CD REVIEWS


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


Winter 2006:

AIKOSTAR-Aikostar (independent)
AIKOSTAR consists of Alex Kirzhner on guitars, Clifton Hyde on bass and Chapman Stick, Kevin Garcia on drums and Veronica Faye on vocals. The band hails from New York City and they surprised me very much with their powerful sound on this self-titled debut album. Not only we are dealing with a multinational band here, we’re also dealing with a band, that doesn’t like to tie themselves to one particular sound. Their music covers a wide range of styles, that can easily be put under the monnicker of rock, I think. An easy compromise for music, that is not that easy at all for many reasons. You tell me, what you hear. I tell you, that it comes straight from their hearts. Listen to the emotional vocals of Veronica in “Sfunato” for example. I can just feel what she sings about. There’s so much power and emotion in this song. Same goes for the music. Sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s powerful, while at other times it’s even experimetal and maybe a little bit weird. As far as influences go, I could mention Dutch diva ANOUK here, but the band wouldn’t know about this Dutch superstar, I think. The music of AIKOSTAR is a bit less focussed on reaching a position in the charts though, I guess. Besides ANOUK, I hear back THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS, TOOL, A PERFECT CIRCLE and maybe even OTEP, although they may be a little bit heavier. When I listen to “The Guardian” though, the adrenaline starts rushing through my vains. It’s definitely one of the highlights on this forty-five minutes disc, which contains eleven songs. And it forms a perfect combination with “Over…”. Somewhere in the middle of the CD, I get the idea that this was more than just music. I came to the description “Emotions on music”, and that’s what AIKOSTAR is all about. However, I don’t believe that this band will attract a big audience. Their music is far too complicated for that. But they are the typical band, that may reach a large quantity of cult followers over the years, if they will continue making this kind of beautiful music, like on this debut album. Website: http://www.aikostarmusic.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANGTORIA-God Has A Plan For Us All (Listenable Records)
Honestly, I’d expected a much rawer sound, when I put this CD into my stereo set. Sarah Jezebell Diva is the frontlady of ANGTORIA, and the twelve songs on this album show some resemblance to the bombastic sound of NIGHTWISH. Still, it sounds less metallic than NIGHTWISH. Sarah’s voice has a smaller reach than Tarja’s, and she sounds much darker. Nonetheless, Sarah is indeed a real pleasure to listen to, although you might be expecting a different sound from someone, who used to do the vocal parts for CRADLE OF FILTH. “Deity Of Disgust” has become one of the highlights on this album for me, mainly because of the great keyboard parts. “Confide In Me” opens with the sound of JUDAS PRIEST’s “The Hellion”, played by an orchestra. You will recognise it immediately. While “That’s What The Wise Lady Said” sounds a bit more mellow. My decision on a score for this album is really difficult indeed. The music is great, there’s no discussion about that. But you wouldn’t expect this sound from Sarah’s band maybe. Website: http://www.angtoria.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARS NOVA-Force For The Fourth - Crysalis (Musea)
The Japanese prog rock band ARS NOVA has a guitarplayer in their ranks nowadays. They added a fourth (male) member to their line up in December 2003 and re-recorded some old songs, which are released on this album. The six songs have a total playing time of about forty-five minutes and obviously ARS NOVA likes to write lengthy songs. Their main influences come from EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER, but with the addition of the guitar player, we can also add some newer progressive rock bands to that, like PLANET X, DREAM THEATER and AYREON. Main lady behind the band is still the very talented Keiko Kumagai, who is the composer of ARS NOVA and a real keyboard wizard. Shinko Shibata plays bass on this album and Masuhiro Goto plays drums. He recently left the band though and is being replaced by Hazime. The new guitar player is called Satoshi Handa. Although I never really missed the input of a guitarplayer in ARS NOVA, I think their sound has become slightly heavier than before. But I never had the idea, that ARS NOVA missed the heaviness in their sound. The instrumental, progressive songs still sound perfect, and ARS NOVA belongs to the big names in the present prog rock scene for me. You can say, that the addition of a guitar player only gave an extra dimension to the sound of the band. It didn’t change the quality, for which I know the band so well. Great stuff! Official website: http://arsnova.chocot.net. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACKMORE’S NIGHT-Winter Carols (AFM Records/Rock Inc.)
It’s that time of year. A lot of metal and rock bands are releasing a Christmas album before the end of the year. TWISTED SISTER have released one, and right now I am listening to the Christmas album by BLACKMORES NIGHT. The music of this band is very suitable for a Christmas album, in my opinion. Christmas Eve is a song, that you can even play to your in-laws, without being dropped from their last will. The album sounds very modest, yet it still has got that warm sound of Ritchies guitar playing. The regular album however starts with the Christmas classic “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” / “Come All Ye Faithful”. Just imagine, travelling back to the middle ages, where stress was not an issue at all. The winter landscape is filled with snow and singing children on the streets. This view, in combination with the songs on this album, will give you the idea that this Christmas must be even more peaceful than all the previous Christmas celebrations. If youd like to hear Ritchie tear up his white Fender guitar, you must leave this “Winter Carols” album for what it is. However, if you want to enjoy the warm sound of Candice Nights voice, in combination with the subtle musical outings of the musicians on their medieval instruments, then youve got the right album in your hands. The twelve songs are recorded as one big Christmas medley, which will definitely please many people during these dark winter days. Possibly, I might give it a spin or two as well, but in the evening I’ll surely play my old DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW videos, just for old time sake. We wish you a Merry Christmas with this release! [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CATHOLIC GIRLS-Meet The Catholic Girls (Cinema Records)
The CATHOLIC GIRLS consist of Gail Petersen on vocals, rhythm guitar and keyboards, Roxy Andersen on lead guitar and background vocals and Doreen Holmes on drums. Steve Berger (who may be a catholic, but who is not a girl) plays the bass. This is the second album by these three rocking ladies. The first one I gave the benefit of the doubt, because I liked what those three ladies did. Their second album contains fifteen songs and has a total running time of about fifty minutes. And I must say, that they’ve become much better since their previous album. Their musis is a lot more diverse, and above all it’s a lot more rocking (and a little less catholic, maybe). “Rock’n America” is a tribute to Joey Ramone, and a damn good one. “Desperate” rocks almost as hard, and “Nightshift” (The Jersey Song) sounds like a tribute to CHUCK BERRY. In general, the album can be categorised as a mix of garage, punk, rock and roll and a ballad or two. Fans of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, BLONDIE and THE PRETENDERS will definately have a good time listening to this one. “Fatal” for example, could very well be a PRETENDERS song. It has got the same drive as “Brass In Pocket”. It’s no big surprise, that the CATHOLIC GIRLS are hot in America. They have a good attitude, nice looks, they rock and your parents won’t hate them, even after you’ve played their record a thousand times a day. I believe, that this band made one major step forward in their musical career. Perhaps they still don’t sound heavy enough to be called heavy metal, but I’d like to confess that I liked this record a lot. Which might not bring me to heaven maybe, but it’s a good start anyway. Website: http://www.catholicgirls.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRESCENT SHIELD-The Last Of My Kind (Cruz Del Sur Music)
CRESCENT SHIELD already exists for a while. They founded in 2000. Back then, the band was still not much more than a project. But when ONWARD decided to split up in 2003, the project became a band. CRESCENT SHIELD consists of Dan DeLucie (ex-DESTINY’S END) on guitars and backing vocals, Michael Grant (ex- ONWARD ) on vocals, Craig Anderson (ex-IGNITE, ex-ENGINE) on drums and bass ‘beast’ Melanie Sisneros (ex-NEW EDEN, THE IRON MAIDENS, SINERGY) completes the line up of this pure true metal outfit. Fans of NEW EDEN, DESTINY’S END and ONWARD don’t have to hesitate. They can dig in without any doubts. Other influences I hear are from HELSTAR, JAG PANZER, MANILLA ROAD, early MAIDEN and early PRIEST, and the Australian metal band PEGAZUS maybe. “The Last Of My Kind” is an ode to true metal, containing eleven songs and it lasts about fifty minutes. When the epic metal songs fill my room, I slowly start to raise my fists in the air. CRESCENT SHIELD has released one helluva album, which will surely get the adrenaline running through your vains. No wonder with such veterans in their line up, although this doesn’t say anything about the direction of the band sometimes. Covered in beautiful artwork, this CD is a real ‘must have’ for all true metal warriors out there. Let the CRESCENT SHIELD guide you through the battlefield of real life. I am sure, you won’t be able to find a better protection, because it’s made of some of the purest metal around. Full score for this mighty fine product. Website: http://www.crescentshield.com. [10 points - FULL score] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSTAL TEARS-Choirs Of Immortal (Pure Steel Records)
