how to rock. This album is highly recommended by yours truly!!! Website: http://www.motorpsychosrock.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STEVIE NICKS-The Soundstage Sessions (Sound Stage)
I’ve always had a weak spot for STEVIE NICKS. That voice is so recognisable and beautiful. This CD captures ten beauties, worthy of fifty-five minutes of timeless pop/rock tunes. This album was originally recorded live in Chicago, but it’s produced as it was recorded in the studio. The small, intimate crowd has totally disappeared from the recordings, which doesn’t really do any harm to the songs though. Stevie opens very strong with “Stand Back”, before continuing with the DAVE MATTHEWS song “Crash Into Me”. “Sara” is one of the very few FLEETWOOD MAC classics, that she’ll be playing tonight. “If Anyone Falls In Love” is a lightly, uptempo song, followed by another classic, the very beautiful “Landslide”. It almost sounds as if she’s singing this just for me alone. It’s very sober and her voice matches very well to the song, in my opinion. In “How Still My Love”, Stevie starts to rock a little bit, while in “Circle Dance”, she does a duet with VANESSA CARLTON. After this emotional song, it’s time to shake things up a little with “Fall From Grace”, which opens with loud guitars. Most of the songs however have a more intimate character, that fits a bit more to the environment, the album was recorded in. But this one is definitely meant to loose some sweat. “Sorcerer” has got that well-known FLEETWOOD MAC sound. If you would play the song without any vocals, you would still be able to guess that it was written by STEVIE NICKS or FLEETWOOD MAC - a definite highlight to me. The CD closer is called “Beauty And The Beast”- a very emotional song, written in 1983. A great way to end this album. It’s a damn shame, they haven’t included the ultimate STEVIE NICKS song here; “Gold Dust Woman”. But I think you’ll have a good time listening to the ten songs on this one. The sessions are also available on DVD, by the way. Website: http://rockalittle.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OBERG-Blues As Blues Can Get (E-Sound Publish)
After seeing the band play live at the annual Culemborg Blues festival, we knew for sure that we had to introduce OBERG to you in our CD section. Ted Oberg himself is one of the biggest blues pioneers from Holland, a living legend, if you want to credit him the right way. The lady, we’d like to introduce to you though is called Liane Hoogeveen. How on earth could she be kept away so secret from us? She is one of the (very) best female blues singers, that we have in our country. Her voice sounds alike Tineke Schoemakers of BARRELHOUSE and she is the true eye-catcher of the band. Although Ted Oberg played in LIVIN BLUES for a long time, OBERG doesn’t really sound like his former band. It contains some great guitarparts and the bluesy voice of Liane backing it up. Besides Ted and Liane, the band consists of Micky Hup on guitars and vocals, Nico Heilijgers on bass and vocals and Paul Damen on drums. Title track “Blues As Blues Can Get” starts off slowly to get things going. While “Wishing Well” is a well-known song, originally recorded by THE FREE, but many people reading these lines, will probably know the versions by GARY MOORE and BLACKFOOT. The OBERG version is different though: it’s a bit slower, yet it still contains a whole lot of six string guitar. “What You Got” is a nice uptempo shuffle with a great BARRELHOUSE feel to it. The speed change at the end of the song is very surprising, making it sound more like a blues gospel song. “Head Up High” is a more traditional slow blues tune. It reminded me of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” for a moment. “Wanna Run” and “If You Don’t Know” are good blues songs. The entire album has got a lot of class and style, while the band is really getting looser, when they are ‘live’ on stage. They like to show you what they’re capable of on CD and I can assure you, there’s a whole lot to enjoy on this fifty minute silver disc. The guitars are breathtaking and the rhythm parts are subtle and simply (mainly doing what they have to do) to keep up a steady beat. “Life Goes On” has got some GAMMA influences, despite that they are not really a blues band. For me, one of the highlights on this album is “Black Spider”, which was also a crowd’s favorite in Culemborg. It’s got a groovy bass part and when the band gains some speed, they sound like a cross between MOTHERS FINEST and THIN LIZZY. Good grief, this is truly heavy shit! “Six String On A Wing” is a smoking hot instrumental, in which the guitars get every freedom for a batte, which is definitely another highlight in my book. “I Want You” sounds like BARRELHOUSE again and this is a real compliment, as far as I’m concerned. Liane sings in a very sensual way here. This fantastic blues CD closes with a short instrumental, called “Last Station”, but hopefully this won’t be the last that we heard of them... Although the official statement is that LIVIN BLUES never really separated, but went on vacation and never came back, this album by OBERG knows to please the many blues fans (like me!) a lot. Liane Hoogeveen is a huge discovery in the Dutch blues scene. She proves, that she is more than capable of singing some good blues stuff on this album, which is as “Blues As Blues Can Get”. Website: http://www.obergblues.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SECRET SOCIETY-Death By Misadventure (Got Speed Records)
