Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Arrow Haze “Music Factory”


Arrow Haze is a Belgium-based rock band inspired by classic rock legends such as The Doors, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Founder Theo Green (vocals/drums) sums up the band’s mission: “I wanted to start a band that will reflect the sound and energy of the old hard rock bands and combine it with modern sounds”. Their debut album, out November 23, radiates with homages to yester-rock sounds played with a sense of urgency and reverence.

As such, there is more emphasis here on the instrumentation than melody in most of the songs. Extended instrumental sections allow each member to shine at one point or another, but collectively this band gels very well. There’s no question that each band member has more than his fair share of musical talent and dexterity (listen to the epic opener, “Casino”), but what I sense most fans of this site will appreciate is the attention to crafting a good hook. Buried amongst the more progressive elements, the chorus usually leaps out as a pleasant surprise. Highlights for me included “Dreams”, “Visions”, “Routine”, and “Along The Way”.

Finally, there is a special treat for Dream Theater fans - “Music Factory” features a guest appearance by keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Fans of classic rock won’t want to miss this one.

Arrow Haze – Official site.

Check out the video for “Crisis”:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Gavin Guss “On High”

Power pop

Power pop fans no doubt have heard Gavin Guss in some way already, whether it was as producer of Super Deluxe or as front man for TubeTop and The Tycoons. He's toured with Nada Surf and provided piano accompaniment for Jon Auer (Posies), Fountains of Wayne, and Harvey Danger. His long-awaited solo debut, “Mercury Mine” was released to wide acclaim in 2010 (reviewed here).

From the first note of “Avenue A” to the closing sounds of “Lesson One”, Guss takes us on a delightful power pop journey that is as equally uplifting as it is melancholy. This is a balance Guss achieves in his songwriting, as he puts it: like dancing in your socks. The songs are short and sweet, but make quite the impression, percolating with keen melodies that will stick with you for days. Guss also showcases his knack for crafting buoyant harmonies (check out “Voices Inside My Head” for a demonstration). While it is best digested whole, some of my favorite picks include “Come Over”, “Wonder Too”, “Will To Fly”, and “Parc Monceau”.

“On High” was released on vinyl by Fin Records, which comes with a special download code to access the mp3 files. A must for power pop fans, especially those who enjoy the Posies, Mike Viola, or Gigolo Aunts.

Gavin Guss - Official site.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Scandal Circus

By Stephen Kasenda

SCANDAL CIRCUS “In the Name of Rock N Roll” (2012)

SCANDAL CIRCUS is another Swedish band that plays a brilliant combination of 80s hard rock and classic heavy metal. A typical formula that many European bands play, but this time they focus more on the straight-forward heavy riffs and rhythm rather than sleazy and naughty hooks or highly melodic arrangement. The title track, 'In The Name of Rock N Roll' is a colossal start, blitzed with meaty riffs and a sing-along chorus, it's no wonder this track became my favorite together with another similar track called 'The Race'.

'In Your Mind' and 'Big Bad Clown' are also magnificent. Up to the fifth track, 'Rock Spirit', it seemed like SCANDAL CIRCUS would keep unleashing their best till I stumbled on the acoustical ballad of 'Dreams', which I think is a bit too average. 'Leaving Town' is the weakest track though, but 'Losing All Control' which has that POISON's 'Talk Dirty To Me' feel is nice and easy, and luckily the last two tracks are also brilliant. 'Society of Evil' is dark, heavy, and loaded with some monstrous rhythm. 'Freakshow' also makes a very nice closer!

The production is great, especially for an indie release. The guitar parts are awesome, Pelle Eliasson should be proud of delivering such magical performances. Overall, a promising band, a good start, and if you dig Scandinavian hard rock, this won't disappoint at all!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kelly Jones Releases Debut Christmas Single

Acclaimed Pop Singer-Songwriter Kelly Jones Releases Debut Christmas Single “Kissing Santa On Christmas Eve”

Make room in the Seasonal Songbook for a brand new classic . . . “Kissing Santa On Christmas Eve,” by pop singer-songwriter Kelly Jones (reviewed here) wraps its irresistible hooks around the playful notion of a secret midnight tryst with Ol’ St. Nick himself.
Written by Jones and produced by Mike Viola, the song has the familiar, but fresh sound of a timeless holiday favorite. A shimmering two-and-a-half minute bauble with flashes of Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” E.L.O and even '80s Madonna, it delivers its fun yuletide message in a gloriously ornate pop arrangement and ties it up with a bow of winking sensuality.
Best known for her acclaimed pop album SheBANG! (2008), Kelly Jones has released three solo albums, as well as a duet EP with Mike Viola, while collaborating with such artists as Daniel Lanois, Buddy Miller, Adam Schlesinger and Brian Blade. With a songwriting style and a warm, soulful singing voice that echoes everything from ‘60s girl groups to ‘70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters to ‘80s New Wave, Jones is that rare artist who can sound retro and completely modern at the same time.
“Kissing Santa On Christmas Eve” marks her debut holiday release. Available in online stores December 4th, 2012.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Gun “Break The Silence”

Rock/Melodic hard rock

Some of you may remember the Scottish band Gun, a relative late-comer to the late 80s hard rock scene, whose debut album featured some great cuts like “Better Days” and “Inside Out”. It was a stunning debut that did well in the UK, but failed to find the band a big audience in the US. They’ve had a steady stream of follow-ups, most notably “Swagger”, which featured an awesome cover of Cameo’s funk hit “Word Up!”, and now they are back with a new record called “Break The Silence”.