Raise your fist in the air, because CRYSTAL TEARS is gonna rock the shit out of you with “Choirs Of Immortal”. The band from Thessaloniki, Greece opens this ten track CD with a short instrumental song, called “Alpha And Omega”, followed by a flashing start with “Sworn To Avenge”. Iron frontlady Natasa Pandreia sounds like a wild mix of DORO and Leather Leone (CHASTAIN/MALIBU BARBI) and a female version of Dee Snider (TWISTED SISTER). The music of CRYSTAL TEARS is (speed) metal in its purest form. Just listen to “Nightmare Terror”, in which they put the pedal to the metal. “Rock Survivors” could grow out to a true metal anthem in the local rock clubs, because it’s really easy to shout along to this song. Think about the better ACCEPT songs in this context. Besides Natasa, the band consists of Chrisafis Tantanozis on drums, Dimitris Goutziamanis on guitars and Stratos Dionisopoulos on bass. It’s a shame, that the CD only lasts for about thirty-five minutes. The great metal songs on this album make up for this short playing time though, because the album is comletely filled with winners and no fillers. CRYSTAL TEARS already supported JAG PANZER and recently RIOT, when they invaded Hellas, and hopefully they will show up on one of the many metal festival this summer. So heavy metal warriors raise your swords to welcome the new defenders of the faith from Greece; CRYSTAL TEARS, who present us their “Choirs Of Immortal”. A must for the real diehard metalheads out there! [10 points - FULL score] (Toine van Poorten)

DARK ARENA-Alien Factor (independent)
The first samples, that I heard of this American metal band are quite promising and there’s no doubt on my mind, that I am dealing with something special here. They create some kind of mix between the progressive sound of DREAM THEATER and FATES WARNING, combined with US metal like vocals. There are many progressive instrumental parts, that will capture your attention, and this is definitely not suitable for people with weak nerves. The lengthy songs leave enough space for the instrumental outings by this fivesome. Sometimes, they take you back to their early roots with influences from DEEP PURPLE (F.e. “Somewhere”). This song is definitely one of the highlights on this nine track CD. But also the high screams in CD closer “Crystallized” are well worth listening to. On the other hand, I also hear some distorted vocals in the same song, which don’t really belong to this type of music, in my opinion. Maybe that’s what makes DARK ARENA different from the other bands in this genre. Anyway, the band is searching for a new keyboard player right now, because their former keyboard player recently left the band. “Alien Factor” is perhaps not really what I expected after hearing a few samples, nevertheless they still know to impress me with their adventurous sound. This is only interesting for the real connoisseurs though, who are not afraid of the progressive sound this band embraces, in combination with their US metal-like influences. Check out http://www.darkarena.cc for the latest news on this band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DELAIN-Lucidity (Roadrunner Records)
We have a new supergroup in Holland, if I may believe all their information. The band is called DELAIN and was formed by keyboardplayer Martijn Westerholt, who formerly played with WITHIN TEMPTATION. After a dark period in his life, in which he suffered from a disease and was forced to leave WITHIN TEMPTATION, he fought his way back to the top. And if you have a good look at the impressive list of guest players on this album, everybody is willing to become as successful as with his previous band. The band name comes from the Stephen King book “The Eyes Of The Dragon”. Like any good gothic metal band in this scene, Martijn needed some strong female vocals. For that, he found the beautiful voice of Charlotte Wessels of TO ELYSIUM. But you can also hear the voices of Liv Kristine and Sharon den Adel here. And Marko Hietala (TAROT and NIGHTWISH) and George Oosthoek (ORPHANAGE) guested on “Lucidity” as well. The monicker gothic metal is a shortcut for a style, dominated by bombast and heavy riffs, and angel-like female vocals. Fans of the old GATHERING stuff, EPICA and NIGHTWISH might want to check this out. One of their songs is actually called “The Gathering”. Talk about coincidence here. Anyway, DELAIN has delivered a very fine debut album, which can easily match with the generals in this scene. Just one step and they can add themselves to the huge list of successful Dutch gothic metal bands. The CD contains eleven tracks and fifty minutes of high quality music. Impressive yes, but innovative and original……judge for yourself. Don’t forget to check out the bonus track, which is the grunt version of “Frozen”. Website: http://www.delain.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DOL AMMAD-Ocean Dynamics (Electronic Artmetal Records)
Fancy some interesting stuff? Maybe you’d like to check out the second album of electronic artmetal band DOL AMMAD. The band mixes metal with electronic soundscapes and add a fourteen member classical choir to this, to create an ultra bombastic sound. The ten songs on this album have a playing time of a full hour. And I think you will be impressed after hearing this. Their music is not suitable to relax to, because most of the compositions are quite heavy. Due to the full orchestration and the vocal choir, there’s a lot of music around all the time. It may be the ultimate mix between metal and classical music. It’s powerful and innovative and it’s definitely not done before this way. Two well-known names added their talents on this album. You hear DC Cooper (SILENT FORCE, ROYAL HUNT) on vocals during “Aquatic Majesty”, and on drums you hear the impressive drum magician Alex Holzwarth (RHAPSODY, SIEGES EVEN), who sounds like a Neil Peart (RUSH) sometimes. The rest of the band consists of Dim on guitar, Nick Terry on bass, Thanasis Lightbridge on synths. Fans of RHAPSODY will very much dig this, but you may also like it, when you’re into NIGHTWISH, EPICA or even DEEP PURPLE (the instrumental parts). I think, even triphop and house fans may find this music interesting and exciting enough. There's a lot of everything for everyone here, although you have to be broadminded. Let that be a warning for you. A nice, surprising release. Website: http://www.dolammad.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DRACONIAN-The Burning Halo (Napalm Records)
DRACONIAN hails from Sweden and their music could be categorised as gothic, doom metal. The band already exists from 1994 on, and they stay true to their roots, which are dark and doomy.“The Burning Halo” opens very spherefully with the slow, almost sludgy sound of “She Dies”. The trick of using brutal growls next to beautiful female vocals may not be new anymore. But if it is done right, like in this song, it may sound like magic. Same goes for “Through Infectious Waters (A Sickness Elegy)”. The songs are much longer than average (eight tracks filling fifty-five minutes), and it matches very well with the slow sound of the band. You just need more time to put all your ideas in the songs, when everything goes much slower than usual. Perhaps you should compare the sound of DRACONIAN to a funeral march, in which people are mourning for their dearly beloved, while marching towards their final resting place. I’d like to make this comparison after reading songtitles such as “She Dies” and “The Dying”. The speed goes down somewhere halfway “The Dying”, but the magic remains. DRACONIAN consists of Lisa Johansson on vocals, Anders Jacobsson on vocals, Johan Ericson on guitar, Daniel Arvidsson on guitar, Thomas Jäger on bass and Jerry Tortensson on drums. In contrary to what the title suggests, “Serenade Of Sorrow”, is a lot easier on the ears than the first three songs, and the tempo goes up a little, too. Most of the songs however are in this funeral march tempo. Exception is the CATHEDRAL-like CD closer “Forever My Queen”, which is a short fast doom explosion, announcing the end of this masterpiece. DRACONIAN are definitely one of the better gothic, doom metal bands in this scene. Maybe they could use the female vocals a bit more in the near future, but they really gave me the feeling that the sun will never shine again. And if you can do that, you’ve done an outrageous job. Website: http://www.draconian.se. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DREAMS OF DAMNATION-Epic Tales Of Vengeance (Say It In Blood Records)