This society (read: band) has been so secret, that we even haven’t heard about them before, until their CD landed on our doormat. It contains ten hot rocking tracks, which are worthy of a bit over forty minutes of honest rock and metal mayhem. We are proud to have the honour and introduce the members of this SECRET SOCIETY to you, but please don’t tell anyone else. This must be our little secret. We have Gordon Rinda on drums, Courtney Stone-Moore (ex-GODSPEED) on bass, Stefan Moore (ex- GODSPEED) on vocals and guitar and Chris Holmes on guitar. Now this could be a coincidence of course, but the Chris Holmes mentioned here is indeed the former WASP guitarplayer, who pulls out the wildest licks, riffs and solos out of his guitar. The mean sticking bumble bee and former husband of LITA FORD shows, that he is still a mean guitar player and makes sure that the band sounds sleazy and dirty. This is a true fact, because of the raw, raspy voice by Stefan, who sounds like a brother of Lemmy of MOTÖRHEAD. And if you think in the direction of the old MOTÖRHEAD sound, you’ll come close to what SECRET SOCIETY sounds like musically. Touches of Southern rock are added as well and here and there you’ll might discover a touch of stoner rock. It’s only in the fourth song “Crystal Eyes”, that the band takes back some speed, but very soon they gain a bit of power as a suitable replacement. “D.T.A.” stands for “Don’t Trust Anyone”, which is the perfect song to shout your balls off during a live gig by the Society. “Damage Is Done” starts with a “Doctor Doctor”-like guitar riff and it’s a catchy yet very heavy song. While “X Man” unites the best of THIN LIZZY and UFO, topped by the raw voice by Stefan. After hearing those ten solid rock/metal songs, you’ll reach for the ‘repeat’ button on your stereo pretty easily. This band knows how to rock and will definitely reach a large fan base in no time. This rock and roll band will certainly bring the heavy metal back where it belongs and this is only the first step, that they’ve taken. Watch out for them! Website: http://www.secretsocietyss.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOWSIDE-Dare To Dream (independent)
SHADOWSIDE officialy hails from Brazil, but the bandmembers respectively are from Lithuania, Germany, Portugal and Italy. They all live in Brazil now and this second full-length release is called “Dare To Dream”. It contains eleven songs, which play for almost fifty minutes. Opener “Nation Hallow Mind” sounds like an uptempo RAINBOW song from the Graham Bonnet area. And although the band has already supported the likes of PRIMAL FEAR, SAMAEL, NIGHTWISH, HELLOWEEN and most recently IRON MAIDEN, they are able to create a sound, that comes very close to RAINBOW after Ronnie James Dio stepped out of the band. Great guitarwork and very catchy and compact songs with great vocals. Just listen to “In The Night” for example, to know what I mean. “Last Thoughts” opens as a ballad-type of song, but slowly it develops into a steady rock beat. There is a lot of melody in SHADOWSIDE, which gives them the perfect eighties retro feel. The song “Baby In The Dark” is also to be found on this new album. Die hard fans may know, that this was the ‘digital single’, which was released before the album came out. “Memories” also has those Bonnet-like vocals, but it sounds more heavy than the average SHADOWSIDE song. “Wings Of Freedom” adds some UFO or MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP influences to their sound, names that will make my blood run faster. Then it is “Time To Say Goodbye”, which is an emotional sounding ballad. “Life Denied” and title track “Dare To Dream” close this strong metal album, that will definitely please all the SHADOWSIDE fans out there, like it has pleased me. It might be a bit too early for a full score here, but it’s a close call. Website: http://www.shadowside.ws. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SKYCLAD-In The .... All Together (Scarlet Records)