“Break The Silence” is a marked detour for the band – they’ve changed singers and their general music direction. While the first two cuts sound like B-side classics from the Gun we used to know, the rest of the album is top notch melodic hard rock with a huge emphasis on the pop side of the coin. Gun did not recruit a new mate to the fold, but rather handed over the vocal duties to bassist Dante Gizzi (who has also done side work in the glam rock band El Presidente). Dante’s vocals fit the new sound well, possessing enough grit to be mistaken for former frontman Mark Rankin, with a touch of Axl Rose for good measure.

The band sings about a “brand new sound” on track 3, “Lost & Found”, and this is where the album really begins for me. From here on out, we’re treated to the new Gun sound, which keeps sharp choruses that you won’t forget front and center. Nearly every song sounds like it was produced to be a single, with all sorts of bells and whistles including lush orchestration or amazing harmony vocals by Catrin Wyn Southall. Additional highlights include “Caught In The Middle”, “Running Out Of Time”, and the title track. “How Many Roads” is the featured ballad this time out, which sways and swaggers with style and grace.

This is Gun reloaded with silver bullets – if you need a shot of melodic hard rock, Gun will satisfy and then some. Definitely one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve heard all year.

Gun – Official site.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Menage “Menage”


Menage is a brother-sister trio originally from Portugal – their music has been described as “Arcade Fire’s anthemic songwriting meets The Smashing Pumpkins sonic bombast”. I couldn’t agree more with this assessment and find myself discovering new things to appreciate about their self-titled debut album with each listen.

The Ferreria siblings trade male and female lead vocals, and often complement one another with striking harmonies. The female lead exudes the warm charm of Jill Sobule, but with a great deal more power. The mix in the vocal performances made for a dynamic listening experience, but the band has a tight chemistry that gives Menage a trademark sound no matter who is at the mic. The 14 tracks are expertly recorded, with mixing by David Botrill (Muse, Peter Gabriel) and mastering by Ted Jensen (Radiohead, Bjork).

The songs explore themes related to chasing your dreams, growing up, and letting go, and they come at you with a youthful urgency that is hard to resist. Not every song has a sharp hook that sticks in your memory, but there is great potential to be heard here. When the band is firing on all cylinders, magic is the result. Just listen to the seductive power in tracks like “Promises” or “Home”, or the frantic energy in “Bury Us Young”. First single, “Tonight”, is also a wonderfully sharp duet that is instantly likeable, with a beautifully constructed chorus. My favorite is “These Are The Days”, which should be the second single in my opinion – it is a brilliant piece of pop rock. I haven’t been able to get this song out of my head for days!

Watch for “Menage” on November 13.

Menage – Official site.

Check out the video for “Tonight”:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Red Dawn

By Stephen Kasenda

RED DAWN “Never Say Surrender” (1993)

Red Dawn was formed in 1992 by former Rainbow keyboardist, David Rosenthal. At that time, Rosenthal sealed a contract with EMI/Toshiba but unfortunately had no band. He held an audition for the project and rumor has it that Mitch Malloy originally fronted the band before his place was permanently filled by Larry Baud. Joined by his fellow drummer from Rainbow, Chuck Burgi, and guitarist Tristan Avakian, Red Dawn released its sole album, "Never Say Surrender" in 1993.

The band's musical style is a mix between 80s AOR such as Survivor, Asia, and Foreigner and the pompous melodic hard rock such as House of Lords or Giant. All of the musicians are highly skillful and Baud's vocals will leave you in amazement. Rosenthal's dominating keyboards lush up the music and Avakian's enthusiastic playing adds to the album's value.

Several big numbers here include the uptempo melodic rock opener, "Flyin' High", with Rosenthal's keyboard standing on the spotlight. A laid-back ballad with a gigantic chorus is "I'll Be There". Midtempo rockers with catchy hooks include "Liar". "Promises" is an awesome heart-melter - like a lost track from Foreigner. "Take These Chains" is their biggest ballad and reminds me of Aerosmith's huge hit, "Angel". The rest is pretty good and probably only "She's On Fire" is a bit repetitive and my least favorite here. The title track is also has a cool AOR groove with the chorus constructed in the style of Van Hagar's "Dreams".

The year 1993 was a tough year for hard rock/glam fans as alternative/grunge spread out like crazy and I remember several albums that stood out high such as Harem Scarem's "Mood Swings", Gotthard's "Dial Hard", or Poison's "Native Tongue", and I honestly think that Red Dawn's "Never Say Surrender" belongs on that list. A truly remarkable album for fans of classic hard/melodic rock and AOR.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nirvana Home Videos from 1988

I found these videos very interesting - almost chilling - to watch. Check out very early Nirvana in rare form before they hit it big and ushered in an entirely new genre of rock music.

Check out the story at the original post via Open Culture here.

1988-era Nirvana performs "About A Girl"

And here the band switches instrument roles for a cover of the 1974 Terry Jacks hit "Seasons In The Sun". Who knew Kurt Cobain was such a fan?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Jet City Vega “Jet City Vega” [EP]

Modern rock

Jet City Vega is a new modern rock band based in Philly consisting of Manian Van Hacker (vocals), Brandon Reece (guitar), Tim White (bass), and Keith Collins (drums). They’ve recently released their first self-titled 3 song EP, which was recorded and produced by Grammy award winner, Obie O'Brien (Bon Jovi). While there are only three songs, the band clearly has focused more on quality than quantity. There isn’t a bad song here, each being more seductive than the one before. “This One Kid” creeps into your ears, where the chorus eventually latches on tight with its graceful hook. “Blood Like Sugar” has some more muscle to it, with crunchy guitars driving the verses in a way that reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots. The chorus is decorated with such ear-pleasing backing vocals, they make this track stand out as my favorite. Last but not least, “Only Human” begins with a bouncy pop riff that sounds a little AM radio, before exploding into a powerful anthem of a chorus.

Definitely worth checking these guys out – keep an eye on this band!

Jet City Vega – Official site.