Before you turn up the volume of this CD to the max, I’d like to introduce you to DREAMS OF DAMNATION. It’s the band, that is formed around former DARK ANGEL guitarist Jim Durkin. In the introduction, you might think that he went into a complete turnover, but when “Kill For Peace” starts off, you’ll know that even the old DARK ANGEL fans will dig this CD. Next to Jim, we will find Rick Alsup on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Matt Arner on bass and Matt Hulderman on drums. The vocal parts on this seven track thrash metal attack are done by Loana dP Valencia, who could be compared with Sabina Classen (HOLY MOSES) or Angela Gossow (ARCH ENEMY). She sounds mean, brutal and growls like a madman, and presses the maniacal screams out of the bottom of her lungs. Can you imagine, that she actually only came to ask Jim for an autograph on her DARK ANGEL vinyl record? Now she is the singer in his new band. People, who like the old sound of bands like EXODUS, TESTAMENT and SLAYER will be delighted to hear the thirty minutes of brutal thrash riffs and innovative, instrumental escapades. The only minus here is the short time of this CD. But “Reign In Blood” also lasted for thirty minutes, and it became the ultimate thrash classic. Besides, it’s much better to listen to thirty minutes of intense devotion, than an half an hour of fillers. Website: http://www.dreamsofdamnation.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EVANESCENCE-The Open Door (Warner Music)
Things didn’t go too well for EVANESCENCE this past year. They went from unknown to superstars in no time, and at the height of their success the band went downwards pretty fast too. Terry Balsamo had to replace Ben Moody, who suddenly disappeared. Once in the band he suffered from a stroke, and the band went on hold for a long period, so Terry could recover again. And when he did recover, Will Boyd decided to leave the band. He got replaced by Tim McCord. Amy Lee just waited to make the next move. She didn’t want to rush things, which was good thinking in my opinion. She now has a solid band together again, ready to play live at festivals and arenas to promote the new album “Open Door”. There are not too many changes in the sound of the band. They might sound a bit more heavy, but Amy’s voice is still the key to success. First single “Call Me When You’re Sober” is already a big hit, like nothing ever happened, which will be a big relief for the many fans of the band. You might call this a safe step to get back on their old feet again. The band can start building up their career from here now. Perhaps they might want to sound different on their next album, after gaining the attention of the big audience again. Judging by the fourteen songs on this album (including bonus track “The Last Song I’m Wasting On You”), this will happen quite easily. The door to more success is definitely open for Amy and EVANESCENCE. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FLAMING FIRE-When The High Bell Rings (Holy Bird Records)
This music ain’t easy to describe at all. Sometimes the life of a reviewer is not very easy. Especially when you’re not really familiar with the music style that a band likes to play. So let me first introduce this band from New York to you. They consist of Patrick Hambrecht on vocals, Lauren Weinstein on vocals, Kate Hambrecht on vocals, John Matthias on bass and keyboards, Jonathan ‘Johnny A’ Ackerman on guitar and banjo, Leon and Brian Dewan on dewanatron, percussion and organ and Sarah Blust on drums. Listening to these twelve songs with a total playing time of about fifty-five minutes must be hell for the average metal fans out there. Some will not even come to song three, and use this disc as unindentified flying object. And even if you’re really open-minded, like me, it is a pretty serious task to stay focussed. You can guess already, that this is not going to receive a very high rating. Maybe if I smoke a joint or two, or eat a few pounds of mushrooms, I could float myself a way into the magic atmosphere, in which this band is operating. When Syd Barrett (God rest his soul) would join DEVO and use a few female singers, they could possibly create the maniacal, weird, bizare sounds that you hear on this CD. Even when FRANK ZAPPA had a bad day, he created music that was far better than the stuff that I hear here. I think of him as a weird genius, who created some very bizar stuff too, but there was always a certain amount of class in his music, and you could hear that the man was a genius in a certain way. I hear back a very few rock elements, like in “10 Days”, but it’s all much too far away from the ‘normal’ metal sound, that we usually like to review. Apparently, the band creates a real fantastic live show, but the psychedelic mushroom sounds, that fill my room, are not even coming close to what I can comprehend. I’m sorry, but no thank you. Even the JON ANDERSON cover “Astral Traveler” sounds so far away from the original version, that I want to leave this for what it is. Minimalistic music, suitable for avant garde nerds and psychedelic freak,s who live with their head in a pink cloud. Website: http://www.flamingfire.com. [no score] (Toine van Poorten)

FLYLEAF-Flyleaf (Octone Music USA)
FLYLEAF will be closed in the hearts of many of today’s music fans, I guess. Their rebellious sound ranges from the well-known new female rock singers like AVRIL LAVIGNE and KELLY CLARKSON to a more experimental sounding EVANESCENCE meeting POD. The voice of Lacey Mosley is powerful, and she finally receives the recognition, that she has fought for, for so many years. Her youth was rough, but she managed to give it all a very positive twist, because Lacey is a fighter and a real struggler. The sound and the lyrics of FLYLEAF are a reflection of her youth. The songs are very easy on the ear though, and sometimes they even sound catchy. And with the brutal growls of Lacey in songs like “Sorrow” or “I’m So Sorry”, they will also attract some (heavy) metal fans out there. In combination with the positive vibrations that this band reflects, they will possibly be closed in the hearts of many young followers soon. Besides Lacey, the band consists of Sameer Bhattacharya on guitars, Jared Hartmann on guitar, Pat Seals on drums and James Culpepper on drums. The twelve songs on this album have a running time of about forty-five minutes. A flyleaf is mostly in the beginning of a book. And this book might become a real bestseller in my opinion. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GRETCHEN-In The Mean Time (MD Records)
GRETCHEN hails from America, and like FLYLEAF, they are also a band who have a positive message in their lyrics. Also the sound of the two bands are quite alike. Meaning that there are no huge differences to be found. Alternative gothic rock may be a correct description here. Think about EVANESCENCE, and the singer/songwriters mentioned in the FLYLEAF review again (KELLY CLARKSON and AVRIL AVIGNE). Catchy songs with an alternative instrumental sound and a good singer. No doubt there is enough room for bands like this in the music scene of today. The singer is called Mia Richards, and she also plays the bass. She is accompanied by Dave Richards on guitar and Brandon Hensley on drums. The sound of GRETCHEN is a bit less alternative maybe, and the raw edges are better polished, to make it a little bit more suitable for radio airplay. These songs are simply made to be played in the charts. And it would be a good thing to have a positive flow there, too. In my opinion, GRETCHEN would make a good change to end up next to the rap and hiphop no-hopers scene soon. Hopefully, they can give a positive twist to that world, and put some rock back in the charts again. I also found out, that GRETCHEN already shared the stage with FLYLEAF, so in a way my comparison with this band made sense. A band with a positive perspective for the future and in the meantime you can have another listen to “In The Mean Time”. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE-The Locust Years (Cruz Del Sur Music)
I really liked all the previous albums of HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, so I was very excited when they announced a new album, called “The Locust Years”. It contains eight, sometimes very lengthy songs, with a total playing time of exactly forty-five minutes. After the release of this album, there have been some line up changes. More about that later on. Let’s first start to tell you a bit more about the innovative sound of this band. The songs on “The Locust Years” are filled with exciting melodies and innovative parts. Every time when you think you’ve heard it all, the band shows up with a twist, that nobody could expect. Opener and title track “The Locust Years” is a good example here. It’s a bit doomy, but not in the well known CANDLEMASS way. It’s more done in a stoner-like, seventies way, including choir vocals and a definate seventies atmosphere with lengthy instrumental parts. Just listen to the exciting drum part in “War Anthem”. This could very well have been recorded by jam bands like GOV’T MULE or THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, while the choir parts are different and do not suit to that comparison. “Election Day” wouldn’t sound strange on any album by EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER, FOCUS or EKSEPTION, which proves their love for progressive soundscapes as well. The diversity is huge and almost every metalfreak can find something to enjoy on this album. The front cover is absolutely perfect, too. It shows a griffin with an all-seeing eye around his neck, as a sort of necklace, strangled in some kind of web with dancing horses and ruby red roses. While the backcover is a very decadent picture of the band, ready for a christmas party or so. The last song on the album, “Widow’s Wall” is very beautiful again and a good example of what this album is all about, musically. It starts off very melancholic, but slowly builds up to a climax. Now back to the line up of the band. On the album, it existed of original drummer Chewy, who is back behind his drumkit. Jamie Myers is the female vocalist, who also plays bass, Mike Scalzi plays guitar and sings, Sigrid Scheie plays organ, keyboards and electric piano and John Cobbett plays guitars. Very recently Patrick Goodwin joined the ranks as their singer, and the female lead vocals are now done by Jesse Quattro. The new bass player, who completes the line up is called Ron Nichols. If you look for something different and exciting, try “The Locust Years”. I bet you will be thrilled! Website: http://www.hammersofmisfortune.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HIGH TREASON-Radio Will Find Me (High Roller Records)