SKYCLAD are back from a much too long time of absence. All the well-known SKYCLAD ingredients are still there. The violin, the folk influences, the thrashy parts, the loud guitars and songs, that you can sing along to. It’s all revealed in opener “Words Upon The Street” and the very fast “Still Small Beer”. “The Well-Travelled Man” starts off very slow and folky, but when the violin begins to snoar, the tempo is set to well-known SKYCLAD standards and it develops into a drinking-type of song you might be singing together after having a few beers with some friends. “Black Summer Rain” has got a more NWOBHM feel to it. Which is not strange, when you know that former SATAN members Graeme English and Steve Ramsey are still part of the SKYCLAD family. “Babakoto” (come again!?) sounds in the African style, like the title suggests already. “Hit List” is not a potential hit single, but I think they want to protect themselves to get on someone’s hit list, if you know what I mean. The song has got a very laid back character and contains a nice, jazzy guitar solo, before jumping into a more metal part at the end of the song. In “Which Is My”, the band combines African and Irish sounds, which seem to mix pretty well. While “Modern Minds” sounds more rock than folk, however in title track “In The … All Together” George Biddle plays the fiddle again and this song gets the well-known folky edge. If you liked the old SKYCLAD stuff, than you’ll also like their new album. I hope, that it will also provide them a larger fanbase. In case you wonder where the dotts stand for in the album title, you’ll have to find out for yourself, otherwise my hands will get dirty. Shit….I almost told you. Website: http://www.skyclad.co.uk. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SPINNERETTE-Spinnerette (Hassle Records)
SPINNERETTE features Brody Dalle of THE DISTILLERS on vocals, Tony Bevilacqua of THE DISTILLERS on bass, Alain Johannes of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE on guitars and Jack Irons of RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and PEARL JAM on drums. Their self-titled debut album contains thirteen tracks and runs for almost fifty-five minutes of loud, alternative rock music. Think about JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS and HOLE here. Most songs have got a catchy feel, which makes it easy to listen to for the average pop and rock fan. I think about THE GOSSIP here, a band that has made their sound available to a bigger audience. SPINNERETTE walks the same path without sounding too commercial. Loud guitar riffs, fast drum beats and Brody knows to impress the listener with her sensual voice. Sometimes they try to avoid the paved road and come up with something renewing. In “Distorting A Code”, which is also on their EP “Ghetto Love”, they even try some psychedelic soundscapes. It makes the song outstanding from the rest and a real highlight for me. The beginning of “Sex Bomb” will remind you of JOAN JETT in a way and the rest of the song sounds more like HOLE in their good years. If you like a more straight forward approach, I would like you to listen to “Rebellious Palpitations” which is short and even a bit ‘rebellious’ as the title suggest already. It’s followed by a more darker sounding “The Walking Dead”, which has got a slightly sixties feel to it. The song “Impaler” sounded like LED ZEPPELIN, who also had such excentric, artistic outings sometimes, that didn’t really match the rest of the album. Another very surprising song. The CD closes with “A Prescription For Mankind”, a lenghty song, that starts off with a warm, fuzzy guitarsound. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE fans might dig this one. Watch out for the hidden track, before you take out the CD! SPINNERETTE is not always easy to comprehend, but I believe that many pop, rock and alternative rock fans might like the sound by this new ‘supergroup’. Website: http://www.spinnerettemusic.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STONEBENDER-Stonebender (DeVol Noise)
CULPRIT! Yes, I know how to draw everyone’s attention. There is a link to this mighty fine band from Seattle, which makes it very special to me. Guitarplayer Johnny DeVol already played in a band called SLINK, together with his wife Nollie. That is history and now we have STONEBENDER - a cooperation by Johnny and Nollie, together with Dan Hutford on bass and Paul Higgins on drums. Their self-titled debut album is in my stereo right now and opener “Need It” contains some incredible shredding guitar parts, topped by the loud screaming vocals of Nollie. Eight new songs are spit out at you, with a total playing time of about thirty-five minutes. “Need It” is powerful, energetic and a marvellous opener. “Bonediddle” is on next: it has some JIMI HENDRIX-like guitarwork, while the rest of the song reminds me of “Come Together” by THE BEATLES, only a much more heavy version. When “Inside My Head” starts, the band has already received a cult status in my eyes, especially when they crank out songs like that. Steam is coming out of my speakers: oh lord, what a power! Just listen to these pounding drums! In “Fortify My Eyes” Nollie sounds like a cross between GRACE SLICK and SASS JORDAN. In “Bushwack” the band gains some speed and they will get some heads banging again, just like in the old days. “Rain Down” is a power ballad with some beautiful guitarwork from the master himself. Think about SASS JORDAN and DANA FUCHS, because of the vocals of Nollie, that are very much upfront on this one. “Obey Yourself” spits out a lot of power. The album closes with “Distorted”, a song that might appeal to all LED ZEPPELIN fans out there. The only negative thing, that I can say about this album is, that it’s so damn short! This has turned out to be a great album, that will please many rock and metal fans out there. Johnny’s guitarwork is still dirty, innovating and shredding, while Nollie has got a great pair of lungs. STONEBENDER is the name to remember. Check out the band’s website at: http://www.stonebenderband.com or their MySpace site at: http://www.myspace.com/stonebenderband. I will give this the full score, just because I believe in the band and I simply didn’t hear anything that I didn’t like. Welcome back, Nollie and Johnny and keep bending them stones!! [10 points - full score] (Toine van Poorten)

STREAM OF PASSION-The Flame Within (Napalm Records/Hard Life Promotion)
When it was announced, that Arjen Lucassen was leaving STREAM OF PASSION, many people were shocked since it was generally thought that STREAM OF PASSION was his project. We couldn't have been more wrong. The band has returned with several new members: Stephan Shultz (lead guitar), Erik Hazebroek (guitars) and Jeffrey Revet (piano, keyboards) join the remaining members, Johan van Stratum (bass), Davy Mickers (drums) and Marcela Bovio (vocals). Their new album is titled "The Flame Within" and they have defied the odds by not only coming out with a worthy successor to their debut "Embrace The Storm", but you could argue that "The Flame Within" is every bit as good, if not better. The opening track "The Art Of Loss" begins with a nice piano intro before giving way to some truly bombastic guitars and the track really heats up when vocalist Marcela Bovio joins in. A good opening tune that really reminds the listener why their debut was such an enjoyable listen. "In The End" picks right up where the first song left off. This song is quite dramatic and has a great melody. Once again the vocals provided by Marcela Bovio are quite impressive. This is another solid track that would make a great single, should the band decide to put one out. The third track "Now Or Never" contains some more bombast and it is more of an up-tempo song than the previous ones and it is among the very best that this CD has to offer. "When You Hurt Me The Most" is quite a haunting ballad that packs plenty of power and a passionate vocal delivery from Marcela. "Run Away" begins with some truly pretty piano and it pretty much stays that way throughout the song, before getting heavier near the end. This song was a huge highlight for me. "Games We Play" really brings back the heaviness with a great guitar riff. Other highlights include: "This Endless Night", "Burn My Pain", "A Part Of You", "Let Me In" and "Street Spirit". "The Flame Within" features fourteen songs and fifty-nine minutes worth of classy metal. The band has indeed soldiered on following the key departures, that I mentioned earlier in this review and I for one am glad that they have. This quote appears on the sticker on the front cover of the CD and it is from the man himself, Arjen Lucassen: "After hearing the excellent 'The Flame Within', It's clear that I'm not needed at all!". That is the best endorsement I can think of. [9 points] (Tony Cannella)

SYREN-Dehumanized (independent)
SYREN is an all-female rock band, that has its roots in England and the USA. Singer, guitarplayer Erin Bennett hails from Las Vegas, USA, while drummer Jo Heeley and bass player Amanda both are from England. Their music could be described as straight rock with a good drive and that’s what this album is all about. These ladies are capable of playing catchy songs with a good strong flow and a rocking undertone. Erin’s voice is nice to listen to. She’s not too much of a screamer and her clear voice fits very well to the energetic sound of SYREN. The other musicians ask for a lot of attention, too. Just listen to the stunning bass parts by Amanda in opener “Dehumanized”or the Stewart Copeland (THE POLICE)-like drumming of Jo in “Seasons”. There is a lot going on in the thirteen songs on this album. “Revenge” sounds very powerful and uptempo as well. The first song, in which the band takes back some speed, is called “Treasured Ones”. Erin shows, that she’s also capable of putting a lot of emotion in her voice. Most of the songs start off with an acoustic guitar intro, like they were thought out from a singer/songwriter’s