This album contains ten songs, and quick deciders will get a bonus seven inch for free with two songs. HIGH TREASON is another band from the NWOBHM scene. Another unwritten page in metal history, which gets slowly introduced to a bigger audience by means of this release. The band started its career in the late seventies, and recently got back together again, and completed the line up with two new members. They now consist of Barry Fearon on vocals, Malcolm Scott on guitar, Mark Taylor on guitar, Larry Barbato on bass, Gary Scarbrow on drums and Sallyanne Eckett on vocals. Some of the songs here are quite radio friendly, like the title track “Radio Will Find Me”. The guitarwork is too mean though to get this stuff played on the national radio. The song represents a good mix of old fashioned NWOBHM, mixed some new influences. The melodic vocal input of Sallyanne gives you the right to think that this is suitable for radio airplay. Although the power of the musicians will protect the band from profiling themselves too commercial. Songs like “Boogie Man” and “Streets Tonight” sound a bit more metal, in that respect. For me, the most interesting songs were on the bonus 7”. They include the songs “Saturday Night Special” and “The Siren Song”, which both have that catchy feeling and contain touches of THIN LIZZY and MAGNUM old style. This LP really shows what HIGH TREASON stands for nowadays and it gives you a naughty wink to their NWOBHM past as well. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DIE HUNNS-You Rot Me (I Used To Fuck People Like You In Prison Records)
The second release of DIE HUNNS is again filled with ten no nonsense rock and roll songs. Be ready to be blown away for about forty minutes with the in-your-face punkrock sound of this band around Duane Peters and Corey Parks (ex-NASHVILLE PUSSY). Corey also sings on the album, besides playing bass. For example, you can hear her in “Don’t Want You To Hear It”. I think, there are more sixties and early seventies influences to be heard on this album, and a bit less punk, which is a bit of shame. The song by Corey is a good example here . If you like the in-your-face sound of THE STOOGES, you will dig the complete crazyness on this one, too. “Rock ‘N’Roll Boulevard” is one of the better songs on the album for me. One of the highlights, to put it that way. But I think the fans will soon choose their own favorites. “48th Street” is another favorite of me, because it has this NASHVILLE PUSSY-like sound. While “On My Mind” sounds more laid back, again with Corey on vocals. Perhaps some of the songs need more spins to really get them. Their previous album was more direct and pure, and the evolution of this band simply asks more time before enjoying it to the max. Besides Corey and Duane, we hear Nate Shaw on guitars, Zander Schloss on guitars and bass, and Jamie Reidling on drums. Better bite really hard in this one, before it rots in your mouth! [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JULIETTE AND THE LICKS-Four On The Floor (Hassle Records)
This new album by actress Juliette Lewis takes care of the major turnover from actress to rock beast. It sounds so much stronger than her previous album “You’re Speaking My Language”, and they sometimes sound like a total different band to me. The album opens already very strongly with “Smash And Grab” and single “First Kiss”. The sleaze, almost dirty rock is brought here with so much confidence, you almost can’t listen to it without being grabbed by the throat. “Get Up” is Juliette’s version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” of THE WHO. THE LICKS consist of Paul Ill on bass, Jason Morris on drums and Todd Morse (H2O) on guitar. Sometimes Juliette sounds like BETH HART, but I also hear the happiness and brutality of PINK in her voice. With the difference, that Juliette rocks out a lot more dirty than PINK does. The only minus about “Four On The Floor” is, that it runs for a poor thirty-five minutes. But it definitely proves, that the musical career of this wild lady got a real powerful boost. She already toured with VOICST and THE FOO FIGHTERS and invaded Lowlands, too. Latest news is, that THE LICKS will play at Pinkpop 2007. This lady sure knows how to rock, because rock is made to sound dirty and sleazy. She really speaks my language on “Four On The Floor”, so I can highly recommend it to all our readers. And I am glad, that Juliette turned from a natural born killer into a natural born rocker. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LACUNA COIL-Karmacode (Century Media)
I’ve always had my doubts about LACUNA COIL and I really don’t know why. I think, they sound too fragile for me. They invaded many metal festivals, without giving me the feeling that they actually played metal. Listening to their new album, I’m afraid it won’t change my opinion. I just don’t understand this hype around the band. There’s simply nothing special about them, that can touch my music soul. The music is beautiful, the vocals are great, and we’re dealing with a fine band here. But there’s not a single spark, that seems to hit me. Christina Scabbia sure is a great singer, and she is a real joy for my ears and eyes. Maybe it’s the same with a band like THE GATHERING. Beautiful music, good musicians, but in a way they’re too far away from the real metal thing, to enjoy their music to the max. Anyway, “Karmacode” is an album, that will easily find its way to all their devoted fans. It may possibly break all selling records, and turn this band into even bigger stars than ever before. The songs are catchy, and like I already said, the music is very easy to comprehend and not too heavy. Highlight for me was the dark, sober and doomy sound of “In Visible Light”. The other highlight may be “Enjoy The Silence”, a cover of DEPECHE MODE. Why? Because it’s a point of recognition. Do you know what I like to say? A cover of DEPECHE MODE as a point of recognition, because you hear this song on the radio, every now and then. I will give the band the benefit of all my doubts, simply because I can’t deny their music is not nice to listen to. It’s just that their karmacode does not really matches my karmacode. There is always a fine solution to deal with difficult records like this, I guess. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE LAST EMBRACE-Inside (Lonfellow Deeds)
THE LAST EMBRACE from France presents us a nice mix of sphereful gothic metal on their new album “Inside”. It sounds very atmospheric and I would like to compare it with a heavier version of LEAVES EYES, a less bombastic version of WITHIN TEMPTATION, a more gothic version of early THE GATHERING, or a less catchy version of EVANESCENCE. This to give you a good idea of what this French band is all about. Sandy’s voice is quite easy to listen to, and the musical dissipations of the band are very nice too. The metal riffs and exciting keyboard parts in “It Says” for example, sound pretty well. Sure, this may have been done before, but it all sounds very well and a lot of people, who are into the bands I mentioned earlier, will be delighted by this album, I think. The songs are easy on the ear and create a warm atmosphere, which may be very welcome in a cold winter like this. I think, the fans of melancholic, atmospheric gothic metal will stay “Inside”and give this an extra spin during the winter season. THE LAST EMBRACE consists of Sandy on vocals, Olivier on guitars, Laurent on guitars, Pierre Henri on piano and keyboards, Vik on bass and Alexis on drums. Website: http://www.thelastembrace.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MAHAVATAR-From The Sun, The Rain, The Wind, The Soil (Escapi Music)
MAHAVATAR is not only a melting pot of different cultures, it’s also the melting pot of different styles of music. Their new album contains ten songs, and has a playing time of about forty-five minutes. It’s heavy, it’s raw, it’s energetic, it’s groovy, yet somehow progressive with links and influences of a trillion other bands. Non-categorizable, unmarkable, non-descriptable, but because of the many influences it’s suitable for a lot of metal fans out there. If you already liked the CD of Lizza Hayson’s other band, MASTERLAST, than the decision to buy this CD as well, can be made pretty easily. Fans of bands like VOI VOD, CRISIS, OPETH and PANTERA can dig into this adventure, too. Don’t be afraid, the music is not difficult to comprehend. It’s pretty easy on the ear, because of the enormous variation in styles. It never gets mellow, and it never gets too aggressive or extreme, that people won’t like it. Just like MASTERLAST, it’s the ultimate kind of music for today’s generation of metal fans, in my opinion. The European fans will probably already know this album. It was released under the name of “Go With The No” over here. This album has a different title (which is pretty confusing for the European fans, by the way), and it contains two bonus tracks (“BH” and “The Prophecy”). I wonder where Lizza’s preferences are now. MASTERLAST is getting quite popular in Europe. MAHAVATAR’s album will definitely fit in many CD collections. http://www.mahavatar.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MASTERLAST-Mastery Of Self (Escapi Music/Suburban)
Sometimes an album really blows you away. This recently happened to me, when listening to this CD of MASTERLAST. Maniacal, sometimes distorted female vocals, loud drumbeats accompanied by aggressive guitars, which is captured in eleven compact metal songs. Songs, full of variation, power and diverse influences ranging from pop to industrial metal. This looks like a good sounding commercial maybe, but it simply is the truth. MASTERLAST consists of Lizza Hasan (MAHAVATAR) on oral outings (these are much more than just vocals), Val Glauser on guitars (she’s the second metal maiden in te band), C-Drike on machines, William Valentine on bass and John Macaluso on drums. John is a legendary drummer of course, who already worked with bands like TNT, SPREAD EAGLE and YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN. His innovative drumwork will make you dizzy. But the biggest eyecatcher of them all is vocalist Lizza, who sounds like OTEP crossed with Tairrie B (MY RUIN, MANHOLE), but with a more traditional backing band. “On The Line” is one of my personal faves. And in “Monkeys”, we even hear some Middle Eastern influences. Lizza originally hails from Israël, so this is a suitable explanation for this. Beware of your expensive porcelain cups, when you play “Highmax” at full power, or simply say goodbye to the heritage of your grandparents. And don’t you dare to play this bloody piece of aggression at a low volume, because this shit was made to play ultraloud!!! Official website: http://www.masterlast.net/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PAMELA MOORE-Stories From A Blue Room (Planet Sweet Records)
Pamela’s new album is called “Stories From A Blue Room”, and if you’re open for a good rock album with some additional poppy soundscapes, then this one is definitely for you. Pamela’s name will always be linked to her musical role of Sister Mary in QUEENSRYCHE’s epos “Operation Mindcrime”. And in a way, you can sometimes hear the sound of this wonderful band on the album as well. Not in the context, that she copies their sound, but some songs could have been played or written by QUEENSRYCHE. If I have a good listen to a song like “Dive Into Me”, I could easily think of a QUEENSRYCHE version of this song. But not every song gives me this same vision. For example “Forever In My Dreams” is a lot more dreamy, sensual and emotional than QUEENSRYCHE will ever get. In general, this is a solo album by this remarkable lady, who once fronted RADAR. And the album is a big step forward, if I compare it to the songs she released on “Retrospective”. A song like “Feel Your Heart” was made up quite beautifully, and is the complete opposite of a ballad like “Cross My Heart”. The album is certainly full with variation. Pamela is musically accompanied by Benjamin Anderson on programming, Jason Kowalski on drums, Brian Gordon on drums and Jeff Loomis (NEVERMORE) on guitar. In the last song “Take Me Down”, there is a majestic guest role for QUEENSRYCHE’s Michael Wilton on guitar, which closes this circle. It’s another highlight on this very fine album, in my opinion. I’ve had a real good time listening to this fantastic new album of PAMELA MOORE. A lady, who will always be known as Sister Mary, but who is in fact much more. Prove is given on “Stories From A Blue Room”. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NOVEL FEELING-Tears (independent)
NOVEL FEELING hails from Czechia and their music is very pleasant to listen to. Angelic vocals alternate with normal vocals, while speedy metal riffs sometimes take turns with a more dreamy sound. My conclusion is that this seven track mini CD is full of variation. Influences are taken from a lot of different bands without really copying a certain sound. If I’d have to name some specific bands, I’d pick names like FORGOTTEN SILENCE, LEAVES EYES or SIRENIA, but NOVEL FEELING has more power. Especially in a song, called “Drinky Dreaming Of Fallen Woman”, the band sounds quite powerful. “Tears” is a beautiful ballad, while opener “Girl For Harem” is more in the gothic style with the angel-like voice of Pavlína. “Interview With An Angel” contains some opera singing and the various changes, make it to one of the highlights on this CD for me. The soprano vocals are also to be heard in “Cantate Domino”, which is on next. This song contains some impressive speed changes as well and is definitely nominated on my list of highlights, because of this. “For Liars” is a weak song, in my opinion. The last (bonus?) track (which wasn’t mentioned on the CD, by the way) is another beautiful ballad, in which Pavlína is accompanied by a piano only. Besides vocalist Pavlína, who’s the central figure of NOVEL FEELING, as far as I’m concerned, we also hear René on guitar, George on bass guitar, Jana on keyboards, Lucie on flute and Lukáš on drums. If you insert this CD into your PC, you can even watch a studio documentary of this very promising band from Czechia. For more information about NOVEL FEELING, just go to their website at http://www.freemusic.cz/novel-feeling. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PAATOS-Silence Of Another Kind (Inside Out)
If you go on tour with progmeisters PORCUPINE TREE, then you must have a lot to offer. PAATOS is the name of the band and “Silence Of Another Kind” is the title of their third album. It contains nine songs and has a running time of about forty-five minutes. The band was formed in 2000 as an instrumental band. But soon they asked Petronella Nettermalm to become their singer. She also plays cello. If you’re open for a nice, experimental (not every band uses a saw as an instrument) and progressive sound, this might be something for you. Opener “Shame” is pretty progressive, and “Your Misery” (with the saw) could even be categorised as jazz in a way. From there on, they sound more progressive. “Is That All?” is a nice mix between old EARTH & FIRE and PORCUPINE TREE. Petronella’s voice shows some resemblance with the voice of Jerney Kaagman at times. “Procession Of Fools” is a very short, instrumental filler. “There Will Be No Miracles” is a wink to commerciality. If WITHIN TEMPTATION can make a hitsingle from a catchy song, than I would vote for this PAATOS song to get a fair chance and enter the national charts. Although this definately won’t happen with a song like “Not A Sound”, which is far away from any kind of commerciality. The CD closes with the title track “Silence Of Another Kind”. Besides Petronella, PAATOS consists of Richard Netterman on drums and saw, Peter Nylander on guitar, Stefan Dimie on bass and double bass and Johan Wallen on piano, organ and synths. This is certainly high class stuff, but I am afraid you have to be open-minded for this kind of music. Website: http://www.paatos.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PINK-I’m Not Dead (Arista)
Like somebody would expect PINK to be dead. No, this lady is very much alive, and her new album is solid evidence. PINK always walks the thin line between pop and rock music. Sometimes she sounds heavy and adventurous, but her albums also have enough room for poppy songs. Her rebellious attitude is what I like about this lady, and besides that, she’s a talented singer as well. Of course you can enjoy the songs that you already heard in the national charts like “Stupid Girls”, “Who Knew” and “U Ur Hand”. Sometimes she sounds very mature, like in “Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self”, but sometimes the girl in PINK gets unleashed and this lady starts to rock wild again. As you can see, the CD has a lot of variation. People, who like the newer work of AEROSMITH with a female singer on the microphone, will have to try this one out. No, it might not be as heavy as AEROSMITH, but her music has got the same variation, groove and beat at times. The bonus track is PINK in duet with her dad. This album will easily find its way to the thousands of fans of this wild lady, who sometimes also makes some pretty emotional moves on this record. PINK ain’t dead yet, and we’re really glad about that! [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SUZI QUATRO-Back To The Drive (EMI)
It’s good to see, that artists like SUZI QUATRO seem to go on forever. Her new album is called “Back To The Drive”. If you expect to hear a flashback of her earlier hitsingle “Devil Gate Drive”, I have to disappoint you, I’m afraid. The opener “Back To The Drive” is a good start though, and it’s one of the highlights on this twelve track CD, that runs for about a full hour. There are some nice rock and roll songs on the album, but also some songs you won’t expect that easily from this leather angel. “I Don’t Do Gentle” is a nice rock and roller for example, but with a lot of brass and copper instead of guitar strings. But Suzi doesn’t have to prove herself anymore. She did this already, when I was still in kindergarten. She rocked my world back in those days, together with GARY GLITTER, MUD, SLADE and SWEET. No wonder, that Andy Scott of THE SWEET plays a guest role on this album as well. Suzi also plays her version of NEIL YOUNG’s “Rocking In The Free World”, which was a fine point of recognition for me. “I Walk Through The Fire With You” has a very small ELO-like piece in the vocal parts. This is Suzi’s new single. “Sometimes Love Is Letting Go” is a nice, sensitive ballad, that sounds like BETTE MIDLER’s “The Rose”. All in all, there is a lot of variation on this album, and I think that if you have the hots for Suzi, then you will certainly love the music of this rock star, who still looks like she is in her thirties. CD closer “Born Making Noise” is another highlight, and the title already explains the story of Suzi’s life in one sentence. Suzi was born to make noise, and she is back to the drive, dear readers. Website: http://www.suziquatro.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

RECKLESS TIDE-Helleraser (Armageddon Music/Rock Inc.)