point of view. However, once a song reaches its flow and the band gets involved, it gets a more powerful approach and sounds more like a band. A good exception to this rule is “Justice”, which opens pretty powerful right from the start. “Green” is a happy tune, while in “The Way That Lovers Do”, Jo and Amanda ask for some special attention. CD closer “Virginia” sounds very different from all the other songs. It would do great by a campfire picnic, I guess. The album comes to an end after aprox. sixty-five minutes and I must admit, that I was positively surprised here. Maybe it has a (too) low (hard) rock level for the average Metal Maidens reader, but for the average rock fan, this could be a very interesting album to listen to. Especially if you know and realise, that Jo and Amanda were also part of MT-TV and ROCK BITCH, it’s nice to hear the other side of these two British musicians. The side of two serious, enthusiastic musicians, who know to handle their instruments without all the fuzz of sex and naked bodies to help them out by gaining some more publicity this time. And I think, that they did a wonderful job to accomplish that. Website: http://www.syrenband.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRAIL OF TEARS-Bloodstained Endurance (Napalm Records)
The storm is over and TRAIL OF TEARS are ready to get back to recording an album. For some time, the band was in heavy weather, but Ronny Thorsen has got himself a whole new band, who joined him in making “Bloodstained Endurance”. The band consists of Cato Jensen on drums, Endre Moe on bass, Pàl Olsen on guitar, Bjørn Erik Næss on guitars and Cathrine Paulsen on vocals. Judging by the songs, we can speak of a bloody good comeback CD. Well, maybe this is not a comeback CD, because TRAIL OF TEARS never really broke up, but they were more put on hold, so to speak. The first songs feel like stepping into a warm house. It feels like the band has kind of ‘refound’ themselves. It’s gothic metal and the cohesion between Ronny and Cathrine feels very strong. The duets are impressive and the music does the rest. Great bombastic parts, for example in “Triumphant Gleam” make this album to a real must to all TRAIL OF TEARS fans. Then suddenly, the band takes back some speed. It’s time for the obligatory ballad, called “A Storm At Will”, which is actually a welcome piece of rest. A true highlight for me is the song “Faith Comes Knocking”. It starts off in the best NIGHTWISH tradition (Tarja era of course), but the best part is to be found near the end when you hear the hysterical, horror-like laughing of Cathrine. Wow, what a great ending! Bonus track “Onward March The Merciless” sounds heavy and it’s a good closure of this very strong sixth album, that sounds like a mix between SIRENIA and TRISTANIA, but still shows a face of its own. A very worthy album by these Norwegian goth gods. Website: http://www.trailoftears.no. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VALENTINE-Androgenius (independent)
VALENTINE has always been quite huge in Japan, but slowly they are gaining back popularity in Holland. This double album “Androgenius” will certainly help. These two silver discs take a look into the ‘future’ and the ‘past’ of this multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. The band exists of Robby Valentine, who sings, plays guitar, keyboards and bass, André Borgman (ex-AFTER FOREVER) on drums, Johan Willems on keyboards and vocals, Cyril Whistler (ex-WHISTLER, COURBOIS, WHISTLER, ex-UNDERCOVER) on guitar and Liselotte ‘Lilo’ Hegt (ex-CIRRHA NIVA, DIAL) on bass guitar and vocals. Judging by what I hear, Robby is a real musical genius. However, if everyone comprehends and digs his music, is a different story. The ‘future’ CD contains new material, recorded by his current band. Twelve songs, worthy of a bit over fifty minutes of melodic rock music is what you get, including a new version of Robby’s biggest hit single “Over And Over Again”. “Save Myself” is a good opener, full of electronic beeps and some female vocals by Lilo. On the second track “4th Rate Razorback”, I hear some great guitar tricks, that could have been on any WHISTLER, COURBOIS, WHISTLER album. “I Should Have Known Better” is a powerful track, that mixes “Flash Gordon” by QUEEN with “Killing In The Name Of” by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE - very powerful indeed! While “Over And Over Again” is slow, dark and much more industrial sounding than the sweet, emotional ballad, that we still have in mind and remember. The speed changes make it a very powerful song. “Falling Down” reminds me of a very early SAVATAGE, although later in the song it receives that well-known VALENTINE treatment. “Make Way (For The Messager)” could very well have been on the “Flash Gordon” album by QUEEN, but I would rate this an outstanding song. Then there’s a classical piano solo, called “Piano Solo” and some well-known parts by for example Tschaikovski and Chopin are to be heard, which is very beautiful. “A New World” comes on next, which is a bombastic masterpiece. “I’m Going Under (Sedated)” opens with some electronic keyboard parts and continues in a slow beat. “Fear Of Heights” is the VALENTINE version of LED ZEPPELIN’s “Kashmir”, so to speak. “Flick Of The Wrist” is a QUEEN cover, including samples and some adventurous, experimental soundscapes. It’s definitely another highlight. “Exodus Elephants” is a short instrumental and the intro reminded me of the VENGEANCE classic “Arabia”. Disc 1 is over and disc 2 contains another sixteen songs of old material re-recorded by the band, which plays for almost seventy minutes. Opening with the bombastic instrumental “Back To The Future Theme”, which changes in “The Magic Breeze (2008)”, another QUEEN-type of song with lots of harmony vocals and keyboard riddles. “What In The World Am I Waiting For” is a good mix of MIKA and THE SPARKS (who remembers Ron and Russel Mael from the seventies?!??? Please raise your hands..). A steady disco beat, high vocals and a dancable rhythm. “Over And Over (2008)” needs no introduction, I guess. Followed by “No Turning Back (2008)”, containing a great speed twist, where the band plays some serious speed metal for a short while, including some fast double bass drumbeats. “Dear Dad” is a very emotional ballad and that’s all I’d like to say about it. “She” is a sweet song, while “Just A Dream (Someone Sold The World)” contains more QUEEN influences, showing the modest side by this wonderful band. “I Believe In Music” could be a JON OLIVA’S PAIN song, but later on it develops into a lighter style than we know from ‘The Mountain King’. It sure has some exciting twists. “The Cold And Lonely Lie” and “Visionairy Victim”are not really special and quite easy on the ear. Same goes for “The Way To Get Home”, followed by “Believing Is Seeing”. It shows, that the older songs lack a bit of power here and there. You would expect some loud guitars in a song like “Rock Me Like A Hurricane”, but it starts with disco beats and sounds very electronic. “I Believe In You (2008)” is on next and contains more power and the well-known VALENTINE twist in the speed and mood changes. The second CD closes with “Rise And Shine (The Victory Anthem)”, a short instrumental. My conclusion would be, that I really liked the songs of the ‘future’ a lot and the songs of the ‘past’ are a bit modest every now and then. Cd 1 receives nine points, while CD 2 receives (only) seven points. You know what the average score will be like, I guess. By the way: the European version of “Androgenius” contains two bonus tracks, namely “S.O.S.”(ABBA cover; sung by Lilo) and “I Can’t Get Over You”. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WHERE ANGELS FALL-Marionettes (independent)
WHERE ANGELS FALL is a leave on the Norwegian gothic metal tree. What I liked the most about this album is the great voice by singer Eirin Bendigtsen, who creates a very sweet, sensual atmosphere at times. Just listen to the beautiful “Invisible” and you’ll know what I mean. The album opens with title track “Marionettes (Again)”, which creates a perfect gothic metal atmosphere. Sometimes you’ll hear loud guitar riffs, while at other times the keyboards are more upfront in the mix. But to be honest with you, a song like “Kyrie”is not really my cup of tea. On the other hand, “Invisisble” sounds far above average. The band is still young and has a long future ahead of them. This album will definitely pave the way and these nine tracks are quite easy on the ear and have a lot of melody. Something that other bands lack most of the time. For me, the highlight on this album is the doomy and bit dark “Path Of Sorrow”, which shows a totally different side of the band. This is what I’d like to hear from them. And I also really liked CD closer “Female Stigma” a lot with its fast double bass drum beats. People, who are into the ‘easy on the ear’ gothic metal, should have a listen to this Norwegian band, that consists of Eiron on vocals, André Bendigtsen on guitars and synths, Espen Lohne on bass and Jarle Byberg on drums. For more info on the band you just go to http://www.whereangelsfall.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BUGGIRL-Blood, Sweat & Beers (EP) (Impendance)