Fast riffs, guitar shredding, thundering rhythms by a band, that easily has been settled in the ranks of the thrash metal scene. RECKLESS TIDE hails from Germany, and if you want to make a suitable shortcut, then you could compare their sound to ANNIHILATOR maybe. The band consists of Oliver Jaath on guitars, Susanne Swillius on guitars, Kai Swillius on drums, Henning Pfeiffer on bass, Andrew Troth on vocals and Kjell Hallgreen on vocals. Melodic vocals alternate maniacal growls. In “Madness Within”, one of the singers sounds like Dee Snider (TWISTED SISTER) with a much more brutal backing band. RECKLESS TIDE already appeared on many festivals in their homecountry, and their music is very suitable for a powerful performance. It’s also a band, that doesn’t hesitate to put humour into their music. The (over the top) song “Kleemähendeäbte” is a good example of this. It’s a heavy metal version of “The Lumberjack Song” of MONTY PYTHON, mixed with a lot of other nonsense. With “House Of Cards”, the album falls back into reality again. RECKLESS TIDE is definitely worth checking out, if you like the music of OVERKILL and ANNIHILATOR. The wild guitar parts of metal maiden Susanne are going to blast you away, that’s for sure. Website: http://www.recklesstide.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

REVENGE-Titties-N-Beer (R.E.I. Records)
The sound of this band is less shocking than you might expect, when you take a look at the sleeve of their second CD. The ten songs on this album are rocking. To compare the band with rock monsters like MOTLEY CRUE or LITA FORD though, goes a bit too far for me. “Hot Child In The City” is a cover by NICK GILDER, which is followed by “Surrender” (CHEAP TRICK). It’s played a bit heavier than the original song this time with some crazy double bass drumming by Matt Contorno. Lance Solak plays guitar and sings in the band . And the female band member is called K. Chanté, who sings and plays the bass guitar. The CD opens with a WRABIT cover called “Anyway Anytime”. But the band does not play covers alone. “Rock Sensation” for example is a nice rock song, penned by the band. “Night Fire” is one of the highlights on this album for me. While “Jack The Ripper” has a nice instrumental, spooky centre part, which also sounds quite sensational. And when the CD runs towards the end, the songs are getting better and better. “The Wolves” is also a surprisingly good metal song. This CD is definitely a case of a relatively weak beginning and a very strong ending. REVENGE may not be the next superstars, but it is definitely a band worth checking out. Their 1988 debut album “First Blood” will be released on CD soon, and I’m sure I want to check that one out, too. The title track “Titties-N-Beer” was written by the male part of the band, of course. If you like titties and beer, and a band who knows how to rock, then REVENGE might be something for you. Website: http://www.revengeband.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SEVENTH SIN-Darkest Of All Dreams (independent)
SEVENTH SIN is a gothic metal band from The Netherlands, the absolute leading country of this style of music. The amount of well-talented gothic metal bands is countless already. And we can add another band to this massive list now. The well- known procedure of a brutal grunter next to a beautiful female voice continues on this five track album, which is done in a very effective way, in my opinion. Vocalist Monique Op Hey has a great singing voice, and the grunts of Roy Geelen are in great contrast with this beautiness. Opener “Innocent Child” shows a lot of resemblance to “Forsaken” of WITHIN TEMPTATION. Monique’s voice has got a lot of similarity with Sharon’s vocals, which is a big compliment to her. The best songs are the lenghty, somewhat epical “Misery Called Love” and “Mourned Child” at the end of this thirty minute CD. “Misery Called Love” contains a lot of mood changes and even some DREAM THEATER influences, while Monique’s vocals sometimes have the intonation of ANOUK at the beginning. A lot is happening in this exciting song. The band is in excellent shape here and proves that they are capable of writing songs with a lot of variation and excitement. “Mourned Child” also displays this capability. It’s a balladesque kind of tune, but not less spectacular, if I may say so. SEVENTH SIN consists of Monique Op Hey on vocals, Roy Geelen on grunts and rhythm guitar, Sjors Hendriks on lead guitar, Roel van Heel on synths, Bart Joosten on bass guitar and Wiro Geerlings on drums. On “Darkest Of Dreams” they do not only scream for attention and recognition, they also claim a position in the highest ranks of the gothic metal scene of today. And I think they really deserve this place. Website: http://www.seventhsin.nl. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SLUNT-One Night Stand (Repossession Records)
SLUNT rocks the night away on their new album “One Night Stand”. Dirty, sleazy, sexy, heavy rawk and roll is what you’re gonna get during these eleven songs. It’s a definite kick in the face, so be aware before you put it in your CD player! First we got “Get A Load Of This” in 2005, and now this. It’s more rock and roll than the average human being can handle at once. SLUNT knows to keep the passion for rock alive, and translate it into small chops, ready for a quick bite of rock, easy to eat any hour of the day. The band consists of Charles Ruggiero on drums, Pat Harrington on lead guitar, Jhen Kobran on bass and backing vocals and Abby Gennet on vocals and guitar. The music from the band comes straight from their hearts, and is a good mix of JOAN JETT, AC/DC, NASHVILLE PUSSY, THE RUNAWAYS, and other bands, that still take rock and roll seriously in the sick music scene of today, where hip hop, house and dance rule the charts. Not for these wild rockers, who plug in their amps, and put the volume up, where it belongs. The saxophone in “Need You Tonight” may sound a bit odd for a steaming rock band, but it does not really sound disturbing at all. The sexy voice of Abby in “Over It” sounds pretty sensual and it gives a special touch to their music. SLUNT is really good, and to me, they are much more than a ‘one night stand’ alone. They believe in what they do, playing honest rock and roll made for true rock fans and true rock fans alone! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SYRENS CALL-Against Wind And Tide (MCD) (Brennus Music)
The news, that Valerie Paul had left SYRENS CALL came as quite a shock to me! But the band continues with a new singer and on this five track MCD, she proves that she is more than capable to take over the microphone from Valerie. These five tracks have a total length of about twenty-five minutes and we hear that the band is creating a beautiful progressive sound. “Run And Fall” and “Your Soul Is Mine” are two uptempo prog songs, while the longer “Cold Embers” is a more balladesque song. “Aquatic Coma” is a new version of this song, which was already released on their CD “Fantasea”. In this instrumental masterpiece, the musicians are able to show us their skills. However, the biggest eye-catcher here is the beautiful voice of newcomer Soraya. It’s a real pleasure to listen to this lady. And in combination with the dreamy, accessible sound of the band, it looks like SYRENS CALL has made one major step forward. The band closes this five tracker with the DEPECHE MODE cover “Enjoy The Silence”. LACUNA COIL also did this on their last album, and it seems to be quite normal these days that bands, that we categorise as metal or rock, record a cover of these poofs. Besides this minor complaint, I can only recommend this album to every melodic prog rock fan out there. Website: http://www.syrenscall.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TO-MERA-Transcendental (Candlelight Records)
TO-MERA may not be very well-known, but with the release of their debut album “Transcendental”, this will probably change in no time. Julie Kiss is the frontlady of this powerful gothic metal band. Sometimes they hold back power, while at other times they unleash it, like in “Blood”. The heavy riffs in “Dreadful Angel” are pretty powerful, but a few seconds later the song moves over to some nice mood swings, creating the necesarry variation. The guitarplayer impresses in the same song, by accelerating from out of nowhere. The keyboards follow, and then the song turns into some kind of jazzy jam. I think, that TO-MERA likes to surprise people with their music by doing the unexpected. In that context, I would like to compare them with the adventurous sound of OPETH and PAIN OF SALVATION. Listen to a song like “Parfum” for example. There is so much happening in here, that your head will be spinning around in extasy, asking for a little time to come back to mother earth again. People like to compare this band to THE GATHERING and EVANESCENCE (F.e. “Obscure Oblivium”), but the instrumental escapades of TO-MERA go much further than these two bands. I was very impressed by the sometimes complex structures and I really do believe, that we’re dealing with the heroes of tomorrow here. “Realm Of Dreams” closes the CD, which contains a lot of hidden treasures, if you put your mind to it. Website: http://www.to-mera.com/. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TOURETTES SYNDROME-Sick Sense (Armageddon Music/Rock Inc.)