BUGGIRL is calling again. After their previous album it’s time for a five track EP. The first notes sound very AC/DC and it’s easy to sing along to. Catchy, yet enough heavy guitars to make it highly enjoyable. No wonder, the star of this Australian band is rising very fast. They play highly enjoyable music and they actually rock like hell. “Motor City Lover” is on next, including the high screams by Amber Spence, while Clinno beats the hell out of his drumkit. It’s still unbelievable, how two people can make such ‘heavenly’ noise?! “V8 Motor” proceeds in the fourth gear, in which the band sings about their appreciation for motors. As long as it makes life faster and louder, it’s fine by BUGGIRL. Just listen to the furious “Fire Highway”, where many tires have melted in the meantime. In this song it’s time to crank out some cool riffs and licks for Amber, which she does with much pleasure, because this lady was made to rock and scream. The CD closes with “Bad Blood”, which takes back a little speed, but gains more power with its bluesy, LED ZEPPELIN-like rhythm. Maybe this is the absolute highlight for me, because of its overwhelming impression and power. And to my surprise, at the end of the song, the speed goes up one more time. Wow, this is really a killer song! Whatever may be your personal fave, BUGGIRL has got a sunny, bright future in front of them. And we’re glad to announce, that they’ve received the highest score possible with this twenty minutes EP. When you’re ready for some blood, sweat and beers, just listen to these five songs. [10 points - FULL score] (Toine van Poorten)<

CRYSALIS-White Lotus On Acheron’s Shore (EP) (SG Promotions)
This quintet hails from Italy and presents their five track EP here. The five songs play for twenty minutes and the band opens with an opera-like theme, called “The Morning Star”. Am I dealing here with yet another gothic metal band?!? But when I hear the first powerful chords of “Angels Never Fall”, I’m very much aware of the power by CRYSALIS. The opera voice of Chiara ‘Dusk’ Malvestiti is very much upfront, but also her ‘regular’ voice sounds quite impressive. It’s their powerful music, that surprised me the most though. This is certainly not the average sound, that you’ll be hearing so many times. I think these Italians have definitely created a face of its own here. The EP continues with “Lilum”. And while “Angels Never Fall” was such a big surprise to me, that has completely faded away with this song. Although I must admit, that I was totally blown away by the fast drums here. In “Hellstorm” I really enjoyed the powerful opera voice of Chiara, who really blew me away. The last song is very impressive indeed. In “My Delirium”, Chiara battles with Jacob Bredhal (HATESPHERE), which really turns out to sound very interesting. CRYSALIS is definitely a band to watch closely in the near future, because they can come up with some fresh musical ideas, that I haven’t witnessed that much before, which were very well done. CRYSALIS consists of Chiara ‘Dusk’ Malvestiti on vocals, Giampolo ‘Diurno’ Squadroni on guitar, Maria ‘Voivoda’ Brillarelli on guitar, Matteo ‘Dwarf’ D’Ottavio on bass and Alessandro ‘Doomtrain’ Camela on drums. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE GATHERING-City From Above (EP) (Psychonaut Records)
THE GATHERING is still going strong, even when their biggest eye-catcher Anneke van Giersbergen has left the band. Fans have faith in the sound of the band and in new singer Silje Wergeland (ex-OCTAVIA SPERATI), they’ve found a suitable replacement for Anneke. This EP contains five tracks and is worthy of about thirty minutes of GATHERING sound and music. “Treasure” already proves, that the band didn’t change their style that much. The vocal sound is almost the same as with Anneke and the music remained atmospheric and quite exciting. Same goes for “All You Are”. Both songs are added to this EP in the so-called ‘radio edit’. “Miniature” is something special. It’s a bit more experimental in the beginning and develops itself into a nice duet. For all the Spanish fans of the band, we proceed with an alternate Spanish version of “Pale Traces”. The piece the resistance is a twelve minute long instrumental. It’s the title track and very open-minded people will really dig this super doomy, fuzzy, organ mass of sounds. It actually sounds like a doomy, black mass on organ. No vocals, just plain organ sounds, like you’re slowly entering the dark underworld. To me, it was not only a surprise, but more of an encouragement for the band to make more experimental ‘modern dance projects’’like this, as they like to call it. A nice introduction to the story of THE GATHERING, because this pretty much sums up how the band sounds at the end of 2009. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILSE DELANGE-Puzzle Me (CD single) (Universal Music)
This CD single is so much more than the CD singles, that you will regularly see. A two song disc in a sloppy cardboard sleeve, is what you mostly get in hands for your hard-earned money. This CD single comes in a double gatefold sleeve with three inserted discs. The song “Puzzle Me” is the ‘eye-catcher’ on each CD, but with each CD, that you will have to buy separately, you will get different bonus tracks. The first CD contains the single track, followed by a live version from Illse’s recent live CD, recorded in Ahoy, Rotterdam. NL. The video part consists of ‘behind the scenes’ footage of her Los Angeles visit. The audio part is worthy of about seven and a half minutes. The second CD also contains seven and a half minutes of music and consists of the single, including “Watch Me Go” and the video for “Miracle”. Last but not least is CD three with the single and an acoustic version of “So Incredible” and the video for “So Incredible”. The audio part here plays about seven minutes. Value for your money and a nice collector’s item. A good marketing move by this beautiful, symphatic Dutch singer. Website: http://www.ilsedelange.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEAVES EYES-My Destiny (CD single) (Napalm Records)
“Njord” was already rewarded as being a killer album. The single, taken from this album is also definitely worth checking out. It doesn’t only contain the new single candidate “My Destiny”, which you will find as a ‘remix version’ here, but you’re also able to enjoy two non-album tracks and an acoustic non-album version of the SIMON & GARFUNKEL cover “Scarborough Fair”. “The Battle Of Maldon” is the first non-album track and it’s another good combination of the sweet voice of Liv Kristine and the more brutal voice of Alexander Krull. I must admit, that I liked the album version better than this acoustic sweetheart, but Liv Kristine’s vocals are beautiful, that’s for sure. “Northbound” is an uptempo album track, followed by another non-album track, called “Nine Wave Maidens”. And this song wouldn’t sound too bad on “Njord” either. It has a very atmospheric background, but it’s really well worth checking out. The remix of “My Destiny” closes this six track, twenty-four minute EP, which is a welcome addition to the material, that you’ll find on the album. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE NAME-Enchained (download only) (independent)
THE NAME is one of the most promising bands of the Dutch scene to me. These four new songs are a real treat to my ears. Fast guitar riffs fill my room in the beginning of title track “Enchained”. The song has got two faces. Loud riffs and brutal male vocals are mixed in a pop/rock background. The guitarsolo is breathtaking and the polka rhythms thereafter, are heavy as well. Hadassa’s voice sounds sweet and crystal clear and the brutal male vocals marks a nice contrast here. “One” starts off a bit groovy, but it will certainly appeal to both a metal and a rock audience. “Mirror” sounds a bit more alternative. The drums are beating heavy and the guitars riffs are loud though. CD closer “No Retractation” takes back some power and speed. Here we can hear the beautiful voice by Hadassa upfront in the mix and a more laid back sound of the band backing her up. It’s good to hear, that THE NAME is still able to write some good songs. They don’t sound like all the other gothic based bands out there. Just like AUTUMN, they know to give their songs a twist of its own, which makes them outstanding from most other bands. These four songs will not be released as an EP or a single, but they will be used as a free download from the band’s website. So go to http://www.thename.nl and make sure, that you have a good listen to these four new songs. Do yourself a favour for once in your life! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SPINNERETTE-Ghetto Love (CD single) (Hassle Records)
SPINNERETTE features Brody Dalle of THE DISTILLERS on vocals, Tony Bevilacqua of THE DISTILLERS on bass, Alain Johannes of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE on guitars and Jack Irons of RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and PEARL JAM on drums. The four songs on this EP contain two tracks, that did not make it on their self-titled debut album. The sound of SPINNERETTE is a mix of THE DISTILLERS (go figure…), JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS and HOLE. Opener “Ghetto Love” comes from the album and is a JOAN JETT-type of song, but with COURTNEY LOVE-like vocals. “Valium Knights” is not on the album and it sounds very powerful. Next, they fire the alternative, psychedelic sounding “Distorting A Code” at you. It sounds strange yet cool at the same time. Here they show, that the band is not keen on playing simple songs, that go pretty much straight forward, alone. They also dare to go deeper and play the unexpected. “Bury My Heart” is also not on the album and sounds a bit like HOLE again. This is only a pretaster of the full-length album, but I can tell, that this band has got a very promising future ahead of them. SPINNERETTE has played the prestigious Dutch festival Lowlands, so a large crowd has been able to witness this new female-fronted rock band already. Website: http://www.spinnerettemusic.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: January 08, 2010]

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