TOURETTES SYNDROME are from Australia and the band is ready to kick you in the face with their new album “Sick Sense”. Only if you’re a sick metal maniac, you are the chosen one to have a listen to this brutal album without getting a mental breakdown or other mental diseases. The band likes to rip themselves through your flesh with sharp dagger metal riffs, and maniacal vocal parts. In “Fracture”, they sound very much like OZZY OSBOURNE’s recent stuff. Michele Madden is the female vocalist in the band, who sometimes sounds like a chainsaw cutting throats. Her partners in crime are Ross Empson on bass, Michael Quigley on drums and Ashley Manning on guitar. Michele is a mix of Chrissie Hynde and Tairrie B. Sometimes emotional and at other times maniacal. Controversial, but never shocking. Well, maybe in “R.F.S.”, where the initials stand for Rod F*cking Stewart. At least the song title is, now I’ve explained the meaning of its initials. There is a lot of power, however in some songs I’d expected more power. Like in “Glad” or in “Rail”, to give you some examples. Still, in the short “Circus” they make up for that. This is a rollercoaster ride for all the crazy maniacs among us. After that, the band returns to a normal behaviour again. The male vocals in “Rail” show some resemblance to ZAKK WYLDE’s voice. In their homecountry, the band is pretty popular. Hopefully, this album will also open some doors for them in Europe and/or America. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VANILLA NINJA-Love Is War (EMI)
VANILLA NINJA becomes better and better each album. “Love Is War” is their latest album and it really shows the progression of this band is ongoing. Even when Maarja Kivi decided to leave the band, they hired a new member in Triinu Kivilaan. In December 2005, she also left the band. The three ladies remaining didn’t sit still though, and they decided to continue their musical career as a three piece band. And when I listen to their new album, I believe that was a wise decision. The songs sound so much more matured and although you can still compare their songs to bands like BON JOVI, EUROPE, VIXEN or WHITE LION, there is a lot of power on this album as well. Just listen to a catchy song, like “Rockstarz” for example. You can even hear some HEART influences in their music. Just listen to the beautiful song “Spirit Of The Dawn” for example. “Silence” shows us, that this band is no longer a group of young girls, who just want to have some fun by playing in a rock and roll band. This song shows us, that the talent of the VANILLA NINJA’s is ready to be spread worldwide. This new album may be the beginning of a whole new chapter, that is even more exciting than the one before. “Love Is War” and VANILLA NINJA is ready to win this battle! Website: http://www.vanillaninja.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VARIOUS ARTISTS-Beautiful Voices Volume II (Nuclear Blast)
Welcome to part II of the “Beautiful Voices” compilation album. Eighteen bands with female vocals are on the CD, that plays for over seventy-five minutes. Let’s start right away, because there’s a lot to enjoy here. We kick off with the Finnish cello outfit APOCALYPTICA, which is a real surprise here. Vocally, they are helped out by Marta Jandová of DIE HAPPY on a song, called “How Far”. A very joyful song, in which the vocals are the biggest eye-catcher. And that’s what we expected already on this compilation of course. After that, there is a new star in the rock sky. The band is called ECHOES OF ETERNITY. Their album should be released in February 2007, and their singer does not only look like Liv Kristine, she also sounds like the blonde angel of LEAVES EYES. “Voices In A Dream” is still a demo version, but it sounds very promising. Francine Boucher is the female singer of the band, by the way. Powerful riffs and a string arrangement open “The Siren” of NIGHTWISH, which is a duet with Marco Hietala. I wonder, what will happen with this band now Tarja has gone solo and released a very successful Christmas album, which is breaking all records in Finland right now. I was also surprised to see BIF NAKED here. Her album “Superbeautifulmonster” has definitely gave her more attention and she is added on this compilation with “Abandonment”. Why just the ballad? It could be the only question to ask yourself, but let’s not be too critical here. LACUNA COIL cannot be missed here, too. Why they used the DEPECHE MODE song “Enjoy The Silence” on this CD is a good question. As a rock band, I don’t want to be associated with this crappy British new wave band, but that’s my opinion. They play it in a bombastic and powerful way, which makes it a bit more enjoyable. MOONSPELL is another surprise maybe. But on “Luna” we hear Brigit Zacher on vocals, who also sang for TIAMAT before. THERION is on next. They often use female vocalists, who are very suitable for their bombastic sound. “Son Of The Sun” is picked here, and Sarah Jezebel Diva is one of the members in the female choir in this beautiful song. Another band, that can’t be missed on a compilation like this, is THE GATHERING. Anneke van Giersbergen is a great example of what a female voice needs to have to become a successful singer in a well-respected rock band. Their song “Shortest Day” is on and it sounds more experimental than the many gothic-like tracks, you can find here. TAPPING THE VEIN is also gaining success, and their song “Sugarfalls” shows us the sweet KATE BUSH-like voice of frontlady Heather Thompson. We also hear touches of A PERFECT CIRCLE, THE CURE and TORI AMOS in this song. The dance beat of THEATRE OF TRAGEDY sounds very scary, but when the band takes off, things starts to sound heavier. Liv Kristine’s voice sounds charming and sweet in this mix of dance, rock and industrial music. “Let You Down” will keep you awake pretty easy for a couple of minutes. SIRENIA is the outfit of Morten Veland, who formerly played in TRISTANIA. But his solo outfit doesn’t sound very special to me. In “Sirenian Shores”, we hear the well-known mix between brutal male vocals and sweet female vocals of Fabienne Gondamin. The EDENBRIDGE contribution could be so much better. I’ve always liked this band a lot, but with the James Bond movie cover “For Your Eyes Only”, they are really heading into the wrong direction, as far as I can see (and hear) it. BLOODFLOWERZ brings us back to the vampire goth sound with “Damaged Promises”. Many dark clothed bats will enjoy this song with female vocals of Kirsten Zahn. ATARGATIS from Germany is on next with “Selina”. You will be able to enjoy the beautiful soprano voice of singer Stephanie Luzie. Their music is very powerful and the flashing guitarwork is a very nice surprise, too. The Belgian band SENGIR is also getting quite popular these days. Ellen Schutyser has a very nice voice and their music could very well be compared to WITHIN TEMPTATION in a way. REGICIDE is a newer band. Their album “Break The Silence” was quite a success. It’s a mix between rock, goth and folk, and especially in their homecountry Germany, this seems to be a very good (and successful) combination. BEAUTIFUL SIN, the new outfit of Uli Kusch, added “Lost” from their debut album “The Unexpected” on this compilation album. The band plays a powerful kind of melodic rock. The CD, which gives quite a good overview of the female voices of today, closes with a song from LUCA TURILLI’s album “Infinite Wonders of Creation”, called “Mother Nature”. The DVD has even more to enjoy, but you can read all about that part of this package in our DVD section. You may think about this selection, whatever you want. I think, that the gesture is just perfect, and it shows that more people are thinking about giving more attention to the beauty of the female voice. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VIXEN-Live And Learn (Demolition Records)
For those of you, who don’t know the current situation of VIXEN, I will fill you in a little. The band consists of Jan Kuehnemund on guitars, Jenna Sanz-Agero on vocals, Kat Kraft on drums and Lynn Louise Lowrey on bass. This is a total different line up than the one, that was responsible for VIXEN’s huge success in the late eighties and early nineties. When I listen to this new album, I get the feeling that this new line up also represents a new style and musical approach. It’s more poppy and definitely less powerful, than the VIXEN most of our readers know and love. If you like this approach, then the new album will be very exciting for you. But if you liked the stout sound of the band, there is only a minimum of power to enjoy. The choirs are very sweet, and the guitars are pushed to the background. An exception here is a song like “Don’t Want It Anymore”, including a nice guitarsolo and Jenna’s voice sounding like STEVIE NICKS in a way. Also “Suffragete City” sounds very uptempo and quite exciting, but it is pure rock and roll, completed with a horn section. That is where the band went wrong. It’s not bad, but from the past I know that VIXEN can do much, much better than this. I won’t describe this album as bad, because therefore it sounds too good. But I also can’t describe it as good, because the songs are just too weak. I hope that you get my point. It’s just not the VIXEN I used to know anymore, and therefore a bit disappointing maybe. Judging the album as VIXEN, the new band with a new line up, it’s okay. But it’s definitely not more. Twelve songs and forty-five minutes of VIXEN rock are on “Live & Learn”. Website: http://www.vixenrock.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VIXEN-Extended Version-Live At Sweden Rock 2005 (Sony/BMG)
VIXEN’s latest studio album was perhaps a bit of a disappointment to me. It was like listening to a whole new band. And that wasn’t too strange, because the band consists of a totally new line up, and it would be very difficult to maintain the exact sound that they created with the ‘old’ line up. This live CD contains the new line up playing the old stuff. And you can hear, that VIXEN still rocks today. The live situation is the perfect opportunity to show that they certainly didn’t loose their quality as a good live band. There are eleven songs here with a total length of about fifty-five minutes. The guitar solos are back and the choirs are not used that often anymore. Two good reasons to call this album more powerful than “Live & Learn”. And also the audience at Sweden Rock seems to appreciate the live sound of the band a lot. Just listen to the enthusiastic chants in “I Want You To Rock Me”, which is followed by some amazing lead guitar work of Jan Kuehnemund. The same magic is there just before the band is about to crank out their biggest hitsingle “Edge Of A Broken Heart”. Prove is given here, that VIXEN still rocks on stage. “Bad Reputation” is dedicated to Vince Neil of MÖTLEY CRÜE, and with this song as an encore, they close their set. They thank Sweden Rock and this is the end of this mighty fine live album. Website: http://www.vixenrock.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WALLS OF JERICHO-With Devils Amongst Us All (Roadrunner Records)
Yes, this is what it sounds like, when women go wild. Better be aware, run and hide! Candace Kusculain has one simple thought. If Angela Gossow can become famous by screaming her lungs out, I can do the same thing and perhaps even sound meaner and louder than her. So if the sound of ARCH ENEMY is too loud for you, better leave this for what it is. Although WALLS OF JERICHO operates in the hardcore scene, a comparision with ARCH ENEMY is still a good option to describe their brutal sound. Especially because the guitars are in front of the mix and the brutal and fast riffs are constantly screaming for attention. Another band, you can definitely refer to is MY RUIN, especially their newer material. “Plastic” opens with some pure SLAYER riffs, and it wouldn’t have looked bad on any album by these thrashmeisters. In thirty-five minutes, the band works themsleves through eleven power attacks of the purest kind. “No Saving Me” is a little piece of rest on this CD, although with “Welcome Home” they open a new violent attack on your eardrums. Respect for the power and the energy of this band, which really blew me out of my chair. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WICKED WISDOM-Wicked Wisdom (AFM Records)
I’d never heard of the band WICKED WISDOM before, but this gotta change soon, especially after hearing their debut album. Frontlady Jada Pinkett Smith has got a great voice and in combination with the powerful music, this blends very well. The music of this band is hard to compare to other bands. There is thrash, speed and here and there you’ll even find some melodic parts. Think of TESTAMENT, SACRED REICH, OTEP, SLIPKNOT, KITTIE and MESHUGGAH. They sound heavy, yet innovative. WICKED WISDOM doesn’t sound like any other band in this genre, therefore they’re simply much too good. And we’re not the only one, who discovered the talent of this band. Recently, they toured for three months with SEVENDUST, and they already played at the Download Festival and the well-known Ozzfest. Besides Jada, the band consists of Pocket Honore on lead guitar, Philip ‘Fish’ Fischer on drums, Rio on bass and Cameron Graves on rhythm guitar and keyboards. It’s a shame, that the album only lasts about thirty-five minutes. But it’s enough to stay focussed on the great music by this band. With the knowledge of writing compact, catchy yet powerful tracks, WICKED WISDOM could easily grow to a very successful band worldwide. The first shot was a goal already. This may become a true hatrick or more in the future. Website: http://www.wickedwisdom.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ZED YAGO-The 20th Anniversary Of ZED YAGO Live (Twilight Zone Records)
The 20th anniversary of a band is an occasion for a party and a celebration. ZED YAGO decided to play a live gig and use it for a live CD. The band is now founded around long term member Bubi The Schmied on drums, Jimmy Durand on guitars, his wife Yvonne Durand on vocals and C.Shark on bass. The sound of the band remained intact, although the vocal parts lean more towards the operatic sorprano voice of Tarja Turunen (NIGHTWISH) instead of the metal voice of former singer Jutta Weinhold. The epic warrior metal is based upon a very solid and powerful foundation. You can easily leave this up to Bubi. “Black Bone Song” is still the most well-known anthem of the band and to me it’s definitely one of the highlights on this album. It proves that ZED YAGO is still a band with the metal heart in the right place. Two songs “End Of The World” and “Valley Of The King” are previously unreleased, which gives the fans something extra, apart from the powerful live versions of the ZED YAGO classics. In the meantime, Bubi was being replaced by Jörg Cassel, because he suffered from severe hearing problems. This live CD is a great gift from the band to their fans, and a great mark to a milestone in the career of this German power metal band. Website: http://www.zed-yago.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ILSE DE LANGE-The Lonely One (CD single)(Universal Music)
A single is no longer a vinyl seven inch disc with an A-side and a B-side, containing two songs. Today a single is something that you need to work on really hard to make it worth buying as well. Real fans buy the album, and therefore they don’t buy the single anymore, because the music is already on the album. By putting an unreleased song on the single, you can make the fan doubt whether to buy this single as an addition to ones collection or not. But some singles are a serious must have for every devoted fan. This ILSE DE LANGE triple single box is such an item, in my opinion. Every two weeks, a single will be released, which can be put in this fold out gatefold sleeve. Every single contains exclusive material, which is interesting for every devoted fan of this golden haired lady with the perfect voice. The first single in this package is the actual single “The Lonely One”, completed with an acoustic version of her previous single “The Great Escape”. That’s about eight minutes of music. Bonus on this first single is the video clip for “The Great Escape”. Not a bad start. The second single contains another eight minutes of music, starting with “The Lonely One”, followed by the acoustic version of “Reach For The Light”. The bonus stuff consist of a ‘behind the scenes’ section of the video clip for “The Lonely One”. The third single runs for another eight minutes and starts off again with “The Lonely One”, this time completed with “The Valley” (acoustic version). The bonus video material is the clip for “The Lonely One”. What more can you ask for? Maybe it’s an overkill to use the regular single version on all three singles. Perhaps they could have used an acoustic version and a live version instead. But this is a great addition in your ILSE DE LANGE collection, and not to be missed by every fan of this beautiful, spontaneous Dutch singer. Website: http://www.ilsedelange.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VANILLA NINJA-Danger Zone (CD single)(EMI)
A new album means a new single release to promote the new album. VANILLA NINJA choose “Danger Zone”, a rock song with a catchy vibe, to become their new single. The same song is played three times on this single release. First there’s the radio version, which is followed by the so-called long version. The difference in time is about half a minute. The third song is the instrumental version. Inbetween there is some space left for the unplugged version of “Falling Star”. If you like a rocking, NENA-like sound, catchy music and you already liked the previous work by these three platinum blonde ladies, then this one is for you! Website: http://www.vanillaninja.de [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: March 04, 2007]

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